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Stars are commonly used in biblical views as an allegory to angels. The most common of these is in Revelation when it states a third of the stars will "fall down from heaven". We can also see a lesser obvious view in Job 38:7. If we see the Genesis creation account in chapter 2, it is highly allegorical in how humans were created. All of the intricacies like how God "breathed into us" and stuck us in a garden point to it representing a play on pagan idolatry. In the first 3 days of the creation story we have the light, the sky, and the land. The last three are the rulers of the realms. The "stars" rule the heavens, the birds inhabit the sky, fish inhabit the waters, and people rule over the world. Establishing this allegorical view that the creation days are not literal but instead us seeing God create different realms and we as people rule over realms similar to angels ruling over their realm. We can also use this viewpoint to help explain the problems with the fallen angels and Babel. Both parties were trying to rule outside of their God-given realms. I believe allowing us to view creation from this perspective allow us to see both creation and the book of Genesis in a better light.

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    Welcome to the Biblical Hermeneutics forum, IsaiahB. Please note that this forum is different than most others because one needs to support their opinions and assertions with specific scriptures, opinions of experts, historical sources or references, and logic. Typically, these are quoted for convenience. For example, Genesis 1:16 (ESV) reads "And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars." However, in Psalm 136:9, it is stated that the moon and stars rule the night. Hope this helps.
    – Dieter
    Oct 23, 2023 at 18:16
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    The stars do not 'rule the heavens'. The greater light rules the day, the lesser, the night. Which is not allegorical at all ( a written allegory) but the things created are thus created as they, themselves, in their physical form which we can perceive, are demonstrations of spiritual truth, set before us every day of our lives.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 23, 2023 at 18:53
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    – agarza
    Oct 23, 2023 at 19:11

6 Answers 6

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I note the following about the Gen 1 record. The record is both literal and metaphorical as will be demonstrated.

  1. The two halves of creation week follow the same pattern. The first half mostly concerns the act of separating (eg, waters above from waters below, light from darkness, land from sea, etc.), while the second half mostly concerns populating these separated habitats with living creatures or lights (the sun and moon are not explicitly mentioned). This directly follows the pattern set up in Gen 1:2 where the earth is declared, “tohu and bohu” = formless and empty; God then proceeds to form and fill.
  2. There are three phases of creation involving light, water, and dry ground. Each required two steps separated by three days. In the case of the land (the third phase of day 3 and day 6), two distinct creation acts are recorded each time, each terminated by the declaration that the result was good: on day 3 it is the separation of dry land from the water and then the creation of vegetation; on day 6 God made the land produce animals, and then the land (or soil Gen 2:7) was made to produce mankind.
  3. The creation of the sun and moon is not recorded in this passage. All that is stated is that God created lights in the expanse of the heaven (“sky” NIV, not outer space or the starry heaven), which according to Gen 1:6 is what separated the waters below (what became on day 3 rivers, lakes and seas) from the waters above (presumably the source of dew, rain and snow in the atmosphere). Hebrew has perfectly good words for “sun” (שֶׁמֶשׁ shemesh) and “moon” (יָרֵחַ yareach) that the author obviously goes to some trouble to avoid using.
  4. The passage contains several nomenclature or definition statements which are introduced by the phrase, “God called the…”. This occurs for “day” and “night” (1:4), the “sky” or “heaven” (1:8), and the “land” or “earth” and the “seas” (1:10). All these definition statements occur in the first three days only. The naming of the living creatures was (presumably) to be left to Adam (2:19).
  5. Further, there is no record (in Gen 1:1–2:3) of God creating planet Earth on any of the six days. Nor is there any record of creating the water covering the planet – this was apparently all done before the first day of creation week which began in V3. Thus, at the beginning of the first day of creation week, the Earth consisted of a “formless”, planet covered in water, totally lifeless and dark, over which the Spirit of God was moving (Gen 1:2).
  6. Gen 1 is written from a phenomenological point of view - what an observer would simply see. It is NOT a scientific nor astronomical record. This is reinforced with passages like Eccl 1:5 about the sun and moon rising and setting and hurrying back again.
  7. The fact that the sun produces its own light and the moon is a reflector of light (as we now know from astronomical analysis) is quite irrelevant to the record of Gen 1 because all that matters is that they are both sources of light for the inhabitants on earth. The stars are also sources of light as also recorded elsewhere, such as Eze 32:7, Jer 31:35, etc.
  8. One of the several functions of the Gen 1 record is as type of salvation. God takes a world that is (Gen 1:2) “tohu and bohu and hosek” = formless and void and dark; and by the end of the record we have, (v31) “And God looked upon all that He had made, and indeed, it was very good.” That is, we have the opposite - form, value and brightness!

Thus, Gen 1 is a literal record of actual events that forms a metaphor of salvation.

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  • There is no record of God creating planet earth on any of the six days? Have you read Exodus 20:11? Appreciate the misguided attempt to sidestep the question (if that is the motivation), but this answer is lacking in so many ways. (-1) Oct 23, 2023 at 21:22
  • @RevelationLad - "heaven and earth" in Ex 20:11 is the same phrase as in Gen 1;1. Now, did God create the entire heavens and earth before day 1 or on day 2 and day 3? The word "erets" is defined in Gen 1:10 as the dry ground. shamayim is dined in Gen 1:8 as the space between the water above and the waters below. Thus, be careful what you ask for.
    – Dottard
    Oct 23, 2023 at 21:29
  • And which day did He bless after He created the heavens and the earth and all that is them? The fact God draws a line in the sand of time and says this is the seventh day of my work is explicit. Oct 23, 2023 at 22:09
  • @RevelationLad - agreed. And what is your point? The fact is, God's creative work is far from finished because in Rev 21 we read that God will create a new heaves and a new earth. Further, every converted Christian is also a new creation according to 2 Cor 5:17.
    – Dottard
    Oct 23, 2023 at 22:45
  • Up-voted +1. Yes, not a technical manual of scientific data ; but rather an account of creation, as such - which account necessarily includes the new creation and thus the narrative is (as stated above) a 'metaphor of salvation'.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 24, 2023 at 6:41
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I would prefer to use the word symbolic instead of allegory here.

To me, allegory means something like what is described here in the Miriam-Webster Online Dictionary's frequently asked questions response to "What is the difference between an allegory and a metaphor?"

Allegory is the expression of truths or generalizations about human existence by means of symbolic fictional figures and their actions. It encompasses such forms as fable and parable.

The parables of Jesus fit the pattern of this definition of allegory: each of these stories happen in a made up world, and none of the events refer to anything real, they are just the vehicle of a moral or lesson.

Genesis 1, however, is not an allegory. It uses complex poetic and literary forms, and is highly symbolic, but it intends to describe the actual world that we live in.

But that is not all it is. It is also a text integrated into a larger literary unit, the Bible.

So, yes. Genesis 1 does begin introduce many of the themes in the rest of the Bible about angels and rebellious spiritual beings. But it is also intending to portray the creation of the literal lights of the sky of the world we live in.

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If the question is "Can Genesis 1 be approached from an allegorical perspective" the answer is yes, it can be.

The method of interpretation is determined by the reader - not by the text. The method of interpretation is the lense through which the reader approaches the text.

A few possible methods of interpretation are:

  • Literal - reading the txt for its plain meaning based on its genre, context and grammar.
  • Moral interpretation - an ethical and moral view
  • Allegorical interpretation - per the question
  • Anagogical interpretation - viewing the text from a spiritual and eschatological perspective.
  • Existential
  • Dogmatic
  • Christological

I'm sure there are others.

Genesis 1 can be approached from a perspective of any method of interpretation which can derive many different results.

If the question is "Did the author intend the reader to approach the text from an allegorical perspective" then the answer is - there is no indication in the text that the writer intended the reader to approach the text from an allegorical perspective.

An example of a passage that indicates the reader should use an allegorical approach might be Luke 15:1-32. This passage contains a string of stories designed to illustrate a point.

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Could the use of stars be allegorical? Of course. As seen in the question, treating "stars" as angels follows the use later and agrees with a sequence in which angels were created before man.

Should they been seen as allegorical and if so does this allow us to see the book of Genesis in a better light? I think not.

If we ignore the element of time but accept the current scientific interpretation for the physical evidence God has allowed man to find testifying to His work on the first seven days recorded in Genesis, this is the sequence of the formation of the stars: Big Bang --> Hydrogen and Helium --> First "stars" --> First "stars" explode --> All elements heavier than hydrogen and helium scattered throughout the universe --> Formation of other objects and newer stars.

With the exception of attributing the first "stars" as the source of all elements heavier than hydrogen and helium by the process of stellar nuclear fusion, this is the same sequence found in Genesis. God defines stars as objects which give light, not physical material to the earth:

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. (Genesis 1 ESV)

The Bible is not a scientific manual and man is free to read it allegorically or to take it literally: both contain truth. Yet believers should not shirk from the literal truth God has recorded in His word. We should point out to those who claim the universe simply "happened," how the sequence they claim "happened" was recorded over 3,500 years ago and that is plagiarism to take ideas without giving credit to where it was first written.

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  • My faithful and precious Downvoters. What do you find most offensive? (1) My belief God can use unscientific people to record scientific truths? (2) My encouragement to point out to the believers in science how the sequences they believe are theoretical truth agree with the sequence God recorded as absolute truth? [I realize the "offensive" nature of this type of encouragement, but what is more offensive, a denial the Word of God is truth yet using the truth in the Word of God to proclaim a scientific truth?] Oct 24, 2023 at 15:40
  • Unfortunately, an immediate single down vote seems obligatory. I've been advocating here that any down vote should include the courtesy of an explanatory comment (as I've done myself below). It's always been my position that someone's unsupported assertion does not constitute irrefutable proof. I'd also add that I've been deeply disappointed after following up on some academically accepted "truths" on both extremes of biblical minimalism and biblical sensationalism, particularly in light of recent archaeological discoveries.
    – Dieter
    Oct 24, 2023 at 17:41
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    @Dieter Thank you. I have come to recognize the fact that in some cases downvotes from some are worth much more than the upvotes. Oct 24, 2023 at 20:41
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Allegorical explanations of Genesis 1 became popular in response to scientific skepticism. My objective in this response is to address the hidden presumption that Genesis 1 is at odds with science.

First of all, Genesis 1 is obviously not intended to be a scientific account, but rather a general description of creation. Note that the current scientific consensus referenced below will certainly change over time. Science constantly changes, but the Bible does not.

If we know what stars are, then must references to stars in the Bible be only allegorical?

Ancient cosmologies often describe warring gods, dismemberment, and repurposed body parts in their creation stories. The earth is supported on the backs of large animals such as tortoises and elephants. One of the Greek Titans, Atlas, holds up the heavens. The sun and moon are powerful deities. In contrast, the Bible contains no similar stories. According to Genesis, the sun and moon are simply luminaries—lamps, not gods—and the earth is not supported by any giant animals.

For hundreds of years, it was assumed that the universe was static and infinite, having no beginning or end. During that time, critics of the Bible would ask how light could possibly exist before the stars came into being. Now, science itself provides an answer to their objection—photons came into existence before stellar formation occurred.

But, how could light exist before the sun, moon and stars were created?

Consider the following quotes from the Big Bang Central webpage relating to star formation:

Immediately after the Big Bang, the universe was a hot, dense plasma of electrons, protons and photons. This plasma was opaque to electromagnetic radiation (light), as the distance each photon could travel before scattering off another charged particle was extremely short.

As a by-product of the formation of hydrogen [about 380,000 years after the Big Bang], electromagnetic radiation (light) could now freely travel so that the universe became transparent.

In February, 2014 the international media trumpeted the discovery by Australian scientists of the oldest star in the universe - SM 0313. SM 0313 . . . just about 200 million years after the Big Bang (13.8 billion years ago). Remarkably, it is located right in our own Milky Way just 6,000 light years away.

Thus, cosmologists currently believe that light appeared before any stars were formed.

But, how could God “separate” the light from the darkness?

Dark Nebula are interstellar clouds that are so dense that they block all light from stars and other sources of visible radiation that are behind them.

Dark Nebula are a collection of sub-micrometer (less than a millionth of a meter) sized dust particles, coated with frozen carbon monoxide and nitrogen. They block all light at visible wavelengths. The shape of Dark Nebula is very irregular, they have no clearly defined boundaries. Dark Nebula are the spawning grounds of stars and planets.

A literal interpretation of Genesis 1 suggests that the earth itself started in darkness and covered in water.

Is this a plausible scientific possibility?

As reported in Live Science in March 2020, a study published in Natural Geoscience, researchers lead by geoscientist Benjamin Johnson report that they have compelling evidence from isotope ratios. It reads

What did Earth look like 3.2 billion years ago? New evidence suggests the planet was covered by a vast ocean and had no continents at all.

Nevertheless, there is undeniably an association between stars and planets in the Bible with people and angelic beings. But, current scientific research does not force believers to interpret Genesis 1 only as an allegory or a polemic.

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  • Ah, the obligatory anonymous down vote. My point still stands unchallenged and unscathed. (smile)
    – Dieter
    Oct 24, 2023 at 18:31
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The simplest and most cogent explanation I have found for what the author's sources and intention were, is that it was a retelling of a much earlier poem called "Enuma Elish," just as Noah's Flood was a retelling of the much earlier Epic of Gilgamesh

The Moses version seems to suggest an EL ELYON [hegemony?] tradition. i.e. "EL ELYON" is the "Highest god" aka "The Most High god," etc.

The Moses version may possibly have been influenced by the cosmology of Thales.

But some astute scripture addicts have identified patterns in the Moses version of the making of the sky and dry land, the sun, moon and stars, etc. patterns similar to the construction of the Tabernacle: In fact, the same video ties together many related metaphors.

The evidence suggests that the Jews took scripture very literally, or at least rooted in orthopraxy. However, at least since their stay in Babylon, the musings of the Rabbis suggest that they also were more open-minded to mystical reading than many might imagine. However, their readings were still more rooted in orthopraxy than what we see in Paul and others. Please see the wiki on Philo.

"Paul" (or whoever wrote Colossians, which was probably not the same "Paul" that wrote Romans) essentially repeats Plato's "Allegory of the Cave." Plato taught that "there is no spoon" (ala the Matrix), and here's Paul's repeat of it:

Colossians 2:16-17 NASB95

16 Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day-- 17 things which are a [mere] shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

Jesus criticized Nicodemus for reading the scriptures overly literally:

John 3:3-4, 10 NASB95

3 Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." 4 Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?" ... 10 Jesus answered and said to him, "Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?

Some say Plato influenced Christianity and others say that Christianity influenced Platonism, but it is clear that they are profoundly connected, i.e. John 1:1.

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  • What evidence determines what influenced what? Here's the beginning of Enuma Elish: When the heavens above did not exist, And earth beneath had not come into being — There was Apsû, the first in order, their begetter, And demiurge Tia-mat, who gave birth to them all; They had mingled their waters together Before meadow-land had coalesced and reed-bed was to he found — When not one of the gods had been formed Or had come into being, when no destinies had been decreed, The gods were created within them: Lah(mu and Lah(amu were formed and came into being. Now, compare this to Genesis.
    – Dieter
    Oct 24, 2023 at 4:58
  • There are hundreds of creation and flood stories that have been collected from across the world. Do they sound more like Enuma Elish or Genesis? For example, the indigenous Yuki people of California have a creation account that has Taikomal hovering over the water before there was light, and by a spoken word, the earth was created and then populated with people. It goes on to say, “After the creation of people, there was a deluge in which only the top of a few mountains remained uncovered.” Does this sound like the Epic of Gilgamesh or of Genesis? I down voted due to unsupported assertions.
    – Dieter
    Oct 24, 2023 at 5:33
  • Enuma Elish is much older. Did you follow the links in my answer to view the documentation? But it looks like someone already killed my post. Looks like nothing's changed here.
    – Ruminator
    Oct 24, 2023 at 9:39
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    Does older equate with truth? Two observations. First, modern scholars recognize the earliest recording of historical events are inaccurate. They reflect bias of the writer. Typically, they mispresent facts to affirm the bias. Arguably, that is the reason they were written first. Objective works, on the other hand are written much later. Do you suppose this phenomenon did not exist in ancient times? Second, if there was a flood as described in the Bible, wouldn't all flood accounts be traced back to the oral history from those on the Ark? It is not who wrote first, but who wrote the truth. Oct 24, 2023 at 14:29
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    My comments were directed toward your answer. What your answer has to do with the original question is not something that I brought up, but I guess it's also worth asking: How does the text of the Enimu Alish and the eleven tablets of the Epic of Gilgamesh help in the interpretation of whether the stars in Genesis are allegorical or literal?
    – Dieter
    Oct 24, 2023 at 18:06

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