The Bible’s Old Testament: Genesis part I: Written or Recorded?

Six or seven years ago, during the holiday season, my brother was driving me and my father back to my father’s house.  We’d been at my step-sister’s house for Christmas. For some reason my step-mother was not with us. Somehow we started talking about the Bible.  Typically, we tended to avoid this topic.  For one, my brother had never bought into it (in addition to not being versed in it).  Second, probably out of respect to me, my brother doesn’t like talking about it with my father—he’s tired of hearing how homosexuality is wrong (as per the Bible)—and since he likes to stick up for me, he doesn’t like to get angry at our dad. I think my dad tip toes around this with us for similar reasons, though if you asked him he would probably tell you he just wants the best for his sons and is waiting for us to come around.

Anyway, so there we were.  I don’t recall what prompted my father to respond with “they” had proven everything in the Bible—so there you go, it must all be true.  (My paraphrase here is a little more biting than his words).

Since I had never read it, I couldn’t tell you what “everything” entailed, nor did I ask.  My brother shot the conversation down and we moved on.  But still I continued to think about Dad’s comment: how exactly could they “prove” everything and what all could they prove?  I remembered vaguely a TV program that explored events in the Bible and found evidence that science validates some things—for example, the parting of the red sea can be attributed to some lunar fluke (or something like that), etc. perhaps these were the “they” to which my father referred.

My dad might also have been thinking about other instance, such as Noah’s Ark and Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. I assume he didn’t mean everything literally though.  Perhaps I should have asked.

As I begin Genesis, this conversation is on my mind.  Thus far, I get the purpose (or at least a purpose) of Genesis: it’s trying to explain how and why things are the way they are and why certain things happened the way they did.  In this sense, The Bible is recorded, not written. Fine. I can see why people thousands of years ago grasped for reasons for why we have day and night, why volcanoes happen (vengeful god), and why disease wipes out people (they must have been bad).

I make the distinction between recording and being written for several reasons.  If recorded, the events are documents and not shaped.  In general, the gist of the events and people are portrayed more or less as they happened.  Had they been written, then the person doing the composing would undoubtedly add there spin to events: you would get their morals, values, etc. on how things went down and what they thought important (thereby omitting things they didn’t care for).  Therefore, if written, we would not be getting the whole story.

In addition, if I don’t see it as something recorded, I might call out the writing for lacking in some places.  This mindset makes me think of the film Amadeus.  In the film, Abraham’s Salieri’s is a well-to-do court composer for Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II. When news of Mozart’s meeting with the Emperor is made known, Salieri works long and hard to compose a “March of Welcome.”  At the meeting, Mozart hears the simple song once, plays around with it, then makes some improvements, much to Salieri’s chagrin. When things are written, they get played with in much the same way.

For now I’m enjoying the attempt to make sense of a world in a time where technology kept a number of answers out of reach. I’m also trying to avoid noticing the inconsistencies and repetitive plot lines.

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About virgowriter

Brad Windhauser has a Master's in English from Rutgers University (Camden campus) and an MFA in creative writing from Queens University of Charlotte. He is an Associate Professor (Teaching/Instruction) in the English Department at Temple University. His short stories have appeared in The Baltimore Review, The Santa Fe Writer's Project Journal, Ray's Road Review, Philadelphia Review of Books, Northern Liberty Review, and Jonathan. His first novel, Regret (a gay-themed thriller set in Philadelphia) was published in 2007. You can read more about (and buy) it here: http://goo.gl/yvT24K His second novel, The Intersection, is being published by Black Rose Writing September 2016. He is one of five regular contributors to 5Writer.com. On his solo blog, he is chronicling his experience as a gay writer reading the Bible for the first time: www.BibleProjectBlog.com Follow his work at: www.BradWindhauser.com VirgoWriter@gmail.com
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One Response to The Bible’s Old Testament: Genesis part I: Written or Recorded?

  1. Dan says:

    The first five books of the bible were written by Moses.

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