Rules for Studying Genesis – Marv Gets It Wrong

Jason posted the following as a start to the conversation:

Marv’s guide to reading Genesis:

1. Open you Bible to your selected passage in Genesis.

2. Leave it there. Go to the bathroom look in the mirror. Look at your nose. See how plain it is.

3. Keeping that mindset, hurry back to your Bible open to Genesis, now read. Ahhh. There it is.

via Rules for Studying Genesis | Pastoral Musings.

I like Jason, a great deal, so when I write what I am about to write, it is not against him. He wanted a conversation – and I urge you to join in over on his blog. With that, however –

This are my two main responses:

I think that Marv is trying to read the text like the mirror – he wants to see himself and his theological thoughts in it.


I say this not to cause offense, but I think that Marv’s analysis of reading Scripture is actually unScriptural. He is enforcing the idea that Scripture must be read with the eyes of men. A white, Anglo-Saxon, post-industrial, post-Enlightenment male didn’t write this. We have to read the text how they read it, how God inspired it. To force Marv’s literalism on the text is to wonder where the inspiration of God really comes in at. Here and now or then for now?

I know that we have a tendency to follow in the steps of the Enlightenment and read everything scientifically literal, cold and wooden, but to do so to a text written by a people as lively, colorful and as warm as the ancient Israelites does the text as much injustice as those who would use it for monetary gain. When you desire only to read from the text what you first read into the text, you will not actually read the text.

Sorry, Marv, but reading the text as if it was as plain as the nose on your face only gets you that far into the text – to the bare tip of your nose.

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4 Replies to “Rules for Studying Genesis – Marv Gets It Wrong”

  1. I’m a big fan of literalism, but a problem that is beginning to emerge for me is that it doesn’t seem that so-called literalists (myself included) have been treating Genesis 2 as literally as we think we do. Read on its face, it is a different narrative with an order different from Gen 1, and I’m beginning to wonder if we aren’t doing ourselves a disservice trying to fit the two together as though they were retellings of the same fully literally historical event. I won’t rewrite all my thoughts, but if you’re interested they’re here and here. This comment is probably as close as it’ll get to me ever running around waving a white flag.

  2. ‘Literalists’ are welcome to maintain their position but let’s not forget God’s word has been delivered to us by a Creator who created the very dynamic(s) and vastness language(s). It’s easy to limit the bible, which is masterpiece from the mind of God, to less than what it is. As one said, ‘literalists miss the meaning of poetry, metaphors, parables and figures of speech.’ Why did Jesus speak in parables? Proverbs 25:2 states “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search a matter out.’
    It is clear to me that to read the bible strictly from a literalist view, one would be reading it on a bodily level, the bare letter
    … The bodily level of Scripture, the bare letter. But what about the level of the soul and the spirit? Paul tells us there are levels of maturity in the faith: little children(letter of the law), young men(soul growth word) and mature sons(spirit growth revelation and unspeakable mysteries)
    There is much more to this Book than what is obviously there.

  3. Not to mention this could go “plainly” in the opposite direction … What is plain to one person is not so to another. So, for some the early chapters of Genesis look plainly like other ANE texts, though they do adapt the stories in order to formulate their theology differently.

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