Saturday, October 18, 2008

Symbolism and Creation, Part 3

There is one more bit of overlooked housecleaning that must be done before we can move forward to a discussion of Kolob, and that has to do with the source of our Bible’s creation account itself.

Most Latter-day Saints who read Genesis come away with the idea that God revealed something to Adam, Enoch, Abraham or Moses that mankind would have no other way of knowing. That is, God alone was present at the creation; man came later. So, if man were to have any knowledge at all of what went on before Adam and Eve were placed on the earth, that information would have had, of necessity, to come through revelation.

So, in effect, we believe we are reading revelation when we read Genesis. But, that may not be so.

All the major, ancient cultures also have creation accounts. There are some profound differences with the biblical creation account, but there are some striking commonalities.

How can that be? How do we account for those similarities? Did God call prophets in each of those cases and reveal the creation to them? Or, maybe we can attribute the similarities to diffusion — the process by which cultural traditions are transmitted from one culture to another. After all, most of these same cultures also have a ‘flood’ tradition, much like the biblical Noachian deluge.

The answer is quite simple: They are all eyewitness accounts — including the biblical account — of the one, singular event the ancients called “the creation.”

Mankind was a spectator when the events recorded in the creation account occurred. Those events subsequently, and quite naturally, became a part of the lore of every ancient culture, each putting their own peculiar twist on the same, basic pageant they saw played out in Earth’s heavens. This is the impression one receives from reading those accounts with a catastrophist’s eye, rather than a religionist’s eye.

How can I make such an outrageous claim? The evidence is in the ancient records and cultural traditions of people from all around the world, as I noted above. But the Genesis account, itself, betrays this notion.

We have already alluded to the fact that most of the Adam and Eve story is couched in symbolism. I would maintain that Adam and Eve were themselves mythical characters that owe their narrative to the actions of planets hovering over the Earth anciently. Just as our solemn “amen,” pronounced at the end of prayer and other appropriate junctures, finds its roots in the name of the Egyptian god Amen (Amun), seen in such names as Amen-hotep, Tut-ank-amun and Ammon, so does the name Adam derive from the Egyptian god Atum, the sun of night and Ra’s alter ego.

The very creation of Adam from “the dust of the earth” is, according to our definition, symbolic, and therefore a metaphor. Eve’s creation from Adam’s rib — the rib being a type or symbol of the lighted planetary crescent — is painfully symbolic.

Note that I am not saying that there was no Adam or Eve. Two individuals most certainly did come to this world to become the seed of humanity planted in this vineyard. Their specific story, however, is not told in Genesis.

These creation accounts, and many others like them, start to make sense only when seen as mythical or traditional accounts rather than truth dispensed through revelation. That’s probably why Brigham Young called the biblical account “a child’s tale.”

The Adam and Eve account was never meant to be a logical, accurate description of what happened in the beginning of the human race. It was a parable designed to teach us something about ourselves and our relationship with God. That’s it. It was never intended to carry the burden of accurate history we impose upon it with our misconceptions.

This, of course, demands that God participate in the use of this same symbolism, and there is no doubt that he does so. Look at the revelations given to Joseph in modern times that are loaded with traditional symbolism. This is one of the advantages the restoration gave to the Saints, if they care to employ it. Given the prophet’s perspective, we can rather easily discern what is symbolism and what is verity.

So, whenever God revealed the creation story, he did so in the symbolic tradition of those he spoke to. In other words, he was only confirming to them what their cultural traditions already taught, using those stories to teach a few gospel truths.

Thus, we now see Genesis as a traditional account from the Hebrew perspective, designed to carry a few subtle, revealed messages.

Ironically, we can also see prophecy as a use of the same literary device. But, that’s another whole topic for another time.

So, what about the rest of the biblical creation account? How much of it can we trust to be accurate? Well, a little comparison of the biblical creation with the other creation accounts reveals some remarkable details that seem to be rather accurate, though littered with metaphor and symbolism. When the biblical creation account is considered along with the other creation accounts, we gain a rather remarkable picture of what our ancestors saw at the dawn of time.

But first, we must return to the Kolob = Saturn equation before moving forward.

© Anthony E. Larson, 2008


Medievaldigger said...

Thanks for finally daring to utter the words...we're with you!

mhawkes said...

I really enjoy your blogs... it definitely gets one to thinking.

So where does the the creation of the animals, the forbidden fruit, tempting from satan, cherubim and the flaming sword and the rest of the genesis story come from.

So does this mean we really don't know the story of our first parents?