Genesis In Light Of Ancient Egyptian Creation Myths

Sunrise_at_Creation

Bible.org has published a cogent paper concerning Genesis 1-2 in its original context. The overarching idea is that if the Torah was written by Moses, who was educated in the courts of Egypt, the use of Egyptian ideas in the Genesis creation account should be expected. Understood in its historical context, Genesis 1 is not a scientific explanation for how God created but rather a theological corrective of the Egyptian account that the Israelites fleeing Egyptian bondage had been indoctrinated with. God used the prescientific Egyptian understanding the Israelites already had as a framework to correct the polytheistic theology. Thus, because the meaning of the text is what the original author intended for his original readers, it is an egregious error to impose modern scientific reasoning, that was utterly alien to the ancient context, onto Moses and his inspired writing.  This renders the arguments about the age of the earth and whatnot unnecessary and misguided.

 

Genesis 1-2 In Light Of Ancient Egyptian Creation Myths

The author/redactor(s) of the Genesis creation accounts share certain concepts of the makeup of the world with other ancient Near Eastern cultures. However, it is especially with Egypt’s worldview that the author/redactor(s) are familiar. Evidence for this lies in the many allusions to Egyptian creation motifs throughout the Genesis creation accounts. But, rather than being a case of direct borrowing, they demythologize the Egyptian concepts and form a polemic against the Egyptian gods. Thus, they elevate Yahweh-Elohim as the one true God, who is transcendent and who is all powerful. He speaks his desire and it comes to pass. He does not require the assistance of other gods to perform the acts of creation. He alone possesses the power and means necessary to effect the creation of the world.

https://bible.org/article/genesis-1-2-light-ancient-egyptian-creation-myths#P107_27442

About Cris Putnam
Logos Apologia is the ministry of Cris D. Putnam. The mission of Logos Apologia is to show that logic, science, history and faith are complementary, not contradictory and to bring that life-changing truth to everybody who wants to know.

Comments

  1. Ken Tristal says:

    I was speaking with a pharmacist about telomeres. I told her I would try to obtain some kind of “proof” that there is a possibility of a staged avian flu or something of the sort in order to stop elections and push “inoculations” containing a substance which may alter mitochondrial dna. I may have heard you speaking with Gary Stearman about this at one time. Well the point is that if possible, she said she would very much like to see some type of “scientific” paper as she claims her education would give her a better understanding than my blabbering at trying to explain they only can replicate 50 or 52 times shrinking each time needed as we age. Thus Mr. Putman, if you have or know where I can acquire said papers I would greatly appreciate it. By the way, I tried to purchase your book and the dvd but could not…even on Amazon. Please advise. Thank you Mr. Putnam. My younger son lives in Raleigh…if you would recommend a church it would Bless him. Ken Tristal 6110 Brookfield Pointe Dr Charlotte,NC 28216…..my cell is 417-231-1152

  2. Paul says:

    Cris said:

    Genesis 1 is not a scientific explanation for how God created but rather a theological corrective of the Egyptian account

    So did God put plants on earth before He made the stars? The account is pretty clear that He did — yet modern science roundly rejects this. Most scientists would laugh such a notion to scorn. Do you view this as a factual error?

    From the article:

    The wayyiqtol narrative structure of the Genesis creation accounts shows that the author/redactor(s) intended their audience to understand the accounts as taking place in history. Whether or not one chooses to accept the historicity of the creation accounts makes no difference with this issue. The original audience understood the Genesis creation accounts as describing a historical event based on the wayyiqtol narrative structure.

    It occurs to me that — since God is in the business of testing humans (as He says, frequently) — He did things ‘backwards’ to try humans and to test their faith in His Word: the Creation account reads as pure folly to a modern, educated mind — since in our enlightened age, “everyone knows” that things were created the way “science says”, rather than the way God says. It’s part of God’s filtering operation on humanity, to see whether we choose to believe the popular theories of men (who weren’t there when God laid the foundations of the earth, as He points out when He’s giving Job a dressing-down), or whether we trust the account He has given us. Those who believed God have always looked like idiots in the eyes of the world. …And that’s part of His test for us, too.

    • Cris Putnam says:

      God used the Egyptian framework to correct their theology it’s not a scientific description, you are decontextualizing and interpreting it through your modern worldview. It was not written to YOU. Here is an excerpt from a great book on the subject:

      If you claim that Genesis 1 uses erroneous ancient views to challenge Israel’s belief in God, don’t you undermine the doctrine of inspiration and inerrancy? This question about inspiration and inerrancy incorrectly assumes that using the inaccurate views of people (either in passing or in polemic) is the same as affirming those views. If we believed that the intent of the author was to affirm that view, then we would have a problem with inerrancy. Millard Erickson defines inerrancy: “The Bible, when correctly interpreted in light of the level to which culture and the means of communication had developed at the time it was written, and in view of the purposes for which it was given, is fully truthful in all that it affirms.”7 He then lists several principles and illustrations to “help us to define inerrancy more specifically and to remove some of the difficulties.”8

      We have already illustrated that using an observation of how the world functions, even if the reader or hearer believes it to be true (such as talking about the sun rising), does not constitute error. The writer uses his audience’s understanding (or way of talking about it) in order to make an argument or to teach a significant point.9 The observations of the Egyptians had led to a certain understanding of the universe, which Genesis does not challenge. How would the Israelites have understood the science or the theology of Genesis 1 if God had spoken in terms of a relative (Einsteinian) view of the universe? And what if the Einsteinian view of the universe is not accepted a hundred years from now? Will this affect the meaning of Genesis 1? God is not affirming the Egyptian view of the universe and creation, but rather he is using it for polemical purposes and as a teaching tool to affirm his place as creator. He does not intend to affirm the events or order of creation. He is affirming his claim to be the Creator.

      Perhaps this situation is somewhat similar to Jesus’ statement that the smallest seed is the mustard seed (Mark 4:31). The mustard seed is not, however, the absolutely smallest seed known to us. But in his cultural context, Jesus did not correct the common conviction of the people; instead he used it to teach a point about the kingdom of God—it starts small and will grow large! We don’t accuse him of error because the mustard seed is not the smallest seed known to man, but we acknowledge the cultural context and perspective of his hearers, as well as the proverbial status of the mustard seed.

      In addition to the ancient Near Eastern cosmology present in Genesis 1, a second issue is the seven-day week. We will discuss this further below, but at this point let us say that this issue also comes down to the intended meaning of the author. People in the ancient world often did not expect history writing to have precise chronology. Additionally, the use of a seven-day pattern occurs consistently in symbolic ways throughout the ancient Near East. By drawing from Israel’s context, God claims that all of creation is under his absolute control and is moving toward his ultimate goal. His claim is similar to—but far beyond—the claims made throughout Egypt’s history by each succeeding claimant to the status of creator. While several Egyptian gods are put in the role of creator throughout Egyptian history, none claims exclusive and absolute authority over all aspects of creation. Israel’s God makes a very powerful statement to his Egyptianized people about his exclusive role in the theological universe.

      The issue in Genesis 1 is not inerrancy but understanding the intent of the author and what he affirms. If the original author intended the account to be understood figuratively or symbolically, then we would be in error to ascribe a literal meaning to it. If the original author used his audience’s incorrect descriptions in order to make theological points, we would be wrong to expect his writing to correct their vocabulary or perceptions. Inspiration and inerrancy are concerned with intent and affirmation.

      Miller, Johnny V.; John M. Soden (2012-09-01). In the Beginning… We Misunderstood: Interpreting Genesis 1 in Its Original Context (Kindle Locations 2332-2365). Kregel Publications. Kindle Edition.

      • Paul says:

        Thanks for the reply, Cris, and for the quote.

        God used the Egyptian framework to correct their theology it’s not a scientific description, you are decontextualizing and interpreting it through your modern worldview.

        When you say I’m decontextualising the account and interpreting it scientifically, I’m merely reading it as a fairly straightforward chronology of events. Irrespective of whether or not one’s worldview is modern or scientific or not, the plain reading of the text is simply the description of a set of actions. I’m not looking at it through some anachronistic lens: I’m just reading and believing what it says.

        It was not written to YOU.

        Hmmm. Are you so sure it’s not addressed to a wider audience than Exodus-era Israel? Whilst I tend to think that although certain passages of Scripture may not be of great use to us today (e.g. the genealogies) and are therefore not really aimed at us, the account God gives us of our beginnings is useful not only to those coming out of Egypt — since the account is referenced throughout Scripture right up to New Testament times.

        And the excerpt above (along with the Bible.org article you linked) takes a line similar to that of Michael Heiser. Of course, I’m not a lettered Hebrew scholar (merely a Bible reader), but I don’t know that the experts are always right. God does tend to like to burst man’s bubble…

        • brian says:

          Paul,

          What Chris meant by “It was not written to *you*”–I believe–is that the biblical text was specifically written *to* the original audience and its original historical, cultural setting. But, of course, the Bible (overall) can be taken as having been written theologically *for* us (but it was not written *to* us). Im actually borrowing John H. Walton’s wording here from one of his Genesis monographs (or commentary?).

  3. brian says:

    Paul,

    What Chris meant by “It was not written to *you*”–I believe–is that the biblical text was specifically written *to* the original audience and its original historical, cultural setting. But, of course, the Bible (overall) can be taken as having been written theologically *for* us (but it was not written *to* us). Im actually borrowing John H. Walton’s wording here from one of his Genesis monographs (or commentary?).

  4. Ryan says:

    But what if Walton, Miller, & Soden are the ones who have misundersrood? What if there was a way in which Paul’s above (and very valid) questions about the straightforward factualness of the words and the specific sequence of events they were Divinely Chosen to represent (as part of the rhetoric), were harmonious with a non-scientific-minded compositional rhetoric & intent YET remaining scientifically (factually) correct?

    Alas, such a notion is possible, but in all of Walton’s scholarship, I’ve never once seen him interact with the older scholarship that presents this option…… not even when R.K. Harrison was his contemporary! So, follow Walton and his two disciples, hook-line-sinker, if you will, but once again, Putnam the theologian is trying to lean on modern CONSENSUS when it comes to Biblical textual scholarship, as I pointed out in the thread of him attacking Chris Pinto. (Ironically, I’ve been getting emails from Tom Horn whining about demonic attacks at Amazon on Putnam’s newest book; sorry bud, but I may feel more sympathy if Putnam’d swallow his own admonishments more frequently, and answer to the gaping holes in his own leveling against his own brother… for they are still unanswered).

    • Brian says:

      Hi Ryan,

      It depends to which specifics you are referring to when you pose your question: “But what if Walton, Miller, & Soden are the ones who have misunderstood?” Are you referring to Genesis 1-2 being “scientifically” correct? Are you referring to Walton’s interpretation of some specifics like Gen 1-2:4 being reflective of Temple Inauguration? If your contention is that Walton et al. are wrong about Gen 1-2:4 *not* being scientifically correct or accurate, then this is the rubber you have not yet learned to perceive. It’s something we learn through rigorous scholarship.

      I used to reason like yourself prior and during my Biblical Studies with scholars. But, eventually, during the process I came across so much evidence to the contrary that the viewpoint that Gen 1-2:4 is scientifically correct or accurate is flawed to the core.

      The entire biblical corpus, including the second temple literature (Apo / Pseud.) is reflective of ancient Near-Eastern and Greco-Roman Worldviews in terms of sacrifice, physiology, cosmology, medicine, astrology, verbal and written languages–literally everything in the Bible is reflective of pre-scientific knowledge and understanding in light of God’s revelations about creation (as a purpose not a mechanism), about sin, about the nations, about Israel, about a redeemer, and about the Church.

      Why and how can Gen 1-2:4 be scientifically accurate or correct when everything else in the OT and NT corpus (including the intertestamental literature) is not scientifically accurate or correct?

      This is why we have a process called Peer-Review and scholarly conferences, for ones views to be criticized and challenged to see if your interpretations survive these processes.

      • Ryan says:

        Brian,

        First you tell me that it depends to which specifics I am referring, then proceed to inform me that I am reasoning like you once used to. So then Brian, what IS my rubber, my position, since I appararently am reasoning like you once used to?

        Is there anything in this blog other than the contagion of assumptions?!

        As Paul above asked, “Are you so sure it’s not addressed to a wider audience than Exodus-era Israel?” For all you know, I’m thinking of a different time span entirely, for the composition of Genesis; or perhaps even a hypothesis rooted more in linguistic evidence (that had once found the premierest of peer-reviews) than Walton’s recycled & refurbished pre-Walton hypothesis.

        Fallacy: that Walton’s hypothesis is a given fact (as Putnam clearly believes it is). If not, then all the assumptive cards in this thread favoring this view to the point of ‘proving conclusively wrong’ ANY position outside of its controls (e.g. OEC, YEC) falls down. Not that one can’t believe Walton, like a Baptist believes over against a Presbyterian, but Putnam & Co. here are speaking as though Walton’s exegetical hypothesis is infallibly a given, and thereby any science theories must filter through it. I’m just here to say that, well, like I said – just as with his assumptions about Chris Pinto’s conspiracy, Mr. Putnam has failed to do his research about the ‘Genesis Framework’ before taking sides & preaching dogma against a possible scientifically accurate, non-scientifically-minded original intent behind the Genesis narratives.

        The perception failure is your own, since I am not arguing an Answers in Genesis argument here. Rather, it stems from a scholarly hypothesis of which you, the one privy to scholarly dialogue, should be familiar. And I, well, I am hereby quarantined by your allotment of me to the way you used to (erroniously) think…. even though you haven’t yet taken the time to discover MY position. How scholarly.

  5. Brian says:

    …And Ryan never responded…or will he now?

  6. Ryan says:

    ….Respond to what, your presumptuousness? I did. To your talking down to me? I did. Expressing wonderment at how you could wholesale dismiss my position when you don’t even know what it is yet? I did. Pointing out that Walton’s hypothesis is the thing here being taken as the only apparent truth; presumably peer-reviewed until it has become fact-written-in-stone over against any science & any literal reading of the Biblical rhetoric itself? I did. And the most important thing I responded to was THAT assumption; a fallacious one. Which means that YOUR revealed position is the one (I feel) is now susceptible to a more thorough peer-review process (obviously excluding me, as your talking-down mannerism suggests).
    ….So dear Brian, what motive have you left me to respond to any more questions of yours that are outside of the above parameters? I would like to see the playing field leveled first, the contagion of assumptions stemmed, and perhaps maybe even some attitude adjusted. Until then, what ground can be gained, when you obviously have everything already figured out, including not only how to properly interpret a Bible which may be *older* than you think, but also how * I think*, right off the bat, without discovering my position first!

  7. Brian says:

    Ryan,
    I have neither been frustrated nor inflammatory like you have been so far. Please, re-read my posts and yours. I am not irritated like you *seem* to be in the way you have you used certain words, phrases, and caps to emphasize your contentions so far. So, please, do not read emotions into what I have typed nor into what I am typing now as you have seemed to infer by far.
    Now, your responses (not your initial post) have been quite unnecessarily inflamed. Instead of answering the specific arguments I made, you have resorted to ad-hominem since the first time you responded to me. You are making the same mistakes you are charging me of making. You resorted to emotional responses without providing any kind of substantial argument in favor for your viewpoint (which you have not slightly expounded on) or any kind of such rejoinders in contra my viewpoint, *which is standard* in critical scholarship. This doesn’t mean that you are wrong, but it does mean that you will have to demonstrate that you are right, and I gave you the benefit of the doubt rather than talking down to you as you have falsely charged against my person. If you are correct, we want more than wild, sweeping claims.
    I responded with smiles and kindness, giving you a chance to explain your viewpoint in detail because, apparently, I jumped the gun on you (which I did not, since you have done the same in your initial post by claiming that Walton et. al. may be wrong without giving examples as to why). You end-up being accusatory rather than friendly, which is a fallacy in-and-out-of-itself at this point. This is not welcomed.
    These blogs are not meant to argue extensive viewpoints, which is why I asked you to email me to kindly follow-up via email and that it would be beneficiary for the both of us.
    First, if you really are correct about your viewpoint, then you have not answered my main, initial contention to you, i.e., that the *entire*, I do no really mean the *entire*, corpus of the OT, Apo/Pseud, NT, and Apo. Fathers reflect ancient Near-Eastern and Greco-Roman viewpoints in all matters of cosmology, medicine, culture, geography, historiography, physiology, etc. Therefore, you should rethink if Gen 1-2:4 could be scientific while the rest of the same corpus is clearly not scientific.
    I have not talked down to you by any means. And, you resort to claiming that this is only Walton’s viewpoints along with this new book. Sorry, but this could not be further from the truth.
    So, next time, to be a good person and/or a good believer (whoever you are and whatever you believe), please stick to answering the arguments without accusing other people’s persons, words, characters, etc. You will save yourself and your opposition a lot of grief and you will be blameless in front of men and in front of God, if such a supreme being exists (as I believe) as it is seen in these sacred texts themselves and in near-death and out-of-body experiences.

    Be well.

  8. Ryan says:

    Brian,

    What you interpret as ad hominem since my first response to you, is my self-defense from your assumption that I am thinking like you once [erroniously] did – as stated in your very first post to me – before even knowing my position. You just proved this point yourself:
    “your viewpoint (which you have not slightly expounded on)”

    Do you see the problem yet? Btw, I did in fact drop three ‘slight’ hints at my position:
    “For all you know, I’m thinking of a different time span entirely”
    “or perhaps even a hypothesis rooted more in linguistic evidence (that had once found the premierest of peer-reviews)”
    “a Bible which may be *older* than you think”

    As for ‘talking down’, thanks for your having felt the need to school me on how scholarship works, what peer reviewing is, and how the entire corpus of the Bible was written in the style of its own sitz im leben, as if I didn’t already know, as though you knew (in your very first response to me) that I needed schooling to par with you; you *assume* – (there, I avoided cap’s to avoid offending you again, since my preferred italics is not an interfaced option) – yes, assume that this guy which you know nothing about, whose position you do not yet understand, must need some schooling. That * is* talking down. When I level with Putnam, I know that he’s capable of more than he exerted when it came to his attack on Pinto. That’s what I find to be disturbing; needless slander of a fellow brother. And then I saw this thread, with once again an effort made by him that is less than I’ve seen him accomplish in other theological areas, *when he did his homework*. And that was the whole point, the challenge, of my post. Are you his guard dog? Strange he’s not written in this his own blog, yet.

    Now, it would appear, I am a bad person:
    “So, next time, to be a good person…”

    And you accuse *me* of being inflammatory!!?

    Now, I would really like for you to quote yourself (like this) –
    “which is why I asked you to email me to kindly follow-up via email”
    – where it is exactly that you wrote this to me, because I *have* read your posts above, and do not see this request written anywhere.

    In short, I find no compelling reason to spill my beans till someone shows an interest in actually learning something that they don’t already know, including how I think. I could care less that Walton is the alleged concensus position now – presumably Evangelical one that is – because for how long now has Graf & Wellhausen dominated true ‘critical scholarship’ with their (my presumed ridiculous) hypothesis as perfected by Richard Friedman, and yet is *still* morphing along from monograph to monograph! And, because for how long now, as Walton attempts to break free from, have the millennia misinterpreted it? My main beef with Walton is not that he is wrong; it is that he is being guzzled down by people like you & Putnam, without having borne the burden of proof for his position against his 2001 Eisenbrauns monograph’s p.2 assertion that:

    “The premise of this book is that many attempts to trace literary trails from ancient Near Eastern texts to Genesis have been too facile and the results too simplistic”.

    End quote. And end of his burden of proof! He does not interact with *any* authors (or evidence) to the contrary, which preceded *his* theory (now concensus opinion, as you point out), whether the authors be from previous generations, or even his own contemporaries which I alluded to in my first post). He couldn’t even correctly cite on p.2 the right Delitzsch who authored Babel und Bibel:
    “For decades, comparative study of ancient Near Eastern texts and the Bible has been trying to climb out of the morass that resulted from the aftermath of Franz Delitzsch’s Babel-Bibel lectures”.

    One can only hope that this was a slip of the mind – as it was Franz’s son, Friedrich, of a polarized spirit from that of his father, who addressed the Kaiser, and *not* Franz – and then a lazy proofing, before sending it to an otherwise usually scrupulous printer……. yes, one can only hope that it was an innocent lapse of the mind, and not a part of the rest of his scholarly laziness & refusal to interact with the generations of Evangelical scholars (or even those contemporaries who did or still *do* interact with those generations who *do have* substantial lines of linguistic & comparative evidence, which simply do not fit into his theory. Somehow, Walton’s hypothesis was canonized into being, like with Wellhausen’s, apart from its critical detractors. So, who cares about consensus.

    Finally, I noticed that when a YEC-esque voice answers to a specific verse (e.g. Gen. 1:2), you attack his *paradigm* rather than counterexample the verse itself. Well, here now you want *me* to answer to some specific verses to see where I stand, but rather I choose to confront *your* paradigm….. and you don’t like that. The only breadcrumb that I will give you, is that I believe the principles of Hebrew philology + older scholarship extending into some modern works + comparative ANE evidence, point to Walton’s hypothesis being anachronistic & severely ignoring linguistic strata found all throughout Genesis that has been satisfactorily explained before most ANE discoveries were even made, and plentifully so since then.

    Allow me to clarify that point: if you folks are going to look to Egypt for Genesis 1-2:4’s sitz im leben, then of course you’re going to ‘see’ theogonic polemics. But……. what if it wasn’t written then? (Then time for a paradigm shift, which just *may* allow for what I originally proposed in my first post!)

    Be well too.

  9. Brian says:

    Ryan,

    First, you havent identified yourself whatesoever and the studies or credentials you possess and you want us to guess who are to prevent “schooling” you and prevent presupposing how to answer you? This is sloppy thinking. You clearly became inflammatory for nothing, Ryan, attacking my person instead of answering the specified arguments. Now, I just noticed this morning (Montreal, 8:45 AM) that my post giving you an email was there yesterday night when you answered me (so you didnt see it) but now it has been removed from the blog (Putnam removed it?). I clearly said it was “diversion email”, not a personal one (again: olmika.marquette@gmail.com) and I even put a smiley face. You continue making the same charges you make against my person:

    “My main beef with Walton is not that he is wrong; it is that he is being guzzled down by people like you & Putnam”

    I dont, Ryan, guzzle down Walton. I have not accepted his Temple Inauguration view, just the general view that it does not reflect modern knowledge in the hard sciences today. You have made other unnecessary charges against all throughout your posts without actually taking time to pull down some of your “time span” viewpoint that you, supposedly, now espouse–If I understood you correctly. Stop accusing others of misunderstanding and false charges when you can be accused of the same things within your own very comments. Please, I have watched hudnreds of debates and listened to hundreds of interviews for the past 10 years between scholars and scientists (e.g. Bart Ehrman vs Daniel Wallace) and I know that this is a common emotional mistake.

    If “Ryan” turns out to be a college student who doesnt know but thinks he knows, I will not answer the same way I would answer a scholar. You dont even know what I have read or what I studied for the past several years and with which scholars I have interacted, so please stop defending yourself and attacking others, identify yourself if you dont want others to misunderstand where you come from and make charges that could easily be applied to yourself. Again, you will save you and others a lot of grief.

    You will not be judged by men nor in heaven for having been right on Gen 1-2:4, Ryan. You will be judged for your behavior towards others and your responses–that’s the only thing that will count.

    Now, if you want to kindly and friendly continue this exchange with me, which, again, would be beneficial for the both of us as long as we exchange with respect and not charging each other of this or that error, we will both be rewarded even if we end-up not agreeing with each other. There has always been and will always be disagreement from the beginning of time among people and now in every single field of study. That’s what makes us people. The right behavior is everything–being right in and out of itself is nothing.

    olmika.marquette@gmail.com (diversion email).

    This is my last message.

Speak Your Mind