Faith: ways of creating

So, I sit lightly to the Bible – I am most definitely not going to believe something just because it happens to be written there. I am however equally certainly going to give it an attentive hearing, for there are the most amazing things in the Bible. Anybody who knows some of the really astonishing ideas in it is going to give a fair hearing to the rest.
Of all of it, the Hebrew Scriptures are probably the least known and the most understood; that is to say, the writings of the peoples of Judah and Israel, which was the Bible to Jesus, and which we also know as the Old Testament.
I cannot give a full, proper introduction to them; for one thing, to do so would be a full book in itself, and for another I am not qualified so to do. What I can do is to offer a taster, and to blow away some misconceptions. So here goes (and apologies to theologically qualified readers who know this like the backs of their own hands).
The Hebrew Scriptures were not written in the order we now have them. A lot of them were written down either in the time the Jewish people were in exile in Babylon, or in the time afterwards when many returned to Jerusalem, or in the time when the Persians were the overlords of the country.
Probable exceptions to this include some of the stories about the Exodus, some of the stories about King David, some of the history of his successors, and some of the so-called prophets, who were active in Israel and Judah before they fell.
I think it is possibly easier for my readers if I tackle the bible in the order we now have it.
So – the story starts with an account of the creation. This was almost certainly written in and/or after the Exile. It looks as if the writers know the Babylonian creations myths, in which one God (Marduk) battles the Chaos Monster to create order and the world. I say writers, because the English translations partially hide the two names given for God: Elohim (God) and Yahweh (translated is the LORD). Here, as in many other places in the Hebrew Scriptures, original texts have been put together later to make the work we now have.
What both writers have in common is a desire to show God as creating the world, and the world being good. It is not a matter of Good and Bad battling it out, and Good coming off best: the whole thing is a carefully constructed whole. Interesting.
But as so often with the Bible, not a unanimous verdict: in other places (eg Isaiah 51:9–10) there are traces of a creation in which God hacks the Chaos Monster Rahab to pieces and makes order that way.
Welcome to the world where the Bible argues with itself, and produces insight that way.
Next time? The surprisingly sophisticated theology of the Patriarch stories.

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3 responses to “Faith: ways of creating

  1. I think this should be your next book.

  2. rosemaryhannah

    Well, if people like it – but getting this kind of thing published?!

  3. There is still plenty of theology books being published, Rosemary, judging by the reviews in the church press, so why not yours? You write so beautifully – clear thinking, well expressed, and there should be a market for that.

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