Gary Greenberg's blog on biblical studies and related matters

A Genesis editing error? Separating the second and third days of Creation

As the story of creation unfolds day by day in Genesis 1, you can see something of a formulaic structure in the wording. On Days 1,3, 4, 5, and 6, the text has God declare that each days creation was “good.” On each of those days, the text ends with “there was evening and there was morning, the [N] day”, where N represents the particular day’s number. But there is a slight flaw in that structure on the second day and third days.

While the second day ends with the formulaic “there was evening and there was morning, the second day,” there is no reference to the events of the second day being “good.” On the third day, however, there are two separate references to the day’s events being “good.” Let’s take a closer look at these two days.

On the second day, God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” The waters above were separated from the waters below, and the dome was called “sky” (in the NRVS version.) This is followed with the formulaic note about evening and morning.

On Day 3, God is still fooling around with the waters. “’Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so.” God called the land “earth” and the waters under the sky “Seas.” As an aside, this sees to be something of a contradiction. Seas implies multiple waters separated from each other, but we were just told all the waters were gathered in one place.

At the conclusion of this task and naming exercise, we are told, “And God saw that it was good.” On all the other days, this phrase comes at the end of the day’s activity. Here it comes in the middle of the day’s activity. God next plants fruit and vegetation and the trees and seed. And, again, “God saw that it was good.” This is followed by the formulaic description of evening and morning.

The question I have is why the second day’s activities are not declared “good”, but the third day’s activities are declared “good” on two separate occasions for two different projects, one of which continues the second day’s activities.

The second day was concerned with creating a dome to separate the waters above from the waters below. The first part of the third day is devoted to gathering together the waters below and causing dry land to appear. It seems to me that that activity should have been part and parcel of the second day’s activities. In fact, the act of separating the waters above from the waters below actually left the waters below in one place. We know that because dry land had not yet appeared on the second day.

Furthermore, the end result of the third day was not the gathering of the waters in one place, the declared purpose, but separating the waters so that land can appear. We know some waters were separated from other waters because they were turned into separate Seas. Now, I am sure I am not the first person to notice this problem, and I am sure there is no end of creative theological solutions to paste over what appears to be an obvious error, but something is clearly wrong here.

It is my suggestion that in the original version of Genesis, the second day ended after the separation of the waters above from the waters below, leaving the waters gathered together in one place. Somehow, in the course of textual transmission, this got screwed up, with the gathering of the waters in one place being confused with the separation of the waters into Seas.

To be more specific: On the second day, God separated the waters above from the waters below, causing the waters to be gathered in one place, with no land divisions. This act was called “good” and there was evening and there was morning. The third day was not concerned with “gathering” the waters in one place but with separating the waters into Seas and bringing out the dry land, upon which God seeded and planted the vegetation and fruits and trees. That was also called “good” and there was evening and there was morning.

My next book. The Case for a Proto-gospel

If you look at the right-hand sidebar, you should find a notice about my next book, “The Case for a Proto-gospel: Recovering the common written source behind Mark and John.” (Mobile browsers might find it further down on the blog.) It’s being published by Peter Lang in their “Studies in Biblical Literature” series. It’s a peer-reviewed and lengthy academic study arguing for the existence of a now-lost written biography of Jesus that preceded the gospels and contained almost all of the major incidents in Jesus’ adult life. I argue that Mark, John, and Luke all knew this text and made use of it. Matthew had it second-hand through Mark. More significantly, I argue that John hated this earlier biography and composed his gospel as a rewritten correction, and, as a result, John’s gospel functions as a major crtique of Mark’s gospel.

It’s not due out until later this year and, unfortunately, as with most lengthy academic studies, it won’t be cheap. You might try to get your library to order a copy or get it through an inter-library loan. While still a few months away from release, it has a pre-order presence on Amazon. Clicking the link in the side bar should take you to the Amazon page, which provides a slightly more detailed description of the contents and features a blurb from Barrie Wilson, Professor Emeritus and Senior Scholar of Religious Studies, York University.

KMT reviews Gensis Chronology and Egyptian King-lists

KMT magazine, a popular scholarly journal that covers ancient Egypt, published a review of my Genesis Chronology and Egyptian King-lists. In the most positive portion, the reviewer wrote, “The numerous tables, where they deal with Egyptian king-lists . . . are excellent, highly informative, as also is his discussion of the same. These alone are worth the price of the book (emphasis added).” I take this as a tacit acknowledgment that the book deals well with the basics of mainstream Egyptian chronological studies.

Where we part company is over whether I have made the case that the numerous precise year-to-year alignments (none of which are cited in the review) between Genesis birth and death dates and the Egyptian High Chronology starting dates of every Egyptian dynasty down to the Eighteenth, as well as the starting dates for several major Egyptian kings and the beginning date of the Egyptian Sothic cycle constitute sufficient reason to believe that there is a relationship between the Genesis birth-death chronology and the Egyptian king-lists. Given the precise chronological alignments between the Genesis birth and death dates and the Egyptian dynastic dates, I am not sure what sort of additional evidence would be needed to make the case.

I have some other criticisms of the review, but I’ll let those pass for now.

Some light posting over the summer

I did some traveling in July and have more travel scheduled for August and early September, so posting has been and will remain light for the balance of the summer. I’ve also been busy with my writing. I have a book coming out from Peter Lang publishers on the Gospels (details soon) due out around November, and I have been working on Volume II of Genesis Chronology and Egyptian King-lists, which deals with the parallels between Egypt’s predynastic mythical chronology and the earliest portions of the Genesis chronology. If Genesis chronology intrigues you, make sure you pick up Volume I, dealing with Egypt’s dynastic era.

God’s Footnotes

On many occasions, one or another of the books of the bible cites a so-far undiscovered written source as an authoritative proof that what the biblical author said was true. I like to think of these instances as God’s footnotes. So, here’s a theological question: If a biblical text cites a so-far undiscovered written text as an authoritative source for a claim in the bible, should that so-far undiscovered text be treated as an additional canonical biblical book?

…Continue Reading “God’s Footnotes”

The Eucharist Problem: John vs. Paul

I’m pleased to report that Bible and Interpretation just published an article by me titled The Eucharist Problem: John versus Paul. It argues that John, writing about a half-century after Paul, preserved a pre-Pauline form of the Eucharist teaching and that Paul’s revelation is a radical reinterpretation and explanation of what Jesus must have meant when he delivered the version preserved by John.

Did John Historicize the Parable of the Wicked Tenant?

One of the most significant disagreements between John and the synoptic gospels (Mark, Luke, Matthew) revolves around Jesus’ last visit to Jerusalem. The synoptic gospels place the incident over three days in the last week of Jesus’ life. John places the visit over several months and ends it at about three months before Jesus is arrested. Where the synoptic gospels say Jesus went to the Temple during those three days, John says Jesus was hiding away to avoid arrest (on the theological principle that his hour had not yet come.)

…Continue Reading “Did John Historicize the Parable of the Wicked Tenant?”