In The Beginning, By Karen Armstrong

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The Independent Culture

This slender volume explores Genesis, the most potent part of the Old Testament. Even in her first pages, Armstrong reveals much about this ostensibly familiar work. We learn that a writer known as P wrote the opening around 6BC. But God's beneficent creation goes to hell in chapter 2, where a second author J contradicts P "in several respects".

Though adam means "humanity", J says the sexes were created sequentially rather than simultaneously. Worse still, the serpent appears in a world that God saw as "good".

By including this contradiction, Armstrong maintains, the Biblical editors indicated both versions were "fiction". In her conclusion, she says "it is sometimes impossible, if we are honest, to imagine" P's benevolent God.