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Don Stewart :: Are There Mythological Elements in the Genesis Creation Account?

Don Stewart
One of the major criticisms of the early chapters of Genesis concerns the so-called mythological elements which it contains. These facts supposedly reveal the fallible human authorship of Scripture. A close examination, however, will show that the so-called mythological elements in Genesis do not really exist.

Heaven As Solid Dome

One example that is often cited is that the Bible portrays the heavens as something solid. The Hebrews, it is contended, believed the sky was a solid dome. This dome supposedly had windows which opened up to pour out the rainwater upon the earth.

New English Bible Mistranslation

The New English Bible adds to this mistaken idea. In Genesis 1, it translates the Hebrew term raqiach as firmament. This has contributed to the confusion over the meaning of the term and seems to give support that Genesis teaches that the heavens were solid. This, however, is an unfortunate translation of the Hebrew word which simply means expanse.

The Expanse Is Not Solid

The Hebrew word for expanse denotes air or atmosphere not something solid. Birds are often called, the fowls of heaven. They are said to fly in the heaven, not through the heaven.

the likeness of any beast that is on the earth or the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air (Deuteronomy 4:17).

Even the stork in the heavens knows her appointed times . . . (Jeremiah 8:7).

If the Hebrews thought that heaven was a solid plate, then obviously birds could not fly in it.

Not Solid Dome

The Scripture teaches that the heavens were not a solid iron dome but something that was stretched out. The psalmist wrote the following about the heavens:

Who stretch out the heavens like a curtain (Psalm 104:2).

Stretched Out Heavens

In a number of places in Isaiah, he records God as the one who stretched out the heavens.

Thus says God the Lord, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, Who gives breath to people on it, and spirit to those who walk on it (Isaiah 42:5).

Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, and He who formed you from the womb; I am the Lord, who makes all things, Who stretches out the heavens all alone, Who spreads abroad the earth by Myself (Isaiah 44:24).

Indeed My hand has laid the foundation of the earth, and My right hand has stretched out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand together (Isaiah 48:13).

And you forget the Lord your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundation of the earth . . . (Isaiah 51:13).

The idea that the heavens were stretched out is inconsistent with some solid dome that is supposedly above us.

Job

In the Book of Job we read:

He binds up the waters in His thick clouds (Job 26:8).

The waters in the sky are in the clouds, not in some window connected to a solid dome.

Windows Of Heaven

Furthermore, the phrase windows of heaven should not be taken literally. It is obviously a figure of speech. The phrase windows of heaven is used not only of rain, but also of God giving grain:

Then the officer had answered the man of God, and said, Now look, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, could such a thing be? . . . (2 Kings 7:19).

The fact that the phrase is used in contexts other than giving rain shows that it is a figure of speech, not something to be understood literally.

Earth-Centered Universe?


Another so-called mythological understanding concerns the place of the earth in the universe. Did Moses consider the earth as the center of the universe? Again, we must emphasize that Scripture was written in popular language from the viewpoint of an observer. There is no attempt by the biblical writers to give us a scientific explanation of how the universe functions. As far as humanity is concerned, we are the center of the universe from our perspective.

Moon A Light?

Why does the Bible say that the moon is a light when we know that it is not a light but only reflects the light of the sun? Again, we are dealing with the language of observation. This is another example of the biblical writers describing things as they appear. From the point of view of the earth, the moon is a light. From a darkened earth the moon appears to be a bright light in the sky. Therefore, the Bible in speaking from the language of appearance, calls the moon a light.

Summary

The Genesis account of creation does not have the mythological elements found in other ancient accounts of the creation of the world. The so-called mythology in Genesis comes as a result of misinterpreting and mistranslating the text.
The account found in Genesis is a sober, realistic account of the heavens from vantage point of earth. It describes the heavens in the way an observer would see them. There is no attempt in Genesis to give a scientific description of the sun, moon, and stars.

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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