Decoding the Genesis Code

Decoding the Genesis Code

Erstwhile politician and actor Fred Thompson sent an email (which I was lucky enough to receive) hawking the Genesis Code, what he calls “a real thought provoking movie out now on DVD.” The movie premiered at the Grand Rapids Film Festival back in August 2010 and its general release was time to coincide with the start of the presidential campaigning season, January 2011.

Chron.com points to the politics surrounding the release of the film:

Former U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle is also promoting the movie in New Hampshire and Iowa, both early primary states.

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“These are political states, and this is a film that makes a fairly political statement about our culture,” Angle told CNN. “That we have drifted away from those constitutional values, those Main Street, mainstream values.”

Apparently, it doesn’t take much to provoke thought for Mr. Thompson (or Ms. Angle for that matter). Aside from its obvious political overtones and the fact that it will initially be available from Christian retailers, here’s what gets his juices going:

Kerry Wells (Kelsey Sanders), a college journalist and committed Christian with an effervescent personality, has been assigned to do a story on Blake Truman (Logan Bartholomew) the college’s newest and very popular hockey superstar. As a relationship between them begins to develop Kerry finds that Blake, who hides behind a tough and independent façade is actually struggling through a difficult personal crisis and that he bears the cross of a secret he has kept hidden for years. Blake rebuffs Kerry’s suggestion that prayer might help ease his burden; he is convinced that modern science completely disproves the Bible, especially the opening verses of Genesis. Kerry – who is herself suddenly confronted with a challenge to her faith on another front – sets out to prove that science and Genesis are not in conflict and her quest leads to a startling revelation. Could it be that what science teaches us about creation and the story as told in Genesis are both true!

If you can’t beat science, co-opt it. It’s not like we haven’t heard this spiel before, the claim that science actually proves the Bible – no matter how much of the Bible the science actually disproves. Just go the creation theme part, or read the fundie books about the origins of the Grand Canyon. We’re also told science can’t disprove God so just leave religion alone but why can’t religion leave science alone?

But Fred Thompson’s rapture doesn’t end there. This feel good story will move you…well, maybe your bowels. Read on if you can stomach the poor persecuted Christian meme:

We’re told that:

The Genesis Code received acclaim from other conservatives and family oriented groups, including a “fantastic” review from The Dove Foundation and Focus On The Family featured the film in theirTwentieth Anniversary of Plugged In.

Well if Focus on the Family likes it then it must be…awful. Right there is the kiss of death for any person who can say “science” without blanching.

Here is the thing you won’t find out from Fred Thompson (or Focus on the Family): If science proves Genesis is accurate, then it also ipso facto proves just about every creation story ever told.

You see, there is nothing particularly original about the creation story in Genesis. It’s a synthesis of older polytheistic creation stories, just as is Noah’s flood. We’re told Noah “was a righteous man” who “walked with God” (Gen. 6.9) but we also know that in a much older Babylonian story (17th century B.C.E.),  Atrahasis was one “whose ear was open to his god Enki, he would speak with his god and his god would speak with him” (Atrahasis 4.18-20).

It is interesting that in hearing so much about Creationism and about whether or not it should be taught in the public school system, not to mention its validity, we hear only of the Judeo-Christian Creation myth. “Fact!” traditionalists will cry. Indeed, we ask. And why? It is only one of many creation myths, more than we can discuss here, certainly. And not only is it not the only, it is not even the first.

And there is really nothing original about the creation story in Genesis (once we determine which of the two creation stories in Genesis we are talking about – and they are mutually contradictory). After all, we have the Babylonian epic called Enuma Elish, one thousand lines of text on seven tablets, discovered in the ruins of Ashurbanipal’s library in Nineveh by Henry Layard. The Enuma Elish is itself based on an older Sumerian source and dates from the latter half of the second millennium BCE. The Sumerian creation myth, the Eridu Genesis, dates from 2150 B.C.E., well before the existence of the first Israelite scribe.

In the Babylonian version, we find the following:

When in the height heaven was not named,
And the earth beneath did not yet bear a name,
And the primeval Apsu, who begat them,
And chaos, Tiamut, the mother of them both
Their waters were mingled together,
And no field was formed, no marsh was to be seen;
When of the gods none had been called into being,
And none bore a name, and no destinies were ordained;
Then were created the gods in the midst of heaven,
Lahmu and Lahamu were called into being…
Ages increased….
Then Ansar and Kisar were created, and over them….
Long were the days, then there came forth…..
Anu, their son,…
Ansar and Anu…
And the god Anu…
Nudimmud, whom his fathers, his begetters…..
Abounding in all wisdom,…’
He was exceeding strong…
He had no rival –
Thus were established and were… the great gods.[1]

From Hesiod’s Theogony we have another creation tale, again, not all that dissimilar from Genesis:

Verily at the first Chaos came to be, but next wide-bosomed Earth, the ever-sure foundations of all the deathless ones who hold the peaks of snowy Olympus, and dim Tartarus in the depth of the wide-pathed Earth, and Eros (Love), fairest among the deathless gods, who unnerves the limbs and overcomes the mind and wise counsels of all gods and all men within them. From Chaos came forth Erebus and black Night; but of Night were born Aether and Day, whom she conceived and bare from union in love with Erebus. And Earth first bare starry Heaven, equal to herself, to cover her on every side, and to be an ever-sure abiding-place for the blessed gods.[2]

As scholars recognize, there really isn’t anything new or special about the biblical book of Genesis or its creation myth. Genesis tells us that God created man in his image out of “dust of the ground” to have dominion and the much older Enuma Elish tells us that humans are created from clay and flesh and blood to “bear the load of the gods” which sounds very much like holding earthly dominion as well.

In both of these stories, as in Genesis, we begin with chaos. What then, makes Genesis acceptable and neither of these tales? As Florence B. Lovell wrote in 1955, “The striking difference between the biblical account of creation and the other two is its monotheism.”[3]

So Fred Thompson and his friends can’t really have it both ways. If science proves Genesis as they claim, it also proves Enuma Elish, the Sumerian Eridu Genesis, Hesiod’s Theogony and my own Heathen creation myth. You can be sure that is not what is intended and they’ll still claim every other creation myth is false, but then conservatives are not and have never been very good with causation, understandable perhaps for big fans of stasis; if nothing much ever happens there won’t be any cause after all, and therefore no effect, just more of the same relentless religious oppression so popular in fundamentalist religious circles.

 

 


[1] Leonard W. King, The Seven Tables of Creation (London: Luzac and Co., 1902), 2. This creation story was discovered in 1875 on cuneiform tablets in the British museum by George Smith, who called them “the Chaldean account of Genesis.”

[2] Hesiod, Theogony, Evelyn-White translation.

[3] Florence B. Lovell, “Biblical and Classical Myths,” The Classical Journal 50 (1955), 273.

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