, Research Paper
The sin stories in the Book of Genesis address theological, cosmic, social, and ethical questions. These sin stories, The Fall of Man, Cain and Abel, and Noah and the Flood, and The Tower of Babel show the functions of myths and demonstrate man’s likeliness to sin. These myths let the readers learn of the culture, beliefs, and foundation of the time.
A myth is a symbolic way of expressing truths and beliefs that are accepted by society. Myths, which are reading literature that is imaginative, teach truths that may not always have a basis for historical fact. Myths, which communicate ideas in story form, are creative stories that explain and teach religious truths of sin and consequence. Myths tell what society should be like and are what people learned by experience. They were written in Genesis around 1000 B.C.E. and help tell the sin stories.
The functions of myths can be applied to the sin stories within Genesis. The four functions are theological, cosmic, social, and ethical. The theological function of myths expresses known facts about God and his relationship to humanity. The cosmic function explains about how the world works and its purpose. It portrays the idea God created the perfect place. The social function of myths demonstrates the truth that problems start when people turned away from God. It tell the readers the organization and leaders of societies. The ethical function explains the values we should have and the proper behavior for humanity. Sin, which is turning away from God, is exemplified in the stories of Genesis. Our conscience, an inner sense of right and wrong, helps us decide what we want. Our conscience helps us to consider the consequences of our sins. Feelings of fear, desire, and temptation are emotions that lead us to sinning. In the sin stories in Genesis, it shows we can be influenced by others to sin. An example of this is Adam and Eve. Because of their sin, all of humanity would be born with original sin. The four functions in myths help us understand the sin stories in Genesis.
The Fall of Man utilizes the social function of a myth. In this story, the social function of the myth tells how society should be organized and who should have control. God said Adam and Eve could not eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge in the middle of the Garden of Eden. The serpent tempted Eve and she ate from the forbidden tree. Adam then committed the same sin. By sinning, their eyes were opened to the world of sin and evil. They now could feel guilt and shame. Through disobedience to God, Adam and Eve gained an awareness of good and evil. An example of this can be seen when they first realize they are naked after they have eaten from the forbidden tree. In Gn. 3:16, Yahweh says, “He (the husband) shall be your master. “ This quote in Genesis demonstrates that a man had complete control over his wife in a marriage which was the standard in ancient times. A misconception people saw was that this was not God’s divine plan forever. Women being controlled by men was the consequence of sin. Other punishments were Adam had to work for a living and Eve experienced pain in childbirth. This myth could also explain why we wear clothes. This story demonstrates the idea that in inequality between men and women is sinful.
Cain and Abel represent the ethical function in myths. God tells us what values we should hold and how humans should behave. By murdering, Cain violates God’s will. This is not behavior God wants us to portray. God wants us to offer all we have him, which is what Abel did. Abel offered the very best of his flock, but Cain did not do this and offered only some of his crops. Cain wanted a praise that was greater than what God had given Abel. Cain was jealous of Abel because God chose Abel over him. By being envious, Cain was committing sin. Sin is the opposite of how God wants humans to act. Cain sins again by lying to God about not knowing where Abel might be after he had killed him. God punishes Cain for his sin and he was driven from the community. By not obeying God, we are misbehaving. God wants us to hold values which He would approve of. God banishes Cain to be a wanderer on the earth. Cain fears he will be harmed by other humans so he is given a mark. This myth also conveys another important fact. It shows the origin of nomads, which are wandering people, and established people. The mark gives a distinction between him and other people. Because Cain did not obey God and went against him, he could no longer work the land and was punished to wander the earth. “You shall become a restless wanderer on the earth.” (Gn 4: 12) This was Cain’s punishment for not behaving as God would like him. Nomads of the Eastern deserts at the time often used tattooing as a tribal mark. Later, Cain settled in the city of Nod with his wife. Nod meant “the land of the nomads”. From there, he founded the first city, Enoch. The founding of this city showed the origin of established people. The Cain and Abel myth explains the origin of established people and nomadic people.
Noah and the Flood portrays the theological function of myths. In the theological function of a myth, it tells what God is like and how he relates to us. God had become displeased with man because he had become sinful and corrupt and wanted to start over. God was upset with the actions of people on earth. God felt that man had become so evil that he could no longer relate to humanity except for one man and his family who stood out from the rest. This man was Noah and his family. Noah was chosen by God because he was righteous and loyal. The cause of the flood was the wickedness humans on earth portrayed. God was willing to give humans everything, but in return wanted them to obey him so we could experience his goodness and graciousness. “ I will recall the covenant I have made between me and you and all living things, so that the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all mortal beings.” (Gn 9:15) Death was the punishment for the humans that disobeyed God. The Flood explains where the rainbow came from. “I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” (Gn 9:13) God promises humanity that a flood should never again destroy all mortals. The rainbow is a symbol of His covenant and promise not to let a flood destroy the earth again. God cares for people and wants them to prosper. Noah and the Flood myth expresses the theological function of a myth.
The Tower of Babel exemplifies the cosmic function of a myth. It shows how the world works and its purpose. At the time of the building of the Tower of Babel, the whole world spoke the same language and they all could communicate very easily with each other. These men all decided to,”build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky.” (Gn 11:4) This quote refers to the chief ziggurat of Babylon. The chief ziggurat of Babylon was once the Tower of Babel. Their main purpose of the tower did not relate to God, but out of selfishness. This angered God. They wanted to make a name for themselves by building the tower. During this time, men were becoming cruel and focusing less on God. There original purpose in life was to live in union with God. God did not approve of this so he decided to change the people’s languages so they would no longer understand each other and thus, be weakened. “Thus the Lord scattered them from there all over the earth, and they stopped building the city.” (Gn 11: 8) The “scattering” of the people showed how the different countries, races, and languages came to be. By changing the people’s languages, he forever changed the way the world worked because people no longer would speak the same language and be united in that way. The Hebrew form of the name Babylon was Babel. The native name of Babel, Bab-ili had a similar sound to the Hebrew word balil, which meant, “he confused”. By changing the people’s languages, God hoped the would become more focused His Word. Today, we can still see the influence from the incident from the Tower of Babel. Throughout the world, people live in different countries that have different cultures and languages. This can be explained in The Tower of Babel myth.
These sin stories in Genesis can be related to other stories and main ideas in Scripture. The Fall of Man myth can be related to the Deuteronomical Principle. This principle states the disobedience brings misfortune and obedience wins God’s favor. Adam and Eve went directly against God and disobeyed him by eating from the Tree of Knowledge. They were then punished in a number of ways. Eve would experience pain in childbirth and Adam would have to work from the land. They were also banned from the Garden of Eden. Another misfortune brought by Adam and Eve’s disobedience is women would be under the control of men. God demonstrates that if you stray off the path, there will be death and destruction. The Cain and Abel myth can be related to David and Saul. Cain was jealous of Abel because God praised Abel more for his offerings than he did Cain. This angered Cain and he killed Abel out of rage and jealously. Saul was jealous of David because David killed Golilith. Saul, a coward, was too terrified to meet the challenge of Golilith, but David accepted the challenge and was victorious. After this incident, Saul becomes jealous of David and tried to kill him twice,but failed. Cain was jealous of Abel and Saul was jealous of David. The Flood myth can be related to Moses. Both Moses and Noah act as an agent for God. Moses is appointed by God to save the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and lead them to the Promised Land of Canaan. Through Moses, God also makes a Covenant with His people and delivers the Ten Commandments. Noah acts as an agent for God by preserving humanity. On the arc, Noah took his family and two of every animal on earth before God destroyed the world with the flood. “See, I am (God) establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you.” (Gn 9:9) Noah is also like Moses because God establishes a Covenant with both of them. The Tower of Babel can be related to the stories in Judges. In The Tower of Babel, the people were sinning by building a tower just to make a name for themselves. God then interfered by “scattering” the people all over the earth. In Judges, there is a repeated pattern of the people sinning and God interfering by sending down a Judge. The Judge then led the people to victory in a battle and returned them back to God and the Covenant. The sin stories can all be related to stories in Scripture.
The sin stories in Genesis exemplify the four functions of myths which are theological, social, ethical, and cosmic. Myths are accepted truths and beliefs accepted by society. Sin, which is turning away from God, can be seen in these myths in Genesis. The sin stories, The Fall of Man, Cain and Abel, Noah and the Flood, and The Tower of Babel, all address the different functions of myths. These stories all can be related to other stories that we have studied in Scripture.