The fame of Genesis, however, does not mean that people know everything there is to know about this ancient text. In fact, Genesis’ fame may keep some people from digging deeper into this portion of Scripture. The book is so well known that people mistakenly assume there is nothing new to discover about Genesis. Here are five things you didn’t know about Genesis.
Time SpanThe Book of Genesis begins with the creation of Heaven and Earth, the sun, moon, stars and life. It ends, however, with the death of Joseph. This means that Genesis covers nearly 2,300 years of Biblical history, the most of any book of the Bible by far. To put it in perspective, all the other books in the Bible, from Exodus through Revelation, cover just over 1,800 years.
The many centuries that Genesis covers are not spread out evenly through the book. Genesis 1 through Genesis 11 covers roughly 2,000 years, the vast majority of which takes place in the Fertile Crescent. The remaining 300 years are covered by Genesis 12 through Genesis 50 and take place in Israel and Egypt.
Age and AuthorThe age and authorship of Bible books is almost always being debated. Christians do not always agree on when Bible books were written and neither do religious scholars. The two groups rarely see eye to eye with each other on this either. There is usually, however, some form of consensus. Christians may agree on a rough timeline while religious scholars disagree. No group, however, can agree on when Genesis was written. Christian tradition often says that the Book of Genesis was written by Moses at roughly 1450 B.C., but others claim the book is even older. Religious scholars cannot come to a consensus either. Most scholars reject that Genesis was written by Moses, but many do hold that the book was written by figures that appear in the Bible. Two common theories for the origins of the Book of Genesis are that the book was written by either the Biblical prophet Ezra in the fifth century B.C. or by a member of King Solomon’s court in the 10th century B.C. if not by Solomon himself.
These, however, are not the only theories researchers have about Genesis. Some people believe that Genesis was written at the time of the Babylonian exile in the sixth century. This would mean that Genesis would have been written at roughly the same time as religious scholars believe that Exodus was written. Unfortunately, there is no proof of Genesis’ age. Some of the oldest fragments of the text were found with the Dead Sea Scrolls, but these only date to around 100 B.C., and most people, Christians and scholars, believe the text is far older than that.
Similar StoriesThere are number of stories in Genesis that resemble myths from other cultures. Creation accounts and flood myths, for example, are found in hundreds of cultures across the globe and across time. No culture, however, has mythology as similar to Genesis as ancient Mesopotamia. The Enuma Elish is the most intact version of the Babylonian creation myth, and much of it sounds very similar to Genesis. In fact, some translations are nearly word for word copies of each other.
Atrahasis is another ancient Mesopotamian myth and closely mirrors Noah’s Ark. Like in the tale of Noah’s Ark, a great flood is sent to wipe out humanity. A good man, Atrahasis, is warned of the coming disaster by the god Enki, and he builds an ark to survive the flood. Atrahasis brings his family and two of every animal onto the ark and so saves life.
Role of EveChristians have built up quite a bit of animosity toward the first woman. She is often seen as the original temptress, the reason for the fall of humanity and the birth of the original sin. Eve, however, falls victim to the common idea that a person does not need to continue studying what they already know. Christians know that Eve was a seductress who listened to the Devil’s lies. As such, they do not need to dig deeper into Eve’s story. This is unfortunate because Eve is not responsible for half of what Christians heap on her shoulders.
The book of Genesis has two subtly different tales of Eden, but neither one holds Eve alone responsible for the original sin because Adam is with Eve when she is tempted by the serpent. The Book of Genesis says that “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food…she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband who was with her.” Adam was with Eve when the serpent spun its fabulous lie. He stood beside her and listened to the Devil, the same as Eve.
Adam could have told Eve not to listen. He could have refused the fruit. Instead, Adam is just as entranced by the snake’s lies as Eve. She simply happens to be the one standing closer to the tree and able to reach the fruit easier. Eve does not seduce Adam into taking the fruit. He shares it with her willingly.
Cause of ControversyFew books have caused as much controversy as the Book of Genesis. Christians and atheists have pitted the creation account in Genesis directly against Darwin’s theory of evolution like a pair of fighting dogs. This mutual animosity has led to battles over what to teach in schools, name calling and court cases, one of which made it all the way to the United States Supreme Court. It is also at the root of the erroneous assumption that science and religion are mutually exclusive.
Christians and non-Christians alike may be familiar with the stories in the Book of Genesis, but that does not mean people know everything there is to know about this ancient text. After all, people never stop learning, and even in the most famous books, there is always something new to be learned.