Barry Newman's Blog

March 8, 2011

Science and Genesis 2: 4 – 3: 24 (part IX)

Filed under: Genesis,Science — barrynewman @ 9:35 pm

Genesis 2: 5-7 – Setting the Scene (cont)

What did the writer really believe?

What did the writer actually believe about the formation of man?  Did he believe that it was just as it literally says?  In the light of some similarity between 2: 7 and beliefs of nearby cultures, the correct though imprecise answer may well be, “Probably so, at least to some extent.”  The writer is talking about first man and such a unique situation may require a unique description – despite the general reference in, e.g. Gen 7: 22 to all who have the breath of life in their nostrils.  Probably one is also meant to recognise that life, not only for first man, but also for all living creatures, is God’s gift.  Life is God’s gift whenever it comes about.  Although the words for “breath of God” can be translated “spirit of God”,  and indeed sometimes are (see Job 33: 4, 34: 14), their association here with “nostrils” suggests that “breath of God” is a preferable translation.  However, how did the writer conceptualise this “breath” and Yahweh Elohim breathing into the man’s nostrils?  Perhaps we are asking an inappropriate question.  It could be that we are not meant to try and visualise the activity.  Perhaps we are simply meant to see its considerable significance.

How did the writer know?

We now ask the question first raised in the first blog series relating to early Genesis.  How come the writer or editor knew about these things?  The answer given here is similar to the one given there.  I don’t know.  I don’t know how Yahweh Elohim gave him a correct understanding of  his (God’s) nature and the relationship between himself and mankind and his provision for mankind.  However working with the truth about these essential matters the writer may well have made it up using some concepts from surrounding cultures but making sure that his readers/listeners would not be lead astray by the false theological beliefs emanating from those cultures.  Thanks be to God!

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