completely lifted from Donald Prothero's book "Evolution - what the fossils say and why it matters", p.27 - 30
the reason ? here is someone who actually has read the bible in the original Hebrew as well as the translations in greek and english + is probably best placed to show that to be a biblical literalist is a nonsense
it really would be like Alice in Wonderland that you have to believe in 6 impossible things before breakfast - i'd say most if not all creationists are not bible scholars in the sense of having made a literary comparison of the original texts, and in that respect ignorance is bliss because it allows you to believe in impossibilities, purely because you're not aware they're impossible
here it is, warts and all
The origin of the Hebrew creation stories in the Bible has been studied for nearly 200 years and is well known and accepted by most Bible scholars. In the 1960s and 1970s, archeologists excavated several ancient Sumerian cities in Mesopotamia (what is now Iraq) and found clay tablets written in cuneiform. This is the oldest written language on Earth, created with marks in soft clay made by wedqe-shaped stylus. Some of the stories date back at least to 4000 B.C., and most were recycled by the mythology of the Akkadian, Babylonian, and Assyrian cultures that replaced the Sumerians in Mesopotamia. The longest and best known of these stories is the Enuma Elish (in Babylonian, the first two words of the story, translated "When on high..."), which describes a creation epic that bears remarkable similarity to Genesis 1, including a formless void and chaos with gods dividing the waters from the land and naming the creatures. Since the story predates any of the Hebrew creation stories by centuries, there is little doubt that the early Hebrews were influenced by this powerful epic accepted by all Mesopotamian civilizations for over two millennia. Psalm 74 also borrows heavily from the Enuma Elish, where Yahweh destroys the Leviathan and splits its head open in an almost word-for-word copy of the way in which Marduk, the chief god of Babylon, splits open the head of Tiamat, the goddess of the ocean.
Another source is The Epic of Gilgamesh, which dates to about 2750 B.C. The Sumerians had a hero called Ziusudra (called Atrahasis by the Akkadians and Utnapishtim by the Babylonians), who is warned by the earth goddess Ea to build a boat because the god Ellil was tired of the noise and trouble of humanity and planned to wipe it out with a flood. When the floodwaters receded, the boat was grounded on the mountain of Nisir. After Ziusudra's boat was stuck for seven days, he released a dove, which found no resting place and returned. He then released a swallow that also returned, but the raven that was released the next day did not return. Ziusudra then sacrificed to Ea on the top of Mount Nisir. The story is nearly identical to that of Noah's flood, not only in its plot and structure, but also in the details of its phrasing. Only the characters' and gods' names and a few details have been changed to suit the differences between the monotheistic Hebrew culture and the polytheistic cultures of the Sumerians, Akkadians, and Babylonians.
Two centuries of detailed study by scholars have also revealed the way in which the Bible was put together. In its original Hebrew, the Old Testament (especially the first five books, or Pentateuch) show unmistakable signs of different authors writing different parts, and then someone later patching the whole thing together. Someone reading a later translation (especially the outdated King James translation) cannot pick up these differences easily, but they are obvious to those who read Hebrew. In high school, I was troubled by the contradictions between what I learned in my Presbyterian Sunday School and what I had learned from science; I decided to find out about the Bible myself. Not only did I read numerous books about Biblical scholarship, but I also learned to read Hebrew, so I could decipher Genesis on my own, making my own judgment about translations. In college, I also learned ancient Creek, and I can still read the New Testament in the original text and recognize when someone is mistranslating or misinterpreting the original.
To Hebrew scholars, the most obvious signs of different authorship are their choices of certain phrases and words, especially the word they use for God. One source is known as the "J" source, after Jahweh, a common name for God. This name is also spelled and pronounced "Yahweh" or "YHWH" for those who dare not speak God's name (since early written Hebrew had no vowels or even the modern system of vowel points, only the consonants are used). This name was mispronounced and misspelled as "Jehovah" by later authors. The authors of the ] document were priests of the southern kingdom of judah, who wrote sometime between 848 B.C. and the Assyrian destruction of Israel in 722B.C. They use terms such as "Sinai," "Canaanites" and phrases such as "find favor in the sight of," call on the name of," and "bring out from the land of Egypt." The J authors were probably religious leaders associated with Solomon's tempie, very concerned with delineating the guiding hand of Jahweh in their history but not so concerned with the miraculous.
The second main source is known as the "E" document, after their name for God, Elohim, "powerful ones" in Hebrew. The priests who composed the E document were interested in different issues, used a different set of phrases, and can be traced to the northern kingdom of Israel, sometime between 922 B.C. and the Assyrian conquest in 722 B.C. The E authors use such terms as "Horeb" instead of Sinai, "Amorites" instead of Canaanites, and the phrase "bring up from the land of Egypt." Most scholars think that the E authors were Ephraimite priests, who were more interested in the righteousness that God requires of his people. When people sinned they must repent. Moses is the central focus of these accounts, along with miraculous aspects of their history.
A third source, the "P" source, or Priestly Code, was apparently written by Aaronid priests around the time of the Babylonian captivity in 587 B.C. It is the youngest of the sources of the Old Testament. The P source emphasizes the role of Aaron and diminishes the role of Moses in the early books of the Bible. This source frequently uses long lists and is characterized by long boring interruptions to the narrative and cold unemotional descriptions. To Hebrew scholars, the P source is also distinctive in its low, clumsy, inelegant literary style. The P source views God as distant and transcendental, acting and communicating only through the priesthood. According to P, God is just but also unmerciful, using brutal, abrupt punishment when laws are broken.
Sometime during the reign of King Josiah around 622 B.C., the Hebrews began combining these different traditions along with other sources (such as the "D" source of the Deuteronomic code). All of these documents date from the period before Judah was captured, Jerusalem burned, the Temple destroyed, and the Hebrews dragged off to captivity by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in 587 B.C.
Verse by verse, scholars can tease apart the way in which each book of the Old Testament was woven together (see Friedman 1987 or Pelikan 2005). As a result, the Bible is full of internal contradictions that make it impossible for anyone who reads it closely to take it literally, but only make sense in the context of different sources being blended together. For example, Genesis 1 (largely from the P source) gives the order of creation as plants, animals, man, and woman, but Genesis 2 (from the J source) gives it as man, plants, animals, and woman. According to Genesis 1:3-5, on the first day, God created light, then separated light and darkness, but according to Genesis 1:14-19, the sun (which separates night and day) wasn't created until the fourth day.
Genesis 6-7 gives the story of Noah twice, once from the J source and once from the P source, with verses from the two sources intermingled so that they sometimes contradict each other. Genesis 6:5-8 are from the J source, but Genesis 6:9-22 are from the P source. Then Genesis 7:1-5 are from the J source, and Genesis 7:6-24 are alternately from the J and P sources every other line or so (Friedman 1987:54). This leads to many contradictions, such as Genesis 7:2 (from the J source) saying that Noah took seven pairs of each clean beast in the ark, but Genesis 7:8-15 (from the P source) saying he took only one pair of each beast in the ark. In Genesis 7:7, Noah and his family finally enter the ark, and then in Genesis 7:13 they enter it all over again (the first verse from the J source, the second from the P source). According to Genesis 6:4, there were Nephilim (giants) on the earth before the Flood, then Genesis 7:2I says that all creatures other than Noah's family and those on the ark were annihilated - but Numbers 13:33 savs there were Nephilim after the Flood.
Many more examples could be cited, but the basic point is clear: the Bible is a composite of multiple sources that did not always agree on details. This was no problem to the ancient Hebrew culture, which used the Bible for inspiration but was not concerned with literal consistency. It is a big problem for modern fundamentalists (most of whom have never read the Bible in the original Hebrew or Greek, so they are in no position to argue) who believe that every word of the Bible is literally true. Most non-fundamentalist Protestants, Catholics, ]ews, and Muslims have accepted what scholarship has shown us about the origin of the Bible and use it as a book for understanding their relationship to their God but not as a science textbook or literal account of history. As Joseph Campbell and many other later authors have pointed out, these religious stories are important to believers for their meaning and symbolism and connection to the inner mysteries of life, not as detailed literal accounts of events. Only in our modern scientific age, with its obsession with literalism and detail, have fundamentalists made such a gross error about the spirit and meaning of the Scriptures (see Vawter 1983 and other papers in Frye 1983).