- Religion and Philosophy
How Did Humanity Originate?
The Tower of Babel
Bonds as Deep as the Dawn of Mankind
Before there was Christianity, there were Hebrews. Does Genesis, the first book of the Bible, explain the beginning of the human race? Who wrote Genesis?
Many practical people believe that the entire Bible, not just it's first book Genesis, was written by a wide assortment of Hebrew writers throughout a period beginning centuries prior to the time when Jesus lived or was said to have lived.
Skeptics and others question whether the events of the Bible all were true. High on their list of questionable events is the story of Adam and Eve and the other amazing details described in the Book of Genesis, details of which we have no scientific proof because the events are allegedly so old.
We never should be disrespectful of another person's religion, especially if it's one of the accepted major religions. Both the Jewish and Christian faiths, as well as the Muslim faith, do accept most of the Book of Genesis as accurate and factual. With the majority of the western world following these major religions, and with a growing sense of individual rights to make up one's own mind on what to believe and not be dictated to as to what to believe, we now are more distressed than ever to find some unifying faith in things like the origin of the Bible and the truth of its stories.
It's thought generally, among religious scholars, that Moses was responsible for the Book of Genesis. Some believe that God dictated it to Moses. Others feel that Moses compiled tales that had been told for many years before. Still others feel the whole thing, including the person of Moses himself, is completely made up and fictional.
Were Adam and Eve the first humans? If so, how would Moses know so much about things that happened so many years before he was born? If we test these things by the rules of evidence applicable to court trials, the Bible, Genesis, and a lot of things people have religious faith in, all would be highly dubious. But faith is just that. It's confidence in something that can't be proven with 100% certainty.
The primary biblical question in our world, on which so many different views pertain, is whether the miraculous statements in the Bible generally are true or fiction. It's up to each individual to weigh the opinions inside his or her mind to arrive at a decision as to each particular event given as true, such as in the Book of Genesis. In a free society, we all are able to make up our minds about religious matters. If we have freedom of speech and religion, then surely we have freedom of thought. That's a purely private matter between ourselves and, if you will, God.
With the following checklist of items appearing in Genesis, a person can ponder and decide what to believe or not to believe:
The Bible starts with the Book of Genesis. The story of Adam and Eve is very familiar in that there was a temptation, urged by the devil in the form of a serpent. Eve first ate the forbidden fruit, then Adam. They left the Garden of Eden and had 2 sons, Cain and Abel, who didn't get along. Cain murdered Abel.
Many descendants followed, one of whom, Methuselah, lived to be 969 years old. Later, another, Noah, who himself lived to the age of 950 years, was advised by God to build an ark and put on board his family, plus male and female animals, because soon all other living creatures would be destroyed in a flood for their grave sin of continually ignoring God.
The flood did occur, but afterward Noah's family produced more descendants. One notable city populated by these latter day descendants of Noah was Babel. It contained a famous tower. In Babel, God scattered people all over the earth, making them speak different languages. Today, the widespread Jewish family is scattered, speaking different languages in many of the world's countries where they reside.
One of the next descendants was Abram, later called Abraham. He traveled in Egypt but resided in Canaan, as did his nephew Lot. Today we call Canaan the part of the Middle East that includes Israel. In much of the Bible that details the early beginnings of the Hebrew people, Abraham is considered the father of the children of Israel. (But Noah and others back to Adam and Eve still are cited as being part of the long ancestral chain of today's Jewish family that has spread across the entire earth.)
Abraham's wife, Sarah, had a baby boy when she was 90 years old. His name was Isaac.
Lot lived in Sodom, near Gomorrah. God destroyed both cities due to immorality, but Lot was spared.
Rebekah, Isaac's wife, had twins, Esau and Jacob. God gave Jacob the name "Israel." He had 12 sons, including Joseph who became governor of Egypt and brought Israel and his family there.
They resided in Egypt through the generations and became slaves eventually. Four hundred years after Joseph and his father Jacob (Israel) lived, Moses would lead his Hebrew people out of Egypt in search of their new home in their old ancestral territory of the Promised Land, which today includes the country of Israel.
Aside from the question of Genesis' authorship, many people have wondered why the Bible appears to have been written completely by, for, and about Hebrews. The simple answer given by some religious people is that the Jews were God's chosen people.
Are the Jewish people a nationality, a religion, or a separate race? Most likely the word "family" would best describe them because they are held together, no matter what country they may live in, by a common ancestral bond that is based primarily on the stories contained in the Old Testament, going way back to the first book of the Bible called Genesis.
What was called the God of Israel, being an invisible God capable of listening to the prayers of people and communicating with us, has been adopted as the concept of God now shared by most of the world including Christians and Muslims.
One book of the Bible called Leviticus spells out the rules adhered to by Jews pertaining to kosher foods and guidelines for what today we would call the legal and medical professions.
A characteristic that stands out is the importance of cohesive loyalty among the Hebrew people to one another. This was very important when Moses traveled for forty years, leading a nomadic group of Hebrews in search of their Promised Land. It was during that time that God wrote the Ten Commandments on stone tablets. To this day, the principles of those Commandments are revered by Jews, Christians, Muslims, and everyone else in the world, whether religious or not, as being full of wisdom.
The Jewish family, consisting of millions of people in many countries, trace their common ancestry back thousands of years into the past. On earth there is no other people with such strong cohesive loyalty to common ancestry. Part of understanding the Middle East would take this factor into account.
But as to the authorship of Genesis, we are in doubt because so many people disagree. However, it looks pretty clear that the Bible, including its authorship, belongs to the Hebrew people.
Thank goodness for peaceful coexistence and tolerance, so that we all can find our own individual ways to answer the question of who wrote Genesis.
Why Was Genesis Written?
The book of Genesis appears to accentuate two basic things of paramount importance: one is the fact that God created the earth; the other is the importance of morality in the sense that human beings must do the right thing according to the apparent will of God at all times. This theme is carried forward into the remaining pages of the Bible, whether Old or New Testament.
The destruction of the world by flooding is a big threat to people, who now look forward to the day then the world will be destroyed by fire, as suggested in the New Testament.
Another key ingredient in Genesis is the origin of the word "Israel." It was a name by which God called the man Jacob. This name continues throughout the story of the Hebrew people and now has become the name of their country.
Finally, Genesis establishes that the Hebrew people are the chosen people of God, chosen to spread throughout the world the concept of the invisible God of Israel, the same God that Jesus referred to as his Father in heaven.
All this was written, supposedly, at an unknown time in ancient history. Many scholars believe that Genesis was written about 500 or 600 years before Jesus lived in the occupied territory of the Middle East that's today's Israel. The tremendous lasting influence of the Roman Empire may be the only reason the text of Genesis has endured and been reproduced consistently throughout the ages and spread across most of the world as the first biblical introductory passage. Rome adopted the religion of the Hebrews in the form of the new spin-off from the ancient Jewish religion, which turned into Christianity.
There may have been other civilizations that produced great writings as well, however none were preserved. It is obvious that the writers of Genesis were Hebrew intellectuals and that this writing, because of the events of history and the spread of Christianity, has become central to the religious beliefs of billions of people all over the world.