Saturday, June 1, 2013
The Creation of Heavens and the Earth in Six Days
June 1, 2013
By Saeed Qureshi
The book of Genesis in Old Testament or Hebrew scripture Bible has narrated the six days creation saga of the world (not universe). The unknown writer narrates step by step the actions of God in creating heavens and earth, followed by light, day and night, then water, then grass and herbs, then living creatures in the water and dry land and air, and finally man in his own image.
The writer as witness is watching this unfolding process of creation by remaining with God for six days. After creating man God rests on the seventh day. The creation of man is described in Bible in the following words,” And the lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being”.
Amazingly God does not create a female separately but converts one of the ribs of Adam into woman. The story of serpent misguiding Eve is ridiculous and interesting as well.
A serpent is living in Garden of Eden (supposed to be Yemen) and he is able to mislead and prevail upon Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. Till that time an all knowing God was unaware as to what was going on in the paradise. He asks Adam how he knew that he was naked and Adam tells God the whole story. God is annoyed over the fact that Adam had become knowledgeable.
As a punishment both Adam and Eve are plunged into a life of toil and hard work to survive. They produce two sons: Cain and Abel. Cain kills Abel. The apprehension of angels that man would be troublesome proves to be true.
Islam's story is different. As a punishment for disobeying God’s commandment not to eat the forbidden fruit, God sends them to earth to become a perpetual target of Satan whose job is to derail him from the divine path. The conversation between God, the arch angel Satan and angels is given in the holy Quran.
God punishes Adam for a minor mistake but gives limitless powers and freedom to Satan to prey upon the humans. Can God be that much unjust or making such visibly faulty decisions?
Don’t these two versions look contradictory and at the same time a fairy tale? Contradictory in the sense that instead empowering Adam, he bestows his bounties on Satan to be his competitor in disobedience.
After reading these stories the profile of God that comes before us is a simple and ignorant creator who willingly creates a rival and unleashes him upon his choice creation.
Now in Islam there is an undeniable logical rationale for creation of the cosmos, one may interpret as world or the universe. The God almighty uttered the world Kun (Be) and it became or came into being (Fayakun).
That command or God’s creative powers do not beg any supplementary question or query because God as the supreme creator of the universe is capable of creating anything on the spur of fraction of a second and even in lesser time. The theory of Big Bang comes closer to this postulation.
What look suspicious or rather frivolous is that an all powerful God remained busy for six days to create the world. Incidentally when God started the process of creation there were no days or nights. The days and nights were created on the third day and therefore the first three days were practically nonexistent.
The creation process is spawned over a week or so and at the end God takes a rest as if he is tired and wanted a respite. The writer forgot that when the days and nights were created on the fourth day, how we could count for the non-existent three days in the beginning.
That seventh day in Judaism is Sabbath (from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday) and to follow the tradition of God’s taking rest on the seventh day, the Jews too lay off on Saturday and do nothing. So much so that when Jesus Christ was to be buried in a tomb, it was done hastily on Friday as Sabbath time was about to start.
The Genesis story suggests that besides God there was someone who was all the time present there and watching and recording the process of creation taking place. Unless there is s foolproof evidence that someone was there, how can we accept such a version of creation of the world unless God himself revealed it to someone?
The Bible both old (Hebrew scripture) and New Testament (Christian Greek Scripture) were written over a period of 1600 years( 1513 B.C.E. to 98 C.E.) by some 40 writers in various ages. The Old Testament consists of 39 books and the new 27 books.
It is therefore, an anthology of 66 books altogether. Perhaps the first writer was Prophet Moses (born 1593 B.C.E.) who passed on the oral laws and written commandments given to him by God on the Mount Sinai while the Jewish nation was stuck in Sinai desert for 40 years.
After the destruction of the Jerusalem temple by Romans in 70 C.E., the Jews dispersed and most of them settled in Greece and around Mediterranean. The Jewish literature and religious books were also destroyed with the destruction of the temple built by Prophet Solomon the son of Prophet David.
During the next four centuries, under influence of Greek thought and mythology, the Old Testament was recast and rewritten from memory or traditions, by Jewish Rabbis and scholars with countless additions and deletions of the original texts.
The tradition of temple and priesthood were overshadowed by the oral elucidation, commentaries and explanations of the Old Testament. The commentaries and complex explanations by rabbis were compiled into a book that is called Talmud. It is akin to Muslims’ kind of Tafseer or Hadith.
The Diaspora Jews were enormously influenced by Greek philosophy and culture and is reflected in Talmud. One such influence was the belief in immortal soul. It means that when an individual dies his soul should still live in another place. But the collective resurrection of the dead is also part of the Bible.
So there seems to be a contradiction between the collection resurrection on the final day and the concept of immortality of individual soul. In Bible there is a mention of collective resurrection. The addition of immortal soul was added in Judaism under the influence of Greek mythology.
Islam has resolved this tangle by espousing that the dead man’s soul rests in purgatory (Barzakh) and would come back to each person and they would come to life again. There is a strong possibility that during their interaction with Greek culture, religious dogmas and philosophy, the Genesis and other chapters were rewritten by Jewish scholars. The first five books in the Old Testament including Genesis are called Torah.
On the face, the creation of the world in six days and making of Adam with bare hands looks to be the invention of a fictional and fanciful mind without realizing that it derides and belittles a God, who in all faiths is and ought to be omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent.
How could he soil his hands in the dust? How is God supposed to be using hands and breathing like a human? How the lord of the world gets tired and rests on the 7th day? These are some critical questions that come to a curious mind?
The Genesis can best be described as a fable written for the children or the credulous, colored with suspense and fantasy. It is utterly hard for the people of this age to accept it as a rational and absolute truth. It is funny, frivolous and untenable. It underlines the limited human traits of a creator who otherwise is managing this amazing universe with absolutely flawless scientific principles.
The evolution is central to this universe and that can be the true explanation for an ever changing world. How the existence or creation started, through a big bang or some other way: we do not know. But certainly the story of Genesis in Torah is not an answer to that gigantic question.