Genesis 1:26-28: two modern myths

Time for a history lesson, where I debunk two historical myths related to the exegesis of Genesis 1:26-28:

  1. The myth spread by Lynn White and others that the command to have dominion is the main cause of the present day ecological crisis.

  2. The myth spread by some conservative commentators such as Dennis Prager (In his commentary on Genesis) that the notion of mankind having dominion over the earth is what led to the west’s unique advances in science.

Firstly, with regard to myth one, whilst Christianity has a long history of anthropocentrism, since Augustine, Judaism does not, with early figures such as Philo claiming some Torah laws (such as the milk and meat prohibition) show concern for animals, whilst later figures such as Maimonides explicitly rejected anthropocentrism. Keep in mind that Jews and Christians both read the same Tanakh.

However, a more serious problem with both myths is that the text was not read in a way which prescribes the exploitation of nature until the scientific revolution, when figures such as Francis Bacon used Adam’s supposed dominion over nature as a license to exploit the earth in the name of science. This suggests that exploitation of the earth ‘preceeded’ interpretation of the passage in a damaging way, rather than being indebted to it.

The point I’m trying to make here is that Anthropocentrism should not be sugarcoated, as Prager and others do, as something positive to human civilisation, at least not using the evidence which they use, which is rather flimsy. On the other hand, Secular environmentalists should stop laying the blame for the ecological crisis on the Hebrew Bible, as George Monbiot does in his (otherwise excellent) book Feral, (though the NT may be more to blame with 1 Corinthians 9:9 and other passages) which is too convenient of a bogeyman.

My main source has been Harrison, Peter. “Subduing the Earth: Genesis 1, Early Modern Science, and the Exploitation of Nature.” The Journal of Religion 79, no. 1 (1999): 86-109. See also the presentation that I made here:

It’s time we stop being sentimental with trying to forcibly marry an ancient document to our modern day concerns.

I am very sorry to inform you that this Egyptian document is not the source of Gen 1:26-27. As you way they are different, so they do not mean then same thing.

Furthermore the Image of God is basic to the Jewish and Christian understanding of the relationship between YHWH and humans. See Psalm 8 for example.

Psalm 8:5-6 (NIV2011)
5 You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.
6 You made them rulers over the works of Your hands; You put everything under their feet:

The Hebrew word translated here as the angels is Elohim, which is usually translated as God and probably should be translated as God here too. In other words YHWH made humans a little less then God, or in the Image of God.

Science is good, but also science can be bad when we misuse it to pollute the earth. These are not myths, they are the impact of human sin.

1- This has nothing to do with the point of the thread, which is to point out that Genesis 1:26-28 is not the cause of the rise of science or the cause of ecological destruction.
2- The instruction of Merikare outright says that man is made in the image of God. Move along now…

  1. The Image of God is a theological concept that is found in the Bible, OT and NT. It has not demonstrable connection to Merikare.

  2. The Image of God has much to do with the rise of science and could have been misused to justify Man’s abuse of the ecology.

  3. I hear that even Pres. Trump is pretending to be a friend of the environment.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that both came up with the same idea.


> Man being made in the Image of God is not giving humans the ‘responsibility’ to rule as kings, it is giving humans the ‘right’ to rule as kings. Man has the authority to exact kingly power over the rest of creation, not the vocation to rule responsibly. written by @Reggie_O_Donoghue concerning the Instruction of Merikare.

In the system of a moral God, rights and responsibilities cannot be separated. The is true in the OT. I do not know as to whether it is true in the Egyptian faith.

God did not create the universe because God needed to do this. The evidence indicates that God created humanity because God wanted to do so and God created then universe as a home for humankind.

God created humanity in God’s own Image to make humans physical, rational, and spiritual beings. Part of that spirituality is responsibility for the universe.

Science is based on the idea that humans can think God’s thoughts after God. This means that humans must be created in the Image of God, so we are a little less than God.

The issue is not anthropocentrism. It doe not come from the Bible. If it comes from anywhere, it comes from the old Indo-European faiths headed by Jupiter, Zeus, et al., which were replaced by Christianity in the ancient world.

In Christianity we have humans created in the form of YHWH, not the other way around.

I never said anthropocentrism was in the bible

What does that mean and from where does anthropocentrism come in this discussion?

The Bible may not have anthropocentrism, but numerous believers do have it.

That may be true, but I know that that the view that humans created God is their image which is held by may non-believers is a modern myth that needs to be rejected for the sake of believers and non-believers.

I don’t disagree, but I don’t see what this has to do with the conversation

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