Michael D. Coogan: A Religious Rather Than a Scientific Text

Michael D. Coogan, The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures, third edition (OUP: 2014), 35-36.

Whatever the character of the inspiration of the Bible, however, it was written by men (and, probably, women) whose knowledge was that of their times, not ours. In their understanding, like that of their contemporaries, the earth was the center of the universe, and the heavenly bodies revolved around the earth. But they were writing a religious rather than a scientific text. One of the religious messages of the first creation account [i.e. Genesis 1:1-2:4a] is the importance of the sabbath, whose observance is part of the very fabric of the universe. Since the sabbath lasts for one day, also since the word “day” elsewhere in the Bible means what we call a twenty-four-hour period, it is wrong to attempt to identify the first six days of Genesis 1 with geological eras so that modern science and that narrative of creation agree. Moreover, it is impossible to reconcile the account given here with that which follows in Genesis 2-3, which suggests that even for ancient readers the two accounts of creation were not taken as literally true.

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