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Response to trailmonkee (Original post)

Mon Nov 19, 2012, 06:55 PM

103. You're also not a theologian, dude

You may not be a scientist, dude, but you're also clearly not a theologian, and no, you don't know what the Bible says. And no, 7-day creation is not really in dispute except among fundamentalist Christians (and they don't dispute it - they just believe it, against all reason, and ironically against the Bible). There are TWO entirely different creation accounts in the first chapters of Genesis (which one do you want to read literally?!). The older version, from the J source (the mythological material in Genesis 1-11 come from 2 sources, known as J and P), starts in chapter 2 verse 4 in the middle of the verse, and it tells the story of a garden in the East and God creating a man out of dust and later on a woman from the man, and how these humans lost their innocence and immortality and left the Garden (a story rich in meaning and similar in symbolism with many other Ancient Near Eastern myths). (The reason the story starts in the middle of a verse is because the verses were added later with no awareness of the separateness of these stories.)

The younger story, from the P source, is found in the first chapter of Genesis 1 and it ends in ch. 2 verse 4. The Genesis 1 account, which tells the story of how the world was created in 6 days, was never intended by the biblical writers to be a scientific account. Apparently the ancients were more sophisticated in some ways than many modern people. The story has its origins in the Babylonian exile of the Jews, and it is based on the Babylonian myth of how the god Marduk killed the water/chaos goddess Tiamat (etymologically related to the word tehom - or "deep"/"abyss"/"waters" in the first verse of Genesis) and then created the world by splitting her body into two and creating a dome in the middle. You get the exact same image in Genesis, where the single all-powerful God of the Jews (called Elohim by the P source) split the now depersonified waters (waters being associated with chaos) into two and creating a dome (a safe space of order and fecundity) in the midst of the waters below and the waters above. (In the Noah myth this dome disappears as the fountains of the deep open and the windows of the skies are opened and the waters flood the dome - which suggests the end of creation within that worldview.) The whole Genesis 1 creation story was a monotheistic polemic against the polytheism of the Babylonians. Instead of a battle between the male warrior god and the goddess of water/chaos, in the Genesis account there is a single God who creates order from the chaos (now no longer personified in goddess form). But the basic structure of the story is the same, and it is very tightly structured, with parallels between days 1 & 4, 2 & 5, and 3 & 6 - on the first 3, a space is created, and in the last 3, the inhabitants of that space, something like this:
1 (light and sky); 4 (lights - not called sun and moon because the words were names for gods, but these moved so they were seen as living inhabitants of the sky)
2 (separated sea and sky); 5 (birds and sea creatures)
3 (land and vegetation); 6 (animals and finally humans).
(I admit I'm a bit fuzzy on the details here and I can't check now because I' have to go give my daughter her bath.)

Anyway, this is the kind of material you will find in the Catholic Study Bible. It is the accepted reading of Genesis in Catholicism and all of mainstream Protestantism (I assume Orthodoxy as well, although I can't say for sure). The only people who think that Genesis is a literal account are fundamentalists. It is just that there are so many of those in the United States.

So, Mr. Rubio, you are not a scientist, but you're also not a theologian. It is so sad that so many people miss out on the richness of these stories. They give us a glimpse into the worldview of the ancient peoples of the Middle East, as well as their theological development. They are full of wisdom and symbolism, and I love reading these texts (alongside Gilgamesh, the Qur'an, and other texts) with my students. I find it tragic that idiots in this country not only distort these beautiful old stories, but also ignore science in the process, and dumb down our kids in the process.

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