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Telegraph article: God is not the Creator, claims academic

Interesting, controversial article. By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent, Telegraph UK
Published: 5:45PM BST 08 Oct 2009
Available here.

The notion of God as the Creator is wrong, claims a top academic, who believes the Bible has been wrongly translated for thousands of years.

The Earth was already there when God created humans and animals, says academic.

Professor Ellen van Wolde, a respected Old Testament scholar and author, claims the first sentence of Genesis "in the beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth" is not a true translation of the Hebrew.

She claims she has carried out fresh textual analysis that suggests the writers of the great book never intended to suggest that God created the world -- and in fact the Earth was already there when he created humans and animals.

Prof Van Wolde, 54, who will present a thesis on the subject at Radboud University in The Netherlands where she studies, said she had re-analysed the original Hebrew text and placed it in the context of the Bible as a whole, and in the context of other creation stories from ancient Mesopotamia.

She said she eventually concluded the Hebrew verb "bara", which is used in the first sentence of the book of Genesis, does not mean "to create" but to "spatially separate".

The first sentence should now read "in the beginning God separated the Heaven and the Earth"

According to Judeo-Christian tradition, God created the Earth out of nothing.

Prof Van Wolde, who once worked with the Italian academic and novelist Umberto Eco, said her new analysis showed that the beginning of the Bible was not the beginning of time, but the beginning of a narration.

She said: "It meant to say that God did create humans and animals, but not the Earth itself."

She writes in her thesis that the new translation fits in with ancient texts.

According to them there used to be an enormous body of water in which monsters were living, covered in darkness, she said.

She said technically "bara" does mean "create" but added: "Something was wrong with the verb.

"God was the subject (God created), followed by two or more objects. Why did God not create just one thing or animal, but always more?"

She concluded that God did not create, he separated: the Earth from the Heaven, the land from the sea, the sea monsters from the birds and the swarming at the ground.

"There was already water," she said.

"There were sea monsters. God did create some things, but not the Heaven and Earth. The usual idea of creating-out-of-nothing, creatio ex nihilo, is a big misunderstanding."

God came later and made the earth livable, separating the water from the land and brought light into the darkness.

She said she hoped that her conclusions would spark "a robust debate", since her finds are not only new, but would also touch the hearts of many religious people.

She said: "Maybe I am even hurting myself. I consider myself to be religious and the Creator used to be very special, as a notion of trust. I want to keep that trust."

A spokesman for the Radboud University said: "The new interpretation is a complete shake up of the story of the Creation as we know it."

Prof Van Wolde added: "The traditional view of God the Creator is untenable now."


anticant said…
Oh dear - another load of theistic bollox.
Andrew Louis said…
Perhaps a better word would be, "differentiated", rather than seperated.
Andrew Louis said…
Seperate suggests physical action, where differentiate suggests mental action.

So creation in this sense isn't so much a physical act, but a mental act, and perhaps representative of mans essential view on things, viz. dualism, and or, reason.
Brian said…
Is she from the Judean people's front, or the People's front of Judea? Splitter!

Add Separators to the list of sects, right after Quakers, Quiverfulls, and Promise Keepers....
Anonymous said…
I'm not sure how new any of this is. There has been a long-running discussion of the Hebrew verb "bara," which can mean "cut" or "separate." And the Mormons have stirred up controversy for essentially believing exactly what this scholar is suggesting (And for the same reason -- their founder had an alternate interpretation of "bara").

Here is what another scholar, Ronald Simkins of Creighton University, wrote in 1994: "Creation in the Bible is never ex nihilo, 'from nothing.' This doctrine was not formulated until the Hellenistic age, to which the first reference is 2 Maccabees 7:28. In the biblical tradition, and in the ancient Near East in general, God always works with some material that is either primordial or simply already there when God begins to create, though the ancient Israelites would not have made this distinction. . . God creates either through establishing order and fixing boundaries, usually by separating a primordial substance, or through the natural physical processes of birth and growth. In the Yahwist creation myth the earth itself is primordial. God never creates the earth, but the earth without God's creative activity is barren and lifeless." (Creator & Creation, p. 130.)

So I doubt that van Wolde's thesis will make much of a stir.
Giford said…
My, she certainly seems to have separated a controversy.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to separate tracks...

This strikes me as much the same as a debate between alien abductees about whether the spaceship was blue or purple. The story remains just as irrelevant, pointless and moronic as before even if this were to be widely accepted. More effort wasted on that silly book.
M. Tully said…
"The Earth was already there when God created humans and animals, says academic."

What's that...wait, just breaking news. Two British naturalists, working independently, have shown that God also did not create humans nor animals.

These events lead this reporter to ask, "Will future in-depth textual analysis reveal that everything existed and developed without God, thereby perfectly reconciling the Bible with the evidence revealed in the natural universe?"

Stay tuned to this channel for updates.
Anonymous said…
Really the spokesman for the Radboud University who said: "The new interpretation is a complete shake up of the story of the Creation as we know it." and Prof Van Wolde who added: "The traditional view of God the Creator is untenable now." are about a hundred years too late. The ledgend that is Friedrich Nietzsche had already shaken the stuffing out of the 'God Story' when he observed us eejits listening to the "ancient bells growling on a Sunday morning asking ourselves: Is it really possible! This, for a jew, crucified two thousand years ago, who said he was God's son?", because really unless as St Paul "...that if Jesus did'nt rise from the dead then countless millions of [us] believers have been wasting our time...",
Nietzsche may have been making mischief and he may have been deadly serious and Prof Van Wolde may well believe her interpretation of a single phrase it dont much matter because both the imagery of a creator seperating the heavens from the earth and the sea and a man rising from the dead are as Nietzsche who stated..."After Buddha was dead, his shadow was still shown for centuries in a cave - a tremendous, gruesome shadow. God is dead; but given the way of men, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be shown. -And we- we still have to vanquish his shadow, too"...or do we?...does it matter?
anticant said…
Yes - what people do or don't believe does matter. It affects their behaviour. Religionists are always telling us that their beliefs make them better people. All too often their behaviour belies this.
wombat said…
Why is this surprising? It's pretty clear that the version of Genesis we have is deficient. For example look at the story of Cain.

Why was Cain worried about being killed by those people he met - there weren't any except for his parents, presumably the Serpent, and God?

He had a wife - no mention of her being born to Adam and Eve or being created in any way. She just happened to be living in Nod.

Not only does the tale make little sense in real world terms, it doesn't even hang together as a story.
Billy said…
Even ignoring the fact that this is a pointless excersise about what an imaginary being supposedly did or did not do, this is just bad - even by biblical!
Montag said…
Perhaps we should view it as God as a bouncer - although divine, surely - and He "broke up" the scuffle between heaven and earth.

It's only a tempest for people who have their money invested in the Creatio ex Nihilo mutual fund.

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