Monday, April 25, 2011

Genesis 1:1-31

Summary: God takes a formless, dark, muddy mass, and separates it into various forms of being, until we finally get the Earth we know and love.

Not only is this the very first entry of my Bible Readathon, when I opened up my Bible last night before bed, I realized that this was the first time I had ever even looked between the covers of my Bible.

It's a very nice Bible; leather-bound, with a golden ribbon through the binding so I can mark my place. The thin pages even have gilded edging. And, to my delight, there were introductions to each Book, as well as extensive footnotes that take up more than half of all of the pages.

My Bible is published by Zondervan, and it's the New International Version translation, first released in 1973. It's a study bible, hence the extraneous footnotes. It was a gift from my parent's church, when I went off to college the first time. I had been an active member of the church up to then, and they had a little ceremony during the announcements part of the service where they gave me the Bible and they all applauded me and wished me luck. I was horribly embarrassed and gratified, and now I feel guilty that it took me six years to crack open the book.

During my first (and only) year at the Catholic college, I took a class in Greek Mythology that had a big influence on me as a student. One of the first lectures was on Genesis Myths, that is, myths about the beginning of the universe. As this was a class on Greek myths we studied that mythology more thoroughly, but to give us a bit of background the professor taught us some about Norse mythology and Abrahamic mythology. And so I went into my reading time last night fully expecting to know what I was going to read.

He focused a bit more on Adam and Eve. The first chapter of Genesis focuses more on God creating the universe.

My study bible gives me a bit of background, which I can't verify, but I will paraphrase here: most Western mythologies describe the creation of the Earth as have the God-King defeat some horrific monster (Zeus vs. Cronus), and thus take his part in control of the heavens. Abrahamic mythology, says the Zondervan scholars, differs in that God just kind of wills the universe into being.

That's what stuck out to me: In this first chapter of Genesis, God simply says, "Let there be light," and there was light. Who made the light? The book doesn't say God made the light. All it says is that God says that there should be light, and therefore light was made. The Zondervandians say that the beings in the Celestial Court were following through on God's orders; but the actual text says nothing about there being a Celestial Court. They were basing this on other mythologies.

It doesn't even say who God was or where he came from. He was just "hovering over the waters." On the third day, God pushes the mud around to create dry land and sea, but he doesn't get around to actually creating anything until the fourth day, when he creates the sun and the moon.

First Day: Light is created
Second Day: Clouds are separated from the mud below
Third Day: Seed-bearing plants are created, the water and the mud is separated to create dry land
Fourth Day: God creates the sun, the moon, and the stars
Fifth Day: God creates the sea creatures and the birds
Sixth Day: God creates land animals, and then creates Male and Female in his own image, to rule over all the animals and plants of the world he has just created

It's easy to conjecture that, if God can create the stars in the sky and the fish in the sea, he probably made everything else in between, too. This has been the conjecture for millenia. But I kind of wonder, though. Why does it start with God calling light into being? Why doesn't it start with God creating a formless dark mud ball? Who is this guy, and why did he start messing around with our mudball?

I do like how it lines up with science's idea of how the earth was formed. In the beginning, everything was hot burning flying pieces of mud; over millenia it cooled down into dark, dim, ever-circling pieces of mud; over more millenia it cooled down, until some mud became dirt and other mud became water; and then some carbon and protein mixed together to create plants, which over time evolved to become fish, and birds, and then dinosaurs, and then mammals, until we finally get to humans.

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