| Eco-Justice Ministries
Eco-Justice: "the well-being of all humankind on a thriving Earth"
Preaching on Genesis 1
|There are six pages related to the "Preaching on Genesis 1" resources:|
to Show Structure
Sermon Themes &
For us to understand the distinctive message of Genesis 1, it is important to see how that text differs from the Eden story in Genesis 2-3. What we think of as "the first story" was composed about 500 years after the Eden account. The Priestly story of creation has a different style and theological message from the earlier Yahwistic story. There are several elements of the Priestly story that can be read as explicit rejections of the earlier story.
|Text||Genesis 2-3||Genesis 1|
|Date||1,000 BCE - the time of David||500 BCE - after the Exile|
|Style||Folksy storytelling||Highly structured hymn|
|This story's relation to the biblical narrative||Begins an ongoing narrative||Comes to completion in Sabbath|
(but see the note below about the Flood)
Places where the later Priestly story seems to be explicit|
in contradicting or rejecting the earlier Yahwistic account.
|Creation happens through||Resolving a series of problems ("it was not good …")||A series of days that are "good" at every step|
|Relationships within creation||Mutuality - especially before the "fall"||Separation of various domains & kinds|
|Humans created||Adam created from the earth||Humans not created from the earth (others animals are from the earth)|
|Gender||Gender comes later||Male and female created together|
|Plants||Some plants are off limits||All plants are available for food|
|Human's relation to Earth||Serve the Earth||Subdue the Earth|
|Animals||Animals are companions for humans||Animals' purpose is not related to humans|
|Emphasis on humanity's||Free will||Authority|
Genesis 1 and the Flood
It is important to note that the Genesis 1 account describes a vision of cosmic perfection which is tempered with realism after the Flood. (The story of the Flood [Genesis 6:5 - 8:22] includes material from both the Yahwist and the Priestly source.) From the Priestly perspective, the flood was necessary because the earth had become corrupted by violence among all flesh. The sequence of the flood "undoes" the steps of creation from Genesis 1, and then rebuilds the whole creation. This new creation permits violence, although with significant constraints. It may be significant that in the covenant that God makes with all flesh and with the earth itself, the language about humanity having dominion is not included.
Mingling the Two Stories
The Yahwistic and the Priestly creation narratives have very different cosmologies, and define very different roles for humans within the creation.
When the two stories are combined, many Christians have picked parts of the message from each story, and lost the important constraints. The freedom of the Yahwistic story is mingled with the authority of the Priestly account, but the constraints of either story are lost. The unrestrained freedom and authority that come from mis-reading these two stories is what people (such as Lynn White) point to when they say that Christianity encourages the abuse and exploitation of nature.