Back to Beginnings by Elise M. Edwards
I wasn’t reading it to find out about the origins of the earth in the way the big bang theory explains it. I was reading it to find out what an ancient people thought about the connection between God, the heavens and the earth, and all the creatures and creations in between.
For years, I’ve been fascinated by creation myths. Yet as a feminist, I was taught to be suspicious of the biblical creation myths in Genesis. The creation of man from dust and the subsequent creation of woman from his rib have often been interpreted to support claims about women’s inferiority to men. And obviously, the accounts of Eve and the serpent and her role in “tempting” Adam have been used to justify claims of women’s susceptibility to evil and their wanton natures which lead men astray.
So it was a bit of relief when in my first weeks of study in seminary, my Hebrew Bible professor pointed out that there are two creation myths in the opening chapters of Genesis. I was relieved because Chapter 1 and the first few verses of chapter 2 told a creation story I enjoyed reading.
The familiar “In the beginning…” story talks about the creation of the world and the creation of male and female in the image of God (and God’s companion). God declares that the created world is good. The narrative ends with God resting on the seventh day and blessing it. I loved the themes of creativity, of novelty, of good beginnings, and of a unified relation between all the created world. (Of course, I was aware that this story, too, had been interpreted to codify hierarchical structures and worldviews of human domination over the earth.)
But what was so refreshing to discover in that class, upon this new reading of the Genesis accounts, was a reason why I should read it. I wasn’t reading it to find out about the origins of the earth in the way the big bang theory explains it. I was reading it to find out what an ancient people thought about the connection between God, the heavens and the earth, and all the creatures and creations in between. I discovered that there were similar creation stories in the Near East. I was taught to note the similarities and differences. It is those details that allow theologians to say, “The God of this Scripture, of my tradition, is _____.” The story tells us what we believe about God and humanity and the world.
What I believe from this story is that God is a creator, that I was created, and that I participate in the creation, in an interrelated world of beings and things. I’m in the process of figuring out what the implications are for creativity and human creative action in this world. And I’m discovering again the joy at reading these myths. Because now along with them, I read the words of other feminists and other believers who notice its goodness.
Elise M. Edwards is a Ph.D. candidate in Theology, Ethics, and Culture at Claremont Graduate University and registered architect in the State of Florida. She does interdisciplinary work in the fields of theology, ethics, and aesthetics, examining issues of civic engagement and how beliefs and commitments are expressed publicly. As a black feminist, she primarily focuses on cultural expressions by, for, and about women and marginalized communities. Follow her on twitter,google+ or academia.edu.