First Xmas Gift!

The Separation of Land and Water (1518-19) by Raffaello Sanzio, Vatican, Apostolic Palace.

Wow! When I opened my mailbox this morning, I found that someone had dropped a thick book in there, entitled “New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures”. An attached note revealed that it was a gift from Jehovah’s Witnesses who had visited me just a couple of weeks ago (see Bible Reading for Dummies). It also included an invitation to attend a meeting at their church this very evening, but since I’ve heard they make such a terribly bad coffee out there, I’m probably not going. Anyway, I haven’t come across this book ever since the obligatory Bible lessons at school, so I decided to start reading it right from the beginning while having my breakfast. Here we go:

    Genesis 1:1-2: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
    Genesis 1:3-5: “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.”
    Genesis 1:6-8: And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

Not sure what this means: “God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it.” So, there’s water again above the sky (the vault)?

    Genesis 1:9-10: And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.
    Genesis 1:11-13: Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.
    Genesis 1:14-19: And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

I’m a bit confused here because God already created Light on the first day (separating day from night). Why did he have to do it twice?

    Genesis 1:20-23: And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.
    Genesis 1:24-25: And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
    Genesis 1:26: Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
    Genesis 1:27: So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Hmmm, I would have expected the tale about Adam and Eve to appear here, but apparently the translators have left it out in this new edition. Or perhaps we will find it in a later chapter…

    Genesis 1:28: God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
    Genesis 1:29-30: Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
    Genesis 1:31: God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
    Genesis 2:1-3: Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

So, this is the very beginning of the Old Testament which was translated and adopted from the original Hebrew scriptures (the Torah) dating back almost 3,000 years. According to the ancient Hebrews, this God (whom they called Yahveh) wrote the whole thing himself and later gave it to Moses at some point. Unfortunately, Yahveh doesn’t introduce himself in these texts, so we don’t know where he came from, who his parents were, how old he was, where and how he lived, whether he had a wife, children or anything else. But we do know that he later also became the God of the Christian faith (Jehovah) and of the Muslim too (Allah), and according to all three religions, still exists as of today.

To put this narrative into a time perspective, radiometric age dating of rocks and meteorites tells us that the Earth is roughly 4.5 billion years old, while most religious sources within Judaism, Christianity and Islam claim it was created about 6,000 years ago. Moreover, modern science also tells us that mankind (Homo sapiens) is approximately seven million years old, so there seems to be a major time conflict here.

It’s not clear either whether Yahveh created the whole solar system or only planet Earth. I suppose by “greater light” he meant the Sun and by “lesser light” the Moon, but since he also put stars on the sky, we must assume he created the entire universe. I wish he had been a little more specific about that, though.

In 1946 Jehovah’s Witnesses published a book called “Let God be True” saying that each of the seven days of creation was 7,000 years long. The book also claims that the universe was created in 46,026 BCE, but without providing any evidence, except for some obscure calculations. The Catholic Church says the date of creation cannot be determined from the Bible and all Catholics are quite free to follow the teaching of science.

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