The Creation Account in the Modern Day

The Problem of Understanding: Reading the Creation Account in the Modern Day

For thousands of years, people the world over have heard the two creation accounts in the Book of Genesis. In the modern western world, there is rarely a person who hasn’t at least heard part of the opening chapters of the Torah: of Adam and Eve, the Fall, and of the Creation story itself. But, thousands of years displaced from campfire stories being passed from father to son in the Hebrew camps, or the Prophet Ezra reading the scrolls of the Torah to the people, modern man does not innately understand many of the literary nuances and meanings used by the authors. This often leaves the modern reader confused or incorrectly apprised of what the book is trying to convey.

Modern readers often are looking for straight-forward and exact answers to their questions. The Torah accounts of creation, the fall, and others often create confusion for this reader. The first assumption that must be made is that while the message being conveyed in the Torah is unchanging and true, the story conveying said message is, in many cases, not always an exact historical record or scientific manual. For instance, the Church does not mandate belief in a 7 day creation or that Moses was 120 years old. On the contrary, the purposes of these numbers were to arrange the week and institute the Sabbath, and to explain that Moses lived through three generations (as forty years is a generation in the Torah’s literary devices).

But these variances cause division, and even unbelief among people. Division in the fact that there are protestant sects which literally read the Bible and firmly believe in a 7 day creation and the ages of the characters, or even in the case of the Jehovah’s Witnesses that only 140,000 people will go to heaven. On the other hand, there are many atheists or agnostics who would argue that because the Torah has erred in so many ways (instead of acknowledging these things as literary devices) that it is all a farce and further proves their own lack of faith.

Whether the literary devices in the Torah lead to heterodox faiths or even a lack of faith, as in he latter case, it creates a stumbling block for many in receiving the message of the origin of Man’s relationship with God, which gives cause to a misunderstanding of the entire economy of salvation. Fortunately, the Church through its historical teaching, the Magisterium, and its documents like Dei Verbum, has given God’s people the tools necessary to understand the message of the Genesis accounts with more clarity.