Shuck and Jive

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Father Guido Sarducci and Julius Wellhausen

Father Guido Sarducci

Julius Wellhausen

About 25 years ago, Father Guido Sarducci explained God and evolution for us on Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update." He had charts and drawings that showed the evolution of God. He said something like: "And a-here is a-Neanderthal God; and a-here is Cro-Magnon God."

It was funny and bizarre, and in many respects not far off.

Genesis 1 tells us that God created humankind in God's image.
It is also true that humankind creates God in humankind's image.

As humankind evolves so does our understanding of God.

Julius Wellhausen took a more scholarly approach than Father Sarducci, but in a sense, showed us how God evolved in the Hebrew scriptures. He is famous for the Documentary Hypothesis. In a nutshell, the Hebrew Scriptures were stitched together over more than 1,000 years.

There was an original epic, modified by a storyteller we call J. Four hundred years later, this epic is modified by another storyteller we call P. Of course, long before anything is written, these stories are told and retold in oral form.

  • J gets her name by calling God, Yahweh. J's narrative was formed in the 10th century BCE
  • E calls God, Elohim. E represents the Northern Kingdom's view of history after the Israelite monarchy split in 922. (J represents the Southern Kingdom's view and eventually J and E are combined).
  • D stands for Deuteronomic history which accounts for the Book of Deuteronomy (7th century BCE).
  • P gets his name because he is a priest. P's narrative is dated in the 6th century BCE.
Here is a handy summary and here is an illustration of J and P in the flood story.

Here is a clever diagram:

There are two separate creation accounts in Genesis.

Genesis 1:1-2:4a is a later account written by P in the 6th century during the Babylonian captivity.

Genesis 2:4b-4:16 is the earlier account written by J in the 10th century BCE. This tells the story of Adam, Eve, the garden, the serpent and so forth.

In terms of the evolution of God, the second creation story is first. Later, the first story is added.

If you don't think you'll remember or particularly care about all of that information, here is all you need to know: God evolves.

Speaking of information that we forget, Father Guido Sarducci has a solution for the high cost of college with his "five minute university." Just hit play!



  1. I really appreciate the resources, the illustrations, and the other documentation that you are putting together for this series of entries on Creation. This can serve as a great summary and resource for anyone who wants information on this subject. This is fascinating stuff. The little chart of the various sources that go into the flood story, for example, is a really good illustration.

    (And as a high school and college student watching SNL in the last half of the seventies, I always enjoyed watching Father Guido Sarducci.)

    What you refer to as the evolution of God is what I consider the evolution of our human understanding of God. I think that God has unchanging attributes (but process theology does posit that God also has changing aspects as well, as s/he responds continually to what happens in the universe), but I also think that humans in their finite limitation struggle to understand God's infinite nature and thus are always trying to figure it out and they thus evolve their conception of the Deity.

    There is no question that the Hebrew scriptures, if taken from a historical perspective, show an ever evolving theology. This is something that fundamentalists don't see because it doesn't conform to their own dogma, but it is actually as plain as day to anyone who takes the Bible seriously.

  2. Reformed theology has maintained a sense of progressive or unfolding revelation. That's not a problem for "fundamentalists."