Where else could a blog about the Bible begin?  Genesis 1 is obviously a chapter loaded with potential commentary, but I will focus on two points I find especially interesting.

The Two Great Lights

One of the main opponents and neighbors of the Jews was the Babylonian Empire.  In the Babylonian pantheon (i.e. council of gods/deities), the Sun and the Moon held great importance.  The Jews, at least by the time the Hebrew Bible was canonized, were firmly monotheistic, proclaiming one God.  And as we see from Genesis 1, this one God created everything that exists–including the sun and the moon.  Thus, Genesis 1 de-emphasizes the sun and moon, arguing we should use the sun and moon only “for signs and seasons” and “days and years” (vs. 14); they should not be worshipped.

This de-emphasis of the sun and moon takes several forms in Genesis 1.  Specifically, the sun and the moon are placed on the 4th day of creation, notably after the 3rd day when the vegetation (which, biologically speaking, needs the sun and the moon to re-produce itself) is created and begins re-producing on its own.  The biblical text essentially tells us it is not the sun and the moon that sustains life on earth, but the one God who created all things. 

Furthermore, the sun and the moon are not even graced with a name in the scriptural story of creation.  Rather, they are referred to as “the greater light” and “the lesser light.”  So de-emphasized are the sun and moon that God does not bother naming them.  Finally, God “set them in the firmament” just as one would place an angel or a star on top of the Christmas tree.  Again, Genesis de-emphasizes the role of the sun and moon by having the one God, the creator of all things, the only one and only thing deserving of worship, put them in place.

The Image of God

Much ink has been spilled about what it means to be created “in the image of God.”  I do not wish here to speak in-depth about what is the image of God in us, but how being created in God’s image has implications for the way we live our lives.

In the ancient world of the Bible, “images” were important.  Specifically, an idol/image of the city’s deity would be located in the city temple to make the city deity’s presence known.  Moreover, the king or ruler of the city was considered to be an “image” of the city’s deity.  From this perspective you see how the idea of a “divine right to rule” developed among the kings.  The king was the city god’s representative, his image, so the king was able to make and enforce laws because of his special relationship to the god.

The biblical God is unique inasmuch as he forbids idols/images of Himself, and He desires Israel to have no king, allowing the Scriptural word to rule over Israel instead (He later reluctantly allows Israel to have a king, but forewarns them of the problems that will, and did, develop therefrom).  Instead of an idol, a temple, or a king, God makes humanity His “image.”  Within the context of the ancient near East, as I mentioned above, this obviously implies humanity is supposed to represent God.  We are supposed to make God’s presence known to the rest of creation.  We are supposed to be a reflection of God to other humans and to the animals.

Of course, the rest of the Bible deals with how we fall short of that gift and calling.  But we’ll save that subject for another day…

Christ is risen!

Fr Aaron