Genesis and Ancient Mesopotamia

Ancient Mesopotamia

Alternative views on the book of Genesis, specifically on the story of creation, are definitely available.  For whatever reason (and there are many) it is often difficult to find one from the perspective of a believer.

Not to say that views of non-believers are invalid, but I have been specifically asked for views of other Christians on the topic.

The first and possibly most important highlight is the account of creation in Genesis 1:1-2:3. This may surprise some people to read today, but there is absolutely no indication in the text that the creation story is intended to be a scientifically-accurate depiction of the processes by which the world came into being. The 20th century debate over creation vs. evolution could hardly have been further from the author’s mind. Rabbinical and scholarly interpretations of the creation story have differed widely from ancient times until now on how literally, versus symbolically or allegorically, the account should be taken, and there has never been a consensus on how closely the events depicted therein had to match the facts of natural history for the story to be theologically true – and this long before the advent of modern science.

The likely reality is that Genesis 1:1-2:3 was originally composed as a liturgical text for use in worship rituals. Its form generally corresponds to other texts from ancient Mesopotamia that were used for this purpose, and it is highly probable that the purpose of the Genesis creation account was precisely to provide an alternative imaginative basis for conceiving of God, the place of humans in the cosmos, and the ordering of society than the mythologies of other ancient near eastern nations.

Continued at Absolution Revolution

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About Aaron Gardner

Aaron is a counselor and student of the Bible, passionate about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. He lives in central Indiana with his wife, one-year-old son and their two dogs. View all posts by Aaron Gardner

4 responses to “Genesis and Ancient Mesopotamia

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  • Jason Barr

    Hey thanks for linking to me! After a 2-week hiatus from blogging I’m going to post the next installment in the series tomorrow morning. Hope you like it.

  • D. N. Phinney

    Do you have a source for the assertion that Gen 1:1-2:3 functioned as a liturgical text in Israel? This is very interesting, but I’ve not heard this before.

  • Jason Barr

    I did, but unfortunately my most recent dwelling place went up in flames and my library with it. J. Richard Middleton’s The Liberating Image: Imago Dei in Genesis 1 has a strong bibliography and includes some argumentation to that effect, though it’s specifically geared towards the “image of God” statement in 1:28. I think it’s so widely assumed among academic Biblical scholars that Genesis 1 is a cultic text of some kind that probably reached its final form either during or shortly after the exile that it’s hardly worth citing, so arguments to that effect shouldn’t be hard to find.

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