Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Nate Reads the Bible.

Genesis. The beginning.

A couple of things jumped out early for me in the narrative, the most glaring of which was: this really is a dual narrative, at the least. Very distinctive voices color this portion of the text, and they don't necessarily jibe with each other.

The first narration wastes little time explaining what happened over the course of seven days. Things were created, and in this order: 1) light 2) the sky 3) the Earth and its vegetation 4) the sun, moon and stars 5) fish and birds 6) land animals and humankind. That takes six days, followed by a seventh day of rest. Let's focus on day six, when God creates humans:

Then God said, Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness. Then, a bit later: So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them, and God blessed them.

That "them" is important. According to this passage, man and woman were created simultaneously and told to multiply. Furthermore, there is no hint of Adam or Eve or any Garden of Eden. They are neither mortal or immortal. "Them" is very unspecific in number. All we know is: there was more than one, there was at least one of each gender and they were impelled to use all that God had created beforehand.

Then comes the more famous account.

This narrative is more detailed and the order of creation is much different. Here God creates a single man from the dust and then makes a garden for him. After that come the animals, but since there is no real companion for the man, out comes the rib and, voilà, woman.

So, an immediate disconnect to start things off, and just a page apart. Two narratives, two fairly dissimilar origins of the world and human life. I suppose one could argue that the first narrative gives a broad account, while the second attempts to paint in the details of what happened, but that does not explain away other contradictions. The first narrative is so specific in laying out the order of things. To me, it's important that man and woman were created last. God created this realm and it pleased him and he thought to populate it with humans. In the second narrative, the creation of man is sandwiched in the middle and really the whole idea of seven days disappears. Here God wanted man first, and he molded the world to suit this one man.

Which are we supposed to believe? Do we choose? Or do we try to make them fit together? To me that's not possible. Obviously the rib narrative has been more widely acknowledged and embraced, but why? I imagine the way humans thrive on storytelling has something to do with it. In this narrative there are characters and events to latch on to. There are voices and there is dialogue. Adam and Eve have failings and fears just like anyone else. Here one finds real human elements and emotions where the other offers a rather cold and generic version of "humankind."

That's the best I can come up with.

More on Genesis later.


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