Genesis 1 as ANE royal chronicle

Then I suspect that the use of the term in linguistics is radically different from its use in literature.

Or terms have shifted since the late 1970s,

Though even with that looser definition, the first Genesis Creation account doesn’t qualify as figurative, it would have to be called “mixed”, switching back and forth between figurative and real.

The idea of Genesis as a royal chronicle isn’t without merit. But taking Elohim to refer to some human dictator doesn’t work at all in the story.

Um, what? How do you jump from Elohim to “some human dictator”? It’s not about any human at all. It’s using a common form of literature for a different purpose than the ordinary.
Given that it’s a temple story at the same time no one would have thought that Elohim was being thought of as a human – quite the opposite; humans don’t take their “rest” in a temple, the deity does.

An important aspect once into the second Creation account is the name “Adam”, which denotes both a man and mankind: on one level the account is telling of God putting one individual as priest-king while on another it’s telling the entire audience that they are (jointly) priest-kings.[a theme that shows up later when God calls Israel “a royal priesthood”].

Something else important is that God here isn’t anthropomorphized in the first Creation account but is in the second (unless you want to consider portraying God as speaking as anthropomorphizing).

. I like the word because it refers directly to the nature of power used as one who makes things happen by giving commands. I don’t think this can logically apply to God, whose power does not derive from an expectation that commands to others will be carried out.

“One who makes things happen by giving commands” is exactly what the first Genesis Creation account is about – but unlike other deities who command things that already exists, Elohim is shown as commanding things that don’t yet exist, telling them to “Be!”, i.e. “Light – BE!” is a translation that brings out the flavor/force of the Hebrew. I forget the address, but there’s a verse somewhere in the New Testament about God speaking to what “was not” and commanding it to exist.
Yes, the account shifts and portrays God as giving direct commands to things He has already created, but that’s part of the point: unlike other gods, Elohim doesn’t make things and then neglect them, He continues to exercise direct authority over them. It’s not “an expectation that commands to others will be carried out”, it’s making the point that what God commands happens; His will cannot be opposed.

One thing he mentioned was that kings (and sometimes priests) were considered the image of the gods because they were seen as a connection point where heaven meets earth. They were the embodiment of divinity and ruled as the deity’s representative.

My first Hebrew professor long ago said the same. He scoffed at all the arguments about "What constitutes ‘the image of God’ because the narrative isn’t about some ‘stuff’ that constitutes the image, it’s about a kingly/priestly function.

That equals “religion is a total scam” as far as I am concerned – religion concocted as a tool of power. I follow a rule of thumb that when something seems designed to serve a particular purpose, then that purpose is the most likely and believable origin.

I don’t see that at all. The account isn’t about anyone exercising power over anyone else, it’s about how God communicates, about the relationship between God and man – and as the use of the word “Adam” in the first Creation account suggests, all mankind is (to use Peter’s language) a kingdom of priests. It’s saying that no one stands between God and man because every person is equally a representation.
Both accounts are radical stuff, totally upending the then-common assumption of how deity relates to mortality, of how a Creator-God relates to created-humans.
The odd thing is that Israel ends up with a special priesthood that functions according to the old form, not to the form presented in the Creation accounts.

In my view what you deny in the first sentence you then affirm in the second. The second Creation account is telling why “we are the only species on the planet capable of caring about and seeing to the welfare of other species and indeed the earth as a whole”: because God appointed us to that task.
You last sentence is addressed in the third chapter.

That’s the form that fits the later use of “royal chronicle” that I found – “annals” is a good term.

I vaguely remember something about “name years”… it’s been too long!

It’s a perfect fit for what that seminar lecturer was calling “royal chronicle”; in that form the distinct accomplishments add up to the overall accomplishment – in that form the first verse is a declaration and the rest is description.

Thinking of other forms, I was reminded today that the phrase “evening and morning” has two different meanings here: in terms of the order of events matching that of the Egyptian Creation account(s), “evening and morning” brackets the darkness, which in not just the Egyptian but pretty much all of the ANE mythologies is an enemy of the gods which they have to fight to preserve existence for the next day – and the writer dismisses that completely by turning it into a planned part of God’s Creation; the other is that it establishes the rhythm of time, in a “the lights went down, the lights came up” pause between acts in a play.

Incorrect. When a metaphor is used in a text, the text is not about the metaphor. “Life is a highway” is about life not about highways.

Who is it that God commands? Who has the ability and know-how to accomplish things? God as the creator of all things has nobody to command. The ability and know-how is His own. Therefore this dictatorial aspect of the story is just metaphor.

It is perfectly clear that people often take or are given authority when they do not have the capability. Thus competence on the part of God means that He first judges us to be capable and then commands according to our capabilities. It is similar to the age old question, “Are things good and right because God commands them or does God command them because they are good and right?” The former is an authoritarian morality entirely unsuitable to mature human beings – it is the kind of morality we use for a two year old because he has no rational capabilities.

I certainly reject the sort of Christianity which makes it all about nonsensical magic. That reduces the text to a comic book fantasy to be shelved with “Lord of the Rings” and “Harry Potter.” My first question in considering Christianity is whether there is any way to understand the text which doesn’t do that. And I believe the answer is yes. Otherwise I wouldn’t waste any of my time on it.

It isn’t though, you are just using it incorrectly.

If you google, “what is figurative meaning?” the number one hit is Oxford dictionary saying “departing from a literal use of words; metaphorical,” which is exactly how I am using it. Figurative is the opposite of literal and literal is not synonomous with real, so there is no justification for putting figurative meaning in opposition to reality. We say true things about reality using figurative language all day long. Some linguists debate if literal meaning actually exists and whether all meaning is actually figurative since many cognitive processes involved in interpreting language depend on metaphorical thinking.

I say the overall meaning of the Genesis passage is figurative because it is not meant to be interpreted as a literal account of God of the order, means, and timeframe, of God’s creative work. Saying that creation is described with figurative language doesn’t mean “it’s a myth that God created the world,” it means the account uses anthropomorphism, metonymy, metaphor, and symbolism to describe what happened. Those are all examples of figurative language that can’t be interpreted literally and make sense.

God is definitely anthropomorphized in Genesis 1, because it is only in comparisons with our own embodied human experience that we can understand things. Picturing God as a ruler/king is anthropomorphizing God. Speaking, decreeing, delegating, work, rest, and a seven day work week are all metaphors derived from embodied human experience.


The “Royal Chronicle” announcement of the accomplishments of the Creator is a new idea to me, and I like it. It rings true in the context of the Bible as the inspired Word of God. While we know that the Bible is not a science book, I think a Royal Chronicle that scientifically works in the cosmic “operating system” of creation strongly supports Genesis as an eyewitness account from the Creator.

I’ll explain my thoughts in “Seminary Latin” and scientific Quantum Field Theory (QFT) terms.

  1. Ex Nihilo (Latin - from nothing) creation scientifically fits the creation of the Initial Singularity from the mind, power, and will of the Creator by the Word of God. John 1: 1-3. This also scientifically fits the Planck epoch (big bang) expansion which rolled out the universal electromagnetic field as a cosmic “operating system.”

  2. De Novo (Latin - for the new beginning) creations are the “Let there be,” instructions of Genesis.

  3. Quantum Field Theory (QFT) works by field interactions (Words of God) with the electromagnetic field, producing point-like excitations we see as particles found in the Standard Model of Elemental Particles and listed on the Periodic Table of Elements. All things that were made. John 1: 1-3

I agree that all creation was by His Royal decree, as chronicled by Moses and John.