Creation by Moralisee Genesis is the first book of the Bible. It consists of 50 chapters, beginning with Creation, and covers 2,400 years of Biblical history. There are at least five stories of creation in the original Jewish Bible. Of these Genesis explores the nature of the relationship between God and mankind.
Genesis is filled with murder, adultery, greed, jealousy, rape and incest as well as well as godly pronouncements and acts of loyalty and goodness. As is true with most of the Bible, most of the important figures are male. The female figures that are represented either mute or flawed, with Eve being the most famous example.
In Genesis, man is portrayed as a creature of the world with a consciousness that separates him from other animals. God is portrayed as being a creator and as living in another world. Man’s consciousness is the link to that world. Man is characterized both as a creature of the world but also as one with the power to transcend it.
Historians believe Genesis is based on popular orally-passed-down stories that were complied between 10th and 5th century B.C. Thus far archaeologists and historians have not come up with proof that Garden of Eden or the Tower of Babel really existed. But beginning with story of Abraham in Chapter 12 many of the places and customs that are described are consistent with historical fact although there is no evidence that major figures like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph really existed.
Orthodox Jews read Genesis as the literal truth. They reject evolution and geological ages and other basic principals of modern science the same way that fundamentalist Christians do. The great Christian theologian, St. Augustine, who lived in the A.D. 5th century, is among those to argue that Genesis was not intended to be taken literally. Many today see it as the Jewish creation myth.
Creation Websites and Resources: Judaism101 jewfaq.org ; Judaism and Jewish Resources shamash.org/trb/judaism ; Aish.com aish.com ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; torah’org torah.org ; Chabad,org chabad.org/library/bible ; Religious Tolerance religioustolerance.org/judaism ; Judaism.com judaism.com ; ; Jewish History: Jewish History Timeline jewishhistory.org.il/history ; Wikipedia article on Wikipedia ; Jewish History Resource Center dinur.org ; Origin of Judaism adath-shalom.ca ;Center for Jewish History cjh.org ; Jewish Culture and History Resources ddickerson.igc.org/judaica ;
Books: A Short History of Judaism by I. And D. Cohn-Sherlok (1994); The Gift of the Jews by Thomas Cahill; Ancient Biblical History Books: Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times by Donald Redford; Oxford Companion to the Bible ; Palestine Bible as History by Werner Keller; The Bible Unearthed by I. Finkelstein & N. Asher Silberman ; Historical Atlas of the Holy Lands by K. Farrington
Websites and Resources with Biblical Images: Bible in Pictures creationism.org/books ; Bible Picture gallery biblepicturegallery.com ; ebibleteacher ebibleteacher.com ; Bible-History.com bible-history.com ; Visual Bible Alive visualbiblealive.com ; Pictures from Bible lavistachurchofchrist.org ; Bible Pictures karenswhimsy.com/bible-pictures ; Blue Letter Images blueletterbible.org/images ; Biblical Images preceptaustin.org
Books About Genesis
Geocentrism Books: Genesis: Translation and Commentary by Robert Alter (Norton, 1996); Genesis: A New Translation of the Classic Biblical Stories by Stephen Mitchell (HarperCollins, 1996); Genesis: A Living Conversation by Bill Moyers (Doubleday, 1996); Genesis: As It is Written edited by David Rosenberg (HarperSan Francisco, 1996): In the Beginning, New Interpretation of Genesis by Karen Armstrong (Knopf, 1999).
In 2009, after five years of work, R. Crumb, the great 60s era illustrator who created Fritz the Cat, Mr. Natural and keep on Truckin’, produced his version of Genesis, which he regards as great myth and subtitled it “All 50 Chapters” and “Nothing Left Out.” Crumb sticks close to story line and his embellishments are based more on historical research than his lurid imagination. The work is in black and white and extraordinary, even inspired, in its detail. His depiction of God came to him a “very powerful cream.” His family trees bring clarity to “lists of begats.”
Genesis begins in the King James version with: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light. And the was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day."
God Creates the Heavens According to the Everett Fox version, regarded as closest to the Hebrew original:
At the beginning of God's creating
of the heavens and the earth.
when the earth was wild and waste.
darkness over the face of Ocean.
rushing-spirit of God hovering over
the face of the waters.
God said: Let there be light! And
there was light.
God saw the light: that it was good.
God separated the light from the darkness.
God called the light: Day! and the
darkness he called: Night!
There was setting. there was dawning: one day.
On the second day God made the heavens. On the third day he made the land, the seas, plants, trees and plants. On the forth day he made the sun, moon and stars and the alternating cycle of day and night. On the fifth day he made he made the fishes and birds.
On the six day God made land animals and "man in his own image, the image of God created him; male and female created he them." "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." When God takes a rib from Adam, the sexes are differentiated. On the seventh day God rested.
Who Said the World began in 4004 B.C.?
God Takes a Rest Irish prelate and scholar Archbishop James Ussher (1581-1659) was the person who fixed the date of creation in the year 4004 B.C. by examining the scriptures. During the Middle Ages most people weren't concerned with investigating ancient history because they believed the Bible recorded the events between Eden and Jerusalem adequately and the Greeks and Romans recorded the development of the Mediterranean. The world outside the Holy Land and Europe did not exist and most people did not think about what happened before Biblical Times.
An Irish prelate by the name of James Ussher (1581-1656) is the source of the generally accepted view among creationists that God created the world at 9:00am on October 26, 4004 B.C. Ussher was expert in Semitic languages, who had studied ancient texts from the Middle East and Europe nearly his entire lifetime before he announced the date in 1654. The assertion gave credibility to Christian belief that the world was created in a single week and no species existed before or were added afterwards.
The Jewish rabbi Natan Slifkin, based on his literal reading of Genesis, claims the world began in 3759 B.C. After declaring this he was condemned by leading rabbis and Jewish scholars. One of Rabbi Slifkin’s supporters told the New York Times, “the same scientists who tell you with such clarity what happened 65 million years ago—ask what the weather will be like in New York in two weeks time.”
Chapters of Genesis
In Chapters 2 and 3, Adam Eve eat the forbidden fruit and are expelled from the Garden of Eden. The association of the serpent with the devil is something that was not implicit in the original story. The notion of "original sin" was first suggested by St. Augustine in the A.D. 5th century. There is nothing about it in the Bible as is the case with “the temptation of Adam,” “Seduction,” “the curse of Eve,” “Fall of Man,” or even “sin.” There is also in no mention of an apple.
Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel
In Chapter 4, Cain slays his younger brother Abel, then asks "Am I my brother's keeper?" Cain was the first person born by humans, the first man of religion and the first killer. According to the Bible, Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam and Eve, developed agriculture and domesticated animals: “Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground.”
In Chapters 6 through 9, the earth is engulfed by a catastrophic flood and Noah his family and lots of animals board the Ark. In Chapters 11, people build the Tower of Babel, God scatters them around the globe and creates different languages.
According to Genesis, soon after the world and mankind were created, God produced a great flood to destroy mankind which had shown itself to be inherently wicked. Only the righteous, Noah and his family and a pair of each animal species were saved. Noah is also considered the first Biblical vinter. He planted a vineyard after the Great Flood and got drunk on wine he produced.
The Bible says: “God said unto Noah the end of all flesh has come before me...make thee an Ark of gopher wood.” Noah set sail after 40 days and 40 nights as rain flooded the world and came to rest on Mt. Ararat in northeast Turkey when the water’s recede.
Noah deluge by Michelangelo
Noah's Ark, according to the Bible and a 4000 year old Babylonian tablet, which tells the same story, was made of gopher wood (cypress) and pith. It was 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high (a cubit equals 50 centimeters). This works out to about a football field in length and nine stories high. It had 63 compartments, and displaced 43,300 tons.
There are a number of problems with the Noah Story. Critics have pointed out, for example, that Noah would have to have lead 460 organisms on his ark every second to get two of every species on board within 24 hours. There would have also been problems finding space of all these creatures and feeding them.
One of the inconsistencies in the Bible cleared up by the Dead Sea scrolls, according to one scholar, is the duration of Noah's flood. Some passage in the Old Testament say it transpired over a year, others say 40 day and 40 nights. The authors of the scrolls—members of a Jewish sect—edited the account by imposing a 364-day calendar on the biblical text and inserting the day of the week on which each event took place. In their version one year elapses from the day the earth began to the day the earth completely dried out. This enabled the sect to emphasize important feats and religious rituals within accordance with the bible. [National Geographic Geographica, April 1992].
Noah Story and Mesopotamia
A Dove Is Sent Forth from the Ark A number of flood stories are found in the oral histories of different tribes and ethnic groups. One of the oldest known ones if found in the Mesopotamian Gilgamesh story. According to that Gilgamesh tells of Utnapishtim who was warned by the water god Enki to build a boat for himself, his family, animals and artisans from a great flood. The Greeks and Romans had a similar story about Deucalion and Pyrra, who saved the children and a collection animals from a great flood.
A passage on Noah’s flood in Genesis Bible reads: "And the water prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and the all the high hills...were covered." The flood in the Epic of Gilamesh : "Swiftly it mounted up; the water reached the mountains."
Mesopotamian Flood Story
Floods were a constant concern for people living along the Tigris and Euphrates in Mesopotamia. One of the most famous Sumerian tablets contained a story about a great flood that destroyed Sumer that is virtually the same story as the Noah story in the Old Testament. It describes a man named Utnapishtim who is warned by the water god Enki to build a boat to save himself, his family, animals and artisans from a great flood.
Mesopotamian GilgameshTablet One passage goes:
All the windstorms, exceedingly powerful attacked as one.
The deluge raged over the surface of the earth.
After, for seven days and seven nights.
The deluge had raged in the land.
And the huge boat had been tossed about on great waters.
Utu came forth, who sheds light on heaven and earth.
Ziusudra opened a window of the huge boat.
Ziusudra, the king.
Before Utu prostrated himself.
According to the Mesopotamia tale: "Swiftly it mounted up; the water reached the mountains." The Bible reads: "And the water prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and the all the high hills...were covered."
The passage with the reference to the flood was discovered in 1867 by an amateur linguist named George Smith who spent his free time at the British Museum rummaging through cuneiform tablets. Smith made his discovery from a fragment of a tablet that contained details of the flood, a ship caught on a mountaintop and a bird sent out to search for dry land. It was the first conformation of a flood story in ancient Mesopotamia , complete with a Noah-like figure and an ark.
Explanation of Noah's Flood
Noah Great Flood Traditionally, it was believed that Noah myth arose from the seasonal flooding of the Tigris and Euphrates. But now many think it was inspired by a great flood involving the Black Sea. The Black Sea was created around 5000 B.C. when water levels in the Mediterranean Sea rose at end of a long ice age and broke through a natural dam at the Bosporus and poured into the Black Sea, at that time a fresh water lake whose surface was as much as 450 feet below the surface of the Mediterranean. An earthquake may have caused the natural dam to fracture.
When the water poured through at its peak it produced a roar that could be heard 300 miles away and unleashed 10 cubic miles of water a day.Water flowed at rate equivalent of 200 Niagra Falls and caused the Black Sea to rise about six inches a day and covered an area the size of Florida after two years. Archaeologists speculate that villagers who lived on the Black that were forced to flee the rising waters were the source of the Noah's and other flood stories. Some flood victims stories no doubt found their way to Mesopotamia, where the first known flood stories originated.
In the late 1990s, archaeologists uncovered evidence of great flood that occurred around 7,000 years ago. The archaeological evidence was a series of submerged beaches at a depth of a around of 500 feet with the youngest freshwater marine creatures radiocarbon dated at an age of between 6,900 and 7,500 years. The beaches are evidence of an ancient shoreline and the freshwater creatures are seen as proof that the Black Sea was a freshwater lake around 7,000 years ago. Evidence of human habitation before the Great includes a 7,500-year-old structure discovered in the Black Sea found by explorer Robert Ballard.
Looking for Noah's Ark
Mount Ararat Mount Ararat—a 16,945 foot-high composite volcano located in the northeast corner of Turkey near Iran and Armenia—is said to be the final resting place of Noah's Ark, a belief that arose perhaps because it so high it seems like the first place that would emerge from a flood. Many adventurers have climbed the mountain and returned with unexplained pieces of wood above tree-line and other "evidence" of the Ark's existence. During Byzantine times a monk on a pilgrimage to Mt. Ararat was allegedly handed a plank from the Ark by an angel. That plank now rests in a church below the mountain. In 1670 a Dutch monk looking for the Ark on Ararat said he not only discovered it, he found a hermit living inside it who cured him of an illness. In 1829 a German scientist found nothing. Seventy years later however a Christian from India said he found the ark wedged into a rock and filled with snow and ice.
In 1949 a CIA spy plane returning from missions over the Soviet Union photographed what appeared to be the outline of an ancient vessel on Mt. Ararat and continued to photograph it for 40 years but kept quiet on the issue, saying it did not want to get involved in a religious dispute. In 1950s the ark was supposedly photographed emerging from a glacier by a helicopter. In the 1970s Skylab reportedly saw it from outer space. Material evidence includes a nine-foot-long timber brought back in 1930 by a New Zealand climber and a piece of carved wood, purported to be 3000-year-old, found in 1956 by a French explorer. Geologist have found rocks with holes that resemble “drogue stones” which ancient ships dragged behind them for stability.
One of the latest claimants was George Jammal, a Frenchman who asserted, in an 1993 CBS television documentary, that he had found a large wooden structure during a 1984 expedition on Mt. Ararat, with a "room made into pens, like places where you keep animals." Presenting a piece of wood as evidence he proclaimed, "We knew that we had found ark!" Unfortunately, he said, the friend that was with him, and the film he shot, were buried in an avalanche. Later it was discovered that the Jammal was an actor who had never been to Mt. Ararat, and the "hunk of ark" was a piece of pine he doctored up in the kitchen of his California home. The documentary that featured Jamal also claimed that Biblical Age people used batteries and had air-conditioning, and that the Great Flood was caused by a subterranean explosion as powerful as 10 million hydrogen bombs that released vast chambers of underground water into the air like gargantuan geysers.
In the late 1990s, an Italian explorer claimed he found Noah’s Ark on Mt. Ararat after searching for days on foot and with a donkey. The boat he found he said was 156 meters long and was frozen in a glacier in the mountain 4,000 years ago. His evidence was some grainy photographs. Around the same time two Australian scientists sued creationist Allen Roberts for deception when he said he found evidence of Noah’s Ark 20 miles from Mt. Ararat. A judge dismissed the case.
Tower of Babel
The biblical Tower of Babel, according to the Old testament and ancient Jewish and Christian scholars was an effort by mankind to reach the heavens with a ladder-like structure and enter the kingdom of God without God's approval. Sometimes it is linked with Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, who "dreamed, and behold a ladder set up to the earth, and the top it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending it."
The phrase "the Tower of Babel" does not actually appear in the Bible; it is always, "the city and its tower." Several generations after the Great Flood of Noah’s time humanity came together, Genesis 11:1-9 reads: “And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children built. And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do; and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.”
Tower of Babel, a Ziggurat?
Medieval vision of the walls of Babylon
and the Temple of Bel There is no proof or archaeological evidence that the Tower of Babel really existed. Many think it may have referred to a ziggurat in Babylon. Babylon’s name is derived from “Bab-Ilu” meaning “Gateway of the Gods.” The Hebrews called it Babel. Ziggurats—somewhat tower-like stepped pyramids made from mud brick and topped by temples to gods and goddess—were the largest Sumerian and Mesopotamian structures. They first appeared around 3500 B.C. In ancient times, every major Mesopotamian city had at least one.
Describing a ziggurat he saw in Babylon, the Greek historian Herodotus wrote in 460 B.C., "In the topmost tower there is a great temple, and in the temple is a great bed richly appointed, and beside it a golden table. No idol stands there. No one spends the night there save a woman of that country, designated by the god himself, so I was told by the Chaldeans, who are priests of that divinity."
Herodotus described the Etemenanki ziggurat, dedicated to Marduk in the city and famously rebuilt by the 6th century B.C. by the Neo-Babylonians under Nabopolassar and Nebuchadnezzar II. Many modern scholars believe the biblical story of the Tower of Babel was likely influenced by Etemenanki during the Babylonian captivity of the Hebrews.
Nebuchadnezzar wrote that the original tower had been built in antiquity: "A former king built the Temple of the Seven Lights of the Earth, but he did not complete its head. Since a remote time, people had abandoned it, without order expressing their words. Since that time earthquakes and lightning had dispersed its sun-dried clay; the bricks of the casing had split, and the earth of the interior had been scattered in heaps."
For a long time a pyramid-shaped pile of rubble in Babylon, 295 feet square and 295 feet high, was thought to be the Tower of Babel. The pile or rubble turned out not even to be a ziggurat but a pile of solid towers.
Later Chapters of Genesis
see Abraham, Jacob and Joseph, Under History
Image Sources: Wikimedia, Commons, Schnorr von Carolsfeld Bible in Bildern, 1860
Text Sources: World Religions edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); Encyclopedia of the World Cultures edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); National Geographic, the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
© 2009 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated March 2011