Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Genesis Notes: A Hymn of Creation

God the Geometer, The Frontispiece of Bible Moralisee, mid-13th C.

GENESIS 1:1-31
This chapter is the oh-so-familiar story of the creation of the universe. Anyone who has ever done any Bible study or, indeed, ever had their back to the wall when talking to a dedicated believer in science knows that Genesis is not worried about how creation occurred. It is concerned with the fact that God created everything and that God made man in His image. If you read it out loud and listen to the language and cadence you fall into it almost reads like a Psalm.

The problem that I, personally, always had trouble reconciling is the fact that there are a other creation stories out there that seemed to echo Genesis. If that is the case, then is Genesis just another man-made story as I had been told by nay-sayers? The way that The Complete Bible Handbook explains it helped me sort this out.
The major point made in the Bible is that, however Creation is interpreted, and whatever account of Creation one follows, God is the author of the story; and if there is a design, then God is the Designer. All the accounts of Creation in the Bible make this point. In this respect, the stories of the Bible differ hugely from other stories told about Creation in the religions and beliefs of the nations that surrounded Israel, such as Babylon and Assyria. The biblical writers used different stories of Creation, and at least two of these accounts are shared with Israel's neighbors in the ancient Near East. But the Bible retold these stories of other nations and - from its own point of view - corrected them to make its own basic point: the true reading of Creation sees it as the consequence of One who gives it order and sustains it's being.

The biblical account is coherent with many other stories, whether those of the Babylonian accounts of creation, or, much later, the theories of Darwin and his successors, and has translated them into an account that endures, even when Babylon and Darwin have faded into history. These different theories of Creation are not in competition with the Bible. The stories of Creation in the Bible give the reader the opportunity to go deeper into the understanding of the universe and of our place in it, to understand the way in which God brings all things into being and to understand how God is continually in the act of creating.
This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

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