The 20 (+) Creation Stories in the Bible

A few people emailed me after they caught a comment I made during a brief BBC4 “Songs of Praise” programme last month.  Asked by the presenter what I thought about those who wanted to take a literal ‘scientific’ interpretation of Genesis chapter 1, part of my answer was to point out that there were at least 20 creation stories in the Bible, all using different metaphors, pictures, langauge, and that we ought to read them all together, interpreting each in the light of the others, before deciding which, if any, deserves ‘literal’ reading.

So where are these 20 creation stories?  Well, for a fuller account of the main structural ones, I do try to cover this in chapters 3, 5 and 6 of Faith and Wisdom in Science.  Alternatively, an excellent account of seven very central stories can be found in William P. Brown’s The Seven Pillars of Creation. It is important to understand that priority should not be assigned necessarily to those creation accounts that come early in the canonical Biblical ordering (like Gensis).  Remember that the Bible is really like a library, with a history/law section, poetry, wisdom, prophets, gospels, letters – all on different ‘shelves’.  Nor should priority follow length – some creation stories are condensed right down to the essential nuggets of heavens and earth, foundations and boundaries (the most condensed on my list is Psalm 102v.25).  But these may well represent the earliest and most basic.  Genesis 1 and 2 are certainly highly evolved and later than some on the list.  So here, in very condensed form, and in no highly-worked out order, are 20 starters:

(1) Proverbs 8 The birth of Wisdom and her co-creative role

(2) Psalm 33 The Creative Word

(3) Psalm 104 Dynamic Creation – fruitfulness at the boundaries

(4) Jeremiah 10 True (the world) and false (idols) creation

(5) Jeremiah 4 An ‘anti-creation’ story: rolling it all back when humans disobey

(6) Isaiah 28  Creation and the husbandry of agriculture

(7) Isaiah 40 Numbering the structures of the cosmos

(8) Isaiah 45 Creation is the backdrop to history

(9) Isaiah 11 The hope of a New Creation

(10) Hosea 2 A New Covenant with Creation

(11) Genesis 1 The Cosmos is God’s real Temple

(12) Genesis 2 Creation as ordering and forming

(13) Psalm 89 Creation is God’s dominion

(14) Psalm 8 Humankind’s glory in creation

(15) Psalm 19 Creation re-echoes God’s creative Word

(16) Psalm 102v25 Foundations of the earth and heavens

(17) Job 26 Spreading out the skies and suspending the earth

(18) Job 28 Wisdom is the perception and measure of creation with God

(19) Job 38 Measuring out the foundations of the earth and heavens

(20) John 1 Logos as the creative form

(21) Revelation 21 The New Creation

OK there was an extra one, but I also left out several others.  You need to find the relevant verses in most cases!

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11 thoughts on “The 20 (+) Creation Stories in the Bible

  1. Pingback: Top 20 Creation Stories of the Bible | Leadingchurch.com

  2. One of my favorites is Isaiah 5:1-7. I know its a stretch but the idea of God creating the world for glory, humanity’s role in that glory, and our rebellion is all in there.

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  3. Very interesting collection of the texts about creation. Anyway, it is important to add that strictly the only one cosmogony in the Bible is Genesis 1,1-2,4a.

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    • Thanks Lucio, but I don’t agree. Those 21 texts I chose are not just ‘about creation’ (about what has been made), they are about the making of it. All contain some notion of cosmogony – not as well developed as Gen 1 (which goes well beyond cosmogony) but, for example, language about God ‘stretching out the firmament’ or ‘setting the earth’s foundations in place’ or creating a ‘boundary for the seas’ is cosmogony.

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      • Thank you Tom! Your clarification is usefull for me. Perhaps I had an idea of a cosmogony like a closed narration. But there are many metaphors and little narrations with a background of a determinated cosmogony. I work about theology of creation -now I am finishing a book of theology of life in a evolutionary and ecological context-. Thank foy your nice article.

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  4. The Hosea 2 reference is a bit of a stretch. The passage is using the imagery of creation to highlight a new covenant with Israel, it seems to me.

    I should mention that I love the thought of your article. I am actually referring to your list in a sermon tomorrow. That’s why I’m going through it, just to double-check how you are drawing out the allusions to creation. It’s all good…

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    • Thanks – I did want to include one reference to the New creation. You might call this ‘a bit of a stretch’ and I’d allow that! But also there is a continuity of texts from those that talk principally of the act of creation itself and those which emphasise our relation to it.

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      • I get what you’re trying to do, but the Isaiah 28 reference is an illustration. It doesn’t speak about the new creation per se, although the chapter does, at the beginning. Whether you keep it is the list is up to you, but I’d leave it out. The rest is spot on!

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    • Also, sorry about the typo – Isaiah 20 should have read 28 – which it now does! Many thanks and hope the sermon goes well. Im just about to post one (from a different angle) in fact!

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  5. Pingback: What do Creation Stories do in the Bible? | Faith and Wisdom in Science

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