If you ask most Christians if they believe God created the universe and the earth, they will answer yes. The book of Genesis provides an account of that creation in Chapters 1 and 2. But when you ask Bible believers whether they can take Genesis 1 and 2 as straightforward history, the stumbling begins. Some will say that you can take it literally and plainly, that God created in six literal twenty four hour days, some will say that the days were eons or geological ages, and still others will take the Genesis accounts as non historical poetry or even reworked myths from ancient Babylonian creation accounts.
What all of these different groups have in common is this; none of us observed the creation process, we simply weren’t there, so it is not part of our recorded history. We can look at historical and scientific evidence and interpret it to make extrapolations and draw conclusions, but the bottom line is this: the only way we could know for sure how it happened would be from an eyewitness account from the only one who was there, namely the Creator.
So, how do we read this supposed eyewitness account of creation in Genesis? Let me say at the outset of this discussion that there are genuine Christians in all three groups. This author himself has been in two of them over his lifetime. But our worldview that we bring to the Genesis accounts profoundly affects the way we read them, and also how we interpret the scientific and historical evidence to support our views.
I’m going to look at each method of reading Genesis in reverse order. First, could these just be borrowed from ancient Babylonian myths, as is currently taught in many seminaries?
Most who hold this view emphasize the similarities in the accounts. But similarities would indeed be expected if the human race originated from one family and had a common creation or flood account which they took with them as they spread out across the earth.
There are also significant differences. Erwin Lutzer points these out:
In the Babylonian account there are many gods who quarrel and fight and who sprang from pre–existing matter.
The Babylonian accounts confuse the Creator with His creation.
The Babylonian account has the kind of garblings and embellishments to be expected when a historical account has been mythologized. The Genesis account gives a sober history of only one God who created space, time and matter from nothing.
In fact, Genesis is the only account that agrees with modern science in that matter, space, and time all came into existence at a finite point in the past. All other ancient creation accounts have matter already pre-existing, with the “gods” springing out of the matter.
Some have said the Genesis account is simply the Babylonian account condensed and reworded without the polytheistic elements. But in the ancient Near East the evidence shows that simple accounts are embellished into complex legends, not the other way around. Lutzer quotes A.R. Millard: “All who suspect or suggest a borrowing by the Hebrews are compelled to admit large-scale revision, alteration, and reinterpretation in a fashion which cannot be substantiated for any other composition from the ancient Near East or in any other Hebrew writing.”
A theory that better fits the evidence is that God revealed His creation message to early generations, but as it was passed down through the generations in many different cultures it was corrupted and mythologized as it was handed down, and either God revealed to Moses the original record or Moses had possession of the original account as handed down from tablets written by the patriarchs.
Is Genesis poetry or historical narrative? Hebrew poetry has a very different grammatical structure from Hebrew prose (historical narrative). Detailed studies have been done on the text [3}, and the ratio of preterite verbs to total finite verbs, in particular, tell whether the authors are intending to produce an historical account or a poetic account. Another way of telling Hebrew prose from poetry is the lack of parallelism in meaning in Hebrew prose vs. poetry.
So reading Genesis as poetry or as borrowed mythology does not seem to fit what the writer intended. In the next few articles we will examine the debate on how to read the days of creation, as well as the passages on the Genesis flood.
 Erwin Lutzer, Seven Reasons Why You Can Trust the Bible, Moody Press, Chicago, IL, 1998, 70.