Describe one of the incongruities found in Genesis that lead us to believe that it could not be the work
of a single author (Moses)
Lecture Notes THREE
Take a look at Genesis 1: 1—2:4a (in other words, start at In the beginning when God created… and finish the first sentence of chapter 2: 4 These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created. In your mind put a big THE END after that. If you read the very next sentence of verse 4 in chapter 2 In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth this is the beginning of a SECOND and different creation myth written by a different group of people. Even if you compare these two creation accounts you will see very different events; in the first, God creates in a series of days from a sort of hands off approach, and the second God is like the master artist who has a garden and gets down into the mud to create. In the second he does not speak to create, he does in the first one, but actually ‘works’ to create. In the first account men and women are created simultaneously. In the second account man is created first, then woman and they are both given names (Adam Eve… both symbolic names by the way; Adam = the first man, Eve = mother of all). The first myth focuses on how God creates something out of nothing and that everything has a place and is ordered (as opposed to the pagan myths of the time which emphasized how the gods were about chaos, disorder and were mischievous), whereas the second one emphasizes how humans are made to be in relationship with each other and how their actions break those relationships (the eating of the fruit, the murder of Abel).
As I mentioned before, even though the Hebrew Scriptures are foundational for all three monotheistic faiths, often each one interprets the same text differently. For instance, most Christians have come to think of the talking snake in the Garden of Eden as Satan. This is an assumption that must be resisted. Keep in mind that when the Jewish author wrote the Adam Eve story, the character of Satan had not yet been developed. Even the author understands the talking snake to be simply a snake; Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. (Gen 3:1). He is simply a crafty snake. Nothing more, nothing less. While there is nothing wrong with imagining the talking snake as a bad character, a villain that plays a type of Satan role, we do damage to the integrity of the story if we insist that the people who crafted the story had Satan in mind when they wrote the part of the talking snake. They did not.
In a similar way, our brains are so influenced by pop culture that it colors much of what we read. For example, we have seen so many Ten Commandment films and spoofs, that when we come to Exodus, it is difficult for us to remove those Hollywood biases and to take the story as it is written out. The movies never depict Moses as having a horrible speech impediment (as the Bible states), so much so that he needs his brother Aaron to be his spokesperson. Too, in the film versions of the story, it is usually the case during the scene of the battle between Pharaoh’s magicians and Moses (through Aaron), that the filmmakers will depict the magicians putting on tricks (plays of light, strings and wires) to perform their wonders while Moses’ power is real. Yet a careful reading of the text assumes that the gods of Egypt were real. At the time that the story of Moses was being crafted, strict Jewish monotheism had not yet been cemented. What you had going on was henotheism. Henotheism is the belief that while many gods exist, your loyalty, devotion and worship should be with the greatest of these gods. Clearly the Hebrews saw their god, Yahweh, as the greatest of all the gods, but not the only god in existence. The battle between Pharaoh’s priests/magicians and Moses/Aaron is a clear indication of the author saying My god is better and stronger than your god!!!
So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did as the Lord had commanded; Aaron threw down his staff before Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. 11Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers; and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same by their secret arts. 12Each one threw down his staff, and they became snakes; but Aaron’s staff swallowed up theirs. 13Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said. – Exodus 7:10-13