Week 2: The Creation

Reading

Genesis 1

Question

What is the Word? (continued)

What is a sabbath?


Genesis 1 is a doozy. It’s hard to get more epic than “In the beginning…”, i.e., Bereshit, the first words of the Hebrew text.

Some notes from our discussion:

  • There’s no introduction of God; no paratext; no named narrator. We’re just plunged into a world in which God, the God, is assumed to exist. There’s no theogony here. (And to be clear, this is the Elohim-God.)
  • There are two versions of Creation. In this one, the Elohim-God does the epic seven-day thing.
  • Is there a “logic” to creating, say, land before creating objects on that land? Worth noting some interesting scientific parallels: the water predates everything, just as in the scientific worldview, life indeed came from the water. Indeed, the water seems to exist in the pre-creation time, when God is alone with the deep.
  • As Christine Hayes points out, the idea of a God interacting with the deep would have been familiar to the Ancient Near Eastern audience, as a parallel to the story of Marduk and Tiamat from the Enuma Elish. Marduk, the male “wind”-god, battles with the female Tiamat, or deep; deep might also be a proper noun—(a) God’s breath on Deep, the great goddess of infinite space.
    • the Hebrew ruach, translated in many of our editions as “wind,” is more akin to a “breath,” similar to the “breath of life” that God will later bestow upon His human creations.
    • Unlike previous iterations of the Marduk/Tiamat story, the agent here is not a great battle, nor an explicit copulation, but the Word: God says or commands the world into being.
    • Or… God’s heavy breathing creates the world… 😉
  • God’s position as a Judge is also established here: and He saw that it was good. Does the idea of “good” predate God? Or is God the ultimate good?
    • The good here is not necessarily a moral one, but refers more closely to the idea of craftsmanship: this world is well-made.
    • Would God have made a shoddy world? Or are we to take it that God is essentially improvising as He goes along?
  • Relatedly, can time exist before light?
  • God creates not just the heavens and earth, but also the great whales, also tr. the sea monsters. As @Abdiel mentions: “God didn’t have to create whales.” But He did.
  • There are some interesting architectural connotations to the vault (also tr. firmament, dome).
  • Voice vs. thought: God exists in time, just as the paratactic style of this chapter—and, arguably, much of Genesis and certainly the KJV—emphasizes the sequential, timely order in which events and Creations occur.

Miscellaneous takeaways:

  • “God was basically doing jazz.”
  • “God paved Paradise and put up a parking lot.”
  • Where is the Bad News Bible?

Image credit: NASA.

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