Genesis: “But It’s Not Chronological!”
A footnote to Genesis 1:1 in the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible reads: “The first of two contradictory creation accounts. Compare with Genesis 2:4-25 in which the order of events is entirely different.”
As we can plainly see from the Skeptic’s footnote, the basis for the “contradictory” label stems from the complaint that the two Creation accounts do not harmonize chronologically.
[~Insert imaginary “NEWSFLASH” beacon~] The Bible is not a chronological history book! All the Bible’s accounts are collections of histories, but its compilers were more interested in their topics, not their timing!
There are some great sources dedicated to the differences between Events vs. Continuous Time, and the Hebrew mind and the Western mind. In a nutshell, the concept of time to Hebrew writers is vastly different to Greek readers – chronology takes a backseat to content.
However, Skeptic’s does not just unfairly judge by a faulty pretense (chronology), the author is also wrong about the content. The Skeptic’s misunderstanding comes from the English translation of key Hebrew verbs and vocabulary, which doesn’t always adequately translate Hebrew grammar in its rightful context. For example, Genesis 2:19 appears to say that animals appeared after man, after clearly being made before mankind in Genesis 1. However, since verbs in ancient Hebrew lack the many forms extant in Western languages (such as pluperfect, etc.), the translation “He had formed” which is plausible by context, becomes lost. However, the Hebrew verb forms do allow such a translation.
It may be reasonable for skeptics to question topical occurrences in Scripture, but not at all reasonable to object to Western standards of accuracy that didn’t exist at the time of ancient Near East sources. The Bible simply isn’t a chronological book. The Torah skips in its accounts – especially in the lives of Yaakov’s (Jacob’s) twelve sons, the burdens of the Prophets aren’t even close to being arranged in chronological order. The separate books of the Bible are no where near compiled in order! Even the Gospels, who record Yeshua from birth-to-resurrection, are not chronological. Gospel writers focused on meshing topics of His teachings together; the sequence of His life was secondary.
Therefore, when challenged with “The Bible isn’t chronological!” the immediate response should be “Is it obligated to be chronological?” It may actually be a chance to explain the details and topics of the Scriptures (i.e. What Yeshua said), while getting Western slaves of time out from their chronological blinders.