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Creation in Genesis

A woodblock illumination of the fourth day of creation, by Michael Wolgemut and Wilhelm Pleydenwurff, from the Nuremberg Chronicle, fifteenth century

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”

There was a day when a human hand first wrote those words. This sentence is a masterpiece of compression. It approximates as closely as words allow the instantaneous realization of an intent, the bringing into being of the diversity of things that make up the world of fundamental human experience. It describes an act and characterizes the Actor.

The Babylonian epic the Enuma Elish begins with…

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’s most recent article for Harper’s Magazine, “One Manner of Law,”
appeared in the August 2022 issue. Her book Reading Genesis, from which this excerpt is taken,
will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in March.



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