Thursday, December 16, 2010

Genesis 1 Sets the Scene

Genesis looks at what the culture around it believes about the nature of the material world, and disagrees with it profoundly. -- Jane Williams

Genesis 1 and 2 must be among the most hotly debated texts in the Bible. But our obsession with whether and how they can be reconciled with scientific descriptions of the beginning of the universe is distorting our understanding of where these "creation narratives" fit into the wider concerns of the Book of Genesis. In its printed form, Genesis has 50 chapters, only one and a bit of which directly concern the origins of the universe. They are there to set the scene for what follows.

Genesis is, from beginning to end, a theological book. It opens with God, "the beginning", and everything that follows is based on this assumption of the relationship between God and the world. So when we get on to the main action of Genesis, with God's conversations with Abraham and his descendents, we know that what is happening is not just of local significance. The God who calls Abraham is the one we have just seen, making the world, so we know that Abraham's story is one about the meaning of life, the universe and everything.

Read it all here.

This is an interesting article, though it contains nothing controversial or new.  Williams asserts that Genesis presents a view of the material world unlike the cultures around it. The first question one might ask is "Cultures around whom?" It is meaningless to speak of cultures around a text.  It would be more meaningful to ask "What culture produced this text?"

The second question to ask is this: "If the Genesis creation stories are akin to the Gilgamesh Epic, then in what way do they represent a worldview different from the culture that produced the Gilgamesh Epic?"

In fact, the Genesis creation stories have much closer affinity to the creation stories of the part of Africa from which Abraham's ancestors came. This is evident in motif and in theological detail. We might more accurately speak of these as Afro-Arabian narratives since Abraham's ancestors were Nilotic and spread across the Arabian Peninsula. This is why the Genesis creation stories have close affinity to the creation stories of the Nilotic peoples.

Related reading:  The Genesis Creation Stories; The Christ in Nilotic Mythology; Afro-Arabian Number Symbolism

No comments: