The Old Testament begins with the book of Genesis; an account which offers explanations for some of the most fundamental questions that human-being’s ask. Genesis 1 puts forward the concept of God as almighty creator, who invented this world, and everything within it, for a purpose.
Genesis originated from oral tradition- folk tales passed down from generation to generation. At this time there was no formal education so people would discuss philosophy and culture by the fireside. At some point, the stories were recorded and have since been revised by bible scriptures.
Unlike the Greek writings of Plato and Aristotle, who reached impersonal conclusions when considering how the world came to be- both Plato’s world of forms and Aristotle’s body-soul theory both distinctly lack the influence of a higher authority who cares for his/her creation. The Old Testament fills in these gaps by offering an explanation but also taking into account something of a higher authority.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”: Genesis 1:1 clearly establishes that there is only one God and that he has existed from the very beginning of time- the whole of creation is his work. This simple sentence acts as an introduction for the rest of the account- which continues in very poetic language.
It is not made clear whether or not creation is “ex nihilo” (out of nothing) or if God had pre-existing material. Nevertheless, the existence of God is taken for granted and in no way doubted. Events take place in a perfect pattern, suggesting that God has planned the world precisely and that it all exists for a reason. Here, God is displayed as being omnipotent (all powerful) because he has the authority to create such a world with his bare hands. There is a particular emphasise on the phrases “And God said “Let there be…”… And there was”- again reinforcing God’s command over the universe- showing that God only needs to state for something to be done for it to be done. It is interesting to note that God is said to have created the world in six days and left the seventh free- a day of divine rest.
God creates human beings to be “stewards on earth”, that is to watch over it and act as an authority over the animals and plants. They are made in Gods image and therefore have the responsibility to reflect God’s goodness. God says “Man should not be alone”, demonstrating that he is a benevolent (caring) God.
However, man is not perfect- indeed they are far from it. When Adam and Eve surrender to temptation and eat the forbidden apple, God immediately knows- he is both Omniscient (all knowing) and Omnipresent (ever present).
Throughout the years, Genesis has been subject for many debates. It is now considered to be mythical writing expressing an essential truth, so, while scientific evidence makes claims that it is false Christians now interpret the information metaphorically- that God did not create the world in seven days but in a much longer time span. “Essential truths” which are revealed about are still relevant- God did plan the world and it does exist for a reason, he is still benevolent, omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient.
How far do the Jewish Scriptures (Old Testament) support the view that God created humanity for a purpose? (17)
There are many instances in the Old Testament which support the view that God has created humanity for a purpose. God is transcendent, meaning He stands above or beyond the world; He uses this ability to regularly intervene in the early scriptures.
Jewish Scriptures feature three different types of actions which God takes to arbitrate in the world. Firstly there is the “Oth”- an act of God which sends a message to his people (such as His communication through Moses which brought about the 10 commandments). Ultimately they help to expose parts of God’s major plan and “purpose” for humans.
Secondly there is the “mopeth” an event which God performs on behalf of his people. Like Oth’s, they serve a principle in God’s design for human kind.
Finally, there is the “Pele” which shows God’s ultimate authority- his holy rule over the people, as their king and his actions which are for them. The most obvious example of this is the story of creation (in Genesis). These events also highlight that God has created humanity for a purpose.
Perhaps the clearest examples of God’s intervention for a reason is the “Oth” of Joshua 10: 1-15 in which God helped Joshua’s army (the Israelites) overrun their enemies (Amorites) by confusing them, creating hailstones as “divine weapons” and by making the “sun stand still for one entire day”. God clearly goes against the natural order we have come to expect (i.e. the sun moving across the sky throughout the day) in order to guarantee Joshua’s army a victory. This suggests that it was Gods plan to ensure the Israelite’s victory over the Amorites.
However, it is not clear what the exactly God’s purpose for humans is. The first humans, Adam and Eve, are quick to go strictly against what God has told them to do and eat from the forbidden tree of knowledge. This destroys their innocence and introduces them to harmful knowledge. Surely, if God is omnipresent and omniscient (as we have already determined) then He would have been able to stop them- the fact that He didn’t perhaps shows that it is God’s purpose for humans to have free will and not be restricted by his rules.