Contradictions in the Bible

Genesis 1-11 

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Wednesday, 07 September 2016 17:49

Contradictions in the Bible | The primeval sea

Written by Gabriel Baicu
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In the biblical stories of the creation, the universe had been created by God inside a huge expanse of water when there was no sky or earthly atmosphere. On the second day of creation waters were separated and, according to the biblical texts, part of them remained “above” the sky and the other part covered the earth. According to the book of Genesis, the waters from “above” must be still there, but in reality they aren’t there and that also questions the accuracy of the stories of creation. We know for certain that such waters from “above” don’t exist and the idea of the primeval ocean or sea is an invention which circulated widely amongst the ancient mythologies. This observation, by itself, is a reason to invalidate the factual truth of the stories of creation from the Bible. Surely, the world wasn’t made in the depths of a universal ocean and such an ocean never existed. This is a misconception based on mythological grounds.

Who created the primeval sea? Because God didn’t have any reason to create the primeval sea, it should be considered as always being there without a beginning. Metaphorically, when God brought light over darkness and when He separated the waters which were above the sky from the waters from under the sky, He established order, replacing a previous disorder which was depicted by the expression “Tohu vav Bohu”.

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 God being the guarantor of order and justice in the universe, He couldn’t have created disorder hence that previous state of disarray wasn’t created by Him.

Besides what the book of Genesis says explicitly about what was created in the period of six days of creation, it is also presumed that a primeval sea had been there also and planet Earth was submerged in it in the beginning of its creation. The dome of the sky, which separated the waters from above and the waters from below, had been created on the second day of creation, according to the book of Genesis. In order to understand what sky really means in the context of the biblical narratives one has to understand first where the place for the so-called waters from above was.

In point of fact, there are not big quantities of water hanging loosely in outer space. In the account of the book of Genesis, before the creation of the dome of the sky, in its place was the primeval sea, in which the earth would have been submerged. From the biblical account, we don’t know how big and how deep this primeval sea would have been but we know that it would have occupied the place for the entire earthly atmosphere and for outer space.

When God started the Flood He would have opened the “windows of the sky”. Those “windows” would have been at the limit of the earthly atmosphere in order to allow rain to come to the earth. If they were in outer space it wouldn’t have been possible for a huge quantity of rain to come over the earth as the Bible says that it happened. A primeval sea surrounding the earth at the beginning of creation was never there, contrary to what the Bible says, and if it was there the light couldn’t have been created on the first day of creation as the book of Genesis maintains, because the existence of a functional light presupposes empty space.

At the same time, the existence of the primeval sea is a necessary supposition if we have to understand the separation of the waters from “above” from the waters covering the earth. The book of Genesis chapter 1 also assumes the existence on the first day of the creation of a light which couldn’t have travelled too far under waters and couldn’t have generated the first morning and the first evening. At the same time, the Bible speaks about “windows” of the sky from which God let loose the first rain on Earth with the occasion of the Flood. Those “windows” and an important amount of water couldn’t have been either at the limit of the terrestrial atmosphere or in outer space because that space isn’t filled with water.

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It was either a primeval sea at the periphery of the earthly atmosphere or in outer space, or God created the sun, moon, and stars on the fourth day in that space. Both options don’t go together unless one admits that on the fourth day God would have created sun, moon, and stars again under the waters, but that would be absurd. If the earthly atmosphere was surrounded by the deep waters of a primeval sea, which would have been separated on the second day of creation from the terrestrial waters, then the light from the celestial bodies created on the fourth day couldn’t have reached the earth. The author of the biblical texts didn’t know anything about the circulation of the water in the atmosphere, hence how rain is produced on Earth.

According to the book of Genesis, God would have created the light in a period of time when the earth was covered by the sea waters and before the creation of the sky. This is widely impossible if one considers how the oceanic waters are understood by sciences to have appeared on Earth:

“The huge volume of water contained in the oceans (and seas), 137 × 107 cubic km (about 33 × 107 cubic miles), has been produced during Earth’s geologic history. Earth gradually changed the properties of its atmosphere, producing a gaseous mixture rich in carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and molecular nitrogen (N2). Photodissociation (i.e., separation due to the energy of light) of water vapour into molecular hydrogen (H2) and molecular oxygen (O2) in the upper atmosphere allowed the hydrogen to escape and led to a progressive increase of the partial pressure of oxygen at Earth’s surface. The reaction of this oxygen with the materials of the surface gradually caused the vapour pressure of water vapour to increase to a level at which liquid water could form.”[1]

 It is hard to accept that waters were created in darkness if light is considered to have had an important function in the formation of the oceans. In the book of Genesis it is written that before the creation of light, darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.

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 Before the creation of the light, waters would have covered everything but in darkness, according to the Bible. Someone could reply that God said, and miraculously the waters came into existence. If so, where is this written in the texts? No mention of the creation of water is given in the book of Genesis.

If God did everything despite the laws of nature, why did He set all those laws in place to govern nature? God governs nature through the laws of nature, not chaotically as the book of Genesis says.

In order to understand nature as God’s creation we need to understand the laws of nature and through them to understand God. If miracles are understood as God’s intervention against the laws of nature, those miracles are an exception because nature is governed by laws and without them nature cannot function predictably and cannot be known by humankind. The most extraordinary miracle is the existence of the laws of nature and the possibility for humankind to know them. God wouldn’t have denied this extraordinary miracle by acting randomly and unpredictably during the creation of the universe.

Some scientists maintain that water had come to Earth brought by meteorites, but not even the meteorites would have been created until the fourth day, and that is obvious because all the celestial bodies were created on that day according to the book of Genesis.

The link between chaos and waters is a mythological motif and doesn’t have anything to do with scientific explanations. The motif of the primeval sea which would have occupied the entire universe at the beginning, is widespread in ancient cultures. In several mythologies waters symbolising chaos have been seen as the beginning of all things, and this fact makes the connection between biblical narratives and other mythologies very obvious:

“In Mesopotamian Religion (Sumerian, Assyrian, Akkadian and Babylonian), Tiamat is a chaos monster, a primordial goddess of the ocean, mating with Abzu (the god of fresh water) to produce younger gods. It is suggested that there are two parts to the Tiamat mythos, the first in which Tiamat is ‘creatrix’, through a “Sacred marriage” between salt and fresh water, peacefully creating the cosmos through successive generations. In the second “Choaoskampf” Tiamat is considered the monstrous embodiment of primordial chaos.”[2]

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Some biblical scholars see a connection between Marduk’s slaying of Tiamat and the biblical account of Yahweh’s conquering the primordial sea-monster Leviathan.[3]

It is not difficult to see the connection between chaos and waters, they went together in the Mesopotamian religion and they were linked also in the Jewish account of creation. Both mythologies had tried to explain the same thing, the origins of the earth. Tiamat is at the same time a chaos monster and a goddess of the ocean, so waters in the Mesopotamian religion were a symbolic indication of chaos. The same symbols were reiterated by the Jewish narratives of creation. Waters brought chaos later on by generating disaster and death, when the Flood is said to have happened. For the Egyptians also, waters had been linked with disorder:

“All the Egyptian versions of the creation myths have in common the idea that the world had arisen out of the lifeless waters of chaos, called Nu. This element was likely inspired by the flooding of the Nile River each year; the receding floodwaters left fertile soil in their wake, and the Egyptians may have equated this with the emergence of life from the primeval chaos. In Heliopolis, the creation was attributed to Atum, a deity closely associated with Ra, who was said to have existed in the waters of Nu as an inert potential being. Atum was a self-engendered god, the source of all the elements and forces in the world, and the Heliopolitan myth described the process by which he “evolved” from a single being into this multiplicity of elements. Atum appeared on the mound and gave rise to the air god Shu and his sister Tefnut, whose existence represented the emergence of an empty space amid the waters.”[4]

 Several mythologies used the same symbols in order to narrate the apparition of the earth and the book of Genesis contains them also. Beside the book of Genesis, there are other biblical texts which refer to the creation.

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   They are probably older than the book of Genesis and they strengthen the hypothesis that the stories of creation from the Bible are a transposition of other Near-Eastern myths. Those biblical texts are found in Psalms, the book of Job and the Prophets. For example, in Psalm 74 is written:

“12 Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the earth. 13 You divided the sea by your might; you broke the heads of the dragons in the waters. 14 You crushed the heads of Leviathan; you gave him as food* for the creatures of the wilderness. 15 You cut openings for springs and torrents; you dried up ever-flowing streams. 16 Yours is the day, yours also the night; you established the luminaries* and the sun. 17 You have fixed all the bounds of the earth; you made summer and winter.” (Psalm 74; 12-17 NRSV)

 According to this Psalm, God had divided the sea by His might, He had broken the heads of the dragons in the waters, and He crashed the heads of Leviathan. Many heads, not just one – a monster of the sea. Reading this passage, one may think that they resemble the Babylonian story of creation:

In the beginning, neither heaven nor earth had names. Apsu, the god of fresh waters, and Tiamat, the goddess of the salt oceans, and Mummu, the god of the mist that rises from both of them, were still mingled as one. There were no mountains, there was no pasture land, and not even a reed-marsh could be found to break the surface of the waters.”[5]

 Apsu and Tiamat had initially parented two gods and finally they had a great-great son named Ea, who became the most powerful of all gods. Following Apsu’s intention to kill Tiamat’s children, Ea found out about that plan and he had slain Apsu. Ea had been the father of Marduk, the four-eared, four-eyed giant who was god of the rains and storms. With a bow and arrow, Marduk had killed Tiamat.

After subduing the rest of her host, he took his club and split Tiamat’s water-laden body in half like a clam shell. Half he put in the sky and made the heavens, and he posted guards there to make sure that Tiamat’s salt waters could not escape.

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 Across the heavens he made stations in the stars for the gods, and he made the moon and set it forth on its schedule across the heavens. From the other half of Tiamat’s body he made the land, which he placed over Apsu’s fresh waters, which now arise in wells and springs. From her eyes he made flow the Tigirs and Euphrates. Across this land he made the grains and herbs, the pastures and fields, the rains and the seeds, the cows and ewes, and the forests and the orchards.”[6]

The separation of the waters from above from the waters from below, and the creation of land on an earth which would have been entirely covered with water, are common elements in the book of Genesis and the Babylonian story of creation. They both are myths and don’t have anything to do with God’s inspiration or with the real way in which the universe and humankind came into existence. Concerning the creation of humankind, the two stories also have important similarities:

With Kingu’s blood, with clay from the earth, and with spittle from the other gods, Ea and the birth-goddess Nintu created humans. On them Ea imposed the labor previously assigned to the gods. Thus the humans were set to maintain the canals and boundary ditches, to hoe and to carry, to irrigate the land and to raise crops, to raise animals and fill the granaries, and to worship the gods at their regular festivals.”[7]

Human beings were made from dust in the Bible and from clay and other materials in the Babylonian story of creation. In the book of Genesis humankind had been settled by God in the Garden of Eden in order to take care of it. The idea is the same in both narratives. Humankind had been created in order to serve God and to work towards the maintenance of the Garden of Eden. In the stories of creation from the book of Genesis this aspect is less emphasised but it is still present in the texts.

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“15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.” (Genesis 2; 15 NRSV)

In the book of Job we find another reference to God and waters:

“12 By his power he stilled the Sea; by his understanding he struck down Rahab. 13 By his wind the heavens were made fair; his hand pierced the fleeing serpent.” (Job 26; 12-13 NRSV)

The piercing of the “fleeing serpent” symbolises the creation of the earth from the slaying of a water serpent, which represents the primordial chaotic waters. The same theme appears in Isaiah in which the battle between God and the serpent will continue until the end of days.[8]

“On that day the Lord with his cruel and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will kill the dragon that is in the sea.” (Isaiah 27; 1 NRSV)

 Was Leviathan killed, or not, in the past? Seemingly he will be punished again on “that day” according to Isaiah. The “fleeing serpent” isn’t Satan as he was depicted by the Christian theology. The “fleeing serpent” is a symbol which brings to attention the same theme of creation from chaos which is found in other Near-Eastern mythologies. This symbol appears also in the book of Revelation from the Bible, but this time with the influence attached to it by the Christian theology. The ancient serpent coming from chaos symbolised by the primeval sea isn’t what he was in the Near-Eastern legends anymore; he was transformed into Satan, the personage so much detested by all believers:

“3 Then another portent appeared in heaven: a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth."

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Then the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, so that he might devour her child as soon as it was born.” (Revelation 12; 3-4 NRSV)

“1 And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads; and on its horns were ten diadems, and on its heads were blasphemous names.” (Revelation 13; 1 NRSV)

“3 So he carried me away in the spirit* into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns.” (Revelation 17; 3 NRSV)

The final victory of God over the serpent is also His prevalence over the initial chaos and over the waters which until the last book of the Bible are seen as the symbol of His enemy. This victory is prefigured metaphorically by the image in which the sea will disappear forever.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.” (Revelation 21; 1 NRSV)

We can see the cosmic fight between good and evil which started in the book of Genesis with God initially ordering the chaos symbolised by the waters of the primeval sea. God’s imposition of order was transposed in His fight against an angel who had been created by Him, this created angel being Satan. The serpent which symbolises chaos in the Bible cannot be equated with Satan because initially the Devil was created a perfect angel with no relation to a chaotic state.

Equating Satan with the dragon Leviathan with seven heads and ten horns that is related to chaos, generates an important inconsistency of the Bible. In the beginning, God would have slain the dragons in the waters which represented chaos according with the Psalm 74, and He would have crushed the heads of the Leviathan. At the same time, Satan was in the beginning a perfect angel, hence he couldn’t have been the representative of chaos. 

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    The same dragons killed by God according to Psalm 74 reappear in the book of Revelation. The dragon appears to be the same because the apparition from Revelation is the old dragon with many heads, and not a new one. In such a case is wrong to equate Leviathan or the dragon from Revelation with Satan. The evil is a necessary ingredient in mythology and is the opposite of the good.

In the Bible we have two different stories about the battle between good and evil which have been artificially compacted into just one very confused theology. Either Satan is one and the same as Leviathan, the dragon which will reappear during the times depicted in Revelation, or Satan is a new personage. Nevertheless, Leviathan was slain by God when He started to organise the chaos and separate the waters of the primeval sea, according to Psalm 74. Strangely enough, in spite of being slain by God the dragon didn’t die but he will reappear in the future as it is written in Revelation. In most interpretations of the book of Revelation the old dragon with many heads seems to be one and the same as Satan, but initially the latter was an obedient angel having a harmonious presence and not seven heads.

There isn’t much clarity about the relation between Leviathan and Satan or the fight between good and evil in the Bible. Both Leviathan and Satan had their followers, other dragons and fallen angels, but the former was slain by God in the process of creation while the latter will be thrown into fire at the end. I see here a theology of good and evil in evolution starting with old Near-Eastern mythologies and evolving into the battle between God and the angel of evil. At the same time, there is an incompatibility between Leviathan the monster which was slain by God according to Psalm 74 and Satan, who will be thrown into the lake of fire of the end of the days. Which of them is the representative of evil in the universe? When and by whom was Leviathan created? Did God create two agents of evil? The answer comes from the mixture of mythological traditions but the confusion between those myths doesn’t give a coherent description of the battle of good and evil in the universe.

The language of the stories of creation from the book of Genesis is the same mythological language through which other cultures from the Middle-East expressed their views about the origins of the universe. Even if the content of the narration is different in scope, the mythological form is similar, and also the symbols which are used.

In all stories of the creation of the universe, an external and all-powerful god or gods generated all that is. Basically, the principle is the same; everything is explained by an external intervention, which is responsible for the existence of the universe and earth, and not by forces which are inherent in matter and energy. In reality, matter and energy are “alive” and “creative”; they aren’t dead and they have an internal determination which set them in motion.

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[1] www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/.../ocean/.../Origin-of-the-ocean-w...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiamat

[3] www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Marduk

[4] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Egyptian_creation_myths

[5] www.gly.uga.edu/railsback/CS/CSMarduk.html

[6] www.gly.uga.edu/railsback/CS/CSMarduk.html

[7] www.gly.uga.edu/railsback/CS/CSMarduk.html

[8] contradictionsinthebible.com/yahweh-slays-the-primaeval-sea-monster-le...

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