Father Francisco’s Bible Study class, formation of Torah as we know it Part 1, and Part 2 argues Torah tries to answer the charge leveled in Ezra 4:15, “This city is a rebellious city, hurtful unto kings and provinces, and that they have moved sedition within the same of old time; for which cause was this city laid waste.”
The men of the Great Assembly, including Ezra, Nehemiah, and other prophets present a book of Torah in Nehemiah 8. Torah in many places does describe Israel as a rebellious city, rebelling, not against Babylonia, but against God. The forbidden fruit of the Garden of Eden, the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, is the ways of the nations, ways different from Torah. The Cherubim with the flaming sword, Genesis 3:21, is the Babylonian Army.
The Hebrew and Aramaic verbs have no past, present, or future. All is present. The creation story is about the Babylonian Exile, the writer’s present. He writes about his yearning to return home, Eretz Israel.
Genesis 2, may well be the first chapter of Torah, not Genesis 1. When we read Genesis we read that God created the light on the first day, the grass and trees on the third day, and the source of the light on the fourth day. We can believe that the writer of Genesis 1 was either so primitive that he did not know this is impossible, or so advanced that he was doing something else.
When we watch Bob Ross and his painting show, we are struck by how much the process of his painting resembles the very order of Genesis 1. He draws his river. He puts some land around it. He draws plants into his island. Then he draws in the time of day, placing the sun, moon, and stars in their orbit, and then maybe draws in animals and people. This is the order of Genesis 1.
Genesis 1 begins, “In the beginning, God creates the heaven and the earth. The earth is wilderness and chaos. The Spirit of God broods over the waters.”
God creates order out of chaos and at the end of six days, he finishes. Father Francisco correctly related that Genesis 2:1-4 is Hebrew Caddish, and integral part of Sabbath services. Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are not about the past, but about the writer’s present.
We now live in a world of wilderness and chaos, but God works to create a new and ordered world. All we must do is wait. That is the message of Genesis 1. Genesis 1 is not about the past. The Hebrew verb only has the present. The story is about our present, with God working to create for us an inhabitable world.
Genesis 1 therefore, cannot be about history. When Creation Scientists force fit Genesis into Science, they do a disservice to the text, which leaves the original writers laughing in heaven, “You think there were talking snakes and donkeys, and you think we were primitive? I wrote that part for my pre-school child.”
There is also another problem in Genesis. In our Catholic translation, based upon the Septuagint, Methuselah; lived fourteen years after Noah’s flood. In the Protestant Bibles, based upon Hebrew Torah, Methuselah gave us Lamech when he was 187 years old. In the Septuagint, he was 167. In our Catholic translation, Lamech gave us Noah when he was 182. In the Protestant bible he was 188. If all the years of Methuselah are 969 years, he lived 14 years after the flood, even though he was not in the boat, using the Catholic translation. In the Protestant version, he died in the year of the flood. As St. Augustine correctly relates, the most likely explanation is that when the Rabbis found the problem, they altered the text.That means the creation scientists are using a text we know has been altered. City of God, Book 15, Chapter 11 has Augustine’s figures.
Let us leave Torah as the great summation of Jewish Literature and a time capsule of Jewish Culture that leads us to our faith, that God is in control, and that he gave us Jesus to save us from ourselves.