Thursday, October 15, 2009

Genesis, God, and Tyra

One Old Testament scholar is claiming that at the beginning of the Book of Genesis, God did not create the Earth - but only the humans and the animals:

Professor Ellen van Wolde, a respected Old Testament scholar and author, claims the first sentence of Genesis "in the beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth" is not a true translation of the Hebrew.

She claims she has carried out fresh textual analysis that suggests the writers of the great book never intended to suggest that God created the world -- and in fact the Earth was already there when he created humans and animals.

She said she eventually concluded the Hebrew verb "bara", which is used in the first sentence of the book of Genesis, does not mean "to create" but to "spatially separate".

The first sentence should now read "in the beginning God separated the Heaven and the Earth"

I'm not sure how surprising this really is. I thought the ambiguity involving Hebrew grammar in the first verse of the Book of Genesis was known already and that different translations present slightly different takes on creation. Plus, the idea of Creatio ex Nihilo was, I thought, a later interpretation by Christian scholars. I'm sure, people more qualified than me can comment on this in more detail.

In any case, here is an excellent website where you can look at the various translations. For example, here is the King James Bible (also roughly the same translation in the Jewish Publication Society 1917 edition):

1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

But then here is a translation from Young's Literal Translation (another version with similar translation here).

1 In the beginning of God's preparing the heavens and the earth -- 2 the earth hath existed waste and void, and darkness is on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God fluttering on the face of the waters

Thus, Ellen van Wolde's assertion above does not seem as shocking as the news story is making out to be. In any case, I think all of this stuff is interesting from an academic sense - but I don't think it makes any difference to how and why people believe in their respective religions.

In any case, read the full story here.

On a more serious note, here is another competing version - this time according to the Book of Tyra (tip from Laura Sizer):

1 In the beginning Tyra created the heaven and the earth.

2 And the earth was without a runway, and void of all fierce colors and outfits; and improper lighting caused darkness upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of Tyra worked the runway upon the face of the waters, striking fierce poses at each step of the way.
3 And Tyra said, Let there be lighting: and there was lighting, and stage hands, and production assistants.
4 And Tyra saw the lighting, that it was good, minimized her imperfections, and made her
eyes smile: and Tyra divided the light from the darkness to ensure fierce day and night photos.
5 And Tyra called the light Tyra, and the darkness she called Naomi. And the evening and the morning were the first days dedicated to the Spirit of Tyra.

6 And Tyra said, Let there be a makeup studio in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the women at the counters of Macy’s from the female-like men.
7 And Tyra made the makeup studio, and divided the cosmetologists, which were under the firmament, from the make-up artists which were above the firmament: and it was so.
8 And Tyra called the firmament the CW. And the evening and the morning provided Cover Girl lighting.
Read the rest of Book of Tyra here and don't miss out the video on the website.

Also check out Crumb's take on The Book of Genesis.


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