8 August 2017


You've probably been in a discussion in a Bible study group, where one of the sage ones, patiently explains that understanding Genesis 1 starts with its 'genre'. A fancy word for literary type. Why they don't say 'type' I don't know.

But what is the 'genre' of Genesis 1?

It's not peotry...we can look at the psalms and see what Hebrew poetry is.

It's not symbolic...we get that lesson in Ezekiel...and a bit more in  Revelation.

It's not quite history either: compare to the later pentateuch or Acts...a little different.

What are we left with?


That is, a time-ordered list of events.

The writer has driven the point of 'time' and 'sequence' home in every possible way while retaining literary elegance.

Time markers are prominent:

We start with 'in the beginning', then after a set of events: set with chronoligical grammar (the 'waw' consecutive: 'then this happened' recurs through out the creation passage.

Each day is numbered and delineated so that we know what type of day is meant: an evening-morning type day, of course!

Numbers 7 has a similar structure, and it is clearly a chronicle as well.

Compare this with a snippet from Enuma Elish; a pagan theogony that some have the gall to compare to Genesis 1.

Then were created the gods in the midst of heaven,
Lahmu and Lahamu were called into being...
Ages increased,...
Then Ansar and Kisar were created, and over them....
Long were the days, then there came forth.....
 Here and throughout EE uses the chronological imprecession of pagan myth: time markers are not important to myth, in fact, not having them is the important thing to de-historicise the myth and place it beyond enquiry.

Quite the opposite to Genesis 1.

On history: despite this, there are clear historical elements in Gen 1. History compared to chronicle adds meaning, if not analysis. It is not only 'that' something happened, but 'why' and the consequences. It puts events into an existential coherence that Gen 1 certainly does.

The point I want to drive, tho' is that the objective chronological markers of sequence frame this narrative with unmistakable self-conscious precision.