Priest of the Sethite High Places of the Anu (c. 2200 BC)
Recently, I was asked how the God of Genesis connects to Christian theology, specifically to the catholic faith. By "catholic" I mean what the Church has believed at all times and in all places, and what is enshrined in the Creeds, protected by the ecumenical councils, and attested by Holy Scripture.
This is a thoughtful question that encourages us to focus on the theological substance of Genesis. Who is God in the first book of the Bible?
God is the High God. He reigns supreme over all other deities, rulers, dominions, and powers. This is expressed in the pervasive solar symbolism of Abraham and his Horite Hebrew people. As the sun is the great light that gives light to the world, so the High God shines above the whole creation.
God is the Creator and eternal. He is from before the beginning of the creation. He creates in an orderly fashion. That order includes binary distinctions, hierarchies, and boundaries, and commands. God separates the waters above from the waters below, and the dry land from the sea. He stretches the heavens from the east to the west. He creates male and female. He creates a garden with boundaries, and within the garden He places the Tree of life and the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil with instructions on how to pursue life.
The God of Genesis is perceived as having male qualities. He was believed to inseminate the earth. This belief was probably due to the discovery of meteoritic iron pellets by archaic peoples. The meteoritic iron found on the earth's surface was worn by chiefs and rulers because it represented power from on high. Iron beads were a symbol of royal and priestly authority and were worn by kings, priests and warriors. This belief continued into the dynastic periods. King Tut's dagger (shown above) had a gold sheath and a tip made of meteoritic iron.
The God of Abraham's Horite Hebrew people was father to a son. God father was called Ra or Ani and God son was called Horus or Enki. Horus was the Master of kings, the wearer of the two crowns, and the one who unites the peoples. He was called "Horus of the Horizons" because he was said to rise in the east as a lamb and set in the west as a mature ram. This is the message Abraham's received on Mount Moriah when the offering of his own son is met with the offering of God's son in the form of a ram.
God's spirit goes forth and generates life. In the Nicene Creed the Holy Spirit is proclaimed "the Lord, the Giver of Life." The Spirit of God animates as it enters like a breath into the first humans. The Spirit moves like a wind over the dark deep and brings order to chaos.
The God of Genesis looks on the heart. He knows what Sarah is thinking and lovingly confronts her (Gen. 18). He does not hold King Abimelech guilty for taking Sarah since Abimelech did so with a clear conscience (Gen. 20:6).
The God of Genesis is merciful. Though Cain deserves death for killing his brother, God instead banishes him and places a mark of protection on him. Likewise, God shows mercy to others who murdered, including Lamech the Elder (Gen. 4), Moses, and David.
God provides what is needed. Eden is well-watered with abundant vegetation. Clothing is provided to cover the couple's nakedness. Noah, his family, and his royal menagerie are saved in a time of flooding. Abraham receives a territory and an heir to rule over his territory. Jacob receives herds, flocks and wives. Hagar is brought to water in the wilderness. An angel delivers Lot from destruction. Joseph is delivered from death and elevated from a slave to the grand vizier of Egypt.
God reveals through prophets and in visions and dreams. Abraham visited the prophet who sat under a great oak at Mamre. The old man Abraham had visions (Gen. 15) and the young men Jacob and Joseph had dreams. Echoing Joel 2:28, Acts 2:17 says, "Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. In the "last days" the young will be as wise as the old visionaries and the old will be a spry as the young dreamers.
God appoints priests to serve his people. Melchizedek comes to Abraham after the battle and brings bread and wine. He offers prayers and receives a tithe from Abraham (Gen. 14:20).
God appoints rulers to uphold the law. The Kushite kingdom builder Nimrod establishes cities with government officials and builds a great empire in Mesopotamia. Genesis 36 lists other ancient rulers; the Horite Hebrew rulers of Edom who were known for their wisdom (Jeremiah 49:7). Genesis 36:31 speaks of the great antiquity of the Horite rulers: "These are the kings who reigned in Edom before any king ruled in Israel."
Among the Horite Hebrew the appointment of priests, rulers, the chosen sacrifice, and the Mother of the Son of God was represented by divine overshadowing.
God's son is called the "Seed" in Genesis 3:15. He was expected to be born of the Woman (not Eve) by divine overshadowing of the Spirit, just as the Angel explained to Mary: "The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:35)
Though the cultural contexts of Genesis often seem strange, the God of Genesis is familiar to people who are steeped in the catholic faith of the Church. We affirm that God is Father, Son and Spirit. We affirm that God is merciful, and He makes provision for human failings, even giving His son as the appointed sacrifice through whom we receive by faith the forgiveness of sins and the promise of immortality.
Related reading: The Substance of Abraham's Faith; Judaism is Not the Faith of Abraham; On Blood and the Impulse to Immortality; The Ra-Horus-Hathor Narrative