I like that reminder.
I believe with all my heart, God did NOT sit around His domain for eons of time contemplating what to do and how to do it. I believe with all my heart, God looked around, saw He was alone, and began His works of creation. Which leads me to conclude with all my heart, the Earth is ALMOST as old as God.
To disagree would require me to consider God too old to know what He wanted, and too far gone to make creative decisions without eons of time to bring them to fruition. I doubt that with all my heart.
Before Genesis: why did God do it?
There is a misconception that attribution in biblical terms is as rigid as it is for us in our culture. For example, in 1 Kgs 19:15-16, God commands Elijah to anoint Hazael, Jehu, and Elisha. The only one whom Elijah actually personally anointed was Elisha. Later, Elisha sent his own servant to anoint Jehu (2 Kgs 9:1-6), meaning that God’s command to Elijah was carried out at two removes in that case. Elisha also anointed Hazael only in the very loosest meaning of the term “anoint” (2 Kgs 8:7-15). All these actions could be attributed to Elijah because of the chain of agency involved.
Another interesting example is Judas Iscariot, who is said to have purchased a plot of land only because, as it turns out, his money was used to buy it (Matt 27:5-8; cf Acts 1:18). Such examples of attribution through agency could be multiplied.
In a biblical sense, the Torah being attributed to Moses need not mean that he personally wrote all of it or even most of it, just that somewhere in back of the scribal tradition that produced it stands Moses in his key role as covenant mediator and prescriber of law for the people. The same reasoning can be extended to Isaiah and other books that give evidence of a long history of additions and editing, and to wisdom literature associated with Solomon.
I think so too. There is a similarity to the stories we call mythological which I think comes from the transmission via an oral tradition shared by a community in fire-side gatherings. They are from a time before we had the specialization of activities into such things as law, history, science, philosophy, and entertainment, and thus these served all of these purposes at the same time. But while they don’t have same standards as the modern activities such as history, I think it is a mistake to equate them with fiction (which is after all another modern specialization).
In any case there is a definite cobbled together structure to the early chapters of Genesis which looks very much like a gathering together of different tales rather than a composition by a singular author. In some ways this can be said to set the tone for the whole Bible which of the same nature. It is such a contrast with books like the Qu’ran and the Book of Mormon, which makes the Bible look more like a demonstration of history rather than simply someone’s particular window into it.
I’ve enjoyed the conversation you started.
Let’s take a look at how “Bara” is used in Genesis. First, please note that in 1:1 it is used in reference to the entirety of the heavens and earth:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. [NIV]
Note also it is used in Genesis 2:3 to describe everything that God had done in the previous chapter:
Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. [NIV]
So I see no reason to build a theology on top of the conjecture that the Hebrew verb “bara” is used only to describe how God created humans. The verb’s use in Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 2:3 is just too strong to overcome, in my opinion. Does that make sense?
I agree with you that, in Genesis 1 - 3, God’s involvement in our existence right from the beginning is far more critical than the details of the earth’s geometry. Moreover, God’s involvement in our origins doesn’t stop at the point at which humanity is present; it continues on in the origin of each one of us. As David put it in Psalm 139:13:
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
While David certainly used “knitting” as a metaphor, the main point is completely clear: God is intimately involved in fashioning all the details of who we are, from zygote to infant to child to teen to adult to retiree and even to the grave and beyond.
What would scientists think about this? Some, like Jerry Coyne, would mock the notion. In the modern age, he would say, we know how a sperm unites with an ovum, and how a zygote implants in the uterine lining, and how the embryo develops, etc. In Coyne’s view, there are only two possibilities: Either science is right about the origin of a human and the Bible is wrong, or the Bible is right and science is wrong. Based on that assumption, he asserts that scientific knowledge supplants traditional theology.
Christian scientists like Kenneth Miller and Francis Collins, however, assert that Coyne’s assumption is wrong: It is a false dichotomy to claim that you have to choose between the theology and the Bible. They contend that scientific knowledge about the origin of a human, from the uniting of the sperm and ovum all the way to the birth of an infant, is complementary to traditional theology. Science explains the how; theology explains the why.
I agree with Miller and Collins: I do not have to reject embryology to accept the truth taught by Psalm 139:13 that God knit me together in my mother’s womb. And I do not have to reject the truth about my origin in God’s love and action in order to accept the science of embryology.
How about you, @HmanTheChicken? Do you think it is necessary to reject the “story” of “human science”–the sperm and the ovum, the implantation in the uterus, the development of different kinds of cells from stem cells based on DNA instructions, etc.–in order to accept the origin story of Psalm 139:13?
Wow, that’s a great example. Thanks.