In the Beginning: Genesis Edition

This month is about creation so I am starting with the best known creation story: Genesis. Genesis: in its first three chapters have a major impact on Judaism and Christianity through the ages. It show man fall from grace, the role of women, and reveal we have conflict and death today. If you read carefully you can see how old genesis and the echo of ancient pagan roots.
In the beginning, about 3,000 years ago*, Jewish desert dwellers in what is present-day southern Israel told a story around campfires about the creation of the first man and first woman.  The story they told, and passed on to generations of future desert dwellers, described a pre-creation scene much like the desert landscape in which they daily struggled for existence.  From the dry desert dust the Creator forms a man and breaths life into him, and then places him in a beautiful oasis-like garden, abundant with fruits.  The Creator takes a personal interest in this first man, and sets about trying to find him a suitable companion.  When none of the creatures He first forms provides the man the comfort He had hoped, the Creator makes the first woman.  Everything goes well for a spell, in the story told in the desert, but then the Creator is disobeyed and bad things start to happen.
Four or five centuries later, five-hundred-plus miles to the east in what is most likely present-day Iraq, a remarkable Jewish writer—whose name we do not know—set about the ambitious task of constructing a primary history of his people in this dark time of Jewish exile, around 560 B.C., and the writer hoped that his history would help his people endure their many trials. The writer was most likely a priest, and might have been assisted in his work by other priests and scribes.  To accomplish his mission, he acquired at least two pre-existing writings on Jewish history.  The prior writings came from different places and different times.  One set of writings used the Canaanite term, “Elohim,” as the name of the creator god. A second set of writings, more ancient than the first, used a Judean term, “YHWH” or “Yahweh” (translated “Jehovah” in English), to describe its deity.  

The priest wove the two texts together, trying to avoid repetition and altering them where necessary to avoid blatant inconsistencies.  The priest confronted an additional problem: the two texts originally reflected views about two different gods in a time of polytheism, but by the time he compiled his history, belief in a single god had become prevalent among Jews.   The priest, therefore, sought to remove passages supporting the polytheism of an earlier age—and, except for a few hints here and there, he succeeded.  Finally, he added some writing of his own, or of his priestly contemporaries, that reflected the ideas of his own, more mature, period of Judaism.

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness [was] upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
The First Day
3   And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
4   And God saw the light, that [it was] good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
5   And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
— (Genesis 1:3-1:5)
Day 1 begins with the creation of light and time. God creates by spoken command and names the elements of the world as he creates them. In the ancient Near East the act of naming was bound up with the act of creating: thus in Egyptian literature the creator gods Ptah and Thoth pronounced the names of everything.

The Second Day
6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which [were] under the firmament from the waters which [were] above the firmament: and it was so.
8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
— (Genesis 1:6-1:8)
God allows a separation of the waters above from the waters below (Genesis 1:6-7).The text seems to be describing the setting up of a water cycle on the earth. The waters above (i.e., clouds) are separated from the waters below (the "deep" or seas mentioned in verse 2). The separation is called "heaven"8 (also translated "skies").

The Third Day
9 And God said, “Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry [land] appear”: and it was so.
10 And God called the dry land: the Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called the Seas: and God saw that it was good.
11 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in it, upon the earth”: and it was so.
12 And the earth brought forth grass and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in it, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
13 And the evening and the morning were the third day.
— (Genesis 1:9-1:13)
On the third day God allows the earth to produce plants through germination (sprouting) and growth until seeds are produced. On the third day, the waters withdraw, creating a ring of ocean surrounding a single circular continent. By the end of the third day God has created a foundational environment of light, heavens, seas and earth. The three levels of the cosmos are next populated in the same order in which they were created – flat disc-shaped earth with the sea in the center, an underworld for the dead below, and heaven above.

The Fourth Day
14 ¶ And God said “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth”: and it was so.
16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.
17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,
18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.
19 And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
— (Genesis 1:14-1:19)
At this point, the clouds present at the initial creation of the earth were completely removed so that the bodies themselves appeared for the first time on the surface of the earth and then return. The passage tells us that the lights were allowed "to be" so that they could be signs of the seasons, days, and years. It was necessary for the creatures of day 5 that the heavenly bodies are visible. Verse 18 gives us another hint. The lights were placed in the sky to "separate the light from the darkness." Does this sound familiar? It is the exact Hebrew phrase used for God's work on the first day when, "God separated the light from the darkness" (Genesis 1:4). This is what I mean of fusing of two earlier creation stories together.

The Fifth Day
20 And God said, “Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.”
21 And God created great sea monsters (whales) and every living creature that move, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
22 And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.”
23 And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
— (Genesis 1:20-1:23)
The "great sea monsters," is probably referring to the whales. The fossil record confirms that there was a massive introduction of bird and mammal species at the beginning of the tertiary age.

The Sixth Day
24 ¶ And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.
25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind and cattle after their kind, and every thing that crept upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that [it was] good.
26 ¶ And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that crept upon the earth.”
27 So God created man in his [own] image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that move upon the earth.”
29 ¶ And God said, “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which [is] upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which [is] the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that crept upon the earth, wherein [there is] life, [I have given] every green herb for meat”: and it was so.
31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, [it was] very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
— (Genesis 1:24-31)
When in Genesis 1:26 God says "Let us make man", the Hebrew word used is Adam; in this form it is a generic noun, "mankind", and does not imply that this creation is male. After this first mention the word always appears as ha-Adam, "the man", but as Genesis 1:27 shows ("So God created man in his [own] image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.") and later in Chapter 2 he created woman named Eve.

The Seventh Day: divine rest
1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished and all the host of them.
2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.
— (Genesis 2:1-2:3)

The first and second accounts of Genesis were written by different authors during different time frames in regards to different subject matters, they are meant to be read in tandem. Each provides a unique framework for understanding Jewish monotheistic belief. The first demythologizes creation while the second explains God’s relationship with mankind and sets up the initial paradigm for human free will.
Eden
The second account of creation (Genesis 2:4b–25) describes how God created man, created the Garden of Eden, then made Adam a female companion. In Genesis 2:4b–25, “the LORD God formed man from the dust of the earth. He blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7) God created the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2:8—17. In the east part of Eden, God planted a garden, which contained the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This garden was watered by four rivers.
Then He created woman named Eve in Genesis 2:20—25.
This anthropocentric account differs from the Cosmo-centric account in a number of ways.
1. Different methodologies for creation: In the first, God creates through speaking. In the second, God takes physical actions (planting a Garden, breathing into Adam’s nostrils, etc.).
2. Different order to creation: In the first, mankind is presented as the climax of God’s creation after He created vegetation and animals. Here, human males and females are created at the same time. In the second, God first creates man, then plants vegetation in the Garden of Eden, then makes animals and finally woman.
Man is placed in the garden to take care of it, and given instructions: you can eat of every tree in the garden, except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – eat that fruit and that day you will die.
Gen3: 1-5: Now the serpent was craftier than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. It continued “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
In the garden, Eve encounters a crafty serpent that convinces her to eat the tree’s forbidden fruit, assuring her that she will not suffer if she does so. Eve shares the fruit with Adam, and the two are immediately filled with shame and remorse. While walking in the garden, God discovers their disobedience. In Eden, mankind has a choice between wisdom and life, and chooses the first, although God intended them for the second. After cursing the serpent, he turns and curses the couple. Eve, he says, will be cursed to suffer painful childbirth and must submit to her husband’s authority. Adam is cursed to toil and work the ground for food. The two are subsequently banished from Eden. The reason given for the expulsion was not as retribution for eating the fruit, but to prevent a challenge to God: "Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever".[Genesis 3:22] Thus, God removed the threat to His power by exiling Adam and Eve from the Garden and installing cherubs (human-headed winged lions not the winged babies) and the "ever-turning sword" to guard the entrance.[Gen. 3:24]

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Daily life of Roman life: Slavery

History of Homosexual: Ancient Greece

History of GLBT in the World