Two Very Misunderstood Ancient Creation Myths
Are you aware that there are two (not one, but two) distinctly separate mythic stories about creation in the “Bible”? Two different myths, side by side, that are written in two distinctly different Jewish historical time periods? Are you aware that neither of these creation stories are correctly translated from the Hebrew in all modern translations? What do I mean by “correctly” translated? I mean, they are not translated as the original writers intended these stories to be understood – from their ancient worldview perspective. Would you like to read a translation that accurately conveys each of these myths of creation? I promise, even a devout evolution-accepting atheist can enjoy these ancient stories, when translated to read as they are meant to be read. So, are you ready to be intrigued?
The Six Days of Creation Myth
Translation by Joseph Tsefanyahu Farkasdi as part of an accuracy to Torah study.
(Attention, this myth of creation was written around 700 BCE by the temple priests. It was meant to be a replacement to the earlier anthropomorphic Garden of Eden version of creation, which was written around 1000-to-900 BCE. Also, take careful note, the Hebrew words of ‘eretz/land and shamayim/skies were not intended by the original writers to refer to “earth” and “heavens”, respectively, as it is now selectively translated in modern language versions to fit our globally aware age. The selective use of “earth” and “heavens” as a translation is a strictly CE theological convention. In the 12th century BCE to 3rd century CE period of human history in which these writings were repetitiously written and redacted, humans viewed the world as flat, there being only one continent to this world, that this continent of land has the air of sky above it, and that the land and sky are surrounded by a firmament of waters below and above. To understand these ancient creation myths, we must take into account the significance in this view of the world. With that, let us begin our ancient Jewish story…)
At the beginning Elohim created the skies and the land. The land was bare and empty, darkness was upon the face of the watery deep, and the breath of Elohim was hovering over the face of the water. Elohim said, “Let there be light; and there was light.” Elohim saw the light, that it was good, and Elohim separated the light from the dark. Elohim called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. There was evening and there was morning, one day.
Elohim said, “Let there be an arching expanse that severs the waters, and let it divide water from water.” Elohim made the arching expanse and divided the water that was under the arching expanse from the water that was above the arching expanse, and it was so. Elohim called the arching expanse Sky. The evening and the morning were the second day.
Elohim said, “Let the water bind together under the sky to one spot, and let the dry ground be seen.” It was so. Elohim called the dry ground Land, and the collected water he called Seas. Elohim saw that it was good. Elohim said, “Let the land sprout grass, herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree making his own kind of fruit, whose seed is in itself, upon the land.” It was so. The land brought forth grass, herb yielding seed according to his kind, and the tree making fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind. Elohim saw that it was good. The evening and the morning were the third day.
Elohim said, “Let there be lights in the arching expanse of the sky to divide between the day and the night, and let them be for signs, for seasons, and for days and years. Let them be lights in the arching expanse of the sky to give light upon the land.” (1) It was so. Elohim made the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night, and the stars. Elohim put them in the arching expanse of the sky to give light upon the land, to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide between light and dark. Elohim saw that it was good. The evening and the morning were the fourth day.
Elohim said, “Let the waters swarm abundantly with living breathing-creatures (2), and birds that may fly above the land upon the face of the arching expanse of the sky.” Elohim created great sea monsters and all living breathing-creatures that crawl, with which the water swarmed, according to their kinds, and all winged birds after his kind. Elohim saw that it was good. Elohim blessed them, saying, “Bear fruit and increase-in-numbers, fill the water in the seas, and the birds increase-in-numbers on the land.” The evening and the morning were the fifth day.
Elohim said, “Let the land bring forth the living breathing-creature according to his kind, domestic-animals without speech, ground crawlers, and wild-life of the land according to his kind.” It was so. Elohim made the wild-life of the land according to his kind, domestic-animals without speech according to his kind, and all the ground crawlers of the soil according to his kind. Elohim saw that it was good.
Elohim said, “Let us make human-kind (3) in our image (4), after our resemblance. Let them have rule over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, over the domestic-animals without speech, over all the land, and over all the ground crawlers that swarm on the land.” Thus Elohim created the human in his image, in the image of Elohim he created him, male and female he created them. Elohim blessed them and Elohim said to them, “Bear fruit and increase-in-numbers, fill the land and subdue it, and dominate over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, and over all life that swarms on the earth.”
Elohim said, “Here, I have given you every herb bearing seed that is upon the face of all the land and every tree in which tree-fruit scatters seed, to you it will be for food. To all the life of the land, to all the birds of the sky, and to all that swarms on the land that is a living breathing-creature, all green herb for food.” It was so. Elohim saw everything that he had made and, here, it was very good. The evening and the morning were the sixth day.
Thus the sky and the land were finished, and all the host of them. Elohim finished the labor which he made on the seventh day, and he took-rest on the seventh day from all his labor which he made. Elohim blessed the seventh day and made it separate (5), because he took-rest in it from all his creative labor which Elohim did.
(1) – Note, there is no ancient awareness of a “space” beyond the watery firmament above the sky. In the ancient’s worldview, the stars and the moon (at night) and the sun (at day) exist *below* the watery firmament above, these lights are way up high in the sky-of-air above the land. Just as the ancients had no concept of a globe-shaped “earth” or “planet”, they had no concept of a “universe”, either, in the way we now understand it in our scientific age. At best, we can project the idea that, if they imagined a “heaven” above, then this “heaven” was *in* the arching expanse. In other words, “heaven” (if we translate sky this way) is way up high in the sky that is above the land, and the sky is surrounded by the firmament of water above. Correspondingly, sheol, the abode or resting place of the dead is in the ground below the land, and the land is surrounded by the firmament of water below.
(2) – nefesh chayah – Torah declares all creatures of the water, the sky, and the land to be “living breathing-creatures” or “living beings”; and not just humans alone, as is way too often implied with modern translations.
(3) – adam/human, made from the adamah/humus or fertile-soil, as previously established in the earlier written Garden of Eden myth, a very ancient word play occurring that establishes an understanding of the earthliness of all life, to include humans.
(4) – Like the gods/goddesses of the Semitic pantheon of gods. Before the evolution of Jewish religious concepts to that of a henotheistic view – the view of the theocratic-oriented priests of one superior national god that is greater than all the other gods and goddesses within Semitic culture, and is the only one to be reverenced by Israel – Jewish religious views and practices were demonstrably polytheistic, and had a broader focus on family gods and goddesses. In this myth, the writers are acknowledging the continued existence of polytheistic beliefs in BCE Israel, and are attempting to reconcile this to a one national god only newer perspective.
(5) – kadash/make-sanctified or -sacred; in this case, to make separate from the preceding six days, as being distinct.
(Additional note, take notice that this priestly myth does not suggest that the creator god, the Jewish-Israel henotheistically observed high god, stopped working entirely. Nor does it suggest that the creator god had finished creating new things, such as creating new things elsewhere. Such thoughts simply did not occur. Rather, the passage only suggests that the creator god saw everything created within this firmament, was satisfied with it, and took a day of rest after these several days of labor. Why? Why would a god with no anthropomorphic form that creates only with the spoken breath be tired from creating?)
The Garden of Eden Myth
Translation by Joseph Tsefanyahu Farkasdi as part of an accuracy to Torah study.
(Attention, this myth of creation was written around 1000-900 BCE from the ancient polytheistic oral traditions of the Jews. Only the god name Yahweh is present in this creation myth. Yahweh is an ancient storm god of the Semitic pantheon, and has anthropomorphic physical form. The god name Elohim, that so many modern readers are accustomed to being next to the name Yahweh in the compilation version of this myth, better known as the “Bible”, would not be added to this myth, until the later scribal redaction of the two creation stories into one flowing narrative, around 500 BCE. Also, pay particular note that according to the myth, the garden planted for creation is a small place located in the East of the bigger landscape of land that is named Eden. The view here is of one continent of land on which all the events within the myths of the Jewish people occur, and there is no literary awareness of their being other continents or a greater global world in which humankind resides. To understand ancient myths requires understanding such significant worldviews. Now, to our very ancient Judean story…)
In the day Yahweh made the land and skies, all the plants of the field had not yet been on the land and all the herb of the field had not yet sprouted, for Yahweh had not rained on the land, and there was no human to work the humus (1). Yet an enveloping-mist rose up out of the land and watered all the face of the fertile-soil.
Yahweh moulded the human from dry-mud of the fertile-soil, breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the human became a living breathing-creature (2). Yahweh planted a garden in Eyden to the east, and there put the human whom he had moulded. Yahweh sprouted from the fertile-soil every tree that is delightful to see and good to eat, the tree of life in the center of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and bad.
A river went out from Eyden to water the garden, and from there it severed and became four heads. The name of the first is Pishon, that surrounds all the land of Chavilah where there is gold. The gold of that land is good, there is fragrant gum and gem stone. The name of the second river is Gichon, that surrounds the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Chidekel, that is the one which flows east of Ashur. The fourth river is Perath.
Yahweh took the human and put him in garden of Eyden to work it and protect it. Yahweh commanded the human, saying, “From every tree of the garden you may definitely eat. But from the tree of knowledge of good and bad you will not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will definitely die.”
Yahweh said, “It is not good for the human to be alone. I will make a help mate suitable for him.” Yahweh moulded from out of the fertile-soil all the animal-life of the field and all the birds of the sky, and brought them to the human to see what he would call them. Whatever the human called every living breathing-creature, that was his/her name. The human proclaimed the names for all the domestic-animals without speech, for birds of the sky, and for all the wild-life of the field. But for the human a help mate was not found for him.
Yahweh caused a deep sleep to fall upon the human, and he slept. He took one rib-side (3) from out of him and closed the flesh in this place. Yahweh built the rib-side which he had taken from the human into a woman and brought her to the human. The human said, “This now! Bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh. This will be called ‘woman’, for this was taken from out of ‘man’.” Because of this, a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his woman (4), and they become one flesh. The two were naked, the human and his woman, and were not ashamed.
The serpent was slier than all the wild-life of the field which Yahweh had made. He said to the woman, “Has God said you are not eat from any tree of the garden?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat, but from the fruit of the tree which is at the center of the garden, God said, ‘You shall not eat from this and you shall not touch this, lest you die.'” The serpent said to the woman, “You will not die. But God knows the day you eat from it, then your eyes will be opened and you will become like God, knowing good and bad.”
The woman saw that the tree was good for eating and this was delightful to the eyes, a tree desirable for insight. She took some fruit and ate, and gave also to her man with her and he ate. The eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked (5). They sewed fig leaves together and made loin-cloths for themselves. [Just in case the euphemisms at play in these last two paragraphs were completely missed, the man and woman just had sex for the first time.]
They heard the sound of Yahweh walking in the garden in the wind of the day. The human and his woman hid from the face of Yahweh among the trees of the garden. Yahweh called to the human and said to him, “Where are you?” (6) The human said, “I heard your sound in the garden. I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself.” Yahweh said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree which I commanded you not to eat?” The human said, “The woman which you gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” Yahweh said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.”
Yahweh said to the serpent, “Because you did this, cursed are you among all the domestic-animals without speech and all the wild-life of the field. Upon your belly you will go about, and dust you will eat all the days of your life. I will place hostility between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed. He will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel.”
To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your labor pain, in pain you will bear children. Your longing will be for your man, and he will rule over you.” (7)
To the human he said, “Because you listened to the voice of your woman and ate from the tree which I commanded you, saying, ‘you will not eat from this’, cursed is the fertile-soil on account of you. In laboring pain you will eat from this all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles will sprout for you, and you will eat the herb of the field. By the sweat of your nose you will eat bread, until you return to the fertile-soil. Because out of this you were taken. Because you are dry-mud, and to dry-mud you will return.” (7)
The human called his woman Chavah (Life-giver), because she was the mother of all living. Yahweh made for the human and his woman garments of skin, and clothed them.
Yahweh said, “Here, the human has become like one of us, knowing good and bad. Now, lest he stretch out his hand, take also of the tree of life, eat, and live for distant ages.” (8) Yahweh sent him forth from the garden of Eyden, to work the fertile-soil from which he was taken. He drove out the human, and placed cherubim and a flaming revolving sword at the east of the Garden of Eyden to guard the path to the tree of life.
(1) – adam/human and adamah/humus, the latter word humus refers to the fertile part of the soil. This is an ancient word pun that is occurring here. Additionally, it is a mistake in understanding to assume that ha’adam/the-human has a gender at this point, for assignment of genders to the humans does not actually occur until after the splitting of the first sculpted human – opps, mythic spoiler alert. The use of the “he” pronoun in this early part is due to the nature of the Hebrew language itself, meaning that even “it” objects carry an assumption of masculine or feminine.
(2) – nefesh chayah, Torah declares all creatures of the water, the sky, and the land to be “living breathing-creatures” or “living beings”, to include humans. The only difference between the human creature and all other living creatures in their creation is the added stated “breathing life into the nostrils” of humans, which can only be implied as having been done, as well, during the creation of other life forms, since the writing does not specifically state this elsewhere. Additionally, some translate nefesh chayah erroneously as “living souls”, implying a lack of physicality, but the word nefesh/breathing-creature always refers to corporeal presence (for example, there are dead nefesh talked about in other myths). The added meaning of something less than corporeal is a more recent to our times evolution of the word.
(3) – tsela/side or rib-set/side, despite transmitted belief that a single rib bone from one side of “man” was taken to create “woman”, the Hebrew reads on its own terms that the adam/human (whose gender has not yet been declared) was put to sleep by the god Yahweh, half his torso was pulled from him, and Yahweh moulded this chunk of human into a gendered human. In this case, a woman/female. When the human sees this woman, he then realizes and declares that he is a man/male.
(4) – isha/woman, it is too soon in the origin myths to be translating isha as “wife”, the alternate meaning. The reason for this is simple: the institution of marriage, of husband and wife, requires a social structure that does not exist yet in this mythic setting. Marriage is a societal legal construct, and the human and his woman more resemble children in awareness and more resemble forager-gatherers in their garden lifestyle. Marriage and, more specifically, the social conventions of husband and wife are not an applicable concept yet.
(5) – yada/to-know, often in Torah context implies a sexual meaning to the word yada, and this is one of those times. The purpose of this story is to highlight a growth of awareness between the man and the woman about their anatomy in a way that is more adult-like. They are growing out of child-like innocence and into sexually aware – and consequences aware – full grown human adults. The serpent is an ancient fertility symbol, and Yahweh is like a doting parent trying to protect their childlike innocence with a rule they are bound by their very nature to break. This passage is a very creative way of saying that they had sex, and are now sensitive about their bodies around each other.
(6) – It is important to take note here that the god Yahweh is not all-knowing and often surprised by human behavior, which is in direct contrast to the god Elohim who is portrayed as being in control and fore-knowing. This difference between the gods of the sources of Torah myth, sources that span about 500 years in their dates of writing, is reflected noticeably in the redacted “Bible” form. A lot of scribal editing went into the making of the Torah that we know of today, in order to fit the stories together into one somewhat flowing, somewhat repetitious, and somewhat contradicting mythic narrative.
(7) – Though very descriptive of human life as we know it and meant to be a mythic explanation for why we suffer so as humans in life, this vindictive generational punishment by a creator god for having sex, after being told by this god not to, … if taken literally, this myth, … is rather disturbing, and reminiscently human. To survive, it is our primal nature to join together as one flesh, to mate and procreate, for the sake of the survival of our species.
(8) olam/very-distant-time, when Torah uses the word olam, it is referring to a visual sense of “it being so long of a distance expanse of time that, we cannot see where it ends.” Beyond this horizon, we just don’t know. It could end just after the point where we cannot see it any further, or it could still go further. Torah’s reference of olam, very-distant-time or for-distant-ages, is in this visual-mode frame of reference. This is very different from our modern mathematical concept of infinity, of having no end, thus being eternal.
(Additional note, the very next ancient Judean-Israeli myth to follow that details the adventures and lineage of Adam and Chavah (Eve), their sons Kayin (Cain) and Havel (Abel), and their sons’ wives and children are not meant to be taken as literally historic. For example, one man alone does not “build” a city, in reference to Chanok (Enoch), who went out and established a city with his name. Further, it is not biologically viable to create a civilization of people by inbreeding among family members. It can be safely assumed that even in the 12th century BCE that humankind, from living examples around them, knew the dangers of this kind of populating. So, where did all these people come from that are living in other places upon the land within these legends? Are we to assume that the Judean origin myths are strictly about just the Judean-Israeli people?)
Judaism as an ethno-religion was not always monotheistic, and to say such is to be willfully ahistorical. Judaism slowly evolved from its original polytheistic form to a henotheistic form and, ultimately, into a modern monotheistic form over a period of 1,500 years (1200 BCE to 300 CE). It began with pre-monarchical/monarchical polytheistic Judaism (1200 BCE to 600 BCE) – which reverenced the gods Yahweh, El, Baal, and the goddess Asherah, and brought us the myths of the Garden of Eden, Noah and the flood, Avraham and his family gods, the escape from Egyptian slavery, and wandering in the desert. Then arose the temple theocracy henotheistic form (700 BCE to 70 CE) – which reverenced Yahweh as a formless Elohim that is superior to all the gods and goddesses of the local pantheons (the highest “creator” god), and introduced us to the myths of the Six Days of Creation, the lineage of the ancient patriarchs between Adam and Avraham, and the priestly seven day calendar and religious laws. From this evolving Jewish heritage we now have the rise of the present rabbinical monotheistic form of Judaism (300 BCE to present) – which reverences Yahweh Elohim as the only existing one true “creator” god and all other names for “God” are referencing this not directly knowable and utterly formless Yahweh Elohim, and has brought us the first complete Hebrew “Bible” redaction, the written Talmud and the Mishnah, and all the present religio-cultural observances/laws and theology that we are so familiar with today.
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