A Critique: Genesis 1-11

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A Critique

The article I have chosen for this critique assignment is “Genesis 1-11” written by J. Rogerson. He made it known clearly to his readers at the beginning of his article that the article aims to deal with separate questions: (a) How did the presumed Israelite readers of Genesis chapters 1-11 understand these passages? (b) What do we mean when we classify Genesis 1-11 or parts thereof as myths or mythical? These are the two goals the article aims to achieve. In order to do this, the author of the article divides the article into 16 sections, with each of which focusing on a particular issue which is either problematic or controversial. Some issues touch on broader areas (e.g. One Creation Story or two?) whereas some others are concerned with the life events of particular characters in Genesis (e.g. Cain and Abel). All these issues/topics, whether broad or narrow in appearance, do have a wide scope of theological implications.

In the first section of the article, the author explains that the Israelite readers can understand Genesis 1-11 because the stories in chapters 1-11 were compiled from ancient traditions about origins which the Israelite shared with other ancient Near Eastern neighbours whose folk tale motifs enable the Israelite readers to believe in the contents of Genesis 1-11. Regarding the question of ‘myths’, the author claims that he is convinced by Müller’s approach to myth: the narratives of Genesis 1-11 are more or less the same as their similar traditions from the ancient Near East, even if the latter are polytheistic and the former is monotheistic. Section 2 tells us that Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”, is probably a summary statement of what God had done, and the words in verse 2 “darkness” and “without form” suggest something sinister about the unformed earth which was chaotic. Section 3 of the article tries to distinguish between ‘Creation by Word’ and ‘Creation by deed’. An example of the former is ‘Let there be light’ and an example of the latter is ‘He also made the stars’. Section 4 tells us that the ‘good’ in ‘God saw that it was good’ which recurs in Genesis 1 means ‘good for achieving its purpose’. The author says in spite of the subsequent curse and flood, the creation is still good in that it provides the order and stability in which the life given by God can be lived out. Section 5 mentions that the process of creation described in Genesis 1 involve distinguishing, setting boundaries and assigning positions. For instance, light is distinguished from darkness, the firmament sets a boundary between the upper and lower waters, and birds are assigned to the heavens. The author further points out that if creation implies order, then that order is not restricted solely to the non-human world; it must include human relationships; otherwise, the creation would be immoral. The author, in section 6, contends that Genesis 1 is a creation story while Genesis 2 is an origins story in such a way the Genesis 1 relates the formation and ordering of the universe and Genesis 2 presumes the existence of the earth and describes how it was populated and ordered. Section 7 reports that Genesis 1:1-4 and 2:4-3:24 may come from different sources. One reason is that they use different names for God. The central problem is that Genesis 3 tells us that Adam and Eve are expelled from the garden so as not to let them eat the fruit of the tree of life, not because the disobeyed God’s command to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Now the question is: ‘Was there one tree or two?’ In Section 8, the author tells us that a parallel to Genesis 3 is found in ancient literature, which is Ezekiel 28:11-19. In both passages, the sinful characters were punished by expulsion. The author of this article concludes that in the formation of Genesis 3:1-24, the writer of Genesis used a story similar to that in Ezekiel 28:11-19 to maintain a...
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