First Light

First Light : A History of Creation Myths from Gilgamesh to the God-particle

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Did the universe start with a bang, or has it existed always? Was there a supernatural being behind it all, or just mindless forces? The beginning of things has forever tested the limits of curiosity, and such questions have both challenged atheists and inspired believers. Ancient cultures resorted to myth and symbolism to tell vibrant stories about human origins. Later civilizations added philosophical and scientific explanations: but these are not definitive. The nature and meaning of existence - the 'why' as much as the 'how' questions - are in the end mysterious. In this lively and wide-ranging book, G R Evans explores the world's myriad creation stories against the background of the biggest question there is: what are we doing here? Discussing Swahili legends that resemble the Book of Genesis, Greek tales about the Titans, Native American, Inca and Mesopotamian mythologies, and Vedic creation cycles that begin with a cosmic egg or seed, the author surveys polytheist, monotheist and dualist ideas about supernatural power. Tracing the history of humanity as it has struggled, over many millennia, to make sense of itself, The Creation Myth will attract students of religion, history and philosophy and general readers more

Product details

  • Hardback | 288 pages
  • 146 x 222 x 38mm | 499.99g
  • I.B.Tauris & Co Ltd.
  • I.B.Tauris
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 20 integrated bw illustrations
  • 1780761554
  • 9781780761558
  • 798,585

Review quote

'It may seem that the question of human origins has never been more controversial than today. But in this informative and elegantly written book, G.R. Evans shows how there have always been competing narratives of how the world began and about the significance of human existence. With wide-ranging scholarship and an engaging style, she offers an intriguing and thought-provoking exploration of a set of perennial questions.' - Peter Harrison, Director, Centre for the History of European Discourses, University of Queensland, formerly Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at the University of Oxford, editor of The Cambridge Companion to Science and Religion 'In First Light G.R. Evans offers a lively survey of scores of explanations of the creation of the world across periods, continents, and disciplines. She covers Eastern as well as Western religions, "primitive" myths, scientific explanations, and philosophical assessments. She continually shows unexpected similarities. But she finally gives a reluctant "no" to the question whether, as Eliot's character Casaubon in Middlemarch asked, there is a single "key to all mythologies". This is a delightful work.' - Robert A. Segal, Sixth Century Professor of Religious Studies, University of Aberdeen, author of Myth: A Very Short Introduction and Theorizing About Mythshow more

About G. R. Evans

G.R. EVANS is Professor Emeritus of Medieval Theology and Intellectual History at the University of Cambridge. Her many books include Belief: A Short History for Today (2006), The Church in the Early Middle Ages (2007), The University of Cambridge: A New History(2009) and The University of Oxford: A New History (2010), published by more

Table of contents

List of Illustrations Preface Introduction PART I The universe begins 1. Disagreements about first principles i. When did the world begin? ii. Is the universe 'real' ? iii. What is the lay-out of the cosmos? iv. In God's image? Was the world made for our benefit? PART II. Why it is difficult to agree 2. What is the evidence? 3. The great rival religious theories i. Polytheisms ii. Monotheisms iii. Dualisms 4. Choosing an approach i. Classical philosophy ii. The early Christian theological synthesis iii. Just 'saying' the world 5. Going to see i. Out of Africa ii. Redrawing the world-picture: new continents iii. Filling the empty hemisphere iv. Fact and fiction v. Created unequal? Part III The main competing explanations 6. The beginning of the world: a one-off event? i. One creation complete and perfect ii. A single but imperfect creation iii. A single event with errors but capable of modification? 7. Creation as a system: initiation followed by a process of planned development? i. A process with built-in mechanisms for improvement? ii. Creation as a system with Creator as supervisor? iii. The 'phoenix' theory of creation 8. The search for a key i. Is there a single underlying methodology? ii. Can 'comparative religion' provide a unifying principle? iii. Looking inward for an answer Conclusion Notes Texts and Abbreviations Select Bibliography Indexshow more