Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The creation story revisited

In 2009 I wrote a blog post about some of the discrepancies found in the biblical narrative of the creation of all things. It was a short post and upon reading it again I was not very satisfied with how it turned out; and so I have decided to write a new one with greater detail and more relevant information. I will not link to the former post because I feel that by reading it you wont miss anything that will not be covered here in a more precise and articulate manner.

An artists depiction of the Garden of Eden

The first thing to note is that in Genesis there are actually two creation narratives! Contrary to popular belief they are written in different styles which to myself and some renowned biblical scholars indicates the possibility that they were also written by two different authors. 
 
The first narrative of the creation story begins in Genesis 1 and ends in chapter 2 verse 3. The second narrative begins in chapter 2:4 and ends in verse 25. the first difference between the narratives is in their style. The first narrative attempts to give a day to day chronology of creation in the order that they were created. The second one does not mention days but rather focuses more on the order of created things. I will be making side by side comparisons of both these accounts to make it easier for my readers to note the differences and every once in awhile when necessary I will point out other ludicrous anomalies within the texts themselves. 
 
1"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."  Gen. 1:1 
4"This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens." Gen. 2:4

Note that in the first account God apparently commences by creating the earth and the heavens while in the second narrative the heavens and the earth have already been created. Also be aware that this tale of creation had to have been either invented myth or actually, and most unlikely "revealed" by God himself to the author. Whether the earth was created 7-10,000 years ago or 4.5 billion years ago there is no way any man was a witness to the "creation" (formation) of the early earth.
 
3And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day." Gen. 1:3-5

According to the previous verse the first thing God did after creating the heavens and the earth was to separate light from darkness. He called the darkness night and the light day. I don't know about you but you don't need a college degree to see the absurdity of these verses. First how can you separate light from darkness when darkness itself by definition is the absence of light? Secondly how is the effect of night and day produced? Well science says that it is caused by the Earth as it spins on its axis. While one half of the planet faces the sun (day) the other half is in darkness (night).

As we have seen the author of Genesis chapter one had no knowledge of astronomy whatsoever. He did not know how the process of night and day came about. He also did not know that the sun was a very vital component of that process as we shall see shortly.

Genesis two on the other hand claims that there were no shrubs, trees, or rain in the beginning but that also there was no one to work the land either. It's also interesting to note that the author of the second narrative does not even attempt to describe astronomy in any way shape or form. His first creation is man.

7"Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being." Genesis 2:7 Based on the context of this verse  and subsequent verses; God creates man to work in the garden and take care of it.

In Genesis 1 on the second day, God creates a vault to separate the water from the water. He calls the water  above sky. 8"God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day." Gen. 1:8 So according to this he created the sky on the second day. Is it me or is this starting to sound like a children's story? All this despite the fact that "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." I personally see the heavens as the sky and based on this account he created it twice! The heaven described in Gen. 1:1 cannot be space because the sun, moon, and stars had not yet been created.
 

 


The narrative in Genesis 1 gets it all backwards! Could you imagine earth/land and sky without space, sun, moon, or stars? Daytime without the sun and night time without the moon? This story gets sillier by the minute. So far I have yet to see one iota of divine inspiration in this tale. In fact, it sounds more like what you would expect to hear from someone narrating a traditional myth.
 
In the second narrative we are told that God after having created man, then goes on to create the garden. Here man is given the task of tilling the ground and taking care of the garden as a whole. He also had a river that flowed from the garden and split off into four separate rivers Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, the Euphrates. 

Based on the biblical description this places the garden of Eden in or near the Persian Gulf
  
8"Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. 15The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." Gen. 2:8-9;15
 
According to the first creation narrative God brought forth dry land, seas, plants, trees, fruits, and vegetables on the third day. Note that plants and trees require sunlight to grow but the sun has yet to be created at this time. Once again God gets it backwards!  12"The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good." Gen. 1:12
 
19"Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name." Gen. 2:19 After creating man, then the garden, then placing man in the garden, God creates land and avian life. 
 
According to the first narrative day four is the most amazing and apparently busiest day for God. 14"And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so." Gen. 1:14-15 Finally! God creates the sun for the day, the moon for the night and the next verse ends with: "He also made the stars." You don't need to be a rocket scientist to know that the sun is actually a star! Due to the size of our universe I am pretty sure that there are plenty of stars out there that predate the existence of our sun. Again we see God separating the day from the night as he had done on the first day. could he have done this twice? 
 
In the second narrative after Adam finishes naming all the animals that the Lord had created he still could not find an help meet. So the good Lord in all his wisdom creates Eve.  21"So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man." The second narrative ends with God creating Eve as described above. Now we can focus on the remainder of the first narrative. 
 
In the first narrative on the fifth day God creates all sea life and once again he creates avian life as well. 21"So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good." Gen. 1:21
 
The final day of creation is the sixth day where God creates all land creatures and livestock and finally man.  25"God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 27So God created mankind in his own image,in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them." Gen. 1:25,27

Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden

Now it's time to sum it all up day by day according to how it appears in the first narrative.
Day one: Heavens and the earth, light, separates light from darkness called them day and night.
Day two: Separates water from water, makes vault, calls the vault sky.
Day three: Brought forth the land and the seas, created all plants, trees, fruits and vegetables.
Day four: Creates the sun, the moon, and the stars.
Day five:  Creates sea creatures and avian creatures.
Day six: Creates all manner of land creatures and finally man and woman simultaneously.

The second narrative does not separate creation by day but by order in a narrative form.
1.The heavens and the earth were already created and were apparently barren.
2.Creates man out of the dust of the ground.
3.Plants the garden of Eden and fills it with all manner of fruit bearing trees.
4.Puts man in garden to take care of it. Where was man before this is anyone's guess. 
5.Creates all manner of birds and land animals ( there is no mention of sea creatures).
6.Creates Eve and brings her to Adam.

Finally according to the first narrative in chapter one after all of this hard work of creating the omnipotent (all powerful) and great and powerful Oz; I meant God, rested.

2By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. Gen. 2:2-3

Note: All biblical citations are from the New International Version Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc

11 comments:

  1. You would think that all these discrepancies would be proof enough that the bible is a MYTHOLOGY used to explain things to ignorant primitive peoples and thus control them. How anyone can take an iota of this as fact, is mind-boggling. Perhaps I can sell them some magic land.....

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  2. Yes, and the first narrative alone should provide adequate evidence of the fallacy: "light" was separated from "darkness" three days before there were any sources of light.

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  3. John 12:40
    He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.

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  4. 2 Thessalonians 2 10-12
    10and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness

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  5. @Andrew Lopez, what you fail to understand is that I was a believer.In fact, I was a Pentecostal evangelist for four years. You citing scripture here has no effect I am pretty sure you have nothing to teach me about your delusions that I have not heard, believed, or studied at one time or another.

    I have pointed out in this articla that the creation story as narrated in Genesis if taken literally goes against every scientific fact we know. For example plants could not pre-exist before the sun since they rely on the sun for sustenance.

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  6. I am always intrigued by our presumptive perspectives. As a Geneticist, by education, I can easily slip into rational critique of text which was never intended to be scientific. These texts however, are ancient Hebrew explanations of the meaning of life. They are poetic, reflective, experiential. Edna St Vincent Millay wrote poetry about a tree that would not be scientifically accurate, but the poetry still spoke of her experience. My experience is not universal, nor is my perspective.
    The current widely accepted 'Big Bang Theory' of cosmology is less than 70 years old. My father, a nuclear scientist and no dummy, grew up in a childhood where 'Big Bang' hadn't even been conceived. I have to wonder if my grandchildren and great grandchildren will think our now current thinking to be "ignorant primitive" MYTHOLOGY!?
    The fundamental question is not whether the Genesis accounts are inconsistent with scientific knowledge, but whether a person's experience of the sublime, the divine, the aesthetic, the transcendent, has any meaning. I imagine it does. But that's just my imagination talking.

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    1. Thanks for your comment and welcome to my blog James. You have made some great points regarding the significance of the ancient Hebrew texts. That is why I wrote in one of my comments that these stories can't be taken literally because they would not hold up to scrutiny.

      We are talking about a society and culture that existed about 5,000 years ago. Their knowledge of the world as we see it today through the lens of science was not even in the same league. Superstitions were quite abundant in those times and they saw the world differently. As you said it's not science it's poetry and personal interpretations of subjective experiences.

      Sometimes I write from a literal perspective to expose how irrational it is to apply this method to the ancient texts. There are actually churches such as Christian fundamentalist who take the Bible quite literally. It is because of them that I bring this out often in my various posts.

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  7. As you noted, earlier scholars also pointed out the problems in the creation story. Some Liberal PhD scholars have identified Genesis' Garden of Eden account as reworked Mesopotamian Myth. The Hebrews objected to these earlier explanations for why man was created and via a series of inversions, took the motifs and recast them to shift blame from God to Man. I have written two books on the subject in 2010. (1) Eden's Serpent: Its Mesopotamian Origins, and (2) The Garden of Eden Myth: Its Pre-biblical Origin in Mesopotamian Myths. My website also cover the subject at www.bibleorigins.net.

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    1. Thanks for your comment and welcome to my blog Walter R. Mattfeld. I am glad that you referenced your books and blog which I will also post on my recommended blogs list as well. Although I think that sometimes even with extensive references to potential sources not many theists are going to seek out those sources.

      When I was a theist we were often warned against reading antireligious materials because the devil could use it to corrupt our minds and draw us away from the faith. Luckily for me I did not listen and in fact was able to break free from the very deep delusion in whicih I was caught up in.

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  8. I would be eager to hear the rest of your story, what happened to "open your eyes"? I came across your blog while searching for a map that would give some sort of visual of the 4 connected rivers mentioned in Gen. 2.
    I often find myself asking questions when reading the Bible, sometimes I find answers, sometimes I don't, some questions take years, different experiences, and many prayers, before having revelations.
    Through all the questions, one conclusion I've come to is: the Bible is full of stories that reveal God's character, and those aspects of his character that God wants us to focus on. God is Gracious, God is Loving, God is Just. I find you can create all the theories you want - ie. argue over whether Adam and Eve were really just 2 people, or whether the names represented 2 tribes that populated the earth, etc. In the end it doesn't matter. God was clear about what matters most - "Love the Lord God with all you heart, soul, and mind and love each other as you love yourself". And that aspect of God's character, Love, in all it's many forms, is what is spoken of more than anything else.
    Of course there is a lot more to the Bible, and to being a follower of Christ. The supernatural is a part of this world that a lot of people, especially in the States, aren't comfortable with. I am one of those people that do believe in it's existence, including the Spirit of Religion. Sadly, I've seen a number of people walk away from God's love because of religion. God did not create religion. And one day, in heaven, we won't have to worry about the religions, the hate, and the confusion of this world.
    I'm not trying to give an online sermon right now, I'm sure you've spoken these same words yourself before abandoning your faith. But I know my experiences. I know what I've seen, felt, and heard. I know the God that I serve is not a God of religion. Nor is he a vindictive, confusing, power-tripping God who just wants to look down on us like a bunch of scrambling ants.
    The Bible is God's way of guiding us, not of controlling us, which is why he gave us free will. I believe in the truths spoken in the Bible, regardless of the chosen narratives. Call me delusional (it does pinch a nerve a bit, I am a fallible human after all). But I've seen God work in my life and I've had the opportunity to witness his miracles, things that couldn't be explained away with "coincidence".
    I believe God is big enough to handle all the questions, all the critics, and skeptics, all the angry hurts. So I can go and read the posts mentioned previously without fear of losing my faith, and I will. For, (as you know) God did not give me a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind.

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    1. Thanks for your comments. I came from a very charismatic church we believed in the presence and the power of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within us. I specialized in deliverance of the demon possessed and oppressed. I've had people testify to having received healings and miracles through my ministry. I too had many visions and revelatory dreams and in that mindset I read the Bible only after some prayer and often some fasting in preparation for revivals or invitations to preach in churches or minister in peoples homes or in the hospitals.

      One of the first things that happened to me while I was beginning to doubt my faith and experiences was when I watched a documentary where people were being possessed by their god in an indian religion that worshipped that snake. I saw similar instances of this in other charismatic religions even down to tribal ancestral religions where people believed to being possessed by spirits of their ancestors or animal guides etc. These religions like Christianity all have one thing in common: subjective experiences and even similar testimonies of healings and miracles. I no longer give any merit to these experiences having experienced many of them myself and being able to later understand them from a more practical aspect.

      I don't consider that biblical god to be the so called "one and only true god" nor the Bible to be his word. When I read the Bible I see not the work of a loving deity but rather the work of fallible men writing about ancient myths and superstitions that are a part of their culture.

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