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adam and eve

IN yearold news:
A suburban American school board found itself in court yesterday after it tried to placate Christian fundamentalist parents by placing a sticker on its science textbooks saying evolution was ‘a theory, not a fact’.

And this has become quite the controversy in Georgia. As testified to by this website

But, I bring this up not to talk about old news nor about how the world perceives Georgia to be backwards…nor about last night’s Westwing…which was right on…I thought in my liberal-loving, mainstream-media, hollywood-please-tell-me-what-my-politics-should-be mentality.

But because in our class at church we began a study of Genesis and yesterday we talked about the differences between the two creation accounts and the variant readings of “In the beginning”. Attempting to clarify our discussion, which was actually a rather good one…I sent an email to the class which, now, I wonder if it will be my undoing. Well, things aren’t that drastic…plus, given the length of the email, I wonder if it will even get read. and, given my love of appositive phrases, which often muddle my sentences, I wonder if people will make it through the morass of my prose.

What I find curious everytime I teach a well known passage, especially one as controversial as the Genesis account is how entrenched certain ways of thinking are.

I.E.

We noted the order of creation in the Priestly account (though I did not use this terminology, nor did I say that most scholars believe the two accounts to be written at different times by different authors…I never know how much textual/critical information to provide): light, heavenly waters/earthly waters, earth/plants, birds/fish, animals/humans. We also noted the order of the second book: earth, Adam, garden, plants, animals, Eve.

At the end of class, one of the participants said that…you know, it only says that the plants hadn’t yet sprouted…so it could be that God had already created them and that the world hadn’t sprouted yet.

Another, said…well, in the first account it doesn’t give an order of creation of male and female…it just says male and female…thus, the order could be the one proposed by Genesis 2.

I don’t write this to mock those proposals but to note how, despite our discussion and despite the evidence, we still need to make the two accounts say virtually the same thing…we need to both reconcile the two accounts while still reading them literally.

Here the text of the email that concerns this post

mark asked a very good question about water…was there water before or not?

the way that the first verse of the bible has been translated by most translators since the septuagint in the 3rd century BC: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. This developed into the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo (creation out of nothing…as the message put it, God spoke everything into being). There is, however, another way to read that first verse: When God began creating the heavens and the earth. These two phrases don’t mean the same thing…and are both plausible translations of the Hebrew phraose. Add to this the difficulty we noted with the word create: that it could mean fashion, prepare, form, mold…and we’ve got a “potential” quagmire.

The word ‘bara’ [the word translated create in the English/Greek/Latin Bible] does not mean, ‘create’ [Hebrew actually has no word meaning ‘create’ in the sense of something out of nothing] but ‘to fatten’. If we take the literal definition of ‘bara’ in Genesis 1.1 we have – In the beginning God fattened the heavens and the earth. What does this fattening of the heavens and earth mean? This verse is not showing the creation of the heaven and earth, but rather the fattening or filling up of it. Therefore, Genesis 1.1 is a condensed version of the whole creation story.

There are two ways, then to read the first verse. In the beginning (and time doesn’t start until this beginning) God created (out of nothing, he spoke and it was) the heavens and the earth (and this refers to the entire universe as we, today, in the 21st century understand it with billions and billions of stars and galaxies ever expanding at amazingly frightening speeds).

Or, just as plausible…

When God began creating the world everything was formless and void…there was water, there was dark, there was deep. And God moved above the waters like Wind, like breath. And God tamed the chaos…and God put order to something that was orderless…and in a world (if you can call that uninhabitable morass a world) that could not sustain life God created a space where life was possible.

Regarding this proposal “the heavens and the earth” from verse one refers to the heavens created, filled, formed on the second day and the earth created, filled, fashioned on the third day.

Now, let me say that a lot of very fine people believe and have believed that Genesis states that God created everything out of nothing…and it isn’t my purpose to disabuse anyone of that belief. Notice, I am not refering to whether or not God did or didn’t create everything out of nothing, but whether Genesis claims that God did.

In fact, it is just as plausible and biblical to believe that the Genesis account speaks more to WHO did it rather than HOW…if we understand that HOW to mean scientific accuracy. What I mean by this is that the Bible is clear on how…by God’s Word, by God’s Will, by God’s Grace, by God’s Wisdom, by God’s Life-giving, Life-sustaining power. That is, Genesis with beautiful poetry shows God putting order where there is no order, bringing light and life where there is only darkness and chaos. One of the poetic recourses to show this is the symmetry between the days of creation. Thus, light is created first…and God is understood as the provider of light. Thus, the waters (symbol of chaos) are separated and tamed and turned into something that sustains life through rivers and rain.

I will stop preaching.

 

Comments

Ooh! I’m intrigued! Would you post the e-mail?

i’m afraid my actual email might not be as juicy as the post led you to believe

btw, thanks for inserting the bq

I agree. That’s not as juicy, and it’s certainly not your undoing. But it is a very nice exposition. Very, very nice. You could’ve referenced the latest translation by the JPS as support to your reading: e.g.: “When God began to create heaven and earth—the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water—God said ‘Let there be Light’; and there was light.”

But you didn’t really need it.

one thing that makes me always be very accomodating in the way i phrase things is that i would hate to be the reason some cites as why they became a meth-head, god-hater…

though since this is georgia, it seems that many meth-heads take in criminals and ask them to ask jesus into their hearts

oh…in defense of my mischaraterization of the email, a few years back a prof from our alma mater almost got fired for saying less than this email says.

he simply said…there are those that believe this to be poetry…and the daughter of a big-time donor was in the class…and the big-time money man somehow got wind of this statement and the prof was called in to see the Man…well, actually the Man sent in an australian to set them straight.

Ugh. That story disgusts me every time I am reminded of it.

i like the fact that it was an antipodian that was sent in to set them straight

an australian set them straight? how, by throwing them into the water with a mad croc?

the stories you guys have from your alma mater make me want to become a total meth-head.

Sometimes when I think of the stories that come from my alma mater, I wonder if once I was a meth head! I mean, there’s no way something like that could have actually happened, is there?

so,

i’ve just been contacted by a small college/seminary in the area. they want to know if i want to be an adjunct.

among their articles of faith is a belief in the historicity of genesis and creatio ex nihilo…i also have to believe in a literal hell created for a literal satan, who was created by God perfect and from before the beginning of time.

Adjunct on the sly, at a place that teaches what you don’t believe, in the midst of tenuring?

You have already turned them down, n’est-ce pas?

oui, oui

the crazy thing is…despite an elaborate demonology that is sufficiently proof-texted…they don’t cite Jude…a necessary text for a belief in fallen angels.

Do you feel sad when you know the texts that make a person’s arguments for them better than they do?

honestly, more than that…

what makes me sad is that there is all this encrusted crud that people must believe in order to be christians.

Aye, that is worse.