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tigerlilly2's avatar

What does this Biblical passage mean?

Asked by tigerlilly2 (1248points) January 5th, 2011

I came across this passage a few months ago when I was visiting some relatives and they invited me to church with them (I do not attend otherwise). Genesis 1:26 “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” The part where he says ‘our’ image and also ‘our’ likeness, to whom is he referring?

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49 Answers

submariner's avatar

It’s a “royal we”, like when Queen Victoria says, “We are not amused.”

josie's avatar

The pantheon of Gods that the Ancients believed in. It was not until around the time of Moses that the Hebrews decided to settle once and for all on a single god.

submariner's avatar

Some commentators speculate that God is addressing his heavenly court of angels. Genesis 3:22 (... now the man has become like one of us…) would seem to support either that interpretation or what josie said.

DrBill's avatar

WE = The Father, Son and Holly ghost

tigerlilly2's avatar

@DrBill I had considered it meaning the holy trinity, but that wouldn’t really be logical because at the time the old testament was written, Jesus Christ, who is a part of the trinity, was not yet born/in existence.

DrBill's avatar

He was still part of the trinity, he just had not been born to human form yet

Just as the unborn reside in the guf awaiting their time

filmfann's avatar

@DrBill is correct. Jesus is God, and has always been. I have also heard it speculated that he was the fourth figure in the firey furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

tigerlilly2's avatar

@filmfann So, did the Hebrews writing the old testament already know there was going to be a trinity?

filmfann's avatar

The Hebrews wrote this with the guidance of the Lord.

tigerlilly2's avatar

@filmfann and @DrBill Okay then, question answered. Thank you!

filmfann's avatar

(smiles, nods, and taps lurve jar)

submariner's avatar

The Trinity is eternal, but the triune nature of God had not yet been revealed to the ancient Hebrews when they wrote Genesis.

I also want to make clear that my first answer was not a wisecrack. One of the ways of referring to God in Hebrew is elohim, which is a plural noun.

Qingu's avatar

It is NOT a royal we. Hebrew does not have the royal we.

Yahweh is talking to his heavenly council. In other Mesopotamian myths, the head god (Enlil or Marduk) has a council of sub-divinities. Genesis has roots in this tradition.

Elsewhere in the Bible, particularly the apocalyptic texts, we see Yahweh has a whole bunch of divine creatures up there in his heavenly palace; angels, lion-men creatures, etc. The Bible also mentions the “sons of God” in Genesis 6.

I think it’s silly to interpret this as the Trinity because there is no indication that Genesis was written with this 3rd-century Christian idea in mind.

Qingu's avatar

@josie, even in the time of Moses the Hebrews believed there were multiple gods. The commandment is “you shall not have other gods before me,” not “there are no other gods.”

The entire concept of the Covenant only makes sense if you believe there are other gods. The other Mesopotamians had to pray to Enlil for rain, Marduk for civic duties, Ishtar for fertility, etc. All the gods had specific tasks and cults. The point of the “covenant” with Yahweh was that the Hebrews could consolidate all their prayers—war, rain, fertility—to this one god, Yahweh. In exchange, they become Yahweh’s “chosen people” and Yahweh’s cult and priests gets exclusive control over sacrifices and civic duties.

Qingu's avatar

Finally, just for some cultural context, there’s a close parallel between Genesis and the Enuma Elish, which was the Babylonian creation myth honoring Marduk, written about 1400 BC. In the EE, Marduk defeats the ocean goddess and creates the world.

As the cosmic victor and creator, Marduk absorbs the names and stations of the other Anunaki (gods). So Marduk becomes much like Yahweh—a sort of super-god, beyond a mere head of the pantheon like Zeus. But, the other gods he defeated and superseded are all still up there, hanging out. The Hebrews almost certainly believed a similar setup with Yahweh; they certainly believed in multiple divine beings (the angels, the cherubim, the sons of god, etc).

tigerlilly2's avatar

@Qingu That is very enlightening, because I wasn’t aware of any of that! Thank you for your input! :)

anartist's avatar

@DrBill not. This is the old testament. Before some considered Jesus either a prophet, potential messiah, or son of god.
@josie and @Qingu Actually all those old gods, like Ba’al and Horus and some of those other local deities didn’t look much like what was made from clay.
My most likely guess is that it is a deliberate King James misinterpretation [along the lines of Queen Victoria’s royal “we are not amused”—good point @submariner!] of an earlier misinterpretation of the original Aramaic.
@DrBill again, I hope the unborn do not reside in the gut. They would receive no life support and eventually be shat out.

DrBill's avatar


In the old testament, they did not know because he had not been born to human form yet. Just because they did not know him does not mean he was not in existence.

I did not say GUT, I said GUF.

anartist's avatar

@DrBill my apologies for misreading GUF.
What is GUF?

If whoever wrote down the Genesis story in the form the old testament is based on today did not know that Jesus existed, why would he/she write it?

DrBill's avatar

The word Guf, is the hall of souls, derived from the Hebrew word for “body/corpse”. The Guf is also referred to as the Otzer or treasury. It is the source of every soul before it is born into the world,. Judgement day will be when the Guf has run empty and the first soul-less child is born

Of course no one knows how many souls are left, hence no one knows when judgement day will be.

tigerlilly2's avatar

@DrBill What belief system is this from? Could you elaborate please? That sounds extremely interesting!

DrBill's avatar

I have a Ph.D. in theology these are the points that most of the worlds religions agree on. There are some variations but they are similar

downtide's avatar

Don’t forget that what you are reading here is not the original Hebrew text. This is an English translation, and though I don’t know the year of this particular translation it’s possible that the “royal we” was in common use at that time. So it may be a product of the time in which it was translated rather than when it was originally written.

BarnacleBill's avatar

This is the problem with reading the bible in verse, and taking each verse literally.
Genesis 1:27, the next verse, answers this question: God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.

Qingu's avatar

@anartist, there is no “original Aramaic.” The original text of Genesis was Hebrew, not Aramaic.

@DrBill, where is your PhD in theology from? It is absolutely ridiculous to say that all the world’s religions agree on Jesus being a divinity alongside Yahweh. The Quran explicitly says Jesus is not God, or his son.

Qingu's avatar

@BarnacleBill, I don’t understand why you think the next passage means the text is meant to be a metaphor.

The Hebrews came from a culture that was very familiar with statues (or “images”). When a king went and conquered somewhere, he left a statue of himself. The statue was his “image,” and it was meant to convey his authority in the conquered place, without him actually being there. That’s why Yahweh created humans. We are supposed to be like Yahweh’s statues (his representatives) on Earth.

It’s not a “metaphor,” it’s something these people understood as actually happening. The Hebrews, just like the Babylonians, believed that humans were literally created from animated clay. Now, we know today that this isn’t true. But that doesn’t mean it’s a “metaphor,” it just means it’s wrong. Similarly, Aristotle really believed there were just five elements—earth, water, air, fire, and void/aether. Aristotle was wrong, but he obviously wasn’t writing metaphorically.

Summum's avatar

When they brought Adam and Eve to Earth there was God the Father, Christ and all of us were part of the we also. We all were there and witnessed what took place when Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden.

DrBill's avatar


Read the post again, it says most, not all.

submariner's avatar

@Qingu you are straying into question-begging territory. The hermeneutic strategies of those of us who consider the Bible to be divinely inspired and inerrant are obviously going to be different from those who assume it is mostly false. In any case, we cannot answer these interpretive questions with the certainty with which we can answer questions about, say, the chemical composition of the red clay in the Georgia hills.

There are two creation stories in Genesis. The one about being made of clay is part of the second; the passage in question is part of the first. The clay story is metaphorical in the sense that we are not literally made of the stuff that potters make pots out of, but it represents, in mythic terms comprehensible to ancient Hebrew tribespeople, a truth: that our bodies are made of the same elements that other matter is made of, and that that matter came to be connected with life and awareness because God willed it that it should.

Qingu's avatar

@submariner, First of all, I don’t “assume the Bible is false.” I’ve read the Bible and I happened to notice that it is largely false in its factual claims. Likewise, I’ve read some of the works of ancient Greek philosophers; I didn’t “assume” they were false, I noticed that they were false as I read them.

More importantly, why on earth should our interpretations differ? You presumably do not believe that there are just four elements, earth, fire, wind, water, plus aether. Nevertheless, you would still hopefully interpret Aristotle the same way as an ancient Greek who did believe in four elements (or close to it).

It seems you’re saying that people who believe the Bible is divinely inspired somehow have license to dishonestly or nonsensically interpret it.

As for clay being a metaphor, why on earth would an ancient Hebrew with no knowledge of biology think it was “metaphor”? Our flesh resembles clay; Gods have the power to animate inanimate objects. What’s not to believe? Also, are you aware that many Mesopotamian creation stories describe the exact same kind of creation from clay? (The main difference is that the Mesopotamian gods typically need to mix in their blood, whereas Yahweh just uses his magic breath).

These stories aren’t “metaphors,” they are attempts by ancient (and scientifically ignorant) people to factually describe the world and the origin of human life. They are wrong, but that doesn’t somehow magically turn them into metaphors. A metaphor is an intentional literary technique. A metaphor is not “a statement that people 2,000 years in the future will realize is factually incorrect.”

submariner's avatar

@Qingu You did not simply notice that the Bible is wrong in its factual claims. You weren’t around when the universe was created or Jericho was conquered, so you have to look to others’ accounts of these events. You noticed discrepancies between a strictly literal reading of the Bible and scientific and historic research, and you rightly chose to credit the latter. But that is not the only way to read the Bible. If you like, say that it is we believers who are making assumptions. But one must interpret any text, and indeed, any communication, against the background of one’s beliefs and assumptions. This is not “dishonest”, this is how communication works. And it is the opposite of nonsensical: read this way, the Bible makes more sense, not less.

Myths are not simply a primitive forerunner of science. The mythic cosmologies and creation stories of all peoples are a way of making sense of the world in a larger sense than science currently attempts to do. Ancient cultures combine elements that are separate in modern cultures. A single ritual practice might have many dimensions: religious, political, artistic, social, maybe even athletic. A single story may offer a factual explanation of observed phenomena, but it may also attempt to say something about the place of human beings in the cosmos and their relationship to the divine, to nature, and to each other. It is this latter dimension of myths that gives myths their lasting value to their culture.

You are also misreading ancient natural philosophy, and you are not reading the ancient theory of elements the way Aristotle or Empedocles would. They were not proposing a periodic table with only 5 elements on it. They were taking the first baby steps towards science as we know it, separating scientific inquiry from the other kinds of inquiry that are all mixed together in the mythic way of sense-making. They were attempting to isolate the fundamental descriptive characteristics of the material world: hot/cold, dense/rare, wet/dry, etc. What the ancient natural philosophers were doing was not analogous to what the authors of Genesis were doing.

One need not even be a believer to see that more is going on in the Genesis creation stories than merely an attempt to factually describe the origin of human life. Where human life came from is clearly not the only point and arguably not even the main point of either story. Indeed, the continuities you have pointed out between the ancient Hebrews and the older societies reinforces my claim that the Genesis stories were not primarily intended mainly to offer mere facts. Such merely factual cosmologies were already available. The Genesis stories go beyond those purported facts to answer the big “so what” questions, and the Genesis answers to those big questions of larger meaning stand even though the ancient factual answers—which, as you say, did not originate from the authors of the Bible—have fallen.

Metaphor is not necessarily an intentional literary technique. Metaphor, comparison, and analogy occur spontaneously in all human cultures. These thought processes are basic to human cognition, not something one learns how to do in a creative writing seminar. Even today, the creative process is not fully transparent. Where do great artists—or scientific theorists, for that matter—get their inspiration for what they to express and how they express it? Some of believe us that the authors of the Bible got their inspiration from the Holy Spirit, and that shapes how we interpret it.

Qingu's avatar

@submariner, correct, I was not around when the universe was created by Marduk from the corpse of the ocean goddess, Tiamat, who stretched out her back to form the solid dome of the sky. Neither were you.

Are you seriously saying that you would read this statement and not notice it is incorrect?

And yes, Aristotle did begin the process of a scientific examination of the world; however, he also made a ton of assumptions, many unfounded, and failed to connect his views with available evidence (it took until Galileo’s experiments to undo his wrong idea about gravity).

Aristotle was wrong. And that’s okay, because science progresses by identifying what ideas are wrong, and why. But he was still wrong.

And so were ancient Babylonian writers, including the authors of Genesis, who claimed that the sky was a solid dome. This was not a wishy washy metaphor. In fact, it makes a great deal of sense if you think about it. If you’re a bronze-age nomad, you know that rain falls from the sky. But you also know that water doesn’t just float in the air. So you conclude that there must be some sort of structure holding it up, possibly made out of metal or glass (the Hebrew word in Genesis is “raqiya,” which means literally “that which is beaten out,” as in metal).

What I’m getting from you is an unwillingness to state that a text is wrong because you believe it is magic. Since the Bible is magic, it can’t be “wrong,” so it must just be a “metaphor.” That is not an honest interpretation of the text.

Qingu's avatar

Also, Genesis is wrong in its explanations for the so-called big “so what” questions. As it turns out, no deities were involved in creating our Earth or the solar system, both of which came into existence due to known forces—primarily the force of gravity.

The “larger meaning” of Genesis is also incorrect. Humans are not representatives of a god, made in the god’s image. We should not actually “go forth and multiply,” because that leads to overpopulation. (Interestingly, the Babylonian flood story that Genesis copies from, the Epic of Atrahasis, has the opposite moral lesson: the reason for the flood is that humans are overpopulating and annoying the gods, and the “fix” the gods made post-flood is limiting the population through the invention of miscarriage and short life spans—the exact opposite of Yahweh’s moral message, and in my opinion a better one for our crowded planet.)

submariner's avatar

So we have two main questions before us now. The first is whether Genesis must be taken literally. The second is whether even a non-literal reading of the Bible yields any significant truth.

On the first, you are contradicting yourself when you say that I must simply notice that the sky is not a solid dome, and then turn around and say that it is perfectly natural for a bronze age nomad to believe that the sky was a solid dome. When you and I look at the sky, we get pretty much the same visual sensations that those ancient nomads did. That’s not what leads you and I to reject the story of Tiamat or a literal reading of Genesis.

If you want to insist that these ancient Babylonian or Sumerian myths are simply very early and very crude scientific theories that were subsequently disproven by a succession of better ones, which ignores the difference between myth and science that I tried to explain to you, that still doesn’t mean that Genesis must be taken literally. Given that the authors (including the compilers and redactors) of Genesis, who were not Babylonians, adopted these Babylonian accounts of the structure of the cosmos, that still leaves unanswered the question of the origin of the universe, not to mention the larger questions I alluded to before.

The structure of the universe doesn’t really matter; theories about that come and go. That is not the main point of Genesis. The origin is God, not Tiamat; that much we can take literally.

You say,
“Genesis is wrong in its explanations for the so-called big “so what” questions. As it turns out, no deities were involved in creating our Earth or the solar system, both of which came into existence due to known forces—primarily the force of gravity.”

Now you really are just begging the question and table-thumping. Surely you can see how easy it is for a theist who doesn’t take Genesis literally to integrate the Big Bang into his worldview. Must we play “is too—is not”? God is the Creator. If there was a Big Bang, it was because God willed it, and God decreed the physical laws to be such as would eventually result in the formation of our planet and the evolution of intelligent life upon it.

To get at the “larger” questions—questions that science cannot answer—we must dig deeper, and that brings us to the second main question.

God almost certainly did not create the cosmos over a period of 6 discrete 24-hour periods. That is poetic, figurative language and has been recognized as such since ancient times. The larger significance of this story is that the universe is not just a meaningless cosmic accident. It exists, and it is the way it is, because a divine intellect and will caused it to be so in accordance with a divine plan (incidentally, notice the contrast between this story and those of other cultures in which a primordial mother goddess just gives birth to the universe). Thus the first lesson of the Bible is the starting point of all spirituality: the rejection of nihilism. The second creation story is not mainly about creation at all; it is the story of the Fall.

Humans are made in the image of God, meaning not that God has arms and legs like we do, but that like God we are free, self-aware, creative beings. God has left blank spots on the canvas of creation, so to speak, and has given us the freedom to fill them in. We cannot create in the absolute sense of making something out out of nothing, but we can create in the sense of bringing new things into the world, for good or evil purposes.

“Go forth and multiply”—what is the honest way to read this? Does it mean multiply indefinitely without limit? Why should we read it that way? The very next line says, “Fill the earth and subdue it.” Well, if overpopulation is a problem (the issue is more complicated than you suggest, but let’s not digress), then we’ve filled the earth sufficiently, and can cut back on the multiplication. You choose to read the Bible in a fragmentary way, and choose to read each fragment in a way that renders it false. I choose to read it as a coherent whole that is true in its intended main points. And it is a choice; the language itself does not compel us to adopt one interpretive strategy over another. Surely you will not pretend that you have no axe to grind that influences your interpretation of the text.

I am no postmodernist; I will not go so far as to say that there is no fact of the matter about what a text “really” means, or that all interpretations are equally valid. But if you cannot see that any sufficiently complex text will lend itself to competing interpretations, then you really shouldn’t be telling other people how to read.

Summum's avatar

There is not one thing that science and the Books of Creation conflict about.

Qingu's avatar

@submariner, I don’t see how I’m contradicting myself. Yes, we look up at the sky today and see the same thing that bronze-age nomads saw. If we didn’t know anything about modern science, we probably would conclude the same thing about the sky that they did—and we would be wrong. Scientific truths are often not obvious.

I think you are operating under the assumption that I am somehow “judging” the ancient Mesopotamians (including the Hebrews) for being ignorant and wrong in their conception of Earth’s structure and history, as if they should have known better. I’m not. They’re all dead. Their stories live on, and what I’m interested in here is how to understand those stories.

I disagree that the structure of the universe “doesn’t matter.” It mattered quite a bit to the ancient Hebrews (and Babylonians before them) who wrote many lines of myths describing that structure in detail. The entire flood story is predicated on this structure of the cosmos being accurate. The flood story makes no sense if Earth is a sphere drifting in empty space. It only makes sense if Earth is a flat plate, covered by a sky-dome, with an ocean above the dome. In this cosmology the imagery of the flood story is actually quite beautiful and powerful; it “fits.” It’s also false, and clearly fiction based on an inaccurate and primitive understanding of Earth’s shape.

And that’s fine. We can appreciate ancient myths even if they contain no truths—literal or metaphorical. Homer’s “Odyssey” is a beautiful and epic story, even though it is based on a primitive and inaccurate understanding of nature. You don’t need to pretend that the Odyssey is some sort of grand metaphor for a fundamental truth to appreciate it. Likewise with Genesis.

Now. You say that the 6-day creation story has been recognized as poetic, figurative language “since ancient times.” This is just absolute nonsense, and I invite you to cite any ancient or medieval source that interprets the Genesis creation story as “just figurative” and not true in a literal sense. The only people who interpret the story as “figurative” are modern, scientifically-educated people who know better, but who can’t bring themselves to just admit the story is “wrong.”


A couple of other points:

• I think you are overstating the differences between Genesis and other Mesopotamian creation myths. I think it’s clear that the ancient Hebrews, like other Mesopotamian cultures, understood “creation” not as the act of bringing existence into being, but rather as the “sculpting” of primordial chaos into our recognizable world. A sculptor “creates” a statue by molding and forming a lump of clay into a pattern—not by bringing the lump of clay into existence ex nihilo.

Genesis, contrary to Christian exegesis, is not creation ex nihilo. Notice in Genesis that when Yahweh starts creating the heavens and the earth, there’s stuff already there—the waters. Yahweh’s act of creation involves rearranging and separating these waters. Likewise, Marduk “creates” the world by rearranging and separating the corpse of Tiamat, who is of course functionally identical to the primordial waters in Genesis.

There are other clues in the Bible that something already existed before Yahweh “begins” creating. In Psalms and in Job, Yahweh is described as battling/defeating “the sea,” or “Rahab,” or “Leviathan.” When did this cosmic battle take place? The obvious answer—if we are evaluating Genesis in its cultural context—is that it took place before creation, just like Marduk’s battle with Tiamat and her watery monsters, just like many myths from the area involving primordial battles of succession between the current crop of gods and their ancestors.

• I think you are overstating the positive message of Genesis. Yes, life is not an accident; life was created intentionally by the god Yahweh. On the other hand, Yahweh—much like Enlil in Atrahasis—explicitly creates humans to be his worker-slaves. In Atrahasis, the gods create humans out of clay to dig canals for them. In Genesis 2, Yahweh creates humans out of clay to tend his garden for them. I don’t use the word “slave” lightly; Adam and Eve are treated like slaves, and when they disobey God they are thrown out of the “house” and into the “field” to toil. Yahweh is motivated here by paranoia, much like white slave-owners in the south, that his slaves will achieve parity with him (he worries they’ll eat the other magic fruit and become like “one of us”). I don’t find this a particularly inspiring moral message, though I suppose YMMV.

• On “Go forth and multiply,” I agree with you that it’s not necessary to take this command to its utter logical conclusion; although this is certainly how many religious folks understand it, the ones who think it’s their duty to have at least ten kids and eschew birth control, and “subdue the earth” by digging up and burning its entire supply of fossil fuels, and who could blame them for reading it that way?

But I mostly brought it up to contrast with the Akkadian moral message in its myths—not that I’m a huge fan of Akkadian myths’ morality either, but I think the contrast is interesting since both flood myths are largely identical in structure, but the city-dwelling Babylonians forge a completely different moral lesson than the tribal, nomadic Hebrews.

Summum's avatar

The Biblical stories of creation happened in a 6 thousand year period and the Earth was not created. The Earth was organized and set up to house man and all the creatures that are here. Many Christians do take what the Bible says as literal but it was never so it is very figurative and has many parables in it. There is nothing that conflicts with modern day science in the Bible. Are there some mistakes? Yes man wrote it and it has been interpreted many times over but the main understanding is there and with the help of revelation it becomes very clear and understandable.

Qingu's avatar

There is nothing that conflicts with modern day science in the Bible… and yet you admit there are “mistakes” because man wrote it. Riiight.

I mean, this encapsulates everything that I’ve been talking about. Even after explicitly admitting there are “mistakes” you can’t even bring yourself to just say “it conflicts with science.” Intellectual dishonesty.

Summum's avatar

The purpose and meaning that the Bible was to bring to man is there but one has to have revelation to understand all the meanings and then the mistakes are corrected. There is nothing that is major that conflicts in a terrible way. There is no intellectual dishonesty. You have always interpreted everything anyone says how you think and feel but doesn’t make what you say any better or significant as any others statements. Just open your heart and mind and see, Seek and ye shall find, knock and it will be opened to you. There is a lot that has been opened to you but you presist in trying to make others wrong.

Qingu's avatar

I have no idea what you’re saying.

I mean, you said the Bible has mistakes. Because it was written by man.

You also said the Bible doesn’t conflict with science.

So do the mistakes not conflict with science? I am assuming these mistakes include the Bible’s claims like “the sky is a solid dome” and “Noah took all land species on an ark,” etc, which do conflict with science, obviously.

Or are you backtracking and saying the Bible does conflict with science, but not in its essential message, whatever that is?

Summum's avatar

Again you try and try to make others statements conflict with how you think. It doesn’t conflict with science at all. There is no statement in the Bible stating there is a solid dome over the Earth and yes there was a flood and the Ark has been found by several people. I am not backtracking at all, you love to make what I say fit your understanding and it will not. Until you experience what I have you will not understand and what I ask you is to open your mind to all things being posible and seek for your deeper answers.

Qingu's avatar

Genesis 1:6. “And God said, ‘Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky.”

the Hebrew word translated here as “dome” is “raqiya,” which means “that which is hammered out.” It’s a solid object. It also has windows. God opens them in the flood story so the above-sky ocean falls through.

Summum's avatar

Do you want an explanation for that? Here it is when the Garden was organized to accept life it was watered as is a terrarium. The atmostphere was very much like a terrarium and it did not rain. At the time of the flood the atmostphere was changed and it rained which also expaned the Earths surface and split the continents. It was at this time that the ultraviolet rays were let into the Earths atmostphere and man started dying sooner. They used to live for hundreds of years. The word dome is not in the King James version which is the one I except.

Qingu's avatar

Well I’m done here.

submariner's avatar

There is lots more to discuss, but I too step away from this thread and Fluther in general for a while due to a looming logjam of deadlines. But I must answer Qingu’s reasonable request for citation:

“I invite you to cite any ancient or medieval source that interprets the Genesis creation story as ‘just figurative’ and not true in a literal sense.”

Here. Scroll down to “Allegorical explanations”.

Qingu's avatar

Oh my. I stand corrected. I had no idea that Origen and Pliny wrote that, that early.

Though, I’m not sure it’s as cut and dry as this. I mean, these writers reject the literalness of “six days,” but I think they would still accept many other aspects of Genesis as literal. Likewise, even fundamentalist Christians today, who really do believe the earth was made in 6 days, still reject the literal truth of the sky-dome (some say it’s a “vapor cloud” or something), and geocentrism. In other words, the only people who don’t play fast and loose (i.e. figurative) with at least some aspect of Genesis are the Flat Earth Society.

So I would be curious to see the extent to which these writers reject the literal truth of Genesis; if it’s just the nature of the six days or if it’s every detail of the story, including the flood story. From what I’ve read of Augustine that would certainly surprise me, but obviously I’ve been wrong before. :)

Summum's avatar

The 6 days is reffering to days in God’s time. 1 day of God’s is 1000 years of ours and they are called dispensations of time. Adam was told in the day he partook of the forbidden fruit he would surely die. He died when he was a little over 900 years old so he died according to what God said.

Summum's avatar

This also explains the millennium being 1000 years it would be the last dispensation of time. The world has worked and progressed for 6000 years and now it will rest on the 7000th year. Just as it was when the world was organized, 6 days activity and on the 7th he rested.

Spreader's avatar

Jesus Christ is “the firstborn of all creation; because by means of him all other things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible.” (Colossians 1:15, 16) “When he God prepared the heavens I was there,” continues wisdom personified, “when he decreed a circle upon the face of the watery deep, when he made firm the cloud masses above, when he caused the fountains of the watery deep to be strong, when he set for the sea his decree that the waters themselves should not pass beyond his order, when he decreed the foundations of the earth, then I came to be beside him as a master worker, and I came to be the one he was specially fond of day by day, I being glad before him all the time, being glad at the productive land of his earth, and the things I was fond of were with the sons of men.” (Proverbs 8:27–31) so went God created the first human, His Son was associated with him in the project as Master Worker. (Genesis 1:26) No wonder God’s Son is very much interested in mankind.

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