Reading the Genesis Creation Stories Again For The First Time (Fall, 2018)
NOTE: This course is being given under the auspices of the University of Montana’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (MOLLI). The complete translations of both Genesis creation accounts are available as a downloadable PDF in which is also include the course syllabus, a suggested reading list, and a bibliography:
Since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Bible scholars have uncovered a wealth of new findings, many of which have profoundly deepened and extended our understanding of the two biblical creation stories. Not unexpectedly, these findings have confirmed the understanding held by the majority of Christians and Jews – and contrary to the Creationists and secularists – that the biblical creation accounts were not meant to be understood as didactic, literal expressions of material creation.
Here are just four of many examples that will be examined in the course.
- Example 1: in the mid-20th century significant narratives in the Hebrew Bible came to be recognized as literary works many of were meant to be read symbolically as illustrated by the use of such forms chaismus, poetry, allegory, and metaphor. The first and second creation stories are just two such narratives and, when read and recognized as largely symbolic in nature, they reveal a depth of meaning not heretofore appreciated nor reached by a Creationist understanding of the text. At the same time, the conventional understanding of these two famous narratives is not damaged, but extended and made deeper and more meaningful.
- Example 2: many scholars now understand that time played no part in the first creation story. Put another way, the question of what measure of time the author used to describe God’s creation – days, epochs, millenia, or billions of years – is irrelevant because, read correctly, the first creation story took no time at all. In effect, most secular scientists, atheists, and all Creationists read the biblical text out of context and miss the whole point of Genesis 1:1-5!
- Example 3: many scholars now believe that the Garden of Eden story was written not to describe the fall of mankind from paradise and original sin. Rather, read in its original context, the story of Adam and Eve is one of immortality lost and procreativity gained. Ultimately, the story reveals the concomitant pain and triumph that free will and moral choice impose on the mortal life.
I will be teaching directly from the Hebrew text and incorporating the results of the most recent (and peer-reviewed) scholarship. Knowledge of biblical Hebrew is not required.
NOTE: I am a teacher, not a biblical scholar1)A biblical scholar rightly understood, is someone who conducts research and submits his/her findings to peer review. And, while my formal education is similar to that of a biblical scholar, I do not conduct original research and write my findings for peer review.. I survey the findings of scholars, weigh their arguments (and, boy, do they argue) and then conform my conclusions for a lay audience. Finally, I am mindful that biblical scholarship is often controversial and students need to be exposed to these controversies.
By way of further background, modern scholarship has revealed2)Especially since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1948, that the Genesis creation stories are best understood as high literary art – art in which the ancient authors conveyed God’s revelations using poetry, high prose, and symbolism – both allegorical and metaphorical.
Over the course of these six classes participants will be introduced to a view of the Bible that is inestimably deeper, richer, and more stimulating compared to what is usually taught in science class (if mentioned at all), many Sunday schools and more than a few adult Bible classes. Participants WILL come away from these classes with a keen understanding of why the Bible is often described as the greatest book ever written – not only because of its moral and ethical content, but because of the sophisticated literary forms used to convey these moral and ethical truths.
To request additional information, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The classes will be challenging — not so much by their intellectual depth but because the focus is what the text would have meant to its intended audience, the ancient Hebrews – a people with radically different world-views when compared with modern Western cultures. To this end, we will engage the ancient cultures, languages, and traditions of the peoples of those ancient days. With this context in mind, we will examine what God originally intended to reveal to His chosen people.
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|1.||↑||A biblical scholar rightly understood, is someone who conducts research and submits his/her findings to peer review. And, while my formal education is similar to that of a biblical scholar, I do not conduct original research and write my findings for peer review.|
|2.||↑||Especially since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1948|