Friday, September 30, 2005

In the Beginning

In BSF we are studying Genesis and for the past three weeks have been specifically focused on the creation. I ran across something today that was not addressed in our lesson. Genesis 1.24-27 gives the account of the sixth day of creation in which God created animals and then people, both male and female. These verses say that people would have authority over all the animal life on earth. But later in chapter 2, we have a different story. In verse 7 God creates a man, and then in 18-19 he creates animals in an effort to find a suitable companion for the man. When a suitable companion wasn't found among the animals, God then made a woman (v. 21-22).

So we have here two different accounts with a very noticeable difference. If all of the bible is meant to be taken literally, as some say, how do we explain these differing stories? How literally should we take the creation stor(ies)--is it "gospel truth"? Or are these two stories simply two different oral traditions handed down over time that were meant to explain a difficult concept? Perhaps parts of the bible are meant to show us that humans have always had an imperfect understanding of God.

For the record, these differing stories in no way shake my faith in God. This is simply further confirmation for me that human attempts to fully understand God fall very short and that many doctrines that have been adhered to as "truth" are imperfect in their truthfulness.

11 comments:

Tony Arnold said...

For far too long Christians have gotten hung up focusing on whether a particular passage is literal or not literal. And while they are hung up trying to find arguments to prove it was literal, they miss the literal message.

Your point is well made. We need to quit worrying so much about the earliest books being completely literal and look at the story that is being told, how it applies to us, and what it tells us about the nature of God.

Tony

Brent said...

This section of scripture is not what it appears to be. The NIV translation attempts to gloss over the contradictions between the two creation accounts.

I know that BSF doesn't allow the attendees to use extrabiblical material (which is ridiculous, but another subject altogether), but the best explanation that exists out there is that these are two DIFFERENT stories written by two different traditions. The theory is part of the Documentary Hypothesis and is an evangelical nightmare.

EVERYONE should read Friedman's "Who Wrote the Bible." It is easy to read through because it isn't written in a scholarly fashion. It does send us down a rabbit hole that we may not be willing to go down, but it is a vital step toward getting to the "truth" of the matter. Please read it if you can.

JMG said...

I took a bible as literature class years ago and remember talking about the different "authors" or "storytellers" in Genesis. I didn't remember this blatant difference in the two accounts I mentioned, but I'm not surprised by it either.

JMG said...

I agree, Tony. I think too much time is spent on both sides, trying to prove it and disprove it. If you believe it's literal, then believe it and learn from it. If you don't believe it's literal, take it or leave it, learn from it or don't. And for goodness sake, quit wasting time trying to convince others either way who don't want to be convinced.

Bar Bar A said...

Very insightful! Glad you shared this. I too choose to believe that the Bible is God's Word and even though my human brain may not be able to make sense of it all - I trust it all!

jettybetty said...

Bummer, I should have done BSF this year--sounds very interesting--did these differences come out in the notes--or is it something you picked up on??

JB

JMG said...

It isn't addressed in the questions; I'll find out Wednesday if it's in the notes. It'll sure be interesting to see what their take is on it.

jettybetty said...

I think so, too--hopefully, you will share with me??
JB

JMG said...

Of course!

Wasp Jerky said...

What troubles me about the creation story is that God punishes Adam and Eve for eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, because they had disobeyed. But they obviously couldn't know that they were being disobedient, since they had no knowledge of good and evil, right? Maybe it will make more sense once I have kids.

JMG said...

What an interesting thought, Kevin!

JB, the discrepancies were not addressed in the lecture, nor are they addressed in the notes. It seems that the NIV translation (which is used for the lessons) uses verb tense to get around this. I will be looking more closely at different transations to find out more.