In the beginning, God separated?

Discussion about the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, Talmud, Dead Sea Scrolls, archaeology, etc.
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lpetrich
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In the beginning, God separated?

Post by lpetrich » Wed Jan 23, 2019 7:56 am

God Created the Universe From Nothing—Or Did He? | Bob Seidensticker
Combat Myth: The Curious Story of Yahweh and the Gods Who Preceded Him | Bob Seidensticker

Genesis 1.1: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." could also be "In the beginning of when God was creating the heavens and the earth," continuing into the next verses: "The earth was formless and empty, darkness was on the surface of the depths, and the Spirit of God hovered above the water." (my version from several translations)

BS notes that the word for "create" used in it appears in several contexts that clearly indicate forming from pre-existing material, so that word alone does not indicate creation from nothing. He also proposed that an earlier version may have been "In the beginning God separated the heavens and the earth," like the separations later in Genesis 1: light from darkness, upper water from lower water, and land from water. Elsewhere in Genesis 1, God creates by commanding into existence, and also commanding the land to make plants and the sea to make aquatic animals.

Why separations? Why not commands all the way? BS then gets into a common sort of Middle Eastern creation myth, the "combat myth", German Chaoskampf, "chaos struggle". In it, the gods get together in a council to decide on what to do about a chaos monster that threatens them. The older ones are not willing to fight it, but one of the younger ones is. When he kills the monster, he becomes the top god and the familiar world is then created from the monster's remains. A good example is the Enuma Elish, where the god Marduk fights Tiamat, a dragon of the primordial ocean, kills her, and cuts her in two, making the heavens and the earth from each piece.

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lpetrich
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Re: In the beginning, God separated?

Post by lpetrich » Wed Jan 23, 2019 8:39 am

This seems to me an offshoot of Proto-Indo-European mythology

A reconstructed PIE creation story goes like this: there were once two brothers, *Mannus and *Yemos, Man and Twin. Mannus sacrificed Yemos, dismembered him, and built the familiar Universe out of his body parts. The story of Norse Ymir is derived from it, as is the story of Romulus and Remus, Roman and R-win.

Another PIE mytheme is a god of war and storms fighting and killing a reptilian water monster. That got turned into stories of heroes killing dragons and other reptilian monsters. Stories like Thor killing the Midgard Serpent, Indra killing Vritra, Apollo killing Python, Zeus killing Typhon, and Hercules killing the Hydra. In later times, St. George killing a dragon.

The PIE speakers spread out of their homeland, and most of the people that they overran ended up speaking descendants of PIE. But in the Middle East, they were not very successful, though they left linguistic evidence of their presence there: Mitanni-Aryan of the Mitanni kingdom of the northern Fertile Crescent around 1500 BCE. Names of gods, personal names, even horse-training terminology (Kikkuli) all have an Indic appearance. This extends to some names of Levantine kings in the Amarna letters, like Endaruta and Šuwardata.

So some Middle Easterners may have picked up the Man-sacrifices-Twin creation story and the hero-kills-water-monster story, creating that chaos-struggle story. A story that eventually became Genesis 1.

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lpetrich
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Re: In the beginning, God separated?

Post by lpetrich » Wed Jan 23, 2019 8:44 am

The Genesis 1 story has some additional structure added on.
  1. Celestial environments: day, night
  2. Far-terrestrial environments: air, sea
  3. Near-terrestrial environments: land, plants
  4. Celestial inhabitants: the Sun, the Moon, and the stars
  5. Far-terrestrial inhabitants: flying animals, aquatic animals
  6. Near-terrestrial inhabitants: land animals, humanity
  7. God takes the first day off in the history of the Universe
Notice the 2*3 structure of the first six days. The seventh day is the first Sabbath, so this is a charter myth for the seventh-day Sabbath.

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Re: In the beginning, God separated?

Post by semiopen » Wed Jan 23, 2019 9:08 am

lpetrich wrote:
Wed Jan 23, 2019 8:44 am

Notice the 2*3 structure of the first six days. The seventh day is the first Sabbath, so this is a charter myth for the seventh-day Sabbath.
Had to look up charter myth.

https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Classic ... rter_myths
A {charter} myth serves to justify the status quo in a society, proving why institutions must support those in power.
Often myths are not used to explain phenomena but rather to justify social norms and institutions. Scholars owe this insight to the Polish anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski, who studied Pacific islanders in the early 20th century. Malinowski realized that myths tended to advance the agendas of the story-tellers and of the people in power. For example, many Greek myths took their form in Bronze Age Greece up into Archaic Greece, a time when many Greek cities were ruled by kings. Not surprisingly, the myths can be read as promoting the custom of kingship.
I'm not sure about the classification; maybe.

The Sabbath probably originates from the Babylonian exile, so that synchs with the most likely timeline for Genesis.

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Re: In the beginning, God separated?

Post by lpetrich » Wed Jan 23, 2019 11:26 am

Myths and Legends
The specialized term "charter myth" or "mythical charter" refers to myths that use a real or hypothetical past event to provide a logic justifying a custom or social structural arrangement, such as why a particular dynasty is appropriately in power.
The first Genesis creation story fits that definition very well -- after working six days, God decides to take a break and rest.

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lpetrich
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Re: In the beginning, God separated?

Post by lpetrich » Wed Jan 23, 2019 12:29 pm

Ymir - Wikipedia presents how it went, and the discusses other Indo-European cosmogonic dismemberings. Projecting Ymir's fate back in time, I get something like

From Yemos's flesh Mannus made the earth
From his bones the hills
From his blood the sea
From his skull the heaven
From his brain the clouds

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Re: In the beginning, God separated?

Post by nili » Wed Jan 23, 2019 3:37 pm

lpetrich wrote:
Wed Jan 23, 2019 7:56 am
Genesis 1.1: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." could also be "In the beginning of when God was creating the heavens and the earth," continuing into the next verses: "The earth was formless and empty, darkness was on the surface of the depths, and the Spirit of God hovered above the water." (my version from several translations) ...
The JPS translations used in the Reform and Conservative synagogues in the US, the translation found in the online Chabad Tanakh, and the translations offered by Robert Alter, Everett Fox, and Richard Elliott Friedman, all treat בְּרֵשִׁית בָּרָא as being in the construct state. Interestingly, Sarna (JPS Torah Commentary; Genesis) notes:
The Mesopotamian creation epic known as Enuma Elish also commences the same way. In fact, enuma means "when." Apparently, this was a conventional opening style for cosmological narratives." As to the pevuliar syntax of the Hebrew sentence -- a noun in the construct state (be-re'shit) withe a finite verb (bara') -- analogies maybe found in Leviticus 14:46, Isaiah 29:1, and Hosea 1:2. This seems to be the way that Rashi understood the text.

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lpetrich
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Re: In the beginning, God separated?

Post by lpetrich » Thu Jan 24, 2019 4:01 am

I should add to that back-projection:
From his hair the trees
From his eyebrows the realm of humanity

I tried to translate it into reconstructed Proto-Indo-European, but I ran into a lot of difficulties with some of the vocabulary. Grammatically, it would be

Yemos-gen-sg flesh-abl-sg Mannus-nom-sg earth-acc-sg make-perf-3sg
Bone-abl-pl hill-acc-pl
...

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lpetrich
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Re: In the beginning, God separated?

Post by lpetrich » Thu Jan 24, 2019 4:11 am

nili wrote:
Wed Jan 23, 2019 3:37 pm
The JPS translations used in the Reform and Conservative synagogues in the US, the translation found in the online Chabad Tanakh, and the translations offered by Robert Alter, Everett Fox, and Richard Elliott Friedman, all treat בְּרֵשִׁית בָּרָא as being in the construct state.
Genesis 1:1 as a standalone sentence: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth
As an adverbial clause for Gen 1:2: In the beginning of when God was creating the heavens and the earth

So they are endorsing the adverbial-clause interpretation?

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Re: In the beginning, God separated?

Post by nili » Thu Jan 24, 2019 6:43 am

lpetrich wrote:
Thu Jan 24, 2019 4:11 am
nili wrote:
Wed Jan 23, 2019 3:37 pm
The JPS translations used in the Reform and Conservative synagogues in the US, the translation found in the online Chabad Tanakh, and the translations offered by Robert Alter, Everett Fox, and Richard Elliott Friedman, all treat בְּרֵשִׁית בָּרָא as being in the construct state.
Genesis 1:1 as a standalone sentence: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth
As an adverbial clause for Gen 1:2: In the beginning of when God was creating the heavens and the earth

So they are endorsing the adverbial-clause interpretation?
The Chabad and JPS translations are readily available online. As for the others ...

Robert Alter:
When God began to create heaven and earth,
and the earth then was welter and waste
and darkness over the deep
and God's breath hovering over the waters, ...
Everett Fox:
At the beginning of God's creating of the heavens and the earth,
when the earth was wid and waste,
darkness over the face of Ocean,
rushing spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters ...
Richard Elliot Friedman:
In the beginning of God's creating the skies and the earth --
when the earth had been shapeless and formless,
and darkness was o the ace of the deep,
and God's spirit was hovering on the face of the water -- ...
In his commentary on Gen. 1:1-2, Friedman notes (in part) ..
1:2 the earth had been. Here is a case in which a tiny point of grammar makes a difference for theology. In the Hebrew of this verse, the noun comes before the verb (in the perfect form). This is now known to be the way of conveying the past perfect in Biblical Hebrew. This point of grammar means that this verse does not mean "the earth was shapeless and formless" -- referring to the condition of the earth starting the instant after it was created. This verse rather means that "the earth had been shapeless and formless" -- that is, it had already existed in this shapeless condition prior to the creation. Creation of matter in the Torah is not out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo), as many have claimed. And the Torah is not claiming to be telling events from the beginning of time.

1:2 shapeless and formless. The two words in the Hebrew, tohu and bohu, are understood to mean virtually the same thing. This is the first appearance in the Torah of a phenomenon in biblical language known as hendiadys, in which two connected words are used to signify one thing. ("Wine and beer" [Lev 10:9] may be a hendiadys as well, or it may be a merism, a similar construction in which two words are used to signify a totality; so that "wine and beer" means all alcoholic beverages.) The hendiadys of "tohu and bohu," plus the references to the deep and the water, yields a picture of an undifferentiated, shapeless fluid that had existed prior to creation.

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