August 22, 2017

THE LITERAL INTERPRETATION OF GENESIS 3 (Part 3)

John Mincy

Part 1Part 2 ♦ This is Part 3

Part 1 deals with the literal interpretation of Genesis 3 based on data from the text itself and from cross references in the Old Testament.

Part 2 deals with the literal interpretation of Genesis 3 in light of New Testament data.

GENESIS 3 AND BIBLICAL THEOLOGY

To deny the literal Fall is to destroy Biblical theology at its heart. Christian theology interprets man in the creation-fall-redemption scheme. To deny the Fall is to cause creation and fallenness to coincide, to remove the need of the vicarious atonement, to abort the “mother prophecy” of all Biblical redemptive eschatology, and to render facetious the Biblical doctrine of the restitution of all things.

To question the historicity of the early genealogical characters is to question that of all the characters in the genealogies of Scripture. The great events of Creation and Fall are connected to the Great Deluge by the genealogy of chapter 5 of Genesis. The genealogy of Genesis 11 spans the time from the Deluge to the calling out of the Father of the Faithful. The Chronicler traces the chronology of David’s theocratic kingdom from the beginning of mankind. The Evangelists trace the genealogy of Jesus Christ from Adam (Lk. 3:38). Abraham (Matt. 1:1), and David (Matt. 1:1), the three giants of Old Testament redemptive history. The fact that Adam is the fountainhead of three major Biblical genealogies assumes that he is as historical as any others in the list, including the Last Adam, Christ.

Up to this point I have ignored the Biblical doctrine of inspiration. Many of the arguments used against the literal interpretation of Genesis 3 are immediately invalid for one who believes in verbal inspiration. When the Scriptural doctrine of verbal inspiration is understood, any attack upon the events of Genesis 3 is an attack upon the God-breathed character of the Bible. In a sense, then, the defense of the literal interpretation of Genesis 3 can rest in the Biblical doctrine of inspiration. The infallible testimony of Jesus Christ and His Apostles is that there was a Fall. And not only was there a Fall, but there was the literal Fall of Genesis 3 narrative.

GENESIS 3 AND THE BIBLE-SCIENCE ISSUE

The conclusions of the examination of the Fall narrative in the light of Biblical studies demonstrate the validity of the literal interpretation of Genesis 3. Both the Old and New Testament demand that the Garden narrative is to be accepted as true historical writing. The Biblical doctrine of Biblical witness to the literal interpretation. And yet, many who profess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ choose to reject the literal interpretation of Genesis 3. If there is no Biblical evidence to deny the literal interpretation, what reason is given by professing Christians for espousing an alternate interpretation? By their own admission, such Christians claim that modern scientific discoveries, especially in physical anthropology, prohibit the literal interpretation of Genesis 3. Harminus Kuitert, student of and successor to G. C. Berkouwer writes, “The best attempts in the world will not bring the first chapters of Genesis into harmony with the current scientific understanding of the history of the world; is it not better to accept the Bible for what it intends to teach us, and assume that it wants us to understand that it is not giving us a literal picture of how things came about in the ancient past?” (Do You Understand What You Read?, p. 46). Jan Lever, a Christian biologist, asks, “How can a non-Christian put any trust in the Christian faith if Christians deny the clear and plain findings of the natural sciences?” (Where Are We Headed?, p. 18).

Biblical exegesis, however, is determinative for the Christian, not modern science. When the Bible speaks clearly, as it does in Genesis 3, this is absolute knowledge, and all so-called scientific information must be interpreted in the light of that infallible revelation. If scientific facts are limited to the well-defined limits of the scientific method, few problems develop. Problems do occur, however, when scholars (1) overstate the Biblical knowledge, (2) change their view of the Bible doctrine of inspiration, (3) overstate the scientific information, or (4) disparage scientific information. The greatest of these is the problem of scientific overstatement, especially in the area of the fossil record. The fossil evidence is not able to demonstrate what it is often assumed it can. Because of the propagandist pressures from the weight of scientific authorities, many conservative Bible scholars have concluded that a literal Genesis 3 is no longer tenable. Such reasoning is neither good methodology nor good science.

Conclusion

The literal interpretation of Genesis 3 is as true today as it ever was. The truth of this ancient narrative needs to be preached to the modern world, for without the Fall the great problem of man is an enigma. And even if Genesis 3 were not in the Bible, most of the details and facts could be reconstructed from the many cross-references:

Now the Serpent, he that is called the Devil and Satan (Rev. 12:9; 20:2), was crafty (II Cor. 11:3). He deceived Eve (II Cor. 11:3), and both she and her husband Adam, the son of God and the father of Seth (Lk. 3:38), transgressed (I Tim. 2:14; Rom. 5) in the garden of God (Isa. 51:3; Ezek. 28:13) where there were trees (Ezek. 31:8-9). The Serpent tempted them by lying (John 8:44) and causing them to think that they could be like God (Ezek. 28:9). Because man broke his covenant with God (Hos. 6:7), he tried to hide his iniquity (Job 31:33), the first sin of the world (Rom. 5:12). But it could not be hidden, and as a result man would eventually return to the dust (Job 34:15; Ps. 104:29-30) and die (I Cor. 15:22; Rom. 5). The Serpent, because of his actions, would eat dust (Isa. 65:25) and finally be crushed (Rom. 16:20), though he would wage a fierce battle against the woman’s seed (Rev. 12:17). And so, God drove man out of the Garden (Ezek. 28:16), the location of the tree of life (Rev. 22:1-2, 14).


John Mincy was a church planter in Singapore and California and is now pastor emeritus of Heritage Baptist Church in Antioch, California.

This article is an abstract of a significant dissertation of a doctoral candidate in the graduate school of Bob Jones University. First published in Biblical Viewpoint, Vol. VIII, No. 2, November 1974, pp. 145-153, by Bob Jones University. Used by permission.


 

Literal Interpretation of Genesis 3, The – John Mincy (pdf version of complete article, Parts 1-3)

Literal Interpretation of Genesis 3, The – John Mincy (zip file containing epub and kindle versions of complete article, Parts 1-3)


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