Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Jonathan Sacks on Genesis 1

In the Times on Saturday last (5 April), Jonathan Sacks wrote the Credo article in the Faith section, entitled: Genesis tells us we have a duty to protect the planet. It's a good read - here's a quote from it...
So Genesis 1 is not a proto-scientific account of the birth of the Universe and the Big Bang. Its purpose is clear. The Universe is good: hence world-denying nihilism is ruled out. It is the result of a single creative will, so myth is eliminated. The Universe is a place of structure and order, so the text is an invitation to science, by implying that the world is not irrational and ruled by capricious powers.

Why then is Genesis 1 there? We are puzzled by that question because we forget that the Hebrew Bible is called, in Judaism, Torah, meaning teaching, guidance, or more specifically, law. Genesis 1 is best understood not as pseudo-science, still less as myth, but as jurisprudence; that is to say, as the foundation of the moral law. God created the world; therefore God owns the world. We are His guests — strangers and temporary residents, as the Bible puts it. God has the right to specify the conditions of our tenancy on Earth. The radical message of Genesis 1 is that divine sovereignty is constitutional. God rules not by might but by right, and so must we.