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Thread: Did the Biblical God Create the Universe from Nothing?

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    Administrator lpetrich's Avatar
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    Did the Biblical God Create the Universe from Nothing?

    God Created the Universe From Nothing—Or Did He? | Bob Seidensticker and Combat Myth: The Curious Story of Yahweh and the Gods Who Preceded Him | Bob Seidensticker

    Genesis 1.1: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." could also be "In the beginning of when God was creating the heavens and the earth," continuing into the next verses: "The Earth was formless and empty, darkness was on the surface of the depths, and the Spirit of God hovered above the water." (my version from several translations)

    BS notes that the word for "create" used in it appears in several contexts that clearly indicate forming from pre-existing material, so that word alone does not indicate creation from nothing. He also proposed that an earlier version may have been "In the beginning God separated the heavens and the earth," like the separations later in Genesis 1: light from darkness, upper water from lower water, and land from water. Elsewhere in Genesis 1, he commands the land to produce plants and land animals, the sea to produce aquatic animals, and the air to produce flying animals.

    He then gets into a common sort of Middle Eastern creation myth, the "combat myth", German Chaoskampf, "chaos struggle". In it, the gods get together in a council to decide on what to do about a chaos monster that threatens them. The older ones are not willing to fight it, but one of the younger ones is. When he defeats the monster, he becomes the top god and the familiar world is created from the monster's remains.

    This mytheme is must like some Proto-Indo-European ones (Proto-Indo-European mythology).

    A reconstructed PIE creation story goes like this: there were once two brothers, Mannus and Yemos, Man and Twin. Mannus sacrified Yemos, dismembered him, and built the familiar Universe out of his body parts. The story of Norse Ymir is derived from it, as is the story of Romulus and Remus, Roman and R-win.

    Another PIE mytheme is a god of war and storms fighting and killing a reptilian monster who likes water. That got turned into stories of heroes killing dragons and other reptilian monsters. Stories like Hercules killing the Hydra, and Indra killing Vritra, for instance.

    These mythemes may have been brought to the Middle East by speakers of Indo-European dialects as they spread outward from their Ukraine-to-Kazakhstan homeland. Kikkuli, who lived around 1400 BCE in what is now northern Iraq, wrote a treatise on horse training that includes several technical terms that closely resemble counterparts in Sanskrit. Also, in Canaan at the time, there were kings with names like Indaruta and Suwarduta -- Indic names. Once there, these two mythemes may have been combined to form the sort of story that we see there, a warrior-god who kills a reptilian monster and builds the familiar Universe from its body parts. Marduk vs. Tiamat, for instance.

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    Administrator lpetrich's Avatar
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    The PIE people worshipped several deities. Their best-reconstructed deity name is *Dyeus PHter, Father Sky, where the H gets turned into /a/ or /i/. They also worshipped a goddess of the dawn, *Hausos, "dawn". It is hard to reconstruct other PIE deity names, however.

    The PIE people also worshipped a god of storms and war who liked to wield a cudgel. His name was likely *Perkwunos, surviving as Baltic Perkunas, Slavic Perun, and Vedic Sanskrit Parjanya, a rain god. But he has other names, like Celtic Tanaris and Germanic Thor, meaning "thunder", and Vedic Sanskrit Indra, meaning "man (male)" (Greek cognate anêr, andr-).

    Perkwunos's name survives in an odd place, words for kinds of trees, English fir and Latin quercus, "oak". This is likely due to growing tall and thus attracting lightning. So in that name, was it striking with lightning that came first? Or the tree?

    The reptilian water monster he fights also goes under lots of names, and I don't see any pattern in them.


    So I have this sequence:

    PIE: Two separate mythemes. Mannus sacrifices his twin brother Yemos and creates the familiar Universe from him by cutting him up, Also, a thunder/war god kills a reptilian water monster.

    Early recorded Middle East: the two are conflated: a warrior god kills a reptilian water monster and creates the familiar Universe from it by cutting it up.

    Some Israelite priests: God creates the Universe by cutting up its primordial stuff and commanding the pieces to produce their inhabitants.

    Later theologians: God poofs the Universe into existence from nothing.


    Genesis 1 has a very orderly sequence:
    1. Celestial environments: day, night
    2. Far-terrestrial environments: air, sea
    3. Near-terrestrial environments: land, plants
    4. Celestial inhabitants: the Sun, the Moon, and the stars
    5. Far-terrestrial inhabitants: flying animals, aquatic animals
    6. Near-terrestrial inhabitants: land animals, humanity
    7. God takes the first day off in the history of the Universe

    This accounts for its sequence flying and aquatic animals before land ones, when it is actually aquatic -> land -> flying. Land plants also came after aquatic animals.


    The second Genesis creation story has a very different style, a much more improvised style, and one unconnected to cutting up primordial monsters. Though it is clearly a separate story, it is often retconned into the first one as what happened when God created humanity. But it also features God using pre-existing material, like Adam from the dirt and Eve from Adam's rib or side.

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    Quantum Hot Dog Kharakov's Avatar
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    I like this: https://isthatinthebible.wordpress.c...tion/#more-139

    Although... anyway. Interesting distraction Loren.

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    No, people created gods from plain old moonshine.

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    Administrator lpetrich's Avatar
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    Looking back at
    Perkwunos's name survives in an odd place, words for kinds of trees, English fir and Latin quercus, "oak". This is likely due to growing tall and thus attracting lightning. So in that name, was it striking with lightning that came first? Or the tree?
    I can't help but think of how accustomed to mechanistic explanations I am. Explanations like "oak trees get struck by lightning because they grow tall" rather than "oak trees get struck by lightning because the storm god likes to strike these trees." From The Oak Tree Family I find "Oaks are generally large trees so when planting them make sure they will have room to grow both up and out. A planting site for many trees in the oak family should have enough space for an 80 foot tall tree that is 80 feet wide as well." I've also found Oak Trees get struck by lightning more than other Trees - Why? - Tim Brown Tours: "Oaks tend to grow taller than most other trees and have a long life span of about 300 to 600 years." Fir trees can also grow very tall. Not only tall trees, but also tall artificial structures often get struck by lightning.


    As to the second story, the Adam-and-Eve story, I like the theory of Francesca Stavrakopoulou that it was an allegory about some king's misbehavior.

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    Administrator lpetrich's Avatar
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    Mitanni-Aryan: "Some theonyms, proper names and other terminology of the Mitanni are considered to form (part of) an Indo-Aryan superstrate, suggesting that an Indo-Aryan elite imposed itself over the Hurrian population in the course of the Indo-Aryan expansion."

    The Mitanni briefly ruled an area that was much of present-day Syria, SE Turkey, and NW Iraq.

    Amarna letters has some letters to the Pharaoh from local rulers in Egypt's New-Kingdom Levantine empire. Their names include

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    I'm pretty sure Brahma did the job eons before Jehovah. It's possible 'Jeb' (familiar form of Jehovah) got some old joists, trusses, laminated planking, etc. from Brahma's backlot or for spare change at Habitat for Divinities. And then of course claimed credit for specs, contracting, sanding & finishing, etc. But he was a remodeler at best.

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    According to the Oxford Commentary interpretation of Genesis is not clear. It could mean something like 'out of chaos god brought order'.

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    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    According to the Oxford Commentary interpretation of Genesis is not clear. It could mean something like 'out of chaos god brought order'.
    It could also mean that a god appeared amidst the chaos.

    Darius has a servant tell him daily, "Do not forget the Athenians." When we read these translations we should likewise be constantly reminded that, "All translation is a lie."

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    Sapere aude Politesse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    According to the Oxford Commentary interpretation of Genesis is not clear. It could mean something like 'out of chaos god brought order'.
    This would be much more in keeping with the common cosmology of the ancient near east. For them, the logical opposite of existence was a state of discomposition, rather than a fictive state of utter absence. The concept of zero was more than a thousand years away when the great oral traditions of greater Mesopotamia were forming. God made people by "fashioning them from clay", not zapping them into existence; most of creation was brought up "out of the waters".

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