Creation: Truth and Myth

Introduction

There have been a lot of contention in regard to how life came into being. Christians and other religious groups have maintained that creation was done by God as described by the Bible and other holy books. Christians have stuck to the genesis account of creation with some modifying it to suit their respective doctrines and disciplinary influences.

Many conservative Christian groups regard the myths of creation that appear in the initial parts of genesis to be literally correct (Frigge, 2009). They do not doubt that it was conducted by God in six days. Many believe that creation was actually done by God exactly as it is described in the Bible and this actually took place circa 4004 BCE as worked out by Bishop Ussher (Frigge, 2009).

Other groups of conservative Christians have tried to bring together the genesis creation version with findings in science. They, therefore, believe that God created the Earth and all that is in it; in addition, they believe that the Earth is billions of years old (Frigge, 2009).

Most liberal Christian groups simply reject the inerrancy described by the Bible (Halbur, 2007). They point out the fact the individuals who wrote genesis existed in pre-scientific times. Even elementary geology, cosmology, astronomy and biology were far much beyond their knowledge (Frigge, 2009).

This group of Christians tends to accept the creation stories described in genesis as imaginative creative works that have no bearing on reality or myths derived from earlier Mesopotamian creation stories that were re-worked by the ancient Israelites (Halbur, 2007).

This paper seeks to describe creation truths and myths as described in different written Christian interpretations. The paper will greatly refer to two written works, the Saint Mary’s Press College Study Bible and the Frigge’s textbook, The Beginning Biblical Studies. References will also be made from the “book of Genesis” (Frigge, 2009).

Genesis creation narrative

The creation myth is found in the beginning of the book, in the first chapters. The first chapter describes how God created the whole world within six days through divine speech. The creation included mankind on the sixth day and rested on the seventh day (Frigge, 2009). The second chapter of genesis describes the identity of God as the “God of Israel” creating the first man named Adam, placing him in the Garden of Eden and making the first woman Eve from his rib (Halbur, 2007).

Basically, the creation narrative is composed of these two parts that form the initial two chapters of the Bible. While the second part of genesis is a simple narrative that picks from the formation of the first man in the Garden of Eden to the creation of the first woman and the establishment of the institution of marriage, the first part of genesis stands out due to its organization (Halbur, 2007).

The chapter is organized in eight instances of creation that supposedly took place over a six day period. In the first three days of the creation, according to the first chapter of Genesis, God conducted three important divisions.

During the first day, he separated darkness from light, on the second day, he separated the waters below from the waters above and, on the third day, he separated the sea from land (Frigge, 2009). According to Frigge, in the next three days, God creates the stars and the sun, creates fish and fowl in the seas and skies respectively (2009). On the last day, he creates land animals which include mankind.

Genesis story as a myth

It is important to note that myths have varied origins. Many of them are usually fictional but there are some that are based on events that actually took place. Myths, whether fictional or based on actual events are used for different purposes such as explaining things that cannot be explained, to convey religious messages or to keep a group together (Frigge, 2009).

Several texts give an explanation of how a myth develops from a historical event that actually took place. They state that major events that took place in the history of a community are retold and retold to different generations. Eventually, the stories take a deeper level giving rise to a myth. One such myth is the story of exodus (Frigge, 2009).

There have been a lot of controversy surrounding the issue of whether creation is a myth or the truth or whether what is written in genesis is what really took place or it was engineered to suit the needs of the time.

Indeed, many contemporary biblical scholars have asserted that the first major comprehensive draft of the Pentateuch (five books beginning with Genesis to Deuteronomy) were written in the late 7th or 6th century BC by the Jahwist source and they were later expanded to incorporate additional narratives and laws from the Priestly source to create the work we have today (Halbur, 2007).

In the view of these contemporary scholars, the purpose was to come up with a monotheistic creation version in opposition to the polytheistic myth that was being advanced Babylon (Frigge, 2009).

In the Frigge’s text book “Beginning Bible Studies”, the challenges faced by the priestly group are clearly outlined. The priestly was at pains to create a writing that would sound well for reestablished but struggling Jews who were just returning after spending more than a century in exile. These people had gone through enough trouble with their creator (Frigge, 2009).

In setting out to do their work, the priestly had to put into consideration the kind of people they were writing for, their questions and their needs at that time.

The priestly group had to devise a writing that would resonate well with them and lead them back to the ways of God. The priestly redactor decided to create a chronological account of the salvation history that would teach the present and future generations the fundamental beliefs about their God (Halbur, 2007). The chronological account had to have a beginning and, thus, the need for a creation myth. This was important in order to address the people of Israel particularly in regard to the situation they were in at that time.

Thus, the creation myth in Genesis was purely designed to deal with questions that could have been raised by the people (Frigge, 2009).

The truths in the creation myth

The book of Genesis has two creation stories that fit into one narrative (Halbur, 2007). It is said that the words translated in English do capture the full meaning that was in the Hebrew language. This is due to the fact that the Hebrew language uses verb tenses that cannot be found in the English language.

Other words in the Hebrew language are only used in conversations or writings that are related to God. For instance, the bara refers to creation that is done only by God but English does not have such word that describes creations done by God alone. This implies that the myth of creation contained in Genesis has a deeper meaning when described in Hebrew (Frigge, 2009).

Indeed, the myth of creation contains hidden truths that apply to the everyday life. It is also important to note that the translation of the Bible from Hebrew to English led to a significant lose in the meaning.

For instance, creation is popularly associated with the creation of Adam and Eve but a closer analysis of the Bible reveals that it does not feature prominently in the first three chapters of the book of Genesis. Another major misconstruction can be seen by carefully reading chapter 1:27 which states that “God created man in his image, in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them” (Frigge, 2009).

This verse seems to be grammatically wrong it was wrongly translated from the Hebrew language. For English, the word “man” can stand for the male sex or whole human race (Halbur, 2007). In Hebrew, there are two distinct words. Ish refers to a male person while Adam is more commonly used to refer to humankind. Thus, the use of Adam in the book of Genesis simply implies that God created and continues to create the Human race.

There is evidence that in ancient Hebrew, the word Adam was used to symbolize all human beings. Thus, in saying that “God created Adam”, the statement refers to the creation of all human kind (Frigge, 2009). On the other hand, the symbolic meaning of the name “Eve” can be found in Genesis 3:20. It refers to the mother of all (Halbur, 2007).

The story of Adam and Eve is usually introduced to people from an early age. The story usually remains ever present in one’s mind through to adulthood. Scholars have pointed out that this wonderful story can have very serious consequences on a person’s spiritual health.

They warn that the story should not be taken for its literal meaning. For instance, in the first chapter of Genesis, man and woman are created simultaneously but, in the second chapter, the woman is created later (Frigge, 2009). Indeed, the two versions cannot be taken to be literally true. They are simply used to reflect on the human condition.

The story of Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis has been taken literally by many putting people in an awkward relationship with God. Many people who take the story literally think that the story proclaims subservience of women to man (Halbur, 2007). The story seeks to establish the fact that no human being can exist on his/her own.

Another controversial issue that comes up in the creation myth is the statement that humankind, male and female, is created in the divine image of God (Frigge, 2009). Christianity forbids humans from comparing anything o God. It is, thus, not always accepted that humans were created in the same way as God.

Biblical scholars are still debating to identify the precise meaning of this statement. Many have sought assistance from the book of psalms. In psalms 8:6, God is praised for creating humans a bit less than God, crowned with glory and honor (Frigge, 2009). It is important to note that in Hebrew language, an equivalent of the word glory (kabod) is often used to refer to God. But, in this verse, it is applied to humans too.

The word kabod or “glory” refers to the manifestation of God that is visible (Frigge, 2009). The book of psalms indicates that in a way God shares his divine nature with humankind. Thus, the statement that humans were created in the image of God implies that there is a part of God that is shared with humankind. According to the scriptures, the main purpose that humans serve on Earth is to manifest the presence of God.

The statement that humans were created in the image of God was evidently applied by the Priestly redactor to contrast the Israel religious beliefs from that of Babylon (Frigge, 2009). In the Babylon creation myth, human beings are created in order to serve Gods just the same way as slaves serve their masters (Halbur, 2007).

The myth of creation also talks of human beings giving care to other humans and all other living things. An in-depth analysis of this finding shows that God involves human beings in his creation work. Thus, man acts as a co-creator with God and also with other humans. These studies show that woman and man corporate to give the breath from God the creator to new life.

The creation of a woman out of the man’s ribs has long been held as implying that women are subordinate to men. However, the careful study of the book of Genesis with apparent reference to the Hebrew language show that this belief falls (Halbur, 2007).

In the first book of Genesis, God instructs humankind to have dominion over all plants and animals. Many Christians have taken this to mean that human beings can exercise power over plants and animals in any way they feel necessary. When this call to human beings to exercise dominion is analyzed in Hebrew, it means something quite different.

In ancient Israel, the human king was like God’s representative on Earth and, therefore, he was required to rule in the same way as God. In regard to this, the call to “have dominion” implies that the ruler should direct all living things to exist in a peaceful, harmonious and justified manner. Therefore, God’s call to Adam to have dominion over plants and animals did not imply that human beings should manipulate other creatures in whatever way they deem necessary (Halbur, 2007).

The call was intended to mean that human beings should act as God’s representatives on Earth and ensure that everything is moving in the right direction. Thus, in as much as humans are required to depend on God at any given moment, they have the power to rule over other animals. They are simply created to assist God and represent him on Earth.

This description of the creation of human beings and their purpose is seen in the first story of creation. The first story is often thought to have been sourced from Priestly own writing tradition. Priestly must have seen this account of creation to be incomplete (Frigge, 2009).

They must have taken a look at how the relationship between God and Israel had changed over the years. Priestly saw that the relationship described in the first chapter of Genesis had not materialized. The initial plan that God for humanity had failed and so Priestly had to create another myth.

According to Frigge, the second story or myth was sourced from the Jewish tradition and it told of how God had made man out of clay from the ground then blew into his nostrils the breath of life (2009). In genesis 2:7, the Bible describes how God formed humans out of Earth. In Hebrew, the word used to represent the wind that God blew into Adams nostrils can be used to mean wind, breath or spirit. Thus, Adam only becomes a living human after he has been infused with the spirit/breath (Frigge, 2009).

The symbolic meaning of this is to portray human beings as being complex combinations of very different things. The divine part of humans can be regarded to be God’s own spirit. Human beings can also be described as weak earthly creatures. But human beings forget that they should depend on God for life and more often they put themselves at the same level as God (Halbur, 2007).

Conclusion

This paper sought to describe creation truths and myths as described in different written Christian interpretations. It has been established that the two first chapters of the book of Genesis are made of two contrasting myths that describe how God created man kind and all other things. However, things accounts are only contrasting when the literal meaning is taken. Deeper analysis, with a lot of support from the original Hebrew language, establishes the real meaning of these creation myths.

References

Frigge, M. (2009). Beginning Biblical Studies. Winona: Anselm Academic.

Halbur, V. (2007). Saint Mary’s Press College Study Bible. Winona: Saint Mary’s.