Preface to Genesis
Every continent has creation sagas sourced from the varied cultures of its inhabitants. Each tale is rooted in antiquity from mouth to ear, from times long before writing or even counting. And each begins with the creation drama originating locally from some special area, zone, or a place out of the desert, or in mountains or forests, from the sky or ocean, or even in a garden of sorts. The first humans also are said to have evolved from those varied immediate locales.
Later, the cultures capable made records of their testimonials. Other cultures either could not or did not for varied reasons, while some cultures simply did not survive the times. The few that did were biased toward revering their particular account of creation as sacred; the definitive voice of the Almighty. The Choctaw Indian Nation of North America, for example, has lore that the Creator breathed life into not one but many primeval pairs of human beings scattered all over the earth. When, where and how did they come up with this very closely accurate philosophy?
The idea that humanity evolved from multiple cultures in multiple locations is called Polygenism. It has waxed in favor, then waned, and waxed again. Seventeenth and eighteenth century scientists and philosophers believed each race had separate origins because they were so racially diverse. This, of course, bucked heads with hard-core religionists who adamantly defended Monogenism which equally defended the Bible as God's definitive word that the human race descended historically from Adam and Eve as real persons. Polygenism, as the debates continue through our century, supposes that Adam and Eve are merely symbols of Mankind.
Whatever the sources, it seems far more plausible that genus homo would have evolved from different continents more or less simultaneously and independent from each other. Archaeology and anthropology are both coming around to this conclusion. It stretches credence to the limits to proclaim two bi-pedals merely procreated into a group that trundled all around the world, spawning merrily as they went. And, of course, their skins eventually shaded after generations in their new regional settlements as some religions would have us believe. By this same awkward reasoning would not all insects, fishes, reptiles and mammals then have been initially created in the manner that humans have by this fundamental thinking? And dinosaurs on Noah's Ark yet, Oy vey! All this beginning over a mere six thousand years ago! Is it really that easy to fool ourselves into anything? Stupid question. The answer is, Yes!
Regardless, if any reader can trace his or her initial spiritual proclivities by birth or choice through the Judeo/Christian version of this saga, then the principal source of the creation story for that individual would be linked to, and rooted in, the Christian Bibles and/or the Hebrew Old Testament. I am one such individual.
The Christian Bible has morphed into myriad versions when languages evolved and religious sects branched from the central trunk-line of controlled worship. The basic creation tapestry in the various Christian versions, however, is found still to have been woven of fabric cut out from the Pentateuch.
The Hebrew Old Testament is the recorded source of Judaism and its dogma. The first five books of the Old Testament, known as the Pentateuch, contain a version of the creation story and the physical world's earliest developments. I do not believe, however, that the Genesis version was intended to be a definitive treatise of natural geological history. The Pentateuch, in turn, seems to have evolved from a creation saga rooted much earlier than the period of Moses, the alleged personality attributed to Old Testament Scripture.
That earliest of sources became known much later as ספר יצירה, Sepher Yetzirah, the 'Book of Formation.'
The originals of neither the Pentateuch nor Sepher Yetzirah have survived into modern times. Rancorous debates over the origins of both texts continue in the camps of 'learned' priests and rabbis in hallowed sanctuaries and through the halls of churches and synagogues globally. But to argue these origins is moot, I believe. I am in partial agreement with a conclusion about the origins of the Bible found on the Internet somewhere which summarized:
“While no one today possesses the original autographs, we do have many extant copies, and the work of biblical historians via the science of textual criticism gives us great confidence that today’s Bible is an accurate reflection of the original writers’ work. As an analogy, if the original and preserved unit of measure known as a “yard” was lost in a fire in its holding place in Washington, D.C., there is little doubt that that measurement could be replaced with full assurance through all the exact copies of it that exist elsewhere. The same is true of God’s Word.”
This summary bears further credence, at least with the Hebrew version of the Old Testament, due to discoveries of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran and similar excavations. These copies scribed back then of yet earlier copies or originals are found to be very close to the Hebrew versions we have today. So much for the Pentateuch, but I am not sure about any "exact copies" of the many flavored versions of Christian Bibles. On the other hand, with regard the Sepher Yetzirah, speculations as to its origins go back as far as Abraham's era, and even further yet, to Adam, according to some commentators. Through all that time it was allegedly handed down in the oral tradition. As near as can be proven in any case, “...this book was known already in the second or at the beginning of the third century of the Christian Era,” this according to Rev. Dr. Isidor Kalisch, one of its commentators in 1877. Further back from then is pure speculation. Many commentators are in adamant agreement, however, that the Pentateuch was actually written by the personality of one called Moses. If this is supposedly true, then the Pentateuch, as a 'written' document, precedes the 'written' Sepher Yetzirah by millennia.
However, the position of this supposition is: Regardless the authorship or dates of either documentation, I surmise that the oral or written account of the Genesis creation story was formulated from concepts within Sepher Yetzirah, when the latter was yet an oral tradition. It is my position that the oral Sepher Yetzirah is the earlier and more detailed account of the creative process, while Genesis was presented in a dramatic format for the general masses of the period in which it was first written. In addition, judging from the style and word choices in the Genesis story, I surmise that beneath the extant version lie sufficient Qabalistic clues for those discerning in that discipline to mine the original, esoteric intent. Thus, the Hebrew Old Testament versions that we have today serve multiple levels of readership and scholarship.
These are the references from which this supposition was created:
The Holy Scriptures According to the Masoretic Text - Jewish Publication Society of America. Philadelphia: 1976 ed.
The Interlinear NIV Hebrew-English Old Testament - Kohlenberger III, John R., Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1987.
Interlinear Greek-English New Testament - Berry, George Ricker, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1989.
The Origin of Letters and Numbers According to the Sefer Yetzirah - Mordell, Phineas, New York: Samuel Weiser, 1975 ed.
Sepher Yetzirah: The Book of Creation (Containing two versions) - Rev. Dr. Isidor Kalisch and Knut Stenring, San Diego, CA: The Book Tree, 2006. This edition contains The 32 Paths of Wisdom in the Appendix.
The Septuagint and The Latin Vulgate from the Internet.
Dictionary of Targumim, Talmud and Midrashic Literature - by Marcus Jastrow, 1926, from Internet.