Well, OK, Wise Beard Man Mk. II didn't really give me a present. But he did do a blog post this morning full of win and awesome, so I'll take it. Money quote:
Here's how you should look at the book of Genesis. Long, long ago, a tribe of desert nomads bumped up against the more cosmopolitan culture of Mesopotamia. They learned useful skills from the city people, like writing, but at the same time, the allure of those older, more sophisticated ideas was leading to the dissolution of tribal identity, and especially to a loss of respect for the austere and demanding desert god. Who wants to worship dry old El when slinky, sexy Innini is calling?
So in a move as old as religion, almost, the desert priests slyly adopted the popular culture of their neighbors, stealing all their myths, but rewrote them to put their one great god in charge of the whole story. Genesis is an exercise in syncretism, a wholesale theft of one tradition to be repackaged with a new set of symbols. It is not about the creation of the universe. It is about resolving a conflict between two human cultures. That's interesting, sure enough, as long as you don't forget where you are and start building big pseudo-museums in Kentucky dedicated to your misconceptions.