Genesis is not an engineering blueprint of Creation!
Genesis is Greek for creation story. All reasonable cultures have creation stories so parents can explain important details to their 4 year olds so they go back to their play. Otherwise they spend all day asking. ”Why’s that?” to whatever you try to explain. Creation stories are a Godsend to every parent and that is why they are cherished and handed down generation to generation.
Until 19th century Europe developed steam engines and set them loose building and destroying the natural environment into railroads, cities, all manner of construction everywhere in the world no one thought about the engineering construction of Planet Earth. The world was there as it always had been there and always would be there.
The notion that the Book of Genesis literally describes the engineering construction of the Universe is a very extreme act of faith. Why would God do that? Why would any mortal human believe that? Isn’t there more involved in the physical construction and implementation of a Universe than fits into a few words?
Creationism is the view that Genesis is literally the way in which the universe was constructed. It is most seen today in attacks upon Darwinian evolution, since Genesis states that all plants and animals were formed in two days and were Good or perfect at that point.
Any reasonable look at the creation stories in Genesis means creationism debunked. These are a set of inconsistent narratives each having a different perspective and a different relationship to the general theme of creation. They each have a final statement or punch line which indicates what they are truly all about. None of them is about how or when species developed in their current form.
Why would anyone serious suggest such abject credulity? Take a look at the background and history of the European Christian Bible Book of Genesis. First, it is not a European or Christian work. It is a piece of Hellenistic Judea’s literature that became absorbed into European religion in translation.
Creationism is an offshoot of a general principle of abject submission to unquestioning acceptance of what those in authority demand believed. It is not so much an article of faith or credo as it is a guarantee of blind belief and absolute power of local established Authority.
The point of these Genesis translations was to establish a paradigm that everyone could subscribe to and thus have a common basis for their official faith. The Roman Emperor Constantine signed on to Christianity first, and then convened conferences under his authority to decide what everyone should believe. He didn't though the difference between Christianity and his mother's beliefs in the pagan Sun cult. They both revered Sunday.
Later Popes continued that tradition of making pronouncements at their conferences of what was proper belief after the Roman Empire ceased to rule the world.They also continued the Roman brutality towards those who didn't believe as their rulers demanded.
These Church conference on the official scripture and doctrines were matters of great political power. Those holding views other than those decided to be right and orthodox were called heretics and subject to military attack as enemies of the state.
The greatest example of this was the conquest of the city of Toulouse in France which was controlled by heretics. There were lots of other folks of proper doctrine there too, but the city was a stronghold of heresy that was conquered. This was during the opening centuries of the Crusader Millennium which just ended in the year 2000.
St. Bernard was asked how to deal with the captured city, how to determine who was an evil heretic to be killed and who spared. St. Bernard, described by some historians as a gentle mystic, came up with a simple administrative rule, “Kill them all! God will know his own.”
Since folks would be killed over their interpretation of the words of the Bible text, they had to be important. Genesis speaks about the “creation” of heaven and Earth and the origin of Man. To be as impressive as possible it was assumed to be the literal, original engineering construction of physical reality and the species of living things, especially humans.
The text doesn’t support such a view at all, since doing so involves inconsistencies and contradictions of many kinds. However, faith demanded believing the official translation of the Bible stories was literally true. Two obvious counterexamples are:
The creation of light and darkness is an important part of day one of “creation” but the creation of the sun, moon, stars, and their celestial motions doesn’t come until day three. It has been considered an important part of true faith belief in the literal truth of Genesis to believe daylight is quite separate from sunshine.
This establishes the clear divide between believers and mere folks who observe the sun shining above and reason its rays cause daylight. They also notice that when the sun sets below the horizon it becomes dark. It also becomes dark during an eclipse when the sun is still up in the sky, but its light is obscured by the moon lined up with it in the ecliptic.
As an expression of True belief and absolute faith such a Credo may have many religious benefits. However, accepting this belief cuts Christians off from the acceptance of the interaction of Sunshine and Planet Earth topography as the source of all life and growth and survival.
All indigenous people share this fundamental context for their local beliefs. That we are all creature of the Earth dependent upon the rhythms of the Earth and Sun for our weather, rainfall, crops, and living conditions. When Christians deny that, saying only their official interpretation of their Holy Scriptures has any value or importance they cut themselves off from all life and the Planet Earth.
Global warming and pollution is just a logical consequence of the belief that Genesis describes how the Christian God literally constructed the Universe in six 24-hour days. Everything follows logically and inevitably from that act of faith and denial of observed reality.
The Seven Day of Genesis
What other interpretations of the opening lines of Genesis are possible? The Hebrew word translated as “created” is also in the traditional Jewish prayer blessing wine. The line goes in part …God who created the fruit of the vine.” There is no reason to reach all the way back to the supposed creation ex nihilo of the species of wine grapes.
What folks generally are referring to when they give thanks for a good cup of wine is not its creation, but its development. That the weather and soil were such that grapes grew well and developed to be made into wine is generally the point of the gratitude.
Also, the word translated as “In the beginning” could also be rendered in English as “Most importantly” or even “In thought” or “In philosophy” since the root term there is the word for head not anything dealing with time or history. Rather it is describing fundamental dualism of light and dark, Heaven and earth.
Taking the opening line of Genesis that way, the story goes, “In philosophy God develops the heavens and the earth. The earth was unformed and void. [God and the heavens were eternally perfect]…God said, “Let there be light and there was light” which God saw as Good [everyone knows darkness is bad] and separated the Light from the darkness. Now there are the basic double dichotomies of dualistic philosophy: Heaven/earth and light/darkness.
There is no construction in this creation. It is a set of “Let there be…” fiat commands and responses that there were obeyed. How the construction happened not mentioned. What matters in these line is the narrative that everything got done perfectly in 6 days.
In Genesis, on the second day God creates a firmament or expanse of some kind called Heaven which separates the waters above the firmament from the waters under it. The literal interpretation of that is tough. It is generally taken that this firmament refers to the atmosphere and thus separates water vapor in the atmosphere from bodies of water on Earth. That is a very modern view requiring knowledge that clouds are water vapor.
The more reasonable view according to traditional understanding would be that the Universe was all water. That would explain why stars twinkle through the water between them and us. The firmament would be the bubble of atmosphere that separates the Cosmic waters supporting the stars from the terrestrial waters of oceans and rivers.
A water based Universe fits well with the notion of transparent spheres forming each layer of above the Earth reaching up eventually to the Dome of fixed stars and God’s throne in Heaven sitting above that. Explains Einstein's limited universe, it still has to fit into the highest crystal sphere of the fixed stars
Anyway, who would believe the stars just sit (spin) in empty space. Much more credible that they float in a vast ocean of celestial waters. And, of course the only motion of these eternal, water drenched lights is to rise up from the Earth in the East and set in the West--they are fixed stars.
Everything on the first and second days is divided into clear dichotomies or polar opposites:
- Heaven and earth
- Light (day) and darkness (night)
- water above sky firmament and waters on the Earth
The third day marks a change in the narrative. Now specific things are developed with the separation of dry land and the Seas (Oceans) being a last dualistic pair. The bulk of the third day is the development of plants and vegetation on the dry land without any sun as yet to energize their chlorophyll. There is light, darkness, morning, evening but the sun and its motion comes on day four.
Day four sees the creation of lights in the firmament to separate day from night and create seasons and days and give daylight. Each narrative in Genesis has a punch line which is the point of story.
The fifth day fills the Oceans with living creatures, particularly mentioned are “the great sea monsters” (a favorite with children through the Ages) and the firmament with winged birds. That is life develops everywhere outside the general land mass where we all live now.
The sixth day is when the earth brings forth all its living creatures. A separate creation is described for man who is created in God’s image, male and female he created (Gen I 27) and gave dominion over all the plants and animals of the earth, in the sea or in the air.
This Genesis creation of man, male and female in God’s image seems to indicate it was like sculpture in general rather than a self-portrait in the mirror. This completes the active creation of the Universe in six days. The story however goes on to a seventh day where God rests and declares the seventh day a holy Sabbath of rest and not work.
To understand a creation story, which is an explanation of one’s culture to satisfy the insatiable torrent of “Why??” asked by young children, the focus is upon the last line as punch line. It is the explanation that will satisfy even the most inquisitive of four-year-olds.
When the official editing divides what is clearly one story into two it tends to set off alarm bells. What is it that is being swept under the guidelines? When the seven days are creation are one story they have a clear punch line at the end which explains the point and purpose of the entire story.
That final line of the Genesis 7 days of creation is: God rested on the seventh day and made it Holy because God rested on that day. This is the punch line that explains why the story was told. It is the answer to the question, “Why are there seven days in a week with the seventh being holy days of rest?”
What does this finish to the seven days of creation in Genesis have to do with the next story about the creation of Adam and Eve somewhere in the midst of the seven day story? Nothing. It is just a convenient way to hide the punch line of one story and start a new and fundamentally inconsistent creation story.
This second story of creation has an entirely different progression. It speaks of the Earth without any plants since God had not caused any rain to fall. However mist arose from the Earth and watered it. This is not at all the seven day chronology, especially as now one man is formed exactly like a clay sculpture, molded from the dust of the ground, with God’s breath (like CPR to the nostrils of the figurine) to make him a living being.
This story in Genesis has God planting a garden of which has all good looking trees growing in it and a river flowing out of the garden to water it. Still no rain, so water arises from the ground as mist, forms a river flowing out of the Garden of Eden which divides into four rivers, one going through a land with gold and precious stones. Another goes through another ancient country while the final two are the Tigris and the Euphrates.
God puts man into this garden to work tending the trees, telling the man he may eat of all the trees except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for if you eat from that tree you will die that day. This is what one calls a tough set up. Why is that toxic tree put there?
Next God says this one man needs a companion, so God makes figurines of all the animals and birds animating them to be living things. Then each is brought to the man to name, but none of them filled the bill as his helpmate. But God doesn’t make a woman figurine from dust like all other living things. Instead God engages in surgery, removing one of Adam’s ribs and shaping a woman to bring to Adam.
Although fast asleep at the time of the rib removal, Adam recognizes his rib in this creature and calls her “woman” since she came out of him, Man. This is about the end of this second creation narrative, again fused to it is the beginning of the next story about clothing and nakedness.
Looking just at the tag line of this Genesis story it goes: Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh. This is the punch line answer to the question: Why do my big brothers and sisters leave home and go sleep together as man and wife?
The next story in Genesis deals with the eternal mystery of children, why do they have to wear clothing and be ashamed of being seen naked. Adam and Eve (they don’t get names in the narrative until after they are busted for eating the forbidden fruit) start out happily naked as they tend the trees of the Garden of Eden.
They just work as tree gardeners in Genesis Garden of Eden knowing nothing about sex. The serpent is a wise and knowledgeable creature that sets out to tell the woman the truth about the forbidden tree in her garden. He tells her the truth, that it isn’t a toxic tree but a tree that is good to eat and will make her wise, opening her eyes and she will be like God knowing good and evil.
So she eats of the fruit and it opens her eyes to her being naked and she shares her fruit and its knowledge with her man. They both knew their genitals were exposed and now recognized that fig leaves look like a male penis and scrotum. They make themselves aprons of fig leaves, perhaps to indicate they now know that sex involves male genitals being put over female genitals.
God returns to visit his happy naked gardeners and finds them hiding. And when he calls them out they tell him the hid since they knew they were naked. How do you know you are naked? God asks and gets the whole story and sets out to punish all three living creatures—Adam, Eve, and the serpent.
The serpent becomes a hated, scary, phallic-symbol creature. The woman is to have great pain in childbirth but still desire sex with her husband who rules over her. Not being happy friends working together but instead having sex desires and pregnancy pains are her punishment.
Adam is punished for listening to his wife and ate what was forbidden he can no longer live easy in the Garden of Eden. Rather he has to work hard growing his own food crops to survive. And then he will die and return to the dust from whence God had sculpted him.
They get names finally, and God makes them animal skin clothing. And fearing they will find a Tree of Life somewhere and live forever, they are banished from the Garden of Eden to go till the land and raise their own food crops.
This is the tagline of this story, again blended to the next about Cain and Abel. Separating them out, the punch line would be the reply to the child’s question, “Why does Daddy have to spend so much time working so hard tilling the fields and not be home playing with me? The punch line answer would be because our Great Father, Adam disobeyed God’s command and got caught and punished this way.
The next story in Genesis starts with the good benefits of eating the forbidden fruit—knowledge about sex and pregnancy. So Adam and Eve have two children, the elder is Cain who, just like his father tills the soil and grows vegetables. The younger brother does new things using their dominion over all living things to raise sheep. This is a tale of the origin of new things, like cities and metal crafts. Again, this comes up in the final verses of the story.
It comes time for gratitude offerings to the Lord. Abel slaughters a first lamb and brings the lovely fat parts to burn as an offering. The smoke of this goes straight up to Heaven in an impressive flame of burning, high energy lamb fat.This is consider a sign that God liked the offering and took it right into his nostrils with a strong in-breath.
Cain offered up vegetables which have a high water and fiber content and more smoke than burn on a flaming altar. This is considered a bad sign, as if God refused to regard the offering and pull its smoke up to Heaven. This made Cain angry and unhappy.
This is more likely a reference to nomadic shepherds wondering how their urban cousins got to build great cities even though their vegetable offerings were nothing compared with a good barbecue of lamb with the fat parts shared with God by letting them burn on the grill.
It also may have been a reference to how the urban folks were weighed down by their obligations never happy and carefree like the shepherds living free and not having to till the ground all the time. It certainly refers to the age-old conflict between city dwellers seeking to increase their fields for more crops to feed their people and the nomads desire to let their flocks or herds range free eating whatever they can find.
In Genesis, God’s remarks to Cain make him responsible for his offering not being better received. Cain took it hard and chose to kill his little brother Abel which leads to him being banned from his fields and forced to wander the earth.
The line which says Cain is given a mark upon Cain to keep him safe as he traveled is also translated as a token. That is, Cain gets the first coin and is able to travel about safely since he can pay money for what he needs.He is not a wanderer for long. He finds a wife from another community beyond the realm of Adam and Eve, builds himself the first city and raises a whole civilization with musical instruments and bronze and iron work.
The stories in Genesis get longer now, a transition from simple creation stories with punch lines to narratives about where this one cultural community arose. Each of these narratives is connected to the last through a long genealogical recitation. Noah is a story to explain the rainbow and other details of cultural life. This will be the last story I will comment upon. It does have a final punch line about the rainbow.
This Genesis story starts with a major flood which apparently is common in most creation stories in many cultures. The Chinese story speaks of the great Engineer who works out successful flood control structures. That story sets up how important it is for the son to correct the mistakes of the father, which is a major moral teaching of the ancient world.
In this Genesis story the flood is a moral matter. Mankind has become immoral and God is going to drown them all except for Noah who is a good man. In terms of Creationism, the source of the flood is a double whammy: the fountains of the great deep overflowed as well as the windows of the heavens were opened letting in the waters from above the firmament perhaps.
Afterwards, Noah builds an altar and makes a barbecue offering to the Lord, which God found so pleasing in its aroma that man is allowed to eat any animal on the whole Earth. Also a note is added that blood being the concrete emblem of life—what lives has fluid blood running through it—a distinction is made between the flesh which is food and the blood which is God’s living force.
Also won from God for the wondrous smell of Noah’s barbecue is the promise by God to never again flood the world interfering with seedtime, harvest, cold winters and hot summers, day and night. This is a major covenant of Genesis, now being threatened by the effects of climate change and global warming.
To demonstrate this covenant God puts the rainbow in the sky. This punch line is the answer to the question, “What is that rainbow and why does it appear in the sky?”
Taken literally, these Genesis narratives are logically inconsistent one to another and with human experience. They are great cultural artifacts telling how parents explained some important details of their culture to their children. Totally different stories about the same or closely related origins selected for their final punch lines, not their actual story premises.
On that base these Genesis narratives became the place to store an idealized history of the people and their culture. This then became etched in stone when made Holy Scripture for a totally different set of people with a totally different culture.
If you are expected to give up your own cultural stories for another, don't you at least need those new stories to be better, more powerful, directly connected to a far more powerful God than the old stories?
Unfortunately, there is no room in such a totally powerful and completely controlling Divine who creates all and causes all every day for much of an engineering basis for human activity. How would you know the physical world and build in it? You wouldn't. Just let God make it happen with his Fiat--Let there by a new highway or railroad?
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