A creature is required who is distinguished in certain ways from other animals. How are humans distinguished from other animals? You could make a long list but it might include things like the capacity for language and higher thought or abstract thought, conscience, self-control, free-will. Now being created in the image of God carries a further implication.
RLST 145: Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible)
It implies that human life is somehow sacred and deserving of special care and protection. In Genesis 1, humans are not the menials of God, and in fact Genesis expresses the antithesis of this. I want you to be fruitful and multiply, and so on. So, humans in Genesis are not presented as the helpless victims of blind forces of nature. They are creatures of majesty and dignity and they are of importance to, objects of concern for, the god who has created them. At the same time, and I think very much in line with the assertion that humans are created in the image of God, humans are not, in fact, gods.
They are still creatures in the sense of created things and they are dependent on a higher power. So in the second creation story beginning in Genesis , we read that the first human is formed when God fashions it from the dust of the earth or clay. But the biblical account as much as it borrows from that motif again takes pains to distinguish and elevate the human. The final climactic act of creation is the creation of the female from the male.
That is actually the peak of creation, what can I say [laughter]? So while he fashions this clay figure, this carcass actually — and then breathes life, his own life into it. And you will be reading some of those in the readings that are assigned for section discussion next week and I think having a great deal of fun with them. Moreover, this earthling that seems to include both male and female, is then said to be in the image of God. And the creation of woman, as I said, is in fact the climactic creative act in the second Genesis account. With her formation, creation is now complete.
So, the biblical creation stories individually and jointly present a portrait of the human as the pinnacle and purpose of creation: godlike in some way, in possession of distinctive faculties and characteristics, that equip them for stewardship over the world that God has created. One of the things he claims is that in a polytheistic system, which is morally neutral, where you have some primordial realm that spawns demons, monsters, gods, evil is a permanent necessity.
Note the difference in Genesis. After each act of creation what does God say? Genesis 1 verse 4, verse 10, verse 12, verse 18, verse 21, verse 25… and after the creation of living things, the text states that God found all that he made to be very good. The world is good; humans are important; they have purpose and dignity. The biblical writer is rejecting the concept of a primordial evil, a concept found in the literature of the Ancient Near East. So for the biblical writer of this story, it would seem that evil is not a metaphysical reality built into the structure of the universe.
So all signs of a cosmic battle, or some primordial act of violence between the forces of chaos and evil and the forces of cosmos and good are eliminated. But in Genesis, creation is not the result of a struggle between divine antagonists. Remember the cosmic battle between Marduk and Tiamat: Marduk the storm god, who released his wind against Tiamat, the primeval deep, the primeval water, representing the forces of chaos. And you should immediately hear the great similarities. The Hebrew word is Tehom.
So the storyteller has actually set the stage for retelling the cosmic battle story that everyone knew. That was a story that surely was near and dear to the hearts of many ancient Israelites and Ancient Near Eastern listeners, so all the elements are there for the retelling of that story. I thought I knew this story. So something new, something different was being communicated in this story. There are many poetic passages and poetic sections of the Bible that contain very clear and explicit illusions to that myth.
It was certainly known and told to Israelite children and part of the culture. Other psalms also contain similar lines. They were stories of a god who violently slays the forces of chaos, represented as watery dragons, as a prelude to creation. And the rejection of this motif or this idea in Genesis 1 is pointed and purposeful. It wants us to conceive of God as an uncontested god who through the power of his word or will creates the cosmos.
And he follows that initial ordering by setting up celestial bodies, just as Marduk did. So you have this firmament, which is beaten back to hold back primeval waters that are pressing in; you have land which is holding down the waters here. He separates the waters above and the waters below and creates this space that will become the inhabited world.
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On day one, light and dark are separated. On day four, the heavenly bodies that give off light by day or night are created. On day two, the firmament is established. On day five, the inhabitants of the skies and the waters are created, birds and fish. On day three, land is formed to make dry spots from the waters below. But days three and six each have an extra element, and the fact that the first elements here pair up nicely with each other suggests that the extra element on day three and the extra element on day six might also be paired in some important way.
On day three, vegetation is produced, is created, and on day six humans are created after the creation of the land animals. So the implication is that the vegetation is for the humans. In Genesis , God says that the animals are being given the green plants, the grass and herbs, for food. In other words, there should be no competition for food. Humans have fruit and grain-bearing vegetation, animals have the herbiage and the grasses.
There is no excuse to live in anything but a peaceful co-existence. Therefore, humans, according to Genesis 1, were created vegetarian, and in every respect, the original creation is imagined as free of bloodshed and violence of every kind. And part of the purpose of this story is to explain the origin of the observance of the Sabbath, the seventh day, as a holy day. So Israelite accounts of creation contain clear allusions to and resonances of Ancient Near Eastern cosmogonies; but perhaps Genesis 1 can best be described as demythologizing what was a common cultural heritage.
They reject certain elements but they almost reject them by incorporating them. They incorporate and modify them. And yet we know that evil is a condition of human existence. And the Garden of Eden story, I think, seeks to answer that question. It actually does a whole bunch of things, but one thing it does, I think, is try to answer that question, and to assert that evil stems from human behavior.
God created a good world, but humans in the exercise of their moral autonomy, they have the power to corrupt the good. What that means ultimately is that evil lacks inevitability, depending on your theory of human nature, I suppose, and it also means that evil lies within the realm of human responsibility and control. What is the significance of the fact that the Bible mentions both of these trees? It mentions a tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; and then goes on to just focus on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The biblical writer insists that the central concern of life is not mortality but morality.
The serpent tells Eve that if she eats the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, she will become like God. And God knows that, that human beings will become like God knowing good and evil. The biblical writer asserts of this god that he is absolutely good. Do we know what the fruit is? Why does God do this? Others see it differently. Where does this come from?
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They find that out. So paradoxically, they learn that they have moral autonomy.
Remember, they were made in the image of God and they learn that they have moral autonomy by making the defiant choice, the choice for disobedience. The argument could be made that until they once disobeyed, how would they ever know that? So the very action that brought them a godlike awareness of their moral autonomy was an action that was taken in opposition to God. So we see then that having knowledge of good and evil is no guarantee that one will choose or incline towards the good.
And finally, humans will learn that the concomitant of their freedom is responsibility. Their first act of defiance is punished harshly. So they learn in this story that the moral choices and actions of humans have consequences that have to be borne by the perpetrator. Single copies of the JPS biblical citations cited within the transcripts can be reproduced for personal and non-commercial uses only. Speiser, E.
The Creation Epic. James B. Pritchard, Princeton: Princeton University Press. Your browser does not support the video tag. Lecture Chapters. The Creation Story in "Enuma Elish".
The Creation Stories in Genesis. Creation as God Imposing Order on the World. Chapter 2. What would you want to say to us as a movement in Newfrontiers? Filmed summer and shown during Devoted Devoted The Church Leadership. Sharing links. Jesus in Genesis. Andrew reveals the story of Jesus as seen through the book of Genesis, in this excellent overview of the first book of the Bible. Devoted The Bible. Graham Meets: Nicky Gumbel - Part 1.
Building Things Which Last. Devoted Amplify. Who Are You? Each session starts with a short life story. Karma Calamity - Session 3. Devoted LifeZones. Current Series Devoted - Main Sessions. Devoted - Amplify. Recordings from our youth stream at Devoted.