In the discussion of how best to interpret Genesis 1, the debate is often characterized as a choice of literary type, based on perceived content. A recent article by Joel Anderson proposed a slightly different perspective by focusing on the historical context and what it would have meant to the people of the time. As one component of this, he made the important point that truth or falsehood of a narrative does not depend on only natural perspectives, but also depends on the spiritual. I think this is key, and points to an important aspect of Scripture interpretation.
As an example, he points to another ancient Near East flood narrative, and states that only the Biblical one is true. However, not because the Biblical narrative describes physical events that really happened, but because it describes spiritual concepts that are true, which is not the case for the other narrative. In other words, the truth of a passage depends on whether it teaches spiritual truths, not necessarily on whether it teaches natural historical truths.
Interestingly, this basically asserts that spiritual matters are as significant as physical. Such reasoning does not make sense to the natural mind, but we might say that it does make sense to the mind of Christ .
We can say the same about the Genesis 1 creation narrative, in that it is true because of the spiritual truths it reveals. Then a corollary is that, since it contains truths that go beyond physical reality, including some that predate humanity itself, it cannot have originated by human authors. In other words, it must have been spiritually revealed, much different than, for example, Spirit-guided observation. It is a prophetic revelation, a divine oracle.
This is virtually never brought up as an aspect of interpretation, but if we truly believe the spiritual is as real outside of Scripture as within, then interpretation must involve spiritual considerations in considering the formation of Scripture. This includes determining the nature of a narrative. Therefore, we cannot treat Genesis 1 as a purely natural narrative without denying the spiritual reality that Scripture itself describes.
So, the fact that the narrative is some sort of divine oracle should make us consider the possibility of it being figurative. After all, narratives that we know are prophetic revelation are classified differently because of the nature of other prophetic narratives. By itself, including spiritual reality doesn’t prove anything, but it does allow us to search the Scriptures without having a purely natural mindset.
Thinking of Scripture this way seems odd, outside the realm of rational analysis. Yet how can we not explicitly include the spiritual origin if we really believe what the text teaches elsewhere?