YEC and Historical-Grammatical Interpretation

@r_speir is clearly an OEC, not a YEC, regardless of what he says.

The proper way of interpreting a text is to understand what the original author meant by it and how the original audience understood it. Using legal terminology, this is not “textualism” but “originalism”. In hermeneutics it’s called “grammatical-historical”, which I know you understand. That’s a sort of combination of “textualism” and “originalism” which claims that the text has one objective meaning which can be determined from what the text meant in its proper historical context.

It is totally impossible to believe the original audience understood things like the “gap theory” or the “day age” theory. The only way one can justify those types of interpretations is by making religious assumptions about the nature of the text. You have to assume that God spoke things to Moses or whomever that he did not understand or communicate clearly, and that the text contains true things from God which Moses (or whomever) simply missed or misinterpreted. This would mean that God either failed to communicate His meaning or was intentionally hiding things from Moses et al. One is free to believe that, but that belief does not come from the text or the grammatical historical method. It comes from the need to harmonize the text with modern science and includes additional assumptions about God’s purpose which are nowhere evident. The “grammatical historical” interpretation requires no such assumptions about either God or modern science. In fact, one doesn’t even have to believe in God at all to use it.

Yes, I mean originalism and gramatical-historical. I’m just concerned by how you’ve departed from this approach to Scripture. If you followed this approach more closely, an old earth would not be such a problem for you.

I deny that myself and every other YEC has departed from grammitical-historical. Where exactly have “I” and every other YEC departed from the method?

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Of course you’d have a hard time seeing it. That is not a surprise :slight_smile: . I suggest @moderators split this thread, and I’ll come back to it then.

I accept your rebuke.

And therefore your specific “historical-grammatical” model invented within the last few hundred years is the only possible alternative?

The “historical-grammatical” interpretation requires a gigantic suite of assumptions about the purpose of Genesis and the exegetical ability of early 20th century theologians.

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I’m still waiting for you to provide examples prior to 1700 of any Christian writer who doubted the Genesis chronology.


Daniel, everyone knows Augustine did not believe the days in Genesis 1 were 24 hour days. That is not the point at issue. When Augustine spoke directly on the age of the earth, he affirmed a young age, as did everyone else up until the 1700s. Unless you can provide counterexamples as I’ve asked.

“They are deceived, too, by those highly mendacious documents which profess to give the history of many thousand years, though, reckoning by the sacred writings, we find that not 6000 years have yet passed.”

St. Augustine, City of God, Book XII, chapter 10, “Of the Falseness of the History Which Allots Many Thousand Years to the World’s Past”, 426 A.D.

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By definition, if Augustine didn’t believe in literal 24-hour days, but viewed the six days of creation as a literary construct, then he wasn’t faithful to the chronology by YEC standards. Unless you think that the six days of Genesis 1 are not part of the biblical chronology, which seems like moving goalposts.


Exactly. The point, which the talking heads at Andwers in Genesis and many others seem intent on ignoring, is that Augustine and those like him simply did not attach doctrinal essentiality to the idea of a young earth and a historical-grammatical interpretation of genesis one. They simply did not.

They did not question a young earth, not because of a commitment to a particular interpretation of Genesis, but because they had no reason to think the earth was any older.


What about the Catholic Church? They accepted an ancient earth to deal with the discovery of people in the New World…


It also worth pointing out again that the GAE shows how the Genesis chronology is not in conflict with an ancient earth any ways…so this this is no longer a valid reason to reject an ancient earth.


Then why was Buffon forced to abjure his writings on an ancient earth? (Not that ancient, just a hundred thousand years or so.)

But @BenKissling is asking the wrong question. It’s not whether there was anyone who thought the earth was old, it’s whether there was anyone, perhaps a great majority, who thought it was young, 6000 years old or so, and that the days of creation were actual days. And of course there were, and it was the dominant view until at least the 18th Century. Why is anyone claiming otherwise?

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At the admitted risk of sounding pedantic, the actual question is not whether there was a majority who viewed the Earth as young and the days of Genesis 1 as actual days, but whether this view was universally considered a doctrinal essential.

The greatest foundation of the modern creationist movement is not merely the assertion that Genesis 1-11 is scientific history, but the assertion that its historicity is a non-negotiable, essential element of doctrine. YEC leaders wield power over their followers via the ever-present threat of “compromise”. To question their interpretation of Genesis, they say, runs against the fundamental doctrinal essentials of the faith and will lead to all manner of moral decay and the disintegration of faith.

So while many in the early church certainly assumed the historicity of Genesis 1-11, they did not have an unswerving commitment to the historicity of Genesis 1-11, as the YEC leaders would have us all believe.


I don’t think that’s the actual question, actually. The question is whether YEC is a recent phenomenon — and I mean not as “science” or even as essential doctrine, but as a belief about what the bible claims and about the truth of those claims. And “universally” is a weasel word; universality is by no means required, since the claim is that these views didn’t exist at all.

Your question is perfectly legitimate, but I don’t think it’s the one we’re talking about. If we can agree that a young earth was the most common view through most of Christian history and that those in authority sometimes considered it a doctrinal essential, at least to the extent of punishing deviation (e.g. Buffon), then I have no argument with you.

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The bottom line I think is this.

If you believe that the Bible is the inerrant message of an omnipotent, all-knowing God then when it comes to science you have basically two choices.

You either have to adopt an interpretation of the Bible that matches the science, or you have to create a narrative where the science matches your interpretation of the Bible.

I see people like Ben doing one of these things when they insist that the science actually supports a young earth to match the way he reads the Bible.

I see Josh doing the other when he reads the Bible in a way that matches the available science whether it is saying that the Tower of Babel or Noah stories don’t refer to the entire earth.

However, the view that the Bible is not inerrant in matters of the natural world and human history but instead reflects the Bronze Age cosmologies and theological traditions of the Near East for pre-scientific, mythos-laden, superstitious cultures doesn’t require us to tie ourselves into knots reconciling the text with the science. Instead we just acknowledge the obvious that there is no reason to expect the Bible be accurate on any scientific matter.


It doesn’t help that “inerrancy” is defined to mean exactly and precisely what the person using the word wants it to mean. I personally don’t think inerrancy is a particularly useful concept, for this reason.

One strawman of “inerrancy” seems to be the idea that a person reading the text will not draw incorrect propositional conclusions from the text. But of course the entire history of the Christian religion is one big cauldron of counterexamples to THAT notion, and so the inerrantists ends up qualifying their view by saying that a person with no false preconceptions will not draw incorrect conclusions. This neatly begs the question of which preconceptions are false and also makes the whole idea useless, because no one is completely devoid of inaccurate preconceptions.

You can relax “inerrancy” to simply mean “God wasn’t wrong about the things he intended to communicate” but that is so useless as to be nearly tautological.

I think it more useful to simply say, “The Bible either is or is not intended to communicate scientific and historical fact” without ever needing to bring up or define inerrancy. In my view, it seems very obvious that the Bible is intended to communicate theological truths. Where it touches on real history, its intent is not to communicate facts about that history but to illustrate how events in history reflect theological truths.


I would say if there is any intent to the Bible at all it was largely to reflect the beliefs of the authors, to provide a record of and a means to enforce cultural norms, to provide historical narratives friendly to the author’s political and cultural goals, and also maybe some theology. The Bible has a long complex history of inclusions and omissions and it’s an amalgam of post-hoc written records of oral traditions, poetry, and prescriptions for the practice of religious worship and cultural participation and as such I think it’s impossible, outside of a bare appeal to religious belief, assign any single intent to the entirety of the Bible.

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That isn’t true even remotely. It might be better labeled “Scriptural Realism”.