Book of Genesis
|For it is so written in|
Genesis is the first book of the Bible. It is considered to be an allegorical or mythological account by most rational people, though some Biblical literalists like to think that these events actually happened. Most biblical scholars think the book is a confused melding of three distinct sources and an editor, making it highly self-contradictory. If you are a biblical literalist, those contradictions magically disappear. When citing verses, Genesis is abbreviated as Gen.
"Genesis" comes from the Greek word Γένεσις, meaning something along the lines of "origin" or "birth". This came from the Hebrew word בְּרֵאשִׁית (B'reshit, literally "in the beginning"). The title is in fact an incipit - i.e. it's the first word that appears in the document (Hebrew בְּרֵאשִׁית, Greek Γένεσις). The Hebrew titles for the books of the Torah are all incipits, while the traditional Greek names (the ones used in English) deviate from this formula.
Traditionally, Genesis and the other four Mosaic books were considered to have been written by Moses himself. Although a minority among conservative Christians still hold to this view, the greater part of modern scholarship believes that they were collected in the middle of the first millennium BCE from a number of older sources. Literary criticism and analysis suggests three sources for the original material which was then edited by a redactor. The fact that Moses' death is related in Deut. 34 has mysteriously changed few fundamentalist whackjobs' opinions.
See the article on the documentary hypothesis for details.
 Jewish vs. Christian versions
It is worth noting that the Jewish and Christian versions of Genesis have quite a few differences (as do much of the Hebrew scriptures in general), including the order of sentences and passages, the structure of passages, emphasis on the importance of particular stories, and, in fact, word choice when translating into non-Hebrew languages which can drastically alter meanings of particular verses. It would be inaccurate for someone who is schooled only in one version of Genesis to suggest he or she understands the other point of view.
 Origin of Genesis accounts
Based on similarities in both the story itself as well as shared cultural worldviews, many scholars argue that the story of creation week in Genesis is strongly influenced by (if not based on) the Babylonian creation myth Enuma Elish.
 Similarities with Enuma Elish
- Order of Creation
- "Order" from "Chaos" (The Torah places more emphasis on the organization of things rather than the 'something from nothing' aspect of creation that is emphasized by the Christian Old Testament.)
- 6th day creation of "man" or of "savage god". In the Enuma Elish, man is to be slave to the gods. In modern American Christianity, apparently God is Slave to the wills of Conservatives.
- Concept that man is created in God's image.
- The strange idea of light being created before the sun.
- Virtually nothing else.
 Similarities with Sumerian myths
The Sumerian myth and the Eden story share some similar aspects.
- The setting: a garden paradise surrounded by desert.
- Forbidden Fruits.
- Expulsion from paradise and physical punishment for eating fruit.
- Using a rib from a male to create womankind.
- The meaning of the female names; Eve (life), Ti (lady of life)
 Similarities with Greek mythology
- In Genesis, Eve's curiosity makes everything go to s***. In Greek mythos, Pandora's curiosity makes everything go to s***. In other words, female curiosity screws everything up.
- Both Deucalion and Noah are commissioned to build boats and dump animals on, ignoring plants and marine life, and also without any sense of scale.
- Both Noah and Deucalion get free kids.
 The two creation myths in Genesis
Most biblical scholars believe that the first two chapters of Genesis actually contain two creation myths spliced together, along with "editorial comments" from the compiler (which some believe to be the spiritual precursor of WikiEditors, since he or she adds meticulous details like lists of "begats", pages of cubit measurements for a boat, and repetitive, redundant, recurring language).
- In the first myth, the stages of creation are separated into six days. The second myth does not mention any separation of time periods.
- In Genesis 1:6-8, the earth is covered in water. God (Elohim) commands the waters covering the earth to separate, forming land and sea. In Genesis 2:5-6, the earth is dry. God (v.2 YHWH-Elohim) had not caused it to rain yet. He then causes water to spring up from beneath the earth.
- In Genesis 1:27-28, God (Elohim) creates man and woman (both unnamed) together, then tells them to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth. In Genesis 2:7, the LORD (YHWH-Elohim) creates Adam, then creates Eve from Adam's rib in Genesis 2:21-22. Adam and Eve are not told to be fruitful and multiply.
- In the first myth, God gives the man and woman dominion over the earth. In the second myth, the LORD does not.
- The first myth contains no reference to a self-contained Garden of Eden where the man and woman must remain. The Garden of Eden first appears in the second myth.
- The first myth lacks geographical references. In the second myth, the Editors inserted names of the rivers and lands near the Garden of Eden.
- In the first myth, the animals of the sea and air were created on Thursday, while the animals of the land, including man, were created on Friday. In the second myth, man is created before any plants are even created, let alone any animals to eat them.
 Genesis back bends
Because of the two scrolls and the additions of the Editors, Genesis contains many conflicts. The Noah story has many fun examples.
- Genesis 6:11 repeats Genesis 6:1. Perfect gods need to state things 2 or more times.
- Genesis 6:19 God commands Noah to bring 2 of every kind. Yet in Genesis 7:1 he is to take either 7 or 7 pairs of each clean animal, and 2 of all the rest.
- Genesis 7:12, it rained for 40 days, and the waters abate after 150 days and the ark lands. Genesis 8:1-3, it rains for 150 days, and the waters abate after 10 months, the ark landing after 7 months (I know, 7 ≠ 10 in my math book, either.)
- Genesis 8:7 Noah sends a raven to find land. Genesis 8:8 he sends a dove to do the same. Modern translations use "then" as a conjunction. But, the original Hebrew Torah makes no such correction for the sudden change in bird species.
- Finally, the land dries up. Either on the first day of the first month, or the 27th day of the 2nd month. Clearly, conservative math is not a new concept!
 The big bang
Many biblical literalists imagine they can use the Genesis story as proof against the big bang theory. However, Howard Smith shows in his book Let There Be Light that through actually studying the text and not just reading the translation, one can find an idea similar to the big bang in the root of the Hebrew word "b're'sheet" ("genesis" is a translation of "b're'sheet").
 More Genesis science
The external markings of calves can be controlled by having their mothers look at markings on sticks when they are conceived:
"And Jacob took him rods of green poplar, and of the hazel and chesnut tree; and pilled white strakes in them, and made the white appear which was in the rods. And he set the rods which he had pilled before the flocks in the gutters in the watering troughs when the flocks came to drink, that they should conceive when they came to drink. And the flocks conceived before the rods, and brought forth cattle ringstraked, speckled, and spotted." (Genesis 30:37-39)