Interpreting Historical Narratives Part II

Tuesday, I said time limited me from speaking about speaking about all the references to the biblical writers referencing Genesis as literal history. I would like to take some time to tell you about that today. Before I do that, I just want to recap on what we talked about last time.

            In summary of the rules I illustrated to you last time, historical narratives are to be interpreted as literal history told in narrative form. There are good reasons to believe these stories to be true. One rule of interpretation is to believe the author unless there is good reason not to. We use this in the American justice system as “innocent until proven guilty”. We should treat ancient literature the same way. We have no good reason not to trust the Bible.

            When one applies this to the Genesis creation account, we get a general overview of the creation of the universe; specifically, the creation of the earth, everything in it with the special focus on the creation of mankind, and the Sabbath. Genesis 1 is an overview of the creation account. Genesis 2 is the flashback to the sixth day of creation to set the reader up to understand why Adam and Eve eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was wrong.

            One way to check if that interpretation of the account is correct is to see how the original audience interpreted it and how subsequent biblical writers inspired by the Holy Spirit interpreted the passage. Below is a list of passages that make the case these people interpreted the passage as historical:

  • Moses wrote God spoke thorough him and claimed, “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:11, NASB). Moses claimed the fourth commandment as having been a testimony to God’s creation and rest.
  • Moses records that God will have the Messiah come though Israel and have Messianic reign over all the kingdoms, like Adam was given in the creation account, through the pagan prophet Balaam (Numbers 24:17).[1] This verse implies God intended the creation account to be believed as real because the promise that comes from it is real.
  • The book of Ruth has a genealogy that matches the Genesis genealogies, linking them to Adam in the creation account.[2]
  • The Davidic covenant in 2 Samuel 7:12 mirrors the promise given by God in Genesis 3:15 of a savior, linking it to the creation account.[3]
  • Psalm 33:6, “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.” (ESV).  Though poetic, this verse testifies to the interpretation of the creation account as real.
  • Jeremiah 10:12, “It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.” (ESV). The prophet Jeremiah understood the creation account to be literal.

Not only did the prophets interpret the Genesis creation account to be a historical event, but Jesus, who is the Son of God, and the apostles say His Spirit inspired the prophets to write the Old Testament, affirms the actual creation of the world by the word of God as a historical event.

  • Mark 10:6, “But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.” (NASB).
  • Mark 13:19-20, “For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. And of the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days.” (NASB).
  • Jesus charged the Pharisees that “the blood of all the prophets shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah.” (Luke 11:50b-51a, NASB). Jesus believed the reality of these people tied to Genesis were indeed historical.
  • Jesus believed in the truth and eternality of the Old Testament were real (Matthew 5:17-18).

The apostles of Jesus, who wrote down the words given to them by Jesus and the Holy Spirit, also believed the Genesis creation account and the rest of the historical narratives were real history.

  • Romans 15:4, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (NASB).
  • Paul talking about the Exodus pointing to Christian salvation wrote, “Now these things took place for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.” (NASB).
  • John’s introduction to Jesus as God almost exactly mirrors the creation account in Genesis 1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:1-3, NASB).
  • Peter wrote several Old Testament examples in his writings and associated the skepticism of this age with a rejection of God’s word including the creation and the flood accounts, “For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God.” (2 Peter 3:5 NASB).

There are several more examples that could be given, but it is sufficient to say God wanted these stories to be interpreted as real history told in narrative form so that we can know more about God. The way this was checked was in a method called cross referencing. Cross referencing is the practice of taking the theme or event in one passage and looking at what other passages say on that theme or event. One of the best resources that cross reference the scriptures is the Thompson Chain reference Bible. I also used logos and the resources below to accomplish cross referencing Genesis 1-2. This was enjoyable for me. I plan on giving further demonstration on how to interpret historical narratives in the future.

If you want to dive deeper in how to properly interpret the Bible, I recommend going to the resources page and buying my books. For specific information on how to interpret the creation account, the book Coming to Grips With Genesis: Biblical Authority and the Age of the Earth by Terry Mortenson is a great introduction to properly interpreting Genesis. Another great resource is As It is Written: The Genesis Account Literal or Literary by Kenneth Gentry. Both of those resources are located in the store at answersingenesis.org. Check out this site for future blogs on properly interpreting the scriptures. Lord bless you.


[1] Abner Chou, The Hermeneutics of the Biblical Writers: Learning to interpret Scripture from the Prophets and the Apostles, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Kregel Academic, 2018). 87.

[2] Full Ibid.

[3] Full Ibid.

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