Before Genesis Was Written- What Happened?

Would it be correct to say that the creation account in the book of Genesis was passed down orally (or otherwise) for many centuries before Moses wrote it down in Scripture?

Furthermore, how do we know exactly when Genesis was written? There isn’t a date in the Bible. Also, do we really know that Moses wrote Genesis?

What happened before Scripture was written? How did God deal with humanity then?

Thanks for your help.

Corey

The view that Moses wrote Genesis is the traditional one and was (with some qualifications and modifications) strongly affirmed by organs of the Magisterium during the “modernist controversy” of a century ago. I think it’s reasonable to say, however, that these teachings were not infallible, and the position appears to have softened a good deal. Most Catholic scholars take the mainstream scholarly view that the Pentateuch was written in its final form much later, and I have not heard of any censures from the Vatican in recent years on that point.

Many on this forum will insist that the traditional view is still binding. But the only way you can think this is to say that the Magisterium has been very, very negligent in recent decades in failing to denounce Catholic scholars for abandoning this view wholesale.

To me, the evidence seems clear that the texts were written in their present form much later. There are numerous references to things still existing “to this day,” or to political configurations having altered, and the only way to explain these and preserve Mosaic authorship is to say that they are later editorial additions to a text that was substantially written by Moses. This is possible, but not, I think, very likely.

The “traditional” historical-critical view is that the text is composed of four major layers woven together: “J” (the “Yahwist” text–starting with Genesis 2, written probably in the Southern Kingdom, and comprising many of the most vivid and dramatic stories), “E” (the “Elohist” text, traditionally associated with the Northern Kingdom and beginning with the story of Abraham), “D” (Deuteronomy) and “P” (the “priestly” text, usually seen as the last of the four and starting with Genesis 1).

Usually in 20th century scholarship J and E were seen as relatively old (sometimes dated to David’s time and sometimes to a couple centuries later, but usually seen as having been written before the destruction of the Northern Kingdom in the eighth century), D was identified with the reign of Josiah, and P was dated to the time of the exile. The whole would then have been put together during or after the exile.

That last conclusion is still the mainstream one, but many scholars have now moved to a more radical view in which most of the text as we have it was written late (during or after the exile). I myself am still more drawn to the older view, although it was obviously very speculative and shouldn’t be taken as Gospel truth.

One serious charge is that the JEDP theory was influenced by anti-semitism, since it originated in 19th-century Germany. In particular, the German Protestant scholars who developed the theory had little sympathy with ritual and thus tended to see the “P” strand as late and “decadent.” Clearly that’s a theologically (and historically) flawed approach.

Edwin

Yes.

Furthermore, how do we know exactly when Genesis was written?

We don’t.

do we really know that Moses wrote Genesis?

No.

What happened before Scripture was written? How did God deal with humanity then?

Likely, oral tradition; as you noted.

Exactly.

Genesis was handed down on a number of clay tablets and then collated by Moses onto dried sheepskin. There are as many as 9 clay tablets.

I think it would take a lot more than nine clay tablets to hold Genesis.

And where is this “dried sheepskin”?

You’re presenting wild speculation as fact. Granted, a lot of the mainstream scholarship is highly speculative too.

I myself tend to think that there were just two clay tablets handed down by Moses–the Ten Commandments.

Edwin

Its called parchment, my friend, its called parchment. I am not presenting wild speculation, wild speculation would be placing Deuteronomy outside the context of Moses, when contextually the book is so fitting to Moses. But for Genesis, This is the book of …

Whatever you call it, or whatever it was - not even a fragment (not even a partial character) of original Scripture (either OT or NT, written in the hand of its original author) survives to this day. So the nature of the medium is pretty much irrelevant.

Even St. Jerome, compiling the Latin Vulgate of the Bible (commissioned in AD 382 by Pope Damasus-1) never discovered ANY original texts during his long investigation. He famously complained that he had found as many versions as he found copies.

I agree that the original has not survived, but it is possible to reasonably speculate the process. Genesis was not handed down word of mouth, that would lead to embellishment generation to generation. But Genesis is one book where you will not find glorification of its subjects. You will only read their humanity, with failures. Obscure failures that could be regarded enough to be irrelevant to the course of history. Not worth mentioning verbally around a camp fire. So they were written down on the medium of the time, clay tablets, a series of clay tablets, easy to reproduce by negative impressions. By the time of Moses they were experimenting with dried skins to transmit history to our generation. I see in Genesis a desire to communicate a history with the fear it would be lost as man was aware of their short span on earth.

Could you do me a favor? Read Genesis Ch1 through Ch2 verse 4a. Then, read Genesis Ch2 verse 4b through the end of Ch2.

You will, hopefully, notice two different creation accounts - with different orders of events. In the first account, man is created last. In the second account, man (mankind, really) is created first.

The Genesis author was comfortable with the supposed “contradiction.” But, given that they were written back-to-back, it is important to understand that the author did not intend Genesis to be a documentary of the way God created Creation.

Today, we live in a world of journalism and documentaries. So, many have a difficult time understanding the point of Genesis’s creation account if it isn’t akin to a journalist documenting the events.

Sure, and that’s what the “documentary hypothesis” does:D

You say above that Deuteronomy fits with Moses’ time. How, other than the fact that it’s set in Moses’ time?

I don’t think the Mosaic authorship theory can explain the internal Biblical evidence. Apart from the frequent references in the Pentateuch to “until this day” clearly meaning a much later time–the frequent explanations of things that only later Israelites would have found confusing–Deuteronomy in particular condemns a whole lot of practices that were clearly common throughout much of later Israelite history and were engaged in by “righteous” kings. It makes much more sense to say that this text was written much later and reflects a later stage in Israelite religious development. Sure, you can say that even the “good” kings like David and Solomon had already lost the book and had on idea they weren’t supposed to be worshiping on high places or allowing their wives to have family idols. . . but by no means is that the most probable conclusion.

Genesis was not handed down word of mouth, that would lead to embellishment generation to generation.

Perhaps to some degree–and what’s wrong with that? That’s pretty clearly what happened.

But Genesis is one book where you will not find glorification of its subjects. You will only read their humanity, with failures. Obscure failures that could be regarded enough to be irrelevant to the course of history. Not worth mentioning verbally around a camp fire.

Really? How do you know that? Again, you criticize standard Biblical criticism for being overly speculative and then you make wild statements like this. . . .

So they were written down on the medium of the time, clay tablets, a series of clay tablets, easy to reproduce by negative impressions. By the time of Moses they were experimenting with dried skins to transmit history to our generation.

But you don’t know this. You have no independent knowledge of this “experimenting.” You only have wishful thinking and later Jewish tradition.

One thing I did discover in preparing a response to your earlier post (which I then forgot to post before I closed the browser): according to wikipedia at least, the Egyptians did have leather books (perhaps not “parchment” per se) as early as the third millennium B.C. I didn’t know that, and that does make your theory relatively less crazy:p

But it’s still sheer speculation.

Edwin

My friend, with regard to Deuteronomy, my only problem with your (regurgitated) wild speculation, is one of authority. Matthew 19:8. Jesus Christ said "For you hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives.

That is directly Deuteronomy. Nowhere else.

So do I believe Jesus Christ, or do I believe your 1800s revisionist wannabes?

And the same applies to Genesis. Do I trust Jesus Christ whos knowledge surpasses all, who was there, who will not allow error, or do I trust you, handing me information from third parties, long since dead.

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