Is God a creationist? An ethnobiological analysis of the tree of life in Genesis

Reynolds, Peter C. - Sally Glean Center

An important theme in English Protestantism is a literal reading of the Bible, interpreting its stories as factual descriptions of historical events. Thus, contemporary creationists explain the seven days of creation in Genesis as a page from God’s daytimer. However, this story is better interpreted not as a sequence of days but as the successive branching of a tree—the tree of life. This interpretation is consistent with imagery presented elsewhere in the Bible and with Judeo-Christian iconography. The successive branching of the tree of life is more similar to the cladistic diagrams of evolutionary biology than to the calendrical series of fundamentalism. Also, the structural relations among plants and animals encoded in its branches exemplify the folk taxonomies long familiar to anthropology.