Home » Course Materials » The Priestly Creation Narrative in Genesis 1-2:4a

The Priestly Creation Narrative in Genesis 1-2:4a

Different Christian Views of the Creation Narratives

Young Earth Creationism: God created the universe in six literal days (yom) and the universe is only about 10000 years old.

Old Earth Creationism: accepts that the universe has existed for billions of years by interpreting the six days as representing longer periods of time, yet still rejects evolution between species.

Gap Creationism (Gap Theory): agrees with young earth creationists on the six literal days, but argues that there was a gap between the first creation of Genesis 1:1 and a second creation in Genesis 1:2 to account for a much older universe.

Theistic Evolution/Evolutionary Creation: God created through the Big Bang and the processes of evolution.

Establishing Order Out of Chaos: The Sea Monster

Why do you think that the Sea symbolizes the forces of chaos?

The Babylonian/Akkadian myth Enuma Elish recounts how gods and goddesses sprung from the primordial Apsu and Tiamat (sweet-water and salt-water oceans respectively). When Apsu plots to kill the younger deities for making too much noise and is slain instead, Marduk arose to slay Tiamat and splits her in half to create the waters above and below. See the cylinder depicting the battle between Marduk and Tiamat online.

In the Ugaritic/Canaanite Baal Cycle, the cloud rider Baal has slain Yam (Sea) and annihilated Nahar (river) and muzzled the dragon (tannin) and slain the foul fanged seven headed Leviathan.

By his power he stilled the Sea; by his understanding he struck down Rahab. (Job 26:12)

You divided the sea by your might; you broke the heads of the dragons in the waters. You crushed the heads of Leviathan; you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness. You cut openings for springs and torrents; you dried up ever-flowing streams. (Psalm 74:13-15)

On that day the Lord with his cruel and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will kill the dragon that is in the sea. (Isaiah 27:1)

What is different about the Genesis account: “The earth was without form [tohu] and void [bohu], and darkness was upon the face of the deep [tehôm]; and the spirit [ruach; or “wind”] of God was moving over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2)

Ancient Conception of the Cosmos

For the picture, click on http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/ngier/gre13.htm.

The Pattern in the Days of Creation

Forming the Tohu (formlessness) Filling the Bohu (empty)
Day 1: Light Day 4: Greater and Lesser Lights
Day 2: Waters Above and Below Day 5: Birds and Water Creatures
Day 3: Land and vegetation Day 6: Animals and Humankind

Day 7: Sabbath

Ancient Anthropology

– Humans are created to do the hard labour for the deities and feed them through sacrifice.

– The king alone is created in the divine image, while the image of God is democratized in the Priestly Creation Narrative.

The Image of God (Imago Dei) in Genesis 1:26-27

“So God created humankind [ha‘adam] in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:27 NRSV)

– A Uniquely Human Characteristic (reason, empathy, spirituality)?

– Original Righteousness (Protestant Reformers; cf. Rom 8:29-30; 2 Cor 3:18; Col 1:15)?

– Dominion over the created order?

  • “Just as powerful earthly kings, to indicate their claim to dominion, erect an image of themselves in the provinces of their empire where they do not personally appear, so man [and woman] is placed upon earth in God’s image as God’s sovereign emblem. He [and she] is really only God’s representative, summoned to maintain and enforce God’s claim to dominion over the earth.” (Gerhard Von Rad, Genesis, p. 58)

What does Dominion Mean

“…let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” (Gen 1:26)

radah (רָדָה): “rule” is also used in the context of master-servant (Leviticus 25:43), administrator-employee (1 Kings 5:16; 9:23), or international relations (Numbers 24:19; 1 Kings 4:24). Is this a call to harshly subjugate creation or be stewards of it?

Lyn White, Jr. “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological CrisisScience 155 (1967): 1203-7.



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