THE GENESIS ACCOUNTS OF CREATION: MYTH OR REALITY?
I always do recall, while reading through the first few pages of the Bible, (i.e. the book of Genesis), how highly impressed I was as a child, to see how the world began and how God put everything in place but then kept pondering; who was there with God taking a record of events while he was creating? Once upon a time, I asked my Christian Religious Studies teacher in School and he stood there dumbfounded unable to give any response. During my Catechism days, I was made to understand I must believe everything that the bible contains as true without doubting. However the more I tried to understand the creation narratives, the more questions generated within me. Was the world actually created just as the book of Genesis tells us? Did the same God, who created man last on the sixth day in Chapter One, come back again in Chapter Two to create the same man first before other things? In fact, considering the recent advancements in science and the claims by evolutionists today about the origin of the world, can we say that these creation narratives amount to mere myths?
ARE THE GENESIS ACCOUNTS OF CREATION MYTHS?
According to the Anchor Bible Dictionary, prior to the period of the Enlightenment, the question of whether or not the Bible contained any myths at all was not so pronounced. In fact, it was as from the 18th century that people started wondering if the Old Testament stories such as the creation narratives could possibly count as myths. This was basically fuelled by the various movements which came up to stress that the basis for anything to be considered true was its historical verifiability. Hence, the debate about myths in the Bible was initially a question of its truth and falsity. For instance, when the Bible speaks of events which took place prior to when the world itself began (when no man could have possibly existed to take a record of them), a successful attempt to show that they are actually myths translates to saying they are simply products of human imagination. And if this is the case, it follows then that the entire Bible itself rests on a questionable foundation. Hence over the years, several scholars have invested a great deal of time and effort on this quest. Before we proceed, it is important to bear in mind that at the heart of this debate lies the meaning and conception of the term myth. What is myth? And what constitutes a myth?
What is Myth?
Etymologically, the English word myth comes from the Greek mythos. In early Greek mythos meant “word, speech, design”; it was more or less synonymous with epos (“word, speech, message”), and close in meaning to logos (“account, talk”); myth is narration, tale-telling. Gradually it came to be used as a technical term for an entertaining tale, the truth of which was uncertain or unwarranted. From the time of Plato onward, mythos then became a contrasting term for logos (i.e. the rational, responsible account). To this day, whenever the word myth is used, there is an underlining tendency to consider that which it refers to as superstition. As B. Batto observes, “the derogation of myth as pagan superstition and therefore false and incompatible with Christian dogma remained the characteristic Christian attitude until the modern period – and is still the prevalent in some circles.” Initial Conclusion – No Myths in the Bible
Based on the above, it becomes clear that with this understanding of the term myth, the Bible contains no myths since it has no pagan superstitions incompatible with Christian dogma. Now it becomes easy to see how stories as such as the Enuma Elish, Altrahasis or even the various African traditional stories of creation, etc could best be described as myths. In line with this, the word myth came to be defined as “stories about the gods” (a definition which was popularised by the Grimm Brothers) thereby distinguishing the Bible narratives out as non-myths. Since the Bible is essentially...
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