2018 Bible as Lit, Christian Bible, Christianity, Mythology, Read-Alongs, Religion

Genesis 1-24 #2018BibleRBR

Reading the Bible as Literature

Week One: Genesis 1-24

Genesis is one of the most interesting and rewarding books of the bible. There is a whole lot going on, and a lot that precedes/prefigures events that come later, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. Sure, there are some dull moments, where we get into things like the “Son of _ ; Son of _ ; who lived until 800 and _” nonsense, but mostly, the stories are fascinating, the people are familiar, and God is beginning to demonstrate the kind of deity he is. Adam and Eve. Cain and Abel. Noah. Abraham and Sarah. Isaac and Ishmael. Babel. Sodom & Gomorrah. I mean, this is just a wild beginning to any book!

Speaking of which: what is up with this God? I remember when I last read the bible through, about 3 years ago, I kept thinking, “man, this guy is a real jerk!” He seems to overreact to every little human flaw (or attempt at greatness), and to “test” (sic: “tempt”) his most devout followers in the most absolutely ridiculous way. Upon this reading, though, I’m wondering about the “lessons” behind God’s actions, rather than focusing on the actions themselves. Let’s take two, for example:

First, after Eve and Adam eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil, they are expelled from the Garden of Eden. In my recollection, and in many modern-day references, it is only this post hoc ergo propter hoc (cause and effect) that is the focus. They disobeyed God, so he gets rid of them. But I think this misses an important piece: God says in Genesis 3:22 that they are being expelled before they can eat from the Tree of Life. In other words, it is not just that they disobeyed God and are now tarnished with the knowledge of good and evil (which essentially makes their innocence null & void and will cause them to know sin), but that if they stay, they may also become immortal. If they are “all knowing” and immortal, then they are much too close to being god-like; or, in God’s words, they would become “like one of us.”

Second, after the flood and re-populating of the Earth, Noah’s descendants begin to spread and to form different tribes, occupying different lands (nations). Eventually, many generations later, the tribes come together to build a ziggurat, a massive tower that would reach toward the heavens. This is the Tower of Babel, and it was meant to be mankind’s shining achievement, proof that men could work together toward a common goal, and succeed. But for some reason this angers and disturbs God. Why? Why wouldn’t he want his children to come together and learn and grow, and communicate? Well, as with the Tree of Knowledge, Genesis 11:6 tells us God saw their work and thinks, “nothing will be restrained from them,” if they are all of one language and one purpose.

In other words: these two glimpses at God’s methods seem to me to reveal a deity who is concerned, like much of ancient mythology (Greek & Roman, anyway) is concerned, with man’s hubris. Go too far, strive for too much, believe one’s self too important, and you are surely to fall and fail, hard. Is it possible, then, that the underlying message, here, is one of a compassionate God who must do some extremely shady things in order to guide mankind toward humility?

Other Interesting Bits:

  • Genesis 3:15: seems to be the first prophecy of the coming of Christ.
  • Genesis 5:22-24: notes, “Enoch walked with God; and he was not; for God took him.” Why is his death different from all the others? Is it because he is a seventh son?
  • Genesis 14:21-24: Abraham refuses the spoils of war because he doesn’t want to be indebted to a potentially corrupt king. (This I’m noting only because it reminds me of a stoic philosophy, which is another journey I’m on).
  • Genesis 15: God’s covenant with Abraham relays the act of cutting animals in half and lining them in an aisle for the men to walk down, to “cut the deal.” This practice of cutting animals in half and walking together between them, symbolizing an important agreement between two parties, is literally where that phrase, “let’s cut a deal” comes from.
  • Genesis 16: The story of Sarah and Hagar = the inspiration for Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.
  • Genesis 19:1-29: The story of Sodom & Gomorrah. As it turns out, this does not seem to be a direct condemnation of homosexuality; indeed, there is no shock or disgust expressed at the idea that the men want to have sex with the new arrivals (identified as men, although I’m interested in reading earlier untranslated texts to see what the actual pronouns are; angels are traditionally non-gendered, so more investigation is needed). Instead, what upsets God about their actions seems to be a confluence of attitudes: lust, violence, rage, covetousness and, perhaps most importantly, refusal to respect that Lot has placed the visitors under the protection of his household, which is an ancient and sacred custom in multiple cultures and mythologies.  

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7 thoughts on “Genesis 1-24 #2018BibleRBR

  1. I read your ideas with great interest. Isn’t it amazing how we can come back to a piece of writing with whole new perspectives? I think showing us our pride, and need for humility, is a wonderful take away.

    I am reading along, but differently than you. I am reading a chapter a day, which will soon leave me far behind, but my intent is to go slowly and deeply (as I have read the Bible through almost every year since 1994). I am writing down a verse from one chapter every day, and I will share them at the end of the month. You would be amazed at the thread that seems to evolve.

    Thanks for hosting this fabulous event. xo

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Email Comment from Gina B.

    “I think that, as the Bible says around Noah’s time and as my 59 years has often shown me, that many people are ‘desperately wicked’ [Genesis] so…

    1. once Adam and Eve knew about evil, if they became immortal could you imagine the havoc??? Evil deeds that never end?

    Also

    2. Tower of Babel: man working together could do about anything BUT man is also often ‘desperately wicked’ so again, could you imagine even more havoc example: imagine Everyone watching people thrown to the lions, not just the Romans? or Everyone gassing Jews, not just certain Germans? Or Everyone treating African Americans as slaves and/or behaving as the KKK, not just Americans???

    ABSOLUTE POWER CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY as far as human beings go, and man as a whole is untrustworthy [just look at the new tax bill, big Pharma, shrinking the EPA and other regulations that protect people’s food and water from poisonous chemicals, etc. etc. so that billionaires can have even more wealth].

    Thank you for listening to another point of view re: Genesis and I do agree with you, God is compassionate while understanding man for what we are.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Some of my thoughts on Genesis 1-24 I am reading from the New International Version (NIV) I am reading the Bible this year as well but I am on a different schedule. If I have covered the material you have covered already, then I will offer my thoughts from my notes. If I have not covered your recent material, I will follow along with you and add my thoughts. Does that make sense? Also, I am taking serious your desire to study this as a piece of literature and will try hard not to let my personal faith and feelings be too invasive while trying to maintain honesty and integrity in my thoughts. Please let me know, kindly, if you sense me blurring the lines.

    I love, love, love that in the story of creation, with each day and “stuff” that he creates, at the end of the day it says that He saw it was “good”. Except on the sixth day, the day He creates mankind, He says it is “very good”.

    Also on day six, verse 26, I believe is the first mention of the Trinity. (Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit) Dwelling together.

    My favorite part of the story of the flood is that when all were inside, before the floods began, God Himself shut the door. Gen. 7:16

    Like you, I am fascinated about the Tower of Babel and have often wondered why God saw fit to destroy their efforts and confuse them. Obviously, they would never actually achieve building all the way to Heaven. So I have to assume there is metaphor or symbolism or some literary device going on that you might understand better than I would. I think it all boils down to pride and it’s damaging effects and mankind’s need for humility and dependence on Him, Because of my faith, I am inclined to believe that this was an act of overall goodness because I believe that He is 100% good, even when I don’t understand Him. But we are looking at this from a secular and literary point of view and so I would just have to say this is one of the many things, in my humanity, that I just don’t quite get.

    I always felt sorry for Hagar. The whole reason she was in the picture was because of Sarah’s impatience or lack of trust. Which, being a human, I understand.
    I am at a loss for words, really, when I think about the story of Abraham being called to sacrifice Isaac. Many people, I think, consider this story as enough reason to not live a “religious” life. It is a horrible thing to consider, murdering your child at the request of a loving God. I read Fear and Trembling by Soren Kierkegaard, (for the LOST challenge) and the whole first 15 or 20 percent of the book was about his fascination/obsession/rumination of this part of the Bible. And though I couldn’t understand any of the rest of what I read in his book, I did follow, somewhat, his general thoughts on this topic. I think it drove him almost mad, not understanding how God could have asked this of his servant, but at the same time, I don’t think he could ever get comfortable believing God was wrong or bad in the asking. It horrified him, but he couldn’t reject Him for it either. (This is just the general impressions I got from my reading. Kierkegaard is no walk in the park. I could be way off…) The only rescuing element that I come back to over and over in this story is that even though Abraham was obedient to the enth degree, he knew that in the end God would not take his son because he says to someone, when heading up the mountain, “We will worship and then we will come back to you.” Gen 22:5

    Lastly, it’s interesting to me to consider how marriage is handled in this time. With Isaac and Rebekah, it is so opposite from us. We learn to love someone and then get married. They married and then learned to love. When Isaac grieved his mother’s loss and was not comforted until he married Rebekah, I find that to be beautiful and at the same time, as a wife, daunting.

    That’s what I’ve got.

    Like

  4. I agree, I think Genesis is one of the most interesting books. There are so many fascinating things that happen and we often just glance over it. In the creation accounts alone there is so much happening and so many things going on. I think there is A LOT to learn and so much we miss.

    I’ve always loved studying this section of scripture. I recently wrote an article about how we’ve missed the point in the creation story by focusing only on a literal 7 day creation. If you want to check it out it’s here: https://rethinknow.org/2018/03/26/weve-missed-the-point-of-the-creation-story/

    Liked by 1 person

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