We have been exploring inconsistencies in William Lane Craig’s comments on Genesis.  Recall that Craig had attempted to reclassify Genesis 1-11 as myth by claiming it had similarities to Ancient Near Eastern origins stories.  We found this claim to be false.  Craig then equivocated on the meaning of the word ‘myth’ in order to convince his followers that Genesis is not literal history.  This is a bait-and-switch fallacy.  In fact, Craig did not present any evidence that Genesis should be taken as anything but literal history.  His rejection of a literal Genesis does not stem from an exegetical reading of the text, or proper reasoning from Scripture, but rather from his acceptance of the secular stories of deep time, Darwinian evolution, and the big bang. 

Everything about the Genesis account indicates that it is historical narrative.  The detailed genealogies that blend seamlessly into Abraham and his descendants, the attention to details such as ages, and the long chains of waw-consecutives all testify to the literal historicity of Genesis.  Even Craig reluctantly acknowledges that these clues turn “the primaeval narratives into a primaeval history.”   All other biblical books that quote or reference Genesis do so as literal history.  But Craig doesn’t accept that history because it is contrary to the secular origins stories that he embraces.

Yet, Craig also professes to be a Christian, and to believe the Bible.  But how can he claim this when he clearly doesn’t believe the natural, exegetical reading of the text of Genesis 1-11?  How can a person claim to embrace the very thing he rejects?  Can such contradictory thinking be defended?  How will Craig attempt to defend his position that Genesis 1-11 is myth (not literal history) despite the fact that all Scripture treats Genesis as literal history?

Let’s continue to look at Craig’s claims.

Craig: On the basis of comparative studies of Sumerian literature, the eminent Assyriologist Thorkild Jacobsen proposed that we recognize a unique genre of literature, which he dubbed “mytho-history.”

Lisle: Recall that Craig has argued that Genesis is not straightforward history on the basis that (he claims) it has characteristics of myth.  Thus, he is taking the word ‘myth’ to mean nonhistorical.[1]  So what is “mytho-history?”  It would be “nonhistorical-history” which is a contradiction. 

By analogy, suppose someone denied that the earth orbits the sun, but he didn’t want to appear to outright reject that claim.  Furthermore, suppose he was aware of the abundant evidence that the earth does in fact orbit the sun, but he cannot refute it.  So, he then says, “since the earth clearly doesn’t orbit the sun, and yet we see evidence that the earth does orbit the sun, perhaps the statement ‘the earth orbits the sun’ should be classified in a unique category of truth which we shall call ‘fiction-facts.’  If the claim ‘the earth orbits the sun’ is in one sense fiction, it is in another sense fact.”

Clearly, that would be absurd.  A “fiction-fact” is a contradiction in terms since fiction essentially means not factual.  However, such contradictory language may fool the undiscerning individual.  And once a contradiction is accepted, it is easy to defend.  When someone points out all the evidence that the earth does indeed revolve around the sun, the simpleton can respond, “that’s the factual part of this fiction fact.  But that doesn’t make it a fact-fact.”  The individual is able to maintain his absurd belief by inventing an absurd category of truth.  He is free to emphasize the fictional aspect of this contradictory category when professing his belief, and then dismisses evidence to the contrary by claiming this is merely the factual aspect of the belief.      

And so, Craig attempts to dismiss the abundant evidence that Genesis is literal history by labeling it as “mytho-historical.”  All the biblical evidence for historicity is placed in the “historical” bin of the category, and Craig’s belief that the events of Genesis did not really happen as stated are placed in the “myth” bin.  Perhaps Craig will attempt to avoid outright contradiction by maintaining that some events recorded in Genesis 1-11 are historical and that others are myth.  But fiction with elements of truth is still fiction.  A novel might include elements of real history in presenting a fictional story – that doesn’t make it non-fiction.  Nor does this justify the creation of a self-contradictory category of “fiction-facts” or “mytho-history.”  Furthermore, upon what exegetical basis will Craig decide which events fall into which bin?  Genesis is a self-consistent narrative and portrays all the events it records as real history. 

Craig: People in the ancient Near East were already aware that the world was extremely old.

Lisle: No.  Most pagan nations believed that the world was much older than the Bible teaches.  This is also true of secularists today.  Craig accepts this antibiblical claim as fact.   But such a belief is inconsistent with the Bible (and is also inconsistent with science as we have documented over and over).  Moreover, how are pagan beliefs even remotely relevant to how we should interpret the Bible?

Craig: According to the Babylonian priest Berossus, kings had reigned in Babylon for 432,000 years prior to the Flood.

Lisle: Again, how are pagan beliefs even remotely relevant to how we should interpret the Bible?  Even secular scholars believe that Babylon was founded around 2300 B.C., which is post-flood.[2]  Berossus served in the Babylonian temple between 258 and 253 B.C., over 2000 years after the global flood.  So why should his speculations about the distant past carry any weight whatsoever?  In the same books, Berossus also wrote about the struggle between the ancient gods, culminating in the victory of Marduk over Tiamat.  Would Craig accept that as fact and interpret the Bible accordingly?

Craig: Yet the biblical genealogies famously total a scant 1,656 years from Adam until the Flood, with another 367 years from the Flood to the call of Abraham. Genesis presents a history of the world that is extremely short by ancient standards, bound tightly by father-son genealogies.

Lisle: That’s correct.  And therefore, if the Bible really is the inerrant Word of God, then the timespan between creation and the global flood really is about 1656 years.  Genesis records that Abraham lived a few centuries after the flood.  And since Abraham lived around 2000 B.C., this limits the age of the earth to around 6000 years or so.  This is the conclusion we must draw if we allow God to speak for Himself.

Craig: We should not imagine that the genealogies contemplate the enormous leaps that would be necessary to bring them into harmony with what we know of the history of mankind;

Lisle: And what do we “know of the history of mankind?”  To be blunt, Craig has been utterly brainwashed by the secular narrative of billions of years to the point that he cannot even consider the possibility that such a narrative is wrong.  And yet, what we truly know of the history of mankind is that which is recorded in historical documents.  The only historical document we have that contains a continuous list of historical genealogies from Adam through Abraham is Genesis.  Thus, what we know of the ancient world is what is recorded in Genesis.  Secular speculations about the distant past that are based on the antibiblical assumptions of naturalism and uniformitarianism are not even in the same league as the recorded history in the infallible Word of God. 

However, Craig is right about one thing: the genealogies in Genesis cannot accommodate the enormous leaps in time necessary to bring them in line with pagan mythologies or secular speculations about the past.  The history of Genesis is not compatible with the manmade idea of deep-time.  Therefore, one of these two ideas is wrong and must be rejected.  The one you accept will be the one in which you truly place your faith. 

Craig: but neither should we imagine that they comprise purely fictitious characters.

Lisle: And here we have Craig’s inescapable dilemma.  On the one hand, the text of Genesis has all the markers of history, and when referenced in the other Scriptures is always taken as literal history.  There is not the slightest hint of metaphor or myth.  Yet, Craig has accepted the secular position on origins which is in direct conflict with the history recorded in Genesis.  How can he claim to accept the Bible while simultaneously embracing a secular narrative that is contrary to it? 

Craig: We can avoid these antitheses by understanding the brief history they chronicle as a mytho-history, not to be taken literally.

Lisle: Craig attempts to avoid the inconsistency in his position by embracing the self-contradictory category of “mytho-history.”  Craig’s use of ‘myth’ implies a non-literal, non-historical, fictional story – the antithesis of history.  “Mytho-history” is an oxymoron.  Like “fiction-facts,” there is no such thing as non-historical history.  A given narrative is either historical, or it isn’t.  It either really happened, or it didn’t.  There is no category for “things that kind of sort of happened but not really.” 

There could of course be errors in an otherwise historical narrative.  A history book might give a generally accurate account of events, but with some inaccuracies.  But would that be the case with an historical account that was written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirt?  Clearly not.  Nor will it do to claim that Moses was not interested in historical details.  He clearly was since he recorded them.  And in writing Genesis, Moses was carried along by the Holy Spirit so that every word was exactly what God intended (2 Peter 1:20-21; Matthew 5:18; 2 Timothy 3:16).

Since we are made in the image of God, human beings possess rationality.  We have the innate capacity to recognize that two contradictory claims cannot both be true at the same time in the same sense.[3]  Thus, when something is claimed to be “mytho-history” or “non-historical history” the mind cannot truly embrace both parts of the oxymoron.  Craig cannot truly accept that Genesis is both historical (and hence meant to be understood in a literal, ordinary sense), and also myth (not to be taken as literal events).  So, which does he truly accept?  The answer is given in the last part of Craig’s statement: “not to be taken literally.”

It is clear that Craig rejects much of the history recorded in Genesis.  And despite all evidence to the contrary, he prefers to interpret Genesis 1-11 as a non-literal myth (with perhaps elements of real history or people).  This puts him into conflict with all other biblical authors who reference Genesis as real events that had consequences we still experience today, such as death (1 Corinthians 15:21-22), thorns and thistles (Genesis 3:18), pain in childbirth (Genesis 3:16), and so on.  It puts Craig in the unenviable position of disagreeing with the Lord Jesus who took Genesis to be real history, and the historical foundation for doctrines such as marriage (Matthew 19:3-8; Mark 10:2-12).

Craig: Ancient Near Eastern myths are often metaphorical rather than literal.

Lisle: True, perhaps, but irrelevant.  Genesis is not an Ancient Near Eastern myth.  It is recorded history, and its content differs drastically from ANE origins stories as we demonstrated previously.   Therefore, it is an egregious error in reasoning to interpret Genesis as if it were a metaphorical myth.  No biblical book or biblical author took Genesis in a metaphorical or non-literal way.

Craig: Consider the story of ­Marduk’s creation of the world from Tiamat’s corpse in the Enuma Elish. No ancient Babylonian looking to the sky expected to see the desiccated flesh and bones of Tiamat overhead, nor did he expect to find the Tigris and Euphrates flowing out of Tiamat’s eye sockets. These images are figurative. Similarly, in the Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh and Enkidu’s slaying of the Bull of Heaven (the constellation Taurus) and distribution of its meat to the people of Uruk could not possibly be taken literally. Not only is it impossible for a stellar constellation to rampage through a Sumerian town, to be grabbed by the tail and stabbed, butchered, and eaten, but if all these things literally happened, then the Bull of Heaven should no longer be seen shining serenely in the night sky.

Lisle: And Genesis contains nothing like this.  The creation account contains nothing that would be contradictory if understood as literal events.  On the contrary, the historical events recorded in Genesis explain modern realities such as human mortality and human depravity.  But it can only explain such things if it really happened.

Craig: If Genesis 1–11 functions as mytho-history, then these chapters need not be read literally.

Lisle: This premise has the form “if p then q.”  Craig seems to think he has established p, but he hasn’t.  Thus, q remains unproved.  On the contrary, all the other books of the Bible take Genesis as literal history.  Thus, the Bible establishes “not q.”  We must logically conclude “therefore not p” by modus tollens.  Namely, since Jesus and all the biblical authors take Genesis as literal history, it must be read as literal history.  Therefore, it does not function as myth, nor as the contradictory “mytho-history.”

In the next section, we will examine Craig’s arguments that Genesis 1-11 should not be interpreted literally. 

[1] This definition of myth is consistent with the Merriam-Webster definition 2b: “an unfounded or false notion” or definition 3: “a person or thing having only an imaginary or unverifiable existence.”

[2] https://www.history.com/topics/ancient-middle-east/babylonia

[3] The law of non-contradiction stems from the nature of God, who cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13).