Monday, October 15, 2018

Creation Stories In The Bible Compared To Near Eastern Religious Beliefs

 I want to start by saying this is not a theological post. So, to say it's not "biblical" makes no sense because that's not the point of this article. The goal of this post is to explain what the writer of Genesis says from the perspective of Near Eastern religions. The pagans and Greeks had competing religious views, and much of the first two chapters of Genesis seek to view the world from not only the true God, Yahway but to knock down competing religious worldviews from a Jewish cultural perspective. Also, the Bible is not a science book, nor would the writers have intended it to be such a document.

St. Augustine:
The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but the people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books and matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learned from experience in the light of reason?

The writer, or writers, of the Book of Genesis, molded it to destroy Near Eastern religious symbolism. The Bible was not the first book written, nor was it the first religious book written. Of course, the writers of the Bible didn't think it to be part of a book. Nor at the time was it intended to be part of a book. But God did. In the ancient world, especially in the Near East, there were other creation stories written by pagans who worshipped multiple gods; or, were polytheists. The Book of Genesis was written by Hebrews to counter the Pagan religions and identify the one true God. Writers of the Bible used Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew dialect. The people at the time would have understood the symbolism in The Book of Genesis. The Book of Genesis opens with God Spirit hovering over the sea or a mass of water. At the time, in other religious beliefs a sea monster, yes a sea monster was believed to have been killed and its body split in half to form the heavens in the sky, this is why we see God separate the waters/masses.

 In the Pagan religions, gods created the earth through violence whereas the God of Israel created the Earth with words instead of violence. God created the sun on the fourth day; again this symbolism is something the ancient Hebrews and people at that time would have understood.

It is not a scientific question. The reason God created the sun on the fourth day in the Book of Genesis or it was to flip the worship of the sun on its head. The Israelites portrayed God as the God who created all things and not a God that was subservient. So in the Book of Genesis, it is going through a list of things that God said he created which are things that pagans worshiped; so the Book of Genesis says God created the heavens and the Earth; God created the Sun rather than the sun being in existence before God created it. And God said let there be light, and there was light. That is to say, let time begin. God created time. Also, the Israelites wanted people to know that God was the light and didn't need the sun for himself, but for man.

The Creation story, among other things, is about God creating a habitat for himself to dwell; Heaven and earth. Humankind reflects the image of God.

In other Near East religions, the gods created humanity to serve them, because they needed service. The gods of the ancient world had the same material make-up as humanity. Therefore, the gods were susceptible to sin and death. The God of the Bible did not need man's help to do anything.

The gods of Near Eastern religious beliefs had the same qualities of the elements in that each had the same genetic makeup, but the gods had superiority. Because the gods had both good and evil, relativism ruled, not absolute truth or genuine goodness.

No one created the God of Israel; therefore, absolute truth is possible.

The Book of Genesis is not a science book. It is a book about the character and nature of God & His interpersonal relationship with humankind. The establishment of His kingdom and dwelling place for humans.

In effect, the story of creation in Genesis 1:1-2:3 answers the previous creation stories using the symbolism from a new unique cultural perspective, which explained a truth claim of the one true God.

For many Christians, this has been seen as problematic because view the Bible as all authority and derived as a unique revelation from God. The creation stories are said to give information unassessable to other ancient cultures.

One cannot miss God saying after creating each thing, "it was good," that is to say it was functional. Although this sounds simplistic as a God admiring His creation, it's deeper than that. What Near Eastern creation stories lacked was that because God created it, it was good and that God created things good.

When God said he created man from "dirt" He did not mean from dirt; what God meant is He formed our identity, who we are in Him. By the way, have you tried to make anything out of dirt? You can't. God would have said clay if He wanted to articulate a literal definition, which was not the purpose of the Genesis.

God created man with an identity, unlike any other creature. Regardless of how you believe the world began, with a big bang or what have you; God formed man's identity to steward the land, which has many connotations, and act as His ambassadors on earth. God created man in His image. God interacts with a man on a personal basis, unlike any other creature.

God created man with a soul, unlike other creatures. Whether, like some, you believe the earth is billions of years old, that doesn't negate the fact that God created everything and everything by His will for His purpose, giving humankind a special place on His dwelling; giving man an opportunity to receive salvation, which is a free give, through His son, Jesus Christ.

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had access to eternal life through the Tree of Life. But when God banished the couple from the Garden, they lost the access to eternal life; therefore, God would later send His son to grant eternal life. This tells us Adam and Eve did not have eternal life on their own but access to it through the Tree of Life.

Note: This post is the first in a series, that is not sourced yet; nevertheless, I wanted to post it.

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