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Storms over Genesis

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Clearly few things rile people up more than religion and politics. These controversial topics fascinate and titillate the best of us including William H. Jennings, author of Storms over Genesis and Professor of Religion, Emeritus, at Muhlenberg College. His investigative work into the interpretations of the first three chapters of the most famous book in the world, the Bible, gives the reader insight into the environmentalist views, feminist views, and those of creationists. By seeking clarification of the various creation stories, Jennings tries to illuminate the current scholarly views of this ancient text including the origin and timeline of the Earth. The Earth has been in existence for quite some time. Just how long is still unknown, but scientists, especially environmental Darwinists, estimate the Earth is 4.55 billion years old (Jennings 86). But the date of Earth’s origin and the presence of man are two separate questions depending on if one relies on biblical references or stories, creationism, which put the age of the world, the beginning of creation between 6,000-10,000 years (77) or modern science. A Gallup poll found supporters of each side to be fairly split, forty-six percent towards creationism and thirty-six percent pointing to Darwinism as the correct derivation (88). Why is the question of Earth’s origin so germane? According to many, because Genesis only deals with God’s creation of man in His image, and science can prove the existence of “pre-Adam” man dating back millenniums. By dating the origin of the world, one calls into question the validity of the Bible as the definitive “word of God” and the “absolute truth” as well as continues to fuel the controversy between science and religion. Scholars, researchers, activists, and clerics have written many over the past two centuries discussing and debating creation stories within a biblical context and the portrayal of Darwinism. Storms over Genesis is one of these texts. Written by William H. Jennings, published in 2007 by Augsburg Fortress of Minneapolis, Minnesota, it provides a recent analysis of the debate between Creationism and Darwinism, focusing over “how Christians and Jews who call for changes in the in the religion that they follow face of verbally against those who take a more defensive and traditional stand” (Jennings xii). Further, Jennings postulates “the intent of the stories is on the human and on how humans relate to the created world and its creator”(xi), which is the problem activists see in the interworking of biblical stories. Intrigued by controversy surrounding the foundations of Christianity, William Jennings began to analyze the various contrasting creation myths. As a young child of profoundly religious parents, Jennings attended a Protestant parochial school where prayer and racial segregation were customary. Jennings acquired a graduate degree at a Lutheran seminary and at Yale University. After receiving his degrees, Jennings went on to teach at the university level for a number of years. During this time, Jennings’ classroom often erupted in the topics of his studies, “such as the nature of God, the authority of scripture, the struggle to be faithful to a historic faith in the light of modern challenges” (Jennings xii). The coalescing of his upbringing, education, and teaching inspired his work, Storms over Genesis. In this work, Jennings debates specific aspects of Documentary Hypothesis mostly pertaining to a feminists and environmentalist interpretation of the biblical text. Jennings also discusses the battle between devout creationists and staunch Darwinists. Through enlightenment from scholars and researchers from both sides of the debate, Jennings explores the development of religious dogma, belief systems, and modern science. Of the specific aspects covered in this work, there are two creation stories that are related to the Documentary Hypothesis, the Yahwist and Priestly stories. The tenth or nine century B.C.E Palestinian Yahwist story, the older, and Israel’s first written history and corresponded with the rule of David or Solomon (Jennings 2). In the Yahwist stories, the sequence of the creation of man varies from the traditional Christian understanding. According to the Yahwists, man is created first, next all living things, and eventually, a garden so that man has a place to settle. The last creation is woman who was created to serve and help man. This is why the Yahwist’s account becomes the main focus of much of the feminism’s dissatisfaction about the Bible (Jennings 10) as the idea of a subservient female is contrary to their beliefs in the importance of women. The second story of Jennings exploration of Documentary Hypothesis is the Priestly story, which was written later then the Yahwist approach, includes a different sequence of man’s creation and details the role of priests. The Priestly story stems from an urban approach rather than the agrarian life of the Yahwist story. The Priestly story was written during the time of the Babylonian exile or soon after, in the sixth or fifth century B.C.E. (2). The Priestly story tells how God created them “male and female,” implying that man and women were created at the same time. For Feminists, this story deserves a few “kudos” for its treatment of men and women, but there are certain feminists that share concerns (10). Even though the two stories are separate and may not be separated, they belong together, for they are part of on Bible and thus a singular tradition. They relate to one another, in which they are in conversation with each other and also supplement one another (24). For Jennings, the idea of controversy surrounding the introduction to a female into the Genesis story’s challenges feminist views in many ways; Elizabeth Candy Stanton is one proclaimed by feminists for her early and clear recognition of the harm to women that comes from the patriarchal traditions of Christianity and its Bible. She recognized that there are two creation stories in Genesis and argued that the story in Genesis 2 and 3 treats women in a tragically different way. “Man is the first to be created and women is treated as an afterthought, an inferior creature who brings sin into the world” (Jennings 26). Many feminists, including Elizabeth Candy Stanton, see the problem with the Bible’s version arising from the limited roles of women in the early Christian faith as well as the lack of female involvement in the interpretation of the Torah. Nearly all Jewish and Christian biblical scholarship was done by men, men who were largely blind to the problems the Bible might present for women such as the issue of man’s creation first and therefore of higher standing. The women is created last and is perceived as “the weaker vessel” and therefore inferior. Jennings interest in this crisscrossing matrix of controversy is clear.
Further, from the word of the Yahwist story, woman was created from the rib of the man, derived from him and dependent on him. It is the woman who is tempted by the serpent bringing sin into the world because she is weaker. The serpent does not approach the man, the stronger of the two genders (Jennings 29). Some feminist defenders of the Yahwist account, such as Phyllis Tribe and Harold Bloom, believe this is actually a positive feminine account, stating, “that we usually do not read Genesis 2 and 3 for what is actually said, but rather become influenced by what males have said through the centuries. We must read with unbiased eyes” (Jennings 35). Tribe provides her own analytical analysis of the Yahwist account, professing, “man is not created first and women last, as tradition has read it. Created first is “Adam”, whom Bible calls “earth creature.” This earth creature is not male or female or an androgynous combination of the two. After the garden is created with its creatures and vegetation, the last act of creation is the creation of human sexuality as male and female emerge simultaneously from the earth creature” (Jennings 35). “The woman is incorrectly pictured as man’s helper in most traditions, for the English world implies a secondary servant status. The Hebrew word is translated “helper” is easier, a word often used to refer to Yahweh as this God relates to the people of Israel. If Yahweh is easier, the word obviously cannot refer to one who is inferior. A better translation is “companion”(Jennings 36). To dissolve these matters of contention, from the 1960’s to the present, there has been an increasing number of women scholars, with hundreds of women developing careers in biblical scholarship. Jennings certainly hopes to illuminate each side of this warring controversy. He illustrates this by suggesting that in the Priestly story there is no hint of male superiority, but rather an easing facture for feminist of the past like Elizabeth Candy Stanton. But today’s feminists say the Priestly story is more complicated than a cursory reading would indicate, and this story also falls under feminist suspicion. Jennings states that the Priestly account has a different theme compared to Yahwist; “it is almost a creedal testimony to the great power and majesty of the creator Elohim” (Jennings 38). A central concern in feminist critiques is patriarchy, and the foundation stone for patriarchy is the image of God, owing to that fact that God is commonly pictured in the Bible as a wise male who creates and rules and disciplines. The political, economic, educational, familial, and religious structures all are dominated by this image of a male God and those males in his image, with debilitating consequences for women (Jennings 38). Another problem that has arisen that has to do with non-gendered language. Western ideas about God are stringently tied to male images that even if gender-neutral language were used, the characteristics of God will still be what most people think about as male. Terms such as “Ground of Being” or “Absolute Other” may sound non-gendered but they easily mask patriarchal characteristics such as power and transcendence (42). Jennings believes the solution here is for feminists to accept male images, reform them, and then balance them with female images. My impressions of Jennings work are developed out of a respect for his desire to end the controversy by exposing each side to the other’s perspectives, but also out of a scientific standpoint. Just as Jennings sees feminists as not timid in their challenges, and how most are not willing to accept halfway responses, I feel he believes the problem for women will not be solved by having a female clergy in male-dominated institutions or by being awarded an equal place at the feet of a powerful Father God as Feminists hope. Jennings states, the creation stories thus are not likely to be found in those selections from the Bible that most feminists find helpful or even inspirational. In the creation stories in feminist discussions, a major focus is upon how God is to be understood. We have argued that God in the creation stories is not male, in spite of our male-biased languages and our common way of thinking. Jennings’ outcome is that we should think of the creator as both Mother and father as we interpret the two stories (Jennings 49-50). On this point, we agree. Environmentalists are having some of the same problems that are present with the feminist view. Environmentalists blame Genesis for the catastrophic deterioration of our natural world. It starts with the Priestly account, in which humans are created last. God says “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Gen 1:28, Jennings 52). According to critics this is responsible for the deterioration of the modern world, which from my perspective would not exist if the environmentalist had their way. Many Creationist critics believe modern science and commerce have pushed humans to exploit their world in increasingly damaging ways. This dominion theme is augmented by the notion of humans bearing an “image of God.” Because humans are in the image of God, there are both closeness between God and humans and distance between humans and the natural world that lacks God’s image. Yahwist theme is similar to dominion in the Priestly account. The storyteller says the Lord God brought animals and birds to the man to see what he would call them. Genesis stories established a foundation for human arrogance and abuse to the natural world. For Jennings, establishing this link seems crucial to trying to unite the various perspectives through some foundational cornerstones. Jennings believes critics are wrong and both the Priestly and Yahwist storytellers present positive views of the natural world which can be dynamic resources in addressing the ecological crisis. “The creation stories reflect a covenant involving God, nature, and humans. They must never be understood a part from the active role of this creator of God” (55).
Ideas of Green Theology state that, God created the world we live in, while existing before creation and a part from the world. God is transcendent. Also, there is only one God, who is unchanging, absolute, all-powerful, and eternal. The created world is very different, it is finite and one day will end (63-4). Jennings believes this dualistic way of thinking devalues the natural world and leaves the door open for major ecological trouble. He thinks it should be as “the relationship between God and world is, by analogy, similar to how humans think their minds relate to their bodies. A person cannot think a part from a body, but mental activity is more than body. Likewise, God and world are intimately related; God is embodied, but God is more than the natural world” (64). During the past two centuries Darwinism has altered our understanding the development of the world. Thinking of both human and natural history as developmental and changing, conservative Protestants often troubled by evolution, rejecting it outright, while others, including some of the authors in The Fundamentals, offered limited acceptance. But on the issue of an old earth, by the beginning of the twentieth century many conservatives found ways to accommodate an old earth with a literalist reading of Genesis. Further, I believe Storms over Genesis serves as an exceptional explanation of the controversies many arise over Biblical text. It provides numerous reports of both sides of the arguments among feminists, environmentalist, Darwinists, and Creationists. Also, it provides evidence of how they are related to each other and how they will continue to evolve over time. Storms over Genesis made me think beyond the scope of the Bible’s stories into an examination of my personal faith/belief system. How humans came into being and how the various interpretations of the biblical text are entirely subjective and not without a slant towards the personal agendas of the interpreter. The “understanding” of the text changes depending on whoever is reviewing it. I once debated whether Creationism should be taught within public schools as it is a faith-based approach. We teach mythology, which was once faith-based but has passed “through the veil” into great literature. Will Darwinism continue to change people’s interpretation of how the world evolves? I would highly recommend this book to others who are questioning the biblical text and seeking resolution like Jennings.…...

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...MODULE ONE AN INTRODUCTION TO GENESIS Bible Topics | * Mosaic Authorship * Dating of Genesis * Purpose of Writing * Theological Themes of Genesis | People to Know | Places to Know | Terms to Know | SpinozaAstruc | | Documentary TheoryCovenant History | Study Questions Answer the following questions (based on the reading), save it and then submit it to the professor. 1. What is the Documentary Theory? 2. Give the “contributions” Spinoza and Astruc made to this theory. 3. How does Davis refute this theory? 4. Give several examples of external evidences for Mosaic authorship? 5. Give several examples of internal evidences for Mosaic authorship? 6. Does any one specific evidence stand out to you more than the rest? Which one? Why? 7. What is significant about the date for the writing of the book of Genesis (not about the events of Genesis)? 8. Is it important to know exactly how old the earth is? Why or why not? 9. What is considered the most important purpose of Genesis? Why? 10. Why is Genesis relevant for today? DAYS OF CREATION Bible Topics | * The Origin of the Universe * Days or Ages? * When Life Began | People to Know | Places to Know | Terms to Know | Elohim | | “waw” consecutive“bara”“asa”Gap theoryEnuma Elish“tohu” & “bohu”“yom”“divine fiat”canopy | Study Questions Answer the following questions (based on the reading), save it and then submit it to the professor. ...

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The Storm

...and read it to herself. The note said, “I loved you from the first day I saw you. You hold a special place in my heart. Please meet with me again at the Chateau de Villa. I will be waiting, on the night of the full moon.” Calixta’s face became flushed. Her cheeks turned a rosy red. She couldn’t believe Alce’e demands to see her once more. All of a sudden she started to have deep feelings for Alce’e. She desired him more than ever. The devoted wife had faded into obscurity. On the night of the full moon, Calixta gathered her things to meet Alce’e. The full moon was gigantic and the light made way for travel. Her family was fast asleep and now was the perfect time. She made her way by foot. The road was still muddy from the storm. Calixta arrived at the Chateau de Villa and seen her lover pouring a glass of wine. Alce’e knew that she would arrive. When he seen Calixta the bottle of wine dropped from his hands. He couldn’t believe the spell had worked. Immediately he ran to Calixta and held her tight. Alce’e gazed into her eyes under the moon light. He handed her a glass of wine and watched as she took little sips. Then he said, “Don’t be afraid. I want to spend this night as if it were the last.” Calixta had never felt this way about any man. The love spell made her forget that she was married. In an instant, she felt as if she wanted to run away with Alce’e. Alce’e couldn’t let her go. He couldn’t bear the jealousy of seeing her with another......

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