HOW IT ALL BEGAN?
The creation story in the Bible begins in the first book, Genesis, in chapter 1, the
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
The next 25 verses describe how God created light, separate from darkness; a
firmament to be called heaven to divide the waters; dry land, called earth; grass;
herb yielding seed; fruit trees; seasons; days and years; a great light to rule by
day; a lesser to rule night; stars; moving creatures that have life from the waters;
fowl to fly; whales; cattle; and creeping things.
Then comes verse 26:
And God said "Let us make man in our image and let them have dominion ... over
all the earth...."
And verse 27
So God created man in his own image ... male and female created he them.
You'll have noticed that in verse 26 God said "Let us" in the plural. Who are these
other creating beings besides God?
What I've done here is give you the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible,
because it's generally easily accessible and well known. It's a translation, of
course, because the original text was not in English. KJV was published in 1611,
the result of the work of about 30 professors from Oxford and Cambridge
universities and a number of senior clerics, bishops, and so forth. It's quite poetic,
and said to be generally fairly reliable.
To produce this translation these scholars and clerics had available various near
eastern texts, The main one, in Hebrew, was the Masoretic text (masoreth in
Hebrew means tradition). This text was apparently put together by Jewish
scholars between the 500s and 800s AD, so it's not particularly old. The
discovery in the early 20th century AD of the Dead Sea Scrolls dating from about
the 1st century AD shows they are both generally in agreement where they have
the same material.
Another main source was the Septuagint, a version so called because about 70
scholars wrote it in Greek to make the text accessible to Greek-speaking Jews in
Alexandria, in Egypt. This is said to have been somewhere about 300 BC.
Then there's the Peshitta version. It is in the Aramaic (Syrian) language. It was
originated by Ptolemy, king of Egypt (285-247 BC) and a favourite dating of
today's scholars is about 282 BC. There's a copy of the Peshitta in the British
Museum said to date from 464 AD.
The usual way to say the text is accurate is if these three main sources agree in
their wording, although no one would know whether all three were actually wrong
if some earlier text from which they might have come was itself inaccurately
copied. There must have been many misreadings and innocent errors in copying
over the hundreds of copies made by hand and passed down through the
centuries. Further, there's no guarantee that the best copyings are the ones that
survived the accidents of war, time and fate.
I think we have an even more serious problem to contend with, and that is
intentional misrepresentation. I am not a scholar of Hebrew, but I know that the
word for God in Hebrew, in the singular person is said to be 'Eloah.' I also know
that throughout Genesis chapter 1 the word for God in Hebrew is 'Elohim,' the
plural word, meaning 'the Gods,' or 'Gods.' That explains why the translation of
verse 26 says 'And God said "Let us make man in our image." ' It should, then,
read 'And the Gods said "Let us make man in our image." (I discussed the
question of the 'Royal we' used by scholars in their Biblical translations in my The
Immortals, chapter 9, on my web site). I have looked at a variety of translations of
Genesis into English, and every one of them follows the same scholarly
convention - God in the singular instead of the plural Gods. The reason is that
their spiritual belief - that there is one God - has overridden their scholarly
integrity in translation. (There's a further significant example in my The Immortals,
chapter 11, which shows how biblical translators have intentionally and
systematically suppressed strong evidence that the Israelite God Yhwh had a
female Immortal consort).
This means that we have a difficult task ahead of us to determine whether the
original language is correct, which in itself is of late origin, and then to verify
whether the translators are truthfully translating the words in front of them, or are
substituting words based not on their training and knowledge of the near eastern
languages - Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic - but following their religious beliefs.
Despite all these problems, the main purpose of Genesis chapter 1 seems to be
to tell us how the Gods created everything we can see and have knowledge of
in the universe, and that humans were a late part of that creation, on earth, made
to resemble the creating Gods, and intended to 'have dominion' over other life on