What does the Bible mean by Truth?

What does the Bible mean by Truth?

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth. 
—2 Timothy 3:16a

What do I mean by allowing the text the room to speak?

If we come at the text with a preconceived notion, we are reading it with a bias (reading with a bias is called eisegesis). We are making statements about the text that we "know" to be true before reading.

If we "know" the earth is billions of years old, then we "know" Genesis 1 is not talking about literal, 24-hour days, and thus we can discount any evidence to the contrary as coincidental or wrong.

If we "know" that the word truth in 2 Timothy 3:16a is defined by the Enlightenment, where truth = scientific fact, we are also reading Genesis 1 with a bias.

Genesis 1 and Scientific Fact
  1. Scientific "fact" is changing. When your parents went to school, it was a "fact" that Pluto was a planet.

  2. The Bible is NOT a science text book. It was not written with the 21st century reader in mind.

  3. Genesis 1 was not written to disprove Darwinism.
But if we allow the text room to speak, and seek to know what the original author wanted his original audience to understand, we practice exegesis (the opposite of eisegesis), and instead of making statements about the text, we ask questions of the text:

Who wrote Genesis 1? If it was Moses, he was writing 2,000+ years after the events to a pre-Sinai (or just post-Sinai) Jewish people living in (and likely practicing) paganism. Was he writing a polemic against polytheism, introducing the lost concept of monotheism, and incorporating the truth that it was the ancestral god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who alone was the Creator?

IF that is true, Genesis 1 should not even be read with a sliver of science in mind. Genesis 1 should be read as it was Jehovah who created from nothing, not Atum. It was Jehovah who created the sea monster, who in turn submits to him, not Set or Baal who must tame a nearly co-equal chaos creature. It is Jehovah who created the sun, and who doesn't even bother to give it a name, because it is not personified in the god Ra, it is a mere lamp hung in the dome-thing we call sky.

If the above is dismissed on the grounds that Genesis 1 MUST be a scientifically accurate text by 21st century standards, then THAT is a bias. The bias is NOT that Genesis 1 is truth, because the above paragraph describes how Genesis 1 may be truth without be scientific.

Now, does that mean Genesis 1 isn't scientific?

In my opinion, I believe it is...as was demonstrated by the post that led you here. However, I also don't think Moses wrote Genesis 1. Which means I also don't think it is a polemic against Egyptian gods. Why? Because it too closely resembles Sumerian creation accounts, which was the first predominant culture after the Flood. Therefore, I think the similarities between the Sumerian and Egyptian accounts stem from both originating from a pre-babel common source, likely written in cuneiform. (More on all that in future posts!)

But—and this is a big but—I could be wrong.

Moses may have written Genesis 1. Genesis 2:4a could be the beginning of a toledoth (instead of a signature). Moses, having been raised in the court of Pharaoh, may have been knowledgeable of the Sumerian creation accounts (which heavily influenced Canaanite religion), and thus he might have written Genesis 1 as a polemic against the Egyptian and the Sumerian gods (he would have wanted the Jewish people to reject the Canaanite gods as well as the Egyptian gods).

So, if the above is true, the most we could extrapolate from Genesis 1 as truth is:
  • God created the universe.

  • God alone is creator.

  • Celestial bodies and sea creatures are not gods.

  • Mankind was made separate from all other mammals.

  • Mankind was made in the image of God.

  • Mankind was made from dirt/clay (which has scientifically been proven).

And from other Scriptures, we could reasonably add to that list with:
  • No carnivorous activity (Gen 1:29-30).

  • No death before sin (Rom 5:12, 1 Cor 15:26).

  • Literal, six-day creation (Ex 20:11).
As you can see, none of the above "truths" interfere with an undefined time period of universe cooling in-between Gen 1:3 and Gen 1:4. Acknowledging that possibility is allowing the text the room to speak. We are not forcing any preconceived notions onto the text. We are not compromising. We let Scripture build on scripture (in the way that allows us to use the second list to add to the first list), but that is not the same as saying the definition of "Biblical truth" MUST be defined as 100% scientifically accurate by 21st century standards.

Photo Credit: Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay / Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay / Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay