Sunday, October 3, 2010

Genesis Chapter 1

I'm back, and I'm blogging the Bible. 'Cause I want to.

I'll jump right in with the first Chapter of the first book - Genesis. It is probably what some would consider the most famous Chapter of the Bible - the Creation. But it is missing some things that people usually consider part of "the" creation story. For example - there is no removal of a rib to create a woman. In fact, it appears God creates man and woman simultaneously. Genesis 1:27 states "God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them." I find two things very interesting about this verse. First, the equality of male and female, both apparently in the divine image. Could this be a recognition of the author of the duality of God as both male and female? That would be quite a different interpretation from our traditional view of the Judeo-Christian God. Second, the verse appears to be separate in form and tone from the rest of Chapter 1. In the New American Bible, it is presented in the form of a poem, unlike the rest. It also is a change in the structure of the Chapter. The rest of the Creation is presented as God said "Let there be X;" "So it happened;" and "God saw X was good." The creation of man starts about the same - "God said: 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." Gen. 1:26. And gives Man dominion over the animals. But then comes 1:27. Why the repetition in a different form?

But back to the Chapter as a whole. I have a personal interest in Time, so I find the temporal aspects of the Chapter very interesting. "In the beginning, when God created the heavans and the earth . . ." The beginning of what? Man has not yet been created, so it is not the beginning of Man. The Universe already exists, as we see in Gen 1:2 - "the earth was a formless wasteland and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters." So there was already a "formless wasteland," an abyss and waters.

My initial thought is that this Chapter is about an introduction of God to the masses. A Priest I know has said that this story of Creation was meant to demonstrate the power of the Jewish God. God creates the world simply with God's desire, and quickly. It also sounds a great deal like the Creation myths of polytheistic religions: Some deity takes what already exists and forms it into the world and humans. So it is telling the people that this God is not so different from your mythical creator. This might also explain the gender duality in Verse 27. Many early religions had female creators, and the duality of this new God allows Goddess worshippers to enter the new religion seamlessly.

A truly unexpected element of Chapter 1 is that God does not appear to be omniscient. God makes something, and only after making it does God realize the creation is "good." A truly omniscient God would already know that it would be Good. So God is within our temporal limitations as far as God's knowledge. God does not necessarily know what is going to happen.

Chapter 1 has a little for everyone. Vegetarians rejoice! Genesis 1:29-30 gives man "every seed bearing plant all over the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground, I give all the green plants for food." (What about the fish in the sea)? No mention of carnivorous behavior. And nothing about a forbidden fruit.

And my random, perhaps less important observations:
1. Gen 1:6-8 describes the creation of the sky to separate the water below the sky from the water above the sky. The water below becomes the seas in Gen 1:9, but nothing happens to the water above the sky.
2. Why the distinction between plants that "bear seed" and fruit trees that bear fruit with seed in it?
3. God tells the animals of the sky and the sea, as well as humans, to be "fertile" and to "multiply." But God offers no such instruction to the other animals. Why not?

1 comment:

Peter said...

My sister can't seem to post a comment with out a computer crash - so she asked me to post this:

I am guessing that you are aware that in synagogues everywhere, the new year brings the start of a new Torah cycle, so your reading was the subject of discussion world wide. We read through the five books twice with the boys, and a watered down version a third time, and my current thinking on it made me really respond to your idea that Genesis is an introduction of God to the masses. I tend to interpret the first books as relating the evolution of God and humanity's mutual understanding of each other. God learns some pretty tough lessons about these creatures - way before they seem to learn much about him. Saying "don't touch that" is not really a great way to set up a place and favoring one child over another has bad consequences. I get a sense of bewilderment when G-- speaks to Cain. Anyway - I just took the high water to be clouds, but maybe there is a possibility left there that we should look at...