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Monthly Scripture Study & Reflection

The Book of Genesis

Recommended readings: Path Through Scripture by Fr. Mark Link (Paperback 1995--$14.50), Understanding the Bible: A Basic Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, Fr. George T. Montague, S.M.,(Paperback 1997 $15.96)  An Introduction to New Testament Christology by Fr. Raymond E. Brown. Time magazine hailed Raymond Brown as "the leading U.S. Catholic authority on the Bible."   In this accessible work written for all Bible students, Brown presents an intelligible introduction to the way Jesus was understood in His lifetime and in the lifetimes of His original followers.

Genesis, the first book of the Bible, opens with the Hebrew word bershit, which means "in the beginning".   The title "Genesis" according to the New American Bible, was given to the Greek translation of the book because of its concern with the origin of the world, of the human race, and, in particular, of the Hebrew people. Genesis contains many religious teachings of basic importance: the preexistence and transcendence of God, his wisdom and goodness, his power through which all things are made and on which they all depend; the special creation of man in God’s image and likeness, and of woman from the substance of man; the institution of marriage as the union of one man with one woman; man’s original state of innocence; man’s sin of pride and disobedience, its consequences for the protoparents and their posterity.

Probably, few passages of scripture have stirred up more controversy than the opening verses from the book of Genesis wherein we have the Bible's description of the creation of the world. Devout Christians took these verses literally for many centuries in the face of scientific explanations to the contrary. For the pious, God created the world in six days and many believed that this happened a little over six thousand years ago. But many equally pious Christians simply could not take these verses literally. It was more than the age of the universe that troubled them. It was the picture painted in these verses -- a picture common to the ancient Near Eastern world in which the earth was a flat platter surrounded above and below by water which was held at bay by the canopy of the firmament of the sky. The Heavenly Seat of the Divinity was above the waters above the firmament of the sky. This was the same pre-scientific concept of the universe as that held by the Hebrews’ pagan neighbors.

Although there are Christian fundamentalists and creationists who still hold to the Genesis account as a literal description of the origin of the universe, most Christians interpret these verses theologically rather than scientifically. That is certainly the approach reflected in Pope John Paul II's announcement that the theory of physical evolution can no longer be regarded as mere theory. It is scientific fact. But to say that the earth and living organisms have evolved physically in no way rules God out of the process or reduces man to an animal. Some people argue that if man evolved from apes why are there still apes?


The important truth about the Genesis still stands like a rock: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. " How God created and when God created is a matter for science to explain. Who God is and why God created is a matter than only faith can answer.

Another matter of sharp disagreement has to do with the environment. Disagreement appears most frequently in American politics and economics. Environmentalists are concerned about such things as air quality, water purity, ozone depletion, natural resource management, and wildlife preserves. They believe that we are fouling our nest by such industrial practices as strip mining, offshore drilling, clear cutting forests, and massive irrigation. In opposition, champions of industry point out that regulations drive up the cost of production to unacceptable heights. They insist that tolerable levels of pollution and development are the price we pay for being the wealthiest nation in the world. The occasional disaster is a misfortune that falls in the same category as natural disasters such as hurricanes or tornadoes.

at the base of this argument is a different reading of verses from Genesis, 1:20-2:4. For centuries, people have read God's admonition to Adam to subdue the earth and have dominion over it as a mandate to exploit the material environment and animal populations for human good. They argue that the world and all that is within it are here for human use and consumption. But recently biblical scholars and religious ethicists have argued that this word "dominion" does not mean "exploitation." Rather, it means "stewardship." Humankind is charged with the duty of taking care of the earth, tending it like a garden, seeing to it that all living things flourish in a material environment of plenty and beauty. This old text, rightly understood, lends powerful support to environmentalist and conservationist concerns.                                                  GLP

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1999, The San Francisco Charismatics, (ISSN 1098-4046). All rights reserved. The San Francisco Charismatics is a member of the Catholic Press Association of the Unites States and Canada and is published monthly by the Archdiocese of San Francisco, Office of the Charismatic Renewal. If you would like a free hard copy monthly, e-mail us your snail mail address. Sorry, USA addresses only because of our bulk mail permit.