Monday, August 08, 2005

Let thy words be few (Gen 1:20-23)

This should be a short one today, which is good for a Monday. I hope you all had a good weekend. I did; I spent a lot of time with my kids, which aside from being fun in itself also sometimes yields situations that I see as apt allegories for our relationship with God. For instance, does God live by the same rules as us, and if not, is that hypocritical? I was at the park with my two-year-old twin daughters, and there was some broken glass near the playground. Not wanting them to get hurt, I started picking up the pieces and putting them in the garbage. Then I noticed that they were watching me, and had started picking up pieces of broken glass, too. What I had done to protect them had ended up being a danger, due to them misunderstanding me and thinking they could do whatever Daddy does. Luckily they weren't hurt, but there was a lesson in there, I'm sure. But back to the subject at hand...

Today's passage illustrates a point that was brought up about verse 11. The SAB muses there on whether "let the earth bring forth" suggests evolution, which I admitted was thought-provoking. Here, however, a similar phrase is used. God said, "Let the waters bring forth..." which sounds a lot like what we heard before. So are these creatures evolving from the sea? Well, the very next verse says, "And God created..." Oh well. It appears that Genesis, despite what can be seen as an odd turn of phrase, is still essentially saying that this is all the work of God.

Lastly, the reason today's post will be particularly short even with my weekend story tacked on, the SAB points out that the Genesis 1 story has birds created from water, while Genesis 2 appears to say that they were created from dirt. Odd. I don't have any good ideas as to what this is about. Likely it's a thematic grouping in chapter 2, but then that leaves some other questions, like "Why bother to specify what anything was made from in chapter 2?" and, "Hey, I never noticed, but Adam never names any of the fish!" Oh, wait, that's not a question. Well, you know what I mean. There's probably a good answer at some other website out there, but I'm not currently looking for such a thing, since my aim isn't to duplicate other people's work here for the most part, but rather give my personal view.


Anonymous said...

First, Hi BB!

I've had exactly the same experience with my daughter. I teach her to be considerate and pick up after herself and help put things away even when the other kids don't. What happens? She generalizes to picking up trash on the sidewalk to help keep the park clean for everyone. While I agree with sentiment and do pick up trash myself sometimes, I was horrified to see her pick up a used cig butt to throw away.

Maybe the relation to theology is that God is sometimes equally unhappy to see us wrestling with stuff He would much rather we left to Him.

Second, this blog is interesting. May I suggest perusing some Torah commentary sites for some of these verses? has an index searchable by verse for various midrash and commentary. Some is very useful, some not.

The other resource I'd recommend for Genesis is - an MIT physicist and a Torah scholar with a very intersting perspective on timelines and evolution as they relate to Genesis 1. (He actually uses Einstein's theory of relativity to explain that 6 days and 15 million years could both be correct for the creation of the universe.)

Brucker said...

Thanks for visiting, Bookdragon! I saw from my tracker that someone from CHR had dropped by, and for some reason I thought it might be you.

I have heard a theory about how 6 days could literally be equivalent to a much larger amount of time from the standpoint of physics and relativity theory, I wonder if it's the same theory? I'll check out the site, but I'm largely avoiding a lot of referring people elsewhere, as I'm really just sharing my personal thoughts. I wonder if it would be worthwhile to have a parallel blog that runs behind me and gives links to other people's articles on these matters?

Anonymous said...

That's okay. But we all get our opinions from somewhere - at least most of what we come decide to believe comes from things we've heard/read/discussed with others. I thought this guy's explanation was very good - first time anyone suggested 6 literal days in a way that made any sense to me as scientist.

Anonymous said...


From what were the fowls created? (Waters or ground)

I didn't see an answer to this question. Did I miss it?

Brucker said...

I'm not sure I did answer that question. No, it looks like I didn't. The final paragraph is my response, which boils down to, "Weird, I never noticed that, and I don't really know."

In case the "thematic grouping" thing isn't clear, (which it probably isn't) I'm pointing out that in Genesis 1, the pattern is:

1:Create the Heavens
2:Create the sea and sky
3:Create the land
4:Populate the Heavens
5:Populate the sea and sky
6:Populate the land

This leads to birds being grouped together with fish, and thus created from water. In the next chapter, essentially all cretures that are not fish are grouped together, and the author may have used a sort of sloppy shorthand. Poetically sound, but factually questionable. Once again, "I really don't know."

Noah said...

First, great site! I just started reading through Genesis myself, using some commentaries I purchased. Please keep this site up. My comment is that I would suggest you use at least one alternate translation to assist you in your analyses. Some of the issues you are discussing are related to the word choices of the translators. I would suggest the ESV which is online... check out

Brucker said...

Thanks, I'm glad you like the site.

I've been sticking mainly to the KJV because the SAB uses the KJV as its source. I am however using other translations as needed, particularly the NIV as it's my personal favorite, and Robert Alter's translation of Genesis, which I find to be an excellent resource as Alter is a highly-esteemed Hebrew scholar who, despite being (I believe) an atheist, seems far more concerned with accuracy than pushing a theological position.

Anonymous said...

For a couple of years, I've had a rather different view on what the first chapter of Genesis is saying. Before I explain it though, I have a bit of a rhetorical question to ask. If you set up a line of dominoes and knock over the first so that all of the others in the line get knocked over, would you say that you knocked one of them over or all of them over?

As a programmer, I create by making instructions and letting the instructions create what I want. As you might have guessed from my earlier question, I consider whatever the instructions to create to be a part of whatever I create.

Well, I've thought about how the laws of physics are not that different from the instructions that I give to a computer. So I thought "Why couldn't God have created everything by simply creating the laws of physics?"

The first day could be interpreted as God creating the physical laws that affect energy (light) and matter (darkness). As for the five days that came after, it'd mostly be a matter of tweaking the various numbers to get the results desired. The seventh day would have Him tell the laws of physics to get to working so that he could sit back, relax, and watch his program run.

With such a view, one could say that the seven-day creation is more like setting up a complicated line of dominoes while the big bang/abiogenesis/evolution are about how those dominoes knock each other over.

Brucker said...

Interestingly enough, I myself have thought of such a possibility before. I remember many years back thinking that in many ways, Genesis 1 sounds like a computer algorithm of some kind. I don't think it would be a completely off-the-wall idea to think that God, rather than saying "I'm going to make plants now." is saying, "I'm going to create an environment in which plants will thrive." for instance. In many ways, something like that almost makes more sense with the way the words are phrased.

Heck, so long as I'm going there, let me go into more detail. I used to think it was a possibility that it was a set of search parameters. God has a universe of chaos, and He decides to find a place in the middle of it to do something special, so He says: #1) Find a place where there is light and warmth, #2) Find a place with water and a breathable atmosphere, etc. I like this theory, although it probably doesn't fit well into orthodox thinking.