Regarding the materials in Genesis . . .
The "Tablets" (Gen. 1:1-37:2) are written in a style which betrays a Mesopotamian orign.
Each "Tablet" (History) was originally recorded on baked clay. Each History typically follows an outline designed for writing on clay:
The traditional material of the "Tablets" was handed down in unknown form to the final author of Genesis (traditionally Moses or someone in his circle).
The Joseph Epic was written (probably on leather) at the time of composition of the whole Pentateuch.
The Eleven Tablets
(after R.K. Harrison)
Tablet 1: Gen. 1:1-2:4 The origins of the cosmos
Tablet 2: Gen. 2:5-5:2 The origins of mankind
Tablet 3: Gen. 5:3-6:9a The histories of Noah
Tablet 4: Gen. 6:9b-10:1 The histories of the sons of Noah
Tablet 5: Gen. 10:2-11:10a The histories of Shem
Tablet 6: Gen. 11:10b-11:27a The histories of Terah
Tablet 7: Gen. 11:27b-25:12 The histories of Ishmael
Tablet 8: Gen. 25:13-25:19a The histories of Isaac
Tablet 9: Gen. 25:19b-36:1 The histories of Esau
Tablet 10: Gen. 36:2-36:9 The further histories of Esau
Tablet 11: Gen. 36:10-37:2 The histories of Jacob
Aside from the first two tablets, all the "named" tablets have colophons which attribute the preceding information in their histories to the named persons. (In other words, "these are the generations of Isaac," means "this is the tradition handed down from/about Isaac.")
THE ORIGINS OF THE COSMOS
1. The First Day: Light 1:1-5
2. The Second Day: Earth and Sky 1:6-8
3. The Third Day: Dry Land, Plants 1:9-13
4. The Fourth Day: Sun, Moon, Stars 1:14-19
5. The Fifth Day: Birds, Sea Creatures 1:20-23
6. The Sixth Day: Land Animals 1:24-25
7. The Sixth Day: Human Beings 1:26-31
8. The Seventh Day: The Sabbath 2:1-3
9. Colophon (without attribution) 2:4
1. The Lord God forms man and sets him in the garden 2:5-9
2. The rivers of Eden 2:10-14
3. God's largess and prohibition 2:15-17
4. The naming of the animals and origin of woman 2:18-25
5. The serpent seduceds the woman and man to sin 3:1-7
6. The results of the Fall 3:8-19
7. Naming of Eve and origin of garments 3:20-21
8. God expels the man and woman from Eden 3:22-24
9. Cain and Abel and the beginnings of human society 4:1-7
10. Cain murders his brother 4:8-16
11. The beginnings of civilization 4:17-22
12. Lamech kills with impunity 4:23-24
13. Adam begets a new line of descent 4:25-26
14. Colophon 5:1-2
Interpreting the First Two Tablets
Question: What are the purposes of the writer?
1. To give an account of how the world came to be. Why?
2. To give an account of human origins. Why?
Question: Where is the writer getting his information from?
1. Babylonian science and pagan cosmogonies.
Does this mean his stuff is not true?
2. Ancient tradition among the Hebrews.
How was it preserved? How reliable is it?
Question: How much of this stuff is important for our beliefs, as Christians?
1. Would it matter if the Fall were a psychological discovery, rather than a single event?
2. What, precisely, is Sin (and what has knowledge to do with it)?
Genesis and pagan cosmogonies
Pagan cosmogonies attempt to explain who God is by describing the process by which God, or the gods, bring the world into existence. They also attempt to explain the human situation (why things are as they are).
The God described in Genesis is utterly unlike any of the gods of the pagan religions.
No clear-cut line between Nature and Supernature:
One grows out of the other.
The gods are thus subject to laws governing their being, and the world's.
God creates the world by divine command (creation ex nihilo).
God is separate from World;
God's nature is its own necessity.
The Divine Wind begets the world;
in Serpent form he fertilizes the Woman,
who is Mother-Goddess and gives birth to the world's creatures.
The Spirit of God brings order out of chaos,
makes Man a living being.
Both the Serpent and the Woman are creatures, not divine;
the Serpent's temptation yields disaster.
The Woman gives birth to Man, who is the junior partner, theologically.
Woman is derived from Man (= demoted from godhead);
both sexes are coequal parts of the human race.
The divine union of the Goddess and the hero
makes sexuality sacred (thus, sex = worship).
Sex is good, but corrupted by the Fall;
the first sin was Disobedience (not Lust), born of Pride.
The Woman offers Man the Apple of Immortality
to gain entrance to Paradise.
The Man foolishly eats the forbidden fruit,
is expelled from the garden;
death is the result.
The apple/food of the gods gives
both enlightenment and eternal life.
The tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil
Note that the writer of Genesis uses all the elements one would use in a pagan cosmogony (else, his work would not be recognized as a cosmogony at all); however, the God he describes and the relation of humanity to God is unique among the religions of the world to that time.
Pagan religion acted out sacred rituals designed to enable the worshipers to participate in the sacred drama and so attain divinity (or at least, entrance to paradise after death). The sacred rituals of pre-Mosaic biblical religion are NOT dramatic re-enactments, nor was this a feature of Judaism.
PAGANISM vs. JUDAISM (then, Christianity)
Myth vs. Sacrament
Cyclical vs. Catastrophic
Fertility vs. Ethics
Special Note on Cain and Abel:
Please note that the blood sacrifice offered by Abel has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with making his offering acceptable to God. NOWHERE in the Bible is this connection made. The New Testament makes it clear that it was Abel's faith that made his offering acceptable (Hebrews 11:4); the only blood referred to here is Abel's blood pleading from the ground (Gen. 4:10).