[Originally published as part of the essay Defending a Young Earth: A Response to Tyler Vela]
In recent days, a talented, skillful, and gracious Christian apologist named Tyler Vela has been advocating in defense of a particular brand of “framework hypothesis.” Although he claims to have “no dog” in the “age of the earth debate,” that has not stopped him from releasing materials attempting to refute common young-age creationist arguments. I will post a direct quote that captures the thrust of his objection and my response below.
Point 3: Genesis is literal history and not allegory.
I will quickly state that this is just a false dichotomy. In fact most Bible students should readily identify this fact. ~Vela
Tyler then goes on to mention some specific examples of biblical incidents where poetic language is used to speak about historical events. I have no objection to his examples (Exodus 15, Judges 5, and the Gospels).
However, notice that he doesn’t actually address the question. He says this is a false dichotomy, compares those who use this to those who use “the kind of vague “literalism” that dispensationalists will often use in an attempt to accuse other theological positions of not taking the text seriously,” and then moves on.
But just because allegory can be infused with literal history and vice-versa, it does not follow in the slightest that that’s what Genesis 1 is! In fact, we recent creationists would want to enthusiastically affirm that figurative language can be used in the context of literal history! Perhaps this would finally help to rid the incredulous indictment that we YECs use a “wooden-hyper-literal” interpretation of the text that Tyler himself trades on in this piece.
In fact, I’ll make the problem “worse.” We recent creationists would even affirm that there are poetic renderings of the creation account in the Hebrew Bible! Just take a look at Psalm 104, for example.
Now, surely, any reasonable comparison of Psalm 104 with Genesis 1 should tell the discerning reader that we are not dealing with the same kind of genre. Whatever Genesis 1 is, it is not the same as Psalm 104. Of that much, my two-year-old could almost be certain.
In fact, Hebrew scholar Dr. Steve Boyd¹ took on this project of determining the literary genre of Genesis 1, and reached an interesting conclusion.
His paper from the project takes special care to mention the difficulties and factors involved in such a task, and if you don’t have time to read a 104-page paper, perhaps you’ll make the time for an eye-opening 45-minute video.
This rigorous study yielded the following conclusion:
“When extended to the population level, it was found that our logistic regression model based on relative frequency of preterites yields a superb protocol (between 85.5 and 95.5% reduction in the number of classification errors) for categorizing texts as narrative or poetry at a 95% confidence level. The logistic regression model calculates the probability that a text is a narrative. For Genesis 1:1–2:3, this probability is between 0.999942 and 0.999987 at a 99.5% confidence level. Thus, we conclude with statistical certainty that this text is narrative, not poetry. It is therefore statistically indefensible to argue that this text is poetry. The hermeneutical implication of this finding is that this text should be read as other historical narratives, whose authors evinced supererogatory concern with the past and staunchly upheld the historicity of their accounts even to the point of challenging their contemporaries to prove or disprove their documented historical references.”
Therefore, we recent creationists argue with good reason that Genesis 1 should be taken as a straightforward, natural account of real history.
- I don’t mean to create an “appeal to authority” here, but given his credentials–a BS and MS in Physics from Drexel University, a ThM in Old Testament and Semitics from Dallas Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. in Hebraic and Cognate Studies from Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion–I’m inclined to think he is reasonably well-equipped to reach an accurate conclusion.