Genesis 1.26-27 (NRSV) reads:
“Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
When God proposes here in the plural to create man in his image, with whom is he talking? And with whom is God discussing when he says in later Genesis 3.22 (NRSV),”Then the Lord God said, ‘See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever’”?
As biblical scholars such as Marc Brettler, Michael Coogan, and John Day have persuasively argued, this is yet another reference to the divine council in the Hebrew Bible. Continue reading
Properly demarcating the two ancient Israelite creation accounts that exist in Genesis 1-3 is additionally important because it provides the opportunity to compare structural and grammatical parallels that exist (or do not exist) between them and to analyze their possible implications. I have provided the following table of the first several verses of each account in order to facilitate comparison. Continue reading
Deuteronomy 6.4-9, also known as the Shema because the first word of the passage in Hebrew is the imperative shĕma‘, meaning “Listen,” is probably one of the most well known passages in all of biblical literature. In Jewish tradition this passage is frequently recited as a prayer, a practice that goes back at least to the early rabbinic period . The broader Judeo-Christian tradition, moreover, has often taken the first verse of this passage as a statement of Israel’s (and its own) radical monotheistic faith. This verse reads: “Listen, O Israel, Yahweh is our God, Yahweh is one.” However, this common Judeo-Christian interpretation which claims that Israel maintained a radical monotheistic stance, or a belief that there is only one G/god in existence (in this case, Yahweh, the God of Israel), has been subject to severe criticism by modern biblical scholars.
In the last segment I discussed where certain literary and narrative divisions exist in Genesis 1-3. For instance, I previously noted that the narrative section which begins in Genesis 1.1 most likely ends at Genesis 2.4a. Additionally, I noted one crucial literary feature of this first creation account, namely that it is broken into seven one-day intervals (i.e., a one week period). Furthermore, I briefly noted that there is a further significant literary division between days one through six which describe God’s physical creative activities (each of which ends with the formulaic phrase “(And) there was evening and there was morning, day…”) and the seventh (and final) day which is the pinnacle of the account and which describes God’s sanctifying the seventh day. Having noted these literary markers and narrative boundaries, I shall now further explore other literary devices which structure the first creation account’s six creative days, and analyze their implications concerning Israelite beliefs about creation.
In addition to analyzing specific grammatical forms (as was done with the preposition bereshit in part one of this series), it is also crucial when interpreting a text to properly identify its narrative boundaries and to examine the literary forms and techniques which structure it and give it meaning. I thus intend to provide here a brief analysis regarding some of the literary features which indicate narrative boundaries and which provide structure and meaning for the creation narratives of Genesis 1-3. The implications of these literary features concerning Israelite beliefs about creation will be discussed further in the next segment. Continue reading
In this series of posts I intend to look at ancient Israelite concepts concerning creation by exploring two important biblical creation texts—Genesis 1.1-2.4a and Genesis 2.4b-3. Continue reading