Introduction to the Meaning of Genesis

The Book of Genesis has been the subject of debate, mystery, and curiosity throughout Western and Middle Eastern civilization for thousands of years. The texts of Genesis have been the focus of many scholars, scientists, and philosophers as they have tried to grapple and understand its meaning in practical terms.

The first three chapters of Genesis have provided the foundation for fierce debate between religious leaders and scientists for centuries, as arguments regarding evolution and creationism have played out in courtrooms, classrooms and legislative houses throughout Western society. Many of these debates eventually became centered around the interpretations of Genesis. Were the verses to be taken literally? Did God really create the universe in 6 days, and did this really occur only 5,000 years ago?

The issue of whether many of the texts of Genesis should be taken literally has led to a large size debate not only between scientists and creationists in modern times. Another debate between two factions of creationists has broken out. This debate is between those who say the texts should be taken completely literally and those who say many of the texts are allegorical and a broader interpretation should be accepted.

These debates have resulted in public confusion regarding the meaning of Genesis from a practical and useful standpoint. They have served to remove the common reader from the practical teachings available in this Scripture.

The Meaning of Genesis serves to provide clarity for the reader, enabling a practical basis to learn the deeper teachings available within these texts.

These deeper teachings have largely been lost among popular translations and interpretations of Genesis. This is partly due to the persistent lack of clarity from organized institutions over the centuries regarding the origin and contents of these texts. The texts have thus incrementally been distanced from their original teachings.

There are a number of general misunderstandings about the Book of Genesis found in most Bibles. Despite the formatting to give it a historical appearance, scholars have confirmed that Genesis is actually not a single book. Rather, the Book of Genesis consists of a collection of different oral teachings recorded at different times by different scribes.

Much of the text was recorded from multiple oral teachings from multiple lineages that passed down those teachings from one generation to the next for many centuries.

During this passage of the oral information over the centuries, according to the time, circumstance and society, naturally much of the information eventually recorded as the book of Genesis assumed an allegorical quality. This allegorical quality conferred moral and devotional lessons upon the audience as it was passed on from generation to generation.

At the same time, these oral teachings also developed some of the societal issues prevalent during those times. Of prime importance was the feudal tribal nature of nomadic Judean tribes, who suffered from forced displacement along with voluntary movement. These tribes valued the ability to control certain territorial lands, as this was vital to their survival. As a result, some of the oral teachings also included messages authorizing their tribal authority over certain lands, by their ancestors and religious leaders.

Illustrating this, much of the Torah scrolls were recorded during and following a period when Judeans and Judean scribes in particular, were forced into exile in Babylon between 586 and 538 BCE. These events along with other struggles for control over lands with Assyrians, Persians, Greeks and Romans, led to texts that emphasize God giving certain lands of the Middle East to the Israelites.

As this accumulative process of recording continued, scribes authorized by tribal lords conveyed the texts to establish political authority and dominance for their particular tribe and leaders.

Over the next few centuries, those scrolls were copied, combined, translated and interpreted into numerous versions. Eventually, they were combined into one book, which became one of the five books of the Torah. Eventually, other books were combined into a single “Hebrew Bible” now called the Tanakh.

It must be remembered that many of those scribes performed their work under the supervision and employment of the leaders of that particular era. Some of these leaders – such as Solomon and David – were wise and devoted servants of God. Others were not so wise and sought to utilize the texts to their political advantage. This eventually became the powerful institution that Jesus criticized during his lifetime. And the same institution that condemned Jesus' teachings and had him arrested and tried.

Following the persecution of Jesus and the century-long Jewish-Roman Wars, the Roman government dominated Judea with an iron fist. For political purposes, during the Fourth Century CE, the Roman government contracted to have selected books from the Judean scriptures combined with selected Christian texts into what would become the first Bible. The Book of Genesis was arranged into the first book, inferring the Bible was a historical text, with its allegorical nature assumed to be literal.

The tendency of rulers to dictate the predisposition of Scripture continued into the third and fourth centuries with the Roman Empire. Particularly during Constantine’s rule and Roman emperors who followed him.

Roman Emperor Constantine saw that Christianity was growing rapidly in Europe and the Middle East. He thus smartly saw that he had better gain control of the religion before it endangered Rome’s control over its current Empire.

So in 325 AD Constantine appointed a number of religious leaders with strong followings throughout the then-Christian world, and organized a committee called the Council of Nicea. The purpose was to orchestrate a single doctrine to manage the Christian world under the Roman Empire.

Constantine knew that organizing such a diverse group of Christian sects was going to be difficult. In order to do this right, he had to create the appearance of legitimacy. He had to create an organizational structure that would allow the Romans to orchestrate their control over the region. This gave birth to the Roman Catholic Church, which came to dominate the Christian world and the doctrines of Christianity for over a thousand years.

The control exerted over the Christian world by the Roman government was by no means accomplished through the teachings of Jesus – as one might imagine. Rather, the Roman Catholic Church instituted and maintained their authority by force. Anyone who was found teaching any other doctrine other than the Nicene Creed was quickly eliminated – by murder or imprisonment. Over the centuries the Roman Catholic Church came to not only dominate religious thought in Europe and the Middle East: It was able to control the decision-making of many governments that formed following the fall of the official Roman Empire.

As for the texts of the Bible, after the First Council of Nicea (the Council was assembled every few years for centuries) in 325 AD, Constantine ordered and organized the assembly of the “Canon” – a selection of the hundreds of books accepted as Scripture among the various churches and assemblies throughout the then-Christian world. The Canon was to compile the theoretically-most credible books of Scripture and combine them into one text – which eventually became known as the Holy Bible (derived from the Greek ta biblia, meaning ‘little papyrus books’).

The resulting Latin Bible was a concerted effort of Constantine to organize Judaism and Christianity. This meant that the process of selection was driven not by a goal to select those Scriptures most important for passing on God’s message: The objective was to produce a single book substantiating the premise that Judean Christianity was the only valid religion.

This was an issue of control and authority. If the Romans were in charge of the only valid religion, they could by virtue of controlling the Church institution, control the people.

This goal was neither a new one for any emperor or government, nor was it foreign to many of the new bishops that were brought together to form the Council of Nicea. This is, in fact, part of the heritage of the Judean texts passed down and now identified as the Old Testament. As experienced historically among most feudal regions, rulers often gained power through their alliances with religious teachers – and many were attributed as prominent religious leaders themselves. In reality, however, most of the devoted teachers were focused not upon political authority, but upon the authority of the Supreme Being. This is why some prophets such as Jeremiah were rejected by the sectarian institutions of their day.

But it is this very tendency of historical alliance between political leaders and religious teachers that has produced misinterpretations and mistranslations of scriptural texts over the centuries.

Some of these alliances may have been grounded in devotion, but many were mixed with political ambition. For example, those early bishops appointed by Constantine to the council of Nicea may have had mixed agendas, but they came together as a unit under an umbrella of purpose to provide organizational and political control over Christianity. This resulted in the Nicene Creed, which came to dominate Christian belief during that time (by force) and eventually came to become the accepted doctrine of practically every Christian sect that has sprung up since.

In other words, for over 1,500 years, any person or sect that wanted to be accepted as a Christian had to at least accept the key terms of the Nicene Creed in order to be credible. This is how successful the Roman Empire was in snuffing out alternate doctrines.

And needless to say, the process of the Nicene Council also cemented these early bishops’ power and authority over their jurisdiction of the Roman Empire. They were now authorized by the Roman power to exert their dominance within their particular region. Their religious authority also became political authority.

Following the creation of the Nicene Creed doctrine, this political authority was used to support and maintain the new order of Christianity. This was accomplished by eliminating competing doctrines, and those scriptural texts that supported alternative doctrines.

Under the order of Constantine, the newly formed Church selected certain manuscripts that were circulating, and translated them into Latin, thereby assembling the first Canon – the first Bible. This new Bible – commissioned by Constantine upon the newly bishoped Eusebius – was transcribed and translated by professional scribes hired to maintain the Nicene Creed. This is evidenced by Constantine’s letter to Eusebius. Here is an excerpt:
“I have thought it expedient to instruct your Prudence to order fifty copies of the sacred Scriptures, the provision and use of which you know to be most needful for the instruction of the Church, to be written on prepared parchment in a legible manner, and in a convenient, portable form, by professional transcribers thoroughly practiced in their art. The catholicus of the diocese has also received instructions by letter from our Clemency to be careful to furnish all things necessary for the preparation of such copies; and it will be for you to take special care that they be completed with as little delay as possible. You have authority also, in virtue of this letter, to use two of the public carriages for their conveyance, by which arrangement the copies when fairly written will most easily be forwarded for my personal inspection; and one of the deacons of your church may be intrusted with this service, who, on his arrival here, shall experience my liberality.” (NPNF2-01, Esebius, Church History, Life of Constantine, Orationin Praise of Constantine)
Key elements of this letter include “professional transcribers,” “my personal inspection,” and the orchestration of Constantine’s involvement in the assembly of the Bible. In other words, the texts were assembled by professional transcribers paid for their efforts.

Such a professional endeavor, ordered by a political emperor, is diametrically opposed to services of devotion.

Also, we find this “professional” Bible was subject to Constantine’s inspection and ultimate approval. Here is a politician – an emperor known also to have persecuted and slaughtered millions to establish his power – approving Scripture?

Eusebius had previously assembled a list of manuscripts that were popular and most acceptable to the early Church leadership at that time, and he used most of this list to assemble the Bible canon. In other words, the books were chosen based upon their acceptability by the organized institution of what would later be called the Roman Catholic Church.

We also find evidence that Eusebius sought to promote his own personal interpretations upon the books of the Bible – and Eusebius had many distinctive opinions, some of which were part of the mainstream Church thinking and some of which were not. The 5th-Century Christian historian, Socrates Scholasticus, documented that Eusebius’ writings had “rhetorical finish” and were written for the “praises of the Emperor” and not the “accurate statement of facts.”

In other words, the first assembly and transcribing of the official Bible was less than a devotional activity exercised with the seriousness of unbiased scholarship we would expect from such a work. It involved significant political ambition by both Eusebius and Constantine. We can add to this that there was continual wrangling and political intrigue amongst the various bishops that attended the Nicea synods, which determined – through a political process – the doctrine of the early Church that became known as the Nicene Creed, now accepted as fundamental to most Christian institutions.

To summarize, Eusebius’ work to assemble the first Bible was assigned by the Roman Emperor Constantine, and Constantine’s efforts were driven by a desire to organize and control the religion of Christianity. By Constantine’s order, Eusebius hired professional translators and transcribers, who oversaw the translation (and thus interpretation) of the Scriptures from Greek, Arabic and Hebrew languages, into Latin. This Latin translation provided the foundation for the future interpretation of the Bible, which eventually was translated into English.

After the early Bible’s manuscripts were selected, translated into Latin and assembled into the Bible, the Roman Empire and its surrogate Church systematically burned and destroyed any library that included books outside of those selected for the Bible or otherwise were “approved” by Church fathers. Some were quarantined within the Church’s library in Rome; others were burnt, never to be found.

The Church also systematically squelched any alternative interpretations of Genesis and the creation, such as those that were taught amongst the Gnostics for centuries. The Gnostics were practically driven out of existence. Their villages were burnt, their teachers were murdered, and their libraries of manuscripts were destroyed. This activity – of forcibly removing ‘heretics’ for their alternative interpretations of Scripture – continued for over a thousand years among the Church and its proxies.

Add to this “purification” that for centuries, the Latin Bible was the only Bible allowed to be read, and only the priests and Church officials had access to the Latin Bible. The rest of the people among the regions controlled by the Roman Catholic Church and its surrogates did not have access to Scripture. They could only hear its Latin from the priests, who also controlled its interpretation. This was the status quo for many centuries until parts of the Bible was (illegally according to the Church) translated into English and other languages. The first complete English Bible – translated from the Latin Bible – came into being during the 14th Century – more than a thousand years after Eusebius’ Latin Bible.

And even then, John Wycliffe, the English Bible’s translator, was declared a heretic by the Roman Catholic Church. By the command of the Church and its Pope Martin V, his Biblical texts were ordered to be burnt, and his then-dead body exhumed, burnt, and his ashes thrown into a river.

This ‘scorched earth’ policy of virtually eliminating any and all interpretations of Genesis and other parts of the Scriptures outside of those approved by the Church and Roman Empire created a single dominant interpretation of the Biblical Scriptures – a type of brainwashing – throughout all the new sects of the Christian church.

Prior even to the Church’s power grab on Biblical interpretation, we find sectarian Rabbinical transcription, translation, and interpretation of the five books of the Torah – which Genesis, “Bereshit” was the first – driven by an eerily similar pact between government and religious institutions. Like the Roman government’s domination over Christianity, Judean emperors in the centuries leading to Jesus’ birth commandeered the theretofore orally communicated תורה שבכתב (Torah Shebe’al Peh – “Torah that is spoken”), and oversaw its transcription into a written work, to be called Torah Shebichtav (תורה שבעל פה (Torah Shebichtav – “Torah that is written”).

In other words, the Torah – a word meaning “to teach” – was originally passed down orally from one generation to the next by devoted teachers (Prophets), including Abraham, Isaac, Moses, Joshua, Eli, Samuel, David, Solomon, Job, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel and others in between. Each teacher would pass on the oral teachings of the Torah to their students, and those students who were empowered passed it on to their students. This oral tradition also meant that the sometimes allegorical lessons of the Torah also accompanied the interpretation of the priest – who pledged their devotion to the Supreme Being.

We can see this tradition clearly as we examine the relationship between Joshua and Moses, and Samuel and Eli within the texts of the Bible.

This esteemed tradition also became subject to territorialism as the Torah was transcribed from Torah Shebe’al Peh to Torah Shebichtav and interpreted over the centuries. While it is said that the Torah was first written by Moses, this is not completely supported by the empirical record. Rather, what Moses appears to have written down were the Ten Commandments, onto stone tablets that were apparently placed beside the Ark of the Covenant.

Other critical lessons now contained in the Scriptures were orally given by Moses, which were eventually passed on by one of Moses’ empowered students, Joshua. This has become more widely accepted as the texts themselves illustrate that the authors of Genesis followed Moses (such as Genesis 12:6 – “and the Canaanite was then in the land” – an event following Moses’ time).

The consensus of scholars has been that the Torah was combined from at least four main sources and before being redacted into a single version. The sources have been described as Yahwist, Elohist, Deuteronomist, and the Priestly writer.

This Documentary hypothesis states the Yahwist source comes from Southern Judah, the Elohist source from Northern Israel, the Deuteronomist from Jerusalem and the Priestly source from Babylon. This Documentary hypothesis holds that the texts had individual lineages, each accompanied by manuscripts pieced together into the Torah.

Others believe there were many other sources. Recent scholars contend that Genesis alone is the compilation of no less than nineteen different manuscripts – many disconnected with each other.

This understanding gradually came about as the Torah texts themselves were analyzed, and three commanding theories of its composition rose to the forefront by scholars:

- The Documentary: The Torah was a compilation of separate and complete written manuscripts.

- The Supplementary: An original work that was later supplemented with various additions and deletions.

- The Fragmentary: The Torah is a compilation of fragments of different books.

These theories have been offered as the only rational explanations for the various duplications, schisms and irregularities present among the texts of the Torah in terms of timeline, context, history, and language. Some more recent scholars have contended that the evidence presents that the Torah is a combination of all three – it contains some complete manuscripts; was supplemented with additions and deletions; and also contains various fragments of other manuscripts.

The essence here is that practically every Biblical scholar accepts that the books of the Torah – including Genesis – is a compilation of a variety of manuscripts and fragments that were transcribed and eventually presented as a single document, together with additions and deletions as the document was further transcribed over the centuries.

The question then becomes: Who organized and oversaw such a process of compilation?

The 7th Century appears to be the period many scholars believe the Torah began its sectarian journey into what is now Judaism. We find that this century was strife with warfare between feuding empires of Rome, Assyria, Judah, Egypt, and surrounding regions. Struggles for land and territory were rampant, and a quest to commandeer Scripture was not only a political necessity – it was an issue of survival.

Many point to the reign of Josiah, the King of Judah between 641 and 609 BCE. Josiah is understood to be born in Jerusalem and considered to be part of the House of David. He was King Amon’s son. Amon’s father, Manasseh is known for turning away from the worship of the Supreme Being, creating the temple of idols.

Josiah was devoted to Yahweh, however. He ordered the temple of Solomon to be rebuilt using taxes. During the construction, it is said that the builders discovered a buried scroll describing Moses’ “book of the law,” accepted by most scholars to have been put together by institutional priests intent on centralizing power under King Josiah. Thus we find a critical piece of the transcriptions having political ambition: Claiming the right of heritage for certain lands to the house of Abraham, Moses, David, and then Josiah.

This provided a necessary foundation for the political backdrop of those times. Josiah’s rule was gripped with struggles over territory and population by the likes of the Egyptians, Babylonians and the Syrians – who were ultimately responsible for Josiah’s death.

In the centuries that followed, these territorial struggles continued, and the formation of the Torah gained additional substance with the writings of Ezra in the Fifth Century BCE. After the rebuilding of Jerusalem under the Persian ruler Artaxerxes, Ezra led a formation of a separated assembly of Israelites committed to following Moses’ law.

The successive assemblies following Ezra took a drastic sectarian turn over the next centuries, as priestly struggles merged with struggles for territorial rights, and the assemblies became increasingly political.

The Torah was thus altered over the next five centuries, as the Israelite high priests formed rigid sectarian order over their assemblies. The rule of law became tantamount and the five books of the Torah were interpreted as a set of laws combined with a genealogy of the Israelite people.

The necessity of a succession of rulers through this period produced political alliances between certain priests and the various kings of Judah. This drove the recognition of the Israelite assembly as a separate race of people and allowed the high priests to become ex-facto governors.

This politically driven succession of high priests became increasingly perverted over the centuries, as evidenced by the teachings of Jesus. We find that by the time of Jesus, the institutional temples and its priesthood had all but forgotten the elements of devotion that had been taught by Moses, Abraham, and David, and passed down orally over the centuries from teacher to student.

This was characterized by Jesus, who condemned the nature and hierarchy of the institutional priesthood.

These devotional principles had become overtaken by the politics of necessity, focused upon the “promised land” and the “chosen people” of Judah and Israel. Jesus’ teachings identified the two primary orders among the institutional temples – the Sadducees and the Pharisees – as focused upon retaining their politically oriented positions of “teachers of the law” rather than the passing down of the original teachings of devotional Judaism.

Jesus vehemently criticized these two groups as misleading the people and abandoning the original precepts of the teachings of the Torah – which he emphasized were grounded upon the “first and foremost commandment” to love God.

This devotional teaching, we find from biblical texts, had been passed through a devotional lineage that included John the Baptist and Zachariah, John’s teacher and traced back through the centuries. Many historians have shown that the Essenes – a priestly order that rejected the political ambitions of the mainstream priestly order – were a vehicle for this lineage of pure teachers. This pure heritage of teachings passed down through the centuries ran parallel to the political intrigue that accompanied the official texts of the Torah.

In other words, the oral tradition of the Torah continued through the centuries from devoted teacher to humble student despite the incongruence of the official scriptural canons of politically driven sectarian institutions.

We find from these histories a repeating lesson: That the pure teachings of the Supreme Being handed down from teacher to student can at any point in time become perverted as they become recorded; and those recordings can become further tainted under the control of those who wish to utilize them for purposes of power and political position. History has taught us that as particular empires seeking political power begin to handle devotional recordings, the recordings are subject to alteration, producing documents tainted with greed and politics.

What about the alternative and source documents? Unfortunately, the same machinery that tainted those Scriptures also worked to eliminate their sources – effectively erasing evidence of perversion. As a result, we find that out of the thousands of scriptural manuscripts passed down for centuries by early Israelite and Christian teachers, only the politically-selected books of the Bible and a limited collection of mostly tattered manuscripts found buried in the desert or within the recesses of the Church’s secret library remain.

However, those books found in the desert – now called the Dead Sea Scrolls – provide clear evidence that the Church indeed systematically eliminated many manuscripts as well as alternative interpretations. We also find clear evidence that some of the texts that made it into the Latin Bible were in fact manipulated with respect to their translation and inclusion. Yes, inclusion: This means that some text was removed and some text was added.

This is ironic since the last verse of the Book of Revelation warns not to remove or add to the text. Of course, the placing of the Book of Revelation was smartly arranged as the last book of the Bible by Eusebius and his cohorts, even though it was not the last manuscript written. In other words, the position of the Book of Revelation as last gives the reader the impression that nothing can thenceforth be added or taken away from the entire Bible – even though the writer was speaking solely of that particular manuscript.

The bottom line is that the Books of the Canon – the arrangement of the Books of the Bible, and the interpretation of the many passages driven by the Nicene Creed, were orchestrated as part of an overall objective to put forth the impression that Christianity (and thus early Judaism) was the original and only valid religious institution.

Yes, unfortunately, the Bible and the Torah are politically perverted documents. This doesn’t mean they do not still contain the Truth, however.

Over the centuries, a few other combinations of Old Testament Biblical texts have surfaced in addition to the Dead Sea Scrolls, including the Greek Septuagint and the Arabic Peshitta. The Septuagint arose through the translation of the Rabbinical texts originally put together by Origen (who was later rejected as heretical by the Church), but its current form has been altered through the centuries. The Peshitta, which also contained some manuscripts alternative to the Bible, to some degree escaped destruction by the Romans – although it is not clear to what degree or at what stage.

What we see from the evidence is scriptural mistranslations and misinterpretations orchestrated by politically oriented sectarian institutions before and after Jesus’ appearance, and then later by the Roman emperor-sponsored Roman Catholic Church to be continued by later sectarian surrogates with repeated efforts to utilize Scripture to create false authority. This combination of efforts has produced a gross misunderstanding of the meaning of many of the texts of today’s Bible, including Genesis.

This struggle for false authority continues today, as the various religious institutions and sects vie for followers and political position among today’s cultures. Most have established a few unique interpretations of the Old and/or New Testaments on various matters over recent centuries, yet most of the Christian sects still abide generally by the politically sponsored Nicene Creed doctrine originally put forth and forcefully supported by the early Roman Catholic Church.

It should be stated that these politically-oriented activities that have formed Genesis’ current interpretation and translations in no way remove the real power and authority of the teachings of Genesis; nor those of Lord Jesus Christ and the rest of the Saints of the Bible. Rather, these efforts to use Scripture to create false authority has simply shrouded their real meaning from the casual reader subjected to the brainwashing of these sectarian institutions.

But the fact that the texts survived all those political efforts in some state, and have maintained spiritual validity, is a testament of the Supreme Being’s ability to ultimately control Scripture and even shroud its true meaning from some.

Meanwhile, an undercurrent of confidential knowledge has continued to be quietly passed from serious teacher to serious student for thousands of years, insulated from these political quests for power by governments and religious institutions – through their surrogate professional sectarian clergies. We say “confidential” not because this information is secret. It is confidential because it is understood only by persons who are serious about learning the real lessons of spiritual life. Only the serious student guided by a teacher in succession empowered by the Supreme Being will be able to grasp and understand the true meaning of any real Scripture. In other words, true Scripture is understood only by those intent on sincerely learning about God and our real purpose for existence.

This is not a new concept. We can see the importance of the spiritual mentor and guide in the lives of all the great teachers spoken of within the Old and New Testaments. While some of the entire lineages have been lost in translation and by the exclusion of some of the texts, the Biblical texts illustrate the teacher-student relationship between Melchizedek and Abraham; Abraham and Lot; Moses and Joshua; Eli and Samuel; Samuel and Saul; Saul and David; David and Solomon and many others. It is also illustrated by Jesus’ relationship with his teacher John the Baptist, as well as Jesus’ relationship with his own disciples, whom Jesus instructed to also go out and teach what he taught them to others.

The first four books of Genesis can be properly understood within the confines of the teachings of these ancient teachers. It was this lineage of teachers that Jesus belonged to, as a devoted student of John the Baptist, who was a devoted student of Zachariah, a devoted student of a teacher within the lineage that included David, Samuel, Solomon, Eli, Moses, Abraham, and Melchizedek.

The information provided in these commentaries embraces the lineage of teachers that provided the facility to pass down this deep knowledge of our creation and resulting fall into the physical world. I give thanks to and honor this lineage with the Meaning of Genesis as passed down through generations of teachers and students for thousands of years.