The following brief notes introduce some of the themes of Genesis and some of the more important points about creation as the Bible describes it.
The opening verses of the Book of Genesis (taken seriously as a divinely-inspired and accurate document) provide an answer to the many modern day philosophies. Dr. Henry Morris has called attention to the following list of philosophies which Genesis answers:
||"Take another myth widespread in our day, the myth of evolution. In the last century, by and large, this myth began to take over the scientific world, again without a shred of empirical evidence to support it. Any attempt to try to set forth anything to the contrary is met with ridicule and mockery, put down as though those who hold any other view are village idiots, incapable of reasoning with intelligent men. Yet I find that many Christians believe the myth of evolution. They do not seem to understand the theological implications which evolution teaches, without any support from science, that our race is descended from apes and other animals so that there never was or could be a fall. By denying the fall evolution teaches that there is no need for any redemptive act on the part of God. Why should we need to be redeemed if we have never fallen? That is the theology of the lie of evolution." (Ray C. Stedman)|
All the great themes of the Bible have their origins in Genesis, "The Book of Beginnings." The first appearance of a word, a subject, or a theme deserves special note throughout Genesis. Biblical themes come back together in the Book of the Revelation, like trains rushing into Grand Central Station from all points of the compass (J. Vernon McGee).
"In the beginning was the word [logos] and the word was with God and the word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and apart from him was not anything made that was made." (John 1:1-3)
The "beginning referred to in John is an earlier beginning than that of Genesis 1:1, since John's gospel describes the conditions that existed within the Godhead prior to the work of creation. The Biblical picture of God and creation begins with the assumption that before the universe was created, God was. God is outside of time, He is the Creator of what we call time.
God had no need to create the universe. We are arrogantly accustomed to think of ourselves as the center of things and even to imagine that we are gods in our own right. In actual fact we are created beings and all we are comes from God. All that we ever can be or will be will be due to God's gracious actions on our behalf in the future. We are mere house guests in Someone else's universe, and thus fully accountable to the Owner and Heir of all things, Jesus Christ the Lord. The letter to the Hebrews states it this way,
"...consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession. He was faithful to Him who appointed Him [the Father], just as Moses also was faithful in God's house. Yet Jesus has been counted worthy of as much more glory than Moses as the builder of a house has more honor than the house. (For every house is built by some one, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God's house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ was faithful over God's house as a son. And we are His house if we hold fast our confidence and pride in our hope. " (Hebrews 3:1-6)
God is inherently complete and whole, perfect in His Being, all-powerful, infinite. Therefore the entire creation adds nothing to who He is. (Although one plus infinity is still infinity, this analogy falls short of describing the transcendent Beingness of the living God). The creation was not a whimsical action of God because He had nothing else to do, (see Is. 45:18). God had in mind a grand plan for everything including man. This plan is unfolded for all who are willing to see, through the course of the Bible, so as to reveal many levels of meaning, beauty, and splendor in God's manifold plan for His creation.
Evolution supposes that man is the result of a series of accidents of time plus chance. There is no basis for morality or purpose beyond that which man defines for himself. There is no ultimate accountability outside of Man, since Man determines his own fate and destiny. This view of origins is not merely an alternative to a Biblical world-view, it is an anti-Christian view of things.
The Bible does not teach the existence of any primeval matter
or raw material before God's work of creation began. The New Testament
assures us that the Son of God was destined to become a man in
order to die for the sins of the world, (Rev. 13:8). This unique
Son of God, Jesus Christ the Lord, is the member of the Godhead
through whom the universe came into existence. John's gospel
continues, "The same was in the beginning with God."
When God spoke things into existence He did so through His eternal
Son, the Word according to these opening words of the gospel of
John. The design of the universe was conceived in the Mind of
the Father. This plan was executed by the Son. The universe is
powered and energized by the Spirit, who also gives life. Jesus
is said to be "the heir of all things" as well---the
universe was created for him as well as through him.
The first time God is mentioned in Genesis the Hebrew name of God, Elohim is used. This uni-plural noun is used 2750 times in the OT and 32 times in Genesis One. El (God as "great, strong, mighty") is singular, Eloah is the dual form (uncommon in Hebrew usage) and Elohim is three or more persons. Elohim usually takes a singular verb. The word "Allah" is the Arabic equivalent of El, however Allah of the Moslems is derived from a pagan deity known in the Babylonian Mystery religion. The many gods (plural) of the pagans are called "elohim" in the Old Testament. The attributes of Allah as revealed in the Koran and in the traditions of Islam show clearly that he is not at all the same being as the God of Israel.
Hebrew has several words for "creating," "making," "building," or "forming." "created"--- bara, is used only in referring to God in the Hebrew Bible. This word occurs in Gen. 1:1, also in v21, 27. Usually bara is understood to be creation ex nihilo, "out of nothing." God also "makes" ( asah), "causes to appear" ( hayah), "forms ( yatsar), "establishes" ( kun). Man is "creative" because we were made very much like God. We are inventors, artists, designers, innovators and exercise imagination but not in the sense that God is the Creator. Only God can call things into existence that do not exist. Incidentally, our term "Creation" (referring to the universe) implies a Creator.
In verse one of Genesis we also encounter the phrase "The heavens and the earth." Heavens, (shemayim, is plural, and is equivalent to the New Testament term "heavenly places," or "the heavenlies.") The lowest heaven is the atmosphere where the birds fly, the intermediate heavens is stellar space where the stars and galaxies are found. The third heaven is the spiritual realm where God and the angels dwell. (See 2 Cor. 12:2 for Paul's experience of being caught up into this third heaven). The created universe consists of a physical, material world and an invisible spiritual world. The latter is permanent and enduring, the former is fading away (Heb. 11:3, 2 Cor. 4:18, 5:7). The visible and invisible realms are coupled together and interrelated. Science does not have a means to deal with the spiritual world, nor with the question of origins!
"the earth"--- eretz, (land, earth), in Genesis Chapter 1, verse 1 seems to refer to unformed solid matter out of which the planet earth will shortly be formed. Quite probably this first usage of "earth" implies all of created matter as contrasted with space, time and energy which were also created on Day One. The planet earth itself was later "formed out of water and by means of water" according to the Apostle Peter. (See Psalm 104:6) The Bible knows nothing of a hot, molten beginning for the earth! Vulcanism apparently is (I believe) a consequence of the fall of the angels and the many disruptions of nature that resulted. See The Early History of the Earth.
The creation of the angels was probably on Day One. The angels seem to be observers of the creation work of God (Job 38:7). Not all Bible scholars believe the angels were created on Day One. Some think they were created on Day Four when the sun, moon and stars were formed. But in either case, the angels were in existence by the end of the creation week (see Gen. 2:1). The angels, both fallen and unfallen, play an important role in the behind-the-scenes-government of the created universe. (See Heb. 2:5 which says that the age to come will be under the dominion of man, however the clear implication of this verse is that angels are now ruling the present age as instruments of God in His governmental system of the universe). When Jesus calmed a storm on the Sea of Galilee, He evidently spoke to an angel who was in charge of the winds and waves. The angels inhabit the heavenly places (which were created on Day One). They are created spirit beings. The fall of one group of the angels brought about a major disruption to the physical universe, in addition to leading to the fall of man. Fallen and unfallen angels are constantly at war in the unseen world. Through the weapons of spiritual warfare given us, we believers are invited into the fray.
"unformed and uninhabited"--- tohu wa bohu. The raw material for constructing the universe (space, time, and matter) was first brought into existence. Then light (energy in all its forms) was created. The creation was yet without form and structure, and it was uninhabited. Isaiah 45:18 states that God did not create the universe in order to leave it in a state that was tohu wa bohu. Note: the "Gap Theory" has been refuted by Hebrew scholars who note that each of the phrases of Gen. 1 is connected to the next by the Hebrew waw translated "and"---indicating a successive series of connected events. Seven times during creation week the creation is pronounced "good" or "very good"---indicating the angels have not yet fallen and there is no evil in the entire universe.
See Understanding the Hebrew of Genesis One, by James Stambaugh.
"The Spirit of God moved over the face of the waters..."---"brooded," or "fluttered," or "vibrated"---as an eagle broods over her chicks in the nest. God is the loving hands-on Artisan who personally constructed the entire universe step by step (over six days) after creating the raw materials out of nothing. He is concerned for every detail and every sparrow.
Father, Son, and Spirit all active in the work of creation: God the Father is the Architect and Designer of the Universe. The Son of God spoke the universe into being (John 1:1). The Spirit energizes, empowers, and imparts life into the creation. The universe came into existence by what is called by theologians "divine counsel."
Creation is not now going on---God's creative work encompassed a fixed time interval after which He ceased creating. As God worked to create, now He also sustains the universe, and, thirdly, He redeems the universe. Neither is God an absentee Landlord, nor is he uninvolved in the daily affairs of the entire universe. God finished the work of creation on the seventh day. During creation week the ordinary laws of physics would be suspended. Modern science sometimes admits that God could be a "First Cause"---meaning He set the universe into motion, but secular science knows nothing of the processes of creation, of God's sustaining and redeeming workings. Though God is not now creating the universe, He is still working, (John 5:17) and not permanently "resting" from active involvement in every facet of the government and management of the universe and human affairs. Ordinarily God works through His own laws and usually does not by-pass these laws, hence the statement in Romans, "how unsearchable are God's judgments and His ways beyond finding out."
The Other Side: A Commitment To Materialism, "...We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so-stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a-priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door..." Richard Lewontin (evolutionist) "Billions and Billions of Demons", The New York Review, January 1997, p.31
THE BLIND MEN AND THE RADIOACTIVE ELEPHANT
PITFALLS OF MODERN GEOCHRONOLOGY
Bernard E. Northrup
There were six men of modern day of learning so profound,
Who sought by six ingenious means to give mankind a ground---
A way to date an elephant---how long he had been around.
The first came near with full intent of ending discussion soon.
On finding the hay caught in its hair He went shouting around the room:
"Each sprig of hay must mean a year he has seen the prairies bloom!"
The second thought with open awe on this postulate so bold,
Then raised the ante by ten times: "Agreed! What but winter's cold
Could stretch this poor nose so? Each inch is a century old!"
The third, in fear of oblivion by never being heard
"By hair on proboscis count---" forthright his theory shared,
"---His nose evolved long, long ago when first his tusks were paired!"
The fourth upon the daisy chain of 'sound' presumption built
With awesome scientific brain. By counting the creature spilt
Concluded: "Ten millennia! I'll back it to the hilt!"
The fifth, now wiser than his friends, regarded all with scorn.
His Ph.D. in straw decay backed research done since morn.
"By isotopic measurement 'twas a million years when born!"
The sixth, accumulating evidence beyond the quest of man
Had sampled tartar from its teeth in quantitative pan
And cried, assured by chemistry: "A billion years its span!"
So each, spurred on by others guess got farther from the truth.
Each, measuring from presumption when announcing his "forsooth,"
Ascribed eons long and epochs as the age of the elephant youth.
Now to six views of pachyderm I haste to find another.
For finding out his obscure age I assure you that I'd rather
Forget abused chronology and ask the elephant's Father!
"Let there be light"---not the first of God's creative actions, which would be the case if the Big Bang secular model of creation were a correct model. God created space and matter and time. Then He created light which energized the creation. I suspect that it is possible that the observed background radiation of free space is the residue remaining from the initial flooding of the universe with photons which was the second of God's creative acts. All this creative work of God was accomplished on the First Day.
"light divided from darkness"---The sun moon and stars are not yet in existence until the Fourth Day. The light on Day One may be diffuse, coming from all directions. It is not clear if the earth has yet been formed into a rotating sphere. God separated the light from the darkness. The light is called good in scripture, the darkness is not commented upon. The motion of the sun, moon, and stars, established on Day Four, governs the measurement of time (dynamical time) and regulates the seasons and cycles of nature. Dynamical time is set by Newton's Law of Gravity, whereas modern time standards in science are measured by atomic time. According the recent evidence, these two clocks are not necessarily locked in step with each other.
"the deep" (Hebrew, tehom). Water (H2O) seems to have been in existence from the very beginning of God's creative work. Water is liquid only between 32 and 212 degrees F under normal atmospheric pressure. Peter affirms that the earth was "formed out of water and by means of water" (2 Peter 3:5). The Bible infers the existence of large amounts of water in space as well as on the earth. Noted Added: 2 Peter 2 indicates that the original earth was formed out of water and by means of water. The recent discovery of "Metallic water," is fascinating. The discovery of conducting water existing at very high temperatures and pressures may prove to be key in understanding the formation of stars and galaxies.
"day"---the usual Hebrew word for "day" is yom, which ordinarily means the usual 24-hour day. It is God the Holy Spirit who defines the "day" for us. (After all He was present during Creation Week, and we were not!) "Universe Under Construction:" Time as we known it must have had very little meaning until the entire creation had been assembled by the end of the sixth day. The universe is a system and was not a functioning, integrated, operating, historical place until God had finished His creative work at the end of Day Six. The clock of history was then set in motion. Furthermore, the universe we live in has been seriously disrupted. We now live in a fallen universe. Disruptions in the laws of physics occurred at the time of the fall of the angels, and perhaps also at the time of the Flood of Noah. We can not extrapolate observations made by modern day physics in the past century back to the moment of creation (t = 0), since there is at least one major discontinuity in the early history of the universe. The Apostle Peter specifically tells us that the principle of uniformitarianism is not true! That is, there have indeed been disruptions in the created order in the past. The mystery of time is largely veiled from human understanding, (Eccl. 3:11) The pairing of the days of creation (1-4, 2-5, and 3-6) shows that God moves from outside of time in His designs and workings, again we must be content to see that "His ways are past finding out," (Rom. 11:33).
The creation of the man---God made man, male/female in his own image and likeness. It takes both male and female perspectives to adequately convey God's image in the human race. Man was created only after the rest of the ecosystem was in place and functional, on the Sixth Day. Although God is called "He" in Scripture all the characteristics of the feminine are found in His Being. Yet God is not a sexual Being as most of the pagan deities are.
No evil in the universe at the end of Creation Week! Note Genesis 1:31. Everything God had created is said to be "very good." The angels ("the host of heaven") are in existence, but none of the angels has yet fallen. Man, nature and God are in perfect harmony. No sin, no death, no Second Law of Thermodynamics!
Creation affirmed by the New Testament---The creation of the universe, and everything in it, by the One God, Elohim is clear from the NT. John 1:1-4 states,
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men."
Writing to the Colossians the Apostle Paul says of Jesus Christ, the Son of God:
"He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities---all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Col. 1:15-20).
The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews opens his letter with these words:
"In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has obtained is more excellent than theirs."
John the Apostle describes the Son of God as the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last:
"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty...Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden girdle round his breast; his head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters; in his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth issued a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand upon me, saying, "Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one; I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. (Rev. 1:7-18)
(From notes February 2, 1992)
For a look at the action verbs and the stages of creative activity by God during creation week as found in Genesis 1, see,
The Internal Structure of the Book of Genesis
Moses is the author of the first five books of the Bible, (the Pentateuch, or Torah), according to the Jewish understanding. Historical Christian understanding agrees---supported not only by Jewish tradition but also by the New Testament and the words of Jesus Himself. (See Ex 17:14, 24:4-8, 34:27; Num 33:1,2; Deut 31:9,22,24; 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 14:6; Ezra 6:18, Neh 13:1, etc.; and Mt 19:8; Mk 1:44; 10:4, 5; Lk 5:14; 16:31; 20:37; Acts 3:22; 13:39; 15:5ff; 26:22; Rom 10:5, 19; 1 Cor 9:9; 2 Cor 3:15; Rev 15:3). (Deuteronomy Chapter 24 was evidently added by a later writer since it speaks of the death of Moses).
Moses evidently compiled the Pentateuch from sources we are not told about in the Bible. These could have included: (a) 100% direct inspiration or revelation from the Holy Spirit, (b) oral traditions passed down from Adam through the godly line of Seth to Abraham, etc., (c) written records preserved by various of the patriarchs supplemented by God-given additional inspired textual material. Option (c) is most likely as discussed below.
The time of Moses' writing of the Torah (during the Exodus from Egypt) would have been around 1400 BC at which time perhaps 2500-4000 years had elapsed since Adam left the garden. Computer studies of the Hebrew text of the Pentateuch conducted in Israel in recent years show that all of these five books of the Bible had a single author, (namely Moses) regardless of the source material Moses used.
There are eleven clear internal divisions in the text of Genesis. The key phrase marking these divisions are the words, "These are the generations of..." (The word "generations" in the Hebrew is toledoth). Note that the New Testament opens with the words, "The book of the generations of Jesus Christ..." The weight of evidence suggests the respective names attached to each of these divisions represent closing signatures or subscripts added by the patriarchal writers of each section. The eleven divisions are as follows:
- "These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth" (Genesis 2:4). The author of Chapter 1:1 through 2:4a was the Holy Spirit Himself since there was no human observer to record the events of creation week.
- "This is the book of the generations of Adam" (Genesis 5:1). Adam could have actually left a written record which comprises Genesis 2:4b through 5:1.
- "These are the generations of Noah" (Genesis 6:9). Noah evidently wrote down this section of Genesis and passed it on to his sons in written form.
- "Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth" (Genesis 10:1). Noah's three sons seem to be credited with the section of Genesis which concludes with 10:1.
- "These are the generations of Shem" (Genesis 11:10). Shem's contribution is reflected in the abbreviate account of Japheth's lineage (they were scattered abroad and probably lost touch with Shem), and the full detail preserved concerning the descendants of Shem. Also, the Holy Spirit seems to have been careful to preserve the line of promise from Eve to Messiah.
- "Now these are the generations of Terah" (Genesis 11:27). Terah perhaps kept the brief record from 11:10-27.
- "Now these are the generations of Ishmael" (Genesis 25:12). The line of Ishmael is noted in the brief section that ends with the signature of 25:12.
- "And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham's son" (Genesis 25:19).
- "Now these are the generations of Esau, who is Edom" (Genesis 36:1).
- "And these are the generations of Esau the father of the Edomites in Mount Seir" (Gen. 36:9).
- "These are the generations of Jacob" (Genesis 37:2).
God says in Genesis 26:6 that Abraham "kept Torah," i.e., he evidently had written "commandments, statutes and laws" from God which had been handed down to him. There are a number of good reasons for believing that Hebrew is the original one language of mankind up to the confusion of tongues at the Tower of Babel.
The toledoth model does not negate the claims of Scripture given about itself since:
"All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16,17)
"First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." (2 Pet 1:20, 21)
For a thorough and helpful discussion of the toledoth model for the contributors to the source books Moses used to write Genesis, see Henry Morris, The Genesis Record, Creation-Life Publishers, San Diego, CA. 1976. See also the Introductory Notes to the Harper Study Bible published by Zondervan. James Montgomery Boice also discusses this authorship model in his outstanding commentary, Genesis (Baker Books, 1998). The substantive model for the internal structure of Genesis as described above is found in P. J. Wiseman, Ancient Records and the Structure of Genesis, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, New York 1985) Added March 14, 1992
THE BOOK OF GENESIS: A. NAME AND OUTLINE (by R. K. Harrison)
While Genesis is an anonymous work, as are the other four books of the Pentateuch, its attributive author is Moses. However, to what extent he wrote any of its contents, with the possible exception of all or part of the Joseph narratives, is unknown. In attributing Mosaic authorship to the Pentateuch as a whole, conservative scholars have pointed out that the Torah in its entirety must not necessarily be assumed to have been the work of his own hands, any more than any of the stelae of antiquity were the product of direct activity on the part of their attributive authors. Some writers, such as Young, have not precluded the possibility that the writer drew on earlier written sources, but in general the ascription of Mosaicity to the Pentateuch implies its historicity and its formulation by Moses under divine inspiration, with the supposition that later editors may have revised the contents somewhat in accord with the traditions of the ancient Near Eastern scribes.
The Jews designated Genesis according to its initial word, bereshith which is almost always incorrectly translated in English by the phrase "In the beginning." In Talmudic times the work was known as the "Book of the Creation of the World," while the English title "Genesis" was actually derived from the LXX rendering of Genesis 2:4a, "This is the book of the geneseos of heaven and earth," and from the subsequent headings (Gen. 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10; 11:27; 25:12; 25:19; 36:1; 36:9; and 37:2), the nature of which will be dealt with shortly.
On the basis of the extant Hebrew text the book can be analyzed as follows:
I. Prehistory: the Creation Record, 1:1-2:3
II The Story of Man, 2:4-11:26
III. The Choice of Abraham, 11:27-23:20
IV The Choice of Isaac, 24:1-26:35
V. The Choice of Jacob, 27:1-36:43
VI. The Choice of Judah; the Joseph Narratives, 37:1-50:26
B. Toledot AND THE ORIGINS OF GENESIS
According to the Graf-Wellhausen documentary hypothesis of Pentateuchal origins, Genesis assumed its present form through various editorial processes that saw a combination of elements of J, E, and P sources into a continuous document. In the view of those who advocate the "traditio-historical" approach to the problem of Pentateuchal compilation, Genesis arose through the preservation of "cycles of tradition" that grew up in various areas in oral form. These "traditions" developed around focal events such as the Passover and other similar occurrences significant for the religious life of the nation and found expression in the rituals and liturgies of the Israelites. In the more moderate forms of both these views there is no necessary attempt to deny historicity to the material involved, even though most of the scholars who support these approaches would prefer to attribute general rather than specific historicity to the subject matter.
The present writer does not support either of these positions, and prefers to examine the problem of the compilation of Genesis against a background of ancient Near Eastern literary activity. It should be observed as a general principle that there may well be quite a number of sources designated in the Old Testament writings which have not actually been recognized as such by most modern scholars. Genesis appears to be a case in point, with the clue to the underlying sources being provided, not by the incidence of the divine names or the presence of supposed duplicate narratives, but by the phrase translated "these are the generations of", an expression that has perplexed a great many scholars, and regarded by the exponents of the classic documentary theory as a characteristic of the Priestly Code.
In order to appreciate the significance of the Hebrew term toledot, it will be necessary to examine briefly the nature and format of cuneiform communications in the ancient world. Clay was the preferred material upon which the wedge-shaped symbols were impressed, and the resultant tablets, which could contain a wide range of literary material, varied in size and shape from a tiny square to a large cylinder. The general style of a tablet furnished some indication as to its contents; and as far as single tablets were concerned, the material communicated usually consisted of letters, contracts, invoices, business correspondence, genealogical tables, and the like. Generally speaking individual tablets were not made too large, partly because of the sheer weight of the clay and more particularly because a large tablet would be more likely broken than a smaller one.
It was the normal practice in Near Eastern antiquity for single communications of this kind to commence with some sort of title, followed by the body of the text, and then a colophon, which would sometimes contain, among other things, a hint as to the identity of the scribe or owner of the tablet and the date when the tablet was written. The imprint of a button or cylinder seal upon the clay tablet helped to identify the owner of the communication. If a more lengthy communication required more than one tablet, the proper sequence of the series was preserved by a system of titles, catch-lines, and numbering. The title was normally taken from the opening words of the tablet, and these were frequently repeated at the end of each subsequent tablet, being followed by the serial number of that particular tablet. The catch-line attempted to insure the continuity of the narrative by repeating the first few words of the following tablet at the end of the previous tablet, so that, if a series of tablets became disarranged, there could be no doubt as to which word or words were to be read immediately after the conclusion of a tablet. This practice is still followed in some modern legal documents, and occurs also in the Hebrew Bible, where on the bottom left-half margin the first word or two of the following page is to be found.
The colophon, which concluded the individual tablet or the series, normally contained the name of the scribe or the owner of the tablet, as has been remarked above, and frequently it also included some attempt at dating. In addition, it often embodied the title given to the narrative, and if the tablet was part of a series it furnished the serial number and a statement as to whether the tablet did or did not conclude the series.
That the expression "these are the generations of" is a distinguishing phrase of Genesis has long been recognized by adherents of the Graf-Wellhausen theory, as well as by more conservative scholars. S. R. Driver affirms that,
"the narrative of Genesis is cast into a framework, or scheme, marked by the recurring formula "these are the generations (lit. begettings) of"the center narrative as we now possess it is accommodated to it."
While Ryle could state that the phrase bore a close relation to the structure of the Priestly Code in Genesis, he rejected the subdivision of the book on the basis of this formula, although on entirely subjective grounds. Other commentators of widely varying schools of thought, however, divided Genesis up into sections that commenced with the phrase.
But while scholars were agreed as to the importance of the expression they appear to have misunderstood entirely both its usage and significance for the literary origins of Genesis. The reason for this is quite simple, for as Wiseman has pointed out, many of the sections in Genesis commence, as is frequently the case in ancient documents, with genealogy. This practice led scholars to associate the phrase "these are the generations of" with the genealogical list in those cases where such register of individuals followed; hence they assumed, quite without warrant, that the phrase was being employed as a preface or introduction. Thus Driver could consider it as belonging properly to a genealogical system, implying that the person to whose name it was prefixed was of sufficient importance as to make a break in the genealogical series. For Driver it also indicated that the person named, along with descendants, would form the subject of discussion in the ensuing section until another name was reached that could be considered prominent enough to form the commencement of a new passage.
This assertion, however, is completely contrary to the facts, for examination of the evidence in relation to the latter part of the statement would indicate that Abraham, the most prominent person in Genesis, ought certainly to have been named in connection with the phrase under discussion. Yet curiously enough, while other lesser individuals were mentioned in the various records in this manner, there is not one instance where the phrase "these are the generations of Abraham" occurs in the Hebrew text. Furthermore, the phrase does not by any means always belong to a genealogical list, since in certain cases there is no addendum of such tabular material.
What is evident, however, is that the principal facts concerning the individual involved have been recorded before the incidence of the phrase in question, and that they are not recorded after its occurrence. Thus when the expression "These are the generations of Adam" (Gen. 5:1) occurs, nothing more is stated about Adam apart from a mention of his age at death. Again, the record that follows the sentence "These are the generations of Isaac" (Gen. 25:19) is not so much a history of Isaac, son of Abraham, as a chronicle of events that occurred in the lives of Jacob and Esau. Still further, after the phrase "These are the generations of Jacob" (Gen. 37:2), the narrative deals with the story of Joseph, it mentions Jacob only in a rather incidental manner as the unfolding of events warranted. This peculiarity has been a source of embarrassment to people and to the vast majority of commentators schooled in critical methods of Graf, Kuenen, and Wellhausen, and in view of the fact that the phrase quite clearly does not constitute an introduction preface to the history of a person, as is commonly imagined, it is of some importance to determine its precise meaning.
The Hebrew for "generations" in the expression under discussion is toledot, and not the ordinary Hebrew word dor, which is translated "generations" over one hundred and twenty times in the older English versions. Dor corresponds to the word "generations" as implied by common English usage, and can refer to a past (Isa. 51:9) or future (Exod. 3:15) period, a class of people (Deut. 32:5), or to the heirs of a covenant (Gen. 17:7, 9). Toledot occurs ten times in Genesis in such a manner as to lend itself to the division of the material associated with it into eleven sections, each being styled "the generations of" it also occurs in isolation from a stereotyped phrase in Genesis 10:32; 25:13; 36:9 and elsewhere in the Old Testament.
The word originated in the Hebrew root yalad, "to bear," "to beget," which doubtless accounts for the English rendering "generation." But from the time of the Hebrew lexicographer Gesenius it has been apparent from Old Testament usages of the word that it means a "history," "narrative," or "genealogical record" of a family or some other such social unit. As has been observed above, the LXX has rendered the term by geneseos, and it is of some interest to the Christian student to note that the expression "biblos geneseos Iesou Christous," "the book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ" in Matthew 1:1 reflects closely the Hebrew phrase. "book of the genealogy of Adam" in Genesis 5:1. The Hebrew word was used regularly for the collection of Jewish traditions concerning the life of Jesus, and in modern times it has formed part of the title of Yehezkel Kaufmann's eight-volume history of Israelite religion.
Thus the term toledot is used to describe history, and more particularly in Genesis, at all events, of family history in its origins. Quite clearly, therefore, the phrase "these are the generations of" points back to the beginnings of the family history, and not forward to its later development through a line of descendants. In this connection it is of some interest to note that the phrase that occurs in Genesis 2:4 obviously points back to the narrative of the creation of the cosmos contained in the preceding chapter. It could not refer to the narrative that follows, since that section contains no reference whatever to the creation of the heavens. As Wiseman has commented, the phrase is only appropriate as a concluding sentence, so that most commentators, notwithstanding their usual interpretation of the phrase, made the story of creation terminate with it. Had they but perceived that all such sections of Genesis conclude with this formula, they would have possessed the key to the composition of the book. As it was, the majority of scholars found themselves in serious methodological difficulties in their assumption that the expression "these are the generations of" was employed in all the remaining instances as an initial, rather than a terminal phrase.
On only two occasions in Genesis does a genealogical list follow the expression in the absence of intervening words, and yet here both lists are quite complete even without its use. While the formula is not necessarily connected with a genealogical table, in almost every instance a list of immediate descendants is given before the phrase occurs in Hebrew text. It is therefore obvious that the formula did not constitute preamble to a genealogical table, but that it was in fact an ending to such a list. Notice should also be taken of the mention of sepher translated "book," in Genesis 5:1, where the reference can only be to a written "record" on a clay tablet, and also of the LXX version of Genesis 2: which reads, "This is the book of the origins of the heavens and the earth."
A final point in connection with the significance is that in at least some cases the person mentioned in connection with the phrase might well have been the owner, or possibly the writer, of the tablet in question, if Mesopotamian scribal practices are actually in evidence in the manner suggested. Thus in Genesis 6:9, the phrase "These are the generations of Noah" does not necessarily mean "This is the history involving Noah," since it is primarily the succeeding section that describes the activities of this individual. Instead, the expression could be interpreted as meaning "This is the history written (or possessed) by Noah," which once more would be in full accord with ancient Near Eastern literary practices. Again, in Genesis 10:1, the mention of sons of Noah implies that the preceding record of family history was their possession, a practice that can be documented extensively from family archives recovered from Nuzu, Mari, and elsewhere in ancient Mesopotamia.
In Genesis 11:27, the reference to the "generations of Terah" contains little information about that individual except that he was the son Nahor. Quite evidently it was intended to indicate that Terah either wrote, or else had compiled for him, the list of his ancestors found in verses 10 to 27. The excavations at Mari have shown the extent to which genealogical tables were treasured in antiquity as a means of establishing pedigree and for other social purposes, so that there is nothing inherently impossible in the action of Terah in this regard.
C. THE SOURCES OF THE BOOK
The foregoing discussion can be summarized, therefore, by stating that the term toledot can be held to indicate the presence of a colophon in text, and to constitute part of the concluding sentence of each section thereby pointing back to a narrative already recorded. Accordingly, it is eminently possible to regard its incidence as indicating the presence of a genuine Biblical source in the text. It is not by any means accidental that much of the material in which the phrase under consideration occurs was either of Mesopotamian provenance or was written under the influence of Mesopotamian culture. Accordingly, the present writer feels justified in following Wiseman in the assertion that Genesis contains in the first thirty-six chapters a series of tablets whose contents were linked together to form a roughly chronological account of primeval and patriarchal life written from the standpoint of a Mesopotamian cultural milieu.
1. The Eleven Tablets. Such a view is based upon the conviction that this approach alone does the fullest justice to the literary phenomena of much of Genesis, particularly in the light of what is now known regarding the antiquity of writing, the diverse nature of literary communications in the Near East during the second millennium B.C., and the special characteristics of contemporary scribal techniques. The tablets that may be isolated will be seen to have a title, a residuum of textual matter, and a colophon, along with certain additional features to be noted subsequently. The sources can be described briefly as follows:
Tablet 1: Gen. 1: 1-2:4. The origins of the cosmos
Tablet 2: Gen. 2:5-5:2. The origins of mankind
Tablet 3: Gen. 5:3-6:9a. The histories of Noah
Tablet 4: Gen. 6:9b-10:1. The histories of the sons of Noah
Tablet 5: Gen. 10:2-11:10a. The histories of Shem
Tablet 6: Gen. 11: 10b- 11: 27a. The histories of Terah
Tablet 7: Gen. 11:27b-25:12. The histories of Ishmael
Tablet 8: Gen. 25:13-25:19a. The histories of Isaac
Tablet 9: Gen. 25:19b-36:1. The histories of Esau
Tablet 10: Gen. 36:2-36:9. The histories of Esau
Tablet 11: Gen. 36:10-37:2. The histories of Jacob
Apart from Tablets one and two, which deal with the origins of the cosmos and mankind respectively, and do not contain proper names in their colophons, there appears to be no event recorded in which the person or persons named could not have written either from personal knowledge or from other reliable sources. Furthermore, where individuals are mentioned by name in the colophons, the history recorded in the various sections isolated above and identified with suggested tablets ceases in all instances prior to the death of the person named at the conclusion of the tablet. The present writer is of the opinion that the foregoing classification of material represents the genuine literary sources underlying the first thirty-six chapters of Genesis.
On closer examination the first postulated tablet (Gen. 1:1-2:4) bears the title "God created the cosmos," interpreting the phrase "the heavens and the earth" as a merismus form, and this title is repeated in the colophon (Gen. 2:4). There is no series number associated with the latter; the colophon contains no personal or other names, and there is no catch-line linking it with the second suggested tablet (Gen. 2:5-5:2), which deals with the origins of mankind. The abruptness of the transition from Genesis 2:4 to the following verse might indicate that the original title of the second proposed tablet had either been lost in antiquity, or else had been deliberately removed in the process of editing. Be that as it may, the colophon of this source contained no proper name and no evidence of ownership. It is just Possible that the scribe who wrote the tablet attempted to convey the antiquity of his material by using the phrase, "in the day that God created mankind" (Gen. 5:1), a circumstance that may also be true for the expression "when they were created" in Genesis 2:4 . In the light of the critical theories common in an earlier generation, which repeatedly asserted the influence of Mesopotamian traditions over those of the Hebrews, it is significant to note that more recent appraisals now limit this as far as the material covered by the first two tablets is concerned to a possible three points, including the initial waters and the divine respite after the creation of man.
Tablet three, as isolated above (Gen. 5:3-6:9a), bears the title "And man," narrates his descent, and mentions Noah, who is named in the colophon (Gen. 6:9a), perhaps in his capacity as owner of the source The title of Tablet four (Gen. 6:9b-10:1) is "Shem, Ham and Japheth", and the text deals with the Flood and its aftermath. This material is terminated by the colophon in Genesis 10:1, where the allusion to the period "after the Flood" may perhaps constitute a scribal attempt at dating. The title of the tablet, it will be noted, is repeated in the colophon. Tablet five (Gen. 10:2-11:10a), is apparently entitled "The sons of Japheth," and deals with the Table of Nations and the Babel incident. It is concluded by the colophon, "These are the generations of Shem."
Tablet six (Gen. 11:10b-11:27a) is comparatively brief, and is entitled simply "Shem." It contains the genealogical list of Terah, and mentions his death, along with the fact that Nahor lived on until Abraham was seventy-five years old. If the reference in Genesis 11:26, which recorded the age of Terah, was actually a scribal attempt at dating, the according to the Samaritan Pentateuch it was written just one year after the last chronological event mentioned in it, namely the death of Nahor. The repetition of "Abram, Nahor, and Haran" before and after the colophon formula indicates that the phrase constitutes a catch-line, and conforms to the usual scribal procedure of repeating the first words of the subsequent tablet after the last line of its precursor.
Tablets six and seven are thus linked in series, with the latter (Gen. 11:27b-25:12) forming a lengthy account of the life of Abraham and concluding with his death. The title of the tablet is apparently "Abram, Nahor, and Haran," and the text can presumably be dated by the reference to Isaac dwelling at Beer-lahai-roi (Gen. 25:11). These family histories were evidently in the possession of Ishmael, brother of Isaac, and seem to be closely linked with the brief contents of Tablet eight (Gen. 25:13-25:19a), as indicated by the colophon. The events recorded in Tablets seven and eight ceased just prior to the death of Isaac, who was mentioned either as the possible writer or else as the owner of the tablets. He survived Ishmael by some fifty-seven years, according to the text, and presumably came into possession of the family records on the death of his brother.
The title of Tablet nine (Gen. 25:19b-36:1) is apparently "Abraham begat Isaac," and the narrative content deals at length with the relationship between Jacob and Esau, and with subsequent events in the life of Jacob up to the death of Isaac. Possibly the reference to his internment constitutes a scribal attempt at dating, but whether this was actually the case or not, the histories were clearly of Edomite origin, as the explanatory gloss in Genesis 36:1 would indicate. Tablet nine was followed closely by Tablet ten (Gen. 36:2-36:9), a fragmentary record also from Edomite sources and dealing with the descent of Esau. There is little doubt that Pfeiffer was correct in postulating the existence of a "South" or "Seir" "source in Genesis," but owing to his improper methodological approach to the literary problems of Genesis he was only able to isolate a few relevant fragments, and he included in his S1 and S2 much that had no connection whatever with Mount Seir.
Quite evidently Tablets nine and ten belonged to such a "source," as did the final text, Tablet eleven (Gen. 36:10-37:2), part of which Pfeiffer attributed to S. Genesis 36:31, placed at the commencement of a list of Edomite kings, is obviously a post-Mosaic editorial or scribal comment. It could only have been written at a time when Israel had a king, since it is not a theoretical anticipation of the possibility of kingship, as in Deuteronomy 17:14ff, but evidently originates in the reality of an Israelite kingdom. As such it may well represent editorial activity on the part of the prophet Samuel. Immediately before the colophon in Genesis 37:2 is the statement that Jacob was living in the land of Canaan, and this can be taken as evidence for the time and place of the composition of Tablet eleven. Within a few years Jacob had moved into the land of Egypt, but this reference points to his place of abode when his historical record was closed. Jacob had obviously returned to the south country and taken up his residence in Hebron, where his father Isaac was living.
It can hardly be mere coincidence that the material discussed so far has been preserved in so characteristically an ancient Near East fashion. As with all similar ancient literature, these tablets constitute highly valuable sources for the delineation of patriarchal origins, and it is a testimony to their antiquity and to the esteem in which they were held that they have survived in the Hebrew text in something which in all probability approximates to their original form, a circumstance that makes it possible for them to be recovered by means of the application of an accredited methodology. Precisely who was responsible for editing this material is, of course, unknown, but since another such tablet can be recovered from the text of Numbers (perhaps Num. 1:1-3:1), it seems legitimate to suppose that the redactional activity was by and large the work of Moses.
In view of the overwhelming support given by Near Eastern literary traditions for the recovery of such clearly indicated underlying sources, it can only be a matter of considerable regret that some eminent orientalists have refused to follow the course indicated by the facts in their translations of Genesis. Thus T. J. Meek rendered toledot in Genesis 2: by the expression, "the following are the origins of the heavens," thus completely misunderstanding the significance of the original. In the same manner E. A. Speiser treated the colophon of Genesis 5:1 as though it were a heading. While this may have been due in part in his translation to sheer considerations of format, it still remains the case that the reader would have no inkling whatever of the real character of the constituent source, being invited instead to relate the composition of Genesis to the worn out traditions of the literary-critical school. Like other thoroughgoing advocates of the Wellhausenian position, Speiser could hardly be expected to adopt a format that would belie his convictions with regard to the origin and nature of the Pentateuchal writings. Meek, however, was in an entirely different category, since he consistently professed independence of any given literary-analytical scheme. It can only be concluded, therefore, that be was either unaware of the significance of the evidence, or else that he, like many other scholars, refused to go where the facts of the matter led.
2. The Joseph narratives. The remainder of Genesis deals with the Joseph narratives (Gen. 37:2b-50:26), the Egyptian background of which has been so well attested to by scholars as to make further comment unnecessary. Most probably this material was still in oral form when Moses was alive, and it may be that it was he who reduced it to writing in magnificent literary Hebrew. Quite possibly Moses was responsible for substituting leather for the Amarna Age tablet-form vehicle of communication. In this general connection it should be noted that whereas in certain instances in the Pentateuch Moses was directed to inscribe the divine revelation upon durable material such as stone (Exod. 34:28), it is probable that the more durable leather came to be employed at this period by the Hebrews as writing material in general preference to papyrus, used extensively in all periods of Egyptian history. Quite aside from the Jewish tradition that the Torah should always be written upon leather, since this was apparently the original material vehicle of its transmission, the passage in Numbers 5:23f. only makes the fullest sense if leather was the material which the people were using at that time.
If it is correct to assume that the major part of Genesis was transmitted by means of cuneiform tablets, it is comparatively easy to imagine the process by which it was ultimately compiled, given the existence of a Joseph story comparable to the Tale of Sinuhe, whether it was a written Egyptian document or an oral Hebrew tradition. A person such as Moses would have been eminently suited to the task of assembling ancient records and transcribing them in edited form as a continuous record on a leather or papyrus roll. Given this basic-document, it would be well within the realm of possibility to envisage the activity of later generations in matters of textual revision, the incorporating of marginal comments, or the bringing up to date of certain chronological material (e.g. Gen. 36). For while it is important to affirm the general literary fixity of the material as a whole, it is also necessary to allow sufficient freedom for accredited scribal activity to operate in a customary manner at later stages, in consonance with the traditions evident in ancient Near Eastern literary sources.
There can be no real question as to the immense antiquity of the source material that is to be found in Genesis. Evidence for this includes the large number of Babylonian words that occur in the earlier part of the book, the topographical references, such as those relating to Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 10:19),19 and the number of glosses required to bring ancient names up to date (e.g. Gen. 14:2, 3, 7, 8, 15, 17; 16:14; 23:2; 35:19). Primitive geographical expressions such as the "south country" (Gen. 20:1; 24:62) and the "east country" (Gen. 25:6), which were used in the days of Abraham, never recurred in the Old Testament narratives as a description of the countries adjoining the south and east of Palestine, since these regions subsequently acquired familiar as well-defined designations. Archaeological discoveries at Mari, Nuz Boghazky, and elsewhere have been of particular value in furnishing the abundant literary materials for an understanding of the narratives concerning the Hebrew patriarchs and the conditions of life that existed in Palestine and Egypt during the Amarna Age and the Hyksos periods .
By definition Genesis is the Book of Origins, the great introduction to the drama of human redemption. The prologue is cast in universal terms suitable to the subject-matter, and depicts the creative activity of God fashioning the cosmos and placing man upon the earth. The universality of sin is depicted, along with the fact that, as rebellion against God, it must always stand under divine judgment, a situation exemplified by the account of the Deluge. The rise of Abraham, the first of the two major emphases of the Pentateuchal writings, is associated with covenantal relationships, and the stage is thus set for the occurrence of the second great concern of the Torah, namely the deliverance of Israel from Egypt in the dramatic event of the Exodus. --R. K. Harrison, Prof. of Old Testament, Wycliffe College, University of Toronto, Introduction to the Old Testament, Eerdsmans, 1969. pp542-553. (added May 17, 2000).
Hidden Scientific Codes in Genesis
It has become fashionable for contemporary Bible teachers to claim that Genesis is not intended to give a scientific, detailed account of how God created the universe, but that rather it is often said that the Hebrew prose of the opening book of the Bible is painted in broad brush strokes only. However, when one looks at a level below the obvious translation of the text into meaningful words understood as human language, the text of Genesis actually contains an encrypted code revealing the geometry of time and space, patterns for all living things, and the roots of all every alphabet and every language known to man!
Some years ago a Jewish scholar, Stan Tenen of the Meru Foundation noticed that the ordered arrangement of the Hebrew letters of Genesis 1:1 was not random. If 27 letters of the Hebrew alphabet were assigned a numerical value from 1 to 27 (with Aleph being counted as a "0") then Genesis 1:1 (and all the subsequent text thus far examined) can be easily decoded into patterns using a counting base of 3.
It should be noted that Tenen's work is not the same thing as Biblical numerology---where numbers occurring in the text of the Bible (such as 3, 4, 6, 12, 40, etc.) can be seen to have symbolic meaning. Likewise Tenen is not dealing with what is usually thought of as esoteric Jewish Kabalistic mysticism, or Christian mysticism, in his analysis. What he has discovered is that the text of the Bible is actually an incredible computer code with built-in error correction features and levels of complexity. These findings taken all by themselves apart from faith or religious belief system immediately suggest the Bible is indeed much more than the inspired words of religious writers, but must in fact be the very Word of God.
Much wild and fanciful material has been written on the so called "Bible codes" in recent years--and most of it is either erroneous or at best useless. However the actual hidden structures in the Bible are really there and attest eloquently to the Divine Authorship of our Bibles. The definitive book on this subject is The Cosmic Codes, by Chuck Missler. It is extremely thorough and carefully written.
"By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
and all their host by the breath of his mouth.
He gathered the waters of the sea as in a bottle;
he put the deeps in storehouses.
Let all the earth fear the LORD,
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood forth."
Stan Tenen notes that changing one "yod" or one ornamentation in the text of the Torah would mean a change in the entire universe since the Torah encryption is the very language by which all things were created!
"For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Torah until all is accomplished." (Matthew 5:18)
Furthermore Tenen notes that the letters of the Hebrew alphabet can be generated as shadows cast in various directions by a single geometrical pattern ("the flame of the Torah"), inherent in the geometrical ordering of the text. Likewise the Tablets of the Law of Moses would be expected to consist of not two dimensional painted letters on flat surfaces, but were probably spatial letters written into the stone in three dimensions as some form of hologram:
"And he [God] gave to Moses, when he had made an end of speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, the two tables of the testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God." (Exodus 31:18)
Just as the original Hebrew language consisted of projections from a single basic geometrical pattern so also other common alphabets can be derived from the Hebrew alphabet by noting the shadows the letters cast in two dimensions. This thesis lends support to the idea common among Jews that Hebrew was the original one language of mankind before the confusion of tongues at the Tower of Babel not long after the Flood of Noah.
Tenen also shows that the ordered patterns of Hebrew letters in the Bible give rise to geometric forms that are found in all created things, in genetic codes, in living cells, in the wonderful patterns found everywhere in nature. Tenen has also shown that systems of mathematics and geometries common in other traditions such as Greek, Egyptian, or Hindu can be shown to be related at their roots to the prototype forms encoded into Genesis.
Tenen's work is not easy to grasp since it soon becomes incredibly profound---pointing also to higher dimensions beyond our present space-time continuum. His findings frequently evoke a sense of reverence, wonder and awe at the Creative Intelligence who designed and built our universe in six days. In spite of more than two decades of diligent work, Tenen has obviously barely scratched the surface.
The Meru Foundation has recently relocated and now has an excellent and growing web site. May I heartily encourage those interested to support his work. Notes by Lambert Dolphin, March 13, 1992. Revised. December 11, 1996.
The Authenticity of Genesis
by Ray C. Stedman "These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created. In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up---for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground---then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being."
It is no slight exaggeration to say that there are no chapters more important for the proper understanding of history than these [first] two chapters of Genesis. Here is hidden the secret of man's sinfulness, that terrible mystery of evil and darkness which continually confronts us in this modern world. In this section is the key to the relationship of the sexes, the proper place of man and woman in marriage, and the solution to the problem of mounting divorce rates and other marital issues that abound in modern society. Here, also, is the explanation for the struggle of life, and here great light is thrown on the problems of work and of leisure. In this section is the first and most fundamental revelation of the meaning of divine redemption and grace, and here the essential groundwork is laid for the understanding of the cross of Jesus Christ. This whole section is simply unprecedented in importance in the Scriptures.
But just because it is so important it has been greatly under attack. These two chapters have often been rejected outright as simply repugnant to modern man. There are cults which reject them as being utterly inconsistent with what man wants to believe about himself. Sometimes the passage has been dismissed with contempt as merely a collection of ancient myths or legends with no significance for modern minds. And sometimes it has been treated as containing important truths, but needing to be---in the favorite word of many today in theological circles---"demythologized." To quote one of the writers of this school. "There is truth of great vitality and power in many passages of which the strictly historical accuracy may be questioned. It is our job therefore to find the truth that may be buried under some layers of legend."
Before we go on in this series to explore the meaning of this passage, with its intensity of significance, we must take some time to dispose of these objections. I must ask you to be patient with me if I seem to be a bit pedantic, but there are many who are bothered by these problems. Lest we seem to ignore these, I want to deal with them somewhat now, and in subsequent messages we will come to the actual meaning of the passage.
There are two general lines of attack upon this story of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. One is an attempt to destroy the literary integrity of the text; the other attempts to deny the historical accuracy of these accounts. The first approach is based upon the claim that this section of Genesis (and probably the whole of the first five books of the Bible) were not written by Moses, as the Bible claims, but that they were actually composed by an unknown editor (whom these scholars call a redactor), who lived long after David and Solomon, and who may have lived even as late as the Babylonian captivity, only some 500 years before Christ. The critics claim that the redactor was not writing down things that were revealed to him by any divine process, but was only recording certain tales of the women who gathered around the wells and talked over various legends of their past. They claim he collected the tales of travelers and others, and thus recorded for posterity these early legends of man.
The support for this idea arises out of certain changes of style in this passage. and the use of the divine name in a different form. If you look at your Bibles closely you will notice that in verse 4 the name, LORD God appears for the first time. Previously in Genesis there has only been the name. "God," which is a translation of the Hebrew, Elohim. But here we have the LORD God, or in Hebrew, Jehovah Elohim, and all through this section that name is used. It has been suggested therefore that this passage is written by another author who has simply collected together certain tales and that you can identify the various stories by the use of the divine names. Now, fully developed, this has evolved into what is called today, the "documentary theory of Genesis." Some unknown editor has collected from various sources certain documents which can be identified by certain marks within them, and has put them all together, using excerpts from here, and excerpts from there, and blending them together into the books that we now know as Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy---the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses.
This whole idea has been supported by certain piecemeal evidence taken from the Scriptures. This is always the case with this type of study. Scholars go through the books and extract certain ideas or passages that seem to support their theory, but they ignore others that would contradict it. This documentary theory gained a wide support, and many of you have perhaps been exposed to it. It has long ago been fully answered by both Jewish and Christian writers. I am not going to dwell on it now, but if you are interested in it there are books that will fully expose the total inadequacy of this theory. Remarkably enough it still persists, even though it is increasingly difficult to hold.
Forty years ago, Dr. Lyman Abbott spoke at the University of California at Berkeley. He was, at that time, a noted liberal scholar working in this field of the origin of scriptural books. He said something like this, "Young gentlemen, I feel that perhaps I am as qualified as anyone to speak in this field of the origins of the books of the Bible, and I want to warn you against going too far in basing your conclusions upon the so-called 'assured results of modern scholarship.' As one of these modern scholars, I know that these results are not always as 'assured' as they seem to be. My careful conclusion is that the first five books of the Bible were either written by Moses---or by someone else named Moses!" Perhaps that is about as far as we need to go in laying to rest the documentary theory of the Scriptures. The second attack upon this section is more frequently pressed today. This is the idea that there are great truths about man here in these opening chapters of the Bible his fears, his evil, his hungers are all given to us in a remarkable way and we can learn much about ourselves from these passages but these truths are conveyed deliberately to us in the language of myth. Perhaps Moses did write this, they say or some other unknown writers. But at any rate, the authors were attempting to convey to us great and mighty truth, important truth, but doing it through the language of myth---adopting a kind of parabolic vehicle in order to convey these truths to us. There was, of course, no literal tree in a literal garden; there were no actual beings named Adam and Eve, and, of course, there was no talking serpent or forbidden fruit.
It is all somewhat like the myth of Santa Claus. Everyone today knows that there is no real Santa Claus, but the idea behind Santa Claus, cheerful jollity, a reward for good behavior and a universal kindness of spirit are all true. If we forget the myth of Santa Claus we still have left a core of truth which is conveyed to us by the story of Santa Claus. Thus we can treat these opening chapters of Genesis much in the same way. You can take the story of Adam and Eve, they say, and throw away the form by which it is conveyed and you still have a germ of truth about the human race. But have you? What do we say to this kind of an approach? We must say that we reject the whole approach as Biblically untenable, scientifically unsound, and in the end totally destructive of truth and faith. Let me give the reasons for this.
First of all, this approach of myth violates the integrity of the book of Genesis. Where does myth end and history begin in this book? Where is the line of demarcation? If Adam and Eve is a myth then so is Cain and Abel. And if Cain and Abel is a myth, then so is Noah and the flood. Since the record moves right on without a break into the story of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are we to assume that these, too, are myths? If so, where does history begin? How can you detect the place where myth, fantasy, and legend ends, and actual human history begins?
We have already seen in our first series that the first chapter of Genesis (which is likewise termed myth) is not a myth at all. It is in accord with the true discoveries of modern science and, in fact, anticipates and corrects much of modern science. We have found that it is definitely not myth. When you begin this process of finding myth in these Old Testament stories you will find that it is impossible to draw the line anywhere except where you, for some emotional reason, may choose to draw it. Such a process carries right over into the New Testament and the story of the virgin birth becomes a myth, and even the story of the incarnation itself. The Christmas story which we are celebrating at this Advent season becomes nothing but a beautiful parable designed to express truth, but not true in history. Also the stories of the miracles of Jesus and the resurrection and the crucifixion.
Where do you stop? Well, the answer is that you do not stop. All these stories have actually been termed myth, and so support this contention that we make, that there is no stopping place when you interject this kind of a theory into the Biblical records. Of course, if you treat the Bible that way, then you must in all good conscience treat any other ancient document in the same way. If you carry this out to its logical conclusion we are left without any knowledge whatsoever of the ancient world, nothing that we can trust. The theory destroys too much, it teaches too much, to be acceptable.
There is myth in the Scripture. There are legends which are reported to us in various places in the Bible, but the significant thing is that they are identified as such. They are said to be myths, and are treated as myths and legends. You can find them both in the Old Testament and in the New Testaments, but the writers of the Scriptures were aware of the nature of them as myths and recorded them as such. Another significant thing is that there are passages throughout both the Old and New Testaments which warn against believing in myths or taking them seriously. Peter warns against this, saying that the stories he and the other Apostles told were not cleverly designed myths, but were actual historic occurrences. Paul writes to his son in the faith, Timothy, and warns him against being influenced by godless myths and old wives' fables. The apostles were aware of this kind of danger to faith and warned against it even in the early days of our Christianity.
Second, this approach of myth contradicts the usage of the Lord Jesus Christ and of the apostles themselves. If you believe that the story of Adam and Eve is a myth then you immediately find yourself clashing with the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. In Matthew 19 it is recorded that our Lord, facing the questions of the Pharisees about divorce, said, "In the beginning God made them male and female." If you accept that as a statement from One who declared himself to be the truth, and who told only the truth, then you must accept this story of Adam and Eve as actual.
The Lord Jesus constantly referred to Moses as the author of the Pentateuch, and said, again and again, that what Moses wrote he, himself, fulfilled. In that wonderful scene in Luke 24, he walks with two along the Emmaus road after the resurrection, and they do not recognize him. He asks them why they are so downcast and sorrowful, and they tell him of the strange events that have been occurring in Jerusalem, how One was crucified, a Jesus of Nazareth. Then we are told, "beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." Later on he appeared to them and rebuked them because they had not believed Moses and the prophets in the things written concerning him.
Never once did our Lord suggest that anything in the Old Testament was to be questioned, as to its historical veracity. He refers to most of the miracles that are the source of problems to critics today, and speaks of them in such a way as to confirm and attest the fact that they were historical events, including Jonah and the fish, and other stories. Remember that the apostle Paul reminded Timothy that Adam was made first, and then Eve, just as the story in Genesis tells us. He says further that Adam was not deceived, but Eve was, and thus Adam went into sin deliberately, but Eve was blinded. In 2 Corinthians, the 11th chapter, the apostle Paul refers to the serpent and is afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve, so the thoughts of his readers would be led astray by Satan's cunning. In Romans and in 1 Corinthians he compares Adam and Jesus, and indicates they are both individual men, the heads of two separate races. "As by one man sin entered the world," he said (by one man), "and thus passed upon all men," so by one man redemption came. If Jesus was an individual, then Adam was an individual, too. Again in 1 Corinthians 15 he draws a comparison between these two, pointing out that we were all born in Adam, and if we are born again, we are all in Christ. He puts the two on an individual basis. Therefore if we approach these early chapters of Genesis with the idea that these are myths, legends, not really historical events, we are thus holding that the apostle Paul knew less than we know about such matters.
Third, the whole idea of myth is ultimately destructive of the teaching of scripture, of biblical theology. Why do men invent these suggestions of myth? If you investigate their reasons (though they may seldom admit this) it is obviously because they want to square these stories of Adam and Eve with the teachings of evolution. They do not want to admit that there was a couple named Adam and Eve that began the human race, but that there were, rather, a group of hominids who ascended from the animal kingdom and became men. In accordance with the theory of evolution you cannot trace the race back to but a single couple.
But if evolution as the explanation of man's origin is true then there never was a fall of man. Either man was created perfect body, soul, and spirit as Genesis tells us or he has been slowly developing from the animal kingdom, and was never perfect. It is either one or the other. Either man fell from perfection, or he never was perfect. And if never has been perfect, then what is the point of redemption? If all we are doing is moving toward an ultimate goal of perfection, then what was the value of the work of Christ upon the cross? You see certain fundamental issues come in immediately certain fundamental questions arise---Do we really need salvation? Are we not moving steadily toward a goal which will ultimately be reached, whether Christ died or not? What is the purpose, therefore, of his redeeming grace? The minute you interject mythical ideas into the opening chapters of Genesis you come into an immediate clash with the doctrine of atonement and of the redemption of man.
Finally, this mythical interpretation denies the scientific evidence which does exist to support the historical truths of these events. It has been almost humorous to see, during the last 40 or 50 years, the many, many times the pompous claims of the "higher critics" have been completely demolished by the archaeologist's spade. Archeology has turned up again and again evidence which has proved that what the Bible says is true and what the critics claim has been false. In fact, there has not been one instance of the reverse, in which a Biblical event has been proved to be false by archeology---not one but scores of instances where the Bible has been substantiated.
There is, for instance, considerable archaeological evidence that Nimrod, who is mentioned in the 4th chapter of Genesis, existed as an historical person. Further, Lamech, and Zillah, his wife, and Tubal-cain, their son, are supported as historical characters by archaeology. In fact, their names have passed into the language, describing some of the activities in which they were engaged. In the 4th chapter of Genesis there is a statement that Cain (this is the son of Adam, remember) went out and built a city and called the name of the city after his son, Enoch. Interestingly enough, in the ancient cuneiform writings there is reference to a city named Unuk, which is clearly related to this name, Enoch, and it is called every place simply, "the city," just as we refer to San Francisco as "the city." Further, this name Enoch later passed into the language as the word for city. Through a process of philological transliteration (with which any linguist is familiar), this was changed from Enoch to "wark," and later to the word, "perg," and then to the word, "burgh," and it is still present in our language today in that form, e.g., Pittsburgh. Here, there is evidence that reaches clear back to the very beginning and suggests that these were all historical characters.
It is not unscientific to believe the opening chapters of Genesis: that Adam and Eve were actual human beings, individuals, that Cain and Abel were likewise historical personages, that there was a garden of Eden, and a tree in the midst of it. There is nothing unscientific about these stories and no scientific evidence in any way gainsays them. To claim so is simply an attack upon this record to try to destroy the historical accuracy of these accounts, and thus to undermine the great and central teaching of the scriptures concerning the redemption of man.
When you get through analyzing this you stand where Christians have always stood, face to face with a choice: whether to take the subjectivity of human wisdom, or the authority of the Son of God. It is one or the other. Was Jesus right, or were the critics right? It is either Christ or the critics. It always has been and always will be. I, for one, do not think there is any reason to even debate the matter. I believe the Lord Jesus Christ stands as authority in every realm in which he speaks. When we consider the extent and nature of his authority, his knowledge of the world in which we live and of the human race and the mind of man and contrast these with the puny, finite knowledge of struggling, sinful human beings who see through a glass darkly, and who understand little of what they see, I find there is no real comparison at all. This is why we must take these passages literally as they are, and treat them as historic accounts which are given to us to open to our understanding the problems we are daily facing. When we do, we discover they unfold to us great and marvelous truths that help us to grasp and understand life, and to rise in victory over the problems that beset us, and the forces that oppose us...
Copyright 1967 by Discovery Publishing. Quoted from Understanding Man by Ray C. Stedman. The complete paper and the related series on Genesis are available at The Ray C. Stedman Library
Genesis: Only One Author, Study Says
TEL AVIV, Israel (UPI) - A five-year long computer study of the Bible strongly indicates that one author - and not three as widely held in modern criticism - wrote the book of Genesis. "The probability of Genesis having been written by one author is enormously high - 82 percent statistically," a member of the research team said in an article published in Wednesday's Jerusalem Post.
Professor Yehuda Radday, a Bible scholar from the Technion, a Haifa university, said more than 20,000 words of Genesis were fed into a computer which conducted a painstaking analysis of its linguistic makeup.
Bible critics widely hold that Genesis had three authors - the Jawhist or "J" author, the Elohist or "E" author and a priestly writer, dubbed "P". "We found the J and E narrative to be linguistically indistinguishable," Radday told a news conference today. But the P sections differ widely from them. "This is only to be expected, since dramatic tales and legal documents must necessarily display different 'behavior,'" he said. "If you compared love letters and a telephone directory written by the same person, linguistic analysis would point to different authors."
The team combined statistical and linguistic methods with computer science and Bible scholarship to reach their conclusions. They used 54 analysis criteria, including word length, the use of the definite article and the conjunction "and," richness of vocabulary and transition frequencies between word categories. "These criteria are a reliable gauge of authorship because these traits are beyond an author's conscious control and furthermore are countable," Radday said.
A mathematics expert on the team ran a computer check against classical German works by Goethe, Herder, and Kant and found that the statistical probability of their being the sole authors of their own work were on 22 percent, 71 percent and 9 percent respectively. That reinforced their conclusion that the "82 percent identity between the J and E definitions of Genesis make their unity very highly probable," Radday said. Radday would not comment on whether Genesis was written by Moses, or on their apparent conclusion that God speaks the language of humans, beyond saying, "As quoted in Genesis, divine speech and human speech are indistinguishable," according to the findings.
(the above article appeared in print about 1989)
A Few References
Ray's Sermon Series from 1967, Peninsula Bible Church, Palo Alto I. Foundations for Living, covering Genesis 1-2, #301-310 (10 messages)
II. Understanding Man, covering Genesis Chapters 2-3, #311-320 (10 messages). The above sets of messages, #311-320 are available as Discovery Papers from Discovery Publishing can be reached at (415) 494-0623, or write to them at 3505 Middlefield Rd., Palo Alto, CA 94306, Monday through Friday, 9-5.
III. Understanding Society, covering Genesis 4-11, #321-332 (12 messages). These messages are in the book titled The Beginnings available from Discovery Publishing.
Now available on line: The Ray C. Stedman Library
Recommended Recent Commentaries On Genesis
Boice, James Montgomery, Genesis, 2 volumes, Baker Books, 1998 (Hardcover or paperback). Very thorough and thoughtful. Excellent applications of Genesis to real life.
Morris, Henry, The Genesis Record, Creation Life Publishers, San Diego, 1976. Detailed, technical, scientific emphasis. Full of excellent insights and detailed explanations.
Leupold, H. C., Exposition of Genesis, 2 vols., Baker Book House, 1942. Careful study of the original Hebrew meanings. Refutes many erroneous interpretations.
Creation Literature, Books and Films
Institute for Creation Research (ICR), PO Box 2667, El Cajon, CA 92021. Dr. Henry Morris, founder. Excellent catalog and newsletter Acts and Facts, books, films, seminars. (Australian Journal Creation and Ex Nihilo Technical Journal available through ICR). Web site: Institute of Creation Research.
Center for Scientific Creation, Physicist Walter Brown, PhD, 5612 N. 20th Place, Phoenix, AZ 85016. Lectures, seminars, Geological Model for the Flood. On line Book: In the Beginning.
The Genesis Institute, Dr. Walter Lange, 7232 Morgan Ave. S, Richfield, MN 55423. Newsmagazine The Ark Today, literature reviews, books.
Creation Research Society (CRS) Scientific and technical papers published in quarterly journal, PO Box 14016, Terre Haute, IN 47803. See WWW page, Creation Research Society (CRS)
Films for Christ, 2628A West Birchwood Circle, Mesa, AZ 85202. Film and book catalog available.
International Conferences on Creationism, PO Box 17578, Pittsburgh, PA 15235. Outstanding recent scientific papers on creation. Third Conference in 1994. Past proceedings and tapes available.
Creation Science Association of Ontario, (CSAO), PO Box 821 Station A, Scarborough, Ontario, M1K 5C8. Excellent fliers and literature on creation.
Creation Science for Mid-America, Route 1, Box 247B, Cleveland, MO 64734. Helpful newsletter, tapes, books.
Ararat Report, Bill Crouse, ed., 2050 N. Collins Blvd., Ste 100, Richardson, TX 75080.
Answers in Genesis (Creation apologetics: Ken Ham/Gary Parker), PO Box 6330, Florence, KY 41022. Phone (606) 647 2900.
Bible Science News (BSN) PO Box 32457, Minneapolis, MN 55432-0457. Newsletter, Books, literature. Ian Taylor, President.
Revised October 31, 1995, February 24, 1996. May 24, 2000, November 27, 2006.
spelling and punctuation checked 13June02 RPS