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?
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.0
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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.2
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