My view of Genesis 1-2

(RiderOnTheClouds) #1

The wayyiqtol narrative structure of Genesis 1 suggests that it was intended by its original author to be intended as history. However, it is worth pointing out that God would have had to have used the language of his time when communicating to the Israelites. The Israelites were a prescientific people who didn’t know the earth was a ball flying through the heavens. They didn’t know the stars were Suns that were much bigger than the earth. They didn’t even know the earth extended much past the Middle East. If God spoke to them using advanced scientific concepts such as the Big Bang and evolution, the Israelites would have been perplexed. This science would seem absurd to ancient people, and they would have seen him as a deceptive creator, unworthy of worship. In order to get his message to spread, God would have had to have spoken in the language of the time.

The Israelites had been slaves in Egypt for hundreds of years. It is understandable that they would have viewed the universe in a similar way. So it was in the scientific language of Egypt that God chose to speak to Moses in. The Egyptians believed that the universe began from a vast watery chaos. Then the flat earth, consisting of a single area of land rose out of the depths. These ideas are found are Genesis 1:2 and Genesis 1:9-10. The Egyptians also believed that the sky was made out of metal. The language used to describe the Raqi’a in Genesis 1:6-7 and Psalm 19:1 suggests that the Hebrews had similar views of the sky. The word ‘Raqi’a’ is derived from the Hebrew word ‘Raqa’, which often means to beat out pieces of metal. The verb used for making the Raqi’a, ‘Asah’ is often used for manufacturing something out of pre-existing materials and the Raqi’a in Psalm 19:1 is said to have been made with God’s hands, in the same way a blacksmith would craft from metal. These facts converge with each other and heavily suggest that the Raqi’a was something crafted out of metal, consistent with Egyptian views of the sky.

The purpose of Genesis 1 (and Genesis 2) was to show that there is a creator who is good and supreme over the gods of Egypt. Hence the constant refrain ‘and it was very good’, to show the goodness of God’s creation. The latter point is shown in the many polemical elements against Egyptian creation myths. Several of the creative actions found in Genesis are also found in Egyptian creation myths:

  • Spirit of a god moving over the watery chaos.
  • Spoken word creation.
  • Division of the waters.
  • Humans being formed from the ground.
  • Humans being given the breath of life.

The difference is that in Egyptian creation myths these are the actions of different Gods. In Genesis 1-2 it is the result of the actions of a single God. The polemical message is clear. Yahweh is greater than the gods of Egypt combined. Another polemical element is the naming of the sun and moon on day four. With all things considered there is no reason why God couldn’t have just called them ‘sun’ and ‘moon’ rather than ‘greater light’ and ‘lesser light’. It suddenly makes sense however when it is realised that throughout the Biblical world the sun and moon were referred to by the names of the deity associated with them by not calling the heavenly bodies by their names, Genesis 1 is removing any polytheistic notions they may have. The author of Genesis 1 is deliberately insulting the pagan gods by not referring to the sun and stars by their names, merely degrading them to ‘lights’.

In my view it seems that the purpose of Genesis 1-2 is to establish God as the sole creator. It does this by polemically addressing the polytheistic creation myths of the Israelite’s captors.

(Ray Bailey) #2

Nice Job, Reggie! Well said. You have hit the sweet spot on the foundation of the BioLogos view of Genesis!

It is interesting that you bring up Eqyptian creation myths as My pastor is doing a summer series on Exodus, and preached on the Plagues of Egypt. He paid special attention to the plagues attacking each major Egyptian God–in order of their creation mythos! Hah! We converse often as he doesn’t have many theologically adept parishioners. So we enjoy honing each other on the word!
Again, succinct and to the point. :heart_eyes:

My introduction to this was through Walton’s Lost World of Genesis 1. The Cosmic Temple narrative that fits the cultural and cosmology of the time.

I am going to post this in a new post since it is pretty long.

Respectfully, Ray :sunglasses:

(Christy Hemphill) #3

2 posts were split to a new topic: Genesis 1:1-2 as applied through John 3

(RiderOnTheClouds) #4

Interesting. Michael S Heiser has made the interesting point that for Exodus 12:12 to be truly meaningful the gods of Egypt must have been perceived to have been real. He also makes an interesting claim that the entire Old Testament is themed around a conflict between Yahweh and the Pagan gods.

(Ray Bailey) #5

OH, definitely true. As for the “gods” being real. Yes! In the sense that they are energized and supported by the “powers of the air” according to Paul.

And I am a Yahwist. (not a cultist one). I take Exodus 3:14 and the Ten Commandments as applicable to all generations, not just the Israelites.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #6

The parallels between Genesis 1 and Egyptian mythology are explained here better than I ever could:

(Ray Bailey) #7

Thanks for that Reggie!

I read it, and I am particularly struck by the mention (page 182) of the “daily creation motif” shared among each of the mesopotamian and egyptian mythos.

I is ironic to me, that the YEC is “protecting” the scriptures from violation by “evel evolution”, while it espouses a Biblical interpretation that matches the surrounding ANE mythos! What they miss is how different our deity is in comparison to the others. He doesn’t do anything like they do. However, it should be noted they are notably shallow in their depth of epistemology, and so remain in the shallow end of the pool (so to speak, pun intended!).

Thanks for the article!

Ray :sunglasses:

(RiderOnTheClouds) #8

I perceive the story of Noah’s ark to be a statement of how Yahweh is different from the Pagan gods. Whilst in the Mesopotamian flood myths the gods are malevolent, sending the flood due to a lack of rest, in the Genesis flood myth, God is benevolent, he sends the flood due to the wickedness of men. The flood story is more a statement of God’s character than anything else. It uses a pagan myth as a framework in order to contrast between God’s nature and that of pagan deities.

(Ray Bailey) #9

I likewise feel that the Tower of Babel was not a punishment on the nations for being evil, but protect for the Sons of Shem.
The use of the name YHWH in the OT is always connected with his chosen lineages. YHWH looks down and decides to confuse the languages. If he was going to punish the nations, it would have been Elohim YHWH or just Elohim.

A typical ANE god would have wiped out the nations with plagues or whatever. Or likely killed off humanity in general.

Ray :sunglasses:

(RiderOnTheClouds) #10

A lot of New Atheists don’t get it. The punishments sent by God in the form of natural disasters are always for just reasons:

“Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy.” (Ezekiel 16:49)

In contrast the Canaanite goddess Anat slaughtered an entire town for no reason and Ishtar sent the Bull of Heaven to destroy Uruk because Gilgamesh refused to sleep with her.

(Ray Bailey) #11

Ah! But the New Atheists can’t stomach the “morality” involved. They would fall under the judgement, so they refuse to look. The ostrich syndrome!

Very good!
Ray :sunglasses:

(RiderOnTheClouds) #12

As someone who used to think of myself as one, it’s very clear to me that the knowledge that Harris, Dawkins, Coyne and most other New Atheists have of Christianity is very basic indeed.

(Ray Bailey) #13

Just as most Christians really don’t know the details of the New Atheists as well. It is too easy to lump them all into a pot and call the kettle black! :sunglasses:

(Tom Larkin) #14

Would this align with the plagues of the Egyptians being targeted against the Egyptian gods to show the superiority of God?
Although a monotheistic God, the Hebrew word for God in Genesis, Elohim, is plural. The “yod” and “mem” at the end indicate plural for nouns and adjectives. I believe this speaks of the Trinity, since the beginning, would you agree?
With regard to the Ten Commandments, we are asked by Jesus (Matthew 5), not only to keep the ten Commandments physically, but in our heart as well. I have heard other speculate that Jesus spoke similarly for the other commandments not directly referenced in the Sermon on the Mount - do you agree or disagree?

(Ray Bailey) #15

Yes, Tom.
My pastor preached on this last Sunday. (I had a long discussion with him the week before about it).
The first was the River Nile god, then the god of fertility Hopi, the frog, then the god of gnats (I haven’t figured ut the significance of that one!). The final two, Darkness is against Osiris, god of the night (dead). The last one is death of sons, which is directly against Pharaoh personally, both with his child and that he is the “Son of Ra” as the Pharoah (god in his own rite.Se3en on walls of tombs and in the Egyptian book of the dead.

Oh yes. Tri-unity is what it describes. Elohim is a male singular name using a plurality. The Rabbis and many scholars say it indicates Royal “We” . No accident there in my mind! I actually prefer to use the name Elohim and YHWH instead of “God” and “The Lord” from the OT. English Bibles have hidden that fact in the forepiece and footnotes. Too bad!
With regard to the Ten Commandments, we are asked by Jesus (Matthew 5), not only to keep the ten Commandments physically, but in our heart as well. I have heard other speculate that Jesus spoke similarly for the other commandments not directly referenced in the Sermon on the Mount - do you agree or disagree?

Yes. Though getting many Christians to agree is sometimes difficult. Check out my posts in the Topics The Sabbath where we are having just such a discussion!

Nice talking to you @TGLarkin !

Ray :sunglasses:

(RiderOnTheClouds) #16

Another thing maybe worth pointing out. As I said before the role of Gen 1 is to establish Yahweh as the ‘sole’ creator. The writer of Genesis 1 tries their hardest to not mention other gods in order to completely discredit them from the creation process. This is why they call the sun and moon ‘lesser light’ and ‘greater light’, for saying ‘moon’ and ‘sun’ would be giving mention to pagan gods. As I said before in Ancient languages, the sun and moon were called by the name of their deity.

(Don Huebner) #17

Although I agree with your final summation paragraph, allow me to make a few friendly critical comments. To begin, you speak of Genesis 1-2 as a unit but totally emphasize the Genesis 1 creation narrative alone. The large majority of non-evangelical scholars (and many who are evangelical) consider the Genesis 1 and Genesis 2-3 narratives to have separate authors, often referred to as P and J, respectively. P is considered to have written Genesis 1 around the time of the Babylonian exile or shortly thereafter. This is more than half a millennium after the Exodus and the even later exit of Egypt from Canaan. It is thus far more likely, as others have pointed out, that Genesis 1 was an anti-polytheist tract against Mesopotamian gods who the Israelites were exposed to during the Exile and not those of Egypt from the distant past. The Enuma Elish, which is the primary Babylonian creation myth, has many of the characteristics you associate with Egyptian origin stories, including a primordial state of universal water. The sun/moon name argument also applies to Mesopotamian gods. It is also worth noting that the Enuma Elish creation occupied generations of gods, while the all-powerful Elohim of the Israelites could complete creation is a mere six days.

I also note that you observe that Genesis 1 has a structure which suggests that it is intended as history. However, ‘history’ as viewed in the post-Enlightenment world of today is very different from that of Iron Age Israel, or even the ‘historia’ of Greco-Roman times. History, as seen by the Israelites, and as has been pointed out in numerous books on the subject, was used as a way to explain the present state of affairs experienced by the Israelites in terms of what had happened in the past. That ‘past’ need not have been factual as long as the author felt it made the present theologically understandable. This is especially seen in the Genesis 2-3 narrative which is heavily etiological in nature.

Cheers from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #18

In some areas I think there are greater parallels with Egyptian mythology. Such as with dry land ‘appearing’ as waters recede rather than being ripped from the sky and spread on the waters as in the Enuma Elish and the sky being a metal dome rather than a disc made of gemstones. But some areas such as the Tehom being split in half have more parallels with the Enuma Elish. My current theory is that Genesis 1 is broadly polemical against all the major Near Eastern pantheons.

(Victor) #19

The Bible never mentions the tehom being split in half. (Psalm 104 does mention the great noise when the modern oceans (wide valleys) began to form at the end of the mabbul). Like the Babylonians accounts, the Bible mentions a a crushed watery planet four times. In the Bible, the crushed planet is referred to as the audacious one, which is not spelled in Hebrew like the woman Rahab. The Bible uses the same imagery as the Greeks and Canaanites of a multi headed sea serpent. (The Greeks called it the hydra). If a great watery planet was crushed in a collision with a moon of Jupiter (as the Babylonians account suggests) each major piece would have been followed by a vapor tail. At first, all the tails would merge into a single comet tail, looking to the ancients like a multi headed sea serpent. Indeed, at least a hundred thousand shattered planet pieces, larger than one kilometer, orbit in the same direction between Mars and Jupiter.

I agree that the ancients did not imagine history as we do. They were not philosophers. For example, Moses had no words for time nor did he have verb tenses to relate the creation events to a philosophical notion of time. Elohim continues to speak (imperfect) to the lights in the heavens to become spreading things (noun raqiya). The spreading lights of the Sun, Moon and stars are to server as markers for days and years, not philosophical notions of time. Indeed, the only history that is visible as it happened is cosmic history. Billions of widely separate galaxies and galaxy clusters spread out, the stars continuing to emerge from the unformed matter in the core. God created the unformed matter first and energized it with vibrating light (see Genesis 1:2) Billions of galaxies become spreading things (raqiya) as the atomic clocks and the orbits accelerate together.

Change and science are opposite worldviews.


(George Brooks) #20


Job’s text comparing the firmament to the making of a molten mirror is the definitive text that the raqiya is rigid and solid.