William Lane Craig is a professor of philosophy at Houston Baptist University.  Although he is known as an apologist, his approach is based on man-centered philosophy rather than biblical authority.[1]  As such, Craig rejects the history recorded in Genesis.  He instead embraces the secular story of origins, including its timescale of billions of years.  So, his latest article arguing against the literal history in Genesis came as no surprise.  In his article, Craig attempts to persuade his readers that Genesis is a myth – a story that contains elements of truth but which is not to be understood literally.  This is a significant departure from the faith once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).  So, let’s examine the more pertinent parts of Craig’s article and see if his reasoning is sound.[2]  Craig’s statements are in purple text, with my comments in black.  Craig begins his article as follows.

Craig: What historical claims does the Bible make about Adam and Eve? And is belief in a historical Adam and Eve compatible with the scientific evidence?

Lisle: The first question is a good one.  When we examine the Scriptures, we find that all believers who touch on the topic take Adam and Eve to be real people, the first two members of the human race (e.g. Job 31:33; 1 Chronicles 1:1-5; Hosea 6:7; Matthew 19:4-5; Luke 3:23-38; Acts 17:24; Romans 5:12-14; 1 Corinthians 15:22, 45; 1 Timothy 2:13-14; Jude 14). 

However, Craig’s second question is very revealing.  It is not normally something that would be asked of a historical claim.  For example, would anyone ask, “Is a belief in a historical Socrates compatible with scientific evidence?”  We have good evidence Socrates existed; his student, Plato, wrote about him.  But that is historical evidence, not scientific evidence.  Can the existence of Socrates be demonstrated or refuted by the methods of science?  The question itself is rather strange since matters of recorded history are normally beyond the scope of operational science which deals with the normal, testable, and predictable way the universe operates in the present. 

More importantly, are we to evaluate the Bible’s claims on the basis of what is considered scientifically possible?  Would Craig ask, “Is a belief in the historical resurrection of Christ compatible with the scientific evidence?”  Or would he accept that God can do things that go beyond the natural processes studied in science?  If Craig accepts the resurrection of Christ (a requirement for salvation – Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 15:17) despite the fact that science has repeatedly shown that dead things stay dead, then why would it matter whether the details in Genesis can be explained by modern natural processes?

Or, could it be that Craig is really asking whether the Genesis account is compatible with the secular story of origins?  Secularists often declare that their particular stories about the past are “science.”  They wish to cash in on the high reputation of science to persuade people of their beliefs about origins.  And since most people rightly respect science, but fail to understand its limitations, many are fooled by this secular claim.  But the secular story is not something that can be demonstrated by science, and in fact is often challenged by scientific findings.

Craig: In order to avoid the pitfalls of reading contemporary science into the biblical texts, it is best to treat these questions separately.

Lisle: I actually agree with that statement.  But I suggest that Craig has failed to live up to it.  There is absolutely no indication from the text of Scripture that any of its authors (and most importantly the Divine Author) thought of Genesis as anything other than literal history, as we will see.   However, I would also suggest that what Craig thinks is “contemporary science” is nothing of the kind, but rather a secular, materialistic speculation about the past.  Namely, the testable, repeatable, experimental science that can be performed in a laboratory is consistent with the literal history recorded in Genesis.  Furthermore, the scientific method has its epistemological justification in the literal history of Genesis and is entirely unjustified apart from it as we have demonstrated previously.[3] 

Craig: Only after having determined what the Bible actually says about the historical Adam shall we be in a position to judge whether those claims are compatible with what we know of human origins from contemporary science.

Lisle: Did you catch the hidden assumptions here?  The phrase “what we know of human origins from contemporary science” presupposes that the methods of science can definitively discover what happened in the past.  But Craig does not seem to understand the scientific method and its limitations.  Science is the study of the systematic and repeatable way that God upholds the universe today.  The scientific method requires testability and repeatability, neither of which apply to past events. 

Can the tools of science shed light on past events?  Certainly.  Can they be used to make an educated guess about what most probably happened in the past?  Of course.  There is an appropriate forensic use of science.  But can we know about the past purely from science?  No. 

Furthermore, the scientific evidence available in the present is certainly very consistent with the history of humanity recorded in Genesis, and is not consistent with neo-Darwinian evolution as Marvin Lubenow has masterfully demonstrated in his book Bones of Contention.  However, mankind’s guesses about the past, no matter how seemingly well-confirmed by science, are not in a position to judge God’s Word.  The Word of God is inerrant by nature, and is therefore superior to our best educated guesses about the past.  Moreover, I again suggest that Craig may be confusing “contemporary science” with “the secular origins narrative,” which is entirely different. 

Craig: The stories of Adam and Eve are largely confined to the second and third chapters of Genesis. They are part of the pre-patriarchal narratives, often called the primaeval history, which make up Genesis 1–11.

Lisle: Indeed, the style of Genesis 1-11 is historical narrative, the same as the rest of Genesis, as well as other historical books like Exodus and 1&2 Chronicles.  This style of writing is the way the ancient Israelites and their ancestors recorded historical events.  There can be no doubt that the author of Genesis 1-11 intended for the events described therein to be understood as literal history. 

Craig: Old Testament scholars have long remarked on the resemblance of Genesis 1–11 to the religious literature of the ancient Near East.

Lisle: Actually, the claim of a strong resemblance between the creation account in Genesis and Ancient Near Eastern mythology is relatively recent, limited primarily to the last three centuries.  So, this is not something that has been “long remarked” by scholars.  More importantly, it is not true.  Genesis employs a historical narrative style of writing that is quite different from the styles of pagan myths.  Moreover, the details of the events in Genesis do not match those of pagan origins stories as we explore below. 

Craig: Grand themes such as the creation of the world, the origin of mankind, and the near destruction of humanity in the cataclysmic Flood are present in both the ancient myths and Genesis 1–11.

Lisle: Craig has combined two very different issues that really must be treated separately for rational analysis.  These events are creation and the global flood.  

First, is Craig correct that the creation account in Genesis bears “resemblance” to religious literature of the ancient Near East?  Hardly.  First, the genre, the style of literature of Genesis, is historical narrative.  It is the same style as any other historical book.  There isn’t much in the way of symbolism, or poetic/literary devices.  This contrasts sharply with the style of Near Eastern myths.

Furthermore, nearly all pagan origins myths begin with a primordial chaos monster that must be defeated in order for the world to become good and for humanity to flourish.  As examples, we have the Babylonian myth of Marduk slaying Tiamat, and the Greek myth of Zeus defeating the Titans.  The common theme is a world that begins or has eternally existed in a state of chaos until the chaos is defeated by a hero resulting in the good world of today.  Life comes from death/chaos in all these tales.  Genesis is the opposite in that it starts with a good, transcendent, living God who created things good at every step and all very good at completion; then human beings corrupted that world by sin which introduced death/chaos. 

And consider the many other differences.  Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) origin myths are polytheistic, whereas Genesis is monotheistic.  ANE origins stories have multiple gods that arose in time and fought among themselves.  Genesis portrays one all-powerful, eternal God who controls everything.   ANE gods often come in “husband” and “wife” pairs that reproduce.  The God of Genesis is eternal and there is no one like Him.  The differences are profound.

But what about Craig’s claim that both Genesis and ANE origins myths deal with “grand themes such as the creation of the world,” and “the origin of mankind?”  Well if they didn’t, then they wouldn’t be origins stories, would they?  Both Genesis and ANE origins myths attempt to explain the origin of the universe and man.  But the way they do this is very different.  Genesis portrays the historical details of the events of creation as historical fact in historical narrative.  ANE literature attempts to explain the world by mythology.  Craig is confusing style/genre with content.  These are two entirely separate issues. 

After all, modern secular origins stories like the big bang (which Craig endorses) and evolution deal with “grand themes such as the creation of the world,” and “the origin of mankind.”  Would Craig say that the big bang and evolution strongly resemble ANE literature?  In reality, Near Eastern origin myths are far more similar to the big bang story than anything in Genesis.  The big bang starts in a state of chaos, which is defeated by gravity which causes the heavier objects to condense from the lighter ones, thereby bringing order to the cosmos. This is remarkably similar to the separation of yin and yang in Oriental origins mythologies.

Second, what of the claim that both ANE literature and Genesis mention a cataclysmic flood?  This is quite true, but it’s not limited to ANE literature.  In fact, all around the world are ancient legends of a cataclysmic flood which destroyed all mankind and land animals except those that survived on a massive boat.  How do we account for this?  It doesn’t seem to occur to Craig that so many cultures have legends of this event because it happened!  The global flood was a real, historical event.  Genesis 6, 7, and 8 record the historical details of this event, and these chapters were incorporated into Genesis by Moses under the inerrant direction of the Holy Spirit. 

The flood happened around 1,656 years after creation.  As the people dispersed from Babel and began to form separate nations, they took with them the story of the flood passed down to them by their parents.  It is likely that Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth were still alive at the time of the dispersion, and so people could meet living survivors of the flood.[4]  As the legend was passed down by word of mouth, some of the details were changed or lost, except for the historical record preserved in Genesis.

Some might ask, “But how do we know that Genesis is the original version with the correct details and that the others are distorted?”  Of course, the Christian understands that the Bible is God’s Word, and not even the smallest letter can fail (Matthew 5:18).  God’s Word cannot be in error in even the smallest detail because it is God’s Word.  But aside from this, there are other indicators that Genesis is the original.  Its account makes logical sense in all respects.  But the non-biblical legends distort some of the details in ways that cannot work.  For example, in the Epic of Gilgamesh, Noah’s ark is described as being a cube in shape.  But such a shape would easily capsize, whereas the biblical dimensions of the ark are optimal for a literal flood. 

Furthermore, the Epic of Gilgamesh is written in poetic style, whereas Genesis is written in historical narrative.  Details such as ages of the patriarchs at the time of birth of one of their children and the age at their death are indicative of historical narrative.  Moreover, the Bible is the only book of the ancient world which has an unbroken record of genealogies connecting the pre-flood inhabitants with post-flood inhabitants, (e.g. Genesis 5, 10).  This further exhibits its nature as recording real, historical people and events.


So, Craig’s claim that Genesis 1-11 resembles ANE literature fails for several reasons.  First, the style of writing is starkly different.  The literary style of Genesis is historical narrative just like Exodus and Joshua, not mythological or poetic stories such as the Epic of Gilgamesh.  Therefore, the biblical text should be interpreted as historical.  Second, the content of a text does not determine the literary genre.  Both the modern big bang story and ANE origins myths deal with grand themes such as the creation of the universe, but that doesn’t make them the same type of literature.  Third, the content of ANE origins myths is quite different from Genesis.  ANE origins stories are polytheistic and generally begin with a chaos monster that must be defeated in order for the world to become good and suitable for humanity.  Conversely, Genesis begins with a perfect world created by the one-and-only all-powerful God, and humans introduce chaos/death by their rebellion against God.  On the contrary, the big bang has far more in common with the content of ANE origins myths than anything in Genesis.  Finally, legends of the global flood occur around the world because the event really happened.  Genesis is the historic record of this event, but basic themes were passed down by word of mouth (and eventually written down) in other people groups.

Everything we have examined so far is consistent with the orthodox Christian conviction that Genesis is historical reality.  Nothing (so far) supports Craig’s claim that Genesis is myth or non-literal.  More to come.

[1] Colossians 2:8

[2] Craig’s entire article is found here:  https://www.firstthings.com/article/2021/10/the-historical-adam

[3] https://biblicalscienceinstitute.com/apologetics/evolution-vs-science/

[4] This is based on the common inference that the dispersion at the Tower of Babel occurred about 100 years after the global flood, based partly on the explanation of the name Peleg in Genesis 10:25.