In the beginning…Genesis 1 & 2

Saturday, September 06, 2008

In the beginning…Genesis 1 & 2

I’ve been reading Genesis, and it’s actually amazing how tame the creation story is compared to much of the rest of the Bible. I’m also realizing though that I can’t possibly comment on every single thing I find wrong (or right) with the Bible; I’ll eventually have to pace myself. But for now, I’ll do a couple of the first chapters of Genesis. I may come back and look at some parts more in detail later; for now, this is a quick overview.

Genesis 1. Might as well start with the beginning. Obviously, scientifically the 7-day creation story (or 6 days, plus a personal day for God) is complete nonsense, but the idea behind the whole thing is kind of nice and the language is actually poetic. Some people claim that the days aren’t real day as we humans count them, or that it’s not meant to be literal. Then why not just explain that in the Bible?? The darn thing is certainly not meant to be concise as it is, so a few words of explanation here or there wouldn’t really have hurt.

The first creation story (Genesis 1)  seems to put women on a level playing field with men, which is a very good thing, but not in sync with the rest of the Bible and pretty much most civilizations until very recently (we’re still not at total gender parity, but thankfully we’re light years ahead of some of the stuff in the Bible I know is coming up). There are theories about different authors being responsible for the various parts of the Pentateuch (5 so-called books of Moses), so it’s hard to say if it was some fairly forward-thinking writer whose ideas in the first chapter of Genesis were merged with most of the other xenophobic, women-hating  blood-thirsty wackos who wrote the rest of the Bible, or if it’s just a fluke that there was something laudable so early on in the "great book".

I personally don’t like though the idea that God gives humans "dominion" over everything on Earth. I don’t know what gave humans the idea that we could just do whatever we wanted to the living things on the planet. I think this is a huge problem in human history, and the Bible isn’t the only problem-causer. We think we’re so smart and advanced that we are better, or at least separate, from every other living thing on this planet. Which apparently means we have the right to destroy and abuse everything with impunity at our every whim. Given the planet’s rapidly deteriorating health and how many species have gone or may soon be extinct due to human "mismanagement" of the planet, if God really did put us in charge of the Earth, he really screwed this one up.

Genesis 2. One thing the Bible can be thanked for is the idea that even an all-powerful being needs a day off from work every once in a while. Although there is a lot I don’t like about the Sabbath, Genesis 2 at least set a precedent for taking a break from work. It’s too bad this arguably worker-friendly beginning is offset by the whole pro-slavery thread that runs through the Bible (even Jesus gets in the act, but that’s many books later that we’ll see that).

Humans are created again in Genesis 2 (God can be forgetful at times). When Adam doesn’t take to any of the animals God creates for him (again, he already forgot he created the animals! Maybe that’s why they went in by twos, or sevens, into Noah’s Ark?), then God decides to invent a woman (again) by forming her from Adam’s rib this time around.

I don’t know which is worse, being made out of some wet clay like Adam was, or out of a man’s rib like Eve was. I think this storyline, whether intentionally or not, serves to go against what many cultures believed: that women are the sacred givers of life. Since women give birth, it seems like a logical way of looking at things. But since God tells us in the Bible that Eve came out of Adam’s rib, then obviously women come from men, and not vice versa. This conveniently (intentionally or not) reinforces men’s claim to dominance over women.