How should we, the contemporary readers interpret the creation-flood narrative in Genesis 2–11?
The stories are neither myth nor history.
“Myth” is a poor term, as it has many different meanings and so connotes untruth in prevalent English.
“History” is, likewise, misleading, for it implies that the events, in fact, took place. The proper term would be ‘creation-flood story.’
The ancient thinkers of the Middle East did not have our means for researching serious topics. They used narratives for issues that we would describe as philosophical or theological. They sought out meaning in the ancient stories of their times. They contemplated on topics such as: how gods act with justice and generosity, why humans are rebellious, the dynamics of carnal allurement and marital relationships, why there are so many Peoples and languages. Their stories reveal an exclusive period, when divine decisions determined the future of the human race.Moreover, every time they retold these stories, they added, or subtracted narrative matters.
Even though most of these stories might seem to us as primitive and naive, they are, in fact, narrated in a compressed form with skill, and subtlety. They offer radical answers to perennial questions about God and human beings. To illustrate here is the story of the Tower of Babel told in Genesis,
Story of the Tower of Babel – Genesis 11:1-9
The whole world had the same language and the same words.
When they were migrating from the east, they came to a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, “Come, let us mold bricks and harden them with fire.”
They used bricks for stone, and bitumen for mortar.
Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky, and so make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered all over the earth.”
The LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the people had built.
Then the LORD said: If now, while they are one people and all have the same language, they have started to do this, nothing they presume to do will be out of their reach. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that no one will understand the speech of another.
So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.
That is why it was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the speech of all the world. From there the LORD scattered them over all the earth.
One Jewish tradition implies that humans later defied God when he tried to forge a relationship between the various nations. So, God decided to direct his attention to one nation only, hoping it would eventually unite all the nations of the world. To bring God’s decision to fruition the authors of Genesis introduce Abraham.
The Covenant of Circumcision – Genesis 17:1-11
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said:
I am God the Almighty. Walk in my presence and be blameless. Between you and me I will establish my covenant, and I will multiply you exceedingly.
Abram fell face down and God said to him:
For my part, here is my covenant with you: you are to become the father of a multitude of nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I am making you the father of a multitude of nations.
I will make you exceedingly fertile; I will make nations of you; kings will stem from you. I will maintain my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout the ages as an everlasting covenant, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.
I will give to you and to your descendants after you the land in which you are now residing as aliens, the whole land of Canaan, as a permanent possession; and I will be their God.
God said to Abraham:
For your part, you and your descendants after you must keep my covenant throughout the ages.
This is the covenant between me and you and your descendants after you that you must keep: every male among you shall be circumcised. Circumcise the flesh of your foreskin. That will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.
- Did the Gods Create Two Versions of Humans? (tvaraj.com)