I was recently prompted to read the Bible by being told that I’ve never read it, again. The silliness of others and my youth’s history aside, I decided to suck it up and work toward making the statement completely irrelevant while I’m still young and impressionable. I started off getting half way through Genesis (~Chapter 25) before opting to skip to the more relevant New Testament.
From what I did read of Genesis I don’t understand how anyone could think the creation story, or any part of Genesis I recently read, as anything more than allegory mixed into a people’s justified existence and deep history. Just the first couple chapters of Genesis are fraught with logistical inaccuracies as well as differing symbolism which foreshadow well to the documentary hypothesis. By my layman’s study I counted three authors in the first two chapters.
Author I: 1:1-26, 1:28, 2:1
Author II: 1:27, 2:23-25
Author III: 1:29-30, 2:4-22
I broke this down and defended it below before looking at the formal documentary hypothesis descriptions of the two authors named: Jahwist and Priestly. They seem to simply split the story at chapter 2 verse 4. I would obviously put my money behind the scholars since they’ve probably studied the original language and are far more read than I. That said, I can’t back up a plea to authority so I’ll stick by my own understanding and justifications until I have a chance (and inclination) to investigate further.
Earth and Water:
Comparing Authors I and III side by side there doesn’t seem to just be a difference in narrator, but a difference in culture which includes a different God character. Chapter 1 mentions the creation of land passively putting more emphasis on water, light, and life; generally making form from the formless and that which can’t be grasped. Chapter 2 land is mentioned and molded in every step of the creation process.
It might be a conclusive jump, but I think that Author I belongs to a more desert tribal/nomadic society who’s life is knowing the movement and preservation of water as well as tending to their livestock, which gets specifically mentioned among the creation of land animals as well as later in the book. Sea creatures and birds are created in the same sentence… the heavens and waters being compared in the same sentence. The signs of the seasons are mentioned to be created among the stars. Man is created in likeness of the Gods to have all living things under his dominion… why would livestock be included if they didn’t eat meat or use leather? With the desert nomadic lifestyle comes a more hierarchical society with a prime survivalist’s word as law. The tone of this alpha, I imagine, would come from someone of detached leadership used to making the hard decisions. While others may morn, get tired, or sick he’s the one that must stay serious and make others focus on survival. Punishments may be harsh or fatal to make an example of those who don’t maintain the pack. This is the tone I read from Author I’s deity; someone expecting the compliance and respect of existence itself without compromise. Later stories puts emphasis on the wickedness of people who don’t recognize their morality or God. This creation story, coming from an authoritative uncompromising God, enforces and justifies their culture’s domination of the land.
Not a lot of screen time to justify my theory. Their manner is similar to Author I with the authority, but the finality in Author II’s tone doesn’t come through God but by the text in and of itself. I also notice that the text is set apart from the rest and both times comes as the final word after humanity is created. Woman wouldn’t even be mentioned in chapter 1 if this verse wasn’t there, clarification that woman was included on that sixth day. The institution of marriage is justified and insisted upon in chapter 2. Interesting, imo.
By contrast with Author I, Author III I think belongs to a society based on non-nomadic agricultural pursuits. They talk lovingly of the garden and beautiful trees within which include The Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. There were no plants on land because it hadn’t rained and there was no man to work the ground. In this story man is created from the earth before the animals, birds, and creeping things which were formed from the same soil in Eden and carry the same the breath of life. There is no mention of man being made in the image of anything or anyone. Adam chips into the creation process by naming everything while God is finding him a helper. They make a point to mention the rivers, mineral goods, and useful regional locations… reinforcing my belief that the author was of a non-nomadic culture which because they’re able to specialize in various trades rather. Punishment is leveled based on what teaches the valuable trained hand, and others who witness, a lesson; banishment is likely the worst one receives. But death wouldn’t be unheard of. Author III’s story comes from a loving father figure God who only speaks when they have a reason to but is always hard at work. He knows his trade, explains his intentions, and looks after for that which he puts time into. No justification in this one really… just an overlying theme that action speak from the heart. The fall of man and Cain and Able, I think, are both mostly written by this author.
Here are some of the things I noticed side by side:
Author I has a passive spirit God who moves water and speaks things into existence.
Author III has a hands on corporeal God who forms and plants things into existence.
Author I deity uses speech as the means of applying his intent and will to the corporeal.
Author III deity speaks in the same way a character in a play thinks out loud narrating a foreshadowed warning or preconceived intent.
Author I deity speaks in plural first person: ‘our’ and ‘us’.
Author III deity speaks in singular first person: ‘I’.
Author I talks of water as a substances for manipulation.
Author III talks of pre-named named rivers and locations.
Author I implies that functional language came from God; “God called x y and it was good.”
Author III uses language, and God uses language but there isn’t implication that it’s of any significance.
I stumbled across the pieces of this puzzle while trying to put together all the logistical issues in the two chapters (which I kept below this paragraph). I knew of the documentary hypothesis prior to reading, but I didn’t expect to find it sticking out so obviously. In the end I thought the theory of separate authors made a better demonstration of why the Jews do, and everyone else should, consider their text allegory.
Logistical Issues of Creation
Water: (Mostly Chapter 1)
The sky/heavens is created by making a space between water above and below. The water under the heavens is made to gather. When the flood hit all the fountains of the deep burst forth and the heaven’s windows were opened. The sun, moon, and stars are created and put in the expanse, which is still below the upper water. In Chapter 2 a mist/spring comes up from the land. It sounds to me like the writers of these texts believed we all live under a layer of water and that the world is flat.
I also think it’s interesting that sea creatures and birds are created in the same sentence. Birds are of the heavens and in our culture angels appear as humans with the wings of birds.
Light: (Chapter 1)
Light and day are created without any source and has to be told to keep separated from the darkness and night. Also the moon is described as a lesser great light. My opinion, based on what I read, is that this author of Chapter 1 doesn’t understand that darkness is a lack of light capable of being seen and that the moon is illuminated by the sun.
Greens: (Chapter 1)
What more is there to say? Not sure how present day carnivores were capable of eating with canine teeth, or why omnivores were created with canines and molars. It’s highly suggested that vegan’s, if they want to eat meat, start of slowly because their bodies need to build up the digestive culture needed to process and metabolize animal parts. If their teeth were changed with the allowed diet after the flood, no mention was made of such a transition in diet.