The Conceptual Frameworks the Biblical Creation Myths Set Forth
The very common misconception is that the two opening chapters of Genesis present an account of how God created the world, followed by the story of the expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Yet a closer look at the text itself reveals something else: these tales challenge the very basic notions of time and space, and perhaps conceal a bigger enigma than the question of the origins of our world. Examining the text in the original language – ancient Hebrew – shows that what lies at the core of these creation myths is both the idea of the centrality of the human, and the potential threats of attempting to overcome the unbridgeable gap between him, and the transcendent God. Special attention will be given in this paper to those verses that are often mistranslated, such as ‘In the beginning’ (Gen. 1:1), when in fact the first word Be’reshit means something very different; or the common mistake, ‘tree of knowledge good and evil’, when in fact it means ’good and bad’ (thus shifting the focus from morality that presupposes the existence of such concepts as good and evil, to ethics, which seeks to ask how should we live our lives – a question which precedes any notion of morals). Apart from a close reading of the text, this paper engages with theories from Biblical studies, and draws support from Leo Strauss’s reading of the creation myth, and Wendi Doniger’s notion of what myths tell us about the people who told them. This in turn will lead to a different reading of these two tales, one in which the role of cosmogony is inverted – it is there to draw attention to the real topic of these tales – the same topic that dominates literature and art in our times, and the rest of the Bible: the enigma that is the human being.