Reading the Genesis Creation Stories Again For The First Time (Fall, 2020):
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 found in Genesis 1:1-4a (“The Beginning”) and Genesis 2:4b-3:24 (“The Story of Adam and Eve”). 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: from the mid-20th century onwards the biblical creation accounts came to be recognized as literary worksmeant to be read symbolically. Accordingly, these accounts were contructed by the authors with both universal and specific Semitic literary forms such as chiasmus, poetry, allegory, and metaphor. When read as largely metaphoric in nature, they reveal a depth of meaning not heretofore appreciated nor reached by the Creationist’s or Secularist’s understanding of the text. The literary nature of the stories extend the idea of creation to a more profound and more meaningful understanding
- 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 literally, the narrative of the first creation story proceeds in a linear series of six discrete events, not unlike the nine discrete innings of a major league baseball game. The purpose of untethering the story from time reveals for the first and only time in human history the concept of ethical monotheism.
- 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 but rather its intent was to reveal that God’s gift freedom (in this story described as self-determination) is not without cost. Ultimately, the story reveals the concomitant pain and triumph that free will imposes on mankind.
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 scholar((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 then submit my findings for peer review.)). I survey the findings of scholars, weigh their arguments (and, boy, do they argue) and then conform their conclusions for my lay audience. Finally, I am mindful that biblical scholarship is often controversial and students need to be exposed to these controversies.
Over the course of these six classes participants will be introduced to a view of the Bible as a set of books that is inestimably deeper, richer, and more stimulating compared to what is usually taught from the pews on Sunday, in Bible Studies, Youth Groups. As a participant you 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 content of the class will be challenging and surpising. You very likely will resist what modern scholarship has discovered about these two stories. In addtion, while the course’s intellectual depth will challenge you, a potentially greater challenge for you will be to put your traditional and largely naive understanding aside and embrace the meaning of these stories as revealed by God to the ancient Hebrews – a people with radically different world-views. To this end, you will be challenged the culture of the ancient Hebrews, their language, and traditions as the lens through which God’s message has been revealed.