Wednesday, September 17, 2008

an alternate reading

Because it’s difficult to know for sure when genesis 1 was written, there are 1 or 2 other possibilities about what it may have meant to its original audience. Most of our scholars date it somewhere between 500-700 BC (very loosely with D or P), but some date it even later.

Some scholars think that it may have been written after King Cyrus of Persia allowed the Hebrew people to leave captivity and return to Jerusalem. He freed them. He gave them his peace to rebuild their city.

Now, it’s a small minority of scholars that date genesis 1 so late…c. 450-500 BC. But, if they’re right, then genesis 1 would have a different meaning than the one we’re chasing down in fusion.

We’re suggesting that genesis 1 was written as a critique of the Babylonian creation story – the enuma elish. We’re suggesting that genesis was written in defiance of Babylon, essentially turning the evil poem on its head and calling the Babylonian authorities and their power into question. We’re suggesting that genesis 1 was written in defiance of Babylon, with a prophetic reminder that the God of Creation will ultimately cause the fall of Babylon (which does indeed happen through Cyrus).

But, if genesis 1 was written after Babylon was destroyed and Cyrus took over, then we may have to interpret it as a different kind of re-writing of the enuma elish. Instead of a defiant correction, genesis 1 would have been written as a “see-we told you so.” If genesis 1 was written on the way back to Jerusalem, then the story of the original creation of the world would have rhymed nicely with the re-creation of God’s holy city on the earth.

Original creation mirroring new creation.

Cool, right?

Well, it’s an academic long shot at this point…but a cool rabbit trail nonetheless, and not completely without merit anyway. Why not? Well, even if genesis 1 was written while still in Babylon – which we think it was – then the return to Jerusalem a few years later still serves as a ‘prophecy-fulfilled’ in the sense that YHWH has ultimately vindicated his people.

Lost? Confused?

Don’t stress. If things get too complicated here, just simplify: God is a Creator. He made the world new, and He is still making things new within the world today.

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