Origins of the Genesis stories


I think that part of the problem of Genesis as they are read today is that there is a lack of understanding about how they may have originated, even if they were in some way “inspired”.

Various historial and archeoligical studues over the last 200 years have suggested they came from traditions of oral transmission long before some unknown scribes gathered them together at different stages of the history of Israel. There is the study of “source criticism” that tries to understand where the orginal sources came from and may have moulded the stories, against a background of Canaanite and Babylonian influences that had ther own stories of creation.

We are prepared to call the Canaanite and Babylonian stories “myths” but don’t want to apply the same criteria to Genesis because we possibly think that detracts from biblical truth. But there can be truth about people and what we are like in these “myths”. To say something is myth need not be to say that it is untrue, but possibly contains truth about ourselves and God

It is for this and other reasons that I think we should think of the stories as dramas about what our life is like and not an ancient history infallibly recorded and which won’t allow for an alternative understanding of how we actually came to exist and how we are imperfect and sinful etc etc.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #2

I like to think there is some historical background to Genesis 2-11, based on my research both in the Bible and Ancient History, but I don’t think Genesis 1 is the actual history of the cosmos, it is merely a story which establishes the purpose of the universe, using a phenomenological, not scientific understanding. Whether or not it is a ‘myth’ is something which I am unsure of. Certainly Genesis does use mythical ideas from Egypt and Babylon, but at the same time, it still has a meaning, which I believe is divinely inspired.

(Tom Larkin) #3

I feel that Genesis can be taken literally as inspired without conflict with science. I believe that if you simply read the narrative as if for the first time, there is no indication that the second creation story is a retelling of the first creation story. The view that the two stories are separate and sequential removes contradictions between the two stories (was man or plants created first?) and removes contradictions with evolution, if not all of science.

Genesis is the book of origins and generations. A key aspect of the book of Genesis is to describe the genealogy leading to the Messiah and the genealogy not leading to the Messiah. The line not leading to the Messiah is always given first.
The generations of Cain (Genesis 4:17-24) are given before the generations of Seth (Genesis 5).
The generations of Japheth (Genesis 10:1-5) and of Ham (Genesis 10:6-20) are given before the generations of Shem (Genesis 10:21-31 and 11:10-32).
The generations of Ishmael (Genesis 25:16-18) are given before the generations of Isaac (Genesis 25:19-26).
The generations of Esau (Genesis 36:9-43) are given before the generations of Jacob (Genesis 37:2).
The 1st creation story closing with the phrase “these are the generations of heavens and of the earth…”. Men and women were created in the first creation story. This is the line not leading to the Messiah.

The offspring of these men and women were the “daughters of man” described in Genesis 6. The “sons of God” are the offspring of Adam and Eve, which it is why Noah needed to be “perfect in his generations”. Throughout the Bible, the “sons of God” typically refers to those in the will of God, but specifically refers to Adam in the genealogy in Luke 3 (the term is also used for angels in Job, but that use would not be consistent at all in Genesis 6).

Jesus had opportunity to make corrections, and He often did when it came to religious traditions. Instead of correcting what is written in the Torah, he often quoted from the Torah which I feel is an endorsement of the current state of the document.

To my knowledge, there has been no document or artifact ever found that supports any of the Documentary hypothesis, but it is speculation based on content (character of God, emphasis on religious ritual, application to the Norther Kingdom, etc.)

Also, I offer two possibilities for any perceived alignment between the Near Eastern myths and the Bible:

  1. Alignment between common terns in the Enuma Elish are intentionally use to show the superiority of God to the local gods in a similar way as the plagues in Egypt were designed to show the superiority of God over the Egyptian gods.
  2. The oral tradition of the Torah is very old and influenced the Near Eastern myths (this would be impossible to prove, I realize).