SIX DAYS OF CREATION
Six days. That’s how long the Bible says it took to create everything in the Universe. Six days. Religion and Science have been battling this out since the world was flat.
Without fail, people who believe the strict interpretation of the Bible relate a ‘day’ to what we think of as a standard 24 hour day. So basically they say the Universe was created in 144 hours.
Also without fail, scientists and most rational thinking people think these people are crazy.
Believers say God can do anything he wants and science says even God can’t defy his own physical laws. And so the debate has raged for eons. It’s one of the main reasons many religious people don’t trust science because to trust science would be to discount their God, and there’s no way that’s going to happen. It’s also the reason many early scientists were tortured or burned at the stake or met some similarly hideous demise.
But, what if science and religion aren’t really that far apart? What if there was a way to actually reconcile the two sides? Impossible you say? Not so, and it’s simpler than you might think..
See, there’s this thing called the Day of Brahma. It’s an ancient Hindu unit of time that lasts approximately 4.32 billion years. That’s right, billion years. So six days of Brahma would be over 25 billion years. Even modern day scientists don’t think it took that long to create the Universe but at least it puts religion and science in the same ballpark. When you’re talking billions of years, what’s a billion here or there? Nobody really knows anyway, right? It does make a lot more sense than 144 hours.
You might ask what a Hindu unit of time has to do with the whole Genesis narrative. Well, the Genesis story, or more accurately, the Hebrew versions1 of creation, borrow heavily from ancient Mesopotamian mythology.2 In fact, the Hebrew patriarchs spent their formative years living and learning in Mesopotamia. And Mesopotamia just happens to be the birthplace of the Hindu religion.
So, it’s more than likely the Hebrews and Hindus have more of a common heritage than you might think. It’s not a stretch to understand that what Western Bible translators have interpreted as 144 hours actually meant 25 billion years.
Okay, now that that’s settled, let’s move on.
LET THERE BE LIGHT
In the beginning the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.
This was on the first day.
But the sun and the moon weren’t created until the fourth day. So what’s this ‘Light’ they’re talking about? It obviously doesn’t have anything to do with what we normally think of light, and day, and night. So what is it?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say the use of the word ‘Light’ is symbolic. There are plenty of books about what it might symbolize3, but that’s not the point here. The point is, it must be symbolic of something.4
And if the very first thing the Bible talks about is symbolic, there is a pretty good chance a lot of other things in there are symbolic too. Literalists who don’t acknowledge the symbolism and metaphor of the Bible do so at their own peril.
TWO VERSIONS OF CREATION
The Bible contains three versions of Creation.5 Genesis itself has two distinct versions6 told back-to-back. These narratives were created at different times by different people7 but woven together in the version we now read in Genesis. It’s important to know these stories were not exclusive to the Hebrews but were versions which borrowed heavily from Mesopotomian, Babylonian, Sumerian8 and Egyptian9 creation stories.
The first version is pretty straight forward. It’s the one with the days. Day one God created the heavens, earth and light. Day two he separated the waters from the waters, etc. In this version God is called Elohim, a generic Hebrew name for God.10
The second version is the Adam and Eve story. In this one God is referred to as Yahweh, a more personal name.11
If we want to take these stories literally we have a problem right off the bat. The order of who, what and when things were created is all mixed up. In the first version both man and woman were created last, after everything else was already done. In the second version man was created first, then all the plants and animals, and finally, at the end of it all, woman was created from Adam’s rib. None of the pertinent details (ie: the days, the snake, the garden, the rib, etc) are contained in both versions.
Personally, I don’t have a problem with this. As far as I’m concerned it’s all symbolic. These ancient stories were created over the millennium in an effort to make sense of a prehistoric world and to teach life lessons. Remember, these were people who didn’t know where the sun went at night and thought lightning was God having a tantrum. These were stories told around campfires for thousands of years before ever being written down.12 Depending on what camp fire you sat around determined what particular version you grew up with.
MAN MADE IN GOD’S IMAGE
On the sixth day God created man and woman “in his own image”. I’m always amazed at what a stickler this is for some people. The first time I read it, it was so obvious what it meant. But I still run into people who insist God has a face and arms and lungs and basically looks like a big human being with super powers. Come on, that’s just ridiculous. I’m pretty sure God, being God, doesn’t need to eat every day and breathe air, brush his teeth and go to the bathroom.13 What we’ve managed to do is create a God in our image..
A god made in a human image would be a very limited god indeed. But if you take a look at most ancient religions that’s exactly the kind of god they portray. The Hebrew god and the Christian god look and act very much like the Egyptian god, Amun-Ra and the Greek god, Zeus. These gods are very much in the human image. They are petty, vindictive, jealous, narcissistic and ready to punish or destroy anyone who is disloyal or doesn’t manage to please him.14
But even Jesus said a house divided against itself cannot stand. So a god at war with his creation would pretty much destroy everything in short order. Thankfully, this is not the image we are made in.15
If you look at everything the Bible has said so far, it’s about God creating things. God is a creator, pure and simple. He creates things. And so do we. From the time we’re born until the day we die, we create things. From music to pies, from houses to gardens, from children to mathematics, we create. We create with our hands and we create with our minds.
Every thought we think, whether we realize it or not, creates a desire within us. It may be a desire for more, a desire for less or a desire to chill and enjoy. But no thought leaves us how it found us. We are not the same person when we go to bed at night as we were when
we woke up. We create constantly and push our creations ever forward. From a stone wheel to a space station, we create an ongoing litany of things, some that serve us well, some not so much. But we continue to create. That is how we are the image and likeness of God, We are creators.
IT WAS GOOD
In the first version of creation, every time God created something he pronounced it good. That’s worth noting, especially as we move forward with this. He didn’t say it was kind of cool and let’s see how it goes, he pronounced it ‘good’. So we can assume by this everything, including humans, were originally ‘good’. Not ‘right’ or ‘adequate’ or ‘functional’, but ‘good’. There is a difference between ‘right’ and ‘good’ and if you’re not sure what it is, now would be a good time to go look it up.
How you view the Adam and Eve story will probably shape how you view the whole good, bad thing but for now, let’s assume God was pleased with what he’d done and all things were good. Being an all-knowing, infinitely intelligent Being it would seem he’d have a pretty good idea what he was doing.16
ADAM AND EVE
So let’s dive right into the Adam and Eve story. To sum it up really quick for those of you who might not know it; Adam and Eve were the first humans and God put them in a great place called the Garden of Eden.17 This was a perfect place to live except, for some reason, God decided he would tempt these two crazy kids with the fruit of the tree of the ‘Knowledge of Good and Evil’. As long as they didn’t eat the fruit18 everything would be great, if they did, they would die.
Well, if you take this literally, either God is the dumbest parent ever or he set Adam and Eve up to fail right off the bat. Either way, he doesn’t come off as an all-knowing infinite, loving, benevolent Being. He comes off more as a kid who gets his jollies tearing the wings off of flies.
I mean, why would God put Adam and Eve in this great place with everything they’d ever need and then put in one tree that would kill them? And why, if he’s all-powerful, would he let Satan, in the form of a talking snake,19 into the garden to tempt them with this great tree that would make them like Gods and kill them at the same time?
And then, knowing they’d fail, why would he banish them, punish them and make their lives miserable forever? And not only them, but all of humanity forever? I mean, if the kids don’t pass the test I guess it’s okay to punish them but everybody, all their relatives, forever? Forever? I’m sorry but I didn’t even know these people and I’ve still got to pay because they couldn’t follow the rules?
Doesn’t that sound a little petty and vindictive? Would you do that to your kids?20 Do you know anybody who would? It’s like putting a bunch of heroin in front of your kids and telling them it’s the best thing ever but “don’t you dare touch it or you’ll go to jail”. And then just leave it there on the table while you go shopping at Walmart.
I know there are plenty of people who take this story literally, and that’s okay. But for those of us who don’t believe in talking snakes and can’t imagine God wandering around the garden, scratching his beard, wondering where those darn kids might have gotten off to, there is another way to look at it.
Remember, these stories started out as campfire stories meant to explain the unexplainable. They were developed over thousands of years and morphed along the lines of the cultures as they spread out across Africa and Asia. If you look at the Garden of Eden and the Adam and Eve story metaphorically, it makes a lot more sense.21
First of all, it’s notable that the tree with the forbidden fruit was the tree of the ‘Knowledge of Good and Evil’. “Knowledge” being the key word. Not the knowledge of what good is and evil is, but the knowledge that good and evil exist. It is really an acknowledgement of the duality of our human existence. It was never about man knowing the difference between true good and evil, but about him knowing there is a difference. And, by knowing that, he would literally be damned to a lifetime of trying to figure out which was which, thinking he was right and everybody else was wrong.22
It doesn’t take much looking around the world to see how much trouble this has caused us. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. Killing is never right unless you’re killing your enemy who hates your way of life and is hell bent on destroying it. Then it’s okay, because obviously, you’re right, and they’re wrong.
History is littered with the most heinous atrocities perpetrated by supposedly righteous people who thought they knew the difference between right and wrong. This ‘knowledge of good and evil’ is literally killing us.
The problem is, there is no altruistic ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ written in the sky. All of it is relative. I know I’ll get a lot of flak for this but if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll see I’m right. Ha! Did you catch the irony?
The creator(s) of the Adam and Eve story knew this was a part of the human condition and strove to make sense of it. Kind of like when you make up a story to explain to your kid why somebody does something awful. The easy way out is to blame somebody else, and the devil is the perfect scapegoat if there ever was one. Damn that snake!
BE FRUITFUL AND MULTIPLY
Another thing about the Adam and Eve story is the part where it says, “be fruitful and multiply”. There are those, a couple of religions in particular23, that take this so literally they believe God is actually talking directly to them, and not only them, but all people, at all times, forever. There are millions of people who won’t use any type of birth control, much less have an abortion, simply because of this one verse.
But if you take a look at who God’s talking to when he says this, it’s Adam and Eve, the only two people on the planet! Of course they should be fruitful and multiply, they need to get some people here. And this isn’t the only time God said this. He also said it to Noah after the flood when, you guessed it, Noah and his family were the only humans left.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out God wasn’t talking to everybody, forever. He was talking to these specific people and at a specific time when it was time to get busy and populate the planet..
Enough already people! It’s time to quit being so fruitful. The planet can’t support it.
THE ORIGINAL VEGANS
Another thing that you don’t hear much about but what I found very interesting is, at the end of creation, God gives every green plant and herb bearing seed as food for all the animals along with Adam and Eve. It’s very specific. So if we’re to take this literally, all living things were originally vegetarians. This should make you vegans happy. Unfortunately24 this changed after the flood.
CAIN AND ABEL
For those who may not know the story about Cain and Abel, the short version goes like this;
Cain was the first born of Adam and Eve followed in short order by his brother, Abel. Cain was a farmer and Abel was a shepherd. Somewhere along the line they brought offerings of their respective bounty before the Lord and God liked Abel’s sheep but Cain’s fruit, not so much.
Cain got jealous and killed Abel. God came looking for them and asked Cain where was his brother. Have you ever heard the phrase, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” This is where it comes from. Anyway, God, being God, already knew what was up and banished Cain to the land of Nod.
This is where, if taken literally, the story gets a little sticky. First of all, Cain freaks out and is afraid whoever finds him will kill him. The question begs to be asked, what people? Up until now there are only the four of them, Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel. Who are these other people?
To make it even more interesting Cain goes to Nod and his wife bears him a son. Wait a second! Where did she come from? Where did the people of Nod come from?
Some will argue that, of course, Adam and Eve had more sons and daughters. They lived hundreds of years so there was plenty of time to populate more than a few cities. Remember, be fruitful and multiply.
But the thing is, taken literally, the next child Adam and Eve had was Seth, who came after Cain killed Abel. The only talk of having ‘other sons and daughters’ comes after the birth of Seth.
If we’re going to take it literally, we don’t get to make up stories to fill in the holes, and this story is littered with holes.25
After the birth of Seth there’s a whole list of people having children who had children who had children, etc..And since these people were living upwards of 700 years, there was plenty of ‘being fruitful’ going on, and the earth was getting populated.
Not only that, but apparently the sons of God, whoever they were, were turned on by the human women and came in unto them, if you know what I mean, and these women had children known as ‘mighty men’.26 Apparently these mighty men were giants or supermen or something. So there you have it, aliens were having sex with human women and creating some sort of hybrid being.27 I’ll leave it to you to figure that one out, but there it is in black and white.28
A lot goes on in the interim but eventually we get to Noah.
Apparently things were getting out of hand. The humans just weren’t behaving themselves so God decided he’d hit the reset button; flood the earth, kill everybody and be done with it.
But for some reason God liked Noah. He liked him so much he decided to save him and his family and a bunch of animals. So he gave him plans for a boat and some instructions on how to build it.
Taken literally, this story says a six hundred year old man and his three sons built a boat almost two football fields long by themselves with stone age tools. And then, a pair of every animal on the planet flew, walked or crawled to the boat so they could get on.
Just the logistics of this defies any sort of logic. Imagine two penguins walking all the way from Antarctica29. And what about the food it would take? And who’s cleaning the stalls? Remember, it’s just Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives. They weren’t getting any help from the neighbors because the neighbors thought they were nuts. And there’s no mention of slaves or servants or anything so again, taken literally, it was just the eight of them.
One other thing that’s always bugged me is where God says to take one pair of all the ‘unclean’ animals and seven pairs of the ‘clean’ animals30. The thing is, up until now there was no mention of what animals were ‘clean’ and which were not. Moses was the one who set that up over a thousand years later. So, at this time, there was no such thing as a clean or unclean animal.
And then there’s the forty days and forty nights thing. There’s really no way to tell how long it rained because ‘forty’ in Aramaic really means ‘a long time’. It doesn’t literally mean an actual forty days and nights like you and I would think of it. The ‘forty’ thing will show up later when the Jews were wandering around the desert after escaping Egypt.
Nonetheless, they were in the boat for at least another 150 days. Once they got out, God put the fear of man in the animals, which was a good idea since he also gave all the animals to man for food. Remember, up until now everything on earth had been vegetarian. Why it had to change now is beyond me but, there it is.
This is also when rainbows came into being, supposedly as a sign that God wouldn’t kill everybody again. I guess he was sorry. Too bad for all the people and animals who got wiped out before he had a change of heart. This God seems very impulsive. He doesn’t really think it through.
Again, it smacks of mythology to me. Flood mythology is littered throughout history31. When taken allegorically, there are huge, eternal life lessons in the Flood story. Maybe that’s why so many cultures have similar stories in their archives. Taken literally, it’s a little hard for an intelligent person not to have doubts. But as an allegorical life lesson, it makes perfect sense.
One last thing before we leave Noah. It seems one night he got drunk and passed out naked in his tent.32 Well, his son, Ham, came in and saw him. Ham immediately went out and told his brothers who came in, backs turned, and covered Noah up with a blanket. I guess seeing your dad naked was a really bad thing because when Noah woke up he somehow knew Ham had seen him naked and immediately cursed Ham’s son, Canaan.
What? Why Canaan? He wasn’t even there. But from that moment on, any reference to Canaan, the sons of Canaan, the land of Canaan, anything to do with Canaan bears this curse. And for what? Noah getting blind drunk and passing out naked? What power did Noah have to do that anyway? He’s not God. But from then on, Canaan gets the short end of the stick.33
Seems to be a pattern here though. God cursed Adam and Eve and all humanity had to pay for it forever and now Noah curse’s Canaan and so his family bears the curse forever. How petty. Doesn’t make an ounce of sense but, as we’ll see later on, we’re just getting started on this curse (and blessing) thing.
THE TOWER OF BABEL
For those not familiar with the Tower of Babel it goes like this;
After the flood, and more being fruitful and multiplying, it didn’t take humans long to get full of themselves again. They decided to build a tower that would reach up to the heavens, the Tower of Babel. For some reason God didn’t like it. I guess he didn’t want a bunch of humans coming up to heaven and spying on him.
So to stop them, God confused their language. All of a sudden there were all these groups who could understand each other but not anybody else. So they got frustrated, quit on the tower and went off with the people they could understand.
This is another one of those stories that ignorant sheep herders might have fallen for but, come on, this just reeks of ancient mythology.
And confusing their language didn’t put much of a dent in people’s ability to communicate. Again, not the best move by an all-knowing, all-powerful God. Sounds a lot like a story you might make up to tell your kids why there are so many languages in the world.
So far, the God of Genesis is acting more like a jealous, domineering narcissist than an omniscient, loving patriarch. Very much like the mythological Gods of Egypt and Babylon, and later Greek and Roman mythology. More evidence of us making God in our image.
I’ve just scratched the surface on this whole Genesis narrative and if you’re interested I encourage you to read it for yourself, but for now, let’s move on to Abraham.
1Actually, if you read carefully, there are two versions laid out one after the other. More on that later.
3Bible Mystery and Bible Meaning; by Thomas Troward
Old Testament (Metaphysical) Interpretation; by Charles Fillmore
5For the 3rd version John 1:1-5
13Where would God go to the bathroom anyway?
14And they need a shave and a haircut.
15Although sometimes it feels like we’re doing our best to destroy each other and ourselves.
16Later on, that’s questionable
17In the second version
18Which, by the way, was very pleasing
19Why would he let Satan be Satan anytime, anywhere?
20Even Jesus says, “Which of you, your child having asked for bread, would give him a stone?”
21And who was there to document it anyway?
22 Hence, the ‘thou shalt die’ thing
23Catholics and Mormons to begin with
24For the animals
25But a lot of people believe it word for word.
27Conspiracy theorists will love this one
28Conspiracy theorists, unite!
29I guess they could swim
33It’s no coincidence that the Israelites, many years later, conquered the Land of Canaan