The Six Days of Creation

Day One

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

These are the opening words of the Bible. In his farewell address Christ proclaimed to his disciples: “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”.[1] As these heavens (or rooms) are unknown to us, it seems as though we have but two worlds to relate to – the physical and the spiritual; the earthly and the heavenly (from this point of view it is justified to change the plural ‘heavens’, into the singular ‘heaven’, as has been the case in some editions).

Another interpretation, which may be associated with mystical traditions poses that the heavens represent various levels of human consciousness – planes that may be reached even within this earthly existence. The seven heavens that the Prophet Muhammad traversed are then essentially spiritual states, as we also find in the Sufi tradition where seven valleys or cities mark the stages of the path of the seeker. In this interpretation, the heavens are essentially within the soul of man.

But there is yet another way to understand these introductory words. The Earth, according to this view is a symbol for humankind, while the heavens represent the many religious dispensations that have been present throughout human history. The word ‘beginning’ has in this context no particular historical meaning but speaks of an archetypal beginning that is ever recurring. In the Book of Revelation we read: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.”[2] The sky is also referred to as Jerusalem – the holy city – which renews itself every time a new book of laws is revealed. When a prophet appears to repeal old laws and enact new ones, this can be likened to the renewal of the sky, whereas the earth (civilization) renews itself when it is put under the influence of a new religious order – an order that can be identified as a spiritually revitalizing movement. Again, when Isaiah says “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth”[3], it may be understood that he appeals to the clergy and the masses. According to this interpretation, the opening words of the Bible are not to be understood as the beginning of a chain of events, but rather as a title. As some Jewish interpreters have come to understand the Hebrew text, the word bereshit (in the beginning) can be read as a temporal statement and any of the following lines, as the main clause.

The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.

This is the primordial state. The Earth is spiritually desolate – the people are living in the darkness of ignorance and delusion. The water covering the earth is the symbol of the state of chaos where civilization is dissolved, and indeed, is waiting to be born anew. The word deep – in Hebrew tehom – can be traced to the Sumerian word tiamat, which is also the name of the primordial beast that appears in the Babylonian creation story and which is known by the name Leviathan in the Bible. All in all, what is described here may be termed “a state where spiritual values have been dissolved”.

And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

The Hebrew word for spirit (ruwach) also means wind. “…he makes His messengers winds…”[4] we read in Psalms. This may be the foreboding spirit, manifested in the heralds that appear just before a divine messenger steps out of obscurity and becomes manifest to the world. Before the appearance of Christ, John the Baptist and the Essenes embody this wind, but it is a wind that stirs in many a tree and recurs throughout history in the darkest of times. Note that the Spirit of God is never part of the dark water (the forces of chaos) – it is separated from it, it moves over it. The Jews have interpreted this spirit, this wind of God, as an everlasting covenant – an assurance that God’s grace never leaves the people.

And God said, “Let there be light”, and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

In the first day the word light occurs five times (in row 3,4 & 5), and this, according to Jewish tradition[5] symbolizes the five books of Moses. As the light is separated from darkness, so is the Torah distinguishing right from wrong, and it leads the Israelites out of the oppression of night – into a new day. As Moses was the one prophet given the mission to reveal the law of the Torah, this light is also referring to him as the divine messenger – the source of enlightenment.

If we consider the properties of light, we find a symbolism that suggest a revitalizing, life-giving force. This divine light, this principle is also to be found with the Greek Stoics, expressed in the concept of logos (word). In the first verse of The Gospel of John the two terms light and word are tied together; “…the Word was God… In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” and Christ declares; “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.”[6]. The term logos was incorporated into Jewish philosophy only during the lifetime of Christ, but the earlier concept of ‘light’ filled the same function. We can thus see how The New Testament beautifully unites Jewish and Greek philosophy.

When the word light occurs in holy scriptures, it is very rarely profane light that it refers to, but to concepts such as knowledge, life, justice, grace and salvation. Without light there is darkness, destruction and chaos, for light is the premise of spiritual life. At the darkest of times – that is when the light returns. As it dawns, we at first do not see the sun at all, even though the sky is brightening. Once the sun appears above the horizon it climbs slowly, gently allowing the earth to adapt to the light of the new day, and as it rises above the tree tops, the land is bathing in its light and heat. As the flower lovingly turns towards the sun, so does the believer love that inner light, when its gentle rays thaws the frozen earth of the heart. It is this light that manifests itself in every good action, in service to humanity, in truthfulness, compassion, justice, and in the arts and sciences that are begotten of man’s love for truth. Such is the light of religion.

–› Day Two

Notes and references:

1 John 14:2

2 Revelation 21 also see The Qu’ran 14:48

3 Isaiah 1:2

4 Psalms 104:4

5 Rapaport, Tales and Maxims from The Midrash, New York: E.P. Dutton & Co 1907, page 59 ; There is consensus among scholars that the Torah was not divided into books and chapters before 300 bc when it was translated into Greek (known as the Septuagint). The Six Days of Creation was written some 200 years earlier. This however does not rule out the possibility that The Five Books of Moses was already grounded in the oral tradition.

6 John 12:46

ESV Bible used, if not otherwise stated

The Creation Myth – Preface

A popular view of our times is that the creation myth has emerged from man’s will to understand the origins and phenomenas of nature. This is a view that reflects how we, in Western society are relating to the world. We are feverishly searching for ‘origin’, but restrict our search to the profane, while the deeper understanding of origin is more distant than ever. Our unconditional worship of natural science and our lack of interest in the humanities have made us blind to the creative process that remolds society after the appearance of a divinely inspired teacher. What this blog will attempt to clarify is, that for the authors of the creation myths, ‘creation’ is that process of spiritual renewal initiated by divine teachers, whereas nature contributes the symbols that help people remember and revere their spiritual ancestors.

The Creation myth deals with ‘origin’ and by its help man was, through participating in rites or recital, able to move from the plane of the profane to the realm of the sacred — that is to say, withdrawing from the familiarity of time and space and moving towards the experience of the eternal. It must then be understood, that for the myth to have any religious value, the origin of the world must take place beyond time and space. Therefore the events of the creation myths cannot be seen as mere historical events, they are archetypes that manifest themselves throughout history repeatedly. The very name Creation Myth may even be regarded as grossly misleading, as the myth does not account for a creation where there is a definitive beginning and an end. Indeed, in neither of the creation stories found in the Bible does the world appear out of nothingness. To gain a fresh understanding of these stories the word ‘creation’ could be replaced with ‘fashioning’ and ‘beginning and end’ with ‘dawn and dusk’.

At the end of every cycle all things return into the realm of nature, and at the beginning of the next cycle they are recreated.[1] –Krishna

The theme of ‘beginning and end’ (night and day) – the eternal recurrence of creation, can clearly be seen in the Hindu scriptures, as in the Bible and the Qur’an. As we have come to interpret these concepts and themes by the standards of a materialistic paradigm, we have been deprived of that message which is truly relevant to us – the message that helps man to, under all circumstances, endure the horrors of history through reconnecting with his inner nature.

The imagery of the Creation Myth recurs in various works and traditions around the world and clear similarities can be seen between Rig Veda[2], Genesis and the Poetic Edda[3], to name a few. Had these been written down to convey something about physical nature we might have expected some degree of causality, but we oftentimes find the opposite – the stories are leaping hither and thither between events and characters, in a way that appears highly contrary to science and reason. In The Bible this is clear, firstly in that there are two accounts of creation, where the order of some events are reversed. In the first story man is created last and in the second he is created first. The fact that the first story is written in the form of six days, despite the sun and the moon appearing only on the forth day, may also strike the reader as a little peculiar. What may seemingly be anomalies will however become fully acceptable to reason as we learn to see the symbolical value of what is being told.

Over the last century much of the origin of the Biblical myths have been mapped out and it has been discovered that the story of the Garden of Eden and the Six Days of Creation are both borrowing symbols from neighboring cultures. The spring (or fountain) that waters the earth of the Garden of Eden, as well as the rib of Adam, are details that can be found in the Sumerian myth of Enki and Ninhursag, whereas the Story of the Six days of creation is written with elements deriving from the Babylonian Enuma Elish.[4] We may keep in mind that the value of symbols cannot be restricted to a particular culture, and rather than blaming the Jews for plagiarism, we can note with what ingenuity they incorporated foreign imagery into their own mythology. In Genesis we see how water symbolism is used in virtually its entire spectrum, despite the fact that flood myths usually originate in areas where rivers overflow every year, as was the case in both Egypt and Babylon, but not in Canaan. The Jews, who at various times, were in contact with both of these cultures, were able to discern many of the mystical meanings of the symbols, meanings that had likely fallen into oblivion in both Egypt and Babylon – just as they have in the materialistic society that is ours.

The Garden of Eden is the oldest of the creation stories of the Bible and was preserved in both oral and written tradition for several centuries before the Torah was compiled, whereas The Six Days of Creation was authored during the Babylonian Captivity or shortly thereafter. The Garden of Eden is largely attributed to the group of scribes known as the Yahwist while the Six Days of Creation is attributed to the Priestly Source (P). In P’s story creation is divided into six days and according to Jewish tradition this number symbolizes the four cardinal points and heaven and earth. In this we are told that the text conveys truths involving all humanity, not just a particular ethnic group. Church Father Saint Augustine, who interpreted The Six Days of Creation in three books[5], stated that the meaning of the six days is not that God would be restricted to a number of days to create, but rather that the number six stands for perfection.[6] The Qur’an also confirms that the number of days is six. In Native American mythology we likewise find that the world is created in six days and the cardinal points together with heaven and earth occur in traditional songs, stories and prayers. After the six days we find the Sabbath – the holy day of rest enacted to commemorate the covenant Moses made with the Israelites. Rest also stands for peace, and in contrast to the Babylonian Enuma Elish, wherein the god Marduk through acts of violence has to recreate the world every year, we may note that this narrative does not include violence at all, on the contrary, it is distinguished by its pacifism.

In short, it must be said that our authors knew the truth about the nature of the skies, but it was not the intention of the Spirit of God, who spoke through them, to teach men anything that would not be of use to them for their salvation.[7]Augustine

With these words in mind, we will step straightway into the first chapter of the Bible.

–› The Six Days of Creation – Day One

Notes and references:

1 Bhagavad-Gita 9.7 (Author’s translation)
2 Rig Veda Book 10 verse 129
3 Völuspa
4 Hooke S.H, Middle Eastern Mythology, Dover Publications 2004 Google Books
5 Confessions, The Literal Meaning of Genesis & The City of God
6 Augustine City of God 11.30
7 The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 2:9