Genesis 1-11 in Its Ancient Religious Environment

It is unrealistic to expect that the ancient author of those chapters lived in a sound-proof bubble and was not influenced by his religious culture. He rejected some of it, but accepted elements. But which elements? And which criteria were decisive? Part 1 of 5 in a series on Gen. 1-11.

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1. Genesis 1-11 in Its Ancient Religious Environment

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ENDNOTES

[i] But these quotations do not mean the New Testament authors endorse paganism, which is not God’s truth.

[ii] An academic at a secular or Christian university may object to the word “strange,” but when one reads Gen. 1-11 next to the mythological writings, the former appear streamlined and straightforward and moralistic, while the latter really do “feel” wilder, emotionally charged, childish and morally confused.

[iii] Even the “heavenly council” that is alleged to reside in the plural “let us make” simply means angels, as the rest of Genesis assumes, or it refers to the Trinity, as some Christians believe.

[iv] Isaac Kikiwada and Arthur Quinn, Before Abraham Was: A Provocative Challenge to the Documentary Hypothesis (Abingdon, 1985).

[v] James K. Hoffmeier, “Genesis 1-11 as History and Theology,” in Charles Halton, ed. Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? Counterpoint. (Zondervan, 2015), p. 52.

[vi] Daniel C. Harlow, “After Adam: Reading Genesis in an Age of Evolutionary Science.” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 62, no. 3 (Sep 2010) 179-95. Peter Enns incorporated the table in his The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins (Brazos, 2012), p. 54, from which the table was taken.

[vii] Peter Enns, p. 55.The literature: Enki and Ninhursag; Epic of Gilgamesh; Epic of Atrahasis; Instructions of Merikare (Egyptian); Ewe and Wheat; The Myth of Adapa; Dumizi and Enkimdu; Sumerian King List. I slightly edited the elements.

[viii] Daniel C. Harlow, “After Adam: Reading Genesis in an Age of Evolutionary Science.” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 62, no. 3 (Sep 2010) 183 (very slightly edited)

[ix] John H. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (InterVarsity, 2009), pp. 16-17. In his book he argues that the author of Gen. 1 incorporated the ancient motif of a cosmic temple, yet another borrowing from his religious surrounding, though not covered here.

[x] Peter Enns, p. 47. I slightly adapted it.

[xi] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17 (Eerdmans, 1990).

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