Contradictions in the Bible
Genesis 1 - 11
In this study, the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis are read carefully with a critical eye and not at all dogmatically and also with added attention to the consistency of each story and of the narratives of creation as a whole. The details of each biblical account are compared one with the other and all contradictions are underlined.
All stories of the book of Genesis must have a superior meaning if they are inspired by God. They also should have a general coherence which gives their unity, allowing them to be a valid general account of the origins of the universe and humankind. Where coherence is lacking and absurd conclusions are generated by the texts, following their logical consequences, their divine inspiration is in doubt. This is a proof that it wasn’t a superior intelligence that inspired the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis, but they are the product of ancient human beings striving to make light in a complicated world.
The present analysis tries to answer to a fundamental question. What kind of modifications, if any, happen in the content of a personal Christian faith when one has to admit by the force of evidence that the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis are neither factual nor inspired by God? The conclusion that Adam and Eve haven’t been real historical personages but only legendary heroes cannot leave the doctrinal and dogmatic fundaments of the classical theism unscathed but it bears important theological consequences. What these consequences are is an issue of concern for me and I am sure for many others also.
- 1 -
In my opinion the answer to this question can be obtained by comparing the lack of arguments for the factuality of the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis with the most cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith which are based on those alleged facts. This lack of arguments is associated with many contradictions and absurdities found in the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis.
To be sure, I didn’t start my work from a preconception, meaning that I didn’t aim to find contradictions in the Bible with any cost, as if I wished to do such thing in purpose. I didn’t like that the Bible is filled with contradictions because this reality undermines in a way my personal faith in God, subverts that part which is related to how He is described by the Bible. Years after years, I have accepted, for the sake of conformism that the Bible is the word of God which cannot err. Moreover, I preached this principle, which is fundamental for the majority of Christian denominations, as a Christian evangelist, teaching people the Gospel of Jesus based also on the book of Genesis. I have considered the Bible to be the infallible word of God because it seemed to me as being important that every believer should have a strong textual basis for his or her faith.
In the same time, in the process of studying attentively the Bible, I noticed that some of its allegations are categorically in contradiction one with the other and other propositions are utterly absurd. It wasn’t easy for me to admit the reality of these findings and for this reason I have tried to identify serious documentation to contradict them and to uphold the validity of the biblical texts under scrutiny. The explications given by the defenders of the accuracy of the Bible didn’t look convincing to me; some explanations seem to be naïve, others insincere and still others trying to cheat the good faith of the readers. The very few explanations which apparently were more rational were greatly contradicted by the findings of modern sciences being in reality false constructions. Many of these explications can be found in the present work.
Loosing trust in some of the biblical texts, I didn’t reject the faith in God because this is based on a personal experience with Him and not on the validity of some texts written over 2,000.00 years ago, for example, the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis. Nevertheless, knowing the truth is more important than anything and knowing the truth about God is an important area of knowledge.
How really is God, the One in whom so many people invest their trust is an essential problem.
- 2 -
The O.T. says that God would have killed through the Flood 99,99% from the earth population at that moment, millions of human beings including innocent children, because of their wickedness even if after that imaginary event the world was worse than before. This image is in a flagrant contradiction with what Jesus said about His Father who is perfect and who loves His enemy. (Matthew 5; 48) Something is wrong with the Bible. If the Flood would have done the world better we may doubt the means used to attain this purpose but the Bible says that the world became worse, for example, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah happen after the Flood. Why God would have killed so many humans and animals through the waters of the Flood if instead of the world becoming better it became much worse? There is an explanation. The Flood is a myth and not a reality therefore God didn’t generate in reality that genocide. The Bible doesn’t give us a fact but a legend in this case and in others. These kinds of absurdities prevent the Bible to be considered the infallible word of God. Many people don’t believe in God because He is described incorrectly by the religious institutions which interpret the Bible.
It is very important to cease maintaining that the Bible is the inspired word of God, in all its texts, because if we continue to promote this false presupposition we persist to feed a wrong image of Him. God is not as He is presented by the majority of Christian doctrines and dogmas which are based on a literal interpretation of the Bible but He is how He presents Himself in our consciousness and He is a Father who helps us to become better human beings. God doesn’t dwell in buildings made by man but in the minds of the believers (Acts 7; 48) God’s temples are the individual human beings and not religious organization with their institutional settings. (1 Corinthians 3; 16) Religious institutions have their role to play but nothing can replace the personal relation and direct experience of an individual with God.
I was hoping that the Bible would be a strong argument for my faith but unfortunately it is not the case. I think that the world cannot be saved with lies, with legends or any kind of mythology. Doesn’t matter how painful the truth may be it is better than everything else and a successful surgical operation can cure a sick person.
- 3 -
The analysis of the first 11 chapters of the Bible from the present work is such surgical operations on the biblical texts which have transform the Christian faith in something similar to a sick person.
We should always remember that Christianity is not originated from the texts of the Bible but these texts are the product of this incredible spiritual movement with such a long history. First was Christ and after that the N.T. and in this equation the primordial factor is Christ not the texts of the Bible. Likewise the first 11 chapters of the O.T. are the result of a religious movement; they aren’t the unbiased expression of some pre-scientific research of nature. In the same time, there are many ways of understanding Jesus’ mission on earth and we don’t have any reason to cling on what is obviously outdated information, the stories of creation from the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis.
I want to express this unequivocally, the present study is not an attack against the Bible or an anti-Christian demarche because the legitimate critics which contains affect, in an equal proportion, all three monotheistic religions which maintain that Adam and Eve existed in reality. If Adam and Eve are only legendary personages, as I think many people will agree until the end of this work, than Judaism, Christianity and Islam base their spiritual offers on mythology and not on facts scientifically proven and this situation diminishes very much their relations with the truth.
The conclusions detached from this study would unavoidably affect not only the individual attitude of each Christian believer but also the dogmatic pillars of the Christian faith and I consider this dynamic to be rather positive regardless of how painful it can be. A faith which is based on as many facts as possible is a strong and not a weak faith. For example, the admission of the fact that the earth orbits around the sun didn’t erase the Christian faith from the spiritual landscape and that in spite of so much resistance to the truth. The foundation of the Christian faith is much stronger than that and the absorbance of such scientific truth allowed the general progress of humankind and in the end big scientific achievements in all domains.
Following the scientific and technological progress, travel is eased and distances shortened, medical interventions are much more efficient, communications between all human beings are much better comparing with the past, the average human life on Earth is longer, the general standard of life, at least in some geographical areas, is incomparably better than before, the circulation of information is quicker, and so on.
- 4 -
As shocking as it may look the admission of the truth about the dynamic of sun and earth has been a necessary step toward this entire progress. The continuation of a stubborn adherence and forceful imposition on society of the Ptolemaic conception about the movements of the earth would have made impossible the promotion of sciences.
All these achievements have facilitated even the transmission of the Christian message of the good news of the gospel and have permitted it to reach the farthest corners of the earth. Anyone can find today material about the Christian faith on the Internet. In other words, everyone, including the Christian faith, benefits more from scientific truth than from promoting ignorance. Didn’t Jesus teach that the gospel has to be brought to the margins of the earth using “margins” in a metaphorical sense? Jesus’s messages travel around the globe brought by the Christian missionaries quicker than before.
Many steps have to be made in order to bring together faith and science and I am convinced that improving this relation will strengthen both of them. Only trying to understand the factual truth of the origins of universe and humankind, one can have a healthy base for the understanding of the world.
After a profound transformation, it is possible that many Christian doctrines will be very different than what we know today, but all of us will be closer to the truths we long for. As a matter of fact, the Christian world is already very different than a few hundred years ago and is less fanaticised and therefore much more tolerant and civilized comparing with that period. Many more people believe in God for themselves, for their personal spiritual enlightenment and not for the false ideal of the transformation of their religious faith in a universal religious ideology imposed by force in society. Trying to enforce a religious belief on someone else, regardless of his or her convictions is a moral crime which disqualifies totally the proponents of that religion from a moral point of view.
Tolerance and civilization shouldn’t be taken as weaknesses of a religious faith or another. In the Christian “equation” there are two terms, God and man. Respect for God implies consideration for man also and saying that we love God but despise human beings as His creatures on religious grounds doesn’t make any sense. The human beings are the most important part of His creation on Earth, the only one able to comprehend and to love Him.
We should understand deeper and respect the human motives in connection to faith both when individuals accept God and when they reject Him.
Some people may have strong personal motives to reject the possibility of God’s existence and they prevent them to have faith in Him. Only He can judge the value and the importance of such motives in their lives. As a matter of fact, according to the Bible, the faith in God is a gift from Him and not everyone receives this gift in a comprehensive way. Some people reject this gift for considerations related to the adherence to another vision of the world than the one proposed by the book of Genesis. If the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis are considered to be the basis for faith in God it shouldn’t be any surprise that so many people reject that starting point.
We don’t need the false description of the beginning of the universe and of the humankind, provided by the Bible, in order to be responsible human beings. The care for human beings automatically means also respect for God, because Jesus has taught His disciples that the love for God derives from the treatment of other human beings. The care for other human beings comes from working in the service of their health, wellbeing, security, comfort, information and so on. Science and technology do that on an important scale every day. The good doesn’t come only from general religious principles declared from the pulpits and not always accompanied by practical deeds but rather from theoretical and practical scientific accomplishments. They are good deeds similar to what Jesus did on earth because they are done for the general wellbeing of humankind.
In this study, I attempt to present some of the most important inconsistencies coming from the first book of the Bible, Genesis chapters 1-11. Every such incongruence can be an issue for religious faith related to the reading of the Bible. The reading of the Bible can transform someone into a believer or into an unbeliever and for this reason I consider that the approach in an analytical way of some important themes is extremely important. There is a distance between an occasional reading of the Bible and a professional reading in which every detail of the texts reveals a whole bunch of information from all domains. For this reason, a professional reading very attentive to the coherence of the texts can help any interested reader to go deeply into different aspects, which otherwise can escape attention.
- 6 -
In lack of a thorough reading of the biblical account of the creation many add their imagination to the actual record and see it not as it derives from the texts, but in an amended way. In this manner, many visualise the creation of the universe other than it is said by the texts of the Bible. Do we all realise that the Bible actually says that until the second day of the creation there wasn’t any sky, and that all space of the universe was covered by waters? In a biblical context we usually imagine that the planet Earth had been from the beginning of its existence as it is today, but the Bible doesn’t say that. It was somewhere, deeply under the waters of an imaginary primeval sea, as a heap of matter and not as a spherical planet. The earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep. (Genesis 1; 2)
Until the second day of the creation, according to the book of Genesis, the whole material universe had been a formless void. In spite of this, the Bible actually says that in the first day there had been a morning and an evening. The morning and the evening would have happened without a sky, without sun, and without earthly atmosphere. In the first day of creation, it would have been a morning and an evening under waters, generated by a supposed artificial light, in the depth of the ocean, even if the light travels with great difficulty under water, in full only until 200m and very little beyond that profoundness. Many contradictions emerge from a systematic, unbiased analysis of the book of Genesis which is something other than the dogmatic studies which flow from many Christian denominations.
I also try to establish in this analysis if God of the Bible is the same as God of the philosophers and theologians, or if the Bible says something different about Him than the image offered to the believer by the history of Christian philosophical thought. Does the Bible and especially the book of Genesis present God as an infinite, immaterial, All-powerful and Omniscient Being or as a divinity that can make mistakes, doesn’t know everything beforehand and sometimes regrets what He does? How did the philosophers of religion and theologians reach their conclusions that are so widespread amongst the Christians? Christians see as an undisputable truth, that God is a spiritual Being, that He has no origin, He lives forever, He loves and is All-powerful and that He is Omniscient and Omnipresent. Where in the book of Genesis or in other parts of the Bible is written about all these?
- 7 -
Is it possible that God from the book of Genesis is a lesser Being than is currently thought by religion, for example, another civilisation existing in this universe and being technologically superior to us, such as the proponents of the ancient astronauts theories believe? Is it not reasonable to understand God as the representative of a civilisation which is interested in us and probably wants to control us? This study can help us to come closer to an answer.
There is also another possibility, which can be contemplated. The Bible could speak about two different realities. On one side an infinite and loving divine Reality, and on the other side, an extra-terrestrial civilisation interested in the evolution of humankind and them both being in conflict with one another. Some answers to these questions, sometimes at the most fundamental level, can be contained in a critical study of the narratives of the book of Genesis chapters 1-11.
I would avoid using the term “deconstruction” in order to evade easy cataloguing but in fact I would like to see the congruence, in the sense of agreement, harmony, conformity, or correspondence between the meanings, which are implied in the texts. What the texts of the book of Genesis are trying to tell us, what are their inbuilt messages? Are all the messages, contained by different texts, in harmony with one another? If the book of Genesis is to be considered a reliable book, then its texts must form a coherent and harmonious whole, but if the texts are incessantly contradicting each other, that must be because they represent a collection of different sources, written by many authors and there isn’t a leading Mind, a unique and divine Author, behind it.
Of course, this type of analysis was done before, but what I try to achieve here is a more complex evaluation, in which theology, sciences, and philosophy are involved. I will try to reconsider all arguments, which were used before, but also, more importantly, new argumentation, detached from any engagement to a certain religious stance or to another. Personally, I am a faithful man, but also I am an admirer of sciences and of their practical results and I fully consider that both religion and science are two facets of the same coin, as a matter of fact, of the same reality. Separation of the sciences and religion, to me, is an effect of a huge manipulation, practiced during a long period of time. Some elements, of the reality, can be easily accessed and understood by the sciences and other elements, and mostly the infinite dimension of it, still remains open for access, only via revelation if this revelation is real knowledge and not only classified as such by religion.
- 8 -
This is a critical look, on the Christian religion and particularly on the texts of the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis. This critical and analytical approach is not made by an agnostic or an atheist but by a practicing Christian. Nevertheless, it could be that the amount and the level of the criticism of this present study surpass the criticism usually made by most agnostics or atheists to the Bible. From my point of view, the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis must either stand or drop, from the standards of authentic knowledge. If they contain a hidden spiritual message when they are read as parables this message has to be a congruent one and not a bunch of contradictions.
Even if the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis are only legends without any link to reality, the possibility of God’s existence and a personal non-dogmatic relationship with Him remains unaffected. At the same time, to me, a valid religious belief must be based also on factual truth when it claims the knowledge of reality in a certain area. If on the basis of the book of Genesis one says that he or she knows exactly how the universe came to be, he or she has to bring rational arguments to that, not only faith.
Our scientific understanding of the universe and the development of theology changed greatly since the book of Genesis was written. Ignoring the progress of knowledge in the areas of astrophysics and other scientific domains and clinging to the texts contained by the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis, it is not only about personal faith in God but also about a religious stance promoted by the organised religion. Denying directly or indirectly the progress of human knowledge from the times when the book of Genesis was written until today puts in question humankind’s ability of reaching any kind of knowledge in general and also of obtaining new understandings of reality.
Are we endowed with the capacity to know the reality or not? The history of humankind proves that we are. Even the book of Genesis says that we are able to acquire knowledge of good and evil, moral knowledge, which is inseparable from knowledge of reality in general. After all, for the people who believe literally the book of Genesis, Adam and Eve would have eaten from the tree of knowledge and that would have given them certain abilities in the area of knowledge, hence humankind is able to develop sciences, according to the Bible.
- 9 -
If the biblical texts recognise the human capability to know reality that means that they implicitly admit that we can know the origin of the universe and of humankind. If this were not so, why would Adam and Eve have been punished for wanting to extend their knowledge? If knowledge was not within their reach, what danger could their attitude have posed? The presence of the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden wasn’t only a test for human obedience because it was able to open the eyes of the first two human beings. The book of Genesis tells us that acquiring knowledge was contrary to God’s will therefore was prohibited to Adam and Eve.
If humankind has the capacity to know reality, they should exercise this attribute and shouldn’t take for granted texts about the creation of the universe and humankind which maintain things contrary to human experience and knowledge such as the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis.
The human race has chosen a dignifying path; the path of knowledge is a human choice through which a human being can reach his or her dignity. Our present civilisation is the result of the path of knowledge, and the path itself has transformed humankind to be what it is today, a much-evolved civilization. Scientific knowledge is real and is present in all domains. In order to know the difference between good and evil, which is a necessary step in the understanding of God’s goodness, one must go on the path of knowledge of the reality created by God. According to the Bible, God would have offered us, through our ancestors, a kind of shortcut to happiness akin to ignorance but they have chosen the hard way, the way of knowledge, a much longer and complex way but much more fulfilling.
A comeback to the initial innocence, from which Adam and Eve wanted to escape, by turning our face from knowledge and from science, is not possible anymore. We have to go onward and not backward. We must know and confront reality and make other choices, this time well informed by the knowledge of what the world really is, and how it came to be. In this way humankind can know God in depth by the choices that each of us makes, based on the knowledge of facts and not only on religious dogma. In a metaphoric way, the initial choice was made by Adam and Eve, and if that were true, we couldn’t have changed that attempt for knowledge, or its consequences; we only can change the outcome of our own individual destiny through knowledge and faith in a very delicate proportion.
- 10 -
We are called to know the universe and also to know God using our reason and also our faith.
Another problem that I try to solve in this study is the relationship between a personal view on the accuracy of the Bible and the strength of a Christian faith based on personal revelation and personal experience with God rather than on the biblical texts. God is a Reality but not necessarily in the way that the book of Genesis presents Him.
What foundation can have a personal faith which accepts that the universe was created through the Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago and wasn’t created in seven days, not even in seven longer periods of time? If we separate the creation stories from the whole corpus of the Bible what still remains as a reliable source of information in the rest of the Bible? Can someone know that God exists only because he or she met Him in a personal spiritual experience without any relation with the texts of the book of Genesis? What comes first, the personal spiritual experience or the reading of the Bible? In my opinion, reading the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis without having a personal experience with God isn’t an incentive for faith.
Not everyone who reads the Bible believes that they represent accurate realities because there are many inconsistencies in it. God doesn’t do stupid things; He didn’t create the daylight before the sky and before the sun which provides this light, as the book of Genesis says.
As a practicing Christian, I have considered, in the past, the Bible as a book inspired by God and this was the case until I persevered further and I “have dug” deeper. In the process I have come upon some fundamental contradictions and this prevented me maintaining the same stance about Bible inspiration. I now don’t reject entirely the principle of the presence of inspiration in some texts of the Bible but I am much more circumspect in proclaiming it without careful qualification and without defining what inspiration can possibly mean.
All texts imply meanings, some are intended by their authors and others aren’t and the conclusion on their consistency must be based on both categories. If the Bible shows on one page one thing and on another page another thing contrary to the first, in respect to the same theme, we have a problem because I strongly believe that God wouldn’t contradict Himself, if indeed He inspired those texts.
- 11 -
Of course, God could have released, if He so wished, contradictory accounts about an issue, but when reaching such a conclusion, one must know what the admission of such an improbable situation can tell us about Him and what impact that has at a theological level.
At the same time, whoever rejects the possibility of divine revelation, as a consequence of that stance, he or she finds it hard to accept the possibility of God’s existence, because reason has its natural limits. Nevertheless, reason is the only criteria or the standard unit for the measurement of the consistency of any belief being it religious or otherwise. In other words, a text which is contradictory in its internal structure cannot be valid, no matter from where it comes.
If I start to contradict myself in what I maintain this is an important issue and strong enough to make my position unacceptable, including in the spiritual domain. For the same motif, I cannot adhere to a religious faith in which the underlying logic gives absurd or contradictory results and doesn’t go anywhere because its basic elements are totally disharmonious and disentangled. God’s revelation cannot be contradictory or absurd and to test it from these two perspectives, any person necessarily needs reason. A so-called revelation which is in contradiction with the laws of logic cannot come from God who is Logos, a term also meaning rationality.
The subjective inward activity of any person shouldn’t be underestimated and spirituality is essential for a full development of the inner self. Beside this subjective side, one must consider a more objective one; there are the results of the scientific observations of the outside world, which by no means can be neglected or discarded. Deep subjectivity must be mixed with a clear eye on the objective reality if one doesn’t want to get severed from the outer world. To cut off the human mind from the universal material world or to consider that the relationships between the cosmos and the human spirit are happening only in the “deepest valleys” of the inward human universe, is a sort of subjectivist reduction to which I don’t subscribe.
In the same time, it is not irrational, I would say, to admit that there is a sort of mystical or esoteric relation between some individual human minds and a universal rationality or even with an unseen universal Consciousness, which manifests itself inside human beings through a certain type of lucidity, clear vision and revelation.
- 12 -
Separation of the inward “spiritual metabolism” from the outward dynamic amounts to a split in the human multidimensionality. The human being is a very complex reality and I don’t see why we should reduce it to a certain dimension or another. Nevertheless, it is one thing to integrate oneself into a bigger picture by his or her own spiritual mechanisms and it is another thing to be submitted socially to certain religious doctrines or dogmas foisted on individual consciousness in the name of some illusory ideals manipulated by a religious but also quasi-political force.
Is Christianity the only way to become a more spiritual human being, or indeed can one better oneself and ascend to the spiritual ladder in more than one way? Are other religions such as Buddhism or Islam or others as spiritual as the Christian religion? Is there any measurement unit for spirituality? Isn’t science bearing its own spirituality, which sometimes is as fulfilling as the religious one? What is the relationship between a spirituality inspired by religion and one induced by the sciences? These are questions which can be answered by the members of all those religions and each of them can probably give a positive answer, if not they wouldn’t profess their religious faith as they do. I consider that sciences can also inspire someone to have spiritual experiences such as contemplative, meditative, revelatory intuitions and thoughts.
At the same time, Christianity promises not only a spiritual evolution or a certain moral improvement but much more than that, it offers a new nature to human beings. God and man, a new being, a man who has Godlike features and, even more, a man with a Godlike nature is something which can be seen as an unending path towards human spiritual development. Religion professes to bring the deification of man but what does this really mean? Do we assist at the rising of a new dignity for man or of a new race spiritually motivated? In the book of Genesis, the union between the sons of God and the daughters of man hasn’t been seen favourably by Him. And yet the whole idea of Christianity is concentrated in the deification of the human beings. In the N.T. all human beings should become sons and daughters of God but in the O.T., His sons generated a big turmoil on Earth, which allegedly brought to the Flood, when they married the daughters of men.
- 13 -
Can there be a Godlike man and woman wiser, more intelligent, more generous, more efficient and more powerful? Can this come only through spirituality and revelation or a continuous evolution in scientific knowledge is also needed? There is a long competition between human self-achieved knowledge and messages which are considered to have come from divine revelation and this phenomenon could affect negatively the reputation of religion as a transformative force. Many religious people seem very suspicious of human acquired knowledge, and in this way the old legendary dispute between God, Adam and Eve and also Satan about knowledge extends until our days. According to the Bible this debate would have started in the Garden of Eden or even earlier in the Kingdom of God. As a matter of fact, it is a conflict between the attitude of someone waiting to get everything from above and someone who researches in order to find out for himself or herself how the world was made.
Is there any scientific value in the biblical narratives from the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis or have they only a theological, metaphorical, symbolical and spiritual value? When considering the real scientific value of the biblical narratives one should not be mesmerised by the high spiritual offer of Christianity or of other religions. The profound resonances of a spiritual offer can hinder a demarche for a critical analysis of the biblical texts, and therefore such an endeavour must detach itself completely from any spiritual biases. Is such a thing as spiritual neutrality possible? One must approach the issues without preconceptions and that is the only way to create a real balance between inner and outer parts of the world. I am persuaded that one can continue to believe in God, even if he or she doesn’t believe in the inspiration of all texts of the Bible.
Concerning the inspiration of the Bible, an answer more detached from subjectivism, and more scientific, can be found only in a critical analysis, and comparison of the texts of the Bible between them, starting with the O.T. The texts are either sustaining each other or are contradicting between them, and I found that many biblical texts are inconsistent in themselves and also their individual meanings are in acute contradiction with one another. Moreover, when one compares possible theological interpretations, offered by the biblical texts, one can be surprised to see how many conflicting theologies the Bible contains. Some texts go in a certain direction, and others in an opposite or a very different direction.
- 14 -
To understand the Bible, to me, means to grasp all possible interpretations of its texts, starting with more literal ones toward much more philosophical ones. Continuous exegesis of the Bible, made in the evangelical movements, which I would call “apologetic exegesis”, doesn’t tell us too much, when the texts which are commented on are not analysed in a critical manner. If the premises are wrong, the entire construction doesn’t matter how spectacular it is, it is also erroneous.
Constructing on a basis which is not clarified enough can build a huge infrastructure of institutions and ideas, but the whole edifice is fragile and can crumble at any moment, because its basis is on sand, on texts which are not able to sustain themselves alone if submitted to a critical analysis. The extraordinary recoil experienced by the Christian religion and other religions in the West can be explained also by the fact that many unsolved problems piled up during the last few centuries.
Only when one ends a stage of constructively criticising the texts of the Bible and deciphering their implicit messages, sometimes very obscure, one can see what really remains as the spiritual message of the texts, and what can be the object of belief and in what manner.
Many texts form the book of Genesis which seem to be historical or scientific may not make any sense historically or scientifically and, for this reason, it is very important to establish from the outset of any analysis if indeed these texts were intended by their author or authors to be historical accounts or some spiritual messages which were expressed in an allegorical form. This may not be an easy task. How can one know if the record of creation in seven days was intended to be a historical account, or is only mythology? We can try to find this out only by carefully analysing the texts and above all by testing their inner consistency.
How many details do we get from the texts of the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis and what types of details are available? Are the narratives really trying to explain certain natural phenomena or do they only use basic observations in an inconsistent manner, in order to cover the creation of the world? In other words, are the narratives of the creation from the book of Genesis a visible attempt to explain natural phenomena or they are used only as a pretext in order to build a foundation for a religious faith?
- 15 -
Can we see any pre-scientific approach, available in that period of time, or only non-analytic statements based on faith? We can compare the biblical account with ancient scientific explanations from the same period of time only to see what was intended to be science and what was not. Such questions pop up in mind when one opens the book of Genesis from the Bible. Nevertheless, I don’t see any attempt in the first 11 chapters of the Bible to explain any natural phenomenon in a quasi-scientific manner, but rather only in a mythological way.
Any inconsistency in a story, if it isn’t convincingly explicated, is evidence for the lack of truthfulness of that account. God is not irrational and He doesn’t do irrational things. God does extraordinary things but not contradictory to their referential contexts and not willingly absurd only to confuse the reader. To do an absurd, contradictory, nonsensical or illogical thing it is not the proof of supernatural, quite the opposite.
Without internal logos, an immanent rationality, nothing can really exist in the world that we know. All that exists, all entities, are intelligently organised. In essence, existence of any individual reality means to participate to the infinite rationality of all that is. Nothing can exist outside the universal logos, universal rationality, which binds all reality together. All things are linked in one infinite reality by an invisible rationality, which sets coherent rules for all that is.
God can surpass the laws of nature, not because He doesn’t respect them but because He knows all of them too well and is able to control them. Nevertheless, if God set in place the laws of nature He doesn’t despise them nor He would have created the universe in a chaotic way as it is described by the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis.
God, in the process of doing miracles, can use unknown natural laws or could utilise the known rules in an unknown way. What rules did God use when He revived Lazarus from death? We don’t know and we can only try to speculate. If such a miracle is possible some special way to use the natural laws, unknown at the present time by science, could have been at work.
There is a problem with the literal interpretation of the narratives of creation, from the book of Genesis. These stories look so self-confident in their approach but they are flawed by contradictions. They are motifs for doubt rather than an incentive for believing in miracles.
- 16 -
Nevertheless, the miracle of intelligent life is at the heart of all existence. Physically the universe could have existed without us but the fact that we exist raises a question. Are we inconsequential for the universe, a mere accident or much more than that? There are “natural miracles” beside what are thought to be supernatural ones and the confusion between them is easy to be made. Life in a sense is a miracle and it isn’t difficult to believe in a divinity when living in the middle of so many “natural miracles” in our universe. The laws of nature don’t exclude miracles because they are themselves miracles. What happens in the quantum world looks like a miracle or at least something very strange and inexplicable, at the moment. Quantum entanglement is a miracle because it is real but unexplained by the laws of physics. For science, even the origin of the laws of nature is not totally explained hence it looks like a miracle. The entire existence, coming out from absolute nonexistence, a theory maintained by some scientists, is not an extraordinary miracle, more spectacular than anything else? Of course, this would be something more spectacular than the Lazarus revival. Some atheists profess that they don’t believe in miracles yet they believe in the possibility of existence per se coming out from total nonexistence, which is a contradiction of the law of causality.
We are linked to God by the miracle of conscious life present in each human being. As a matter of fact, the existence of human beings on Earth is an extraordinary miracle and when we look to it like that we understand that Jesus realized miracles in a world of miracles. For the moment, the mechanisms of miracles are not fully understood and this is the reason why they are miracles and not scientific hypothesis.
Sometimes sciences bring us closer to miracles, for example, in medical matters. In relation to the origins of the universe it seems that the miracle of the existence of the universe is farther than ever from the biblical accounts. Every new human discovery in this domain widens the distance with the narratives of creation from the book of Genesis.
The numerous inconsistencies contained by the narratives of creation from the Bible tend to undermine the personal religious faith of many people. If these accounts were the most important part of one’s religious belief, many more individuals would give up their religious faith. But faith is more complex than following or believing what is written in the Bible; faith is the product of someone’s entire experience of life.
- 17 -
Many realise that the Bible is not a book of science or history, and that its content is not an explanation of the reality. At its best the Bible could be more like a code or an elaborate cipher of the world but even that is put in doubt. At the same time, when one definitively discards the book of Genesis as a book of science, one opens the sky and allows the real explanations of the origins to take their rightful place, and from that point one can define his or her religious faith in a more congruent way.
There aren’t predictable rules for irrational facts in order to be applied to gain knowledge; there are only rules of rationality and logic and also of probabilistic calculations. Some of these rules are visibly contradicted by irrational propositions contained by the texts of the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis. For example, the assertions that God created daylight, on the first day, but the sun was created on the fourth day is an irrational statement, made by the book of Genesis, because it is a reverse of the rule of causality, in which causes must determine effects. As everyone knows, the cause of the daylight, is the sun and, beyond doubt, that is demonstrated both by daily empirical observations together with scientific ones. Anyone can notice that where there isn’t sun there isn’t also daylight. This is an argument amongst many others that the texts from the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis aren’t reliable.
If God created daylight in the first day and the sun in the fourth, based on the suppositions of the Bible, there must be two sources of daylight and when the sunlight is obscured by an eclipse the alleged source supposed to have been created on the first day of creation should become evident. This is not the case; hence for this reason and others the biblical narrative about the creation of daylight on the first day is false. In order to reach this conclusion one must assume that God didn’t create a provisional daylight to last only from the first day to the fourth one, because God wouldn’t have done such provisional things in His creation, declaring them at the same time to be good, because if they really were good they would have lasted for more than three days.
We can safely consider a provisional hypothetical daylight as being bad, in spite of what the book of Genesis says, because it was replaced after such a short period of time by another more permanent light, that of the sun, and also because it was created under the waters of the primeval sea. In other words, if the light allegedly created on the first day would have been really good it would have lasted more than three days, but soon it was considered to be bad by God and replaced by Him with the light of the sun.
- 18 -
Such a procedure isn’t expected from the Almighty God, rather from an electrician who doesn’t have power when he or she starts working on a building site and uses a generator for a short while. I will show that any attempt made with the end of spiritualising the light from the first day of creation is unsuccessful and shows the failure of a literal interpretation of the narratives of the creation, from the Bible.
If we are summoned to take the texts about creation from the Bible literally, what is the legitimacy for spiritualising only the story of creation of the daylight? One cannot legitimately take a small part of a text, from the book of Genesis, the creation of daylight in the first day and extract it from its literal context, to spiritualise it at will.
Theologically, there probably is a reason for the discrepancy regarding the creation of light in the stories of creation, and that could be the efforts made by the writers of the book of Genesis to depart from the Egyptian mythology, which offered to the sun a central place and a very important function in the Egyptian religious faith. Again, the stories from the book of Genesis can be seen as having a religious purpose and not a quasi-scientific one, and were written with the idea of an intended dissimilitude with another religion. Jewish people had to be different, and manifestly so, from the religion of their Egyptian neighbours. That was a way of defining their national identity.
To assume that all human species were generated from Adam and Eve is a situation which is considered by other biblical texts to be immoral and infringing God’s laws, which condemn incest and in this way, contradict the book of Genesis. This is a serious internal contradiction of the Bible. This assumption is also a contradiction of the natural laws which consider incest to be unhealthy from the point of view of the evolution of the human species. Allegedly all human species came from the initial association between Adam and Eve’s first children, brothers and sisters, but marriage between brother and sister is prohibited and punished by the O.T. What is the logic of the biblical narratives in this case?
- 19 -
Didn’t God find another way for the creation of humankind than the use of incest which He hates and condemns in the Mosaic Law? It is hard to base one’s faith on such a contradiction which is at the core of the future plan for the redemption of humankind.
Concerning the creation of humankind, God, as depicted by the Bible, was constrained by only one possibility and determined to use incest for the multiplication of human beings in spite that He considered it an abomination. That very much diminishes the image of His power. One should expect that God is not subject to natural circumstances which would have forced Him into moral compromises. The Almighty God cannot be seen as being submitted to historical determinism by saying: “God couldn’t do things otherwise; the multiplication of humankind had to be by incest, there wasn’t any other way, if not the theology based on Christ’s sacrifice on the cross doesn’t make any sense.” This God is not the All-powerful; He is not the Almighty that we were preached about. This story shows only an image of God determined and submitted to the limited conditions of His creation.
If God didn’t have another choice but to contradict Himself, that is a problem. In this case, God is not All-powerful; He adapts His actions to the conditions and submits His will to human history. In other words, if God had to create only one man and one woman and the entirety of humankind multiplied through incest, this is a moral compromise made by God. (Leviticus 18; 26-27)
The creation of only one man and one woman, in order to multiply, has been an invitation for moral decay in the context of widespread incest. How can anyone take seriously God’s of the Bible stance about incest, imposed by force on the Jewish people, later on in time? What do we have to believe, God s perfect character or the Bible? It seems that they contradict each other. God’s image in the O.T. in so many occasions is very unfavourable to Him: If He had independently created more than one man and more than one woman in the same time, to be at the origin of humankind, the problem would have been solved. As a matter of fact, the problem is solved in another way because science show us that at the outset of the development of human races they were few thousands human beings and not only two. Who should one believe? Should he or she believe science which gives a reasonable and realistic solution from a medical point of view and, in the same time, more valid morally or the Bible who presents a myth? Anyone can answer for himself or her.
- 20 -
Of course, I am not in a situation to advise God how He should have created humankind but I can recognise an incredible contradiction between the story of the creation of man and woman and the moral law from the O.T. The Darwinian Theory of evolution, concerning the apparition of humankind, is much more adequate scientifically and also much more acceptable from a moral point of view. The evolution of the species doesn’t entail incest as a necessary mean for the multiplication of humankind because there were more human ancestors, not only two. I am persuaded that nature would have chosen a healthier way of multiplication, other than through incest and if God would have created nature He wouldn’t have contradicted the laws of nature set in place by Him.
The stories of the creation of humankind from the book of Genesis had to serve a religious purpose, not a historical one. Adam had to be unique in order to symbolise the entire humankind. Adam couldn’t have been created together with more human beings like him because in such a case they could have had different attitudes towards God and the stories would have been much more complicated. Hypothetically, if other human beings had been created by God some of them could have obeyed Him and lived in paradise forever. In this case, the entire story about how humankind had been created and entered into conflict with God would have been compromised. The logic of the story of human disobedience to God has required only one pair of human beings, not many.
Even Christ’s mission on Earth was understood after a long period of time through the story of Adam and Eve. Here is the biblical text:
“45 Thus it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is* from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will* also bear the image of the man of heaven.” (1 Corinthians 15; 45-49 NRSV)
- 21 -
The space for a new understanding of Christ’s mission on Earth is opened when one understands that Adam never had lived on Earth. Adam is a symbol, not a historical figure, the epitome of man in whom the entirety of mankind found its destiny. The story of Adam and Eve did serve in the end a religious and not a historical or scientific purpose. Later on, in the evolution of the Judeo-Christian tradition Adam’s sin was compensated by the sacrifice of the new Adam, the Son of God who is Jesus. How could the Jewish writers have known about Christ when they wrote about Adam? They didn’t have the chance to know, but they opened unconsciously a certain interpretation of the coming of Christ on Earth, meaning the new Adam. In time, a new religious tradition has been constructed on an old religious symbolism. Nevertheless, without a real Adam the Christ mission on Earth has to be understood differently.
The coming of Jesus on Earth was a new creation or a regeneration of the original creation and its symbolism was very well served by the story of Adam and Eve. This doesn’t mean that Jesus’ life and teachings can be interpreted only in a single way, that of the classical theism.
All religions are related by a common universal patrimony of symbols such as the filiation between divinity and human beings or the principle of sacrifice.
The Christian faith benefited extremely well from a certain ostensible theological consistency based on creation of man and woman, from the book of Genesis. Because it is less than probable that any man was ever able to anticipate the future of the Jewish religion and the apparition of Christian religion, at first glance only, it looks like this consistency has only one author, God. But this is not necessarily the case. It is more probable that, in time, based on the texts already existent, a new theology emerged, which developed the theology existent in nutshell in the older texts. This isn’t a programmed consistency, this is a constructed religious edifice built on a mythological basis.
This doesn’t mean that Jesus used the Judaic tradition in order to build a new religion. This only means that the interpretation given by the apostle Paul to the texts from the book of Genesis in connection with Jesus’ teachings is not based on how the universe and humankind have been generated in reality but is based on an old religious tradition. Jesus didn’t come as the second Adam if the first man never existed but He came, nevertheless, as the Son of God, an exceptional human being, an example of how human beings have to become in order to be suitable for the Kingdom of God. This new perspective changes very much the relation between God and human beings and the latter shouldn’t be seen any more as miserable and decayed creatures, tainted with the original sin and bearing a quilt which makes them unworthy partners for Him. Human condition has it’s inherit dignity and human beings are mortal not because Adam and Eve were disobedient to God but because human nature presupposes death. No religion should despise or blame the human mortal condition, in the name of God. Jesus didn’t come to save humankind from its hopeless sinful status in which Adam and Eve would have brought it, because there is no such thing, but He came to open a new possibility in the understanding of future human development.
- 22 -