Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate“DiMattei’s book is a refreshing call both for biblical literacy and for intellectual honesty in dealing with the Bible.” —John J. Collins, Holmes Professor of Old Testament Criticism and Interpretation, Yale Divinity School.

“In an important contribution to the discussion between mainstream biblical studies and creation ‘science,’ DiMattei does a wonderful job of explicating the first two chapters of Genesis.  He shows convincingly that although Creationists claim to read this story literally, they are not reading it carefully at all.” —Marc Brettler, Bernice & Morton Lerner Professor of Judaic Studies, Duke University

“Steven DiMattei presents an important challenge to Creationists by showing that they fundamentally misunderstand the very chapter of Genesis on which much of their anti-scientific views are based. Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate is an accessible and useful book for those who seek to understand why creationism is flawed on biblical grounds.” —Hector Avalos, Professor of Religious Studies, Iowa State University

SYNOPSIS: Modern readers often assume that Genesis 1 depicts the creation of the Earth and sky as we know it. Yet in an appeal for textual honesty, Steven DiMattei shows that such beliefs are more representative of modern views about this ancient text than the actual claims and beliefs of its author. Through a culturally-contextualized and objective reading of the texts of Genesis 1 and 2, this study not only introduces readers to the textual data that convincingly demonstrate that Genesis’ two creation accounts were penned by different authors who held contradictory views and beliefs about the origin of the world and of man and woman, but also establishes on textual grounds that what the author of Genesis 1 portrayed God creating was the world as its author and culture perceived and experienced it—not the objective world, but a subjective world, subject to the culturally-conditioned views and beliefs of its author. In the end, this book illustrates that the Bible’s ancient texts do in fact represent the beliefs and worldviews of ancient peoples and cultures—not those of God, not those of later readers, and especially not those of modern day Creationists.



Introduction

Creationism is not something new. The belief that the world was created by an omnipotent being or beings has been around for millennia and has taken on numerous different forms and expressions. One might even argue that such beliefs are hardwired into the human psyche. That as sentient beings whose natural tendency is to organize and rationalize the world that we perceive, we, or better yet our ancestors quite naturally composed stories about the nature and origin of the world that they perceived and experienced.

While this book does not necessarily contest such beliefs, it does challenge modern proponents of this belief who, for a variety of reasons, think that their beliefs about the nature of the world and its origin are founded and legitimated by a text, a creation story, that was written more than two thousand five hundred years ago. This is quite bewildering in and of itself when we stop to think about it. How can anyone living in the twenty-first century with our twenty-first-century perception, knowledge, and experience of the world honestly claim that they adhere to beliefs forged by a people and culture that lived more than two thousand five hundred years ago? Are these people being honest to themselves? And more importantly for our present purpose, are they being honest to these ancient texts and the claims and beliefs of their authors?

The biblical texts themselves will make a formal response to these questions in the forthcoming chapters, where it will be demonstrated that modern day Creationists do not actually believe in the beliefs and claims represented in these ancient texts. A large part of the problem is that like many modern “readers” of the Bible’s texts, Creationists actually know little to nothing about these texts, the beliefs and messages of their individual authors, and the historical and literary contexts that shaped those beliefs.

Ancient stories that explained the nature and origin of the world and its phenomena, as chapter 1’s close reading of Genesis 1 and 2 will reveal, were shaped by how ancient cultures and peoples perceived and experienced their world. This is readily apparent to anyone who has read the Bible’s creation narratives on the terms of their authors and the cultural contexts that produced them. The author of Genesis 1, for example, composed a creation narrative that explained how the world as he and his culture perceived it came into existence. And this author and his larger ancient Near Eastern culture perceived their world as surrounded by water—water above the sky, which gave it its blue color, and water below the earth upon which it rested. They perceived and accepted as “truth” that the sky held back the waters above it, that the moon produced its own light, that the day itself was the source of daylight and not the sun, that human beings were essentially of the divine as opposed to the animals of the earth, and that the seventh day was inherently created holy and consecrated by the creator deity at creation. These beliefs about the nature of their world, these culturally conditioned “truths” as it were, shaped the composition of this author’s creation story so that the god of Genesis 1 is portrayed creating the very world that its author and culture perceived—a moon that produced light, the creation of light separate from the sun, an explanation of how earth emerged from the waters below and became surrounded by the waters above, and how these waters were kept in place by the sky which the creator deity specifically made for this purpose, an explanation of why the seventh day after each new moon and each consecutive seventh day thereafter were inherently sacred, and so forth.

In other words, this author’s creation narrative was shaped by his experience and perception of the world. This is what the text itself reveals when read on its own terms and from within its own historical and literary contexts—not on the terms, contexts, nor beliefs of later readers. Obviously this also means acknowledging that we in the twenty-first century neither perceive nor experience the world in the terms depicted in this ancient text by its author. So how is it then that a group of individuals in today’s day and age can claim that their beliefs about the world and its origin are substantiated by the perceptions, experiences, and limited knowledge of the world as held by an author and culture that existed two thousand five hundred years ago? In short they cannot and do not. . . .


Well, that’s all you get for now. The book is currently being printed and will be available for purchase by end of month. Thanks for all your support!

9 thoughts on “Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate

  1. Dr. DiMatttei,
    I am researching and writing a book (fiction) about the 18 missing years in Jesus’ life from 13-30 when he started his ministry. I am trying to depict a conflicted young Jesus who is confused about a largely vengeful, fear and punish-based God with the message of love, compassion and forgiveness that he eventually spreads during his ministry on the way to the beginnings of Christianity. Can you suggest any sources that discuss how and why the God of the OT is so different than the God of the NT? Was it part of God’s plan to have his son experience and there better understand the human condition? It seems implausible to me that he evolves into the man who he becomes at 30 by exclusively living in Nazareth as his father’s apprentice in conditions that seem repressive (church and state) lacking love and compassion. Many thanks in advance for your thoughts.
    Best,
    T.R. Winslow

    1. Hi Ania,

      The parts of the book that are making arguments from the lexical content and syntax of the text—yes, of course. Since the book’s focus is only Genesis 1 and 2 I use my own translation. Noticing these authors’ unique and competing messages and how they constructed them as well as the socio-historical and literary context of their text rests on looking at their language. Conversely, thematic, religious worldviews, and even identifying larger beliefs systems and ideologies are readily perceivable in an English translation—provided a reader is open to understanding these ancient texts on their terms and from within their own historical and cultural contexts. I think the book should be available by the end of this month.

      Your other post, I’ll address when I have a little more time, cheers.

  2. Steven,

    I definitely plan on purchasing your book. Do you plan on publishing any more books? I am wondering if you plan on publishing a book discussing the discrepancies on this website?

    Matt

    1. Matt,

      Yes, I am currently working on 3 different projects, all of which I hope to see printed in 2016-17. Yes, one of them is the contents of this website, which I will probably market as, Contradictions in the Bible #1-450. Volume I: The Torah The other, Understanding Bible Contradictions, takes this same material but presents it differently—looking at contradictory stories between J and E, then contradictory “histories” created when D on the one hand and P on the other rewrite the earlier JE traditions. Finally there is my 2-chapter Did Moses Lie to Us and Falsify HisStory? which examines how and why D used Moses to author a counter-history to the earlier JE narrative as represented in Exodus and Numbers.

  3. Glad to see your first book (this is your first, right?) is coming out! Based on the material you’ve written on this site about the creation account(s), I know that this book is one that a lot of people need to read.

    1. Hey KW, nice to hear from you. Yes, first published, but not first written. My Understanding Bible Contradictions, which is the material on the site only presented differently [Chapter 1 comparing variant versions of J and E; Chapter 2 on D’s rewriting of mainly E; Chapter 3 on P’s reworking of J; Chapter 4 comparing D and P] is still looking for a home (currently under review). The present book was really a smaller offshoot. It is currently in the presses as they say. So by month’s end. . .

      And yes, I think this book has the potential to change the parameters of the debate and really make a difference. Hopefully it gets noticed. . . and particularly by those you “need” it the most.

Leave a Reply