Friday, December 02, 2005

The Myths of Genesis.

I realize I tread on very thin ice here. To even consider the first eleven chapters of Genesis might not be an exact literal history, is heresy to some.

Since my role model is Thomas, always willing to check things out himself, I will venture to seek wisdom. A quest trying to understand, or at least asking questions. Realizing there is so much I can never know. I seek a chance to converse with others who seek God. Who seek to know. Who seek Joy.

There are two strands of truth in the Genesis stories. The first is historic truth that shows itself in places, bits of actual events and people. It can reveal some of what life was like thousands of years ago.

The second is religious truth, described as myth. Myth told in the form of a story. Like the invention of the "Teddy Bear", when Teddy Roosevelt chose not to kill a bear, there may be historic truth in a story, yet the mere naked historic facts may not be the most important part of the story. A recent myth is that Bush knew there were no WMD, so he lied. For those who believe the myth, actual facts are not important. The true power is in what the story expresses. "Bush lied. People died." Is a religious/political myth that has the power to kill. The power to change lives. Just as we have myths today, the Bible is filled with myths. Stories designed to show a truth. Designed to make us think.

We start with Noah. That drunkard. Hero. Is he Gilgamesh? Who wrote the story? When? All questions we may never know the full answer. Yet there are interesting clues.
Noah's story is interesting in many ways. One of the most striking is how it shows oral tradition can transmit accurate information for thousands of years.

We now know almost the exact year the ocean broke into the Black Sea. The
description of the gates of the deep breaking, (Genesis 7:11) I had always thought had to be false. How could water flow uphill? Yet, after I learned of the Black Sea flood, I realized; before the ocean broke through, an old stream bed that led from the sea to the ocean, a place 400 feet above the lake level would have been "the gate to the deep", (ocean). Also, before it broke through, there would have been springs of saltwater, so it truly is a magnificent description of something not seen for over 4,000 years.

A description of the flood is found at:

When the "gates" finally broke, it must have been an incredible sight from
below. Imagine going back 7600 years. You look out over a lake separated from the ocean. This lake, one of the world's largest bodies of fresh water. Good for irrigation. A land with higher air pressure due to the 400 feet of additional air. Better for plants, better for people. A rich land. A fertile land. Yet there is a hidden menace to this Eden. At the southwest edge of the lake is a pass high up in the hills. A narrow gap that leads to the "deep". A former river valley when the lake was hundreds of feet higher, the valley consists of soft sediments, easily eroded should water ever have the chance. At its mouth, salt springs, produced by seepage from the ocean a few miles to the south.

There would already be two small streams in the valley. One draining to the lake, the other to the deep. Let it rain. Heavily. A time when water turns tiny placid streams into raging torrents. Torrents that cut into the last dam holding back an ocean of water.

Look up 400 feet in the air, and see a waterfall burst forth, larger than Niagara, where before were only the springs of the deep. The sound must have been incredible. The story would have been told, and passed on for generations. Then finally written down with the birth of writing.

Was the story exactly as written? Did God speak to Noah? I know He speaks to me. He seems to intervene for His purposes. Was there an ark? Was it exactly 300 cubits? "What's a cubit? There certainly seems to have been a man and a boat. Perhaps more important than we realize. The first divine encounter? The first obedient man? Like Abram who was told. "Go". Noah who was told. "Build Me an ark." So Noah sails out into the flood. With his family, flora and fauna.
Then Noah lands near Ararat, (near where we find the Garden of Eden).

The stories of early Genesis, may trace the path of a people from the Black Sea, to Abraham and Ur. The early stories of Genesis only show us fragments of the story,
all that survived. They even included contradictions, trying to be faithful to the story.

But Genesis real importance, is in what the myths truly say. They speak of
God's relationship to us. Try to explain why we are a fallen race. Show
God's wrath at our pride. The importance of rest. Sin and its consequences. Forgiveness. A most amazing 11 chapters.
An idea for a book, "The myths of Genesis." Or a sermon series. Or a blog
series. More to follow: Noah's myth.

Today's poem:
You call My story
you think you can
Yet myth contains
more truth
than simple facts can ever

The truth of if I am Son
of God
is not found in fact of
virgin birth.
The truth of
original sin
is never spoken by
real snake.

If you fall into facts
seductive trap
you miss myth’s
deeper meaning.
Listen for the
parabolic truth
oft found in
paradoxical myth.

© Presbypoet, September 3, 2003


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