An emphasis of Ancient Near East (ANE) texts is a recent addition to the creation discussion. This emphasis comes primarily from the OEC community and particularly from the theistic evolution (Evolutionary Creation) community. Examples of ANE texts include the Babylonian flood story.
Evangelicals are interested in outside sources of history. For example, the works of Roman historian Josephus are of interest to Christians. Tablets form the Babylonian archives list events around the fall of Jerusalem. The traditional view of ANE texts is that these are the writings of other nations that do not know the Lord.
The OEC community has recently placed a heavy emphasis on the study and interpretation ANE texts. OEC advocates have used ANE texts to undermine plain reading of Scripture. References to ANE texts appear in the PCA Report (2002). “… the proponents of the newer non-Calendar Day views of the creation days (Kline, Futato, Irons, Collins and others) believe that they have significant hermeneutical insights into Genesis 1 that have not been sufficiently addressed by those who hold to a Calendar Day view…” (excerpted from the PCA Report, II., Background to the Current Discussion of Creation Days).
The YEC view of Ancient Near East Texts
The traditional view of the church concerning ANE texts is that non-Biblical records are not scripture and not inspired by God. ANE texts are the records of nations who do not know God.
For example, many nations have a flood narrative. These narratives were based on real events of the Bible which were later corrupted by these nations. Other flood narratives include some common elements of the Biblical flood narrative to one degree or another. These common elements include:
- God’s anger at sin
- A flood
- A boat
- Destruction of most people and animals
- God’s mercy on a few
The OEC view of Ancient Near East Texts
Hermeneutics is defined the science and methodology of interpretation, especially Bible interpretation. The OEC community has developed a new system of hermeneutics based on ANE texts. This new ANE text-based system of hermeneutics has been abbreviated ANEH.
The ANEH system is somewhat amorphous and represents the work of a number of authors. The study of ANEH would be complex. However, the conclusions of ANEH can be simply stated:
- The Bible is just another ANE text and the human authors were limited by their culture and understanding. For example, the Apostle Paul “thought” that Adam was a real person even though he was not.
- ANE texts are not historically accurate. Therefore, the Bible is not historically accurate.
- Jesus’ humanity restricted His ability to communicate accurately concerning creation.
- The Bible was written “for us but not to us.” Therefore, Christians are not able understand the real meaning of the creation account.
- Only ANE scholars of the OEC community can correctly understand and teach the Bible.
- The special revelation must always agree with the “natural revelation” of the scientific consensus.
- The Bible is a mixture of inerrant truth, “stories” that are full of errors, and statements by human authors that are full of errors.
- The Bible should not be understood in terms of plain meaning.
Many books generated by the OEC creation community use elements of ANEH. “The Lost World Series” series authored by John H. Walton is probably is the most obvious example of ANEH.
A good example of an ANEH based interpretation of the Bible is found in the writing of Denis Lamoureux in an article “Was Adam a Real Person?” (1) In the article, Lamoureux introduces the “Message – Incident Principal.” The basic idea is that Scripture has a double meaning consisting of the “Message” and the “Incident”. The “message” – considered inerrant truth is the that humankind has sinned. The “incident“ is the “Story” of creation and the fall. See the following illustration:
The trust of ANEH is an effort to turn “objectionable” portions of the Bible into “stories” intended for ancient peoples. At the same time, ANEH attempts to find inerrant truths within these “stories.” Obvious targets ANEH are the creation narrative, the historicity of Adam, and the flood narrative. However, ANEH can be used to attack any Bible teaching.
Westminster Confession of Faith statements on Scripture contested with ANEH
The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 1, “Of the Holy Scripture” is based on traditional reformed hermeneutics which include God’s sovereignty, the work of the Holy Spirit the perspicuity of scripture, and a plain reading of scripture. Below are some major points from the headings listed under Chapter 1. These are contrasted with an ANEH view of Scripture:
- Per the WCF, general revelation makes humankind know that there is a God. However, general revelation does not lead people to salvation. God’s special revelation, His written word, tells people how to be saved. – In contrast, the ANEH view considers “natural revelation” (the scientific consensus) to be equally important to special revelation. Therefore, the Bible, must always agree with the “truth” of the scientific consensus.
- Per the WCF, Scripture is God’s written word to us and for us. It is given by the inspiration of the God. Scripture is God breathed and the words of Scripture are the exact words that God intended to use. The Bible is to be humankind’s rule for faith and life. – In contrast, the ANEH view considers the human authors of Scripture to be limited in their knowledge. As a result, the Bible demonstrates a limited understanding of reality.
- Per the WCF, the Apocrypha has no authority in the church of God. – In contrast, the ANEH view of scripture ANE texts are required to find the “true” message of the Bible.
- Per the WCF, the authority of scripture is not dependent on humankind or the church, but upon God. – In contrast, the ANEH view of view of the authority of Scripture must be determined by OEC academics.
- Per the WCF, the character of scripture is evidence of God’s authorship. The Holy Spirit works in human hearts to persuade us that whole counsel of God is expressed in Scripture. – In contrast, in the ANEH view of persuasion comes from OEC academics.
- Per the WCF, the entire counsel of God is contained in Scripture or may be deduced from Scripture. Nothing is to be added to Scripture. – In contrast, with ANEH view of Scripture, important doctrines are only now being understood – by OEC academics.
- Per the WCF all things of Scripture are not equally clear. However, both learned and unlearned have, by ordinary means, sufficient understanding of Scripture. – In contrast, the ANEH view of scripture nothing is clear.
- Per the WCF, translation from the original languages of Scripture into the common language of the nations has allows many come to faith. – In contrast, in the ANEH view of Scripture only the OEC knows the “intended meaning “of scripture.
- Per the WCF, the interpretation of Scripture is worked through by comparing Scripture with Scripture. – In contrast, the ANEH compares Scripture with ANE texts.
- Per the WCF, God is the supreme judge of all things. The Holy Spirit speaks through Scripture. – In contrast, the ANEH considers OEC academics to be the supreme judge since they are the only people who understand Scripture.
Ancient Near East text-based hermeneutics (ANEH) is a very disturbing aspect of Old Earth Creationist teaching. Disturbing implication concerning:
- God – It is stated that God is unable to communicate to clearly to humankind.
- The Holy Spirit – The work of the Holy Spirit is limited by the perspectives of ancient people.
- Jesus Christ – Jesus is limited by His humanity from proclaiming truth.
- The Covenant – The Covenant is only understood by a few OEC/ANEH academics who are able to teach the true message of the Bible.
- The Priesthood of be Believer – The priesthood of believers is diminished since only a few Christians know what the Bible “really” says.
- Historic Cristian Confessions of Faith – ANEH is contrary to the hermeneutic used to develop historical statements of faith.
- Moral teachings of the Bible – Any Bible teaching may be dismantled by using the “Message-Incident” principle or some other ANEH technique.
Christians need to understand what ANEH is and how it is contrary to historic Christianity. ANEH exists because the OEC community is finding it impossible to make concordant views of creation such as the Day-Age view fit into theistic evolution. ANEH is simply the latest discordant view of scripture. ANEH is a very dangerous system of Bible interpretation which is being used by the OEC community to destroy the plain meaning of the Bible.
Christians need to be able to distinguish between ANE texts and ANEH. And ANE texts which are simply the records of nations that do not know the Lord. They be interesting and as historic records they can confirm the chronology of the Bible.
Homework & Preparation
In our next post, we will summarize the YEC and OEC views of creation
Your homework is as follows:
- Obtain a copy of the Westminster Confession of Faith, study it and write out your own summary of what the Bible says concerning itself.
(1) A good example of an ANEH is found in the writing of Denis Lamoureux in an article (titled “Was Adam a Real Person?” In the article, Lamoureux introduces the “Message – Incident Principal.” Viewed on the BioLogos website on 4/17/19)
(2) Bible quotations are from the King James Version.