“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Genesis 1:1

Monday, 8 February 2021

Genesis 1

Or, as they say in many folktales, “Once upon a time…” 

Actually, this would not be a bad way to begin the book of Genesis. Genesis is after all a myth of origins, not a historical or scientific account of the beginning of the world. 

I know what some of you are thinking. It’s the Bible, you say, it’s got to be true! I agree, even as I insist (in the company of theologians that include, in the Christian tradition, St Augustine) that what we have here is a myth, a story. Myths are stories that, although their narratives are fiction, point to certain truths behind them.

We know how the universe began about 14 billion years ago through the explosion of a micro-particle of energy (the so-called ‘Big Bang’, a term developed by a priest-astronomer Georges Lemaitre). The ancient Israelites had no idea of this. What their myth recorded here intends is to tell us that creation is the will of God. 

Does this diminish the truth of Genesis? It depends on what we mean by ‘truth’. If truth means facts, perhaps. But factual truth is – let’s face it – rather limited. Facts tell us what is, inviting the obvious question “So what?” Truth, at its best, answers the how and why of what is. 

In Genesis, we hear that God creates. God speaks everything into existence. We are not told how: the Big Bang theory tells us what happens and how. Why does God speak the Big Bang into being? The clue we have is when we hear that God saw that it was good.

We must infer from this that God, who is good in Godself, cannot but spread the goodness beyond the divine self.

Look around you today and rejoice in God’s creation.

Loving God,

Help us to embrace your presence in myth and stories, Stories that give us a glimpse of your Self.

Amen.

 
Fr Anthony Egan SJ

Fr Anthony Egan SJ (born Cape Town 1966; entered the Jesuits 1990; ordained 2002) has taught, full-time or part-time, at St Augustine College of South Africa, St John Vianney Seminary, Fordham University (on sabbatical) and the University of the Witwatersrand. The author/co-author of a number of books, book chapters, academic and popular articles, he is a correspondent for America magazine, a contributor to Worldwide and writes for spotlight.africa. He is also a commentator on local and international radio and television. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Helen Suzman Foundation. Extramural interests include Science Fiction, Theatre, Art and creative writing, including poetry.

a.egan@jesuitinstitute.org.za
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