What the Author of Genesis 1:1-2:3, and his God, Believed!

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Since many Creationists, Fundamentalists, and I suppose Jews and Christians in general believe that they believe what the author of this 2,500 year old text believed (and by extension what the god of his text also believed!), I’ve decided to list his beliefs (and “God’s”) clearly and orderly. This follows from the textual analyses of Genesis 1:1-2:3 that were previously posted: Gen 1:1-2; Gen 1:3-5; Gen 1:6-8; Gen 1:9-10; Gen 1:14-19; Gen 1:24-27; and Gen 2:2-3. Consult them for specifics.

As has been repeatedly voiced, our aim here is to reproduce as objectively and faithfully as possible the beliefs of the author of Genesis 1:1-2:3—not ours—as evidenced by an understanding and reading of the text on its own terms and as a product of its own historical and literary world. The author that penned the creation account now found at Genesis 1:1-2:3 had a very unique worldview and set of beliefs that, in large part, were shaped by, and shared throughout, the larger ancient Near Eastern world within which he lived. And these beliefs themselves were most likely formed as the result of what ancient peoples saw and perceived about their world and the conclusions they naturally drew from these limited empirical observations. Genesis 1 is an account of the origins of the world as its author perceived it. That is to say, his perception and beliefs about the world and its origins were projected onto the god of his text and in turn this god then created the world that he himself, our author, perceived and experienced. These then are his beliefs:

  1. That God created the earth (dry habitable land, never the planet) and the skies out of preexistent undefined and inhabitable earth that was immersed in a deep, dark watery abyss.
  2. That creation was an act of separating this primordial matter (earth and water) out, subduing it, and forming it into an habitable, life-bearing world.
  3. That the source of day’s light is an inherent and essential property of day itself; its source is not the sun.
  4. That God created day, as light or daylight.
  5. That night is the original primordial darkness.
  6. That God subdued the primordial untamed waters by creating a domed barrier in their midst which separated the waters, now above and below this barrier.
  7. That the sky is this solid transparent domed barrier.
  8. That the sky’s function, as God created it, is to keep back the waters above.
  9. That the sky is blue because of the waters above it.
  10. That the sky, this domed barrier holding the waters above, touched the waters below at the horizons.
  11. That God subdued the waters below and caused them to gather together into seas.
  12. That earth, specifically dry habitable life-supporting land—not the planet—emerged from the depths of these now tamed seas.
  13. That the land or earth was flat.
  14. That the land or earth “floated” upon or was supported by the waters below.
  15. That the earth brought forth all plants and vegetation, each by its own kind.
  16. That God created and placed the sun, moon, and all the stars together in the domed barrier that he had made earlier, above which were the waters above.
  17. That these luminaries were created to regulate and to distinguish between the day and the night, not to create day (daylight) and night.
  18. That these luminaries moved through this domed barrier.
  19. That the moon produces its own light.
  20. That the luminaries’ purpose, in part, was to indicate when the months began, and on what days Yahweh’s festivals (Sabbath, Passover, Unleavened Bread, Horn-Blast Holy Day, Day of Atonement, and Booths) fell and were to be observed.
  21. That the observance of these festivals or holy days were eternal laws punishable by death or excommunication.
  22. That the luminaries, particularly the moon, were created to serve as a calendar system, each new moon beginning a new month.
  23. That God created the living beings of the waters below, each by their kind.
  24. That God created the birds, each by their kind.
  25. That God created the animals of the earth, each by their kind.
  26. That in opposition to the animals, God created mankind, male and female, in his image.
  27. That there existed a plurality of divine beings or a divine counsel of some sort.
  28. That God created all of this in 6 days.
  29. That God created and consecrated the 7th day as holy.
  30. That God rested from his work on the 7th day and therefore man too must rest from his work on the 7th day, as reckoned from the new moon and then each 7th consecutive day afterward.
  31. That anyone caught doing work on the 7th day, that is not observing the Sabbath (our Saturday—but this is still inaccurate since we do not follow a lunar calendar), was to be stoned to death by commandment from God himself.
  32. That the Sabbath was an eternal covenant, to be observed forever, on penalty of death.

These, then, are what the author of Genesis 1:1-2:3 believed—well actually just a small fraction of what he believed and perceived as “true,” as his experience of the world dictated.

How many of these are seriously believed by our so-called modern day Creationists? 5? 10? 30%? How long are we as sentient beings going to put up with this dishonest and hypocritical practice? For by feigning belief in Genesis 1, they themselves are some of the most strident enemies of this ancient text and its author. I would expect more out of a species made in the image of God!

4 thoughts on “What the Author of Genesis 1:1-2:3, and his God, Believed!

  1. Many christians claim the bible is the inerrant word of God and nothing exemplifies this so much as Genesis.
    After all, who else was allegedly there when creation happened.

    If they accept Genesis as wrong, then who created us. Genesis is one of the main pillars for christianity and judaism.
    This is why Charles Darwin’s idea is so provocative. Darwin takes away their god

    The other main pillar is life after death. What would religion mean if we simply die?

    1. Harold,

      These and similar questions are theological and subjective in nature, and as such I don’t really deal with them. I am most concerned with the problem of biblical illiteracy that plagues our culture. So, for instance, against claims by modern Christians that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, I would point out that this belief is 1) but the mere creation of readers who lived centuries after these ancient texts were independently written and represents how these texts were viewed by later readers—i.e., they are subjective in nature! And 2) proper objective study of these texts on the terms of their authors—not those of later readers—refutes such claims! The texts themselves reveal that their compositional nature is not as these modern Christians claim. The texts themselves reveal that they reflect the culturally-conditioned beliefs, ideologies, agendas, etc. of their 60 some authors and that these often competing and contradictory beliefs and agendas were placed upon the lips of their deity, Yahweh, to legitimate their worldview, ideology, belief system, etc.

      The above list of the beliefs of the author of Genesis 1 is just that, regardless of what later readers came to believe about the text. The text invalidates their beliefs about the text! This is the real battle, if you will. It is not between science and religion, but between what the biblical texts claim on their own terms and what fundamentalists claim about the text! There is no right or wrong about Genesis per se. There is no right of wrong about a story. There is, however, a right or wrong way to read Genesis, and the wrong way is to ignore, interpret away, or neglect this author’s story and his beliefs through an interpretive process that imposes later beliefs or a later scientific understanding of the world onto this ancient text. Our goal is to allow this ancient text to invite us into its worldview—-not impose ours onto it—and to understand it as a product of its culture, and hell, even come to appreciate it as such.

      All 14 posts in this series of posts—Genesis’ 2 Creation Accounts—have as one of its goals to textually demonstrate that the depiction of the creation of the world and of mankind in both these accounts were conditioned and shaped by subjective and culturally formed beliefs and ideas about the nature of the world as perceived by the ancient scribes who wrote these accounts. They are not, in other words, divinely dictated, divinely inspired, nor intended as objective/scientific descriptions of the world and its origins. This is not a subjective claim I am making. Rather these are the claims that the text and the textual data reveal when read on the terms of the text—not later readers—and from within its author’s cultural and literary context—-again, not the context of later readers or the context imposed and implied by later titles such as “the Holy Bible.”

      Life after death is also a religious idea that gets created at a certain historical moment (3rd-2nd c. BCE) and as a response to a specific historical crisis. This too is not a subjective sentiment that I’m expounding, but rather a religious development that the biblical texts bear witness too! Outlined in contradiction #6.

      In short, I’m not interested in the “I believe, you believe” story line so prominent in today’s religious debates. I don’t engage with my area of discipline—the biblical texts—on a subjective level. I am uniquely interested in what these 60 some authors believed and why they believed what they did. Having a public conversation about their beliefs is what I’m interested in as a career goal—not what later readers believe.

  2. NBRN,

    Welcome, and sorry for the later reply.

    I appreciate your understanding of the Bible as later and variant versions of stories—which of course this anthology of literature supports well (See also Stories from the North and the South). It’s refreshing to have Christian readers here who are legitimately interested about how this compiled Book came about, and don’t feel threatened. And, as I’ve previously voiced elsewhere, and which you seem to recognize as well, I’m not making counter-arguments here concerning the existence of God (however one wishes to define that), or pontificating on God’s alleged contradictory nature… I’m merely speaking about a collection of ancient texts that still are grossly misunderstood by modern readers, in an attempt to accurately reproduce the authors of these texts’ competing beliefs and messages.

    In response to your: “How can the luminaries’ purpose [be] to indicate something (e.g. festivals) that were only given many years latter (during their Exodus)? Did they wrote this Genesis 1 passage after receiving the 10 commandments (which stated the earth was created in 7 days) or something?”

    The scholarly consensus is that the author of Genesis 1:1-2:3—the same writer of the book of Leviticus and most of Numbers where these festivals are specified (Lev 23 & Num 28-29)—was writing during the late 6th century BCE and early 5th century BCE. So when he composed his creation account, he, his priestly guild, and the Israelites were already practicing, ideally, these holy days. Take a look at my other post on this, where I argue that this priestly writer was attempting to establish the observance of these sacred days by founding them in the creation of the world! See: Creation and Yahweh’s Festivals

    Concerning your second point, I think that the early Israelites started counting each month from the first appearance of the new moon’s crescent—day 1. From there one counts 7 days, and that is the Sabbath, per the god of the author of Genesis 1, and then each consecutive seven days thereafter until the next new moon appears, which starts the counting over again. See also The Sabbath and the Creation of Sacred Time.

    Hope that helps.

  3. Dear Dr. Steven DiMattei,

    Thank you for your work on this blog. It’s hard to learn more about the bible without a distorted explanation in favor of some religion or another. In the end, this weblog may be the neutral I will get about the bible.

    I understand people who believe in the bible (myself included, as I’m a Christian) will try to explain the inconsistencies with something that was not there (and never was) in order to normalize the stories and our own beliefs. It is because of that, this ended no different from today’s fictional works: There’s a story (e.g. an original story in a movie or game), and later, for convenience, there’s a “retcon” (Retroactive continuity, which is the alteration of previously established facts in the continuity of a fictional work). In the end, although the original story never originally meant to be what the latest says, the latest information will be considered official (or the truth) to everyone (just because it is the latest version or simply because the original story didn’t explicit said anything about it giving enough space to make additions). I think it’s about time we stop to impose our “fan-fiction” (our personal beliefs) into the original stories and understand what the authors believed and were trying to tell (their intentions, motifs, perspectives, etc.). The exercise is difficult even to me because, as I stated, I’m a believer and have my own personal beliefs. However, being a believer doesn’t mean I don’t want to learn more so I can be more honest to the texts in the bible than I am right now.

    Well, regarding to this post, I’m still not able to fully understand two things:

    “20. That the luminaries’ purpose, in part, was to indicate when the months began, and on what days Yahweh’s festivals (Sabbath, Passover, Unleavened Bread, Horn-Blast Holy Day, Day of Atonement, and Booths) fell and were to be observed.”

    How can the luminaries’ purpose was to indicate something (e.g. festivals) that were only given many years latter (during their Exodus)? Did they wrote this Genesis 1 passage after receiving the 10 commandments (which stated the earth was created in 7 days) or something?

    “That God rested from his work on the 7th day and therefore man too must rest from his work on the 7th day, as reckoned from the new moon and then each 7th consecutive day afterward. That anyone caught doing work on the 7th day, that is not observing the Sabbath (our Saturday—but this is still inaccurate since we do not follow a lunar calendar), was to be stoned to death by commandment from God himself.”

    Does that mean at that time (to Israelite) the week restarted every month? That means the first “seven day of the week” was always the 7th of the month or something? If this is true it’s a very interesting find, but how do we know that? Are there any historic/academic evidences or findings that reveal this?

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