Creation according to Genesis

Creation according to Genesis

Creation according to Genesis refers to the Hebrew narrative of the creation of the heavens and the earth as told in chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis, the first book of the Pentateuch.

The text

The modern division of the Bible into chapters dates from c.1200 AD, and the division into verses somewhat later. The distinction between Genesis 1 and 2 is therefore a relatively recent development. [Gordon Wenham, "Ëxploring the Old Testament: Volume 1, The Pentateuch", SPCK, (2003), p.5.] Many Biblical scholars regard Genesis as beginning with two accounts of the creation, 1:1-2:3 and 2:4b-2:25, each with its own focus of attention, with 2:4a forming a bridge between them.] Nevertheless, other commentators from Rashi to the present day (e.g., Driver) have argued that in this case it should apply to what precedes. [The argument is based on several grounds, notably the fact that Genesis 1 uses the phrase "heavens and earth" to introduce and close the Creation, while the account in Chapter 2 is introduced by the phrase "earth and heavens." Advocates of the other view argue that 2:4 is designed as a chiasm (Wenham, 49)]

Second account (Eden narrative)

"See ). In most Bibles the phrase is translated by various combinations of adjectives with which translators attempt to capture the flavor of the primeval terrestrial moment which "tōhû wābōhû" describes. This phrase is shrouded in ancient obscurity, and although it has some limited traffic in Modern Hebrew, is deemed to be a deeply mystical concept. [ Accessed 09–12–2007,] . The Greek Septuagint (LXX) rendered this term as "unsightly and unfurnished" (Greek: ἀόρατος καὶ ἀκατασκεύαστος), paralleling the Greek concept of Chaos.

The "rûach" of God

Some English translations have "the spirit of God," others "a wind from God." The Hebrew "rûach" has the meanings "wind, spirit, breath," but the traditional Jewish interpretation here is "wind," as "spirit" would imply a living supernatural presence co-extent with yet separate from God at Creation. This, however, is the sense in which "rûach" was understood by the early Christian church in developing the doctrine of the Trinity, in which this passage plays a central role. [ [ Notes on the NJPS translation of the Torah] ]

The "deep"

The "deep" (Heb. "tehôm"), is the formless body of primeval water surrounding the habitable world. These waters are later released during the great flood, when "all the fountains of the great deep burst forth" from under the earth and from the "windows" of the sky.(, has intentionally embedded it into the text in a number of ways, besides the obvious seven-day framework: the word "God" occurs 35 times (7 × 5) and "earth" 21 times (7 × 3). The phrases "and it was so" and "God saw that it was good" occur 7 times each. The first sentence of ] In the first half of the 20th century the dominant theory regarding the origins of the Pentateuch was the documentary hypothesis. This supposes that the Torah was produced about 450 BC by combining four distinct, complete and coherent documents, known as the Yahwist (“Y” or “J”, from the German spelling of Yahweh), the Elohist (“E”), the Deuteronomist (“D”), and the Priestly source (“P”). Genesis 1 is from P, and Genesis 2 from J. [ [ Documentary Hypothesis (notes from from John Barton, "Source Criticism," Anchor Bible Dictionary)] describes both the documentary hypothesis and the Mosaic authorship tradition.]

Some scholars believe that the Genesis account is a single report of creation, which is divided into two parts, written from different perspectives: the first part, from bibleref2|Genesis|1:1–2:3, describes the creation of the Earth from God's perspective; the second part, from bibleref2|Genesis|2:4-24, describes the creation of the Garden of Eden from Humanity's perspective. One such scholar wrote, " [T] he strictly complementary nature of the accounts is plain enough: Genesis 1 mentions the creation of man as the last of a series, and without any details, whereas in Genesis 2 man is the center of interest and more specific details are given about him and his setting" (Kitchen 116-117).

Other scholars, particularly those ascribing to textual criticism and the Documentary hypothesis, believe that the first two chapters of Genesis are two separate accounts of the creation. (They agree that the "first chapter" should include the first three verses and the first half of the fourth verse of chapter 2.) One such scholar wrote: "The book of Genesis, like the other books of the Hexateuch, was not the production of one author. A definite plan may be traced in the book, but the structure of the work forbids us to consider it as the production of one writer." (Spurell xv). For some religious writers, such as Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, the existence of two separate creation stories is beyond doubt, and thus needs to be interpreted as having divine importance.Fact|date=December 2007

Some of the issues involved in the single vs. dual account debate include:
* Genesis 1 has creation in the order: plants; sea creatures and birds; land animals; man and woman (together); in Genesis 2 the sequence is: man; plants; land animals and birds; woman.
* Genesis 1 refers to God as "Elohim", Genesis 2 uses the composite name "Yahweh Elohim" (Yahweh is often translated "LORD," but does not have this meaning in Hebrew - it is, rather, the name of the God of Israel). Single account advocates assert that Hebrew scriptures use different names for "God" throughout, depending on the characteristics of "God" which the author wished to emphasize. They argue that across the Hebrew scriptures, the use of "Elohim" in the first segment suggests "strength," focusing on God as the mighty Creator of the universe, while the use of Yahweh in the second segment suggested moral and spiritual natures of deity, particularly in relationship to the man. [Stone 17] Dual account advocates assert that the two segments using different words for "God" indicates different authorship and two distinct narratives, in accord with the Documentary hypothesis.
* Though not so obvious in translation, the Hebrew text of the two sections differ both in the type of words used and in stylistic qualities. The first section flows smoothly, whereas the second is more interested in pointing out side details, and does so in a more point of fact style.Fact|date=December 2007 One of the principles of textual criticism is that large differences in the type of words used, and in the stylistic qualities of the text, should be taken as support for the existence of two different authors. Proponents of the two-account hypothesis point to the attempts (e.g., "The Book of J", by Harold Bloom, translated by David Rosenberg) to separate the various authors of the Torah claimed by the Documentary Hypothesis into distinct and sometimes contradictory accounts.Fact|date=December 2007

Proponents of the single account argue that style differences need not be indicative of multiple authors, but may simply indicate the purpose of different passages. For example, Kenneth Kitchen, a retired Archaeology Professor of the University of Liverpool, has argued (1966) that stylistic differences are meaningless, and reflect different subject matter. He supports this with the evidence of a biographical inscription of an Egyptian official in 2400 B.C., which reflects at least four different styles, but which is uniformly supposed to possess unity of authorship.Fact|date=December 2007

Theology and interpretation

The theology of Genesis

According to Professor Klaus Nurnberger, [Klaus Nurnberger, Professor of Theology and Ethics at the School of Theology, University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg (South Africa).] the motive of the biblical authors was not to put forward a coherent statement of their theology, but "to reassure fellow believers...of the strict, but benevolent, commitment of their God to his people." The rationale which holds together the "vastly divergent" biblical materials can therefore only be understood through studying the evolutionary process by which the texts were created. [ [,M1 Klaus Nurnberger, "Theology of the Biblical Witness: An Evolutionary Approach" (2002), p.3] ]

The vast majority of modern scholars agree that "primeval history" within the Torah (Genesis 1-11) is composed of two distinct sources, the Yahwist and the Priestly (best understood today as bodies of texts with distinctive markers, rather than as distinct documents). The Priestly source "emphasizes the continuity of God's care for Israel as demonstrated in its history." This is expressed in certain pervasive themes: God's blessing (Genesis 1:28 provides the first of four important blessings within the overall Priestly narrative: "And God blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.'"); God's word (God's important involvements with the world are expressed through his spoken words, throughout the "And God said" Creation sequence of Genesis 1, and through the three subsequent major covenants with Noah at Genesis 9, Abraham at Genesis 17, and Israel at Exodus 20); and God's continuing presence among the Chosen People. [ [ Barry Bandstra, "Table C: Priestly Document", at "Reading the Old Testament"] ]

The Yahwist writer tends to express his theology through speeches of Yahweh placed at decisive points in the story. Six of the eight major speeches in Genesis occur in the "primeval history," the first being the speech at Genesis 2:16-17 prohibiting the fruit of the Tree of knowledge of good and evil. The import of these stories is that man will fail if he tries to become as God (the Eden story, repeated in the Flood story and again in the Tower of Babel story). But God is merciful, (each attempt produces a progressively more merciful response from God), and selects a people who will be his own (the promise to Abraham at Genesis 12, which is the fulcrum of the Yahwist history - Abraham is the ancestor of David, the culmination of God's promise). "Abraham, and hence David and all Israel, were chosen to be an instrument of blessing: 'Through you all families of the earth shall bless themselves/be blessed.'" The universal promise was planted when the Yahwist prefaced the national story of Israel with the "all-world" Primeval history. [ [ Barry Bandstra, "Table A: Yahwist Narrative", at "Reading the Old Testament"] ]

Dietrich Bonhoeffer and other theologians suggest that the disobedience of Adam and Eve (taking the knowledge of good and evil for themselves) was the beginning of judgmentalism and remains an obstacle to our intended unconditional love for others. [Gregory Boyd: "Repenting of Religion: Turning Away form Judgment to the Love of God", Baker Publishing, 2004, ISBN 0-8010-6502-2]

Interpretative approaches

Biblical literalists believe that the seven "days" of Genesis 1 correspond to normal 24-hour days of history during which God created the world in eight divine acts, or "fiats" - hence the view is also referred to as "fiat creation." ["Fiat" derives from the Latin for "Let there be..." [ Defines fiat creation] ] Young Earth creationism holds that the creation week occurred a mere six to ten thousands years ago. Other literalists have attempted to reconcile their literal reading with the findings of modern geology regarding the age of the Earth. Gap creationism inserts a "gap" between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 into which geologic time can be inserted, during which the world of a presumed pre-Adamite race was destroyed and then rebuilt – a position called the"Ruin-Reconstruction Interpretation".Jordan, James B. "Creation in Six Days." Canon Press, 1999. ISBN 1885767625. Jordan describes other views, but holds to the traditional plain historical and narrative sense of the text – six consecutive 24-hour days. He discusses other theories in considerable detail.] Arthur C. Custance [ [ References to Gap creationism] ] has documented numerous precursors to "gap creationism" centuries before literalists found themselves debating scientists, and has suggested that it may be more accurate to think of this view as a textual debate among literalists first, and a debate topic versus evolution second. Another response, the day-age theory, holds that each "day" (Heb. "yom") of Genesis 1 represents an "age" of perhaps millions or even billions of years.

The "framework interpretation" of Genesis 1, advanced by biblical scholars Meredith G. Kline [Meredith G. Kline (May 1958). "Because It Had Not Rained". "Westminster Theological Journal" 20 (2): pp. 146-57] [Meredith G. Kline (1996). "Space and Time in the Genesis Cosmogony". Perspectives on Science & Christian Faith (48): pp. 2-15. ] and Henri Blocher, [cite book|author=Henri Blocher|title=In the Beginning: The Opening Chapters of Genesis|publisher=InterVarsity Press, 1984] and with antecedents in St. Augustine of Hippo, [cite journal
title=The Contemporary Relevance of Augustine's View of Creation
author=Davis A. Young
journal=Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
] argues that the "Creation week" should be read as a monotheistic polemic on creation theology directed against pagan creation myths. Klein and others have pointed out that Genesis 1 is built upon a literary framework where the sequence of events is topical rather than chronological, and builds to the establishment of the Sabbath commandment as its climax - the Sabbath being a prime concern of the Priestly source of the Torah.

A similar spectrum of views is encountered in relation to bibleref2|Genesis|2-3. Many biblical literalists and fundamentalist Christians read this as strictly literal and historical - that God literally breathed into the nostrils of a being formed out of dust, turning it into a living man; there was a literal Garden of Eden with a literal Tree of Life; a literal couple (Adam and Eve) ate a literal forbidden fruit at the urging of a talking serpent; Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden and barred from re-entering it by a literal flaming sword. Other conservative Christians and Jews read it as a record of real events, but consider that the actual details are re-cast as symbols - thus the forbidden fruit, the serpent, the fig leaves and so forth, possibly even the Garden itself, are metaphors for religious or spiritual concepts that underlie the original sin of Adam, and/or an allegory describing the creation and sin of each individual human being. Many modern commentators note that "architecture" and depiction of the Garden of Eden resembles that of the Temple in Jerusalem, suggesting religious symbolism.



* Rouvière, Jean-Marc, (2006), "Brèves méditations sur la création du monde" L'Harmattan, Paris.
* Anderson, Bernhard W. "Creation in the Old Testament" (editor) (ISBN 0-8006-1768-1)
* Anderson, Bernhard W. "Creation Ver Bernhard W. Understanding the Old Testament" (ISBN 0-13-948399-3)
* Reis, Pamela Tamarkin (2001). Genesis as "Rashomon": The creation as told by God and man. "Bible Review '17"' (3).
* Kitchen, Kenneth, "Ancient Orient and Old Testament", London: Tyndale, 1966, p. 118
* G.J. Spurrell, "Notes on the Text of the Book of Genesis", Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1896.
* Davis, John, "Paradise to Prison - Studies in Genesis", Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1975, p. 23
* P.N. Benware, "Survey of the Old Testament," Moody Press, Chicago IL, (1993).
* Bloom, Harold and Rosenberg, "David The Book of J", Random House, NY, USA 1990.
* Friedman, Richard E. "Who Wrote The Bible?", Harper and Row, NY, USA, 1987.
* Stone, Nathan, "Names of God", Chicago: Moody Press, 1944, p. 17.
* Nicholson, E. "The Pentateuch in the Twentieth Century: The Legacy of Julius Wellhausen" Oxford University Press, 2003.
* Tigay, Jeffrey, Ed. "Empirical Models for Biblical Criticism" University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, PA, USA 1986
* J.D. Douglas et al, "Old Testament Volume: New Commentary on the Whole Bible," Tyndale, Wheaton, IL, (1990)

See also

* Allegorical interpretations of Genesis

* Biblical criticism

* Documentary hypothesis

* Enuma Elish

* Creation myth

External links

Sources for the Biblical text

* [ Chapter 1] [ Chapter 2] (Hebrew-English text)
* [ Chapter 1] [ Chapter 2] (King James Version)
* [ Chapter 1] [ Chapter 2] (Revised Standard Version)
* [ Chapter 1] [ Chapter 2] (New Living Translation)
* [ Chapter 1] [ Chapter 2] (New American Standard Bible)
* [ Chapter 1] [ Chapter 2] (New International Version (UK))

Other resources

* [ Alexander Heidel, "Babylonian Genesis"] A classic text, at Wikibooks
* [ Paul H. Seely, "The Geographical Meaning of 'Éarth' and 'Seas' in Genesis 1:10", Westminster Theological Journal 59 (1997)] ANE cosmography.
* [ Paul H. Seely, "The Firmament and the Water Above", The Westminster Theological Journal 53 (1991)] ANE cosmography
* [ Review of James P. Allen, "The Egyptian Pyramid Texts" (2005)]
* [ Religious practices in late 7th century Israel]
* [ Mark S. Smith, "The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel's Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts", Bible and Interpretation.]
* [ Review of John Day, "Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan" (2000)] .
* [ "Enuma Elish", in Barry Bandstra, "Reading the Old Testament"] Very brief introduction to Enuma Elish and discussion of biblical parallels.
* [ "Enuma Elish", at Encyclopedia of the Orient] Summary of Enuma Elish with links to full text.
* [ Review of Benjamin R. Foster, "Before the Muses: An Anthology of Akkadian Literature" (2005)] Includes comments on parallels between ancient Mesopotamian literature and biblical texts.
* [ "Epic of Gilgamesh" (summary)]
* [ Bandstra, The Priestly Creation story] Summary of the "Creation framework" of Genesis 1.
* [ Old Earth Interpretation of Genesis]
* [ A modified version of P. J. Wiseman's hypothesis]
* [ The Mosaic Authorship of the Pentateuch]
* [ The Multiple Authorship of the Books Attributed to Moses]
* [ Hexaemeron] - Catholic Encyclopedia article
* [ Creation Magazine and Ministries]
* [ Origin Science] - Seeking to reconcile Science with Scripture
* [ Creation Crisis] - Examining problems with young-earth creationism

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