What do we do with elements of OT that look mythical?

(Tabitha Gallman) #1

I know with God all things are possible. I have faith, but some things I see in the old testament that I never noticed before. To an unbeliever it must make our testimonies seem harder to believe. I.E. Eve not making a big deal about the serpent speaking, and Gen. 6 v. 4. What is that all about? I have never heard about the Nephilim in Sunday School. Who were the sons of God? Sounds quite mythical. (Thank goodness for the account of Job. Job helps me to recenter when life doesn’t make sense, especially Job ch 38-42.) God is awesome!

(SeanO) #2

@tabby68 Those are great questions. Let’s start with this definition of myth:

myth definition - a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events

So, a myth is just an origin story with supernatural beings that explains some element of history or culture. To our modern ears, the word myth also means not true - made up - fictitious Now, if the Bible’s stories are true history - we should expect other myths to echo elements of the Biblical story. In one sense, the Bible is the true myth - the supernatural origin story explaining sin and salvation that actually happened.

We can believe the Bible is the ‘true myth’ because much of it is historically verifiable (life and death of Jesus and history of nation of Israel) and because we find echoes - or ripples - of the Biblical stories in other cultures around the world. Take, for example, the Garden of Eden and the Flood - many cultures all around
the world have stories echoing these stories. Some people try to say this fact is evidence the Bible stories are made up - but actually we would expect many myths to echo real history.

In essence, legends around the world point back to factual history - the history shared in the Bible about the Garden of Eden and the Flood. I’ve also included an article with a few of the ways in which people have viewed the snake in the Garden.

What further questions do these thoughts provoke? Have you heard this explanation before? May Christ give you clarity as you seek to understand these topics.

Flood Legends

There are flood myths all around the world. One way of looking at these myths is that they all point back to one true event - the Flood of Noah. The book “Flood Legends” is written from a Christian perspective and goes through a subset of these myths to unpack them in light of the story of Noah. What sets the story of Noah apart is that it is, by far, the most logical and realistic of all of the flood stories.

Garden of Eden and Forbidden Fruit

Here is some information I’ve collected myself in the past - wish I had more time to delve deeper into it. Many culture allude to the forbidden fruit eaten by Adam and Eve and therefore to the garden.

Garden of Idun - Norse mythology - Idun guards the apples of life that allow the gods to have eternal life

Celtic Mythology also has a similar story - the sons of Tuirenn, assume the guise of hawks in order to steal sacred apples from the garden of Hisberna.

Greek - The Garden of the Hesperides, Atlas’ daughters, was Hera’s orchard in the far western corner of the world, where either a single tree or a grove of trees bearing immortality-giving golden apples grew. Hera placed in the garden a never-sleeping, hundred-headed dragon (named Ladon) as an additional safeguard. The 11th Labor of Hercules was to steal the golden apples from the garden. He stole the apples by asking Atlas to steal the apples and in return he would hold up the sky for him. After Atlas picked the apples Hercules asked Atlas to hold up the sky for him while he made a pad of the lion skin. He never took back his job of holding up the sky and ran away.

In Chinese mythology, Peaches of Immortality[1] (Chinese: 仙桃; pinyin: xiāntáo) are consumed by the immortals due to their mystic virtue of conferring longevity on all who eat them. Peaches symbolizing immortality (or the wish for a long and healthy life) are a common symbol in Chinese art, appearing in depictions or descriptions in a number of fables, paintings, and other forms of art, often in association with thematically similar iconography, such as certain deities or immortals or other symbols of longevity, such as deer or cranes.

The Talking Serpent

The following article posits a few possibilities in how the serpent gained its speech. I do want to say that the fall of man must have been a real, historical event for the Gospel to make sense, so allegorizing the entire business is not an option in my opinion.

  • animals in the garden were all capable of speech
  • the serpent (which had legs at that point) was a crafty creature capable of speech and would explain many of the legends of dragons having wisdom
  • the serpent was empowered by satan to speak
  • the serpent is representative of the pursuit of wisdom

Genesis metaphorical or literal?
Age of religions and God's just judgment
Forensic analysis of the preflood earth
How is the biblical concept of original sin more adequate than the new age, hindu or buddhist views of sin?
The Question of Universal Age
Can we trust carbon dating?
Dinosaurs again
Young Earth Creationism (YEC)
Adam and the tree
(Tabitha Gallman) #3

Thank you Sean. I didn’t realize other cultures contained bits of biblical stories in their own legends. I do believe the flood happened and I do believe Satan spoke through the serpent somehow. I’ve heard those accounts spoken of by many Bible teachers, preachers and scholars, not the Nephilim. I think my two main questions were: what are Nephilim and why are they so important to be noted in the Bible?

(SeanO) #4

@tabby68 I thought this article (link at the bottom), did a good job of summarizing the three main arguments for who the nephilim are/were… If you have further questions about a specific view or any other questions, please do post them and lets take the discussion deeper. The three basic views are:

  • the nephilim are the descendants of the line of Seth and are called ‘sons of God’ because they were righteous men and married ‘daughters of men’ who were of the unrighteous line of Cain

  • the nephilim are fallen angels that mated with humans

  • the nephilim is a general reference to kings or nobleman

The first view - that they are the sons of Seth, is the one that makes the most sense to me. But you can read the full article below for the various arguments for each position.

Rational Christianity Article

(Tabitha Gallman) #5

Thank you so much Sean for that link. Just finished reading it. If I had been a little more patient before asking I would have read in J. Vernon McGee’s commentary how he agrees with your thinking that the nephilim are the descendants of the line of Seth. Now I see how it really is important to the book of Genesis since Genesis is a book of genealogies. I do apologize for getting off on rabbit trails, but does this seem to have something to do with Satan trying to corrupt the line of David? Anyway, that may be a question for another time. I do need to get through Genesis. I really do appreciate you sharing your knowledge, and the time you guys and gals take to put your answers together is really admirable. Thank you again.

(SeanO) #6

@tabby68 Sure thing. And don’t worry about rabbit trails - more in depth knowledge of God’s Word is important; especially when settling questions that are bouncing around in our mind.

Regarding the line of David, it is a common theme in Genesis that, on many occasions, it seems that the ‘seed’ promised by God (later called Messiah by the prophets and of course fulfilled in Christ) that would ‘crush the serpents head’ may not be able to come into existence at all. That is part of what makes the story of Abraham’s family and their struggles so riveting for the careful reader - will the promised seed / family / nation make it? Or will they die in famine or be subsumed by surrounding nations or destroyed by their own unrighteous acts? So, in that sense, the corruption of the whole earth other than Noah’s family would certainly pose a threat to the promised seed - Noah’s own survival would be critical. I imagine J. Vernon McGee had pointed this theme of the promised seed’s survival in Genesis out. Hope that is helpful.

(Tabitha Gallman) #7

I had to go back and re-read his commentary, and you are right the “seed” promised by God is a very common theme, but I hadn’t realized until now how that promise has a bearing on so many other events and decisions. JVM (If I may shorten his name), put emphasis on the fact that the people in Noah’s time turned from God despite the promise of a redeemer. JVM mentions Jude 14 and 15 that Enoch preached and prophesied about the Lord’s return and judgement upon the people.

What I find interesting is that JVM mentions the ministry of the Holy Spirit. He said the Holy Spirit was striving with man until man totally rejected God, then the flood came in judgement upon the earth. All this parallels Jesus’ return one day.

God is very patient.

(SeanO) #8

@tabby68 Thank you for sharing JVM’s comments. Regarding the Holy Spirit, I am not sure people in Noah’s day were witnessed to by the Spirit. Romans is clear that from the beginning of creation, all people knew there was a God and are responsible for rejecting Him. But Jesus seems to imply that the Holy Spirit came as a direct result of His ministry after He departed.

Now, it is clear in the OT that the Spirit of God did move powerfully in the lives of the prophets and other men of God (consider Peter, who says the prophets were carried along by the Spirit), but I am personally uncertain if the Spirit ministered in this way in the OT. JVM certainly has much more experience than I, but this is an idea I would have to give some consideration.

Romans 1:20 - For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

John 15:26 - When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.

John 16:7 - But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.

(Jamie Hobbs) #9

I think the Spirit of God was quite active in the OT. There is certainly a difference in the manner in which He worked, as He would descend and then ascend again, and so believers didn’t have access to the power of the Spirit all the time like we do today (citing the verses that you mentioned above). Yet the immutability of God necessitates that the Spirit from the OT be the same Spirit in the NT and today.

For example, in Gen 41:38 Joseph is described as having the Spirit of God. In Exo 31:1-3, God tells Moses that He has filled Bezalel with the Spirit of God. The Spirit came upon Othniel in Judges 3:10. These are but a few. An important distinction is that in each case the Spirit eventually left that individual as opposed to how He works today, but I do believe it to be the same Spirit that came down permanently at Pentecost.

(Tabitha Gallman) #10

Yeah, I was unsure about that because I’ve always been taught that the Holy Spirit was the comforter left for us when Jesus went back to the Father. I would like to look into that further. The trinity seems to be very complicated.

(Tabitha Gallman) #11

Oh, I see where JVM got that from. I overlooked the commentary on the page before what I read earlier. He quoted Genesis 6:3. “And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.”
He goes on to say that " Noah preached for 120 years and during that time the Spirit of God was striving with men. Peter makes it very clear that it was back in the days of Noah that the Spirit of God was striving with men in order that He might bring them to God – but they would not turn. " and then JVM quotes 1 Peter 3:18-19 which reads: "For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous or the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits-- " v20 “to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water”

(SeanO) #12

@tabby68 Hmmm, interesting. I would be curious to know if God’s Spirit was striving with men through Noah, a preacher of righteousness, or through direct witness. And @Jamie_Hobbs, I 100 % agree God is the same yesterday, today and forever, so God’s Spirit in the NT and OT must be the same. But I am uncertain if God’s Spirit testified to men’s hearts the same way then as now. Whew, deep stuff!