Liberals, conservatives, scientists, and philosophers have offered—or demanded—their own interpretation of Genesis. They consult science, Ancient Near Eastern mythology, and even enlist the help of liberal scholars to advance their views. I’ve got a question: Why don’t they take the Creator’s word for it?
It would seem all those who have a different slant on the plain reading of Genesis 1-3 didn’t bother to look at the New Testament. There the Holy Spirit provides irrefutable support for a literal, historical interpretation of Genesis 1-3. Join John MacArthur, as he takes you on a guided tour . . .
Scripture always speaks with absolute authority. It is as authoritative when it instructs us as it is when it commands us. It is as true when it tells the future as it is when it records the past. Although it is not a textbook on science, wherever it intersects with scientific data, it speaks with the same authority as when it gives us moral precepts. Although many have tried to set science against Scripture, science never has disproved one jot or tittle of the Bible—and it never will.
It is therefore a serious mistake to imagine that modern scientists can speak more authoritatively than Scripture on the subject of origins. Scripture is God's own eyewitness account of what happened in the beginning. When it deals with the origin of the universe, all science can offer is conjecture. Science has proven nothing that negates the Genesis record. In fact, the Genesis record answers the mysteries of science.
A clear pattern for interpreting Genesis is given to us in the New Testament. If the language of early Genesis were meant to be interpreted figuratively, we could expect to see Genesis interpreted in the New Testament in a figurative sense. After all, the New Testament is itself inspired Scripture, so it is the Creator's own commentary on the Genesis record.
What do we find in the New Testament? In every New Testament reference to Genesis, the events recorded by Moses are treated as historical events. And in particular, the first three chapters of Genesis are consistently treated as a literal record of historical events. The New Testament affirms, for example, the creation of Adam in the image of God (James 3:9).
Paul wrote to Timothy, "Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression" (1 Timothy 2:13-14). In 1 Corinthians 11:8-9, he writes, "Man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man."
Paul's presentation of the doctrine of original sin in Romans 5:12-20 depends on a historical Adam and a literal interpretation of the account in Genesis about how he fell. Furthermore, everything Paul has to say about the doctrine of justification by faith depends on that. "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:22). Clearly Paul regarded both the creation and fall of Adam as history, not allegory. Jesus Himself referred to the creation of Adam and Eve as a historical event (Mark 10:6). To question the historicity of these events is to undermine the very essence of Christian doctrine.
Moreover, if Scripture itself treats the creation and fall of Adam as historical events, there is no warrant for treating the rest of the creation account as allegory or literary device. Nowhere in all of Scripture are any of these events handled as merely symbolic.
In fact, when the New Testament refers to creation, (e.g., Mark 13:19; John 1:3; Acts 4:24; 14:15; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2, 10; Revelation 4:11; 10:6; 14:7) it always refers to a past, completed event—an immediate work of God, not a still-occurring process of evolution. The promised New Creation, a running theme in both Old and New Testaments, is portrayed as an immediate fiat creation, too—not an eons-long process (Isaiah 65:17). In fact, the model for the New Creation is the original creation (cf. Romans 8:21; Revelation 21:1, 5).
Hebrews 11:3 even makes belief in creation by divine fiat the very essence of faith itself: "By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible." Creation ex nihilo is the clear and consistent teaching of the Bible.
Here’s John’s point: From Creation to the Fall, James, Paul and Jesus all clearly treated Genesis as historical narrative, not mythology or allegory. Now, if we dismiss the literal, historical creation and fall of Adam, how should we understand New Testament references to content in Genesis 1-3? It’s a fair question. Take your answers to the comment thread.