In the Beginning

“It begins, as most things begin, with a song. In the beginning, after all, were the words, and they came with a tune. That was how the void was made, how the void was divided, how the lands and the stars and the dreams and the little gods and the animals, how all of them came into the world.

    They were sung.

    The great beasts were sung into existence, after the Singer had done with the planets and the hills and the trees and the oceans and the lesser beasts. The cliffs that bound existence were sung and the hunting grounds and the dark.

    Songs remain. They last. The right song can turn an emperor into a laughingstock, can bring down dynasties. A song can last long after the events and the people in it are dust and dreams and gone. That’s the power of songs.” (Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys, p.1-2)

    There is just something about music that makes God speaking things into existence believable. C.S. Lewis used this same concept in The Chronicles of Narnia when Aslan sang Narnia into existence. Somehow songs give us a glimpse of Yahweh’s power.

    There is one verse from Genesis chapter 1 that stands out. In most translations it stands alone. Genesis 1: 27:

 “So God created man in his own image, 

in the image of God he created him 

male and female he created them.”

It is the one part of Genesis 1 that we know for sure is poetry.

    I was introduced to the idea of elevated language when I was studying Shakespeare in High School. The bard would write mostly in iambic pentameter. There were a few characters that were exempt: jokers, fools, the village idiot, basically the people that represented the common man. Shakespeare’s plays were often written for the rich, for royalty, for his sponsors, so the characters would reflect those in power. One of the ways that he would flatter those who he wrote for was to elevate their language. The characters that looked most like the real people in power would speak in poetry, their language would be beautiful and articulate. Juxtapose that with prose, compare that with the way we talk in everyday life, and it makes Shakespeare’s characters sound smarter -it gives them an edge.

    Shakespeare wasn’t the first and he certainly won’t be the last to use to elevated language to make a point. Genesis 1:27 stands out because it’s poetry in the middle of prose, a song in the middle of the creation story. Poetry is the Bible’s elegant way of highlighting an important, profound moment or lesson.

    Here begins anthropology. The very first things we learn about humanity is that we are (1) created, we are (2) male and female, (3) we are in the image of Yahweh. Apparently these three concepts are at the core of who we are, of what we were created to be. And Yahweh said it was very good.