Most people know the genesis story in the beginning of the Bible, and of its telling of God's place as the centre of creation. Not everyone, however, looks at the story as an accurate account of how the earth and all of its inhabitants came into being, including this writer. This does not suggest that the biblical narrative has no merit; it does, but more as an allegorical myth. To give it much more importance would be stretching the limits of its original purpose. With this in mind, Prof George Jochnowitz writes: “Obviously, the Book of Genesis was never meant to be taken literally. Thousands of years ago, it was clear that the accounts of Creation were allegorical. Why should we believe them literally today.”
by George Jochnowitz
The Bible never explicitly tells us anything about the earth being either round or flat. Instead, it says that there is water above the heavens and thus implicitly rejects the idea that the earth is round: “And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered unto one place, and letthe dry land appear: and it was so” (Gen. 1:9). This account can be understood if we assume theworld is flat. It becomes very difficult to picture with a round earth. We may, if we choose, argue that Genesis 1:9 may be read figuratively; however, once we are willing to read the text in a more complex way, we could just as well say that the Bible does not reject evolution.
There are other passages in the Bible that cannot be reinterpreted in order to find a reading that is scientifically acceptable. One such case is found in Chapter 30 of Genesis, where Jacob and Laban agree that any spotted and speckled cattle that are born will belong to Jacob, who then proceeds to increase his share. “And Jacob took him rods of green poplar, and of the hazel and chestnut tree; and pilled white strakes in them, and made the white appear which was in the rods. And he set the rods which he had pilled before the flocks in the gutters in the watering troughs when the flocks came to drink. And the flocks conceived before the rods, and brought forth cattle ringstraked, speckled, and spotted” (Gen. 30:37-39).
If we were told that the birth of the speckled cattle was a miracle, we could believe it. But there is no way that placing objects in front of animals while they are mating will produce offspring that resemble the objects. Since Genesis 30 does not mention the possibility of a miracle, we have to conclude that it is a story in which science and religion cannot be reconciled. The speckled cattle may be the result of selective breeding, which would make sense. Genesis 30, however, is not written in a way that sounds allegorical.
The Bible tells us that Adam and Eve had three sons. No daughters are mentioned until Genesis 5:4, when we are told, “And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters.” Somehow, these sons and daughters seem to be an afterthought to explain how the human race continued.
Before Seth was born, Cain and Abel were the only two children of Adam and Eve mentioned. Cain and Abel both offered sacrifices to the Lord, as we are told in Genesis 4:3-5, “And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: but unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.”
In other words, God was saying, “vegetables—yuck.” This rejection led Cain to kill Abel. “And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him” (Gen. 4: 15). Who was there to find him? Weren’t his parents the only people left alive on earth? Apparently not. The next two verses tell us, “And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden. And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch” (Gen. 4:16-17).
His wife? How come we had not read about her earlier? A city? Who was there to live in it? The answer is the sons and daughters mentioned in Genesis 5:4, but when we read about Cain we haven’t yet heard of them. Somehow, they are only a footnote.
Obviously, the Book of Genesis was never meant to be taken literally. Thousands of years ago, it was clear that the accounts of Creation were allegorical. Why should we believe them literally today?
The strongest arguments against creationism are found in the Book of Genesis.
George Jochnowitz was born in New York City, in 1937. He became aware of different regional pronunciations when he was six, and he could consciously switch accents as a child. He got his Ph.D. in linguistics from Columbia University and taught linguistics at the College of Staten Island, CUNY. His area of specialization was Jewish languages, in particular, Judeo-Italian dialects. As part of a faculty-exchange agreement with Hebei University in Baoding, China, he was in China during the Tiananmen Massacre. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright ©2014. George Jochnowitz. All Rights Reserved. It is republished here with the author's permission.