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It is sometimes depicted that the basic argument to read “the creation story” (Genesis 1) as a non literal story are modern science and the evolution theory. But I believe that the biggest problem with a literal view is in the text itself. More specific in the differences between the “creation stories” in Genesis 1 and 2.
Order of Gen 1
God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: plants yielding seeds
according to their kinds, and trees bearing fruit with seed in it
according to their kinds.” It was so. The land produced vegetation –
plants yielding seeds according to their kinds, and trees bearing
fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. God saw that it was
Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, after our
likeness, so they may rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of
the air, over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over all the
creatures that move on the earth.” (1:26)
Order of Gen 2
Now no shrub of the field had yet grown on the earth, and no plant of
the field had yet sprouted, for the Lord God had not caused it to rain
on the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground. (2:5)
The Lord God formed the man from the soil of the ground and breathed
into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living
The Lord God planted an orchard in the east, in Eden; and there he
placed the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees
grow from the soil, every tree that was pleasing to look at and good
for food. (Now the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good
and evil were in the middle of the orchard.) (2:8-9)
All quotes are from the NET Bible.
Is there a way to make a strong argument that both those stories are to be read literally (as if it was written by a modern historian)? How could those different accounts be merged?
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This is a long and sometimes rambling account of my investigation into the creation account, specifically with regard to the word “Boker” or morning. It is one of the most fascinating concepts I have ever discovered with regard to the Torah and the Hebrew language. The question is, do the ideas contained within hold up to scrutiny?
I happened upon this thought whilst researching the creation account. I don’t know if it’s original or has been discussed before, but if anyone is familiar with this idea, can you point me towards an analysis (if such a thing exists)?
After researching their etymology, the words Erev and Boker (or Voker) seem to have dual meanings, and thus could be used to gain further insight into the text. The commonly accepted literal translation of the phrase “Vayehi erev vayehi voker yom echad” reads “And it was evening and it was morning, one day”.
I was initially interested in the word “boker” and why it has the same root as “bakar” or cattle. This led to me discovering that “boker” fundamentally means “splitting” or “cleaving”.
I was excited but not surprised to find that upon researching the word “Erev” that it held the opposite connotations, ideas of mixture or gathering.
Leaving aside discussion over the word “Yom“, literally meaning day for the moment (I have other theories about that), it is highly interesting to then read the verses in this new light (if you’ll pardon the pun).
“And it was unified, and it was split, day one” obviously makes perfect sense with regard to day one and holds interesting implications for the subsequent days.
The idea that the creation can be reconciled scientifically by a series of “splitting of states” is highly fascinating for me. This also resonates with the idea (as stated in the Shema) of God being “One” – perhaps this reality is just the result of the splitting of that “one” into smaller discrete parts?
Edit: I have recently found an independent version of a similar theory in the book “The Science of God” by Dr. Gerald Schroeder. He describes the same ideas (which he attributes to Nachmanides), but instead relates ‘erev’ to mixture as in disorder or chaos. And to ‘boker’ he ascribes the idea of order (from bikoret-orderly, able to be observed). However he still seems to have missed the fundamental idea of ‘splitting’ which in my opinion is the key to unlocking the whole thing.
So to clarify the question: Has anyone written an analysis of Genesis 1 through the lens of these alternate meanings of ‘erev’ and ‘boker’? Is mine a plausible theory? Why or why not?
Edit 2: I just thought of another key argument which (again very simply but elegantly) supports my claims. In conversation with AbuMunirIbnIbrahim he challenged me on the meaning of בָּקָר, saying there is no evidence of linkage with the idea of splitting or division. I answered him thusly:
“In the case of בָּקַע and בָּקָר, however there is a clear linkage, which is discernible from one key translation of the root word:”בְּקַר: to plough, to break forth, to inspect. The Gesenius Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon translated by Friedrich Wilhelm states that the word בָּקָר is named for its purpose: of ploughing. This shows an undeniable link. Additionally there is also a second link which is that of the cloven hoof, which is one of the fundamental aspects of Kashrut.”
Coincidentally the other defining feature of a Kosher animal is that it is ruminant, ie. It has a divided or split stomach relative to other mammals. So both aspects of Kashrut involve the idea of splitting or division.
However, his reference to Ezekiel 34:12 really got me thinking…
As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are separated, so will I seek out My sheep; and I will deliver them out of all places whither they have been scattered in the day of clouds and thick darkness.
Look at this verse closely. “his sheep that are separated”. It hit me that this a fundamental characteristic of “בָּקָר” or cattle:- to flock or herd. A single animal from a flock represents the division of a whole into smaller discrete parts. Again this consistent use of language resonates perfectly and works with everything in its context. Sheep separating from the flock. The flock separating from the shepherd. Man separating from God. This verse (intentionally or not) uses the three letter root בקר twice and is directly concerned with the idea of unification (the flock) and divison (the scattering) and the subsequent reunification.
Edit 3: After some more research I am convinced that the two letter root “בק” literally means divide or split. Further, I am starting to think that the two letter root forms a fundamental part of the 3 letter root (which I have now subsequently learned is also a major part of Kabalistic thought). http://www.2letterlookup.com/ is a very useful tool in efficiently searching for patterns in the letter combinations and in the brief time I’ve been using it, I’ve seen some remarkable results.
In addition to the words listed above, I started looking for 3 letter root words with בק at the end (letters 2 and 3). Again I found multiple references to the idea of splitting, but one in particular stood out:
-Abaq (אָבַק or אָבָק) according to Gesenius means “fine dust” or “light particles” His conjecture as to the etymology reads:
“אָבַק a root not used in Kal, which I suppose to have had the force of to pound, to make small, from the onomatopoetic syllable בק, בך, פג, פק, which, as well as דך, דק (see דָּקַק, דָּכַךְ ), had the force of pounding; comp. בָּכָה to drop, to distil;”
The feminine form of the word also means powder. Clearly the idea of dust or powder as small particles removed from a larger whole again demonstrate exactly the same concept.
But this isn’t where it ends- it gets far more interesting. Genesis Chap. 32 recounts the story of Yaakov wrestling with the angel. The story often seems to be making cryptic allusions. First, Yaakov and his family crossed the ford of Yabok (יבק) – a name which appears to be highly symbolic. Then they wrestled (וַיֵּאָבֵק) the etymology again goes back to dust.
However, Rashi has a different interpretation attributing the word to an Aramaic expression found in the Talmud: דָּאִבִיקוּ. This is derivative of the 3 letter root דבק, meaning adhere, glue or impinge. Again the word references the concept of unification and division, since glue binds two discrete objects together.
I realise that this is moving away somewhat from a hermeneutic question, but I think it needs to be discussed. Either way I have realised that the Hebrew language is so much more complex and ingenious than I ever realised.
Jürgen Moltmann seeks to articulate a doctrine of creation for humanity that centers upon God’s creating and sustaining activity within the world. Recent ecological…