History…Genesis 1:1-4

I am sticking with the Old Testament readings for the time being, this week the Old Testament text is Genesis 1:1-4. To be honest, these are not my favorite bible verses. I find strength and wisdom when I read about human interaction, the community between God and human, and the raw emotional response to life…these things are lacking in these verses. I can close my eyes and envision this story being told around the campfire or maybe during worship in the temple but even that doesn’t hold my interest for long. Maybe studying these versus this week will help me find a connection with the text (or maybe not…who knows?).

If you read the first couple of chapters of Genesis closely, you find a change in voice, the name of God changes, and there are different thoughts and ideas of who God is and how that God interacts with people, the narrator of the story changes. In Genesis 1 God is transcendent and able to bring order to light, land and sea. God is the creator of all order.

The first account of creation, Genesis 1-2:4a feels like it could be a responsive reading during a church service…maybe it was at one time. The Documentary Hypothesis is the theory that believes many different documents were combined over several centuries to create the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). The Documentary Hypothesis states that there are four different sources, one of them being the “P” source, or priestly source. “The P, or Priestly, source is named because of its emphasis on matters of religious observance and ritual. Thus, in Genesis, the first account of creation, which is P, concludes with the account of divine rest and hence of the Sabbath observance” (Coogan, 53). If this were a priestly writer then it would make sense for a religious leader to lead the congregation with this reading, maybe in a responsive way, or maybe as a hymn that the congregation sings together.

Most academic studies of the Genesis creation accounts include other Ancient Near East creation accounts like the Enuma Elish. Coogan, Yale, and my Hebrew Bible class at Iliff School of Theology all include the study of other creation myths as a starting point for study. The surrounding cultures were part of the biblical world, just like the surrounding cultures today are part of our world. Many parts of the Bible, including the creation accounts are speaking into the countries and cultures of the time. The first creation story in Genesis was a response to other cultures…”your god is the sea? Well OUR God created the sea and all God did was speak a word and then there was order!”

More Reading…

Getting Drunk with the Documentary Hypothesis