Genesis, בראשית, Beginning
Hey there everyone, how’s it going? For most of the posts on this website, I’ve been trying to keep my distance. I’ve been trying to write informational posts, helpful posts, impersonal posts. That’s gonna change just a little bit!
Blogs are great ways to get to know yourself, and they’re great ways to get to know other people and build a community. So, let’s try it!
Truth be told, I’m scared. The idea of putting myself out there is terrifying, but I’m gonna do it anyways. Will it get easier with time? I don’t know. Will it be worth it? I don’t know. But it’s worth a shot.
It seems fitting that the first more personal post I write be about בראשית, Genesis, the Beginning. It’s like a new start for Ambiguous Spaces.
So the other day my boyfriend and I were watching One Strange Rock and it gave me a neat idea. For those of you who don’t know, One Strange Rock is a show hosted by Will Smith that chronicles the Earth’s life. It covers the Earth’s creation all the way down to the deepest parts of the ocean, and it features real astronauts sharing how seeing the Earth from space has impacted their lives. Definitely check it out if you haven’t already!
This show gave me an idea, so we’re gonna talk about the similarities between the Abrahamic creation myth and contemporary creation theories.
Before the Beginning
Not like before the beginning of existence or anything, but before I begin this post there are a couple things about me that you’ll probably need to know: First off, I was raised in the Christian tradition, although I do not consider myself a Christian. I believe in an incomprehensible Divinity, without form and unaffected by time. The Divine is infinite in every way, which means that everything that exists does so within the Divine and has the Divine within it. At the quantum level, everything is made of vibrations, which can be explained by saying that G-d “spoke” the world into being.
Now, I don’t expect you to hold these same views, and that’s totally alright! Generally, I wouldn’t share these sorts of views with anyone at all, but since I’m gonna be talking about the Abrahamic Creation Story in this post it seems important to clarify my stance on the matter and how I came to these conclutions.
In The Beginning
We all have our own beliefs about what there was before there was our Universe, but none of us really know for sure, like with 100% scientifically backed certainty, what there was in the beginning.
That goes for the beginning of the Earth, too, we’re not 100% certain how Earth formed. But, just like with the creation of the Universe, there are some theories floating around out there. The theory discussed in One Strange Rock goes a little something like this:
- The Big Bang happens
- Tiny particles of dust and rock start clumping together
- That clump of rock grows to the size of a planet
- A giant meteor storm brings water to the Earth
- A mass collision blows off a chunk of the Earth, making the Moon
- The Moon creates the days, the weather, and the tides
A whole lot more probably happened, and this might not actually be how it happened at all, but let’s roll with it anyway. I’m going to do a little comparison of the first few passages in Genesis with the Big Bang, as inspired by One Strange Rock.
All of the Torah passages given will be quoted from The Torah: A Women’s Commentary by Dr. Tamara Cohn Eskenazi and Rabbi Andrea L. Weiss.
Genesis and the Big Bang
When God was about to create the heaven and the earth, the earth was a chaos, unformed, and on the chaotic waters’ face there was darkness. Then God’s spirit glided over the face of the waters, and God said, “Let there be light!”- and there was light. And when God saw how good the light was, God divided the light from the darkness; God then called the light Day, and the darkness Night, and there was evening and there was morning, [the] first day.
God then said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it divide water from water!” So God made the expanse, separating the waters beneath the expanse from the waters above the expanse- and so it was. God then called the expanse Sky, and there was evening and there was morning, a second day.
So this is essentially the story of the Big Bang. Remember how at a quantum level everything is made of vibrations? This idea can totally be expressed with the phrase “and God said…” because sound waves definitely vibrate. I don’t know about you, but I imagine the Big Bang was bright. The creation of Light necessitates its separation from Darkness. It’s good to note that Genesis/בראשית is a very poetic portion of the Torah, so it’s safe to say that it doesn’t literally mean a day.
From the first passage, it sounds like the “waters” mentioned are the building blocks of creation. Water exists in 3 states: gas, liquid, and solid. This passage seems to be saying that these 3 states of existence were created and started expanding. Again, it’s the Big Bang, but now objects are separated from the ether(the water).
The third day was the separation of Land and the Seas and the beginnings of vegetation and life on Earth. We know that vegetation existed before animal life because vegetation is responsible for creating the atmosphere and the air that we breathe.
The Creation of Time and Weather
The fourth day was the creation of the Sun and the Moon, the Stars, the 4 seasons and yearly cycles. The Moon was definitely created after the Earth, and we’ll talk about that later, but for now, I want to note how important it is that the weather and the ways we mark the time, from days to years, is mentioned with the creation of the Sun and Moon.
The Western world uses the Solar Year, and the whole world uses the Sun to mark the Day. But did you know that the Moon has a lot to do with the length of our Days? When the Earth was in its early years it was rotating way faster than it is today. Before there was the Moon, a day on Earth was around 18 hours long and there were no weather patterns. It was Chaos.
Then the Moon came along. It’s creation caused the Earth to tilt on its axis. That tilt is the reason we have 4 seasons. The gravitational pull of the moon was strong enough to slow down the Earth’s rotation, giving us the 24 hour day instead of the 18 hour day. Plus, it gave the Seas their tides!
The fifth day is the day that animals were created, starting in the sea, then land animals, and then the birds.
The sixth day was the day that humans were created in the Divine image and given domain over the Earth.
And the seventh day was a day of rest.
Just like how we’re not 100% certain of the story of our planet, or of our Universe, we’re not too certain about the origins of the Moon! Before we talk about it, we need to talk about the creation of the Earth. Just like before, we’ll be looking at passages from Genesis side-by-side with our scientific theories.
Genesis: The Earth is Adamah
Let’s start by saying that the Hebrew word adam אָדָם is the generic word for human. The first letter of the word is also its own word, aleph, which means teach. The last three letters spell blood in Hebrew, dem. To teach relates to the Divine aspect within everything, the ability to learn, rise above, and spread knowledge. Blood represents the physical world, wants, needs, and mortality.
When God created adam, there’s a general consensus amongst Torah scholars that this means that human was created and later split into 2 sexes, not that man was created before woman.
The Hebrew word for Earth is adamah אדמה , and it’s no mistake that it’s so similar to the word adam אָדָם . Humans, adam אָדָם , were made from the Earth, adamah אדמה .
This is the chronicle of heaven and earth when they were created, on the day God יהוה made the earth and heaven. No shrub of the field was yet on the earth, no plant of the field had yet sprung up- for God יהוה had not poured rain down upon the earth, and there was not a soul to till the soil- though a flow would emerge from the earth and water the surface of the soil. Then God יהוה fashioned the human-dust from the soil- and breathed into the nostrils the breath of life, so that the human became a living being.
Is it a coincidence that the creation of the first 2 humans is told in the same passage as the creation of heaven and the earth? Consider the theory we have for the Earth’s formation; dust and small particles of Earth formed together and grew into our planet, so essentially the Earth was created from dust much like how adam אָדָם(humans) were. All of the water on Earth was carried here by icy meteors from deep space. Water did indeed come from the earth, but not from our Earth. With water came microbes that produce oxygen and an atmosphere capable of sustaining life. The breath of life!
Then it tells of the Garden of Eden in the East, the Tree of Life and the Tree of All Knowledge, and the four rivers. It seems to me that the Garden of Eden in the East represents the rising Sun, and the Tree of Life represents all life on Earth. So what is the Tree of All Knowledge? Humans.
God יהוה commanded the human, saying, “You may eat all you like of every tree in the garden- but of the Tree of All Knowledge you may not eat, for the moment you eat of it you shall be doomed to die.
Then God יהוה considered, “It is not good that the human be alone- I will make a helpmate.” So God יהוה formed the wild animals and the birds of the sky out of the soil, and brought the human to see what he would call each one; and whatever the human called it, that became the creature’s name. The human gave names to every domestic animal and to the birds of the sky, and to all the wild animals, but for [himself] Adam found no helpmate. Then, throwing the human into a profound slumber, so that he slept, God יהוה took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh in that place. Now God יהוה built up the rib taken from the man into a woman, and brought her to the man, and the man said, “This time- bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh! / Let this one be called woman / for this one is taken from man.
The Tree of Life is pretty straightforward, it represents life on Earth. Eating the Tree of Knowledge might represent the evolution of humans. After all, we certainly are killing our Earth.
Here, we’re again told that animals were made, but this time they’re made after the human. If we read the story with the human representing our living Earth, we can interpret this passage as describing the process of evolution. Speaking has been used as a metaphor for creation, so it’s possible that ” whatever the human called it, that became the creature’s name” could be the process of creation through evolution; creatures evolve in relation to their environment(among other factors) so it’s like the Earth “naming” the animals.
As much as I want to do a side-by-side comparison for the removal of the rib section, there’s just not enough space here. But that’s the part I thought of while watching One Strange Rock that got me thinking about all of this.
The Moon is the Earth’s Rib
There’s a couple of different suggestions as to how the Moon formed. The most common suggestion – surprise surprise – parallels the passage in Genesis where Adam’s rib is removed to create Eve.
The idea mentioned in One Strange Rock, the Giant Impact Hypothesis, has been widely accepted by the scientific community for years as the most possible origin of the Moon, though it has flaws. Like the name implies, this is the suggestion that a large body collided with the Earth. The collision would have sent chunks of earth and debris into space, those chunks would have gotten caught in Earth’s gravitational pull, and finally, over a long period of time, they would all come together to form the Moon.
It’s suspected that, because of the location of the Moon and it’s orbit, if there really was a giant impact, it would have happened on the Earth’s side. A piece of the Earth was removed in order to create the Moon. I’ve never met a human born from a rib, so that passage has always seemed a little weird to me when read literally. But in this context? It fits.
Adam Needed a Helpmate
The Earth needs the Moon. The impact that is thought to have created the moon would have also knocked the Earth into its current tilt. If it weren’t for the stable tilt of the Earth’s axis there would be no seasons; one hemisphere would always be summer and the other would always be winter. But there wouldn’t even be a stable upright axis if it weren’t for the Moon; there would be an unpredictable wobble resulting in unpredictable weather. The Moon’s gravitational pull prevents the Earth from wobbling.
The Moon’s gravitational pull is also largely responsible for the tides, and the tides are an integral part of the water cycle, which is an integral part of life. There would still be tides if there was no Moon, but they would be very different.
An Earth with an unpredictable climate and a much weaker water cycle doesn’t sound too hospitable, does it? Sounds to me like the Earth needed a little help!
And what of that slumber put upon Adam during the removal of the rib? A collision large enough to create the Moon would have been bigger than the one that killed the dinosaurs, and we all know what a cloud of debris that made. Perhaps the slumber is a reference to the cloud of dust and debris that would have formed after the collision that formed the moon.
The best and worst thing about ancient history is that we’ll never really know for sure what happened. And the beautiful thing about poetry is that it can be interpreted in many, many different ways. Until I actually learn Biblical Hebrew, this is the best comparison of the Creation Myth and contemporary scientific creation theories. But maybe in a couple of years, I’ll be able to revisit this topic and find more parallels!
What do you think of this interpretation of the first parts of Genesis? Let me know in the comments! Thanks for reading!