The ancient scripture states something we now know to be true. Everywhere from the far reaches of the universe down to sub-atomic particles, fundamental principles govern all matter and energy. For centuries on end, in every field from mathematics to music theory, from genetics to economics,
scientists and scholars have discovered an intertwined network of organizing principles.
Biblical scholars agree that the ancient Jews believed in many gods, but chose to worship only one. To identify the power(s) that formed the Universe, the ancient scripture uses a word with no synonym in the English language. It can be pronounced elohim
but is difficult to translate, because it is both singular and plural.
Mainstream translations, like the King James Bible, turn alhim
into two different words – sometimes making it into ‘God’, as in: “God created the heaven and the earth” and sometimes into ‘gods’, as in: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Translating alhim
as ‘God’ hides its plurality, just as translating alhim
as ‘gods’ hides its singularity, while using two different words obscures alhim’s
fundamental meaning and profound beauty.
The concept of alhim
is captured in the phrase ‘powers that be’ – a phrase which reflects the word’s ancient Aramaic/Hebrew roots.
al – means ‘power’ or ‘god’
hi – means “to be’
im – indicates plurality
For the most part the Bible pairs alhim
with singular verbs – indicating that the powers/gods act as one. But when alhim
speaks, the verbs are first person plural: “let us make light” or “we make human beings” - showing alhim
speaking for all.
The Bible’s authors did not presume to define what alhim
is, they simply observed that alhim
exists and described what alhim
did and does. In Genesis One, the powers-that-be visualize, vocalize and execute a
series of covenants to promote the common good. Genesis One shows nature’s powers and elements working together to create and develop the world.
The process of creation begins in conception. The powers-that-be will enter into and execute into a series of covenants whereby they jointly visualize, annunciate, and fulfill a common plan.
Technically, this is an accurate depiction of the time water covered the earth’s surface. Lyrically, the verse evokes images of the
powers-that-be sweeping across the seas in a thundercloud and breathing our world’s first life onto the face of the waters.
Genesis One avoids mentioning the names of heavenly bodies. This leaves it up to you to figure out whether the source of the first light was the sun.
In this passage, the King James Bible translates the word tob
to mean ‘good’. Sure ‘good’ fits here – light is good. And ‘good’ makes sense in other passages - after the oceans, continents, plants and all creatures great and small come to be, the powers-that-be call each of them tob
can also mean ‘mixed’ or ‘joined’. And that translation is the key to understanding the entire passage - light and dark are mixed together and the powers-that-be ask them to separate and then take on their individual responsibilities.
Again, in Genesis Two and Three, when King James’ translators read of the forbidden tree deep that gives knowledge (hdet
) of tob
, they decide that tob
means ‘good’ and conclude that re
must mean ‘evil’
But, again, translating tob
as ‘mixed’ or ‘joined’ unlocks the meaning of the entire passage.
The word re
does not only mean ‘bad’ it can also mean friend, associate, intimate companion etc.
And that word hdet
does not only mean ‘knowledge’ it also means sexual relations.
So the hdet
, and re
of the forbidden tree really refers to sexual union with an intimate companion.
Regardless of whether the Adam and Eve story actually happened,
its principal lesson remains timeless and true – do not have sexual relations until you are ready to leave childhood behind, because childbirth is painful and fatherhood is hard work.
Light and Darkness
In a literal reading of this passage, the powers that be all agree that darkness would have the job of cloaking the night and light the job illuminating the day.
In other words, darkness and light agree to and receive callings. Not only to do they get names; they also take on responsibilities.
In ancient times, your name and your job went hand in hand. Mr. Smith worked with metal; Mr. Baker baked bread. To our ancestors, calling someone a name meant assigning them a job.
Diversity and Unity
If you want to believe that the Bible is hopelessly inconsistent with geology, all you have to do is translate the word iom
as day and insist that it refers to the 24-hour period of time it takes for the Earth to spin once on its axis. Then you can show geological evidence proving – by any rational measure – that the events of the first four days of the Bible lasted for billions of years.
And, if you want to believe that the Bible is internally incoherent, all you have to do is cite King James’ translation of the phrase, oihi erb oihi obkr iom
as ‘and the evening and the morning were the first day’. Then you can point out that the Sun was not created until the fourth day so that this passage makes no sense at all.
Or, if you like, you can let the ancient scripture speak for itself and marvel at its wisdom. The creation story, like the history of the Earth, and life on Earth, revolves around the process of organization, growth, reorganization and more growth. This particular passage marks the end of the first cycle in which the primal elements began the process of congress and progress.
God is not the name of God, but an opinion about Him.
-POPE XYSTUS I-
My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power; which is revealed in the incomprehensible
universe, forms my idea of God.
Long before I knew anything about physics, I sensed that life is woven together by invisible threads of being, that the earth and all that lies beyond emanate not from one source but from a complex web of existence and energy that spans time and space. And while I believe that there are conscious connections and interdependent relationships within this great web of existence, I do not use the word of
God or Goddess to describe it.
-REV. KATHY HUFF-
All are but parts of one studendous whole, [w]hose body Nature is, and God the soul.
I believe in God, only I spell it Nature.
-FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT-
Open your ears to the song of the universe.
I always think that the best way to know
God is to love many things.
-VINCENT VAN GOGH-