Genesis 1:1-2:3’s depiction of the creation of the world was shaped by ancient Near Eastern cosmological perspectives and beliefs about the nature of the world and its origins. This fact the text itself bears witness to regardless of the opinions and beliefs of readers living millennia after this text was written. In other words, a thorough, honest, and objective analysis of the text of Genesis 1:1-2:3 on its own terms and as a product of its own cultural and literary world reveals rather convincingly that its creation narrative was shaped by cultural and subjective perspectives, biases, and beliefs about the nature of the world that were unique to the cultures and peoples of the ancient Near East.
It is not, in other words, a description of creation from the perspective of a supernatural deity residing outside of the cosmos, nor is it inspired by such a deity or point of … Read more
When ancient man looked up at the sky, what he perceived was akin to what he observed when looking out over the seas—an expanse of crystal-clear blue water. This observation was confirmed of course by the very fact that it rained. For where else did rain come from if not from the waters above the sky?
Similarly, when ancient Mediterranean peoples looked toward the horizon, what they saw was that the waters above eventually came into contact with the waters of the seas, that both the blue waters above and the blue waters below touched each other at the horizons. Thus, it was observed that the waters above, that is the sky, had its starting point at the horizon where it came into contact with the waters below, and then arched far above like a dome and descended again to meet the waters below on the opposite horizon. According to … Read more
We are so habituated by what the English word “earth” means to us in our scientific post-modern world that we seldom stop to ask if that’s the same meaning intended in the Hebrew word eretz.
When we read Genesis 1:1, “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” we picture the origin of the atmosphere, space, solar systems, and galaxies. We think of the creation of the planet in our solar system named “Earth,” whose shape is an oblate spheroid or a rotationally symmetric ellipsoid. This mental picture is natural, because the English term “Earth” is the name of the planet in this solar system on which humans reside. But in Genesis 1 “earth” does not mean the planet Earth. Genesis reports the origin of the “heavens and earth” as such terms meant in the author’s time and within his worldview, which did not include a twenty-first
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“Let there be lights in the domed barrier of the skies to separate between the day and the night, and let them be for signs, and for fixed times, and for days, and for years.”
The domed vault or raqî‘a that was made in verses 6-8 to separate and hold back the waters above is now populated with the luminaries: sun, moon, and the stars—with no awareness of the individual distances of each luminary from the earth nor their actual places in the solar system. Here they are presented as two-dimensional buttons on an arched vault behind which are the primordial waters above.
Unlike modern man, ancient man constructed their calendars and measured the progression of time according to the celestial luminaries: predominantly the sun and the moon. The author of Genesis’ first creation account depicts this idea by having the creator deity specify that these luminaries were created for … Read more
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
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
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
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