Understanding Origins and the Ancient Mind with Pete Enns

Understanding Origins and the Ancient Mind
Conversation with: Pete Enns

In this video conversation, Pete Enns sheds light on the key difference between the ancient and modern mind with regard to interpretation of texts.

To join the discussion for this video, see our post "Understanding Origins and the Ancient Mind" on our blog Science & the Sacred.

Video Transcription

A literal understanding of Genesis from an ancient mind-frame would not necessarily be the same as what we think of as a literal series of events that invariably happened in a certain order That's a literal reading, where everything that is said corresponds to reality in some sort of one-to- one way.

Ancients didn't necessarily think that way, 'literally'. Their literal impressions were more symbolic or metaphorical than we sometimes allow. Modern Evangelicals, and I'm a part of that world, too, I think we carry assumptions that are very modern assumptions, not ancient assumptions, about the nature of reality, that good communication will be literalistic and accurate in those respects.

Story and metaphor and symbolism communicate things on a very, very deep level that I think ancients had more of a sense for. It's possible, for example, to think of ancient peoples as being somewhat horrified at how hyper-literalistically we might sometimes take their words. They may be more subtle and more sophisticated, dare I say, than we sometimes give them credit for.

Again, it's a matter of trying to be self-conscious and self-critical about what we bring into that moment of reading the Bible. That's an education; it's a journey, a pilgrimage for us. It's not, "Here are the 10 ways to make sure you'll never get it wrong." We have to enter into this reading and trust God that something good will come out of it.