If the first talking snake had kept shtum, we wouldn't be here. Eve wouldn't have eaten the forbidden fruit. But she listened and was curious. So she fell into humanity, thank God. Good old snake, say I. I celebrate its independence of mind. Satan? Neh, that's a later interpretation. The snake was part of the divine purpose. God allowed it into the garden, aware of its linguistic abilities. He knew what would happen. Jesus commended dove-like innocence. AND the wisdom ... of the snake.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Two stories, not one

I was taught at college that Genesis provides not one creation story but two:

Genesis 2:4-25

Mainstream Biblical scholarship maintains that the creation story found in Genesis 2 is the earlier of the two Genesis accounts. Filled with ancient and rich imagery, it is believed that the basic story once circulated among the early nomadic Hebrews, told perhaps around simple, intimate campfire settings, answering questions about life and the origins of humankind. It is known as the "Yahwist" account from its use of the name Yahweh to refer to God.

Genesis 1:1-2:3

Most Biblical scholars believe that the Genesis 1 account can be attributed to the so-called "priestly" writer(s)/editor(s) (known in academic circles as "P") responsible for a fair portion of the Pentateuch. Dating to roughly the Exilic and early post-Exilic period of Hebrew history, the account sets forth creation on a cosmic scale.


My own translation makes this "official" with a section heading at ch 2v 4b: "Another account of creation". This is an important early clue as to the kind of literature the Bible actually is, and creates problems for literalists. But it ruffles fundamentalist feathers, so one finds apologists like J P Holding arguing against the consensus and in favour of a seamless narrative from chapter 1 through 4.

This could be a matter of "pay your money and make your choice". If you can’t see that a story [Genesis 1] in which the creation of human beings, male and female, follows that of plants and animals, contradicts another one [Genesis 2.4b ff] where a single male human is created, followed by plants, animals and finally a woman, I don’t know how to persuade you. To which a fundamentalist might reply that if I can’t see Genesis as God’s inerrant word transcribed by Moses, so that any apparent contradictions are ONLY apparent, there’s no hope for me. It’s partly a question of what you want to believe.

But only partly, and here I set a challenge. Try to write a single continuous narrative covering the events of Genesis 1 and 2, without absurdity or contradiction. I don’t think it can be done, and I say this having tried. On Day 6, in Genesis 1, God creates male and female human beings. There is no mention of a single couple, nor for that matter a "Fall." Human beings are blessed and instructed to be fruitful and multiply; which surely presumes the fact of death, enabling one generation to make room for the next. However, the account of the Fall in chs 2 - 3 won’t work unless there is indeed a single couple who bring sin into the world through their disobedience; for which the punishment would appear to be death, previously unknown (certainly a young-earther would read it that way). Adam and Eve are not told to multiply and may not necessarily have had sex until after the Fall (although 2.24 could be seen as implying otherwise).

There is a way round this in terms of Adam and Eve’s punishment being not so much that they forfeited their immortality, but were created mortal and remained so having lost the chance to eat from the tree of [eternal] life through their rebellion. This I think is forced, but there is still the insurmountable problem that in re-telling the events of Genesis 2 one has to describe the creation of plants and animals which according to Genesis 1 are already there. "This is plan B, so parts of last week didn’t happen", I have to make one of the characters say in my own re-telling.

It’s this way: Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 CANNOT both be literally true. To prove me wrong, recount the events they describe as a single narrative without contradiction.

I am not holding my breath.


Blogger cosmosclub said...

With all due respect, stop worrying about such archaic and mostly outmoded religious traditionalism and just become spiritually cosmicated like me. and refer.

Cosmically yours,

Cosmos Coconut Club
Sri Lanka

7:42 am  

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