The Top Six Most Ridiculous Things in Genesis (Gen. 1-50)

Note: While we at Holey Books have moved on to cover the second book of the Pentateuch, Exodus, I thought it would be worthwhile to sum up some of the main holes our examination of Genesis turned up.

While there are many holes in Genesis, these are the top six most ridiculous (in no particular order). If any of you readers out there find any other candidates, by all means — supply them in the comments.

1. God creates the world, and then creates it again (Gen. 1-2). The two different accounts of Genesis are clearly—if you read them with any critical sense whatsoever—two vastly different versions of the creation of the world. The consensus is that these were originally two different oral traditions written down by two different authors, identified by the vastly different way they refer to “God.” But their details, too, are confusing. In one, for example, God creates both man and woman after the animals; in the second version, he creates the animals first, and then man after them, and woman only after man. Of course, the creation here also makes no logical sense: God creates night and day before he creates the sun and stars (Gen. 1:14-19)

2. God breaks his promises (Gen. 2 & 5). God told Adam he would die when he ate the fruit. Adam ate the fruit. Adam lived to be more than 900 years old.

3. Jacob wrestles God (Gen. 32). Taking this story literally: God descends into man form, for no apparent reason, and wrestles with Jacob until daybreak. Jacob, the entire time, doesn’t seem fazed by the fact that a random dude is wrestling him all night. And then eventually God gives up, again for no real reason.

4. God endorses polygamy (Gen. 29, 30, others). Throughout Genesis, God consistently supports — or rather doesn’t take action against — polygamy. Yes, you might say, but God lets a lot of things pass that he doesn’t approve of, right? Wrong. Throughout Genesis, he frequently takes action to intervene. Yet he gives polygamy a pass by rewarding Jacob and his wives with children (Gen. 29:31; Gen. 30:17; Gen. 30:22), for example.

5. Abraham is not a good guy (Gen. 11-25). For the supposed patriarch of three of the world’s great religions, it’s amazing how terrible a person Abraham seems to be. First, he essentially whores out his wife to Pharaoh to save his own skin (Gen. 12), deceives Abimelek (Gen. 20), takes up with a servant girl when his wife is older (Gen. 16) (but kicks them out later (Gen. 21)), and nearly kills his own son (Gen. 22) (although for argument’s sake we will assume that God deceived him on this one—which is no less ridiculous). Throughout his life, Abram/Abraham is self-centered, heartless, avaricious, and heir-crazed. He’s just not admirable.

6. A Talking Snake. Snakes can’t talk. This is impossible. No other animal in the book talks, and never again are snakes talking. This isn’t in and of itself ridiculous, however, unless we take the story literally. Then it is. Snakes are too stupid to talk. A further point, though: While the text itself, it’s important to note, isn’t otherwise ridiculous in this sense as we have mentioned before, nothing in Genesis indicates the serpent in Gen. 3 is the devil, what is ridiculous is the later interpretations of Genesis asserting without equivocation that the Serpent was Satan. There is, simply, no evidence in the text for this interpretation.

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14 Responses to The Top Six Most Ridiculous Things in Genesis (Gen. 1-50)

  1. Phillip Evans says:

    On the sixth day, God “created” both men and women together.

    He rested on the seventh day.

    He looked and saw that there were no farmers (to till the soil).

    So he “formed” (not created) eth Ha’Adam.

    LOGICALLY CONCLUDE that the “adam” of Genesis 1 and the “eth ha Adam” of Genesis 2 are the same individuals…

    LOGICALLY CONCLUDE that Genesis Chapter 1 & Genesis Chapter 2 are accounts of the exact same events…

  2. Phillip Evans says:

    “God creates night and day before he creates the sun and stars (Gen. 1:14-19)”

    This appears to be based on the Fallacy: Affirming the Antecedent.

    If A, then B.
    B, therefore A.

    But there could be other causes for B.

    If it rains, the grass will be wet.
    The grass is wet, therefore it rained.

    Illogical: the sprinklers could have come on.

    If there is a sun, it will produce light.
    Light, therefore there must have been a sun.

    Illogical: light can come from other sources (e.g. Rev 22:5).

    • Greg says:

      Thanks for the comments.

      I think you may be relying a little too heavily on logic here to try to bridge these two stories together. It’s this kind of creative reading of these passages (no pun intended) that I think prevents us from seeing how the first chapters of Genesis themselves arose.

      I’ll respond to the comments in turn, I guess.

      With regard to the first comment: the “create” versus “form”: perhaps you missed an earlier post on this, but the key difference there is exactly the language used. Broadly, in the first account of the world’s creation, adam is “created” out of nothing. In the second, we have God (here being referred to by a different name, now) “forming” (as you put it) adam out of the Earth. Without going to the original language, I think there’s an obvious difference between “create” and “form,” and this goes to how God is shown to be making the world in Genesis — in one version, he simple says “Let there be light,” etc., and in the other, his creative process is much more, well, mechanical, it seems (for example, instead of saying things into being God “planted” the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:8).

      So, I think it’s of course “logical” to conclude that the adamof Chapter 1 and the adamof Chapter 2 are the same person — you are right about that — but, in fact, that’s the entire point I’m trying to make. Maybe I can be clearer by providing an example to illustrate what I’m talking about.

      Greg’s Book of Genesis:
      Chapter 1: Terry knew Eliza, and they had a son named Barry, who was the one and only founder of our religion.
      Chapter 2: This is the story of the birth of Barry, who was the son of Terry and Beatrice. Barry was the one and only founder of our religion.

      Here we have two different origins for Barry (he has two different mothers), who can only be the same person, as he was “the one and only founder of our religion.” If we assume that adamwas the first man, then it’s obvious that there can only be one first man. So the difference isn’t that the adamin Chapter 1 is not the same adamin Chapter 2, it’s that this adamcame about in a vastly different way.

      In response to the second comment: you’re logic doesn’t apply here, I don’t think. In Gen. 1 and 2, we have an order of creation. Based on the language and structure of Gen. 1, we can safely assume that with each step, God creates something out of nothing. In step 2, with only the “heavens and the earth” in existence, God creates light. Okay. So now we have light, the heavens/earth (which is “formless”) and we have God. Nothing else, yet. So where’s the light coming from? God? Or it’s just “light” that exists? It’s not until a few verses later that we get: “God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. ” So at first we had “light” and we had night and day, but we didn’t have those things that “govern the day and the night.” I.e., the sun. Are we to assume that somehow the light came from somewhere else? If that’s your personal belief, then, while I can’t agree, that’s not really something that’s up for debate, and it’s certainly not something I’m going to take umbrage with. But if we’re talking about whether the creation in Genesis conforms to our scientific understanding of how our solar system was created (with the sun coming before the earth, for example), then this account can not be literally true. (Is that part of the point you were trying to make? Maybe not.)

      For a further point about the difference between the two accounts, look at the first sentence to Gen. 2: “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.” This comes after an entire chapter describing the creation of the world already. Doesn’t this seem to be the introductory sentence of an entirely different account? It’s a more than typical way of starting a story. And this is exactly what it is — the new account uses different language (including the name for God, which was of fundamental importance for the ancient Israelites) and a different order of events.

    • Rob says:

      “When no bush of the field WAS YET IN THE LAND and no small plant of the field HAD YET SPRUNG UP – for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground – then the LORDS God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living creature.”

      Gen 2:5-7

      Obviously your reading of this passage is incorrect. It is made quite clear in this passage that God creates man BEFORE there are plants on the Earth, yet in the chapter previous God creates plants on the third day, and man on the sixth.

      It is also absurd to suggest plants could not possibly exist without man around to till them. Tell that to the rain forests.

      As for the light/dark argument, it is also stated quite clearly in Chapter 1 that God creates Light and Dark on Day 1, but the sun and the moon later. Yes, you can have light from other sources, and dark is but an absence of light. However, on the same day God created light and dark, he called the light “Day” and the dark “Night”. Sadly, sir, you cannot have night and day without sun and moon. That’s gravitational physics for you.

  3. Sue says:

    Adam was to have eternal life before the fall. After the fall, he had to die… sure, not for 900 years, but 900 years is comparitively short compared to an eternity. Duh.

    I could comment on the rest, but frankly, this website is dull. And stupid. Why not just let people believe what they want? I mean, what the hell do you care? Did some religious person hurt you real bad at some point of your sad little life?

    Anyway, you have every right to waste time on stuff like this if it is what you like.

    Just remember, God loves you. And Buddha. And Allah. 😉

  4. Greg says:

    Sue,

    Thanks for reading, and for the comment. I must say I’m a bit baffled by your words, since at one point you refer to our intellectual engagement with these texts as part of a “sad little life,” and yet you end your comment with an an emoticon. But then again I’ve never quite understood the lack of civility in internet comments, or the rage behind many of them. I’ll assume the best, though, and imagine that behind your comment there is no burning hatred for our web site, even if you find it “dull” and “stupid.”

    I’ll respond to the rest of the post below.

    It’s clear that God’s promise to Adam that he would die after eating the fruit was an immediate one — not a live -900-years-and-then-you-will-die-eventually one. Frankly, I think to rationalize it as you did stretches a reasonable interpretation of the language. But that is just my opinion. I think it has better support in language, context, and history of Genesis than the alternative, however. This is of course yet another reason not to take the account as fact, but as a mythological or etiological description of man’s relationship to YHWH.

    Second, you characterize our site, apparently, as part of some vast overreaching conspiracy to try to undermine people’s religious beliefs. That’s not our mission — and I think we have been pretty upfront about it. Check out the About page, for example. I cannot imagine what is wrong (or how it’s “wasting” time) in actually reading these important texts, trying to understand them, and then posting it to help others who are working through them or trying to figure out how to look at the world. (And it’s not as if we are spending our entire days doing this — we have jobs, families, hobbies, and lives, anyway.) The alternative to engagement with these ideas/beliefs/texts seems to be simply believing the dogma that others have set forth in the past, or some anti-intellectual agnosticism or theism that draws its belief structure out of laziness rather than engagement. Both Ryan and I are very serious about religion, and are here trying to engage with its beliefs and texts, deeply and critically — otherwise we wouldn’t be writing on this site.

    Thanks again for posting — any further discussion is always appreciated!

  5. Greg says:

    You are dead wrong, this is the problem with people who don’t know the Bible. Another animal does talk, Balaam’s ass. Check it out 🙂

    • Ryan says:

      It’s true, in the book of Numbers, Balaam’s donkey (or ass, if you prefer) talks. This post is specifically about the book of Genesis, so I don’t think we’ve made an error. There’s actually a post coming on Balaam (and his donkey), so stay tuned.

      Regardless, a snake can’t talk. Neither can a donkey. But an ass, oddly enough, doesn’t seem to have that difficulty.

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