Genesis Rejuvenated: An Interview with Bill Jemas
By John W. Whitehead
January 21, 2008
Genesis One leaves childish things behind. It is not a campfire story about a super-powered male being. This is a grown-up account of the creation of the universe which portrays God as the unifying spirit that brings all of the individual elements of the universe together as one. This idea transcends linguistics and pushes the envelope of human comprehension.—Bill Jemas
“I was the President and Publisher of Marvel from 2000 to 2004. We had lots of luck rewriting old stories that ‘made you look’ at what our classic heroes were doing lately. Peter Parker/Spider-Man was changing jobs at the newspaper—from photographer to webmaster. Logan/Wolverine had been an abused child. The first Captain America was really black, and the Rawhide Kid was ambiguously gay.
“People noticed us. Bloggers, journalists, t-shirt makers, game developers, movie producers, Barnes & Noble, Game-Stop, Wal-Mart, Target, you name it, all started doing what they do about us and Marvel’s once-bankrupt business started to make money.
“In 2005, I took some of that money, left that job and started up a new business with some friends. We wanted to do our thing about the bible. We would use Eve and Adam to make a lot of money and have a lot of fun—without doing a lot of work. They had made the ultimate sacrifice for all of us. We would cash in on movies, games and merchandise.
“So, the writers started typing scripts, the artists started drawing pages and I started doing research. It would be good I thought, to expose the underbelly of scholarly debate for the pop culture market. Did God intend, from the beginning, for Eve and Adam to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge? In the Bible, is ‘knowledge’ a synonym for ‘sex’? Was the serpent a metaphor for Eve’s inner voice, urging her to grow up and have children?
“I thought all I had to do was skim Bible literature for a couple of weeks and surface a bunch of controversial quotes for the PR campaign.
“I was way wrong.
“The literature made me look at the original text. And I have not been able to take my eyes off of the Bible ever since. Reading the Words made me dig deeper and deeper into their meanings until . . . now, years later, the comic book pages are still on the drawing board and my team and I are dedicated to an entirely new project that takes the Creation story about as seriously as possible.
“Our project is called the Freeware Bible [freewarebible.com] because its key data is in the public domain and free for you to use as you see fit. As you will see, I used it to write both a verbatim and poetic version of the creation story. You will be able to do that too, and publish it on your own if you like.
“The Freeware Bible project launches with the publication of this book, Genesis Rejuvenated. I know for sure that the ideas in here really are good ones because they all come from a verbatim translation of the oldest surviving manuscript of the Aramaic/Hebrew Bible. I have tried my best to do a good job at expressing those ideas in this book.”—Bill Jemas
Thus begins the introduction to Genesis Rejuvenated (Princeton, NJ: 360ie, 2008), a unique translation of the Bible that seeks to reconcile Creationism and Evolution and provide a blueprint for how the human race can transform the earth into a place that’s good for all people and for our fellow creatures. Written by attorney Bill Jemas, who during his distinguished career has served as Vice President of Business Affairs for the National Basketball Association and President of Marvel Enterprises, Genesis Rejuvenated is a controversial look at the Book of Genesis.
Mr. Jemas took a few moments out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions I posed to him about his new book.
John Whitehead: What is the Freeware Bible Project?
Bill Jemas: It’s a beginning. We are hoping to provide reading and translating tools so that any lay person can read the Bible, word for word, in the order it was first written. We start by presenting the words in the order they were first written—along with all of the likely meanings—and encourage readers to come to their own understanding of the original ideas.
JW: You indicate in Genesis Rejuvenated that you used the oldest surviving manuscript of the Aramaic-Hebrew Bible. Why is the Aramaic-Hebrew Bible any better than, let’s say, the one used in most churches—the King James Bible?
BJ: We want to get as close as possible to the original, so we looked for the version that was the least touched by human hands.
JW: Who wrote the early chapters of Genesis? Most Christians or Orthodox Jews will say that God wrote it. What do you think?
BJ: I believe in inspiration, and I believe that the people who wrote the various sections of the Bible were inspired by wisdom greater than their own. Having spent most of my adult life working with brilliant illustrators and authors, I’ve seen a pure spirituality underlying their best work. Having spent the past four years studying the first chapter of the Bible, I believe it presents insights that are miraculously advanced and profound. But I don’t believe it was written by one person taking dictation from above. Genesis Chapter One seems to have been written by at least two people. They were probably teachers and/or Rabbis.
JW: In your translation of Genesis, God actually brought everything into existence by song. The powers-that-be, as you call them, sang the universe into existence.
BJ: Yes. Genesis One is beautiful poetry that tells the story of all of nature’s elements and powers annunciating a common plan, in verse, not in prose, and in perfect harmony.
JW: You write in Genesis Rejuvenated that the powers-that-be is a collective energy and intelligence of the universe which is thinking, communicating and acting as one. This is what most people call “God.” Didn’t Albert Einstein say the same thing? That is, Einstein said that what created existence was this giant mind. Is that what we’re talking about here?
BJ: It is remarkable how many touch points there are in the ancient text and modern scientific theory. If one believes in the Bible, then it should be consistent with modern scientific principles. But we have to allow for the fact that there was not a scientific vocabulary 3 or 4 or 5,000 years ago—but the same concepts shine through.
JW: Do you believe in a literal Adam and Eve?
BJ: I don’t think a literal Adam and Eve is scientifically possible.
JW: You don’t believe in the literal 24-hour-day theory of creation that is traditionally taught in churches. You are talking about something entirely different in your book.
BJ: Yes. It is very important to study the ancient text. The ancient Aramaic word that is used in the original scripture can be translated as ‘day’ but could also be translated ‘cycle.’ If you are trying to prove that the Bible is false, all you have to do is translate the word as ‘day’ and then point to overwhelming geological evidence that the events of Genesis One lasted for billions of years, not for a handful of days. But if you are seeking fundamental truths in the Bible, you can translate the word as ‘cycle’ and marvel at how accurately the writers recounted the series of natural cycles in the development of the earth.
JW: When you use the term “Adam,” are you talking about a man or are you talking about humanity generally? Or are you talking about apes? For example, some theorize that one day God looked upon an ape and said, “Thou shalt have intelligence” and that was the beginning of people as we know them. Would you agree with that, or what are we talking about here? The question is: how did we become human beings?
BJ: With respect to the cycle of creation, the writers chose not to use words that clearly meant sunrise and sunset. Instead, they chose words that indicated the beginning and ending of a cycle. Similarly, with Adam, if the writers wanted to say that the powers-that-be created a man—that is, a person with male paraphernalia—they could have used the word for that. They chose not to use that word. They used the word that indicates “humanity.” What the Bible seems to be saying is that all of nature worked in harmony to conceive humanity, as opposed to the idea that a mythical super being in a human male form created one male person.
JW: Do you equate this making of humanity to some kind of a design or intelligence? In other words, are we talking about a God-force in the universe? And are we, as humans, modeled after this God-force? What in the world does that mean? As I look at people today, there are wars, killings and immense cruelty existing in the world. The world is hell for much of humanity.
BJ: I started reading the ancient scripture and writing Genesis Rejuvenated as part of a search for a moral philosophy. Pain and death are part of nature—part of the cycle of life. But to that, human beings have piled unthinkable cruelty and suffering—almost always with reciting some half-baked moralization for our immoral actions.
JW: Are you talking about original sin?
BJ: I don’t know if I understand original sin. But I do think we’ve lost track of morality. For the most part, society’s ideas about right and wrong fall into two schools. In a way, that’s a form of escapism—that is, if you have enough faith, you don’t have to think. It’s also nondemocratic and absolves us of our responsibility to debate principles and legislate morally sound laws. Then there’s the half school—you listen to the half of your economics class that says perfect markets work perfectly—and skip the half that says every real world market is grossly imperfect. Or you listen to half of your biology class—the half that says competition drives positive evolution—and skip the half that says cooperation is more important than competition. When you only half listen, you get to conclude that greed is good. We can all be as greedy and selfish as we want—that is, from a seething pile of amoral actions will rise a greater good. Between these two views, somewhere in the middle is a fairly beautiful concept. Together we all contribute to the collective wisdom we can call God. And from that collective wisdom come positive moral principles. We can start with those moral principles and enact rules to govern ourselves. You can see that philosophy at work everywhere you look—from well-run businesses to socially progressive churches to positive community action groups. You can see consensus among very kind-hearted and intelligent people who have a common goal. Everybody plays their role, including the role of the leader. And back to Genesis Rejuvenated, you can see this in the model the Bible spells out in its first chapter. The powers-that-be visualize the world as it should be and vocalize a mutual agreement. Then each one does what it does best in harmony.
JW: In Genesis Rejuvenated, you write that the God-force was not a separate being from earth, wind, fire and water, that God is the essence of the whole. Some people are going to say you’re promoting polytheism.
BJ: I have spent as much time studying polytheism as I’ve spent studying monotheism. The difficulty with both is that they revolve around the supernatural and the anthropomorphic vision of God. I am a grown man who doesn’t believe in superpowers. My mind doesn’t work that way. I can’t envision one big, strong God. I can’t see a bunch of little quibbling gods. I can’t fathom either of those visions. But somehow, I can feel collective intelligence at work. And the more I study biology, the more I’m convinced that it operates on every level, from micro-biology to global ecology. Listen, God created all different kinds of people, and we all have different ways off envisioning God. Personally, it is just not in my mental makeup to believe in super-heroes and super powers.
JW: It either is, or it isn’t. God either is collective intelligence or, as the King James Bible says, God walked in the Garden of Eden and Adam heard him coming. Thus, as many people believe, God had the attributes of humanity. But more to the point, it seemed to me as I read your book that you are advocating theistic evolution. Theistic evolution essentially envisions God as the prime mover behind the evolution. God began it all. Nothing, therefore, happened by chance in the creation. There is design to the universe. Is that primarily what you believe?
BJ: Yes, but with a caveat. Many people who espouse what you call theistic evolution are envisioning a top-down planning process, as opposed to a bottom-up planning process.
JW: In your book, you point out the problems with the classic theory of evolution. Nothing, as you indicate, happens by chance. You don’t really see randomness anywhere in nature. There seems to be a plan or a design behind nature. And you point out as well that the biblical view is remarkably consistent with the scientific evidence of how evolution works.
BJ: Yes. I think the design concept is consistent with the science we know.
JW: Francis Crick, who helped unravel the DNA code, struggled with the design concept, which is inherent in nature. That is one reason he promulgated the idea of panspermia. Panspermia is the idea that there was this genetic material dumped into the ocean, most likely by beings from another world. This is because the DNA Code is too complex to have evolved. What do you think about that?
BJ: I don’t agree with panspermia. I agree with what others have said about that idea. It just pushes the puzzle of creation off onto another planet. I don’t believe we are going to find God gazing at heaven through a telescope, but I do believe we can see the miracle of collective intelligence by studying microbes through a microscope. Colonies of microbes do collective genetic engineering—engineering the allocating of the genetic material for the greater good of their colony. When there is a challenge to the outer cell wall, they send the right genetic coding to cells in the outer wall, which transform their ‘bodies’ in real time and pass the new characteristics to their offspring.
JW: So you do believe in intelligent design?
BJ: Yes, but I believe in a collective intelligent design. I don’t believe it is from the outside in. I think it is from the inside out.
JW: You indicate that the Bible says and shows how we the human race can transform the earth into a very good place for us and for our children. The key to this is the process is visualization. Over time, what you see in your mind’s eye starts to take shape in the real world. What is visualization? Are you saying that human beings actually create the world with their minds?
BJ: I never thought of visualization until I read Genesis, Chapter One, in its original. I believe that visualization is a key to making positive changes to our world.
JW: The psychologist Carl Jung advocated the idea that the collective unconscious could actually materialize things. They could become actual material entities. Jung actually believed that UFOs, for example, were a product of the collective unconscious. Jung has had an amazing impact. The idea of the collective unconscious mirrors somewhat what you are saying in your book.
BJ: That’s interesting.
JW: As you studied and wrote this book, did it fill you with awe? Did it raise questions? How did it affect your life?
BJ: Actually, from the first moment I started to scratch out the verbatim translation of Genesis, I got goose bumps. I felt there was an opportunity to bridge something that seemed unbridgeable. It was the gulf between science and religion, between faith and reason—I hope I helped do that in some way.
DISCLAIMER: THE VIEWS AND OPINIONS EXPRESSED IN OLDSPEAK ARE NOT NECESSARILY THOSE OF THE RUTHERFORD INSTITUTE.