Sunday, January 2, 2011

More on Genesis 1:1

Yesterday I posted the following comment about Genesis 1:1 on the
Project: The King and I web site:

My first concern is always Gen 1:1. Three problems: "God" - the proposition "God" is not proven or established; 2) "created" - the need for creation is not established (the cyclic (eternal) universe is not a dead issue, nor is the hypothetical multiverse); 3) "heaven and earth" - this actually troubles me a lot. It's WAY out of order with what the observations show. The "inerrant word of God" assertion is immediately called into question before we ever get to the self contradictions, many translations and versions of the Bible.

It probably sounds hyper-critical to the believer to raise these three questions about a single verse - but I **was** "born-again" once upon a time, and I **did** stop believing the Bible as a result of that experience. It was re-reading the bible itself, combined with a general sense that mob psychology was at work in the congregation, and a specific set of observations of my immediate co-believers, that encouraged me to look at my belief with an analytical eye and ultimately reject Christianity - and the concept of God in general - as useful belief systems.

In Genesis 1:1, we are presented with the assertion that, in the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. The concept "God" is not explained - but we assume it to mean "the creator" (pretty obvious in this context), and likewise might assume that God has the qualities of omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, "eternal-ness" and "infinite-ness". These are qualities that the Bible **may not claim** (I owe it to myself to find this out) but that I have always perceived to be part of God's resume.

The literary person that this first verse is written in gives the reader the impression that the author is human, and that "God" is external to the author - otherwise, you might expect the verse to read something like "These are the words of me, God the Creator, that I have given to my faithful scribe Joe Sixpack. In the beginning I created the heaven and the earth." Now that I think about this, God could be more explicit by saying something like " ... I created a place to put all things that are not the earth, which I will call "Heaven", then the earth, which I placed below it". I'm already getting twisted up about this verse just trying to reconcile the way that the Bible is presented with the simple things that the average junior high school kid knows. Ultimately, a better reading would be "In the beginning I created time and space, then filled them with matter and energy. It came to pass that the matter combined to form stars, which further gathered to create galaxies. It then came to pass that dust around one star combined to form the earth upon which you stand". Not poetic, but it's a start.

That re-imagining of Genesis 1:1 leads me back to the other problems I have always had with the verse. "In the beginning" is unknowable to us - science largely holds that the universe started with a Big Bang, but it's entirely possible that event is just a transition from an earlier form to the one that we experience today. The other problem is with the order of creation (heaven and earth simultaneously) - but I "solved" that with the re-imagining that I spelled out in the previous paragraph.

The take-away from this is that the Bible is not inerrant. Any attempt to argue that it is fails, because the known facts (ignore the big bang and just focus on matter, star and planet creation) contradict Genesis 1:1. God would surely know about this if he did author the Bible and he is the creator. Add to this the existence of hundreds, maybe thousands of different versions of the bible over the millennia, and we see that God did not take care to write the bible in an unambiguous manner that does not require interpretation or alteration. The sane believer is left with accepting the bible as allegory, which is more understandable.

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