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Mainstream Biblical scholarship maintains that the creation story found in Genesis 2 is the earlier of the two Genesis accounts. Filled with ancient and rich imagery, it is believed that the basic story once circulated among the early nomadic Hebrews, told perhaps around simple, intimate campfire settings, answering questions about life and the origins of humankind. The story also reflects Israel's belief in its covenant relationship with God. The concern in Genesis 2 is not in the creation of the cosmos but in the origins of humankind and their environment. There is a clear connection between humans and the land (2:7) and the notion that people are a special creation of God.
Most Biblical scholars believe that the Genesis 1 account can be attributed to the so-called "priestly" writer(s)/editor(s) (known in academic circles as "P") who was responsible for a fair portion of the Pentateuch. Dating to roughly the Exilic and early post-Exilic period of Hebrew history, the account sets forth creation on a cosmic scale. Revered for its majestic poetry concerning the beginnings of the universe, the Genesis 1 account is shaped as a litany, likely for use in the Temple in Jerusalem, though its basic form predates the building of the Second Temple.
Whereas the earlier account found in Genesis 2 emphasizes the closeness of humanity's relationship to the environment and the immanence of God, the later Genesis 1 account emphasizes the trancendent greatness of God and culminates in the establishment of the Sabbath. It is believed that the "P" source was concerned with maintaining a Jewish identity while removed from Jersualem and Temple worship, and that the Sabbath was thus lifted up as a means to retain a distinctive identity in the midst of a pluralist Exilic culture. Hence, the account ends with the establishment of the Sabbath as an act of God, and an important part of the creative process.
This familiar account today is utilized for a variety of theological purposes.
- It is often used to stress the transcendence of God, his sovereignty, awesome power, and identity as wholly separate from creation.
- The account is typically used to establish or strengthen the notion of Sabbath as a key mark of God's "chosen people", particularly by Jewish scholars.
- This is a key passage for those who support the notion of creatio ex nihilo, or "creation out of nothing". This belief states that God created the cosmos without the aid of anything to begin. Genesis 1:1 reads in Hebrew, "Bereshit bara Elohim et hashamayim ve'et ha'arets...". In most traditional English translations, it reads, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth...". God's existence and creative power apart from any original "building blocks" is assumed. A notable exception to this translation appears in the NRSV translation, which reads, "In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth...", which, while still faithful to the Hebrew text, seems to make the assumption that God created the universe out of "chaos". While this idea is found elsewhere in Scripture (notably in the Psalter), the NRSV is the first major English translation to find this notion in Genesis 1.
- The first creation story found in Genesis is also the key passage for those who subscribe to some form of creationism, which purports that Genesis 1 is a literal account of how God created the universe (see article for more information).
- YHWH as divine warrior
- Psalms 8, 33, 89, 98, 104, 145
- John 1
- Colossians 1
The Seven Days of Creation
- God rested from his finished creation.
Christian Perspectives on Creation
This isn't so much a single position as it is an amalgamation of several belief systems. What these belief systems have in common is taking the biblical creation account word for word while not allowing any room for interpreting portions of text as being metaphorical, and often not leaving room for interpreting the text in context as well. Ideas often considered hyper literal are Geocentrism and Flat Earthism. Hyper literalists often reject most of mainstream science, and sometimes even the scientific method itself.
Young Earth Creationism
Often compared to hyper literalists by detractors to the idea, Young Earth Creationists also take the biblical record very literally. However, unlike hyper literalists they are accepting of much of science's discoveries, and often vocally embrace the scientific method, many choosing to call themselves "Creation Scientists." However, they do not accept all of science's advancements. They reject "macroevolution," much of geology and the assumption of uniformity. The basic ideas of Young Earth Creationism are that God completed making the world in seven days. They claim that physical death arose as a result of the Fall of Man and that Noah's Flood was responsible for the creation of the fossil record. Afterwards a different Post-Flood environment resulted in diminishing human lifespans as well as the gradual extinction of "prehistoric" animals like dinosaurs.
See main article Young Earth Creationism
Old Earth Creationism
Old Earth Creationists are more accepting of mainstream science than Young Earth believers, and agree that the earth is old and that the days of Genesis were metaphorical. However, they still do not accept macroevolution, and when confronted with a disparity between the fossil record and the biblical creation account they are more likely to accept the biblical chronology.
See main article Old Earth Creationism
Gap creationists believe that between Gen 1:1 and Gen 1:2 a large period of time, possible consisting of many billions of years elapsed. Gap creationists believe that the phrase "the earth was void and without form" is best translated as "the earth became void and without form." This event is often associated with famous extinction events from paleontology. Whatever the reason the earth became void, they believe that most of Gen 1 describes a recreation of life on earth in the wake of the aforementioned disaster. This interpretation of scripture gives the individual believer a free rein in understanding evolution and the fossil record as being part of the gap between Gen 1:1 and Gen 1:2 that is not elaborated on in the bible.
Progressive creationists are similar to Old Earth Creationists except that they are more open minded to the order of creation outlined in the fossil record and more likely to interpret the bible from a less literal mindset.
Theistic evolutionists accept all scientific discoveries and believe that Gen 1 was a metaphorical description of millions of years of evolutionary processes that were guided by God according to his own purposes. The origins of humanity are somewhat a matter of contention under this position, with some believing that Adam wasn't chronologically the first human, others believing that he was but he had a natural birth from a non-human parent, others claiming he was created miraculously but that this is an exception from the usual evolutionary rule.
See main article Theistic Evolution
Taking an even less literal position that theistic evolutionists, they believe that while God created the universe, evolution went ahead according to pre-programmed natural laws and thus God was only indirectly responsible for the creation of life.
- Anderson, Bernhard, "A Stylistic Study of the Priestly Creation Story", Canon and Authority, G. Coats & B. Long, eds. (1977)
- Anderson, Bernhard, ed., Creation in the Old Testament (1984) ISBN 0800617681
- Anderson, Bernhard, Creation versus Chaos (1967), ISBN 0800619986
- Anderson, Bernhard, Understanding the Old Testament (4th Edition) (1957, 1997) ISBN 0139483993
- Brueggemann, Walter, Genesis ISBN 080423101X
- Cross, Frank Moore, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic (1973), ISBN 0674091760
- Ellis, Peter, The Yahwist: The Bible's First Theologian (1968) ISBN 0225488191
- Gunkel, Hermann, The Legends of Genesis: The Biblical Saga and History (1964) ISBN 1592442366
- Oden, Thomas, The Living God (1984) ISBN 0060663634
- Rouvière, Jean-Marc (2006), Brèves méditations sur la création du monde L'Harmattan, Paris. ISBN 2-7475-9922-1
- Von Rad, Gerhard, Genesis (1972) ISBN 0664209572
- Wright, G.E., The Old Testament and Theology (1969)
- Esoteric cosmology
- Documentary hypothesis
- Higher criticism
- Source criticism
- Origin belief
- Allegorical interpretations of Genesis
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