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Intrigued By The Book Of Genesis
What did Bible writers 3,000 years ago know? And how did they know it?
I’m writing today to share some intriguing questions I’ve been pondering, questions which have been inspired by the Book Of Genesis, the first book in the Bible.
First, to clear the air, please know that I’m not personally religious. Nor am I a Biblical scholar, or anything close. I am instead just incurably philosophical, which on occasion draws my attention to some of the big picture issues often addressed by religions.
So today I’m turning my wannabe philosopher gaze towards two of the stories addressed right at the beginning of the Bible, the story of creation, and the story of Adam and Eve.
Please note that these two stories are in the Old Testament, the original Hebrew Bible, and thus predate any discussion of Christianity.
The Story Of Creation
Right at the very beginning of the Bible we are offered a description of the creation of our universe. Here are the sentences that are the focus of my attention today.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
Consider this if you will.
The Bible authors who wrote these sentences at least hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, could have described creation in any number of ways.
They might have referred to the birth of a child, the blossoming of a flower, the harvesting of crops, the daily rising of the sun, the opening of a book, the first moment of falling in love, or any of a seemingly endless number of analogies referencing a beginning.
The Bible’s authors were not restrained by the facts now known to modern science. The possibilities for creative expression were endless. The Bible authors could have written a story about flying donkeys, exploding loaves of bread, alien beings in orange jumpsuits, anything, they could have written literally any crazy thing they wanted.
But, instead of all those options, they chose these words….
“darkness was upon the face of the deep”
“And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”
I find myself intrigued by the similarity between these words and our current understanding of the Big Bang.
No, the words quoted above aren’t a perfect description of the creation of our universe. They aren’t a peer reviewed scientific paper. This description by Bible authors offers no hard data, is missing a great many technical details known to us today, and makes no attempt at proof. The story of creation offered in the Book Of Genesis is simply a claim, and that’s all.
But why this particular claim? Darkness upon the deep, and let there be light. Why this choice of words, when so many others were available?
Could it be a coincidence that the Bible description of creation sounds suspiciously like our current understanding? Sure, that’s definitely one possibility.
Could it be that the Bible’s story of creation was divinely inspired, and that explains the general ballpark similarity between the Bible’s description of creation and that of modern science? Certainly many people believe this to be the case, while many others don’t. Not being an all knowing god myself, I’ll decline to join either camp.
In the wild speculation department we might concoct a theory that, as modern science seems to suggest, time is not linear as we experience it at human scale, but instead everything that was, is, and will be is happening in the single moment of now. Could it be that there are rare individuals who can explore this single moment of now to see all that it contains? I obviously have no idea, but were I forced to choose some explanation, perhaps I’d place my bet here.
If a general ballpark similarity between the Bible’s description of creation and Big Bang theory does exist, for my taste at least, such a similarity doesn’t prove anything one way or another. And so…
I don’t have any proof. I don’t even really have a point, other than that I find such a comparison between some ancient Bible verses and modern science to be interesting.
Darkness upon the deep, and let there be light. Written 3,000 years before Big Bang theory.
The Story Of Adam And Eve
The Book Of Genesis also tells the story of the first humans, according to the Bible writers.
Few people today believe that there was literally a man named Adam and a woman named Eve. For many of we moderns, much of the Bible is seen as story which attempts to tell deep truths about the human condition in fable form, much as novel or play upon the stage can tell deep truths about the human condition in a manner which is deliberately fictional.
And so, each reader is left to interpret the Bible in whatever manner they can, sometimes through the lens of various authorities, and sometimes through the lens of one’s own personal experience of being human.
The key portion of that story which is of concern to this article goes like this:
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
One interpretation of this story, one of many, is that Adam and Eve ate fruit from the tree of knowledge, and were then as a result evicted from the Garden of Eden.
To me, just one reader, this sounds suspiciously like what I see happening in the modern world today. Over recent centuries we’ve been “eating from the tree of knowledge” at an accelerating rate, and as a result we now face challenges like nuclear weapons and climate change which threaten to evict us from “the Garden of Eden”, the miracle of modern civilization.
Of course many people will come to different interpretations of the Adam and Eve story, and have different areas of focus, such as the story’s reference to good and evil. That’s all fine with me, it’s not my intent to become part of an interpretation debate. I’m certainly not claiming to be presenting the “one true way” interpretation. I’m just sharing what that story means to me.
Moral Of The Story?
If these two examples mean anything, maybe it’s that we’re too often too sure of ourselves.
For centuries much of Western civilization considered these Bible stories to be literally true. Then the Enlightenment came along, and modern science, and we began to doubt. In recent times atheism has found a firmer voice, and many of today’s atheists feel these Bible stories are just a bunch of made up silly nonsense.
First we were sure of one thing, and then we became sure of something else. We like being sure apparently.
I’m wondering if the truth about these Bible stories lies somewhere in between the competing certainties that we like to create. The stories aren’t science, and are probably not literally true, but that doesn’t automatically mean they’re completely wrong either.
Darkness upon the deep, and let there be light.
Written 3,000 years before Big Bang theory.
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