GENESIS AND THE BIBLE
A BEGINNING
BY
RALPH MONDAY
WORLD LITERATURE I
In the beginning God said “let there be light.”
Temptation and expulsion from Eden.
Sistine
Chapel.
Genesis As Historical Narrative
• The Pentateuch, of
which Genesis is one
book, is the core of
Judaism, for these five
books comprise the
• Torah, the law or
instruction, that
Yahweh gave to Israel
through Moses. The
Torah contains not
only the Ten
Commandments,
• But also hundreds of
statutes, ordinances,
and detailed directions
for sacrifice and
worship that regulated
• Every phase of Israel’s
daily and religious
life.
• This is the story of the
“chosen” people.
The Mosaic Tradition
• Traditionally, the first
five books of the Bible
have been ascribed to
Moses’ authorship.
• However, in the past
two centuries,
scholarly analysis has
produced a variety of
theories to explain the
repetitions,
inconsistencies,
• Stylistic differences,
and abrupt shifts in
emphasis and
theological viewpoint
that characterize
Genesis through
Deuteronomy.
• There is one generally
accepted theory that
attempts to explain
these discrepancies.
The Documentary Hypothesis
• This premise is also
called the GrafWellhausen
Hypothesis after the
19th century German
scholars who
presented strong
evidence in support of
the theory.
• This theory states that
the Pentateuch is a
composite work
containing at least four
major documentary
sources.
• Definitely not the
inerrant Bible that
most of us grew up
with.
The Two Different Versions
• The earliest source of
the Pentateuch is
called J because the
author uses the name
Yahweh (in German,
Jahweh) for God.
• This occurred about
950 B.C.E. This
author took Israel’s
story all the way back
to the creation, and
• Told the stories of
Adam and Eve, the
Flood, Abraham and
the other patriarchs,
• The exodus from
Egypt, and the
conquest of Canaan.
• The J document is
thought to have
originated in southern
Israel.
The Northern E Document
• About a century after
the J author wrote, a
second, northern
source for the
Pentateuch was
compiled.
• The northern writer is
called E or the Elohist
because he uses the
generic name Elohim
for God, and
incorporates into his
• Story much older
material that had
previously been
transmitted orally.
• Later, an important
step was made to
combine J and E to
produce JE, perhaps
around 750 B.C.E.
The Meaning of the Word Genesis
• Webster’s dictionary
defines Genesis as:
• Originating from the
Greek gignesthai, to
become, to be born.
• Genesis is an account
of creation in the
Judeo-Christian world
mythos.
• There are over 100
creation myths worldwide.
• Genesis is the one that
is most familiar to the
Western world.
• Judaism, Christianity,
Islam, all share this
base Semitic creation
story.
This beautiful
Rendering is
Indeed an apt
Visual metaphor
For the idea of
Creation.
A more
Traditional
Rendering is
Michelangelo’s
Painting in
The Sistine
Chapel,
Where God
Is imbuing the
Spark of life
To Adam.
This is the
Sixth day of
Creation.
Historical Cultural Meaning of the Mythos
Genesis, from the creation of heaven and earth in chapter 1 to the
Descent of Israel’s tribes into Egypt in the concluding chapters,
Is a record of historical origins seen through faith. This is its key.
The book can be generally divided into four main sections:
PART I—Chapters 1-11 explains universal history: creation, the flood,
and the origin of various national and linguistic groups. After this
prologue Genesis then focuses on the lives of the four great ancestors of
The Hebrew people: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.
PART II—Chapters 12-24 emphasizes the story of Abraham, the
Ancestor of all Jewish people. The conclusion of the Abrahamic
Covenant is the most important part of the narrative.
PART III—Chapters 25-36 intermixes the story of Isaac with that
Of his son Jacob; Jacob’s twelve sons are the founders of the
Traditional twelve tribes of Israel—the genetic progeny of the race
Is here inscribed.
PART IV—Chapters 37-50, the last section, narrates the story of
Joseph and his brothers. This is primarily to explain how the twelve
Tribes came to live in Egypt. Genesis concludes with Joseph’s
Prophetic hope that Israel will eventually return to Canaan, the
Promised Land.
This occurred in 1948 with the establishment of a Jewish state,
The first since the Diaspora in 70 C.E. when the Romans began
To drive the Jewish people out of Canaan.
THUS, THE STAGE IS SET, THE PLAYERS ARE ARRANGED,
FOR PERHAPS THE MOST POWERFUL CULTURAL MYTHOS
THAT THE WESTERN WORLD, AND INDEED EVEN THE
ENTIRE WORLD, HAS EVER SEEN-THE WORLD OF THE JUDEO-CHRISTIAN SYSTEM—
THE COSMOS OF GENESIS.
THIS IS A WORLD THAT STILL POWERFULLY RESONATES
FROM ANCIENT HISTORY TO TODAY—OUR WORLD OF
TECHNOLOGY, SUPERCOMPUTERS, THE SPACE SHUTTLE—
A UNIVERSE THAT DESPITE THE PROBINGS OF SCIENCE,
RATIONAL, LOGIC, AND REASON, STILL LOOKS FOR AN
EXPLANATION OF LIFE IN THE SUPERNATURAL.
THIS IS GENESIS—THE BEGINNING OF BEGINNINGS,
ALPHA AND OMEGA, EMBRACING BOTH ORIGINS AND
ENDINGS.
Let Us Begin the Journey by Exploring the
Ancient Past
Eden, is one of only
Many archetypal
Images projecting
Into the deep
Ancestral past that
Attempts to explain
The “perfect”state in
Which human beings
Once existed.
This is the “Golden
Age.” All cultures
Embrace this myth.
The Genesis Narrative
Genesis begins with a sublime hymn to God’s creative might, and
Recounts the six days of creation which culminate in the appearance
Of humanity fashioned “in the image of God” (Gen. 1:27).
There is an older Babylonian creation myth—the Enuma Elish—that
Is similar to Genesis, a polytheistic account, but not one that we are
Presently concerned with.
In the Genesis mythos, Elohim creates man and woman to reflect his
own Divine attributes and to enjoy dominion over the earth and all
the Life it contains. In this narrative human beings are the masters of
Earthly creation, and the entire creative event is pronounced
“very good” (Gen. 1:28-31).
Elohim
Creating
Adam.
Creation
Of
Eve.
A more
Modern
Politically
And
Religiously
Correct
rendering
(from a
WASP
Standpoint)
Of the creation
Of Adam and
Eve.
The Second Creation Account
• Genesis has two
distinctly different
narratives regarding
the creation.
• The style and
viewpoint of the story
abruptly changes in
the second chapter.
• The second creation
account (Gen. 2:4—
25), the J version
• Presents a more
anthropomorphic view of
god. This account refers to
God as Yahweh, not
Elohim.
• God is portrayed as a just
but stern father-figure who
is capable of suspicion,
anger, and defensiveness
when his authority is
threatened by the first
human couple.
Differences Between the J and E Accounts
In the priestly or E version man and woman are created simultaneously
And appear only AFTER all lower forms of life have already been
Created.
In the second or J version, Adam is made early in the creative process,
Then animals are made and Yahweh brings them to Adam to be named.
(Gen. 2:18—20). When no animal is acceptable as Adam’s helpmate,
Yahweh creates Eve from Adam’s rib.
In this account, woman is definitely an afterthought, and she is
Instrumental in man’s fall from grace.
This second version, the one most commonly taught in the JudeoChristian framework, is a perfect example of what people believe
Depending on the cultural mythos taken into one’s psychology.
According to J,
It is through the
Woman that the
Mysterious serpent
Seduces Adam into
Eating the fruit from
The Tree of Knowledge
Of Good and Evil.
Not mentioned as an
Apple, just fruit.
Here Kitty, Kitty!
Adam and
Eve being
Driven
From
The
Garden
After
The
Fall.
Tree of
Knowledge
Of
Good
And
Evil.
After the Fall Yahweh curses man with futile labor and with death;
Woman with the pain of childbirth and domination by the male.
J’s account answers several age-old questions:
Why is life so difficult?
Why must we work so hard to live?
Why is giving birth so painful?
Why must we die?
The purpose of a cultural mythos once again: to provide
Explanations.
An interesting aspect of J’s anthropomorphic portrait of Yahweh
Is his vision of the god’s motive for exiling man from paradise.
In Genesis 3:22—24, Yahweh interprets man as an incipient rival
Who must be prevented from acquiring more godlike attributes.
The man, he observes, “has become like one of us, with his knowledge
Of good and evil” (possibly a metaphor for knowing everything).
Then, so that man will not eat from the Tree of Life “and live forever,”
Yahweh banishes the newly weds from Eden and posts an angel with
A flaming sword to keep them from the crucial Tree of Life.
As late as classical Greece the two major qualities that distinguished
The gods from men were the former’s superior knowledge and immortality
Since humankind had already acquired forbidden knowledge, Yahweh
Prevents their becoming fully like the other divine powers by denying
Them everlasting life.

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