[This is awesome]
I just finished reading R. Crumb's new illustrated version of Genesis. If you were planning on starting to read the Bible his edition is definitely the way to go. I had read most of Genesis before but this reading taught me something new: God did not create the world.
Here are the first few lines of Genesis:
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.
Because the language obfuscated itself I never took it its meaning until I saw R. Crumb illustrate it:
[Click to enlarge/improve]
What he's saying is that before what Jews and Christians think of as the creation, the earth was already in a sense there but in the form of an endless body of water. God created a pocket of air within that water, holding it back with the firmament (that is until Genesis 7:11 when "the windows of heaven were opened" and the waters were let in to flood the earth). This space constituted all of his creation with the sun and moon and stars floating between the land and firmament. Here is a better illustration:
This understanding of creation is buttressed by one Biblical scholars' more nuanced translation of the Hebrew:
Normally if I'm offered two stories of the same event I'll go with whichever one is more interesting. This story really gives the Black Sea deluge theory a run for it's money in terms of awesomeness. I think I'm having a crisis of atheist faith. I want to know more about these sea monsters! Do they now live past the edge of space? Are they like the Acanti?
Professor Ellen van Wolde, a respected Old Testament scholar and author . . . claims she has carried out fresh textual analysis that suggests the writers of the great book never intended to suggest that God created the world—and in fact the Earth was already there when he created humans and animals . . . She said she eventually concluded the Hebrew verb "bara" . . . does not mean "to create" but to "spatially separate" . . . [She] said her new analysis showed that the beginning of the Bible was not the beginning of time, but the beginning of a narration. She said: "It meant to say that God did create humans and animals, but not the Earth itself." She writes in her thesis that the new translation fits in with ancient texts. According to them there used to be an enormous body of water in which monsters were living, covered in darkness . . . The usual idea of creating-out-of-nothing, creatio ex nihilo, is a big misunderstanding.
Here's a bonus page from Genesis where Lot offers his two virgin daughters to an angry mob to rape rather than the two strangers he took in as guests (the same two daughters who would later get Lot drunk so they could have sex with him to have children. Fun!
[Click to enlarge/improve]