GENESIS FOR BEGINNERS

GENESIS FOR BEGINNERS

By Peter Fredson

Deconstructed from the “Authorized by God. King James Version,” of the Book that God wrote before there were typewriters or computers nor spell-checkers. 

1   In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2   And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.

What is meant by ‘in the beginning?” Was there nothing before there was something? Was the nothing like a vacuum?  Where was this God located if there was nothing? Is this God some kind of super-nothing? Was there an existence before there was existence?  If this God was eternal, infinite, bounded yet unbounded, infinitely unchanging, then what prompted the statis, the eternal nothingness, to be changed?  Was this God of nothingness impatient with the situation? If there was nothing, no light, no nothing, then what WAS there besides a somebody or a something who, or what, was actually nothing?

Was “heaven”  a monolithic something, somewhere, while the earth didn’t have any shape, extension, surface, but is a something somewhere. Were there then only 2 somethings..the monolithic heaven and an earth that didn’t exist as a form, or had no substance. Or was God a something? What was “the deep?” Was it heaven, or a part of a divisible heaven?

And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God had a Spirit which “moved” on some water that had not yet been mentioned as having been created.  Are there then two somethings…a God and a Spirit? Where were the “waters?”  Were they previously created by this God or did he float around on them? There were only 2 somethings…heaven and earth…so where were the waters…on the earth without form and void?  Or was “the face of the waters” floating in space somewhere, separate from earth? Or were the waters someplace on or in the other something called “heaven?”

3   And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
Word magic is introduced here along with some divine anatomical property…the magical quality of speech.  If you say something, it happens. “I want a lollipop”, and alla-kazam I get a lollipop.  Napoleon Chagnon told us of an Indian tribe, the Yanomamo,  where it was forbidden to say the name of a dead person, or they would magically reappear. Many other peoples have taboo words that, if you say them, they will come to pass. In order to say something God must have had vocal cords, with glottis, epiglottis and the rest of vocal apparatus, and must have had lungs, etc., in order to make the vocal cords vibrate and work their word magic on something.  If there was nothing, on what did the words act? 

4   And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
So, we have light and we have darkness, but they were mixed…like oil and water, and by speaking “let there be Light” he created light, and then he said, “Now eject the darkness out of the light and put it someplace where it won’t mix with light.” Like, mix the hydrogen with the oxygen and let’s call it water, or separate the water into hydrogen and oxygen? You certainly don’t want to get the universe wet and sticky, nor does a God want to become wet and sticky, so it’s better to separate the water and put it where it won’t get things wet.

5   And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
So, around the mixture of something which he separated from some other something,  he created some kind of boundary to make two separate somethings?. On one side of the magical fence there was light and on the other side there was darkness?

What Bible translators mean is that God, in English, called one something “light”, and the separated out something was called “night” but that really he never said either light or dark but something in Hebrew? Or Egyptian? Or was it in Sumerian? Hindu? Mandarin Chinese? Or didn’t it make any difference, in speaking, what the name was for something because God knew what he meant and his Ally-Kazam worked its magic on nothing, to separate nothing into two perfect somethings.

6   And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
It is certainly wonderful word magic, to divide waters from waters by inserting a something called a firmament, like a big fence, to keep the split somethings apart.

7   And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
And it was wonderful to make a firmament, called Heaven, and put some waters above Heaven, and equally wonderful to put the other waters under Heaven, so Heaven floated on some waters but had to worry about getting wet from the rest of the waters up above.

8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
If there was not yet a sun or moon, or lights, but just water and firmament, then how was a day reckoned? Was Time created then? Was there a time before Time? Was it a 24-hour day, or like some societies having different lengths of hours, days, months? Remember that this is an English translation and it is not certain that the firmament with the waters above and below it was actually called Heaven. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, right? If God at one time favored the Egyptians, as their long reign would indicate, then they surely didn’t call the firmament “Heaven.”

9   And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
Then scooping up the water under the firmament, he held it in his hand, while he said, “Ally-kazam, put some dry land here too.” Then he dropped the water in a nice depression that he made with his thumb. And it was so. No question about it. You just have to look at the situation today… There is Earth, and also there is the water, separated from the Earth, except when God sends Tsunamis to teach some kind of lesson. You see?

10   And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.
So this God make a small planet, distinct from billions of other astral bodies, and put some water on it, then said, “Hey, that’s pretty good.” Or, to put it another way, he favored only Earth, and left the rest of astral bodies without water. That this story is true is shown by the fact that we haven’t found water on any other astral body. See?  Well, maybe Mars had some water in the time before time, or before God got around to making a separate Earth, but anyway he didn’t intend for the “lights” to shine for the benefit of Mars.  The Bible plainly says it was for the benefit of Earth….not for any second class hunk of rock..

11   And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.
12   And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
13   And the evening and the morning were the third day.
Then God made vegetation before he made the sun. There was no need to mow the grass, because it wouldn’t grow anyway without sunlight or chlorophyll.

14   And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
15   And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.
And the reason there are stars is to give light to the earth. That’s the reason the sun was made— to give light in the day, and the moon to give a little bit lesser light at night. And behold, there is indeed a sun up there, and unless it’s very cloudy you can see a moon up there too. And it is so.

16   And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.

And god said, Let there be a sun, and let there also be a moon, and it was so. Then then he made all of the billions of other lights as an afterthought..ally kazam, and it was so. He made all of the galaxies, star clusters, black holes, meteorites.. everything. And you can still see many of them with the naked eye, and a lot more with the modern invention of the telescope. And it is so.

17   And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,
18   And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.
And that’s the reason there is a sun and a moon and water and a firmament.  To give light upon the earth and to make sure that pesky darkness is separated from that light. Yes, the whole shebang was made to surround earth, to shed light upon it, with vegetation to feed the critters that God made, and that’s a good thing.

30 thoughts on “GENESIS FOR BEGINNERS

  1. I meant to get this one up yesterday, but let it slip through to today. I couldn’t help but giggle at points while reading it and I’m curious to see how many people’s heads asplode after trying to work through this one.

    Good stuff. Thanks for submitting it Peter. It’s very much appreciated. You must have boundless amounts of energy.

  2. Yes, nice stuff, Peter.  But I’m positive the fundies have prefabricated answers to all of your questions.  We’ll see if we get a food fight here.  If we do, I get dibs on lobbing the Grilled Cheese Virgin Mary.

  3. Man!! Did I enjoy THAT!!! What in gods name (Oh sorry….silly me grin do you do with all the idiotic, moronic crap that the religeous right will rain upon you when they read this?? You are a brave man!! (But I love ya grin

    Keep it up Peter (?)….it is good to know (in this day and age) that there are others out there that think like we do! Nevermind….only four more years until the world can return to normal.

    GC

  4. You guys should first check out a proper exegesis of the text.  It actually might shed some light on why the oral traditions were redacted in the first place (nationalism).

    And, BTW, if you look at it from a non-science perspective, you’d =be reading the text properly, in the correct context.

    Sometimes things are not as they seam.

    rob@egoz.org

  5. SG’s husband (Mr SG?) is Jewish, and just got the new translation of the first five books (Torah) by Robert Alter.  This purports to be a more accurate translation of the original text and has some interesting differences from the KJV.  To wit:  “When God began to create heaven and earth, and the earth was welter and waste and darkness over the deep and God’s breath hovering over the waters, God said : Let there be light….”

    In a footnote, Alter describes God’s breath as follows:  “The verb attached to God’s breath-wind-spirit (ruah) elsewhere describes an eagle hovering over its young and so might have a connotation of parturition or nurture as well as rapid back and forth movement.”

    As I said, an interesting comparison.

    SG

  6. Brock,
    Is that What Jesus said in the KJV or in the Book of Q? (Re: “The Lost Gospel, The Book of Q & Christian Origins,” by Burton L. Mack) According to Mack (professor of New Testament at the School of Theology at Claremont) and the Jesus Society in “The Five Gospels,” Jesus had very little to say about the creation (Creation?). It appears he was less of a prophet and more of a cynic. But what would scholarly research have to do with the Truth? grin

  7. It’s fairly silly to read Genesis with a science-based world view.  Or, to read Genesis from a modern fiction-vs-nonfiction mind set.  It’s just an improper way to read the text.

    The authorS of the final text had no such mentalities.  To understand the text, place your self in their context.

    Science didn’t exist.
    Distinguishing between Fiction and Fact were meaningless.

    rob@egoz.org

  8. Not sure what you’re trying to say there, Rob.  Can you elucidate?

    I would interpret your comments to mean that either:

    One (particularly non-believers) should have more tolerance with the biblical writings since the authors were handicapped, knowledge-wise, compared to what we understand today, OR

    Those who follow biblical teachings should be more open-minded and recognize that what the authors purported as fact may only be so from an archaic and unlearned world-science view.

    Is either of these interpretations close, or is there another interpretation significantly different?

  9. Actually, to the prior comment i’d answer:  both statements are true.

    Most of the religious and non-religious are making the same mistake regarding biblical texts—attempting to place the text within a modern, scientific world-view.

    Doing so is bizarre.

    Re Genesis: The original oral traditions and the final redacted text weren’t written with a mind towards explaining anything physical, but rather are works attempting to explain non-physical ideas.

    When we understand that the majority of prior generations to our own viewed their existence in a much, much, much different context, then we’ll begin to understand the real messages of their tales.  And it sure as hell wasn’t some nascent attempt at science.

    rob@egoz.org

  10. Rob’s basically saying that if you put yourself in the position of someone who’s largely illiterate, clueless, and bereft of any other means of describing reality then the account in Genesis will make perfect sense to you.

    Mainly because you wouldn’t have the insight or knowledge to recognize it for the nonsense it is.

  11. I can go on and on why most people don’t get these biblical stories/oral traditions:  it all started around the nightly fire.

    Most peolple don’t understand that they were, originally, meant to be only spoken.  And, believe it or not, were designed not just for mature adults, but for the whole group of people listening around the fire: kids, teenagers, dying adults, etc.—the whole clan.

    When you hear these texts in their original Hebrew they actually, sound-wise, sound physically good.  They’re cool to just hear, even if you don’t understand the language.  Many have rhymes and words whose sounds play off of each other (an attention-keeper technique, but also one designed to aid in their memorizing by the audience).  Secondly, the language is often very descriptive and graphical—to set the mood and capture attention—a key ingredient for any good story.

    Remember that our original scrolls/books were first created to “remember” those fire-side stories, and to share them.  When you do that, that’s a FIRST good step towards understanding their original role in our early cultures.

    Given current trends…
    No doubt in 3000 years the same mentality will attempt to describe StarTrek stories as some sacred prophetic text of a disenfranchised religious-cultural faction within late 20th century Western society.

    Imagine what they will think of Shrek or FindingNemo:  did they really believe in talking fish?  or green giants?  or…

    In short: keep things in their proper context, if you want to understand the text properly.

    rob@egoz.org

  12. Rob you’re not explaining anything I don’t already realize. I understand the proper context and have no real problems with it within that context.

    The problem I have is that too many Christians today treat this stuff as the literal truth because they can’t grasp the proper context that gave rise to it.  Whether or not considering its proper context makes a difference in how it should be perceived is immaterial when you’re dealing with a group that can’t or won’t bother to even consider such a context.

  13. Verily, the Kirk bespoke “check”.
    Thence I, Spocko, saith “right”.
    And upon the breath of the Kirk; “right”.
    Yea and I, one of pointed ear, respondeth “check”.

    Trek 2:49 Peace of Action

  14. Spocko- what you said. Verily.

    Rob: When you hear these texts in their original Hebrew they actually, sound-wise, sound physically good.  They’re cool to just hear, even if you don’t understand the language.

    I can dig that.  Some years ago, I went to an “agon” (contest) in Berlin, where the entire Illiad was performed by classicists from various universities, each doing a different section, interpreted differently- some with music, some just recited… Now, ancient Greek is not one of my stronger languages (I was there to do part of Beowulf), so I was prepared to be mightily bored.  But the sounds and rhythms were hypnotic, and after a few hours, I was captivated.  But I still didn’t understand it, and felt no temptation to base my life on killing Trojans.

    Which brings me to my point, which is Les’s point: yes, nice poetry, oral tradition, we know that already.  But who gives a fuck?  The problem is that the Bible is not treated as an interesting piece of literature, but as an inerrant guide to life that sometimes inspires to great deeds, but also inspires to idiocy of various sorts, not stopping short of murder.  That’s the salient issue.

  15. It warms my heart that people can appreciate the phonetic quality of some oral traditions, in this age of soft intellectual curiosity and easy-media.

    But, the real salient issue is this:
    What was the intent, purpose, and role of those stories ?  Why were the told and re-told, and then later intently saved for future generations ?

    Now that you accept the cultural context and the appreciate the originally intended media, then it’s time to examine the content.

    Science ?
    Factual record keeping of history ?
    (not, and not again)

    Honestly, beyond GeekMom’s linguistic insights, i don’t see many here able (or willing) to discuss the intended message or original content of these texts.  I merely see hysterical, ideological-based bashing, bastardization, and silly over-simplification of its content from *both* sides of the conflict.

    And that’s my point:
    Don’t misjudge the texts’s intent or contet according an ignorant conflict.

    Don’t embrace the hysterical extremes of any conflict.

    rob@egoz.org

  16. And that’s my point:
    Don’t misjudge the texts’s intent or content according an ignorant conflict.
    Don’t embrace the hysterical extremes of any conflict.

    rob- you are getting exercised about an issue which is not on the agenda here.  The current food fight is between those who believe that the Bible is science and factual history, and those who do not believe this.  For us atheists, the intent, purpose, and role of these stories may be fascinating in its own right, and certainly worthy of its own discussion, but that’s not the pressing issue here.

    And life is short- I for one would love to delve deeply into biblical exegesis, but there’s Gilgamesh calling out for attention too, not to mention the Eddas, tne Nibelungenlied, Beowulf… so there’s no need to get huffy about us not paying enough attention to the precise intentions of the authors of the Bible, when Fundamentalists are trying to stuff their pseudoscience down the throats of our children. Priorities….

  17. Rob, I agree that it’s a bit disingenuous to hold Genesis up to the cold light of scientific reason and then blame it for not holding together well. I think, though, that this post was meant more as a spoof than a real scholarly examination of the merits of the text. Most comedy is disingenuous and often a bit mean; that’s what makes it funny. wink

    When God began to create heaven and earth, and the earth was welter and waste and darkness over the deep and God’s breath hovering over the waters, God said : Let there be light…

    Science Goddess brought up this quote from the new Atler translation of the Torah, and it reminded me of a very strange essay I once read about the “pre-Adamite,” or pre-Creation, world.

    I came across this essay while doing some research to help a friend with her retort to a fundie chain letter entitled “Did God Create Evil?” that a co-worker had sent her. The author of the essay argues that the biblical creation story actually describes the re-creation of an earth an universe shattered by the war between God and the rebellious Lucifer.

    Whether you believe it or not, it makes for an interesting read for the unique perspective.

  18. I look forward to a time, probably long after we all are dead when the bible will be no more that a interesting example in early philosophical thinking. Or maybe a great work of early folklore. That it is used by so many to further an unspoken political agenda or personal enrichment campaign makes a mockery of the thought of an all powerful God or Goddess who has our best interest at heart. Why is it that so many Preachers and Preacheresses are so corpulent? I will quite interpreting the bible from a science viewpoint when the Fundies give up interpreting it from a spoken by the GOD viewpoint.
    Actually I enjoyed reading the bible when I was a child, but I grew up. Now I take responsibility for my actions, all of them. I do my best in this life because its the only thing that matters to the people around me. When will we as a Race grow up and see all religion for the superstition that it is.

  19. Youre all going to hell for not believing blindly. J.k. I am lost first let there be light and there was light but only days later there was sun and moon? How is that possible to have light without a source. Its a great bedtime story. Unfortunately science has proved all of it wrong. no need to answer my confusion cause none of it really matters. get it matter …sorry bad humor.

  20. Thanks for the comments. I do NOT mean that all prayer is absolutely useless. I agree that it can be comforting, soothing,perhap relieve some anxiety by seeming to DO something. I agree that meditation, Yoga and other techniques can be very helpful in establishing bodily harmony.
    If my remarks about the priesthood seem bad-tempered it is because I have watched Benny Hinn clap dozens of believers on the forehead, see then fall on the floor, and then have Benny declare fatuously that they have been CURED of cancer or any condition known to humanity.
      My argument is not with local pastors, of small churches and congregations that read their bible assiduosly and pray for peace. I wish them well.
    My argument is with the BIG organizations and their computer lists of True Believers that by rhetoric can have a turnout of half a million protests to the FCC at seeing a nipple, or elect some True Believer who is trying might and main to let the fundies turn a democracy into a theocracy. If the wall of separation is torn down, as it appears will happen, then this democracy will disappear and become a fascist imperialist state. That’s the reason for protesting.

    Of course, the main point of my argument against prayer is that it doesn’t work.  Why? A prayer is generally a message to an invisible intangible infinite unknownable entity to change all the laws of the universe at a whim, spontaneously. From my view, all entities are the result of human imagination.  They do not, they cannot, exist.  It there is no invisible intangible infinite unknowable entity to receive a message, then the activity is useless. At least sealing a message in a bottle, and tossing it into the ocean, sometimes reaches a human that answers. Or tying a message to a large balloon and letting it float hundreds of miles often does reach someone, not a specific addressee. But praying will not reach an invisible intangible infinite unknownable entity that has no existence. Unless it be Santa Claus.

  21. Studies by Columbia University and Johns Hopkins indicate that prayer does have a positive effect on the health of patients, even when they don’t know they are being prayed for. The denomination of the people doing the praying also seems to be of little consequence.

    I don’t think that the efficacy of prayer can be dismissed out of hand until we know more. Personally, I suspect that the people who say prayer is useless and the people who say it’s a direct request line to God are both wrong. How, why, and to what extent it really works are things it’ll take a lot more study to know for sure.

  22. You are quoting an extremely flawed, if not outright fraudulant, study.

    Yes, and it was debunked quite some time ago, if I remember correctly.  Unfortunately stuff like this takes on a life of its own, and no one pays attention to, or remembers, the debunkers, because the original story or claim panders to our desires.  We want it to be true, so it is true.  Uri Geller comes to mind… alligators in NY sewers…Elvis…GCVM…..

    Adam M- thanks for pointing out that link above (your “very strange essay”).  Indeed, surpassingly strange, and yet strangely compelling.  Sounds like something Nietzsche might have come up with.  At least the guy made an attempt to reconcile radioactive dating and evolution with the Bible, rather than reject them outright, like most fundies.  Most entertaining.

  23. Thanks for the debunking info on the Columbia study. I originally went googling for a Johns Hopkins study I’d heard of, and found the article about the Columbia and Duke (I erroneously said Hopkins above) studies instead.

    I should’ve done a second layer or research to make sure the studies hadn’t been disproven since their publication. I’m afraid my biochemistry degree may be getting a bit rusty from disuse—back in my college days (man, I’m too young to say stuff like that), the extra research would’ve been a no-brainer.

    What’s the word on the Duke University study mentioned in the same article? Has it been similarly debunked? I can’t do an extensive search right now since I’m at work, but a cursory one didn’t turn up anything.

    Duke looks to be on an interesting path of inquiry into these matters, with its Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health headed up by Dr. Harold G. Koenig (who has some debunking credits of his own). The focus seems to be on the role of faith in health, rather than on prayer. This keeps them squarely in the realm of medicine and psychology, and out of parapsychology and metaphysics. Seems like a reasonable starting place.

    It’s too bad about the Columbia study. I hope to see some real research on this in the future, since it’s a topic of interest to me. I have first-hand knowledge of a few cases where patients with faith communities praying for them or staging some other form of spiritual intervention (one was a Wiccan healing ritual) made surprising recoveries that far exceeded the projections of their doctors. In at least one case, the intervention was unknown to the patient—she was unconscious at the time it was going on.

    Zilch: Glad you enjoyed the link. “Surpassingly strange, and yet strangely compelling” is a pretty good description. smile

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