The Hebrew Scriptures – the Old Testament – is full of contradictions. If they were indeed dictated by G_d, as some Christians believe, it’s a G-d who frequently contradicts itself!
We don’t have to look beyond the opening pages to find the first significant example. In the very first chapter of Genesis, G_d creates the sky, the earth, vegetation and the sun and moon in the first four days (curiously the waters already existed); aquatic creatures and birds on the fifth day; land creatures and finally men and women on the sixth. These nameless humans are given dominion over the earth. Then G_d rests on the seventh.
In the second chapter, the earth, heavens and the first man, Adam, are created on the same day, then a beautiful garden, the Garden of Eden, for Adam’s home. Living creatures are created to keep Adam company, and finally a companion and helper for Adam, Eve. There’s no mention of six or seven days.
I reiterate: in Chapter One, man and woman are created simultaneously as G_d’s final flourish; in Chapter Two, the man is created before the animals, and the woman later as an afterthought.
If anyone tries to convince you that the creation stories are literally true, ask them ‘which story?’ They cannot both be true! But in my churchgoing years I never heard these two stories read together and compared. No-one ever pointed out the contradictions, nor did anyone seem bothered by them, probably because, like me, they hadn’t noticed.
So why the difference? It’s because the two stories come from separate sources, written more than three hundred years apart and later combined into a single narrative. The first version was probably written in the 6th Century BCE around the time when the Jews were exiled in Babylon.
And that’s just for starters. If Adam and Eve were the first humans, where did their sons’ wives come from? If everyone apart from Noah and his family perished in a great flood when they took to the Ark, then surely Noah, not Adam, is the father of today’s humankind? And how did the penguins, kangaroos and duck-billed platypuses make it to the ark?
As Oxford Professor Diarmaid MacCullough, an expert on biblical history, wrote: ‘The chronology of the Book of Genesis simply does not add up as a historical narrative when it is placed in a reliably historical context’.
As for the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures, some passages are based on verifiable historical truth, but others have no basis in fact. For example, there is no written or archaeological evidence that the Egyptians ever enslaved the Hebrews (as reported in the Book of Exodus), nor that a large group of Hebrews (or any other tribe) wandered in the desert for forty years. This is based on events that almost certainly never happened; indeed, there is no evidence that any of the events described in the first five books or Pentateuch are literally true.
Religious writings are virtually all allegorical. Those who read them as historical fact are missing the point! Their ‘truth’ lies in the underlying messages they convey. Wake up, world!
Copyright David Lawrence Preston, 22.8.2016
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Balboa Press, 2015