Isn't Genesis a poetical book like the psalms and can't be taken completely literally? How can the whole world come from only two people? Is there science to back that up even? I'm just confused, there is so much controversy about Genesis, even amongst Christians.
Great question despite the numerous assumptions being made. So, first and foremost, the answer to the question, “Isn’t Genesis poetry like Psalms?” is, full-stop—NO it isn’t.
Any diligent study of the Old Testament and particularly from a Jewish perspective will show you that the books of the Old Testament have always been categorized as follows:
Genesis - Esther—Law & History
Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon—Poetical
Isaiah - Malachi—Prophetic
There's no evidence from the days of the New Testament writings and for the past 2,000 years of any major theological scholar suggesting that Genesis was anything other than narrative and historical narrative at that. Until very recently in fact.
Not surprisingly this claim, that Genesis is poetry and therefore not literal, came about very recently and via a very small number of liberal and progressive theologians who have one goal, the same goal a number of Christians have had ever since Charles Darwin arrived, and that goal is to harmonize Genesis 1-3 with modern science’s views on origins.
It’s nothing new.
Since Darwin thoughtful Christians have come up with the Gap Theory in 1:1-3, and the Day-Age Theory and most recently Theistic Evolution. The latter has been championed by world-renowned scientist Francis Collins, physician-geneticist noted for his discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the Human Genome Project. He identifies himself as a Christian and he wrote, The Language of God in 2006 in which he promotes Theistic Evolution and he has taken that idea one step further—that there was no literal Adam & Eve.
Again, very recent and why?
Well, for starters his most esteemed colleagues are all scientists and staunch believers in evolution. He claims that his study of the genome is what led him to see that the human race could not have come from just one pair of humans. Is he right? Not all of his colleagues even in the sciences are so sure.
Theistic Evolution—Evolution requires that it be undirected for it to be really evolution. But theistic evolution requires that the undirected process be directed by God. Not only that but evolution requires that anything that is seen must be created from something that is seen. This is in sharp contrast to Hebrews 11:3.
By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. Hebrews 11:3
Consider this question. Do all scientists agree on all things? How about GMO foods. How about Vaccines? How about Global Warming? I could go on, but the 'truth' is that all scientists are human, they are imperfect and often proved wrong. Patience is required.
Let's remember this important point. The findings of science on the human genome are very recent, in fact they are but 10 years old. Early on Collins and his team deemed a large part of the genome "junk DNA." Well, just a few years later that has been proven false. They've discovered it is not junk at all but highly complex DNA!
Secondly, here's a question that must be asked of those who assert that Genesis 1-3, at least, is poetry. Even it is is, which it isn't, who says that poetry can’t ever be taken literally? I’ve just said that Genesis is not poetry but who says poetry itself cannot be taken literally? Who says that God cannot use a poetic form to speak literal truth?
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6
Here you have a command followed by a promise. Should we not take this literally? Now, the point some might make at this point is this. Was there literally a man named Job? What about the story of Ecclesiastes. Solomon never names himself so is it just a proverb per se.
Please see this. If you want to apply these claims to Genesis because you’re having problems marrying Creation with Evolution, then don’t stop there. Daniel must be poetry too because, really, fiery furnaces and lion’s dens? And, of course that whole virgin birth and resurrection thing of Jesus? Do you see? I’ve said this many times before, the problems of Creation vs. Evolution are nothing compared to science’s view on the resurrection from the dead!
“How can the whole world come from only two people?” I don’t know but God’s Word says it did. And not just in Genesis. Jesus and Paul both refer to the first man as Adam. “Is there science to back that up even?” Again, I don’t know and I’m sure science will not invest any resources into trying to prove that point true.
“I’m just confused, there is so much controversy about Genesis, even amongst Christians.” I agree and understand. My suggestions are these. First, confusion and doubt are often marks of the enemy, the one who first asked, “Did God Really say,” and secondly this, take God at His Word and, when the Bible and science differ, unless we’re talking irrefutable evidence, choose the Bible. Patience is required.
Finally, the question asked wasn't, "Did God create the heavens and earth in 6 literal days?" But, maybe that is the underlying question here. The question asked was one of the more modern refutations of the literal Word of God as it relates to creation. On that note and that note alone, I hope the question has been faithfully answered.