Is Genesis 1-11 figurative, allegorical or poetic?
In response to the widespread acceptance that the earth is ancient (millions and billions of years old), many theologians read Genesis in light of popular science, trying to make Scripture fit with the old earth narrative. Sometimes this results in thinking that the early chapters of Genesis (from Adam to Abraham) are Hebrew poetry instead of a literal, historical narrative. However, this view is ripe with difficulties.
The first problem is the Scriptures boast several detailed genealogies that treat the personalities mentioned in Genesis as real people (Genesis 5, 11, and Luke 3, among others). These genealogies list Adam and Noah alongside people like Abraham and David (who are confirmed historical persons through archaeological and extra-biblical textual evidences). To suggest Adam is legend and Abraham is not, would be akin to listing John Adams and John Kennedy in the same lineage, only to turn around and say John Adams was figurative and legendary (he is a poetic figure, but he did not really exist).
A second conundrum is that the New Testament apostles referred to Genesis as historical narrative. Paul spoke about Adam as the first created man (Romans 5:12-21; I Corinthians 15:45,47; 1 Timothy 2:13). The author of Hebrews mentions the death of Abel as fact (Hebrews 11:4; 12:22-24). Peter references the Noahic Flood as a real historical event (1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:4-6;3:5-6).
Finally, Jesus himself spoke of people and events in Genesis 1-11 as literal history. He spoke of the historicity and special creation of Adam and Eve (Matthew 19:4-5; Mark 10:5-7). He referred to the murder of Abel (Matthew 23:33-36; Luke 11:47-51) and Noah's Flood as historical events (Matthew 24:37-39; Luke 17:26-27).
No, the testimony of Jesus and the apostles, as well as the narrative itself, confirm Genesis 1-11 is literal history.
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