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I read somewhere here on Christianity.SE that the Genesis 1 is not taken literally by some people and considered more like a parable than a real historical event ?

So what Christian denominations don't take Genesis 1 as a historical event, if there are any ?

And why people take it as a parable/metaphor ? and is it just Genesis 1 ?

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closed as too broad by curiousdannii, fredsbend, Mr. Bultitude, Flimzy, bruised reed Apr 15 '15 at 5:18

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The issue here is not the whole book of Genesis, but just the first few chapters. The book is actually a compilation of several writings preserved and assembled at various points. It is widely believed across most Christian traditions that most of the book is literal historical fact.

The issue you've heard rumblings of stems from the first couple chapters, specifically the creation story. There are several major views on this and how it is interpreted depends on how different factors are weighed. The issue is certainly large enough that it would be impossible to generalize across all of Christianity.

However, the breakdown is not quite as easy as your question makes out, because it isn't a split over history vs. parable. Those are two ends of the spectrum, but most of the major denominations are going to fall somewhere between those two extremes.

I am not going to detail the positions of all the views, but I want to give you a few terms and groupings that will help any further research you do on this issue. First you have your Young Earth Creationists. These folks are going to be roughly what you would classify as "literal historical" in that they read words like "day" at face value as something equivalent to our 24 hours. You also have Old Earth Creationists who believe that the creation account is literal history but that "day" might mean "age" and so we don't have a frame of reference for how long each thing took. Please understand I'm painting with very broad stokes here. In between those, you also have something called the Framework view that takes the Genesis account quite literally, but does some textual gymnastics, classifies the writing as a kind of poetry that we've lost the key to, and puts it all back together in a different order. In a way you could call this "parable" in that the text is trying to give us the gist of what happened without being scientific about the details. However this view is actually not the extreme that you probably hear rumored. Farther out lies the Theistic Evolution view that really discounts the entire creation process except for allowing that God put some sort of evolution in motion and possibly kept it on track. This sort of view must necessarily discount the text as a fictional rendering inspired for some purpose other than to tell us about the actual origins of the universe.

Given those major viewpoints (and bearing in mind that there are lots of minor modifications), some generalizations can be drawn about denominations and their views, but it is remarkably hard to do so with any level of meaning when most of the major denominations are actually showing fracture lines along the issue. Some openly embrace multiple positions, some are fighting a loosing battle to claim a single position. Only in smaller (and thus kind of too specific to list here) denominations are there consistently held positions on this matter.

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Would you agree that these "parable" opinions, of any kind, stem from the desire to reconcile faith of origin with the status quo belief of origin (evolution)? – fredsbend Feb 16 '13 at 21:28
@fredsbend: Yes. However I left that out of my answer because that's what I BELIEVE is behind the development of consecutively looser interpretations, but that isn't what they claim and I didn't want this answer to be controversial over an issue of motives. This OP is going to have to do some research on all of these directions anyway. – Caleb Feb 16 '13 at 22:07
Again for the record, Christians were taking the story of Genesis 1 as a metaphor long before there was any such thing as a Theory of Evolution. The belief has been around for many centuries. – DJClayworth Feb 17 '13 at 1:58

In the early days of Christianity, before the existence of modern denominations and long before the advent of modern science and hermeneutical study, the early Church Father Origen regarded both Genesis chapter 1 (the first creation story) or Genesis chapter 2 (the second creation story) as not historical accounts, saying (De Principiis, Book 4.1.16):

. as even these do not contain throughout a pure history of events, which are interwoven indeed according to the letter, but which did not actually occur. Nor even do the law and the commandments wholly convey what is agreeable to reason. For who that has understanding will suppose that the first, and second, and third day, and the evening and the morning, existed without a sun, and moon, and stars? and that the first day was, as it were, also without a sky? And who is so foolish as to suppose that God, after the manner of a husbandman, planted a paradise in Eden, towards the east, and placed in it a tree of life, visible and palpable, so that one tasting of the fruit by the bodily teeth obtained life? and again, that one was a partaker of good and evil by masticating what was taken from the tree? And if God is said to walk in the paradise in the evening, and Adam to hide himself under a tree, I do not suppose that any one doubts that these things figuratively indicate certain mysteries, the history having taken place in appearance, and not literally...

Several modern denominations accept evolution, which means recognising the events of Genesis chapter 1 as not really historical. For example, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church affirmed its support for the theory of evolution in 2006, resolving by Resolution 2006-A129:

That God is Creator, in accordance with the witness of Scripture and the ancient Creeds of the Church; and

That the theory of evolution provides a fruitful and unifying scientific explanation for the emergence of life on earth, that many theological interpretations of origins can readily embrace an evolutionary outlook, and that an acceptance of evolution is entirely compatible with an authentic and living Christian faith; and

That Episcopalians strongly encourage state legislatures and state and local boards of education to establish standards for science education based on the best available scientific knowledge as accepted by a consensus of the scientific community; and

That Episcopal dioceses and congregations seek the assistance of scientists and science educators in understanding what constitutes reliable scientific knowledge.

In the case of Church Fathers such as Origen, the rejection of Genesis chapter 1 as history, is based on reason.In the case of te Episcopal Church and others like it, the decision is based on recognition that science has disproved Genesis chapter 1 as a literal account.

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