The book of Genesis is one of my favorites. It’s weird and mystical and it runs through a ton of stories about a ton of people.
Every culture has a creation story. These days, evolution and the Big Bang Theory take the cake, but back before Darwin and the Scientific Revolution, people had a hard time understanding why things happened the way they did (just like we do today, really). Some of this stuff really explains the way they thought things happened (It rains because God makes it rain. Someone must. I didn’t, did you?). Sometimes the authors knew full well that the stories weren’t literally true, but were how they explained why they do things a certain way.
As a comparison, think about the question, “Why do we give gifts at Christmas?” Well, because it’s Jesus’ birthday and Jesus was a gift to the world… even though we don’t actually know what time of year Jesus was born. Or we might say that we commemorate the gifts that the magi brought to baby Jesus in some of the Gospel stories.
Or, “Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving?” We commemorate an event that didn’t really happen the way we often tell it. The story may not be true in the sense that it’s not factual or historically accurate, but many of us believe the holiday has cultural value. It helps our culture remember gratitude, peace, and family, and ensures that we eat a big meal as the weather gets cold. Did the pilgrims and indigenous people eat a Turkey together? No, not the way we tell it. We don’t celebrate the holiday because of historical accuracy. There are some good lessons in that and we really like gathering together with our favorite people and eating a ridiculously indulgent meal, even if we do it while complaining about the white supremacist roots of the holiday.
So, did God literally create the world in 6 days? No, but it explains why we do this 7-day week thing and why we decided to take it easy on day 7.
Also worth noting about Genesis: In this Jewish story, there is no mention of Original Sin. That’s not even a concept in Judaism. It would not have been a concept at the time of Jesus. It is a later invention of the Church. Jews have been reading these stories for centuries without getting any ideas about Original Sin.
Many of the stories in Genesis answer questions central to human experience– questions that most traditions ask and answer, though differently.
“How did we get here?”
“Why do we die?”
“Why do we fall in love and have sex?”
Before the Scientific Method, we supposed pretty different answers to these questions, but we don’t ask these questions because we need a literal answer for our exam on Tuesday, we ask them because they speak to our anxieties as a species. They speak to our anguish, confusion, and joy. The answers aren’t meant to be scientific.
These are heart stories. They’re meant to comfort the anxious human mind. They’re meant to make us feel less alone. They’re meant to bond us in cultural identity. They’re meant to express the goodness of it all. It might seem like there is chaos and death and brothers killing brothers– and there is– but it’s going to be okay because we’re in this together.
So let’s dig into this together.
.See you soon!