The beginning of the Fall is one of my favorite times of the year because of the exciting possibilities of a new semester. The church is full of visitors, children are back in school, and Bible Study has begun. Currently, I’m facilitating two Disciple Bible studies in my local congregation, and as providence would have it, both are studying the first chapters of Genesis this week. I invite you to join me (either in person or via this blog) to study with us as we open our hearts and minds to the word of God over this semester. If you would like to read with us, the weekly readings are Genesis 1-2, and Isaiah 40:12-31
Here are some things to keep in mind as you join us. Genesis is a story with four different compositional sources —J, E, P, D. In short “J” material describes God as being “up there, out there, full of magnificence and power.” In “J” source material, God’s name is YHWY. In “E” source material, God is more personal and anthropomorphic. God’s name is “El” or “Elohim.” ”P” source stories have very orderly and systematic material. ”D” source material is mainly found within the book of Deuteronomy, a remembrance of Israel’s story.
The first chapter of our Genesis is “P” source material, composed by Priests. It is a systematic and orderly account of how God created. It is not composed to be a biology textbook, so much as it’s purpose is to communicate who the creator is and how the creator creates.
Genesis 1 reveals to us primarily three things. First, creation is peacefully born through word. Later we read that the new creation is also born through the word—the person of Jesus Christ. Secondly, it is important to note how it is that God creates. God says, “Let there be . . .” God’s primary act of creation is the offering of possibility or permission. God creates by allowing life to be. It’s not so much that God went “zap” and made plants and animals. God gave the earth permission to create “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures” (1:20), and “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind” (1:24). Thirdly, God is Triune, meaning revealed in three persons. In the story there is God, God’s Spirit, and God’s word. A close reading reveals that God is self-referentially plural: “Let us make humankind in our image” (1:26).
Genesis 2 is an “E source” creation story. Notice the differences in the story. Creation happens in a different order. God is more personal, getting the divine hands dirty and breathing life into creatures. You have to be close to breath life into another person. Unlike the “P source” material, God is so very close to creation, reminding us that God is truly with us.