When I realized that there can be mistakes in the Bible, I did not abandon it as though everything was just a wild goose chase. Instead, I continued to value and cherish it, like a book that could actually reveal the realities about God. Inherently, it has flaws- containing various forms of discrepancies, oppositions, historical errors, glaring clinical mistakes- to name a few. But for me, the Bible is more than just these flaws. It is a book that was relevant in its own time, a publication too human yet was an instrument through which God continued to speak.
I do believe that the valuable lessons taught in the Bible far outweigh the factual (and also the inaccurate) information it contains within the accounts narrated. This perception applies to two levels of understanding. First, I believe that it is very important for old Bible readers to realize that the Bible should be valued not on the basis of the accuracy of its information, but on the depth of the suggestions that it provides. Second, I personally believe that the Bible is relevant to my own life and that can be read within the context of today’s time.
The Primeval History as Misconception
From a literary viewpoint, it should be clear that there is a great difficulty to categorize the Primeval History under science or history- considering the generally accepted definitions of such terms. Yet this is not to denigrate the said section of the Bible. In fact, it indeed contains terrific, moving, as well as effective stories. But they are most likely understood to be simply stories, not clinical descriptions or historic accounts. Most importantly, I assert that these stories can be best appreciated when acknowledged as “misconceptions”.
The term myth must not be taken as an unfavorable or negative term. In fact, it can be used to describe the Bible in a very favorable sense. A short working definition of ‘myth’ could be: “a tale regarding God or the gods as well as their activities, through which we humans can try to make sense of the world and our roles on it.”
Myths are common to nearly all forms of faiths and among individuals. Contrary to clinical and historical claims, myths by nature are not at risk of evidence or demonstration. You can’t show that they truly occurred nor prove that they never did. What is important for myths are the deeper truths that they make. These narratives are exempt from verification or disproof; they are rooted in the ideas concerning the world and the beliefs they try to convey in the form of creative stories. The Primeval History of Genesis can be perceived as absolutely nothing but creative tales. These are tales that no doubt were narrated then retold over the years by word of mouth, also known as the oral tradition. Since they are told over the centuries from one tale teller to another, they were also formed, altered, enhanced, extended- in an effort to make them share essential factors that the various tellers wished to impart. One should not claim that these tales are “simply” myths. Rather, they should be celebrated as misconceptions, because myths can share effective lessons that even a simple historical or scientific fact cannot.
When approached as myths rather than as scientific research or history, these tales can convey lessons like the following (and much more, if you dig deeper):
The Sabbath Day is rooted in the very soils of creation. Both old and modern Jews observe the Sabbath. For them, the seventh day of the week is the day of the rest. That means that on one day, absolutely no job must be done. It is a holiday to celebrate the end of each week. Among various other things, the account of production in Genesis 1 was created to show that the existence of a Sabbath day existed since the dawn of creation. I pointed out that there were ten acts of creation in Genesis 1. You may now be wondering why, after that, the development did not take ten days, since a lot of the acts of creation took one whole day. This shows that the writer of this account took an earlier description of the production. Then he condensed it, in order to make sure that as opposed to occurring in ten discrete amount of time, everything happened only in seven. And thus, the seven days. And also, why do we have nine events of creation happen in six days instead of nine? It is so that the Creator might have the seventh day as a day off. This teaches us the idea of a day of rest written into the development of mankind. It is not simply some sort of man-made human guideline invented by someone who believed that taking a day of rest every week would be a good idea. Indeed, it was God himself who rested on the 7th day, on the first 7th day in the history of deep space. So from then on, every 7th day of the week was to be the day of rest.
Human beings are superior over other living things. Whether you agree with this view or not, Genesis 1:26 is very clear about human beings, both male and female, being created at the top of creation and were the only creatures whom God offered “dominance” over all types of life that were created. Nothing else living is as important to God as the human beings. This is because human beings are made in the “image” of God. This means that, obviously, human beings are unlike other animals and are superior in various characteristics. Human beings are made to be significantly like God. And also as God exercises authority over all creation, human beings are also to exercise authority over all other types of created life on earth.
Unlike other living creatures, humans are actually able to recognize the difference between good and evil. You can remember the story at the Garden of Eden when man have eaten the forbidden fruit. However, unlike God, human beings are inclined to do the evil things over the good things. That is the clear message of the Garden of Eden, where the clever serpent (take not that this clever serpent is not named as Satan in the story) encourages a credulous Eve to eat the forbidden fruit (take not also that this is not called an apple). Naturally, Eve chose to listen and follow the instructions of the clever serpent over the instructions given by God, Thus, eating the forbidden fruit and letting Adam take part in it also.
It is also clearer in the results, in the story of the siblings Cain and Abel. Theirs was a story where jealousy drove Cain to murder his own brother. There were only four individuals in the world at that moment as recorded in the Bible- Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel. Yet among these 4, two of them directly disobeyed God- doing exactly what He commanded them not to do which resulted to Cain committing the first fratricide recorded. Points certainly do not look favorable for the mankind.
Disobedience to God brings extreme penalties. For their disobedience, Adam and Eve were kicked out of the paradise. According to Genesis 3:23 says “Therefore the LORD God banished them from the Garden of Eden, and he sent Adam out to cultivate the ground from which he had been made.” For the murder of his sibling, Cain was cast out from his land to be a fugitive and wanderer on the planet. Eventually, there became a widespread wickedness on the entire planet.
This is the story of Noah and his arc- a time when God wanted to get rid of this wickedness. The story went on with God deciding to wipe out from the earth a great percentage of the population by bringing a huge flood. Who will be saved? He called Noah to build and arc and only the human beings who would follow and get inside the ark will be saved. Of course, Noah’s ark also accommodated a pair of every other living creatures at that time. It wasn’t a punishment of killing every human being, but only a great population.
There are a lot more cases of what we might claim concerning the literary lessons associated with the narratives within the primeval history. In fact, an entire book could easily be written using only the accounts from these eleven chapters. However, as you acquaint yourself with the tales and re-reading them not through the eyes of science and history, but by seeing them as a myth, you will certainly be able to see their deeper meanings pointing you to its lessons that goes beneath the surface. They are brilliant accounts about the start of life, and are suggested to instruct their reader’s major doctrinal lessons regarding what life on this world is all about.