The Bible is one of the most influential books in human history. Words τὰ βιβλία are translated from Greek as “the books”; and indeed, The Bible is a collection of books. The Old Testament is generally divided into 39 books (Bible: Old Testament, n.d.). The first of them, Genesis, tells the story of the very beginning of the world’s and the human race’s existence.
Genesis and the Natural World
According to Genesis, the natural world was created by God in the first four days of existence (Gen. 1:1-19 New International Version). The living nature was created on the third (vegetation), the fifth (sea and air creatures), and the sixth (land creatures and the human) days of existence (Gen. 1:11-31).
There seems to be a contradiction in Genesis concerning the creation of the woman. First, it says that God created the woman and the man together (Gen. 1:27), then it says that the man was alone and needed a partner, so God took his rib and made it into a woman (Gen. 2:20-23). On the other hand, Hindson and Yates (2012) claim that “chapter 1 summarizes the creation of the world, and chapter 2 scrutinized it in greater detail” (p. 55), which means there should be no contradiction.
Thus, Chapter 1 of Genesis describes the absolute beginning of the world. Aalders, as cited by Hindson and Yates, “observes the creation is one of the absolute beginning and not a transformation of a preexistent one” (Hindson, & Yates, 2012, p. 55). Genesis says that God created the heavens and the earth in the beginning (Gen 1:1), which contradicts the secular theory. The assertion about creating all the living creatures in three days (Gen. 1:11-31) contradicts the theory of evolution (Hindson, & Yates, 2012, p. 55-56).
On the other hand, Goodhart (2012) claims that the absolute beginning interpretation is the result of linguistic ambiguities that emerged as a consequence of the Bible’s translation into English. In the original version, it is stated: “When God set about to create…” (Goodhart, 2012, p. 23). The researcher then notes: “For a brief moment, through this ‘when/then’ clause, we get to peek into the world on the verge of coming into being”; that is why in Judaism “creation does not occur ex nihilo” (Goodhart, 2012, p. 23).
Chapter 1 of Genesis states that the human was created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27). On the other hand, the second chapter reads that the man was made from “the dust of the ground” (Gen. 2:7), and the woman was created out of the man’s rib as his helper and partner; humans being made in God’s image isn’t mentioned (Gen. 2:18, 21-23).
In both places, it is stated that humans were created as “theocratic administrators” of the living (Gen. 1:26; Gen. 2:15, 18). As Hindson and Yates (2012) point out, humans were to “corule God’s creation on his behalf” (p. 55). However, the following events disrupted this.
The fall of the human into sin is described in the third chapter of Genesis. Eve was seduced by a serpent into eating fruit; the serpent promised that Eve will know the good and evil (Gen. 3:1-5). Eve ate the fruit and gave some to Adam (Gen. 3:6). They felt shame about being naked, made some clothes and hid themselves from God when they heard Him approaching, as they were afraid of showing their nakedness to the God (Gen. 1:7-10).
Hindson and Yates (2012) note that the sin is the act of disobedience against God’s will, and, as we mentioned, it immediately resulted in fear, guilt and shame (p. 56). The God decided that it was possible that humans will also eat from the Tree of Life and gain eternal life, so He banished them from the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:22-24).
Adam and Eve’s children followed their wake and did not obey God’s will (Hindson, & Yates, 2012, p. 56); for example, when God didn’t favor Cain’s sacrifice to Him (Gen 4:4-5), Cain became envious and killed his brother Abel, whose offering God accepted (Gen. 4:9). These jealousy and murder became “the beginning of the story of human depravity and its terrible consequences” (Hindson, & Yates, 2012, p. 56).
On the other hand, it is noted that God will send someone to slay the Serpent, His enemy, which will allow the human to be re-established as God’s co-rulers (Hindson, & Yates, 2012, p. 56).
According to The Bible, the human civilization’s development was a history of sin, depravity, and wickedness; it was full of violence (Gen. 6:5-11). So God became sorry that He made humans (Gen. 6:6) and decided to kill them all, sparing only Noah, who remained righteous (Gen. 6:7-8), and a pair of each animal in order to restore their population after the flood (Gen. 7:1-4). After the flood, Noah’s sacrifice pleased God, so He promised never to destroy all the living creatures again (Gen. 8:20).
God willed human blood never to be shed, and those shedding it are to be executed by other humans, for capital punishment is a suitable reckoning for a life of a human, who was created in God’s image (Gen. 9:5-6). As Hindson and Yates (2012) state, the creation of a human government that would have the right to practise death penalty was supposed not to allow the spread of violence in amounts equivalent to pre-flood levels (p. 58).
When Noah left the ark, his sons followed him (Gen. 9:18). However, they also turned out to be depraved. For instance, Ham, the son of Noah, jeered at his drunk father’s nakedness, so Noah made Ham’s son, Canaan, a slave as a punishment (Gen. 9:25-27).
Noah’s descendants became great in numbers, and families of his children became different nations (Gen. 11:32). In order to make a name for themselves so as not to scatter across all the Earth, they decided to build a large city and a tower reaching to the sky. Parker (2000) points out that the very plan was contradictory to what God wanted, as His wish was for people to multiply and spread over the earth; their gathering in a single city would only lead to self-destruction (p. 57-58). So, when the Lord saw them building the city and the tower, He confused their languages to make them not understand each other and thus be unable to realize their dangerous plans (Gen. 11:6-9).
Genesis is a book that contains, among others, the topics of the world’s creation, human identity and relationships, and human civilization. It is said to be contradictory to natural science; however, Goodhart’s (2012) observation about the translation made me think that at least partial reconciliation could be possible. As to the question of humans, Genesis is, in fact, rather a cruel book. Even the human’s fall was inspired by the Serpent.
After considering this detail once again, I concluded that it would always be better to look for causes of any depravity and get rid of them before being too harsh. This applies both to relationships between concrete individuals and to relationships in the whole civilization. If we assume there is human nature which is spoilt by the primordial sin, it would be better to do what we can do to preserve the human dignity and remember that, according to Genesis, the human was created in God’s image.
Bible: Old Testament. (n.d.)
Goodhart, S. (2012). Opening Genesis 1. Prose Studies, 34(1), 18-31. doi:10.1080/01440357.2012.686209
Hindson, E., & Yates, G. (Eds.). (2012). The essence of the Old Testament: A survey. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group.
Parker, P. (2000). Between text and sermon: Genesis 11:1-9. Interpretation, 54(1), 57-59.