The Debate Over Genesis


So much arguing with so little information. Different people have different things to say about what one should take away from reading Genesis. The all-pervading question, though, is how would anyone really know what the writer(s) of Genesis intended?

For example, did Moses write the first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch)? Scholars are not in agreement as to whether Moses wrote the Pentateuch or not. For that matter, there is no proof that Moses is a real person. Certainly, there are no ancient Egyptian records which refer to Moses by name. If Moses did write the Pentateuch, how come he knew so much about the Creation and Flood stories that happened over 2,000 years before his time but almost nothing for the more than 1,000 years after that until the day of Abraham?

Aside: Unless, of course, the Creation and Flood stories were based on older sources.

Since we don’t know for sure who wrote the Old Testament, how do we know what the writer’s intent/message was. For example, rabbis typically wrote in a Midrashic style of writing that was not intended to be read verbatim. Yet today, religious scholars, non-Jewish scholars at that, think that they know exactly what was meant.

Scholars pretty much agree that the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are based on older sources, however nobody bothers to ask if Genesis might also have been based on older source materials. You would think that someone would ask that question particularly because the Talmud says that some Genesis passages were taken from tradition (in other words older belief systems) or older writings.

Bottom line: Are we to accept some vague, undefined old tradition, unnamed older source or a writing from an unnamed author as the undeniable Word of God? If so, why?

In addition, nobody thinks to ask the following questions:

  • Did the writer(s) of Genesis write the truth (or did they have an agenda)?
  • Did the author(s) even know the truth?
  • Has Genesis been edited; that’s particularly relevant since there is no original version of Genesis.
  • Who was there in the beginning when God supposedly said, “Let there be light”? Certainly, not Moses.

Moreover, the god of Genesis walked in the Garden of Eden (Adam even heard him walking) and talked to Adam and Eve who obviously, then, saw him. This, then, is the very same God that Paul and John said was an invisible spirit. The very same God you understand. It was the very same God who in the Old Testament was feared by the Israelites because he was jealous,  vengeful and prone to violence but in the New Testament was considered all-loving.

The reason that serious scholarship in this area is so lacking is because people start with their existing belief system and work backwards to scripture. They believe that they already know the truth, so they never bother to look for it. They believe that everything worth knowing has already been covered within their belief system. Therefore, they never think to ask the questions that were posed above because questions are only for people who are still seeking the truth.

It’s almost a truism that the smartest people are those that realize that they will probably never find the truth (e.g. Einstein and Socrates). Even the Bible says that you have to seek the truth and it will set you free (of false belief systems). However, those that are married to their religious belief system have rarely, if ever, searched for the truth. The result, as Kevin Michel said, is that every belief system you have is a commitment to be stuck with that idea, and with aspects of that level of thinking, for the rest of your life.

So, in my opinion, the Genesis story is really nothing more than man’s feeble attempt to comprehend the Infinite with his finite mind. Not knowing God, man did the next best thing – he invented him. That’s how we wound up with the story about Adam and Eve, the serpent and the Garden of Eden.


“At the core of all well-founded belief, lies belief that is unfounded.”

           – Ludwig Wittgenstein
















5 Responses to “The Debate Over Genesis”

  1. Arkenaten said

    I have always wondered how Christians get to interpret,and believe they have the final word, on a ”book” that was written by Jews for Jews, who, by and large, would never dream of considering it little else but a story.
    In fact, this is pretty much what they do consider the entire Pentateuch to be – historical fiction.

    • chicagoja said

      Actually, Judaism believes that the Pentateuch is the basis of their law. However, Christianity believes that they have a more accurate interpretation than the people who wrote it. Thanks for commenting.

      • Arkenaten said

        They may consider it is the basis for their law but as far as I am aware,they regard it as historical fiction nonetheless.
        *Smile* Yes, well the Christians would believe their interpretation is more accurate, which in itself is quite funny.

  2. Nan said

    “The reason that serious scholarship in this area is so lacking is because people start with their existing belief system and work backwards to scripture. ”

    The paragraph that leads with this sentence pretty much says it all, IMO.

    As usual, a great post.

    • chicagoja said

      Belief systems are an interesting lot since most belief systems are the result of cultural indoctrination. Belief systems generally have a strange psychological profile. In part, that’s because what we need emotionally is far more important than the need to be right. Therefore, proof is not necessary, indeed usually not wanted, when it comes to validating a person’s belief system. Thanks for dropping by.

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