GENESIS ch. 01 – 03


NAB Genesis 1:1

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw how good the light was. God then separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” Thus evening came, and morning followed– the first day.

 6 Then God said, “Let there be a dome in the middle of the waters, to separate one body of water from the other.” And so it happened: 7 God made the dome, and it separated the water above the dome from the water below it. 8 God called the dome “the sky.” Evening came, and morning followed– the second day.

9 Then God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered into a single basin, so that the dry land may appear.” And so it happened: the water under the sky was gathered into its basin, and the dry land appeared. 10 God called the dry land “the earth,” and the basin of the water he called “the sea.” God saw how good it was. 11 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth vegetation: every kind of plant that bears seed and every kind of fruit tree on earth that bears fruit with its seed in it.” And so it happened: 12 the earth brought forth every kind of plant that bears seed and every kind of fruit tree on earth that bears fruit with its seed in it. God saw how good it was. 13 Evening came, and morning followed– the third day.

14 Then God said: “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky, to separate day from night. Let them mark the fixed times, the days and the years, 15 and serve as luminaries in the dome of the sky, to shed light upon the earth.” And so it happened: 16 God made the two great lights, the greater one to govern the day, and the lesser one to govern the night; and he made the stars. 17 God set them in the dome of the sky, to shed light upon the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. God saw how good it was. 19 Evening came, and morning followed– the fourth day.

20 Then God said, “Let the water teem with an abundance of living creatures, and on the earth let birds fly beneath the dome of the sky.” And so it happened: 21 God created the great sea monsters and all kinds of swimming creatures with which the water teems, and all kinds of winged birds. God saw how good it was, 22 and God blessed them, saying, “Be fertile, multiply, and fill the water of the seas; and let the birds multiply on the earth.” 23 Evening came, and morning followed– the fifth day.

24 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth all kinds of living creatures: cattle, creeping things, and wild animals of all kinds.” And so it happened: 25 God made all kinds of wild animals, all kinds of cattle, and all kinds of creeping things of the earth. God saw how good it was. 26 Then God said: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the cattle, and over all the wild animals and all the creatures that crawl on the ground.” 27 God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them, saying: “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.” 29 God also said: “See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; 30 and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground, I give all the green plants for food.” And so it happened. 31 God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good. Evening came, and morning followed– the sixth day.

2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth and all their array were completed. 2 Since on the seventh day God was finished with the work he had been doing, he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation. 4 Such is the story of the heavens and the earth at their creation.

At the time when the LORD God made the earth and the heavens– 5 while as yet there was no field shrub on earth and no grass of the field had sprouted, for the LORD God had sent no rain upon the earth and there was no man to till the soil, 6 but a stream was welling up out of the earth and was watering all the surface of the ground– 7 the LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.

8 Then the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and he placed there the man whom he had formed. 9 Out of the ground the LORD God made various trees grow that were delightful to look at and good for food, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and bad. 10 A river rises in Eden to water the garden; beyond there it divides and becomes four branches. 11 The name of the first is the Pishon; it is the one that winds through the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 The gold of that land is excellent; bdellium and lapis lazuli are also there. 13 The name of the second river is the Gihon; it is the one that winds all through the land of Cush. 14 The name of the third river is the Tigris; it is the one that flows east of Asshur. The fourth river is the Euphrates.

15 The LORD God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it. 16 The LORD God gave man this order: “You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden 17 except the tree of knowledge of good and bad. From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die.”

18 The LORD God said: “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.” 19 So the LORD God formed out of the ground various wild animals and various birds of the air, and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them; whatever the man called each of them would be its name. 20 The man gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals; but none proved to be the suitable partner for the man. 21 So the LORD God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 The LORD God then built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from the man. When he brought her to the man, 23 the man said: “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of ‘her man’ this one has been taken.” 24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body. 25 The man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame.


3:1 Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals that the LORD God had made. The serpent asked the woman, “Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?” 2 The woman answered the serpent: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3 it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.'” 4 But the serpent said to the woman: “You certainly will not die! 5 No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is bad.”

6 The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

 8 When they heard the sound of the LORD God moving about in the garden at the breezy time of the day, the man and his wife hid themselves from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 The LORD God then called to the man and asked him, “Where are you?” 10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself.” 11 Then he asked, “Who told you that you were naked? You have eaten, then, from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!” 12 The man replied, “The woman whom you put here with me– she gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate it.” 13 The LORD God then asked the woman, “Why did you do such a thing?” The woman answered, “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.”

14 Then the LORD God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, you shall be banned from all the animals and from all the wild creatures; On your belly shall you crawl, and dirt shall you eat all the days of your life. 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” 16 To the woman he said: “I will intensify the pangs of your childbearing; in pain shall you bring forth children. Yet your urge shall be for your husband, and he shall be your master.” 17 To the man he said: “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat, “Cursed be the ground because of you! In toil shall you eat its yield all the days of your life. 18 Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to you, as you eat of the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face shall you get bread to eat, Until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; For you are dirt, and to dirt you shall return.”

 20 The man called his wife Eve, because she became the mother of all the living. 21 For the man and his wife the LORD God made leather garments, with which he clothed them. 22 Then the LORD God said: “See! The man has become like one of us, knowing what is good and what is bad! Therefore, he must not be allowed to put out his hand to take fruit from the tree of life also, and thus eat of it and live forever.” 23 The LORD God therefore banished him from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he had been taken. 24 When he expelled the man, he settled him east of the garden of Eden; and he stationed the cherubim and the fiery revolving sword, to guard the way to the tree of life.



This talk is by Clifford Yeary.

Has a lot to say about importance of creation and of humankind.

The essential message; the goodness and power of God as creator

The people who wrote were not asking scientific questions and seeking scientific answers

Let the Book of Genesis be a book in / from its own time and place.

The Catholic Church clearly teaches: divine inspiration of Sacred Scripture fully employed the minds and hearts of the human authors, so that they would communicate all that God wished to reveal through their writings in the language and literary styles common to the time, place and culture in which the human authors wrote.

The creation of Israel in the Exodus narrative came first, the story of creation of the universe came later.  Babylonian exile exposed them to the Babylonian way of understanding.

Babylonian Creation Myth:

  • There is chaos on earth because there is chaos in the heavens.
  • Any appearance of order is temporary, almost deceptive.  Chaos underlies everything.
  • The gods are often at war with each other.,
  • Human beings are essentially slaves

Psalm 137:

By the rivers of Babylon there we sat weeping

when we remembered Zion.

On the poplars in its midst we hung up our harps.

For there our captors asked us for the words of a song;

Our tormentors, for joy: “Sing for us a song of Zion!”

But how could we sing a song of the LORD in a foreign land?


How do you keep alive what was once a national religion with a fixed center of worship when you are now slaves in a foreign land without a temple to worship in?  one element used – the God of Israel is the same God who created the heavens and the earth.  Genesis 1 story uses many themes from the Babylonian myth but reinterpreted / undercut.





  • Chaos is squelched.

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth— and the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters—

Then God said: Let there be light, and there was light.


  • God creates through the spoken word.  Not battles with other gods.
  • God repeatedly calls creation good.  Humans have an exalted position.

Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness.   Gen 1:26

“our / us”?   heavenly court, angels?

God created mankind in his image;

in the image of God he created them;

male and female he created them.


Image in statues of the ruler spread around conquered cities, while they identified themselves as Son of God (whichever one locally worshipped).

  • Humans are to enter into god’s own rest on the Sabbath.

The second creation account has some significant differences in the story line.

  • All the animals made first in Gen. 1:24, then God makes humans Gen 1:26.  In Gen 2:7 God molds a generic human from clay.  Later God makes the animals and birds Gen 2:19.  Then creation of the woman (and perhaps gender for both).   (Peter: this is true for all humans – we develop our gender after our conception.  Makes one wonder a bit then about the church’s opposition to transgender orientations and operations.)
  • Genesis 2 is probably the older account.  Gen 1 emerging after Babylonian captivity.


  1. God spoke creation into existence.  We are by definition created to be in relationship to God.
  2. Any chaos that remains in the world is incapable of resisting God’s purposes
  3. The Word of God brings order, dignity, and purpose to the world.
  4. The world is good.
  5. God made men and women in God’s own image
  6. We exist within the context of time but we have a dignity and purpose that transcends time itself.
  7. We are to take our rest in God.


Genesis 1 – 2:4a  The creation of the world / Priestly account (500’s)

Textual scholars and translators are about equally divided – should the text begin “In the beginning…” or “When God began creating…”  The Hebrew is very ambiguous.  The first translation we tend to hear with our ‘creation from nothing’ doctrine shaping our perceptions and understanding, the second translation lets the text speak of creation of order out of chaos.  The JPS opening verses translation is: “When God was about to create heaven and earth, the earth was a chaos, unformed, and on the chaotic waters’ face there was darkness.”

In Babylon (587 to 527 (more or less) the Israelites would have been exposed to their god Marduk and their creation story Enuma Elish. The first creation story of Genesis might well be seen and understood as a point by point rejection of Enuma Elish.

God is, above all, CREATOR.   Creation is ordered and balanced.   Human beings have the highest position in the created realm.  In most other religions of the time the gods were arbitrary, generally local or task specific (fertility, rain, war), and human beings subjected to the capricious whims of the gods.

“Heaven” and the “earth” = whole universe

Brueggemann p. 22: “The main theme of the text is this: God and God’s creation are bound together in a distinctive and delicate way.  This is the presupposition for everything that follows in the bible.  It is the deepest premise from which good news is possible.”

The number 7 reflects perfection in the Bible and elsewhere in the ancient world.

Fox p. 12: “As has often been pointed out, Gen. 1 is unmistakably reacting against prevailing Near Eastern cosmogonies of the time.  Most of the cultures surrounding ancient Israel had elaborate creation stories, highlighting the birth, sexuality, and violent uprisings of the gods.  As we indicated at the outset, the concept of God presented here militates against such ideas, arguing chiefly out of omission and silence.  (It should also be noted that in poetic books such as Isaiah, Job, and Psalms, a tradition about violent conflict at creation has been preserved.)  The Genesis narrative has taken such old mythological motifs as battles with the primeval (female) waters or with sea monsters and eliminated or neutralized them.  What remains is both utterly simple and radical in its time.”

Fox p. 13 – God brings order out of chaos, not creation ex nihilo.  That was a later idea (around the time of Jesus)

Cotter p. 15: “The author draws a picture of a world that features none of the distinctions that are important to us and necessary for being, just an empty pit of water and darkness and wind.  There was no life, no up, no down, neither space nor time, a desert in which there are no paths.  Lacking a vocabulary to express nothingness, he sets a scene where he gives us a picture that negates everything positive instead.”

Brueggemann p. 26: “Against both, our exposition must recognize that what we have in the text is proclamation.  The poem does not narrate “how it happened”, as though Israel were interested in the method of how the world become God’s world.  Such a way of treating the grand theme of creation is like reducing the marvel of any moving artistic experience to explorations in technique.  Israel is concerned with God’s lordly intent, not his technique.  Conversely, the text does not present us with what has always been and will always be: an unchanging structure of world.  Rather, the text proclaims a newness which places the world in a situation which did not previously exist….  For that reason, it is important to hear this text as a declaration of the gospel.  Our interpretation must reject the seductions of literalism and rationalism to hear the news announced to exiles.  The good news is that life in God’s well-ordered world can be joyous and grateful response.”

The Hebrew word “ruah” can mean wind or spirit or breath

The rhythm of this section is very powerful.  God said, saw that it was good, evening / morning, x day.

Cotter p. 11 sees this basic pattern:




a – sun, moon, stars

b – fish and birds

c – animals and human beings


They believed in sea monsters (there ARE some big things out there in the ocean!) – but the key is that they are created by God, they are not gods themselves as in the other cultures of the times.

How are human beings “imaging” God?  Not in physical likeness or sexuality but as having the ability to speak, the ability to be in relationship with God / others, freedom

The first commandment, given to ALL human beings: Be fertile and multiply.  In Judaism there is a profound respect and affirmation for human sexuality that is missing somewhat from Catholicism.

Cotter p. 19: “The seventh day: God is present in the world in time – God blesses a day.  God can be found in time.  The community of exiles who heard this text and who were without a place to worship God learned that no particular place was needed in order to find God.  They could find God wherever they were, in the holiness of Sabbath.”

Throughout this text a real tension is set forth and continues to this day – God is both near and far, God is both immanent and transcendent.

Westermann 1-11 p. 84:

  1. Introduction                And God said
  2. Command                   Let it be, let them be gathered
  3. Completion                 And it was so
  4. Judgement                   And God saw that it was good
  5. Time sequence            And it was evening

Westermann 1-11 p. 86   additionally

God divided                vs. 4   7   (9)

God named                 vs    5   8    10

`           God made                   vs.    7              16                     25

God put                                                    17

God created                                                    21                27

God blessed                                                          22               28

The point for the author – the giving and completing of God’s commands (Noah, Abraham, Moses, the prophets …)

Genesis  2:4b – 2:25  The creation of human beings v.2  (J tradition by use of the divine name)

Fox p. 16: This second story is more ancient and contains elements that are common in the ancient Mesopotamian world – a lush garden, four rivers, mysterious trees, our primeval parents, talking animals, God walking about with God’s creatures.

Cotter p. 29: “The difference between telling in Genesis 1 and showing in Genesis 2 is not merely a change in narrative technique.  The change is utilized to make an important theological point.  This seems to be a very different God from the one acting in Genesis 1:1-2:3.  There, God was transcendent and removed from physical contact with the creation, which was effected by word alone.  Here God, called YHWH God to indicate that a different aspect of characterization comes into play, acts as potter, shaping the clay into the desired result.  Thus the human bears the imprint of God and lives with the breath of God within.”


Consider this about HaAdam (the human) – some scholars suggest the human was neither male nor female until the woman was created.   After this we have Adam and Eve, he and she, man (ish) and woman (ishsha).

many scholars do not use ‘helper’ but ‘partner’.  In the text they are equal and complementary, made in the image of God.

Genesis Rabba 17:2: “Whoever has no wife exists without goodness, without a helpmate, without joy, without blessing, without atonement … without well-being, without a full life; … indeed, such a one reduces the representation of the divine image on earth.”

we begin (as humans) as one flesh, in marriage we become again one flesh.  The Hebrew word for “cling” is the same one as for “glue”.

Chapter 1 is from the P source, Chapters 2 and 3 from the J source.

Tree of Life & Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Sarna p. 17: “Here in Genesis the image simultaneously expresses both the glory and the insignificance of man.  Man occupies a special place in the hierarchy of Creation and enjoys a unique relationship with god by virtue of his being the work of God’s own hands and being directly animated by God’s own breath.  At the same time, he is but dust taken from the earth, mere clay in the hands of the divine Potter, who exercises absolute mastery over His Creation.”

Origins of sexuality, pain, hostility to snakes, death.

Fox page 18: the specifics of this story NEVER again appear in the Hebrew bible.  They are not used by Jews to create doctrines (foreign to Judaism anyway).  These stories do not have the same emphasis in Judaism that they have come to have in Catholic Christianity.

My take – dawning of independent consciousness in children.  Parents who seemed to be all-powerful now seen to not be.  Dawning of sexual feeling and shame.  He did it / no, she did.  God / the parent lets them offer excuses until they dig themselves in deeper and deeper.  Loss of the security and pleasures of being an infant, thrust out into a much broader and harder world.  The tension between wanting to grow up (make choices…) and longing to stay a child forever and be taken care of.  Final recognition that we do not journey alone toward death but go with one another.

For reflection on the above see:  Rizzuto, M.D., Ana-Maria.  The Birth of the Living God: A Psychoanalytic Study.  (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1979)


Brueggemann p. 43: “The text is not interested in theoretical or abstract questions of sin/death/evil/fall.  The usual abstract questions are likely to be false, escapist questions.”

there is work in the garden to be done – tilling the soil and perhaps keeping the animals (caring for them).

note that there is plenty of food to eat – the man and woman will not be able to say that they ate from the one tree because they were hungry and that was all that there was to eat.


Brueggemann p. 46: “Human beings before God are characterized by vocation, permission, and prohibition…. Any two of them without the third is surely to pervert life.”

Towner p.33 notes a consistent theme – the light, the sea etc. are all given limits – so is mankind.  p. 34: “That truth is that human beings live within a network of orders and limitations and these must be honored if we are to live in harmony and equilibrium with the world around us.”

Brueggemann p. 47: “The serpent has been excessively interpreted.  Whatever the serpent may have meant in earlier versions of the story, in the present narrative it has no independent significance.  It is a technique to move the plot of the story.  It is not a phallic symbol or Satan or a principle of evil or death.  It is a player in the dramatic presentation.”

Sarna p. 24 agrees: de-mythologizing going on, “It possesses no occult powers.  It is not demonic, only extraordinarily shrewd.  Its role is to lay before the woman the enticing nature of evil and to fan her desire for it.  The serpent is not the personification of evil; in fact, its identification with Satan is not encountered before the first century B.C.E., when it appears for the first time in the apocryphal Wisdom of Solomon 2:24.”  (our biblical book of Wisdom)

Why the command to not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of good and evil?  Why would God not want us to know that?  Sarna dismisses the idea that it refers to sexual knowledge.  P. 19: “In the present passage, then, it is best to understand “knowledge of good and bad” as the capacity to make independent judgments concerning human welfare.”  The subtle seduction begins – we cannot be “truly free” while living within the commandments.

Towner p. 45: why the limit? “The answer must be, of course, that though wisdom is good, obedience to the word of God is better.”

Throughout chapters 1, 2, 3 humanity is understood to be vegetarian.  A restriction on what we should eat that is later reinforced as an idea by the dietary laws of the covenant on Sinai and eventually kosher.

consciousness of being naked and being reluctant to be in the presence of God?  Sarna p. 26: “The statement itself voices the Israelite ethos that it is improper for man to appear naked before god.  This finds practical expression in the laws of Exodus 20:26 and 28:42-43 that regulate the proper dress code for the act of worship.  There is probably an underlying protest here against pagan fertility cults and a reaction against a Near Eastern practice of priests, such as in Sumer, where the cultic ritual was performed in the nude.”

Exodus 20:26: “You shall not ascend to my altar by steps, lest your nakedness be exposed.”

Exodus 28:40-43: “Likewise, for the glorious adornment of Aaron’s sons you shall have tunics and sashes and skullcaps made, for glorious splendor. With these you shall clothe your brother Aaron and his sons. Anoint and install them, consecrating them as my priests. You must also make linen pants for them, to cover their naked flesh from their loins to their thighs. Aaron and his sons shall wear them whenever they go into the tent of meeting or approach the altar to minister in the sanctuary, lest they incur guilt and die. This shall be a perpetual ordinance for him and for his descendants.”

there are some Hebrew word plays going on under the surface.  Eve (Greek Zoe = life), in Hebrew similar to the word for life (hawwa / hayya) as well – but with the same root (different vocalization) as the word snake!  Adam = humankind, adamah = earth, dust

note that the man and woman are not cursed – the ground is.

Towner p. 53: “There is no Fall in this chapter, if by Fall one means the doctrine of the shattering of the divine image in humankind, the loss of immortality at an early moment in human history, and the inexorable transmission of original sin through human genes ever after.  What Genesis 3 gives us is a paradigm, a story about every human being rebelling against the commandments of God and thus discovering alienation and despair.  It is a powerful, primitive rendition of a reality all of us know full well – the truth that life is a pilgrimage from innocence to maturity through a land fraught with the dangers of loving and hating, growing powerful and cowering in humiliation, living and finally dying.”

Paul first developed the Fall idea and connected it to Adam IN ORDER to do his Christology of Jesus as the new Adam, restoring right relationship to God in his person and sacrifice rather than the people and obedience to the Law.  Augustine took this much further and created much of what we were taught when we were younger about Original Sin, transmission to all etc. etc.



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