John Sailhamer calls his interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 Historical Creationism. He distinguishes it from the Scientific Creationism which he sees as starting with the assumption that “modern science holds the answer to the meaning of the biblical text.”
A brief summary of the Historical Creationism thesis of John Sailhmer is presented in his own words below. The following is an extended quote is taken from the Introduction of his book Genesis Unbound (1997).
“One main purposes of this book is to show that when Genesis 1 and 2 are understood as I believe Moses intended them to be understood, nearly all the difficulties that perplex modern readers instantly vanish. Through a fresh reading of Genesis 1:1-24a that builds on the work of gifted interpreters from centuries past – an approach I call “Historical Creationism” – I try to show how this can be so. My approach is textual and Biblical, not primarily scientific or historical. I come to the text as an evangelical Christian committed to the inerrancy of the Scriptures and as one who wants to hear what the Bible itself means to say.
I maintain that the narratives of Genesis 1 and 2 are to be understood as both literal and historical. They recount two great acts of God. In the first act, god created the universe we see around us today, consisting of the earth, the sun, the moon, the stars, and all the plants and animals that now inhabit (or formerly inhabited) the earth. The biblical record of that act of creation is recounted in Genesis 1:1 — “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
Since the Hebrew word translated “beginning” refers to an indefinite period of time, we cannot say for certain when God created the world or how long He took to create it. This period could have spanned as much as several billion years, or it could have been much less; the text simply does not tell us how long. It tells us only that god did it during the “beginning” of our universe’s history.
The second act of God recounted in Genesis 1 and 2 deals with a much more limited scope and period of time. Beginning with Genesis 1:2 the biblical narrative recounts God’s preparation of a land for the man and woman He was to create. That “land” was the same land later promised to Abraham and his descendants. It was that land which God gave to Israel after their exodus from Egypt. It was that land to which Joshua led the Israelites after their time of wandering in the wilderness. According to Genesis 1, god prepared that land within a period of a six-day work week. On the sixth day of that week, God created human beings. God then rested on the seventh day.
The second chapter of Genesis provides a closer look at God’s creation of the first human beings. We are told that God created them from the ground and put them in the garden of Eden to worship and obey God (not merely to work the garden and take care of it). The boundaries of that garden are the same as those of the promised land; thus the events of these chapters foreshadow the events of the remainder of the Pentateuch. God creates a people, He puts them into the land He has prepared for them, and He calls on them to worship and obey Him and receive His blessing.”
Now obviously, some of this may strike some people as different than anything they are used to hearing even among evangelical circles and it did hit me as unique the first time I read the book as well. But I think you can see that one can hardly claim that Sailhammer is allegorizing or mythologizing Genesis but rather is far more literal than many of those that claim to hold to a literal view. I will attempt to reproduce and explore some of his specific claims in more detail though not all of them (If I go into any more detail there wouldn’t be any need to read the whole book).
Next post. Part 4: An introduction to the topics and getting right to it.