What happens if someone keeps faith in God but loses faith in the inspiration of the Bible and in its accuracy? Is there any valid Christian spirituality outside the texts of the Bible? Can one keep the conviction that Jesus Christ brought to the world teachings for real spiritual regeneration even if some of them are misinterpreted in the Bible? How about the relationship between Jesus and the old Scriptures, for example, the book of Genesis? Did Jesus believe or indeed know that the book of Genesis, found in the Jewish Scriptures, was inspired by God? If one finds Jesus’ references to the book of Genesis is that sufficient proof that the book itself is infallible? Actually, there is such reference in the N.T. about Noah but to me this is not sufficient evidence that the book of Genesis is inspired by God, because that saying could be a latter insertion made by the evangelist or the editor.
I don’t reject, in any way, the idea of revelation, either general revelation through Christ or personal revelation given directly to a believer. At the same time, it must be remarked that any message, including God’s revelation, coming through a prophet, is submitted to linguistic limitations and interpretations and possible historic reinterpretations which can change entirely the signification of the message. For example, the first gospel was written about 40 or 50 years after the referred events, which historically is a very long period of time. Let’s imagine that the history of the World War II was written in 1984, 40 years after its end. How accurate would that history be? In the meantime, between 1944 and 1984, let’s say that the war stories were kept in the public memory by the traditions of different communities communicated verbally from one generation to another. A similar thing happened with the life and events of Jesus’ life.
How long after the creation of the world, were the narratives from the book of Genesis written? Biblical scholars today think that several people wrote the creation accounts, and then these accounts were anthologised together much later in the book we currently call thebook of Genesis, and that explains why there isn’t unity between the texts.
- 27 -
How can one know what part of the Bible is the product of divine inspiration and what is the result of human effort to explain the world? Only by studying carefully the texts of the O.T. and of the N.T. can one reach a conclusion in this respect. Is Genesis, the first book of the O.T., a book inspired by God? Is the book of Genesis the truth or it is a lie? Or is it neither truth, nor a lie? What else? The first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis could be a deep spiritual message embedded in mythological literature. The world hadn’t been made in seven days, the daylight was not created before the sun and Adam and Eve are not historical characters. What still remains as a spiritual message? It is the information that there is God, who created everything, even in another manner than the one described by the book of Genesis. But the manner of creation is important and is a useful tool in order to know God and His contribution to the creation of the universe and of humankind.
A question nevertheless persists. How can we trust that the information about God’s existence is correct if all details from the narratives of creation from the book of Genesis are wrong? I consider that the only way to answer this question is God’s personal revelation, personal in the sense that is individually addressed. If one has a personal revelation he or she can get the assurance that God exists even if the book of Genesis isn’t an accurate description of the formation of the universe and mankind. In my opinion, the narratives of the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis, alone, are not enough evidence in order to convince someone that God exists because many readers can reach the conclusion that particular details of the creation of the universe are wrong, being in contradiction with rationality and with scientific data.
The Christian tradition takes it that the book of Genesis is inspired directly by God together with all Scriptures, and this conclusion is based on the pseudonymous text from 2 Timothy 3; 16-17, found in the N.T. This text is important because it is the biblical reference on which is based the claim of the divine inspiration of the book of Genesis.
- 28 -
At the same time, another biblical book in the N.T. contains the claim that it wasn’t directly inspired by God but that it was written by composition, following the personal investigation of the author, and that is the gospel of Luke. (Luke 1; 1-4)
If Luke was directly inspired by God, he wouldn’t have needed to make any personal investigations because everything would have been given to him directly in his consciousness by Him. Luke making any personal investigation in order to check the exactness of the facts, after them being received by inspiration from God, if they really were communicated in this manner, could be considered a great impoliteness towards Him because that could be interpreted as a lack of trust in Him and in the content of the message, transmitted directly by Him.
As a matter of fact, Luke wrote the gospel by way of documentation and research and not by way of inspiration, as he declared himself. Maybe he contacted some eyewitnesses if such people had still been alive at the time, but that is not the same as the direct inspiration of God. One can ask if only Luke proceeded in that way, or all the evangelists acted in the same manner. As Luke himself mentioned, many had undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events happening in Jesus’ life on Earth, so probably Marc or Mathew used the same method when they wrought their gospels, and they also were not directly inspired by God.
Consequently, not all the Scriptures are insufflate by God, as 2 Timothy maintains. Most biblical texts are the product of compilations from early oral or written traditions. They reflect the theological views of their authors who investigated the collective memory of the events described by the texts.
After 40 years, after the events, not many eye witnesses remained, taking into consideration that the life span at that time was 35-40 years of age. At the same time probably not all of them died. Many witnesses of Jesus’ life were not very young at the time of the events, and some were persecuted, and died during the persecutions.
On the other side, concerning the book of Genesis, there were not eye witnesses to confirm the story of the creation of heavens and earth or of the creation of humankind. These stories also contain the influence of many myths of creation, circulating amongst the inhabitants of the Middle-East, at the time.
- 29 -
Some scholars see a reversed influence of the biblical texts on other mythologies but the real dynamic of the possible reciprocal influence isn’t clearly established.
This pretension of the Bible, to be an inspired book, comes mainly from the following biblical text attributed to the apostle Paul:
“16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3; 16-17 NRSV)
The difficulty with this text is that precisely the two of Paul’s epistles addressed to Timothy, the Pastoral Epistles, are at the core of a debate surrounding their authenticity. Not only are they contested in connection with their authorship, but their theology is somehow different from that of Paul’s in undisputed epistles. In other words, these two epistles seem to have been written by another author than Paul. Without entering into this debate in detail, I have to say that I also agree with the opinions of many scholars that 1 and 2 Timothy seem not to be written or dictated by Paul, and that is because, from my point of view, there is a difference in theology between Paul’s undisputed epistles, such as Romans or Galatians, and 1 and 2 Timothy.
Being a pseudonymous work, 1 Timothy doesn’t have any authority on the issue of the inspiration of the book of Genesis, because the epistle is not truthful in relation to its authorship. In point of fact, 1 Timothy was written before the gospels and because of that it cannot cover the whole canon of the Bible. It is important to establish to what Scriptures the text from 2 Timothy refers. The canon of the O.T. didn’t reach its final form until AD 90. Nevertheless, the Pentateuch had been authoritative for the community long before the time of Jesus.
A pseudonym work casts doubts on its truthfulness in any of its aspects. Moreover, the reference to its inspiration could be proof that this epistle used the text from chapter 3, verse 16, only to artificially endorse its own inspiration.
- 30 -
The majority of the narratives of the N.T. are based on the transmission by eyewitnesses of their own experiences of events to their communities, and after that they were transmitted in the traditions of the first Christian communities. In the process of this handing over, in time a lot of new theological interpretations emerged. All the gospels were written in order to answer to the needs of the Christian communities and they did that to their best, and sometimes with disregard to the historical details or even to the precise content of Jesus’ teachings. The proof for this assertion can be found in countless discrepancies occurring between the texts of the N.T.
Taken literally, the expression “all Scripture is inspired by God” is not accurate and this observation refers also to the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis. A process of gradual integration and compilation of many sources happened with the book of Genesis. The present study dealing mainly with the reliability of the book of Genesis refers also indirectly to the inspiration of the whole Bible.
One thing must be said, God will never dictate contradictory or absurd texts. If He had decided to let us know some facts unknown by us concerning our pre-history or the origins of the universe, God would have given us real records. Instead what we have is only a mythological way of describing the origins of universe and humankind contained in the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis. I consider that the first 11 chapters from the Bible must be seen in the context of all mythologies about the origins of the universe coming from all ancient societies, and not disentangled from them.
Are the narratives from the book of Genesis inspired by God or are they mere human products? If they are inspired by God, are they inspired in their literal sense, a factual, historical one, or they are inspired in the form of parables, similar to ones used by Jesus, in order to communicate His messages? If Christ was present at the moment of creation, being everlasting, He could use the same parabolic way of speaking about the creation of the Cosmos, as He did when He lived on Earth about other issues. The problem with the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis is that the stories contradict each other and are in many ways absurd. Opposite to that, Jesus’s parables in the N.T. were short stories, coherent and with rational conclusions.
- 31 -
If one admits that the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis are parables, inspired to humankind by God, even if no particular details of the process of creation can be taken as real facts a certain rational order of creation and meaningful conclusions should be expected. If the stories of creation from the Bible are neither real facts nor parables they have to be considered mythology and that is a different genre.
If we credit the stories of creation from the Bible with the qualification of parables inspired by God, the paradise and Adam and Eve could only be symbols for what God intends to achieve for human beings in the future, if they will enter in a certain relationship with Him. At the same time, the story of Adam and Eve could be similar to the parable of the prodigious son, which can happen in everybody’s life hence it has a universal value. They never really existed but they are legendary personages, through whom God shows us His interest for human beings. The only message would be that God exists and He created the world. Such message, nevertheless, is repeated in many texts of the Bible and the book of Genesis doesn’t bring any added value or any originality to it, instead creating plenty of confusion.
If one believes that the stories of creation from the book of Genesis are a way in which God speaks to humankind through parables, then the conclusion is that these stories were inspired by Him. Along these lines, if one compares the rationality of Jesus’ parables with the irrationality of the stories of creation from the book of Genesis, the conclusion is that they cannot have the same author.
If the book of Genesis was inspired by the eternal Christ, as Christians believe, the style and language of Genesis should be similar to all messages expressed by Him, when He lived on Earth. If Jesus never contradicted Himself, and He spoke always very rationally, why are the biblical texts from Genesis so contradictory? This cannot be Jesus’ style. Their different situation in time doesn’t matter if the book of Genesis was dictated by God.
In my opinion, the texts from the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis aren’t inspired by God, neither as fact nor as parables. They are in many ways irrational, hence absurd, and if we want to attach any spiritual message what results is a mixture of contradictory information which doesn’t present a coherent story of creation.
As far as the stories of creation from Genesis cannot be seen as an exact description of facts or alternatively the texts of parables, inspired by God, what remains is a human authorship and mythological meanings which can be attributed to them. It is important to observe that there are two stories of creation in the book of Genesis and not just one, and those narratives contradict each other.
- 32 -