HERETIC ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Friday, October 05, 2018

The Myth of Creation

Word of Warning; if you read the title I've chosen for this post & immediately think something like, 'Okay, NOW, this blogger's really gone off the deep end!', I counsel you to stop reading right now: however, if it didn't piss you off or offend your sensibilities, read on.......

According to the Oxford Dictionary ( online ), a 'myth' is, first & foremost, 'a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.' Although a secondary definition might include anything from a fairy-tale ( legend? ) to a complete & utter falsehood, the term 'myth' does not necessarily connote an untruth. Many people ( this is not unique to Christianity ) have a tendency to take literally the language of creation when reading the account in our English Bible Genesis 1 & 2, or really, the creation account in any other Scripture ( from another culture ). This results in confusion for some & disbelief for others, so, in most cases, the creation is either disregarded, or at the least, grossly misunderstood!

Other creation accounts ( from other cultures ) may seem, at first glance anyway ( especially to our Western eyes ), to be more akin to the complete & utter falsehood end of the spectrum than anything else, but one simply has to open their eyes to the cultural relevance of whatever Scripture they're reading to understand that, although metaphorical & hyperbolic as it may sound ( 'so crazy, it just might be true' ), these 'myths' & 'legends' ALWAYS have a firm foundation in the Truth!

A few years back, I posted a short series of articles on the first several chapters of Genesis. At the time of writing, my intention was not necessarily to present the mythical qualities of the Scriptures we read, but I did endeavor to show how the Gospel of Jesus the Christ was pre-figured in the early chapters of the Hebrew Scriptures. ( Understanding, of course, that the chapter divisions are not original ) These articles, however, did show how many of the details did not make sense aside from their Ancient Near Eastern ( cultural ) context. Understanding these stories as 'myth', simply tales from a different culture, not as a literal history, but as literature, we can see that while they are firmly rooted in truth, they are told in such a way as to reveal what my readers might be familiar with by now; 'a deeper spiritual truth'!

From a website containing the full text of the Babylonian Creation Epic, 'Enuma Elish'; I found this quote from scholar Stephen Bertman quite interesting:

"Both Genesis and Enuma Elish are religious texts which detail and celebrate cultural origins: Genesis describes the origin and founding of the Jewish people under the guidance of the Lord; Enuma Elish recounts the origin and founding of Babylon under the leadership of the god Marduk. Contained in each work is a story of how the cosmos and man were created. Each work begins by describing the watery chaos and primeval darkness that once filled the universe. Then light is created to replace the darkness. Afterward, the heavens are made and in them heavenly bodies are placed. Finally, man is created. These similarities notwithstanding, the two accounts are more different than alike. (312)"

'The 'Enuma Elish', while a bit longer & maybe a little more sordid in detail than the Hebrew account, shows us several things. It shows us the cultural difference & the fact that the Hebrews were not the only ones to record their beginnings. Rather than the one 'God' we read about in the Greek & Hebrew Scriptures, most, if not all the other accounts tell of a multiplicity of 'gods'. Along those lines, here is another quote, this time from scholar Jeremy Black;

"The rise of the cult of Marduk is closely connected with the political rise of Babylon from city-state to the capital of an empire. From the Kassite Period, Marduk became more and more important until it was possible for the author of the Babylonian Epic of Creation to maintain that not only was Marduk king of all the gods but that many of the latter were no more than aspects of his persona. (128)"

As myths go, then, the creation account we read in the first two chapters of Genesis is but one among many. To be clear, by speaking of creation as a myth, I'm not saying, by any means, that all this glory just happened by chance: on the contrary, it was choice, intelligent choice, by which the heavens were spread, the planets & stars hung & human-kind set to rule the earth! It should be clear by now, to any but the most casual ( ignorant? ) observer that the account we read in the beginning of our English Bibles, though different from say, the 'Enuma Elish', is really not that different in ( overall ) content!

As Stephen Bertman, above, recognized, the creation account that is recorded in the beginning of the Hebrew Scriptures is not a record of the creation of the material universe, though that may be in the background as a given; it is rather an account of cultural beginnings, the creation of covenant, as some have noted, between the Creator God & His Creation.  It is the traditional story of the genesis of the Hebrew people, handed down, by some accounts, over the generations & compiled by Moses, the great Lawyer of the Hebrews. As such, we should read this intriguing story, not simply with our wondering ( wandering? ) Western eyes, but through the lens of cultural context, seeking to understand it as its original audience would have.

Charles Haddon Shank

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