N.T. Wright on Genesis 1-3

Derek Ouellette —  August 26, 2010

Be Ready To Share Your Thoughts…

The Discussion Begins… NOW!

  • Do you believe “Myth” negates “Reality/Fact/History”?
  • How does Wright’s Beethoven Symphony illustration play into an interpretive approach to Genesis 1-3?
  • Does Wright’s approach to Genesis result in a distinguished understanding of eschatology, or can his eschatology be held even if his Genesis approach were rejected? (See Surprised by Hope)
  • Wright says that “we need to lighten up about these words, and maybe find some other words”. What words would you suggest to replace ones like “myth” or “history” when discussion Genesis 1-3?
  • How do you read Genesis for all it’s worth?
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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • xTraex

    To be honest I’m not entirely sure at what he was actually trying to get at. Obviously I’m missing something but to me it sounded like a grand way to say, well, nothing at all really. Hopefully I’m mistaken but did he say the created God? To find other words to call Genesis besides History or Myth I think relates to the words True or False, perhaps I’m not reading Genesis for all it’s worth. From what I’ve seen a lot of people who reject a historical view also reject depravity, unless there’s a way to adhere to it without a literal interpretation. Also, maybe because he does not live here he can’t grasp why when you use the word myth to describe Genesis we get all riled up. But again, in my experience when people say myth they mean fairy tale, something untrue, not a powerful story.

  • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

    Hi xTraex,

    Wright is no slouch. I have no doubt he knows why we get riled up when “myth” is applied to Genesis. What he is challenging us to do is change the way we think about the word “myth”. (I’m not sure I’m prepared to accept his challenge.) Your right about the depravity thing though. I have yet to hear a single theological explanation for so many key issues (not least the need for the cross) by theistic evolutionists. But I don’t think Wright is a theistic evolutionist (I could be wrong), because he mentioned that he believes that there actually was a primeval couple.

    To read Genesis for all its worth, I recommend taking a “literary” (not just a literal) approach to reading it. Many people read Genesis 1-3 like a science text book: “What are the facts of how the cosmos was created”. I suggest that we ask a different question: “what is the point, the message, the meaning of the text”. I think this is what Wright meant by his Beethoven Symphony illustration.

  • Wayne Pelly

    Whether “myth” in some sense or “history” as we know it, it is interesting that Genesis can be so accurate, insightful and helpful – in a way that illustrates “the point, the message, the meaning of the text.” Here are just a couple of examples from my own (rather limited) reading:

    Regarding the Fall, missiologist Roland Muller (“The Messenger, the Message, the Community”) documents the effects of sin in Gen. 2:25ff as shame, guilt and fear, to which he adds their offsetting values (reflecting the image of God) of honor, innocence and power, and on that basis provides an excellent lens through which to view the world’s cultures as predominately one of – or a combination of – these three (shame/honor, guilt/innocence and fear/power). He then uses this framework to shed light on the New Testament and the way in which the gospel addresses each of these three paradigms so specifically and richly. (The middle section of his book, “The Message,” is an expansion of his earlier book, “Honor and Shame: Unlocking the Door.”) His work is increasingly finding relevance among those seeking to make the gospel clear to non-western cultures (almost all of which are shame/honor or fear/power based cultures.)

    Social Psychologist Carrie Miles (“The Redemption of Love”) notes that Gen. 3:14ff is explicit that, other than the serpent, only the ground (not the man or the woman) was cursed, the results of which are historically quite accurate. Based on the radical shift from an economy of abundance (Eden) to an economy of deprivation and scarcity (thorns & thistles) resulting from this curse, she documents its effects on the human family: the masculine drive for power and control, feminine subordination to men (ironically combined with a desire for a dominant and ambitious man – a “real man” who will help to ensure her survival in a hostile world) as well as the pressure to bear more children (particularly sons), and the roles of men, women and even children becoming utilitarian (the sexual division of labor and the value for children as resources) in the struggle for survival in a world primarily of subsistence farming; all of which can then be seen in the developing world today – and were predominant throughout the world prior to the industrial revolution.