Here's an interesting question both for atheists and christians... what do you think of this?

One of my two majors at university is English literature and linguistics. The other day in a literature seminar we did a close reading of the bible chapter "Genesis". During the class discussion, a rather interesting thing was pointed out that I had never actually thought about before. I am an atheist myself but I still found this very intrigueing:
The very first sentence of the chapter of Genesis (and in fact, the first sentence of the whole bible) is "In the beginning, there was god" (King James bible). Now, this might be a little literature-student nerdiness here but consider this: what's the "voice" here? (voice in an academic literary sense). Who is the narrator? Since it's told in a third-person perspective, it can't be god (Otherwise we would probably read something like "In the beginning there was me, your god"). However, if the narrator here is not god, this means that there must have been some other entity, possibly of comparable omincience (but not necessarily). However, if that was indeed the case, the bible is destabilizing itself on two levels. First of all, it claims that there was only god when really, there might have been other entities and secondly (and more importantly), it claims that this was "the beginning", which is not possible if there were already several entities prior to god creating the earth and univers. There must have been something before this. And it also raises the question of what relationship this god has/had with this narrator entity.
What do you guys think?


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Most Helpful Girl

  • Well, I'm an atheist, but I'll go ahead and defend the religious view briefly.

    First off, it is not actuall unheard of for people to write about themselves in the third person. So actually it is still possible that God is the narrator. But secondly, one could assume that the bible was written by a follower of God as a history of what happened, so after the fact. Yes, they wouldn't have experienced it themselves, but I think the typically theological explanation would be that God came to them and told them about it and told them to write it down.

    Now, as for my perspective, I just think it was probably a story that someone somewhere came up with, perhaps as an explanation for the existence of the world or some such. The story probably started out passed along through speech rather than text, but eventually someone wrote it down, as often happens with stories.

    But point being, the religious perspective is not necessarily invalidated by those few words.

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    • The story certainly started out passed along through speech rather than text.
      I think the problem comes from avoiding the possible question "Who or what created this God-creator?"

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    • @jacquesvol: See? Weird metaphysical bullcrap.

    • Exactly. That's why I am a functionally atheist agnostic. Willing to accept that there are things beyond my comprehension but not giving a damn.

Most Helpful Guy

  • I believe that one of your primary failures is trying to analyze the language of English translations of the original bible verses. I took a course years ago from an excellent professor who got to work with some of the original Dead Sea scrolls as part of her linguistics PhD. She was competent in archaic languages, Greek, Latin and Hebrew and was able to contextualize the original writing in the words originally used.

    Because it is impossible to exactly translate the nuances of archaic languages into modern ones, and because all major bible translations are done by humans with particular biases, doing a linguistic analysis of translations of the bible is a recipe for failure.

    Also, one must remember that the old testament is in many ways a compilation of various levantine mythologies by various sources in an unattributed document. The only level that logical analysis works is by abstracting "faith" from the document and considering it in a comprehensive anthropological context.

    That tends to require so much background scholarship that it is rare to find many capable of such activity.

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    • There's the problem of translation but also the problem that all texts were copies from copies from copies until ca 1440 when we started printing them. Each copyist tried (in good faith!) to correct supposed errors made by previous copyists. Verschlimbesserung nach Verschimbesserung during centuries. (IDK how to translate that word in English)

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What Girls Said 4

  • The people who wrote the Bible are the narrators, hence the third person view. They narrate God's story. Otherwise it wouldn't make a lot of sense, like you pointed out. It wouldn't make sense to claim that God is the only God, and it wouldn't make sense to claim that God was in the beginning. But it also wouldn't make sense for the writers to write the Bible as if they are God ("In the beginning there was me, your god"). Especially considering the Bible was written by numerous different people. So there is no point in contemplating if there are different entities or if there was something before God, since this is just about people writing about God, referring to God in third person.

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  • The narrator doesn't have to be existing in that moment. The bible was written well after the supposed creation of the earth. Who the narrator is, I'm not sure, but the sentence "in the beginning, there was god" doesn't imply that the narrator must be anything more than a man in a turban millions of years later.

    For example I could write a true story about something that occurred before my birth...

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  • Like any other book it was written by people and hence the third person narration.
    None of the so called "Holy Books" are written by "god" himself.

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    • Yes, I am aware of that. It's not a religious/philosophical question but rather one of literary close-reading.

  • Other than the fact of oral and written tradition that people have already argued, the issue is assuming gods live in the same realm in which creation exists. I think if you say gods exist beyond that realm, there's no room for further argument.

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    • You know what, I don't even know what a literary close reading is.

What Guys Said 7

  • To make it mre puzzling, add John 1:1 to it

    John 1:1
    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was
    God. ... In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word...
    http//biblehub.com/john/1-1.htm

    in my opinion that verse refers to the Logos (Λόγος) theory in Greek philosophy. Heraclitus (535 – c. 475 BCE) used the term 'logos' to describe the universal Law, or the principle that inherently ordered the cosmos and regulated its phenomena. (it had many senses)
    Hippolytus, in the 3rd century CE, identified it as meaning the Christian Word of God.

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    • Here's another interesting fact the word Tao as in Taoism can literally be translated into the word word, perhaps a common base?

    • @Anpu23
      I see an influence as very possible: there was contact with Budhism since Alexander the Great crossed the Hindu river. Why not with Taoism too then?

    • According to Philo, there seem to have been Buddhist monks (missionaries?) visiting Athens and Alexandria and even the Essenes around the beginning of our era. And I read about a claim that it was the influence of Taoism that was responsible for the development of Mahayana Buddhism. Christianity was also influenced by Zoroastrianism.
      Zoroastrianism and Taoism are very closely related ideologically and metaphysically.
      Stretching it a bit, we could go so far as to say that Taoism is "Chinese Buddhism".
      The history of world religions goes further than the conversion of Roman emperors.

  • If I'm not mistaken, it just means that God is/was the beginning. Also, I believe the narrator is the author of the book in the Bible. For example, Genesis is the author of the first book of the Bible.

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  • Its the writer of the book thats the narrator, all the books in the bible are written by peopel, who have been divinly inspired through the Holy Spirit, but still written by people

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  • It is in the past sense narrative, "In the beginning there WAS God"

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    • @Anpu23 see my answers above yours: We don't know when Genesis1:1 was told first but IF we suppose that the man who wrote it down in these words was familiar the theory of Heraclitus, it seems more clear to me.
      @BlueCoyote @chrisbigman

  • The bible has been through many years, in all these years the book has been remade by countless other churches, thus always changing the story to make it sound more interesting, adjusting to what sounds better to them etc.
    So the only true bible was the one first made, possibly. And that may have started differently, who knows.
    I personally believe more in the Zen budhism (very peaceful and good ideals), and actually there are facts that buddha existed.
    Not those like:we got a real piece of hair (or whatever) of jesus and 10 churches claim to have this, and then they turn out to be false...
    Well... i hope this helped👍😄
    And pls no haters on comments towards religion (everyone has their one ideals)👌

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  • There is a clearer indication than that the early Hebrews were polytheists.

    Compare "I am the Lord your God, you will have no other gods before me"

    "There is no God but God"

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  • The narrator is the one who wrote the book of Genesis.

    Just like "Once upon a time" well usually the narrator isn't there but he/she is telling the story.

    Or "In a galaxy far far away" the narrator doesn't have to be there to tell the story. The "voice" is just the person who wrote the book.

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