Cris Putnam, the force behind the Logos Apologia website, has recently blogged about how the creation stories of Genesis 1-2 target ancient Egyptian creation myths. The impetus behind Cris’ efforts is a recent book entitled, In the Beginning… We Misunderstood: Interpreting Genesis 1 in Its Original Context. The authors are both Dallas Seminary grads. Their thesis is well known to scholars (and readers of this blog), though little known to the people in the pew: the biblical creation story isn’t at all about science, but about dissing other gods and the myths written about them. I haven’t read the book yet, but I’ve ordered it. I don’t expect to learn much, since this is familiar turf to Hebrew Bible specialists, but I’m very interested in how the material is presented.
As readers here know, this “not about science” approach has long been my position on Genesis and the Bible in general. What’s happening in Genesis 1-2 is very obvious to anyone who works in the original text (beyond simplistic word studies) and (important) is familiar with ancient Near Eastern creation stories. The beliefs of ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, and Canaanites all have shots taken at them. The biblical authors are clever and fearless in putting forth their fundamental theological claim: the world all of us humans experience is the product of the creative power of the God of Israel and no other god, period. They skillfully backhand other gods with textual eye-poking that anyone living in the ancient world would have readily discerned — and that is our fundamental disconnect. We process Genesis in light of our own age and intellectual battles. The result is a flawed presentation of the Genesis creation is both rebutting undesirable science (Darwin) and affirming science outside Darwinism’s immediate purview. Genesis 1 isn’t about any of that, save that it affirms an external creator God. The claim of the biblical writers is a supernaturalist one, not a scientific one.
Putnam’s post is focused on the polemic directed at the gods of Egypt. He links his readers to a short online article on this topic. Readers can do better, though. Gordon Johnston, an Old Testament professor at Dallas Theological Seminary (and no doubt the original impetus to the authors of the aforementioned book) published an article in Dallas Seminary’s journal on the subject in 2008: “Genesis 1 and Ancient Egyptian Creation Myths,” Bibliotheca Sacra 165 (April-June 2008): 178-194.