Thursday, June 24, 2010

Creation As Metaphor

Gen. 1:9
וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֗ים יִקָּו֨וּ הַמַּ֜יִם מִתַּ֤חַת הַשָּׁמַ֙יִם֙ אֶל־ מָקֹ֣ום אֶחָ֔ד וְתֵרָאֶ֖ה הַיַּבָּשָׁ֑ה וַֽיְהִי־ כֵֽן׃

And God said Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place and let the dry land appear and it was so.


Gen. 1:10
וַיִּקְרָ֨א אֱלֹהִ֤ים לַיַּבָּשָׁה֙ אֶ֔רֶץ וּלְמִקְוֵ֥ה הַמַּ֖יִם קָרָ֣א יַמִּ֑ים וַיַּ֥רְא אֱלֹהִ֖ים כִּי־ טֹֽוב׃

And God called the dry land Earth and the gathering together of the waters called the Seas and God saw that it was good.


Gen. 1:11
וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֗ים תַּֽדְשֵׁ֤א הָאָ֙רֶץ֙ דֶּ֔שֶׁא עֵ֚שֶׂב מַזְרִ֣יעַ זֶ֔רַע עֵ֣ץ פְּרִ֞י עֹ֤שֶׂה פְּרִי֙ לְמִינֹ֔ו אֲשֶׁ֥ר זַרְעֹו־ בֹ֖ו עַל־ הָאָ֑רֶץ וַֽיְהִי־ כֵֽן׃

And God said Let the earth bring forth grass the herb yielding seed and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind whose seed is in itself upon the earth and it was so.


Gen. 1:12
וַתֹּוצֵ֨א הָאָ֜רֶץ דֶּ֠שֶׁא עֵ֣שֶׂב מַזְרִ֤יעַ זֶ֙רַע֙ לְמִינֵ֔הוּ וְעֵ֧ץ עֹֽשֶׂה־ פְּרִ֛י אֲשֶׁ֥ר זַרְעֹו־ בֹ֖ו לְמִינֵ֑הוּ וַיַּ֥רְא אֱלֹהִ֖ים כִּי־ טֹֽוב׃

And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.


Gen. 1:13
וַֽיְהִי־ עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־ בֹ֖קֶר יֹ֥ום שְׁלִישִֽׁי׃

And the evening and the morning were the third day.


Gen. 1:14
וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֗ים יְהִ֤י מְאֹרֹת֙ בִּרְקִ֣יעַ הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם לְהַבְדִּ֕יל בֵּ֥ין הַיֹּ֖ום וּבֵ֣ין הַלָּ֑יְלָה וְהָי֤וּ לְאֹתֹת֙ וּלְמֹ֣ועֲדִ֔ים וּלְיָמִ֖ים וְשָׁנִֽים׃

And God said Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years.


Gen. 1:15
וְהָי֤וּ לִמְאֹורֹת֙ בִּרְקִ֣יעַ הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם לְהָאִ֖יר עַל־ הָאָ֑רֶץ וַֽיְהִי־ כֵֽן׃


And let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth." And it was so.


Gen. 1:16
וַיַּ֣עַשׂ אֱלֹהִ֔ים אֶת־ שְׁנֵ֥י הַמְּאֹרֹ֖ת הַגְּדֹלִ֑ים אֶת־ הַמָּאֹ֤ור הַגָּדֹל֙ לְמֶמְשֶׁ֣לֶת הַיֹּ֔ום וְאֶת־ הַמָּאֹ֤ור הַקָּטֹן֙ לְמֶמְשֶׁ֣לֶת הַלַּ֔יְלָה וְאֵ֖ת הַכֹּוכָבִֽים׃

And God made two great lights the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night he made the stars also.


Gen. 1:17
וַיִּתֵּ֥ן אֹתָ֛ם אֱלֹהִ֖ים בִּרְקִ֣יעַ הַשָּׁמָ֑יִם לְהָאִ֖יר עַל־ הָאָֽרֶץ׃

And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth.


Gen. 1:18
וְלִמְשֹׁל֙ בַּיֹּ֣ום וּבַלַּ֔יְלָה וּֽלֲהַבְדִּ֔יל בֵּ֥ין הָאֹ֖ור וּבֵ֣ין הַחֹ֑שֶׁךְ וַיַּ֥רְא אֱלֹהִ֖ים כִּי־ טֹֽוב׃

And to rule over the day and over the night and to divide the light from the darkness and God saw that it was good.


Gen. 1:19
וַֽיְהִי־ עֶ֥רֶב וַֽיְהִי־ בֹ֖קֶר יֹ֥ום רְבִיעִֽי׃

And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.



I see this as metaphor for the cooling down of the universe, the appearance of the larger elements, and the drawing board. And it was so, does not mean that everything took place in the exact "day" of the verse.

11 comments:

Cora said...

Curious, how do you see this as a metaphor for the cooling down of the Universe?

And do you think that within the context of Gen.there were 7 continents or one massive one?

SJ said...

Waters gathering together, dry land appearing, stars forming.


The Bible doesn't cover the issue of the number of continents.

jewish philosopher said...

This is off topic, however why isn't this blog named "Thoughts of an Devout Christian". Wouldn't that be more accurate?

Ahavah Gayle said...

Interestingly, I have read it speculated that our solar system could have been nearer to the center of the galaxy originally and traveled to our current position out in the 'burbs slowly over time - possibly the same time frame discussed in these verses. The bright light of the galaxy center could have been sufficient for the formation of photosynthesis even before our own sun reached hydrogen flash, so this could be an accurate account scientifically speaking. As we moved outward along the spiral arm, the light from the center faded and the sun became our primary source of light.

Also, closer to the galaxy center seeing other stars would have been difficult with all the background light bouncing around. You'd really only be able to see the stars as stars after drifting outward somewhat.

One problem so far is that current theories of how we acquired our moon have it (as a then-larger entity) colliding with the earth and causing an earth surface meltdown as part of the process, with everything cooling off and stabilizing eventually. I suppose it's theoretically possible photosynthetic life could have survived on the far side of earth from the collision, but I don't think any current theories support that.

You might want to look into it. If you find any interesting articles that might support the Tanakh's insistence that photosynthetic life pre-existed the moon I would be curious to see it.

Shalom!

jewish philosopher said...

Just to throw in my two cents I believe that the following may the be correct interpretation of Genesis:

When the Torah states, for example, (Genesis 1:11) that plants were created on the third day, that means basically two things: the first time plants appeared on earth was a Tuesday and also each Tuesday, even this week, plants are being renewed by spiritual emanations from God (as it says in the literal translation of Psalms 136:7 "To Him making great lights" in the present tense; God is even now energizing them). The same is true for all the days of creation in Genesis 1. This is why Sabbath observance is so central to Judaism - even now, God ceases creating for one day each week and we affirm our belief in Him by doing so as well. The Bible's first thirty four verses are absolutely literal, however they are not describing historical events which happened one time only. Rather, they are describing a cycle of creative events which continues constantly and which did, at certain points in history, millions or billions of years ago, bring these aspects of the universe into physical form for the first time. The first plants may have appeared 500 million years ago - but they appeared on Tuesday and this week they also received renewed energies on Tuesday. The same applies to each other day of the six days of creation. This is what Genesis 1 teaches us. (This also explains why there are "two creation stories" in Genesis. There aren't. Genesis 1 is not merely history.)

History begins from Genesis 2:4. This is the day which the Jewish calendar starts from - New Years (Rosh haShanah) year 0 or Friday, September 1, 3762 BCE according to the Gregorian calendar. Adam was a real person, the garden of Eden was a real place and so on. Adam is the ancestor of all men alive today. His creation represents the beginning of the present, current world and therefore the Jewish calendar begins counting from that day.

SJ said...

>> This is off topic, however why isn't this blog named "Thoughts of an Devout Christian". Wouldn't that be more accurate?

JP, I have a Jewish mother, a brit, and I graduated from a yeshiva highschool. Noone can take that away from me.

Christianity in my view is like a theistic secularism because it takes the focus away from rituals and puts the focus more on being a good person, which are secular ideals.

SJ said...

Thank you for coming Ahavah. You gave interesting speculation, though a possible problem that I can see with it is that there's a black hole in the center of the galaxy. XD

Ahavah Gayle said...

Yes, there is, but the cluster of stars around it is tremendously bright. I don't know if you've seen one of those "we are here" Milky Way galaxy posters with the little arrow that points to us out on one of the spiral arms, but the center is white, it's so bright. The suns are all in very close proximity there.

Ahavah Gayle said...

JP:

Interesting take. But it seems to me there wouldn't have been any such thing as "Tuesday" at the third age of creation, because with the sun not yet having reached hydrogen flash, there was no "day" in the sense we understand it. I get that you're casting it in a moral-of-the-story light, but since God wrote the Torah, it can't just flat out contradict scientific fact at the pshat level. It has to be true at all levels of reality, or else God didn't write it - that's what skeptics will cling to like glue and that challenge has to be met.

jewish philosopher said...

No I'm not saying that each day is a different era. I'm saying that each day in Genesis 1 is part of weekly cycle of creative energies which God sends into the universe. Those aspects of the universe are still this week re-energized on those days.

Tuesday is the day of the week when plants originally took physical form, perhaps 500 million years ago, and Wednesday is the day that the sun originally took physical form perhaps 5 billion years ago. And this week as well plants were re-infused with spiritual energy on Tuesday and the sun was on Wednesday.

History begins with Genesis 2:4 with the creation of common ancestor Adam. The Jewish calendar begins on that day - Rosh haShanah year 0. What earlier eras and processes occurred before this, the Torah does not tell us.

This resolves not only the problem of age of the universe and the fossils, however it also explains the "two creation stories".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genesis_creation_narrative#First_narrative:_creation_week

jewish philosopher said...

In a nutshell, I read the first 34 verses of the Torah as being completely literal but primarily mystical rather than historical in meaning. I believe Jewish tradition supports this interpretation.

The book, I believe now out of print, Mysteries of the Creation by Rabbi Dovid Brown, discusses this idea at length.

http://www.torahtoraheverywhere.com/rabbi-brown.php