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Creation Stories

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A discussion of the 2 creation stories of th bible.... More...
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Paper Abstract:
A discussion of the 2 creation stories in the Genesis book of the Bible. Compares and contrasts the two versions (the J-text and the P-text). Their similarity to creation stories of other religions.

Paper Introduction:
The purpose of this research is to compare and contrast the twocreation stories that appear in the book of Genesis The plan of theresearch will be to set forth the basic components of each of the storiesand then discuss ways in which the pattern of ideas contained in eachresonates with the other with a view toward identifying reasons groundedin theology for which two disparate creation myths might be deliberatelyincluded in a single scripture source Anybody who does not have a religious background

Text of the Paper:
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Vawter (38-9) says that monotheistic Genesis is a response toBabylonian polytheism, and the evidence of Genesis and much of the rest ofthe Hebrew Bible and Old Testament is that the Jews were constantly gettinginto trouble with God for abandoning Yahweh in favor of idols andpolytheism. Thatis why Vawter makes the point that all the fuss and bother about literalismis misdirected and that scientific attributions to Genesis are irrelevantsince Genesis neither affirms nor denies the scientific explanation of theCreation (49). The choice between literalist truth and declaring the competing (andopposite) stories just plain silly editorial decisions, however, might notbe so stark as Campbell suggests. The powerof faith to exert an impact culture, particularly in America, persistedthrough the 19th century, through the 2 th, and into the 21st, such thatthe theological paradigm still resonates with a vocal demographic segment.The trouble is, one need not be a Darwinian partisan to see that one of themost attractive features of Darwin's theory is its internal consistency.The theological paradigm obliges religious adherents who take everythingliterally to embrace two contradictory explanations of the same cosmicevent--namely, the origin of life. They do, per serpent intervention,and are expelled from the Garden, doomed to work the earth from which theycame--programmatically obliged to sweat and suffer pain rather than justblessed with dominion over their environment. The theological paradigm, indeed, faces seemingly insurmountableobstacles vis-à-vis the naturalistic paradigm. More will be said about thatlater. Ed. Beginning with Gen. Mann, for example, puts more emphasis onthe rationale for making the priestly text part of the Hebrew Bible, whichhad a spiritual and moral as well as mythic ethnic agenda. Furthermore, as Vawter notes, quoting a 1948 Biblical Commission,the purpose of Genesis was to: relate in simple and figurative language, adapted to the understanding of a less developed people, the fundamental truths underlying the divine plan of salvation, as well as the popular description of the origin of the human race and of the chosen people (Vawter 32). In the P text male and female were created straight up "in ourimage, after [= same as] our likeness" (1.26)--and in sequence just afterthe last round of beasts. . Anybody who does not have a religious background and who picks up thebook of Genesis could be forgiven for being confused about thecontradictions in it and for questioning how that text could be soseriously regarded as an article of religious faith. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. The plan of theresearch will be to set forth the basic components of each of the storiesand then discuss ways in which the pattern of ideas contained in eachresonates with the other, with a view toward identifying reasons groundedin theology for which two disparate creation myths might be deliberatelyincluded in a single scripture source. Inability to answer such questions and willingness to act oninsufficient information about them repeatedly gets the people of the Bibleinto trouble: Eve, Cain, Noah, Lot's wife, etc. New York: Oxford UP, 1995. 2.4, the creation story is retold, and, much asCampbell says, it specifically and programmatically contradicts theprevious account of the origins of existence. The opening text of Genesis, from 1.1 to 2.4, is attributed to a so-called priestly author (Campbell 1 2, 111f; Mann 14). The Yahwist (Mann 16), or "J"(Campbell 1 2) text, as it is called, covers the period from the creationof the universe to the expulsion from the Garden and the world's firstfamily turns the emphasis away from cosmic paleontology and toward the roleof man in the creation. . According to Marcheschi, there is theological significance in the Jtext's emphasis on the fact that man comes "at the beginning of creation,and all other creatures are made for him" (39). Campbell's view of palpable contradiction is basically that, afterall, the editors of the Hebrew Bible were only human. Only the theology in the background of these texts can help theirapparent contradictions make sense. 2.7; 2.19), and even more by "the present custom ofcommunicating all this archaic lore to our children, as God's eternaltruth" (Campbell 112). . It is inconceivable that those who chose to position the J-text and P-text in the same introductory book of the Bible would not have noticed (a)the discrepancies between those two texts and (b) the similarity of both ofthese creation myths to other myths of other peoples in the same region.Indeed, biblical text in general repeatedly notes that non-Hebrew/Jewish/Israelite peoples of the region had their own sets of godsand goddesses. However, there are differences in howvarious authorities structure narrative. For example, how is it that, like Adam and Eve, you can begood and have dominion yet not be allowed to eat the fruit? The stress on "harmony with the will and commandsof God . A Path Through Genesis. form[s] a nucleus of themes and motifs which continue . Vawterexplains that Genesis is "folk history, not circumstantial history, whichmeans that historical and legendary elements frequently and inevitablyappear side by side" (34). "Genesis Reading Guide." The Catholic Bible: Personal Study Edition. Even religious adherents who are notliteralists and who cite the use of deliberately nonliteral linguisticdevices to make theological points are faced with dueling metaphors. . Unfortunately, trying to account for sucha characterization seems to have contributed to an ethos of literalism,whereby religious adherents to the so-called "theological paradigm" (Kuhn57) customarily (for example) take the word day literally and findthemselves opposing the theory of evolution as articulated by Darwin's Onthe Origin of Species, first published in 1859. 1.26, wherein God gives man "dominion" over the rest ofcreation, along with Gen. Genesis 1:28 informs us that blessing does not exclude human work; indeed it clearly requires some human effort (Mann 15-16). In other words, the creationconfers a certain moral content on the cosmos because of the investment ofthe Creator in its attributes. He discerns thatagenda in Gen. but it is the result ofhuman choice, not God's" (Marcheschi 39). Reference has been made to the J text's linking eating the forbiddenfruit to humankind's condemnation to surviving by sweat of the brow, asdistinct from the P text version's presentation of a somewhat remote,impersonl God who sets human beings in a position of stewardship. This is developing the idea ofa personal God who is engaged with humanity as the Creation, not the cosmicPaleontologist of Genesis 1. Butrepeatedly the stories assert significance for the presence of God in humanconsciousness and for what Mann calls "divine purpose" in the Creation thathuman beings encounter in the vicissitudes of experience (28). R32-46.Vawter, Bruce. were unwilling to let this charming fairy tale go, even though it differed in every detail from the version of creation in seven days already given. Vawter describes what he sees as the undue attention thatscholars gave to how mere man could intuit what the Genesis textcharacterizes as thoughts of God. . These are related butdistinct concepts, and they reinforce the experience of contingency asfundamental. Instead, natural selection, operating in the given environment and with the actual organisms presently at hand, was responsible for the gradual but steady emergence of more elaborate, further articulated, and vastly more specialized organisms (Kuhn 172). It is not enough tosuggest that the creation stories of Genesis have a metaphorical and notliteral character, although Mann comments (14) that the author of Genesis 1"is interested in the artistry of the created order, not in paleontology."To be sure, that much may be discerned from the use of the word day todescribe the span of time God used to accomplish the building of thecosmos. . Equally, the J story,like the P story, was derivative of previous myths originating in theLevant: It is easy to see why the priestly editors of the fourth century B.C. .into the rest of the Hebrew Bible" (1). . That is a challenge in part because not all of the experts agreeabout what can be learned from careful attention to the texts. 1.26) could be followed directly by one in which man was createdbefore them (Gen. 1.22, which contains the injunction to livingcreatures to be fruitful and multiply. Atlanta: John Knox P, 1988.Marcheschi, Graziano. For example, Mann refers to thetext at 1.1-11.26 as the Primeval Cycle, with the creation story beingdivided into two segments: the Creation story as such (1.1-2.3), whichtakes us through the seven-day cycle of creation, and the story of Familyfailure (2.4-4.26), which offers an alternative creation story and givesthe account of Adam and Eve's expulsion from Garden of Eden, Cain's murderof Abel, and the birth of Seth's children (Mann 13). Sargon as a gardener [] beloved of the goddess Ishtar (Campbell 1 3). That is reinforced at Gen. Blessing is a mark of divine grace. . Thus the problem remains: how to reconcile internally inconsistent,however metaphorical, linguistic choices of the Genesis text with what isundoubtedly a serious theological purpose, while avoiding the literalisttrap. the Gilgamesh-like personage . Campbell's first twodivisions, under the heading of the Mythological Cycle, are the Seven Daysof Creation (1.1-2.3) and the Garden and Fall, which closes with the imageof the cherubim guarding Eden from reentry (2.4-3.24), but not life afterthe garden (Campbell 1 1). A theological grounding, indeed,permits disposal of both logic and paleontology, even as it enables anexplanation of the rationale behind the texts with reference to aspects ofhuman experience that overlap and converge with theology--notably, ethics,morality, and of course faith. Jean Marie Hiesberger. . Only Woman is Man's equal.Most important is that the J text constructs a more "intimate" relationshipbetween man and God, and sin is "pervasive . Chicago: The U of Chicago P, 1962.Mann, Thomas. That is, one or moremembers of the Jewish priesthood were responsible for the authorship of theseven-day story of the creation, from the creation of heaven, earth, light,planets, sun, flora, fauna, man, and generational agency on days onethrough six, to the rest on the seventh. It is in the J version of the creation thatAdam is formed out of clay and Eve out of Adam's rib and Adam and Eve aretold not to eat of the forbidden fruit. What shape that may take is eternally problematic,and it is the task of the human being to discern divine purpose and truthand to order life in accord with them. That approach to giving an account of the human position in the cosmoswas surely enough to doom Darwin to literalist religious censure. and . . The experts do seem to agree, at least in general terms, on certainfundamental features of the text. Darwinian theory accountedfor the evolution of life in terms of nature, not in terms of faith. However, Campbell does not pursue thequestion of the "goodness" of the Creation; he is more struck by the patentillogic in the fact that a story in which man was created after the animals(Gen. That is not inconsistent with Mann's idea of cosmic order asproceeding from divine command (after all a set of words) and may even be adistinction without a difference. New American Bible. Campbell's view of the priestly, or "P," text, is that the source ofcreation is the "power of the word [of God], which in primitive thought isfar from 'nothing,' but on the contrary, is the essence of its thing"(112). Thus eating the fruit representsa personal betrayal of the perfection of Eden, and God's wrath begins tomake psychological as well as divine sense. . Not to do so invites trouble. London: Sheed & Ward, 1966. . Mann says that Genesis as a whole sets up a situation inwhich the overarching point is to "represent the continuing relation of allhumankind to God" (28). The two positions about the origin of human life cannot be reconciled,even if what they share is the divine agency of the generation of humanlife. But on the other hand there is a vexed controversy surrounding thecreation story. The Book of the Torah: The Narrative Integrity of the Pentateuch. The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology. The purpose of this research is to compare and contrast the twocreation stories that appear in the book of Genesis. . New York: Penguih, 1978.Kuhn, Thomas H. 1.1 , 1.18, 1.21,and 1.25 by the phrase that "God saw that it [that is, the Creationartifact] was good." It is consistent, too, with what could be called thepriestly context, which connotes acquiescence in religious authority ofwhich the priestly class would have been the chief representative. Vawtertouches on this when he says that "Genesis has used a partly legendaryhistory to teach enduring truths" (34), however vague they may be.Marcheschi says that taken together, J and P show that man is meant tounderstand that the Creation itself is God's creature and is good, thathuman beings are subject to God's plan, and that this God is unique, not tobe shared or diminished or classed with the gods of other cultures(Marcheschi 38). Mann cites scholarship that refers to the "earthy"quality of the story, notably the relationship of mankind with the earthinto which it is deposited. We recognize the old Sumerian garden . . Were the push-pull of contingency not the fundamental reality of humanexperience, then Bible narratives would have no special significance. In that connection, Campbell cites thesimilarity of the first part of Genesis, apparently written in the fourthcentury BC, to the Babylonian creation myth dating from about 3 BC(112). The J-text suggests that the content of that responsibility isnot necessarily going to be obvious and that alienation from certainty,including about God, is mankind's lot (Mann 17). Thetheory, says Kuhn, "recognized no goal set either by God or nature" (171). Works CitedCampbell, Joseph. The P-text emphasizes the idea of moral "charge" or duty toward the Creation(Mann 16). The blessing of human dominion isnot to be interpreted as God's permission for unbridled pursuit of humanends vis-à-vis the rest of creation and the artifacts of human creation butinstead as an articulation of human responsibility for them: [T]hese things are seen not so much as the rewards of hard work as the gifts of a beneficent (if also inscrutable) God. Why is yourbrother's sacrifice all right but not yours, if you both were created inGod's image? According to Mann, this firstsegment of Genesis takes as its principal theme cosmic order as commandedby the power of God (14).

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