Wednesday, March 4, 2009

GENESIS: Chapters 1 & 2

Chapter 1
Summary:Genesis begins by telling us how God* begins to create both heaven and earth from a shapeless mass in the dark in seven days.
  • Day One: God creates light* by simply exclaiming "Let there be light". He lets the light shine for a while and calls it "daytime", and when the light stops he calls it "nighttime". Together they form the first day.
  • Day Two: God "separates the vapors" to create the sky and the oceans.
  • Day Three: God has a much busier day: he commands the water on the earth to gather into oceans so that dry land will emerge and calls the land "earth" and the water "seas" (it's then noted that he's apparently pleased with this work); next he creates every grass, seed-bearing plants, and fruit trees. (It is again noted his pleasure with his work).
  • Day Four: Now here's where things start to get a bit weird.
    1:16 "And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also."
    Despite spending day one creating "daytime" and "nighttime", it takes until day four to create "bright lights in the sky" to identify the night and the day (which he also did on day one) in order to create seasons and to mark days and years. He makes two "huge lights", the sun and the moon(!) to shine down on the earth and reading almost as an afterthough "he also made stars"*. He sets them both (the sun and the moon) in the sky to divide the light from the darkness.
  • Day Five: God creates fish and sea creatures in the water and birds* of all kinds in the sky. He blesses them and tells them to procreate and fill the earth.
  • Day Six: God creates every other kind of animal - including cattle, reptiles, and wildlife (again it's noted his pleasure in doing so). Then God decides to make a human in "his own image", someone like himself, to be the master over all life on earth, the sky, and the sea. He makes the man and later a woman (which we get to in the next chapter) and tells them to procreate, makes them masters over the other animals, and tells them that he made the fruit trees and seeded plant for them, and has given the grass and plants to the animals and birds for their food. God looks over his creations and declared it excellent in every way.
Notes:1.) "God" is not defined, other than we are to assume he is a creator of some sort.
2.) The source of light, how long it is allowed to shine, why and what causes it to stop, are all not specified
3.) The moon is not a light, or a source of light. It simply reflects light from the sun.
3.) The sun as we now know is a star itself, and is not the largest of them. The moon is quite smaller than a star, yet both the sun and moon are referred to as "huge lights".
4.) Although the bible often misclassifies winged mammals as "birds" (e.g. the bat) and that we can probably chalk this up to the Hebrew language (meaning that the Hebrew word for "bird" may simply mean "flying animal" which would include bats, etc.) - the bible is making it clear here that animals of the sea and the air were created first, whereas science and fossil records show that in addition to sea life, reptiles (which have yet to be created) predate birds and are the earliest known forms of life.
Thoughts:Already in the first chapter we come at odds with modern science and archaeological evidence. The earliest fossils that we have found tell us that life most probably began in the sea, and evolved into reptilian life, contrary to Genesis claiming that birds predate reptiles - discarding the time frame of a "day". Now while it is simply *possible* that we just may not have found fossils to support that birds predate reptiles, the problem is that there is no evidence outside of the written word of the bible to support that claim. Lack of evidence is certainly cause for skepticism.

Secondly, we have an obvious paradox with the creation of light, "daytime", and "nighttime" three days before the creation of the sun (and stars). Perhaps God created a simple mythical flashlight and modeled the sun after it, but the bible doesn't explain this and guessing is subjective at best. Also, without the heat of the sun, the waters would be frozen by the lack of heat and would prove a hindrance in "separating the vapors" to make the sky. The plants, grass, and fruit trees made on day three would also die without the sun, making "God's flashlight" pretty much a necessary substitution for this story to hold true. It could be possible that God is holding this all together in some sort by his boundless supernatural powers, but this is not explained or mentioned and is again subjective.

Another problem with the story versus modern science is the creation of reptiles on the same day as human beings, as once again our fossil records don't support this. Again, while it could be *possible* that we simply have not found human fossils dating as far back as our reptilian fossils, we lack that evidence to support the claim as made here in Genesis.
Chapter 2
  • Day Seven: God declares his work finished, blesses this seventh day, declares it holy and rests.

The chapter continues on to give a summary of the past 7 days of creations, which in actuality is more of an elaboration.

It claims:
  • That there weren't any plants or grain sprouting across the earth initially, as God hadn't sent any rain, nor was man yet created to farm the soil*.
  • God created man using dust from the ground and breathed life into the body made of earth.
  • God plants a garden in a place he called Eden and placed the man in the garden. He creates a bunch of exotic fruit trees and also a tree called the "Tree of Life" in the middle of the garden.
  • 2:17 "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."
    God gives the man his first set of rules telling him he's got full reign to eat whatever fruits he wants from any of the trees, except from the "Tree of Life". He goes on to tell the man that if he eats fruit from the "Tree of Life"* he will become aware of his conscience and know right from wrong - and he makes his first threat to the man, that he will be doomed to die if he eats the said fruit.
  • In variation from the order in chapter one*, God creates animals from the dust of the earth and brings them to the man to see what he'd name them.
  • God then wants to create a "helper" for the man, but instead of creating from the dust on the ground*, he elects instead to put the man into a deep sleep and yanks out one of his ribs and makes a woman from the rib
  • The chapter finishes off by explaining that a woman is "taken out of a man" and therefore future generations of men are "incomplete" until they leave home and become married to a woman to become "one flesh" again.
  • The man (who is inexplicably named Adam) and his new wife are explained to be naked, yet unashamed(?) or embarrassed(?)

Notes:1.) It's also worth noting again that the sun (which has yet to be created) isn't mentioned as a factor.
2.) The problem here is that man yet to grasp the concept of "right or wrong" and has only God's threat of being "doomed to die" as reasoning to avoid the fruit from the tree. God seems to be tempting and/or coaxing the man to disobey him by explaining what knowledge will be gained (a conscience of right and wrong) and by placing this tree in the garden to begin with.
3.) In chapter one, it seems clear that God had made the animals first, then man (and woman) to be masters over the animals. In this chapter God makes man from the dust, and then makes the animals from the dust to bring to the man to see what he would name them.
4.) Why God resorts to creating the woman from the man's rib and not the dust from the ground is not specifically explained - unless we assume that it was God's intention to make marriage seem like the man is "complete" again.
5.) Here we have to infer that there would be some reason for the man and his wife to be ashamed and embarrassed of their nudity. In the context of the story there is no reason for this other than to imply that nudity is simply "wrong" in the first place.
Thoughts:Already we have a contradiction with the first chapter (the order of the creation of man versus animals), we have God placing Adam (and his wife) in a tempting and unnecessary situation and threatening him with death as a way to coerce him into obeying, and already (unbeknownst to the man and his wife) making nudity a shameful idea - despite man (and presumably woman) being modeled after God's own image.

To me, even so far, it seems quite apparent that this story was concocted by men of a later age where nudity was shameful and who were ignorant of the actual roles and characteristics of the sun, the moon, and stars - rather than divinely inspired, or divinely written.

It's also hard to think of God's characteristics as being all loving and compassionate when he's already threatening Adam with death for disobeying him (and basically entrapping him to do so) instead of simply giving him the ability to discern right from wrong. With Adam's lack of experience and young age (yet presumably an adult) it is natural that we should probably think of him more on terms with a child, and threatening a child with death for disobeying something he does not fully comprehend or understand is not compassionate but cruel and excessive punishment.

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