1. The corpus provides us with a way of understanding the Bible more completely, and it has developed significantly over time. From the Arad Letters to the Lachish, the corpus has significantly aided in understanding and the interpretation of Old Testament texts. Over time, people have discovered more and more, including unrevealed scrolls and the like, which help to inform the study of the Old Testament.
2. The Enuma Elish was a Babylonian creation myth that may have had a significant impact on the first creation story. Originally found in a library in what is now Iraq in the mid-1800s, this document was translated by George Smith in the late part of the century. Some scholars have noted that this is one of the texts that presents the biggest problem for those who are trying to conduct a traditional reading of Genesis because it paints the picture of Genesis as being just another of the popular creation myths that might be out there. One of the primary similarities between the Enuma Elish and the first creation story in Genesis is the unique amount of focus that the myth has the giving of names. The story recorded by Moses in Genesis focuses heavily on God’s giving of names to all things, and the Enuma Elish also focuses on that same thing. There are two primary points of contention that some skeptics use when looking at this particular document. For one, they suggest that Moses must have used it in constructing the words of Genesis. Likewise, they note that because both Genesis and the Enuma Elish are far-Eastern, then Genesis must be a myth just as the Enuma Elish is a myth. These have been difficult barriers for some to cross, and it has led many scholars to explain the linguistic similarities between what is found in the Enuma Elish – including the Babylonian word “Tiamat” – what is found in Genesis, including the Hebrew word “tehom.”
3. The book of Genesis contains different creation stories that must be reconciled by one looking at the book and seeking to draw an understanding from it. Perhaps most importantly, there are questions of when man and women were created. The first creation story apparently has man and woman created at the same time, and some suggest that this interpretation supports the equality of man and woman. Under the second arrangement, however, man is created first, and God later creates woman out of the rib of man. Likewise, in the first creation story in Genesis, men are said to be created after all of the animals are created. Meanwhile, in the second story, men are created first, and the animals come after. These, of course, may seem like small differences, but some believe that these differences provide evidence of multiple authors of the first few books of the Bible. They argue that these books were pieced together by various authors with different understandings of God, and thus, any person viewing the early books of the Bible can explain away some of the seeming differences by looking to competing knowledge bases with which various authors inevitably worked. This, they argue, explains not only the two different creation stories, but also how the different authors speak of God throughout the first five books of the Bible. This is another seeming difference between the two creation stories. One speaks of God as being a transcendent being, while the other speaks of God as being almost human-like. That second account describes God’s actions as if they are things that human beings might do. For instance, God “breathed” life into a person rather than simply granting life in a transcendent, Godly sense.
4 When one looks at the story of Noah, which is perhaps one of the most memorable stories of the Bible, one can see some differences in the way the story is re-told. Some suggest that this means that Genesis, among other books, was cobbled together from at least two separate and distinct writers who did not know one another. The authors use different words and ideas for God, which is suggestive of either a dualistic understanding of God at that time or separate authorship. God is called Jehovah in one instance and Elohim in another. This might simply suggest that God had many names, which is something that is established in other ways in other parts of the Bible. However, the story of Noah also has differences when it comes to significant facts. For instance, one account in Genesis has the flood lasting 150 days, while another has it lasting 40 days. There are also differences with the animals taken. One version has clean and unclean animals going into the ark on a two by two basis, while the other version says that only “clean” animals went onto the ark, and that seven of each were taken. Reconciling these facts is very difficult, but the meaning of the Noah story remains the same regardless. No matter the version, the Noah story is suggestive of the way in which God demands much faithfulness out of his followers and will reward that faithfulness. Noah, it seems, was given a difficult task, but he was given the tools that he needed, and in the end, he was spared from destruction because of his faithfulness. This point remains the same no matter what view one takes.
5. One of the most important concepts in the Bible is the covenant. God has a covenant with his people, which means that he makes promises to his people that he intends to keep. These are deeper than just promises. They are Godly promises where God essentially outlines his duties toward the people. They are things that the people can trust that God will do, and ultimately, they end up being the defining characteristics of God that people live by as they put their trust in God. For instance, God has a covenant with the Jewish people that he will bring them out of bondage. These covenants come to represent God’s rewards for faithfulness and the fact that God will not forget His people.
6. The Book of Exodus provides one of the best examples of the covenant. Here, Moses is born as a baby and adopted by Egyptians. He has Hebrew roots, and one day, he kills an Egyptian who is beating up on an Israelite. Eventually, God speaks to Moses through the burning bush, and God calls Moses to lead his people to Canaan, where they will enjoy freedom, as well as that “milk and honey” that represents freedom. Eventually, Moses, along with Aaron, return to Egypt to organize the Israelites. When he demands that Pharaoh release the Israelites, Pharaoh refuses, and God sends a number of different plagues down on Egypt until finally they relent. Jesus brings the Israelites out of Egypt by parting the Red Sea, and they eventually wander for 40 years in the wilderness before they are delivered to the Promised Land. This represents God’s faithfulness as well as the faith required by His people.
7. Prophets, including Elijah, were called on to hear the message of God, describing what God would do in the future. They were to spread this message far and wide, sometimes doing so at great personal cost. This was to demonstrate their faithfulness, but also so that God could “prove” himself in some way to the people, even though this was not necessary. These things allowed God to demonstrate his omnipotence to the people of Israel during this time.
8. There were many signs of Yahweh’s presence, and often, they were heard and seen through prophets. God spoke to many people in many ways. For Moses, it was the burning bush. Likewise, some were said to have heard God audibly. God also manifested himself through stories such as Abraham’s call to kill his son Isaac.