William Lane Craig’s new book, In Quest of the Historical Adam, has an extended discussion on the relationship between Genesis and the myths found in the mythic literature of the Ancient Near East. Based on what he identifies as myth-like elements found in Genesis, Craig concludes that Genesis should be classified as “mytho-history”.
Craig attempts a nuanced treatment of “myth” as he affirms that some elements in Genesis are historical, like the genealogies. He affirms that Adam and Eve were real people who constitute the fount of all humanity. However, his proposal that Genesis should be regarded as “mytho-history” has drawn criticism from John Oswalt, a prominent Old Testament scholar who explains that “A myth is an oral or written narrative that functions to make actions of the gods, presumed to be constantly occurring in the invisible realm, effective in the world of time and space. In short “mytho-history” is an oxymoron. Myths are a-historical by nature.”
This post should not be construed as an attempt to cast doubts on William Lane Craig’s (WLC) commitment to evangelical orthodoxy or to minimize his immense contribution to the intellectual defence of Christian faith. It only seeks to demonstrate how the tension between WLC’s apologetic impulse and theological formulation of doctrine may cause confusion for his readers, based on an analysis of his recent article published in First Things, “The Historical Adam.”
On the one hand, WLC’s categorization of the Genesis 1-11 as “mytho-history” raises questions about the existence of the historical Adam:
1) Regarding the book of Genesis
– “The primaeval history of Genesis 1–11, including the stories of Adam and Eve, functions as Israel’s foundational myth, laying the basis of Israel’s worldview…Rather, the claim is that the primaeval narratives belong to the genre of myth principally on the basis of their sharing common mythic themes and their effort to anchor present realities in the deep past.”
“In terms of genre, Genesis 1–11 has key characteristics of myth…On the basis of comparative studies of Sumerian literature, the eminent Assyriologist Thorkild Jacobsen proposed that we recognize a unique genre of literature, which he dubbed “mytho-history…If Genesis 1–11 functions as mytho-history, then these chapters need not be read literally. The accounts of the origin and Fall of man are clearly metaphorical or figurative in nature, featuring as they do an anthropomorphic deity incompatible with the transcendent God of the creation account…Then there is the infamous snake in the Garden.” /1/
“Since the Pentateuchal author [is the use of the singular evidence of WLC’s evangelical commitment?] has an interest in history, he intends for his narrative to be at some level historical, to concern people who actually lived and events that really occurred. But those persons and events have been clothed in the metaphorical and figurative language of myth. If the stories are not meant to be read literally, what central truths do they convey?
This is a most stimulating & instructive discussion between Joshua Swamidass and William Craig that tries to integrate the latest scientific and paleoanthropology findings, biblical hermeneutics, philosophical and theological anthropology.
Some challenging questions that arise from the discussion include the following:
It takes expert knowledge, courage and integrity for Prof. James Tour to challenge the majority of the professors in the academic establishment who have chosen to exaggerate the ability of science to synthesize life in order to secure research grants, and the media which readily promotes sensational news which sell. Hmm, perhaps there is a deeper spiritual reason when highly intelligent people persist in promoting ‘scientific’ non-reality. Is it because it is abhorrent to them to consider the alternative – that the origin of life is none other than the Creator God? Continue reading “The Origin of Life Has Not Been Explained”
I see a World in a grain of sand, And a Heaven in a wild flower William Blake
Time for Science Uprising
Scientists like Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Lawrence Kraus claim that the existence of God has been discredited by new discoveries of modern science. To them, contemporary cosmology, evolution and neuroscience have demonstrated conclusively that the universe spontaneously emerged from a quantum vacuum and that human beings are nothing more than evolving complex bio-chemical machines. The idea of God is unnecessary and irrelevant to our quest for knowledge and understanding of humanity and the universe.
A monkey in the zoo was heard asking the question, “Am I my keeper’s brother?” The theory of evolution answers the question with an unambiguous “YES!”Apes and humans share a common descent. Given below are several evolutionary interpretations of the relationship between humans (hominin) and apes (hominid) based on an unproven assumption – that any … Continue reading “Who Was Adam? Scientific and Theological Perspectives: Preview”
A monkey in the zoo was heard asking the question, “Am I my keeper’s brother?” The theory of evolution answers the question with an unambiguous “YES!”Apes and humans share a common descent.
Scot McKnight’s latest book which he co-authors with Dennis Venema promises to deliver a combination “left-hook, upper cut” knockout punch to demolish the traditional doctrine which teaches Adam and Eve to be historical figures. Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science (Brazos Press, 2017) Authors: Scot McKnight and Dennis Venema. ISBN – 9781587433948 … Continue reading “Another Rumor of the Death of Adam”
Scot McKnight’s latest book which he co-authors with Dennis Venema promises to deliver a combination “left-hook, upper cut” knockout punch to demolish the traditional doctrine which teaches Adam and Eve to be historical figures.
A new post in McKnight’s popular blog Jesus Creed, “Adam According to Jesus” offers several reasons to reject belief in Adam and Eve to be historical figures. While I disagree with Scot McKnight’s misreading of the Bible on grounds of theological hermeneutics, I admire his honesty in going public with his rejection of orthodoxy – unlike other scholars who portray themselves as ‘progressive’ evangelicals despite rejecting several central doctrines of the Bible. Perhaps, this only confirms my suspicion that many ‘progressive’ evangelicals are really closet liberals with no guts.