Biblical Archaeology Review 42:1, January/February 2016

Biblical Views: The Multiple Truths of Myths

By Shawna Dolansky

What if the creation stories in Genesis were not intended to be taken literally?

Consider for a moment that we might not have been the audience Biblical writers had in mind more than 2,300 years ago.1 Theirs was a world in which children could be sold into debt slavery, hosts welcomed strangers into their homes by bathing their feet and the blood of sacrificial animals was daubed on the high priest’s earlobe and big toe. Ours is a world of Google books, YouTube, Ashley Madison, space flight and lactose-free soy-based ice cream. Among other things, this means that Biblical creation stories may not have functioned in the same way that modern creation stories do.

Today, one may subscribe to accounts of the Big Bang, Intelligent Design or Xenu and the Wall of Fire. Modern creation stories—whether based on belief in scientific evidence, the inerrancy of Scripture or the secret revelations of a mid-20th-century science fiction writer—assume an “either/or” approach. That is, either the Big Bang, or Intelligent Design or Xenu is responsible for the origin of the world. It is not conceivable that all three stories can peaceably coexist. This is not the case for stories arising within the ancient Near Eastern genre of mythology.

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