Author Archives: Steven DiMattei

Genesis 1:24-28 — Mankind, More than just an Animal

Man is unlike any other animal of the earth. This truth was acknowledged and reflected upon by nearly every ancient culture. The Greek philosopher Plato proposed that man was divided between a lower animal part and an upper divine part, the immortal soul. He reasoned that man’s intellect and divine soul set him apart from the rest of the animals. Ancient Egyptians also accorded man with an immortal soul, which originated from the gods and returned to them upon death of the physical body. And creation myths from ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia alike speak of the creation of man as part clay of the earth on the one hand, and part divine intelligence, divine blood, or divine breath on the other hand. Additionally, many of these same texts describe man as “the image of his creator god,” and kings and Pharaohs throughout the Levant, including those from Israel, were imaged … Read more

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Genesis 2:2-3 — Sacred Time Embedded into the Creation

2And on the 7th day God finished his work which he had made; and he rested on the 7th day from all his work which he had made. 3And God blessed the 7th day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all his work which God created to be made.

On the 7th and last day of this creation account, our author not only presents the deity resting from his creative work, but more significantly consecrating and blessing the 7th day as holy. That is to say, the creator god creates and proclaims the last day of creation as a holy day of rest, a Sabbath—distinct from the previous six non-sacred or common days.

This is a significant point which is largely neglected, misunderstood, and/or interpreted away by so-called modern day Creationists and fundamentalists who, despite their claims, do not believe in the creation of the world … Read more

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Genesis 2:4b-25 on Its Own Terms and in Its Own Historical and Literary Context

From the opening verses of the second creation account, or if my reader prefers right at Genesis 2:4b, we notice stark differences in the text’s tone, style, vocabulary, message, presentation, perspective, and thematic and theological emphases. These will be brought out in the forthcoming textual analysis. These differences should not be ignored or disingenuously interpreted away by imposing an exterior theological framework created centuries after these texts were written and by a readership that knew and still knows nothing about the authors of these texts, when they were written, why, and for whom. Rather these textual differences should be seen as a product of the text’s historical and literary context, and even embraced for what they are—the mark of a different scribal hand, a different textual tradition, a variant version of the same story.

Stories were as much a part of the ancient world as the television is for us … Read more

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Genesis 2:4b — Observing Thematic and Stylistic Differences

There are several differences that are immediately noticeable in the opening verse (Gen 2:4b) of this second creation account. A literal translation runs: “In the day that god Yahweh made earth and skies…”

We immediately notice that the creator deity is now specified by name, Yahweh. This feature is unique to both this creation account and the textual tradition to which it belongs, unceremoniously named the Yahwist. This source (J) earns its name because its author consistently uses the name of Israel’s deity, Yahweh, throughout his composition. Even though the divine name appears approximately 1,800 times in the Pentateuch alone, the other Pentateuchal sources (Elohist, Deuteronomist, and Priestly) restrain from using the name Yahweh prior to its revelation to Moses in Exodus. Only the Yahwist text, in other words, affirms and acknowledges contrary to the other sources that the name Yahweh was known to, and … Read more

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Genesis 2:5 — Man and Rain: Prerequisites to the Creation of Plants

The differences so far illustrated in just the opening verse of the second creation account (Gen 2:4b) become even more dramatic as we move through the narrative. Genesis 2:5-7, for example, evidence a dramatic shift in emphasis, thematic material, message, vocabulary, and style.

By way of introduction it might be said that the perspective adopted in these opening verses and indeed throughout this entire creation narrative is an agricultural one, focusing on man’s relationship to the ground and to the vegetation of that ground. Already in verses 5-7 there is a heightened emphasis on plants as agricultural produce, their fields, the rain required for growing that produce, and man for cultivating or tilling these fields and its vegetation. Man, in other words, is essentially defined in relation to the ground whence he was made, and specifically in relation to tilling the ground to produce his livelihood (2:5; 2:15; 3:23). By … Read more

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Genesis 2:6-7 — Yahweh Molds an Earthling!

In Genesis 2:5 we saw that the author of this creation story could not have Yahweh create the earth’s vegetation until the two initial conditions necessary for their existence and growth were first established—a water source and a man.

Thus the dry, barren earth that we were presented with in verse 5—one that was unable to support produce and vegetation—is immediately transformed in the following verses with the appearance of a mist that rises up from the earth in verse 6, thus providing irrigation, and the formation of the man in verse 7, thus providing the labor needed to work the field’s produce.

But a mist (’ed) went up from the earth and watered all the face of the ground, and god Yahweh molded (yatsar) the man (ha ’adam), clay from the ground (ha ’adamah), and blew into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living

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Genesis 2:18-20 — Man and the Animals from the Ground, Woman from Man

In radically contradictory fashion to the creation of man (and woman) in the first creation account, when all is said and done in the second creation account, the substance from which man is made and that which he essentially becomes are shockingly no different than what is said about every other animal in this creation narrative.

And god Yahweh molded (yatsar) the man (ha ’adam), clay from the ground (ha ’adamah), and blew into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living being (nephesh hayah). (Gen 2:7)

And god Yahweh molded (yatsar) from the ground (ha ’adamah) every animal of the field and every fowl of the skies and brought them to the man (ha ’adam) to see what he would call them. And whatsoever the man called every living being (nephesh hayah), that was its name. (Gen 2:19)

In Genesis 2:4b-25, and only in this … Read more

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Matthew’s Jesus and the Criterion of Righteousness

For I say to you, that unless your righteousness excels beyond that of the scribes and Pharisees you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven!

Any student or critical reader of the Gospels immediately notices the stark differences in their portrait of Jesus and the teachings attributed to him. This is most pronounced in the Jesus of the synoptic gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke—and John’s Jesus. Additionally, each gospel account gives radically different theological views on what Jesus taught concerning salvation. And this is complicated further by taking into consideration Paul’s claims about Jesus and salvation. Here, I’d like to limit myself to a couple of observations about Matthew’s Jesus, who teaches that righteousness, above and beyond Torah righteousness, is the sole criterion for salvation.

The Gospel of Matthew is quite clear in this regard: salvation, its Jesus teaches, only comes through acting, being, and conducting oneself righteously, and moreover a … Read more

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Introduction to Forthcoming Contradictions in the Bible

Seldom do readers of the Bible actually think about the compositional nature of the text they hold in their hands. Many Jews and Christians are completely unaware that the Bible is composed of a vast collection of different texts, themselves composed from a variety of texts and traditions, all of which were written over a period of roughly one-thousand years, by varying authors, and under diverse historical circumstances and religious and political convictions. Many of the Bible’s books—or more precisely the texts and traditions that went into the composition of its books—went through lengthy periods of continual revision, often supplemented with other texts and traditions, and redrafted to suit an ever-changing audience’s political and religious needs. In today’s culture, most biblical enthusiasts merely invoke the name “the Bible” in a variety of contexts with little or no real knowledge of the nature of the biblical text itself. Those few who … Read more

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Style, Vocabulary, and Message

Anyone who has ever read through the Pentateuch immediately notices that the book of Deuteronomy’s tone, style, vocabulary, and theological message are completely unique and different from what precedes it. Hebraists have remarked that the Deuteronomic style is not found in any biblical literature prior to the 7th century BCE, and, apart from the Priestly literature of the post-exilic period, it is abundantly found in texts written after the 7th century BCE. In fact, one might confidently claim that the voice and message of the Hebrew Bible as a whole can be boiled down to that of the Deuteronomist.

The Deuteronomist’s style displays itself through a unique set of phrases, theological emphases, and rhetorical devices. Phrases that are unique to the Deuteronomic literature include: “Yahweh your god”; “the place where Yahweh sets his name”; “listen O Israel!”; “listen to the laws and the judgements”; “listen to the voice of Yahweh”; … Read more

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