Brother AACOOLDRE : Myths of Genesis

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    AACOOLDRE Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    A Case against Intelligent Design of Bible Stumpers

    The first eleven chapters of the book of Genesis, the first book of the bible, tell the history of the world from the time of creation to just after the great flood. Within its narrative we find the stories of the seven days of creation, Adam and eve and the garden of Eden, Cain and Able, Noah and the flood, the repopulating of the world, and the founding of the first nations. Because these stories so clearly conflict with conventional scientific wisdom, they are the most controversial portions among those who argue about the accuracy of the Bible.

    Structurally, genesis 1-11 presents a fascinating insight into how the bible evolved from a collection of polytheistic myths and legends from various cultures into a mostly coherent monotheistic account of Israelite history. At its core are two separate biblical source documents, P and J, each presenting contradictory accounts of events and very different points of view about deities. Unbeknownst to the biblical editors who tried to integrate the two sources into a single seamless narrative, the P and J accounts of creation and the flood originally developed independently of each other from two separate Egyptian mythological traditions.

    J’s roots go back to the teachings in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis, known as On in the Bible. Helipolis was one of Egypt’s oldest and most influential religious centers, and the bible presents a close relationship between that city and Israel. Joseph (Tuya) heir to the covenant between God and Jacob, was married to the daughter of the chief priest of Heliopolis, and his half-Egyptian son Ephraim (Aye), educated in the Heliopolitian traditions, was appointed by Jacob to be Joseph’s heir. Also, Heliopolis, at a time not much before Israel’s exodus from Egypt, was the center of a monotheistic religious cult that challenged traditional Egyptian religious beliefs and stirred up much passion and political turmoil.

    For the most part, Egyptians shared certain common ideas about creation. In the beginning, they believed, there was a universal flood known as the Nun (Noah). Through some sort initiatory act by a single Creator deity, a flaming primeval mountain emerged out of the Nun and on this mountain the process of creation moved forward. The chief difference among the main cult centers concerned who was the deity responsible for the first acts and how did the creation process begin. The four most important centers were in Helipolis, Hermopolis, Memphis and Thebes, and each city associated its own local chief deity with the first acts of creation.

    (1). In Helipolis, the first deity was Atum, a solar deity who was either the primeval mountain itself or appeared on the mountain in the form of a flaming serpent. Atum, who appeared to be male with some female characteristics, gave birth by himself to a son and daughter Shu and Tefnut, who represented air and moisture, who, in turn, gave birth to their own son and daughter Geb and Nut , who signified earth and heaven. These four children, in the Helipolitian tradition, corresponded to the basic elements of the universe. Geb and Nut had four children of their own, Osiris, Isis, Set and Nephthys, and collectively these first nine deities (counting Atum) were known as the Ennead ( I.e., group of nine).

    (2). In the city of Memphis, which served as the first capitol of Egypt for almost one thousand years (3100BC- 2100BC), the chief deity was Ptah, a crafts god. The Memphites, who were close neighbors of heliopolis, claimed that it was Ptah, through the spoken word (The Word from John‘s gospel), who summoned forth Atum from the Nun. In all other respects, the Memphites generally adopted the heliopolitian traditions.

    (3).In the very ancient city of hermopolis a slightly different tradition prevailed. The priests there believed that in the beginning, eight gods, four male and four female, emerged out of Nun and collectively gave birth to the solar deity. Re, who initially appeared as a child floating on a lotus. Re then proceeded to initiate the process of Creation, including the creation of the heliopolitian Ennead. In one of those strange concepts that often emerge in mythic tradition, Re was both the child of and creator of these first eight gods. (The Jews may circumcise on day eight in part due to the creation/resurrection myth of Osiris).

    These eight Hermopolitian gods were known as the Ogdoad (I.e. group of eight) and four sets of males and females represented what the priests considered to be the four basic elements of the primeval universe. The deities and their associations were Nun and Naunet, the universal flood; Huh and Hauchet, a space of infinity; Kuk and Kauket, darkness ; and Amen and Amenet, the invisibility of the winds.( In genesis Amen is the invisible winds hovering over the Waters/Nun)

    (4). Thebes was a late arrival on the political scene, coming to power about 2040BC. Its local deity was Amen, but because of the way the other three traditions had already become entrenched in Egyptian thought, the Theban priests devised the idea that each of the other creator deities was just another form of Amen. So, according to the Theban theology , Amen first appeared in the form of the Hermopolitian Ogdoad, then appeared in the form of the Memphite Ptah (The word from John‘s gospel), then in the form of Heliopolitian Atum, and then in the form of Re, who by this time had become the most important solar deity in Egypt. This succession of forms necessitated some variations from the Creation myths associated with these deities, but the fit was good enough to enable Thebes to promote Amen as the chief deity and not alienate the other religious cults.

    From these collections of Egyptian myths and traditions, which Israel not only learned in Egypt, but which were current, influential, and well known throughout Canaan after Israel was Monotheistic and the Egyptian myths were symbolic polytheistic, the Hebrew scribes had to rework the stories to reflect their own religious viewpoint, and it is the results that we see some of the great genius of plagiarism and modification of the Hebrew authors.

    In essence, the Hebrews engaged in a form of reverse-engineering to fashion a coherent cosmogony. Although polytheistic, the Egyptian myths were very philosophical and scientific. They attempted to define the physical nature of the universe and how it evolved and transformed into its present condition. In studying their natural surroundings, they observed two major factors that controlled their world, the annual flooding of the Nile that fertilized the land and the movements of the sun, both daily and annually. The annual correspond between the Nile flood and the solar year linked the two events in a harmonious relationship, with both cycles suggesting birth, resurrection, and everlastingness. The many deities associated with different aspects of creation in the different cult centers symbolized aspects of the natural order.

    The Hebrew philosophers looked at the Egyptian deities and identified what aspect of nature a particular god or goddess represented. Then, taking the order in which these deities appeared, the early Hebrew scribes separated the deity from the natural phenomena represented by the deity, and described the same sequence of natural events solely in terms of natural phenomena. Where the Egyptians, for example, had Atum appear as a flaming serpent on a mountain emerging out of Nun/water, the Hebrews simply talked about Light appearing while a firmament arose out of a primeval flood. But different Hebrew writers emphasized different Egyptian traditions, and conflicting histories of creation developed.

    This, however, was only part of the story. After Israel moved into Canaan, Hebrew writers were exposed to new tradition from Babylon, the other great influence in the near East. In 587BC, the remnants of the Hebrew kingdom were captured by the Babylonians and the educated elite were forcibly removed to the homeland of their captors, where they became immersed in the local culture. Because of the great respect for Babylonian wisdom, the Hebrews found it necessary to further refine their earlier ideas, which by this time had become divorced from the original Egyptian roots.

    The most difficult problem concerned the flood stories. Originally, the biblical flood story was a creation myth based on Hermopolitian traditions about the Ogdoad, eight gods-four males and four females-emerging out of the primeval ocean. It preceded the story of Adam and eve and the garden of Eden. In Babylon, however, the Hebrews encountered a new worldwide flood myth that occurred in the tenth generation of humanity rather than at the beginning of time. In an attempt to synchronize their own history with that of the learned Babylonians , the Hebrews moved the flood story from the beginning of Creation to the tenth generation of biblical humanity, and modified the story somewhat in order to correlate better with the local version.

    Subsequently, biblical scribes integrated all the Hebrew traditions and produced one of the first great works of historical writing. Still, despite their careful efforts at trying to weave a seamless tapestry of history, the results were not flawless. Traces of the original polytheism escaped the sharp eye of the redactors and remain embedded in the text. Not all contradictions could easily be eliminated and many have been preserved. As the Hebrews lost contact with their Egyptian roots, they could no longer explain away some of the contradictory material in the earlier sources, and, over time, oral traditions supplemented the written texts. These influenced later beliefs and editing practices, leading to distortions.

    We will work our way through the Biblical stories, showing the initial Egyptian myths that underlie the Biblical accounts and how from time to time, Babylonian myths were grafted on to earlier texts or replaced portions of the original stories. Genesis begins with two separate and contradictory stories about creation. The first, in Genesis 1-2:3 and attributed to the priestly source P, presents the familiar account of the seven days of creation, in which the process unfolds in an orderly and structured sequence of events from the formation of heaven and earth to the production of vegetation, animal life, and humanity. Contrary to popular belief, the first creation story makes no mention of Adam and eve being created in the image of god. The only reference to Humanity is to an entity created on the sixth day that is described as both male and female, and it is this collective entity, male and female, that is created in god’s image.

    The second account, in Genesis 2 and attributed to the Yahwist source J, serves as an introduction to the story of Adam and eve and their children. This version of creation is less complete than the priestly version.

    The two stories differ in many details. Each provides a different order of creation and different explanations as to how things came about. Perhaps the most significant difference deals with the question of morality. The first creation features no talk about moral principles. The second, which serves as an introduction to the stories of Adam and Eve and their children Cain and Abel, deals primarily with issues of moral concern. In it, we have commandments by God about proper behavior, tales of sin, murder, and punishment, and something known as the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The second creation story introduces some of the central moral principles of Western Civilization, such as original sin, moral accountability for one’s actions, being our brother’s keeper, and the role of marriage.

    In addition, the two versions present different images of the deity. The P source portrays an all-powerful disembodied spirit who can summon forth elements of the universe with a word, wink, or snap of the fingers. The deity J has corporal form, likes to putter around in the garden, bake animal ********, sculpt little figurines, go for strolls, and oversee the help as they take care of the house, like a dilettante managing the country estate.

    Theologians concerned with moral teachings and the need for biblical consistency simply ignore the differences and treat the two stories as part of the same cycle, the earlier story presenting the cosmic picture and the later one presenting the human dimension. Scholars, on the other hand, willing to acknowledge contradictions simply accept that the two stories have different origins and subsequent editors attempted to integrate the two separate accounts into a single narrative. Overlooked is that both sources originate from separate Egyptian traditions.

    The P creation story flows from images in the Theban Creation myth. It unfolds with the same sequence of events in the same order. The description of the primeval world before the act of creation corresponds precisely with the characteristics of the Ogdoad, the first form of Amen in the Theban myth. The story proceeds with the spoken word of Ptah and the first Light of Atum. ( In the beginning was the Word… “And that life was the light of men” John 1:1-3 Shu/Life).A mountain emerges out of the primeval flood, heaven and earth are separated, the waters of the Nile are gathered together and vegetation appears.

    The process concludes on the sixth day with the creation of an entity labeled in Genesis 5 as “The Adam”, created in the image of God. On the seventh day, God rested. But, as we review the text, we see that the redactors made some “cut and paste” errors in transcribing the P text and that “The Adam” was actually created on the seventh day and rested on the eight day, assuming he rested at all.

    The second Creation story, the J account, begins with the odd introduction that the story is about the children of heaven and earth, clearly a reference to pagan deities. The details of the story show that the events take place on the second day of creation and the story derives from the Heliopolitan creation myth, with Atum emerging out of the Nun. In that myth, heaven and earth are the Egyptian deities Geb and Nut, and the biblical authors replaced them with Adam and Eve. There are numerous parallels between the myths about Geb and Nut and their biblical counterparts. Confusion between “the Adam” in the P story and Adam and Eve in the J story led to the erroneous idea that Adam and Eve were the first humans and that they were created in God’s image on the sixth day.

    While the P creation story remained rather close to its Egyptian roots, the J story retained only its core Egyptian identity and became layered with several elements from the corpus of Babylonian literature. Initially, events in the Garden of Eden were about the children of Geb and Nut and the conflicts among them. The Garden of Eden lay along the Nile in Africa. The tree of knowledge of Good and Evil and the tree of life were derived from symbols associated with the Egyptian deities Shu and Tefnut. The sons of Adam and Eve-Cain, Abel, and Seth-correspononded to the sons of Geb and Nut-Osiris, Set, and Horus. The feuds between the family of Adam and the serpent, and between Cain and Abel were based on the feuds between the family of Osiris and the wily serpentine Set.

    Because the J story had so many characters and so much interaction among them, Hebrew scribes found it easier to find parallels in the myths of other cultures than they did with the P account, which had a simple, precise story, with virtually no characters other than god and no plot lines to confuse with other stories. Consequently, J acquired a number of accretions, especially from Babylonian sources.

    In the story of Cain and Abel, for instance, Cain, a planter, killed his younger brother Abel, a shepherd. In the original Egyptian story, the younger brother killed the older brother, who was also a planter. The roles somehow became reversed. In Babylonian myths, however, we find stories about feuds between planters and shepherds and the tragic death of a shepherd. The Babylonian versions of these stories came to replace the Egyptian accounts, so altering the content that it is hard to recognize the earlier Egyptian roots without the benefit of the larger context into which the stories have been placed. Even locales changed. Where Eden once lay along the banks of the Nile, biblical redactors removed it to Mesopotamia, confusing it with the Sumerian paradise of Dilmun.

    While the J source fills its account with several stories of human interest (flowing from Creation and events in the Garden of Eden to the expulsion from the Garden and the story of Cain and Abel) before it gets to the J flood account, P jumps from Creation to the flood with no stories of a personal nature, stopping only to insert a genealogical chain from Adam to Noah. Unlike the creation stories, though, where the two versions appear one after the other, the two flood stories are tightly woven together, sometimes beginning a sentence with one version and completing it with the other.

    We have already noted above that both the J and P flood stories were originally based on the Hermopolitian creation myth and that after they were integrated, the text was further modified to reflect Babylonian traditions about a flood in the tenth generation of humanity. Despite the common roots of the two Egyptian strands, they still stem from different sources and traditions. Both J and P contain chronological strands in the flood accounts. The J source revolves around the seasonal structure of the solar calendar, reflecting an agriculture-based origin for the story, which is in line with the agricultural foundations of the Adam and Eve story. P, on the other hand, revolves about the Egyptian solar-lunar calendar, a twenty five year cycle used for religious celebrations, reflecting the priestly religious nature of the source.

    After the flood, Genesis tells of the repopulation of the earth and the origins of the nations. These genealogical histories actually reflect political events of the early middle first millennium BC showing the artificial and late origin of theses stories, They date to a time after Israel arrived in Canaan, and again demonstrate the literary genius of the Biblical redactors, who can take myths and legends from a variety of sources and different time frames and integrate them, almost flawlessly, into a long continuous narrative. But the task was difficult and contradictions seeped in.

    The Story of Noah with 8 lives saved from the flood is the Ogdoad, eight emerging from the flood of Nun. Noah three sons Ham, Shem and Japheth make 4 plus their four wives show links to the hermopolitian creation story.

    Shem is Egyptian shmn/hermopolis in Greek meaning eight town
    Ham is Chem “the Black land” or fertile soil left behind after the Nile flood recedes
    Japheth= Ptah the linguistic equivalent to the god-ptah
    Noah= Nun the primeval flood

    Jesus becomes a combination of Shu, Nun, Amen, Ptah, Atum, horus etal. Even Moses wrote that Jesus would call out God by other names allegedly on the cross crying out to Eli (Elihoim, gods)