A response to CMI
In 2007, Creation Ministries International released an article: Is Genesis 1 poetry/figurative, a theological argument (polemic) and thus not real history? The part which particularly concerned me was the part which attempted to refute polemical claims about Genesis 1. It concerned me due to the awful, fallacious arguments made. Here is what they say:
“While Genesis 1 certainly refutes various errant ideas about God, it refutes those ideas precisely because of the real events. For example, it has an implied argument against sun worship because God actually created light without the sun (Day 1), before He created the sun (Day 4). The contention depends on the historicity of the events.”
Here CMI has no idea what they are talking about. Whilst this may account for this particular instance, it cannot account for other polemical instances which seem to be directly addressing pagan beliefs. For example, isolated from it’s context there is no reason why God couldn’t have called the sun and moon ‘sun and moon’ instead of ‘greater light’ and ‘lesser light’. It suddenly makes sense when it is revealed that ancient near eastern peoples worshipped the sun and moon, and the name of the heavenly bodies was the same as the gods associated with them (for example Shamash/Utu and Sin/Nanna in Mesopotamia; Yareah and Shemesh in Canaan; Helios in Greece and Re in Egypt). By calling them ‘lights’, the author is removing any polytheistic connotation they may have. This makes no sense if this was recalling something which really happened. There would be no need for this ‘unless’ these pagan beliefs were already in existence.
On day 2 the waters are split in half. The name of these waters used in Genesis 1:2, ‘Tehom’, is believed by some to be cognate with the Babylonian goddess Tiamat, associated with the primordial waters, who was also split in half by the God Marduk. When we put the name of the waters, and the fact that they are split in half together, it definitely seems polemical against Babylonian polytheism, by reducing the goddess to mere natural phenomena. It also establishes that God is a good god, by saying that he did not kill a goddess at the start of creation as the pagan gods did. Again, this is not mere rebuking because of an event that happened. There would be no reason for this unless these these pagan beliefs were already in existence.
On day four, he are told that God created the great sea beasts. The great sea beasts are the only creatures in 1:21 which are explicitly named, which assigns special significance to them. The Hebrew word used, ‘Tannin’, literally refers to a sea serpent, and is the name of a sea serpent in Canaanite mythology. All mythologies have what is known as the ‘Chaoskampf’, where the chief God battles a serpent or dragon who is associated with chaos; Baal and Lotan, Ra and Apep, Zeus and Typhon, Teshub and Iluyanka, just to name a few examples. By addressing special significance to the Tannin, the author is directly rebuking these pagan beliefs, and stressing the goodness of God by saying that the sea beasts are not adversaries of God, but his own creation. Again, this is not ‘refuting these ideas because of real events’, there would be no reason for this to be in the narrative unless these beliefs already existed.
On day six, God makes mankind in his own image, and gives them dominion over the whole Earth and all creation. This is in direct contrast to other middle eastern creation myths, where the creation of man is either completely insignificant (the are made from the tears of a god in Egypt) or degrading (they are made as slaves in the Enuma Elish). Surely this cannot be coincidental. Again, this would not make sense unless these beliefs were already in existence.
Finally, in the Memphis theology of Egypt, we are told that Ptah spoke the earth into existence, as God did. But the means of him doing this were different. In Egypt, Ptah had to think, then pronounce the words to do so, whilst in Genesis 1, God only has to say, and it is so. This appears to be establishing the great power of God, in contrast to pagan gods. Again, this would be unnecessary unless these beliefs were already in existence.
In conclusion, we have shown that only by cherry picking examples of supposed polemics can we say that “While Genesis 1 certainly refutes various errant ideas about God, it refutes those ideas precisely because of the real events”. The vast majority of polemical elements in Genesis 1 are directly addressing pagan beliefs, and thus this would not make sense unless these beliefs predate the conception of Genesis 1.
Here is the original article:
And here is further information regarding the polemic nature of Genesis 1: