Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Study Time

I have my first exam in a week. I have started study... eventually. I started by reading two of the three texts I ought to cover for my Varieties of Fiction module; books one and ten of Ovid's Metamorphoses, and the delightful novella by Herman Melville, Bartleby the Scrivener. I've read something of Melville's before, Billy Budd, and I have to say, he didn't fail to impress a second time. In fact, I loved Bartleby even more than I did Billy Budd. It was a funnier story, with a much more powerful voice behind the story. The narrator was fantastic!

I've also prepared a question for my exam on the Pentateuch (that's the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Number, Leviticus and Deuteronomy.) One of the topics we were told to cover was the creation stories in chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis. For those who don't know, that's the stories about the creation of the universe and the Garden of Eden. They are, in fact, two seperate and contradicting stories. Just to show off (well, actually, this also serves as helpful revision...) I'm going to write what I can about the books from memory.

Chapter 1 of Genesis was written by the author known typically by scholars as the Priestly writer, while Chapter 2 was written by the Jahwist writer. There are twelve differences between the two stories, going into detail on the content. For a start, Gen 1 begins with the creation of "heaven and the earth" while Gen 2 begins with "earth and the heavens" being made. The two have subtle differences; heaven is more important in Gen 1, along with the idea of creation, while Gen 2 focuses on the importance of the earth before the heavens, and things being made, such as Man from the earth.

On the subject of Man, there are a number of differences regarding his creation; Gen 1 refers to Man being made in the "image and likeness" of God, while Gen 2 tells of how Man was man from the dust of the earth, with the breath of God being blown into his nostrils. Gen 1 also dictates that Man and Woman were created at the same time, whereas Gen 2 has Woman made last of all God's creatures, from Man (interesting note: Hebrew for Man is ishsh, while Woman is ishshah, meaning "from Man"). Gen 1 tells us that God named all of His creatures, while in Gen 2, it is Man, in this case, Adam (from the Hebrew adam, meaning Earth).

The very name of God is different in both texts; in Gen 1 He is referred to as God, whereas in Gen 2 He is called The Lord God. It is from this point of information that we determine who the author is; "lord" in the Bible is written as LORD when referring to God, which, in Hebrew terms, is displayed as YHWH - this is where we derive the term Yahweh, though the true pronunciation of the term isn't known.

The texts also differ in length; the creation story of Gen 1 ends shortly into chapter 2 (but is generally just referred ot as the creation story in Gen 1), whereas the story in Gen 2 continues into chapter 3, where we meet the Serpent. (side note: at this point, I am now struggling to remember the smaller points - I know there's a larger one, but I want to avoid it for the time being).

Moving on to the creation as a whole, the stories differ on a number of points; Genesis 1 takes place over seven days - 6 days of creation, 1 of rest (the Sabbath) - while Genesis 2 takes place in one day. Over the longer period of time, God's Master Plan is kept, while in Gen 2 the process is more about trial and error. Similaraly, everything in Gen 1 is, at the very least, "good", while something is not right in Gen 2: 'Then the LORD God said, "Is is not good that man should be alone"' - Genesis 2:18.

As a final note (as I've forgotten the 12th point.... I'll check that when I'm done showing off), the order of creation in the stories is different. Genesis 1 portrays creation in this way: Heaven and the earth, and light, on the first day; the dome, Sky, around the earth on the second day (also containing water); dry land and vegetation on the third day; heavenly bodies, such as the sun, the moon and the stars, on the fourth day, though they are not directly named as they are technically, at the time of the story's writing, pagan deities, and therefore not to be mentioned within a then-Jewish text; on the fifth day the fish and all the creatures of the sea; and the creatures of the land on the sixth day, including Man, at the very end of this creation. Genesis 2, on the other hand, tells the story in this order: first earth and the heavens; then Man; Eden and vegetation; water, in the form of rivers; then the creatures of the land and all the birds in the air; and finally, out of Man, he created Woman. It is quite noticeable, the differences between the stories, when the information is presented; much more importance was placed on the world than Man in the first story, whereas the world seemed to have been made for Man in the second story.

As to the forgotten information... the stories present God in two different ways. Genesis 1 tells us of a God being a transcendant being, and therefore without a form for us to worship (as is intended for both Christian and Jewish faiths - there shall be no false idols before the Lord; in other words, no statues). Genesis 2, on the other hand, tells us of an anthropromorphic God, with the shape and form of a human, and the image most used in art.

I hope this hasn't been a boring blog for you all; it's a little unusal, I know, for me to write about religion here, but I think that the topic is the comparison of two stories, regardless of them being from a religious text, is enough to save me from turning completely over to the Christian side; I still very much believe in God, but I'm not a bible-pusher by any means. Each to his own, so long as it is in respect of other people (and everything else too!).

Opinions on the blog post are very much appreciated, but I don't intend on this becoming a religious debate; remember that the Old Testament is largely a metaphorical text to help explain some of the deeper mysteries of the universe, and in the context of the time at which it was written it was an extremely useful text. It wasn't, however, accepted a science; no one truly accepted that the creation stories were absolute truth, but they accepted the hugely important religious messages behind the texts regardless.

order of creation
created as intented/trial and error (Master Plan)
Everything good/something not good

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