Genesis, a Poetic Understanding

Take it from an English Major, the “book” of Genesis found in the Bible, is a poem. For such a long time I was taught fundamentalism and the literal interpretation of “God’s Word” as THE one and the ONLY way to truth. That everything in the Bible was written by God himself (though God is all-gendered and has no gender). For so long, I hated ideas of Evolution and how they took away from the importance of being made in “God’s image.” I thought scientists were the bias ones, making up data to further their importance or theories — but I was reading the true biased interpretation of science called Creationism. This all stems from the lack of insight into the poetic nature of Genesis and most of the Bible for that matter.

Why I fought so hard against this idea

I think I argued so hard for creationism and spent hours reading Christian websites and books that spit out obscure and one-sided arguments as to why science was wrong because I was scared. If the Bible was wrong about Genesis… If Genesis isn’t literal? Is the whole Bible like this then? If God did not write the Bible, then what was my faith? My faith would be shattered. I was arguing for God and myself rather than looking at objective truth. To put it simply, my faith was shattered.

What is wrong with Genesis Astronomically/Scientifically

Genesis is a poem. The refrain of “let there be… and it was good” is unmistakable and a widely used poetic device. The contrasting elements dark, light, day, night, sky, ocean, land, plant, animal, etc. also are poetic. Even the rhythm of Genesis does not follow a narrative style but one of a poem. It is all a metaphor. It also goes with great importance, that the sequence of what was created each day makes absolutely no sense. Let’s list some of them out…

  • In Genesis I, God created “heaven and earth” but the universe is older than Earth (13.7 v. 4.6 billion years). God then “moved upon the face of the waters” as “he” made Light, (1:3) but didn’t make light-producing objects (sun) until the 4th day, then Darkness (dividing light into night and day), then he made the Water that he was already moving upon, dividing it to make the sky and the ocean. We know that all heavy elements are born in collapsed stars that then explode, spewing their new non-hydrogen-only material into space. So stars must have preceded oxygen which is necessary for water.  So there is no “water” for god to “move upon” without the creation and destruction of stars.
  • God then creates dry land, grass and seeds, but does this before the sun was created (1:16) which would have been necessary for photosynthesis. Without the sun, the earth would be a frozen tundra; no life would have been possible.  And even if some life were able to evolve in such a cold, dark place, it would perish upon the sudden, blistering appearance of the sun, which would be a massive, cataclysmic game changer for which “grass and seeds” would not have been prepared.
  • Also, even if one were to accept that the earth’s creation as described by biblical authors was not 6 days but some other long period, it still does not explain why we have fossils from the Cambrian Era 250 million years ago, whereas careful dating by generational analysis from Adam on gives us only 6,000 years. Since one version of genesis claims man was created first, then the animals, the animals whose fossil remains we know to be hundreds of millions of years old could not possibly be explained.
  • Source: — though this source is a blog, all these are backed up by more academic sources — he just did a good job of putting these ideas into normal language.

I will spare the many more examples. In a poem you do not have to worry about these errors.

Rebuilding a poetic Genesis

Poetry is an immensely important influencer in our culture. Poetry has been shaping our culture since the beginning by challenging standards, putting words to the ineffable, conveying humanity in the deepest senses possible, amongst many more things. Genesis being a poem doesn’t take any power or beauty away from it. Instead, I think it adds even more wonder, mystery, and complexity to our nature. It allows science to be science and poetry to be poetry — two things that shouldn’t be mixed in the first place. “I have hope that we will learn to find God in both the Scriptures and the testament of science, and that in letting go of our religious fear, our hearts and minds will be enriched and enlarged” (Michael Gungor). We shouldn’t sign any manifestos of belief, you shouldn’t believe everything of anything. This will lead to walking blindly in the dark with the allusion that you have all the answers, or at least, that you are being told all the right answers. But as we all know, humans are wrong a lot.

In the beginning and in the end

At the end of the day, why does it matter so much what we believe concerning creation? Why do conservative and literal creationists spew harmful words out at evolutionists and vice versa? Does this affect how we love people? How we experience God? It shouldn’t, but I am afraid that so many people are trying to protect their beliefs that they hold so dear because they think their belief is the RIGHT belief. Just let go, see what happens. See the wonder, mystery, and beauty.

Be free in the present,

Trace Maddox

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