Genesis in Context

September, 2001

While diving into Genesis to see what God has to say to us, it is mindful to be aware of the context in which this text was first delivered. Most notably, one should keep in mind that this text is several thousand years old! So one would be making a mistake, as many silly Christians do who think the earth is only about 6 thousand years old, to look at this text and think :"What is God telling me here?" without considering that to understand the text one must consider: "What was going through the minds of the people to whom this text was first delivered?". So it is helpful to imagine living in that age, in a civilization when there was no MTV, no TV at all, not even a light bulb, in one of those communities in the fertile crescent (that area of land that stretches between the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf) where the only entertainment is to (after the chores are done) go down a path in the evening that is lit by the occasional torch, to the outdoor theater where rows of stones are arranged for seating, around the bonfire, and the leader of songs, or perhaps, this night, a traveler with tales from far away lands. No, this night was a creation story. This is not the very first creation story, since everyone has heard creation stories before, most notably the one from Babylon called the "Enuma Elish".
Perhaps this was similar to a conversation that took place then, after that evening’s tale:

Joreb: "Dagnabit! I wish there were more torches on this trail, I just hit my toe on that rock again."

Rabeesh: "Joreb, what did you think? I mean about the story. I was like the Enuma Elish, but so different."

Joreb: "I think they are totally different. In the Enuma Elish you have struggle, lots of gods arguing and fighting, and gods being born. This God in tonight's story is different. God always was. He is so powerful that He created everything. There is order."

Rabeesh: "What do you think about that Adam and Eve story?"

Joreb: "What about it?"

Rabeesh: "Well, do you think it really happened that way? I mean historically?"

Joreb: "No way! I mean Eve being made from a rib? There isn't enough rib to make a person! And the part about God walking around in the garden. If he can create the universe, then He doesn't walk around like He is one of us. No, it's a story to tell us something.

Rabeesh: "And what about the talking snake!"

Joreb: "Yeah, I've caught lots of snakes and none of them talked!"

Rabeesh: "So, what was the story telling us then?"

Joreb: "You mean, about Adam and Eve?"

Rabeesh: "Yes."

Joreb: "Well, I guess that we are like Adam and Eve in that we make mistakes sometimes."

Rabeesh: "Do you think also that maybe it had something to say about marriage?"

Joreb: "Well, yeah, I guess so."

Rabeesh: "Well, I'll see you later; will you be at the show next weekend?"

Joreb: "I wouldn't miss it! I hear its going to be about a great flood".


note: For a recent rendition of the flood story, see National Geographic, May 2001.
For a better article on Genesis in context, see The First Four Days of Genesis