From Creation Through the Fall FAQ
FAQ is probably being generous. We’ll say “Occasionally Asked Questions.” This is not a definitive list. I reserve the right to add to this list and/or change my answers over time. I hope that this list of questions and answers will cover the ground we have traveled so far.
- Who authored Genesis?
* Traditionally, the authorship of Genesis is attributed to Moses. Until the Enlightenment, that attribution was almost unanimous both among Jews and Christians.
* Why Moses? First, the historical account attributes the text to him including in the Book of Joshua (1:7-8 and 8:31-32)
* Second, there are no obvious reasons to object to his authorship. Case in point:
* He was educated in Egypt and he was qualified to be the author – both by his education and his position among the Israelites.
* He had forty years in the desert to write the books.
* The books of Exodus (17:14, 24:4, 34:27), Numbers (33:2) and Deuteronomy (33:19-26) state that he wrote some of the text.
* There are also early non-canonical texts which attribute the writing to him (Ecclesiasticus 45:5)
* Why not Moses? There are texts in Genesis which appear to have been written after the death of Moses.
* Note this article for more information. It concludes that the post-mosaic texts are very minimal: https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/bsac/1911_154.pdf
* Other interpretations for “Why Not Moses?” (From Wiki) For much of the 20th century most scholars agreed that the five books of the Pentateuch—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy—came from four sources, the Yahwist, the Elohist, the Deuteronomist and the Priestly source, each telling the same basic story, and joined together by various editors. Since the 1970s there has been a revolution leading scholars to view the Elohist source as no more than a variation on the Yahwist, and the Priestly source as a body of revisions and expansions to the Yahwist (or “non-Priestly”) material. (The Deuteronomistic source does not appear in Genesis.)
Scholars use examples of repeated and duplicate stories to identify the separate sources. In Genesis these include three different accounts of a Patriarch claiming that his wife was his sister, the two creation stories, and the two versions of Abraham sending Hagar and Ishmael into the desert.
This leaves the question of when these works were created. Scholars in the first half of the 20th century came to the conclusion that the Yahwist is a product of the monarchic period, specifically at the court of Solomon, 10th century BC, and the Priestly work in the middle of the 5th century BC (with claims that the author is Ezra), but more recent thinking is that the Yahwist is from either just before or during the Babylonian exile of the 6th century BC, and the Priestly final edition was made late in the Exilic period or soon after.
As for why the book was created, a theory which has gained considerable interest, although still controversial is “Persian imperial authorisation”. This proposes that the Persians of the Achaemenid Empire, after their conquest of Babylon in 539 BC, agreed to grant Jerusalem a large measure of local autonomy within the empire, but required the local authorities to produce a single law code accepted by the entire community. The two powerful groups making up the community—the priestly families who controlled the Temple and who traced their origin to Moses and the wilderness wanderings, and the major landowning families who made up the “elders” and who traced their own origins to Abraham, who had “given” them the land—were in conflict over many issues, and each had its own “history of origins”, but the Persian promise of greatly increased local autonomy for all provided a powerful incentive to cooperate in producing a single text.
- In Genesis 1, why is the Hebrew word for God plural?
* In English, you might read the text as follow: In the beginning, God…; however in the original language, the text reads, “in the beginning, the gods…” The word used for God here is ‘elohiym.
* Christians have overcome this hurdle by attributing the plurality to the Holy Trinity.
* Other interpretations have attributed the word, ‘elohiym, to be a broad term intended to encompass both God and other lower divine beings – such as angels.
* Evidence for the view of the word as broadly encompassing all “celestial beings” can be found within the Old Testament. In the Genesis account of Jacob wrestling with God, the word given for his opponent is ‘elohiym. In later writings, when Hosea describes the encounter between Jacob and a divine being – he describes that divine being an an angel, i.e. “malak.” (I discuss this a little farther in Genesis Part 15.)
- What is “the Gap Theory”?
* This theory, which I mentioned briefly in Part 2 is a form of old Earth creationism that posits that the six-yom creation period, as described in the Book of Genesis, involved six literal 24-hour days (light being “day” and dark “night” as God specified), but that there was a gap of time between two distinct creations in the first and the second verses of Genesis, which the theory states explains many scientific observations, including the age of the Earth. It differs from day-age creationism, which posits that the ‘days’ of creation were much longer periods (of thousands or millions of years), and from young Earth creationism, which although it agrees concerning the six literal 24-hour days of creation, does not posit any gap of time. (see Gap Theory for more info)
- Who/what is Tehom?
* The Hebrew word for “deep” or “abyss” is Tehom. תְּהוֹם
* Gnostics used this text (Genesis 1:2) to propose that the original creator god, called the “Pléroma” or “Bythós” (from the Greek, meaning “Deep”) pre-existed Elohim, and gave rise to such later divinities and spirits by way of emanations, progressively more distant and removed from the original form.
* Tehom is also mentioned as the first of seven “Infernal Habitations” that correspond to the ten Qliphoth (literally “peels”) of Jewish Kabbalistic tradition, often in place of Sheol.
* See Part 2 for additional information.
- Is “light” in Genesis 1:3 the same as the light that we see coming from the sun?
* From Blue Letter Bible by David Guzik: Genesis tells us that light, day, and night each existed before the sun and the moon were created on the fourth day (Genesis 1:14-19). This shows us that light is more than a physical substance; it also has a supernatural aspect.
* Genesis 1 tells us that vegetation existed prior to the creation of the sun, moon, and stars. Therefore, it is implied that the Genesis 1:3 “light” serves the same function as the later-created light. (See Part 6)
- Does Genesis say anything about astrology?
* 14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years.
* The use of the sun, moon, and stars for keeping records of seasons, days, and years is not controversial and goes back as far as civilization. In this list, then, “signs” stands out.
* There are some non-astrological possibilities for the use of “signs.” Many miracles in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible involve heavenly bodies. See Part 7.
* As for astrology, there are mixed views. Some sources claim that Abraham practiced astrology. “The Talmud teaches that, “Abraham held great astrology in his heart, and all the kings of the east and west arose early at his door.”
* From the same source, “It is in the Holy Land where he met Malki Tzedek, King of Shalem, who was a priest to G‑d, the Most High (Genesis 14:18). Our Sages identify Malki Tzedek as Shem the son of Noah. There is evidence that the mystical tradition was taught to Abraham by Shem. According to some authorities Abraham authored Sefer Yetzirah (the Book of Formation), one of the fundamental works of Kabbalah.”
* Alternatively, a larger number of Jewish thinkers and writers have condemned the practice of astrology. We find apparent condemnations of astrology within the Bible as well. “You shall not practice divination or soothsaying.” (Leviticus 19:26); “When you enter the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to imitate the abhorrent practices of the nations. Let no one be found among you who…is an augur, a soothsayer, a diviner, a sorcerer, one casts spells…..For anyone who does these things is abhorrent to the LORD…” (Deuteronomy 18:9-12)
* Some argue, though, that astrology does not fall under the umbrella of those practices condemned here.
* The prophets scoffed at “star-gazers” (hoverei ha-shamayim) in Isaiah 47:13 and Jeremiah 10:2
* Astrologers from Babylon were called Kasdim/Kasdin (Chaldeans) in the Book of Daniel. In rabbinic literature, the term Chaldeans later was often used as a synonym with those who practiced astrology. Notably, in that respect, Abraham is referred to as a Chaldean (Genesis 11:28,31 and 15:7)
* There are many references to astrology in the apocrypha. The Book of Jubilees said that Abraham overcame the beliefs of astrologers by accepting one God.
* For more information, the Wikipedia page on this topic is very helpful.
- Does Genesis talk about dragons?
* As noted in Part 8, Genesis 1:21 refers to the creation of “great sea creatures.” The translation “sea creatures / sea monsters” comes from: תַּנִּין tannîyn, tan-neen’; or תַּנִּים tannîym; (Ezekiel 29:3), intensive from the same as H8565; a marine or land monster, i.e. sea-serpent or jackal:—dragon, sea-monster, serpent, whale.
* In fact, “tanniyn” is used frequently throughout the bible and often clearly refers to snakes. [Exodus 7, Deuteronomy 32, etc.] In Isaiah 27:1, the same word is often translated as “dragon.”
* Is. 27:1 – In that day the LORD with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea.
- When were the angels created?
* There is no consensus and no clear answer provided in Genesis. One potential clue lies in the interpretation of ‘elohiym. If that word encompasses more than God, but more broadly refers to divine beings, then “angels” likely existed prior to the Genesis story of creation.
* There is some indication later in the Bible that the angels already existed when God was creating. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone – while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4-7).
- What is the Tetragrammaton?
* The four-letter Hebrew word יהוה, the name of the biblical God of Israel. The four letters, read from right to left, are yodh, he, waw and he. While there is no consensus about the structure and etymology of the name, “the form Yahweh is now accepted almost universally”
* Yahweh and Jehovah, historically, are the two competing vocalizations of the Tetragrammaton. Both vocalizations refers to the same four described Hebrew consonants.
* The Tetragrammaton is first used in Genesis 2:4 (see Part 11.) God is described as ‘elohiym in Genesis 1.
- Are there two creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2?
* There are some difference between Chapters 1 and 2.
* Genesis 1 shows us God creating plants, then animals, then man and woman. In Chapter 2, God creates man, plants, then animals, and later a woman.
* Genesis Chapter 1 describes God as “Elohiym.” Chapter 2 describes God as Jehovah/Yahweh Elohiym.
* Chapter 1 describes a very orderly and concise “Creation.” Chapters 2 and 3 – as we will see – have a more narrative-based format.
* The differences above have led some to believe in the Genesis text having more than one author. Alternatively, some believe that the two chapters imply that one author may have been compiling from more than one course.
* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggC4lMhUU5o (This video makes the argument that there are no contradictions between the two chapters.)
- What is the connection between “Adam” and “ground”?
* The Hebrew word ‘adamah means soil (from its general redness):—country, earth, ground, husband(-man) (-ry), land.
* The etymological link between the word adamah and the word adam is used to reinforce the teleological link between humankind and the ground, emphasizing both the way in which man was created to cultivate the world, and how he originated from the “dust of the ground”
* Given the respective cognates from Assyrian, Ugaritic, and other ancient sources, it is possible that both words are derived from a root signifying redness—red blood in the case of adam and red earth in the case of adamah. But the etymologies of both words remain uncertain. See link here.
- Does the Bible really say that God created the universe in seven 24 hour days?
* The Strong’s Hebrew translation for day is here. יוֹם yôwm, yome; from an unused root meaning to be hot; a day (as the warm hours), whether literal (from sunrise to sunset, or from one sunset to the next), or figurative (a space of time defined by an associated term), (often used adverb):—age, always, chronicals, continually(-ance), daily, ((birth-), each, to) day, (now a, two) days (agone), elder, × end, evening, (for) ever(-lasting, -more), × full, life, as (so) long as (… live), (even) now, old, outlived, perpetually, presently, remaineth, × required, season, × since, space, then, (process of) time, as at other times, in trouble, weather, (as) when, (a, the, within a) while (that), × whole ( age), (full) year(-ly), younger. The word can be translated to mean a literal day in the sense that we think of it.
* However, a day in the sense that we think of it has a sun, moon, and stars. The firs three days of the Genesis creation account do not include any of these astronomical bodies. As a result, there is no universal view. It is also not clear whether the original writers intended readers to treat the text literally or figuratively.
- Was there a real Garden of Eden and if there was, where was it located?
* If there was a real Garden of Eden, it has not yet been discovered by archaeologists. I discuss some of the theorized locations in Part 12.
* The Sumerian people – whose culture dates as far back in time as archaeology can currently reach with any sense of comfort – had a similar account of a place like Eden. In Sumer, Eridu was the first settlement.
* A Babylonian location, known as the Garden of the gods, is also believed by some to be a predecessor idea to the Hebrew people’s Eden.
* Tying the two predecessors together, British assyriologist, Theophilus Pinches, (1856 – 6 June 1934) believed that the Garden of the gods and Eridu were one and the same.
- Was Satan the serpent in the Garden of Eden?
* The text here does not clearly identify the serpent as Satan. From David Guzik:
* In Ezekiel 28:13-19 tells us that Satan was in Eden. Many other passages associate a serpent or a snake-like creature with Satan (such as Job 26:13 and Isaiah 51:9). Revelation 12:9 and 20:2 speak of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan.
* The representation of Satan as a serpent makes the idea of Moses saving Israel by lifting up a bronze serpent all the more provocative (Numbers 21:8-9), especially when Jesus identifies Himself with that very serpent (John 3:14). This is because in this picture, the serpent (a personification of sin and rebellion) is made of bronze (a metal associated with judgment, since it is made with fire). The lifting of a bronze serpent is the lifting up of sin judged, in the form of a cross.
* Ezekiel 28 tells us Satan, before his fall, was an angel of the highest rank and prominence, even the “worship leader” in heaven. Isaiah 14 tells us Satan’s fall had to do with his desire to be equal to or greater than God, to set his will against God’s will.
* Serpent is translated from the Hebrew word nachash. Nachash has more than one potential meaning: A) “serpent” = נָחָשׁ nâchâsh, naw-khawsh’; from H5172; a snake (from its hiss):—serpent; B) נָחַשׁ nâchash, naw-khash’; a primitive root; properly, to hiss, i.e. whisper a (magic) spell; generally, to prognosticate:—× certainly, divine, enchanter, (use) × enchantment, learn by experience, × indeed, diligently observe; C) נְחָשׁ nᵉchâsh, nekh-awsh’; (Aramaic) corresponding to H5154; copper:—brass
* I wrote more about this in Part 14 and in Part 16.
- What is the “serpent seed theory”?
* Serpent seed, dual seed or two-seedline is a controversial religious belief which explains the biblical account of the fall of man by saying that the serpent mated with Eve in the Garden of Eden, and the offspring of their union was Cain.
* Though the idea has been taught by various writers in history, it has never been a widely held view.
* The theory is somewhat more commonly held by those with an anti-semetic point of view. In the anti-semetic paradigm, all Jews are descended from Cain.
- Did God issue curses after the Fall? If so, what are they?
* Yes. God cursed the serpent to crawl on its belly and eat the dust. God further cursed the ground so that Adam would find the work of cultivating the soil to be difficult. God also told the Woman that her birth pains would be multiplied and that she would fall under the rule of the Man. However, the word “curse” is not specifically applied to either human. I wrote more about that in Parts 16, 17, and 18.
- Did the Woman / Eve have children before The Fall?
* The text does not specifically mention prior children. However, as we will see in the text soon, there are people of unknown origin outside the Garden. (Gen 4:15-17) There was also a mention of settlements outside the Garden encountered earlier in the text (Gen. 2:11-14)
* The notion of “increasing your pain” certainly implies a prior experience of child birth.
* Genesis 2:24 refers to Adam and the Wife/Woman (can be translated either way) as being “one flesh.” Were they ever “one flesh” prior to the Fall? Did that produce children? We do not know.
- Did Adam and Eve leave the Garden willingly?
* The implication from the text is that they did not leave willingly. The verses describe God “driving out” Adam and Eve and then placing a Cherubim to guard the way to the Tree of Life. I describe this more in Part 19.
As mentioned at the top, I reserve the right to amend, change, delete, correct, or add to this post. I hope anyone who reads this finds it to be as interesting as I do. For convenience, I will list the first 19 parts of this read-through and study below.