Creation and Goddess symbols in Genesis 1-3 is among the more popular essay on this web site. I wrote it over thirty years ago and over the years I made several corrections. Recently I updated a post-scriptum (below) to clarify the distinction between language and the spoken word/speech.
In the book of Genesis, language, defined as a communication system, should not be confused with speech: A human capacity to re-produce a spiritual experience and presence.
When a person reads the Bible, he or she brings to life the inspired Word of God. This process involves the reader’s utterance of God’s creative activity in the beginning of the Bible.
Emile Benveniste pointed out, language re-produces reality. In Genesis, God’s creation and existence is re-produced by human speech. It transcends time/space of words that were written in the beginning.
reader/speaker/God’s spoken words
A spiritual experience is illustrated in these terms: A copy of the Bible sits on a table. The book is an external and non-existent object without a reader. A person appears and picks up the Bible. He or she opens the book and begins to read Genesis. Words become alive as the reader utters the order of syntax and re-produces God’s creative activity. What was at the outset an external reality becomes inspirational and a wholly external/internal spiritual experience linking past and present with human speech.
Gen 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2 Now the earth was a formless void, there was darkness over the deep, with a divine wind sweeping over the waters.
1:3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
God is a noun. What defines God or a deity is its attribute or verb. In Genesis 1:3 God speaks…
God’s creation consists of words/symbols like light and darkness, day and night, days of the week, the naming of animals, of man and woman, etc. words without which the world of the Bible and the cultural heritage it created would not exist. These are words and symbols we still use today.
In this sense creationists are right. God did create the world of the Bible. Yet, Genesis does not allude to particles, molecules, biological and astronomical evolution that also exists. A reality that is described by science and by scientists. Nonetheless, the Bible re-produces a reality distinct from the language of science.
Keep in mind that at the time of Genesis’ writing only priests/scribes were able to read or write. It was a closely guarded family skill. As it happens at the center of the garden stands a prominent symbol of genealogy; a tree.
Only priests had the ability/authority (note that the word authority comes from author) to read the Torah to the faithful. By reading/speaking God’s words to an audience they acted as a medium between God and the assembly of believers.
The advent of the printing press altered this authority by allowing any reader to become a medium. It promoted individualism, contemplation, prayer, meditation and self-communication of God’s presence.
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The emphasis of John’s quote is not the Word as text but the verb in terms of speech. A dynamic that re-creates the presence/existence of God to oneself by being/speaking the Word of God. A speaker embodies the essence of life, the presence of God and the power of human communication.
The original meaning of inspiration is the action of inhaling or breathing in. Its also means the act of inspiring and enlighten the mind/soul. In a metaphysical and mystical sense, this means the human soul is a recipient God’s Spirit. And expiring, breathing out (using the vocal cords), or human speech is the ultimate means of communication. Keep in mind that in Hebrew the words Spirit, breath and wind are synonymous.
I am the writer of this essay. You as the reader bring to life what I’m trying to convey. You transcend the time/space of when I wrote these words. I the writer and you the reader connect spiritually. Without you the reader, I am non-existent.
Ironically it’s hard to convey this dynamic with words.