Biblical Accounts of Origins

  1. Key Thoughts

            Genesis 1-11 falls under the literary genre of the word-for-word scientific and historical record of how the Universe and life were created, including humans. More precisely, the origin of the Universe and life. It combines ancient poetry, ancient story and allegory, ancient science, and ancient historiography. In this context, ancient historiography presents a written account of ancient people based on their phenomenological perspective of historical facts. Therefore, the ancient account of origins is a composite of four components, namely ancient cosmogony, ancient historiography, ancient story and allegory, and religious interpretation. It is worth noting that Genesis 1 to 11 is an entirely different literary genre than the New Testament because the latter is based on eyewitness testimony. Thus, Genesis 1 to 11 hermeneutics do not apply to the New Testament

  1. Ancient Accounts of Origins: Introductory Categories

            All accounts of origin both, ancient and modern, focus on etiology that accounts for major and minor motives of origin. In Genesis, the major ancient motifs of origins provide an account of the scientific and historical paradigms of the day in the ancient world. The motifs occur explicitly or implicitly in a majority of origins accounts throughout the world. In this context, the De Novo creation motif provides a quick and complete origin of the Universe and life, while the lost idyllic age motif focuses on an adverse event that causes disruption of an original harmony in the world that causes negative effects that persist into the present. Meanwhile, the tribal formation motif emphasizes the origin of a nation or people from a single founding male, while the great flood motif depicts the destruction of life through a flood and the survival of human beings and some animals. The latter reflects conditions of Communities living in regions that are at a high likelihood of flooding.

            Ancient minor motifs are also used to refer to reappearing characters, symbols that support major ancient motifs such as the creation account, which begins with a dark, watery chaotic pre-creative state. On the other hand, the ancient story and allegory refer to non-historical stories and allegories that are used in the Bible to reveal spiritual truth. For instance in Genesis, the account of the Garden of Eden features a fast-talking snake, a mystical tree that imparts the knowledge of good and evil, a mystical tree that imparts eternal life, a flaming sword flashing back and forth to protect the garden as well as the mystical creatures such as the cherubim. Historicization is also vividly presented in Genesis 1 to 11 as it represents the transformation of the non-historical account into a historical account. In this context, the redactor of the book of Genesis 2 to 3 into a historical account. In the book of Genesis alone, the redactor added the subtitle, “This is the account of…” 10 times of which six times are contained in Genesis 1 to 11.

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  1. Origin of Genesis 1-11:

Re-Cycled & Reinterpreted ANE Motifs of Origins Theory

There is evidence that the Origins of Genesis are recycled and reinterpreted by different civilizations. The Egyptians and Mesopotamians conceived the Motifs of Origins as an oral form before developing written accounts of the same. Written accounts of Origins by the Egyptians and Mesopotamians can be traced to a period between 3000 and 1500 BC/E. In 1200 BC/E, the first archaeological evidence for the existence of Israel is passed down among the Hebrews in oral form. Through inspiration by God, the Hebrews reinterpreted and recycled ANE Motifs of Origin by replacing pagan theology with inerrant Spiritual Truths. This was done by including some actual historical events and actual people remembered in oral traditions among the Hebrews. Increasing literacy among the Hebrews in years between 1000 BC/E and 500 BC/E led to the development of two Accounts of Origins. The Jahwist Account of Origins was written in 1000 BC/E, followed by the Priestly Account of Origins in about 500 BC/E. 

  1. An EXEGESIS of GENESIS 1-11

            The translation of the Bible ignited a debate regarding the uncertainty of two words in the Bible that led to two possible grammatical arrangements. These words were beginning and when. In this context, Genesis 1:1 is treated as the title, while Genesis 1:2 is a parenthesis. However, the opening scene in both contexts is dark, watery Earth, which infers that it was not created but rather a Pre-Creative State that was eternal. The Greeks, Egyptians, and Mesopotamians agreed with the Pre-Creative State of Earth. This demonstrates God’s control of a chaotic Pre-Creative State by rising out of it. The youthful creation of Earth, however, erodes the temporal marker from which to date as there is no mention of when the Earth was created in Genesis 1. Conversely, the progressive perspective of creation attempts to align Genesis 1:1 with the Big Bang theory. However, there is no mention of creation because water, Earth, and time already present in the opening scene.

Genesis 1 presents a chronology of the 6-day creation account by God by emphasizing the origin of the Earth, heavens, plants, animals, and humans. In this context, the major motif alludes to a De Novo creation, which was quick and complete and typical of ancient accounts of origins supported by vegetarianism minor motif because both human beings and animals consumed plants. In addition, the creation day formula is highly structured and repetitious as it evolves through introduction command, completion, and judgment as well as a time reference. In Genesis 2, Adam and Eve are depicted as real historical people created on the sixth day in Genesis 1. A majority of Christians accept the historical concordism because many believe God created Adam and Eve. Akin to the creation of heavens and Earth, the major motif in the creation of human beings alludes to a De Novo that was quick and complete. However, the creation order conflicts and stylistic differences between Genesis 1 and 2 is evidence that with some creation events did not happen; therefore, scientific concordism fails.

Genesis 3 is an account of the fall of humanity and the subsequent entry of death into the world after Adam and Eve ate the Forbidden Fruit. It is widely accepted as historical truth by most Christians as God’s judgment upon the first humans for their sins. The events in this chapter are supported by the major motif of Lost Idyllic Age, which presents an account of something that went terribly wrong, disrupting an originally harmonious world, and its effects have persisted into the present. Genesis 4 elaborates on the consequences of the first family and the first genealogy for disobeying God. The consequence was murder as Cain killed his brother Abel over a sacrifice to God. Thus, the ensuing genealogy of the first family is based on theological jealousy after Cain murders Abel. Therefore, the curse was perpetuated when Cain married his sister as his offspring (non-Hebrews) occupied the Earth before the flood. The major motif of tribal formation is employed in this context to give meaning to the origin of a nation or a people from Cain as the single founding male.

Genesis chapter 5 continues the genealogy of Cain in Chapter 4 by highlighting the origin of Hebrews before the flood as the Chosen line of Seth. Similar to Chapter 4, chapter 5 is based on the major motif of tribal formation to elaborate the origin of the Hebrews before the flood from Seth as the single founding male individual. The narrative is supported by the minor motif of increased longevity witnessed among the first Hebrews. Chapter 5 provides precedence for God’s judgment for the sins of the world in chapter 6 through to 9 and the great flood or Noah’s flood. In this context, the major motif the destruction of life and the survival of a few humans as well as animals in a boat built by Noah under God’s instructions.


            Chapter 10 depicts the world after the great flood, which was later repopulated through Noah’s three sons, namely Japheth, Ham, and Shem. The ancient phenomenological perspective infers that all the nations are ANE Nations, and the Hebrews were God’s chosen descendants of Shem, who face a mortal enemy from the descendants of Ham. Chapter 10 is therefore based on the major motive of tribal formation as it elaborates on the origin of Hebrews and their enemies. Human beings’ insatiable desire to be divine is captured in Genesis 11 as they try to build the tower of Babel in an attempt to reach heavens. God thwarted their desire by creating confusion of the original language, thus stopping the construction of the tower. The minor motive in this context helps to highlight Sumerians’ account of language confusion. After the construction of the tower of Babel was stopped, the Hebrew community developed from the Descendants of Shem as God’s chosen people. The major motif of tribal formation highlights how the Hebrew community originated from Shem as a single founding individual.