[This Article Is Part Of The Old Testament God Series]
A RECURRING criticism of the creation narratives in Genesis 1 and 2 point to the overwhelming similiarities between them and the surrounding cultural myths of the Ancient Near East. The argument, since we can clearly see Egyptian and Mesopotamian influence on the Hebrew creation stories, is that this demonstrates an intrinsic inability to trust the validity of Scripture. After all, if the writer of Genesis simply appropriated other stories and made them Hebraic, does this not profoundly undermine the truth of the Bible?
If we read these narratives as scientific discourse, as a literal rendering teaching us of the origin of all things, then this becomes a significant issue. I am unconvinced, however, that this reading is necessary or even faithful to the text and its original audience. What if we have been reading these stories wrong?
This is not a new thought – I join a long line of prominent Christian thinkers dating back to the earliest records of the Christian movement, a chain of Church Fathers (from Origen to Augustine to Luther, Calvin, and Wesley) who understood Genesis 1 and 2 as metaphor or typology. What if the purpose of these passages was not to teach us about earth and humanity, but about God?
This is precisely what I argue in the paper attached below. Rather than adopting the mythologies of the surrounding Ancient Near East, the Hebrew cosmologies were written as a criticism of them. As theological education for an emerging Israelite nation, the purpose of these narratives was to emphasize the nature of the God of Israel in contrast to the surrounding polytheism, while also conveying His superiority over competing religions.
This is a research piece I am making available for the readers of this blog. I would love to hear your comments. How does this perspective change the way you think about the creation stories in Genesis? Is this a fair envisioning of these passages?
Download The PDF: The Cosmology of Genesis 1
Image Credit: Kevin Dooley