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The Genesis of Everything: An historical account of the Bible’s opening chapter

The Genesis of Everything: An historical account of the Bible’s opening chapter
John P Dickson, March 2008.

            

                                                                          

Author

Honorary Associate of the Department of Ancient History, Macquarie University, Sydney.

Abstract

The paper seeks to plot a path through the controversy surrounding the Bible’s opening chapter by examining Genesis 1 in historical context. The author assumes and endorses no particular view of human origins but argues for a literal interpretation of the text, as opposed to what may be called ‘literalistic’. The former reading gives due weight to both the literary genre of Genesis 1 and the cultural milieu of the original writer, whereas the latter gives sufficient attention to neither.
Various pre-scientific interpretations of Genesis 1 are described, including those of the first century Jewish intellectual Philo and the great Christian theologian Augustine. In particular, comparisons are drawn with the Babylonian creation epic, Enuma Elish, and it is suggested that Genesis 1 is a piece of ‘subversive theology’, making significant theological points in the light of contemporaneous creation ideas. The questions raised (and answered) by the Bible’s opening chapter concern the nature of the Creator, the value of creation and the place of humanity within the creational scheme. Modern questions concerning the mechanics and chronology of creation may not be appropriately put to the ancient text.

Key words

Creation, Genesis 1, literary genre, number symbolism, Babylonian Enuma Elish, one God, coherent creation, place of men and women.

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