“The Story of Creation” from the book of Genesis
Biblical scholars generally hold that the beginning of the book of Genesis in fact contains two “creation stories” — or at least two accounts of the creation of the human being — that are interwoven into the account we now have, the older account beginning at 2:4b and the later account found in 1:1-2:4a. Can you notice any differences between these sections of the text that would suggest that they were indeed originally different accounts of origins?
While there are Christians who take the creation story in a quasi-scientific fashion, most mainstream Christians acknowledge that there are insuperable problems when taking the Genesis accounts this way. For example, notice how the text affirms that God created light and darkness on the first day (1:3-5), then the earth on the third (1:9-10), and later the sun and moon (1:16) on the fourth day. Is it clear to you why this is a problem, scientifically speaking? Explain.
Most contemporary Christian scholars recognize this section of Genesis to be of the genre of myth, that is, a story (usually of divine figures) that reveals something about the fundamental structure of reality for those who live in light of the story. If the first chapter of Genesis is this sort of a sacred text (i.e., a myth), then what is it revealing about the underlying structure of reality for those who live by it (e.g., Christians)?
What is the basic “story line” of the second creation story? What is the significance of the man’s being made out of earth and God’s “breathing” the “breath of life” into his nostrils? (2:7) What significance do you see in the way the woman was created? (2:21-2) What is the point to the observation that they were not ashamed (2:25) when they walked around naked?
Why did the serpent go to woman (instead of the man) first when trying to get the pair to eat of the fruit of the tree God had forbidden? (3:1-5) Compare this to the account of the creation of a woman and think how it might have shaped the understanding of the role of a woman in European history.
What happened to the pair once they ate of the forbidden fruit? (3:7) What kind of tree was the "forbidden tree" and what was the "first sin" of the humanity? What does it tell us about the nature of knowledge?
What do you think of God’s actions (3:14-24) after he found out about the pair’s failure to obey his command? If the genre of this story is also myth, what might it be revealing about the underlying structure of reality?
Do you think that accepting this account of creation (as a devout Jew or Christian would) leads to a conflict with a contemporary scientific account of the world (as proposed in physics and biology)? Why or why not?