What's in today's reading: Creation. Adam and Eve and "forbidden fruit". Cain and Abel. Noah and his Ark.
Well, here we are, starting on our journey through the Bible. I don't know what is possessing me to take on such an ambitious task, but here we go!
The first 11 chapters of the Bible are very well known stories to anyone who has gone to Sunday School. Creation. Adam and Eve. Noah...
Creation vs. Evolution is a big debate in Christian circles. Some think that if The Bible is the word of God then evolution can't be true. Others point to verses where God says a day to Him is like a thousand years, and The Bible doesn't say "how" He did His creating, so maybe evolution is the means He used to reach his end.
To me, it doesn't really matter. God is God. He can do things how He wants. Was it seven literal days? Was it millions of years? I don't know. Nor do I really care.
Personally I think of the creation of the Universe and eventually Earth is kind of like a 4th of July firework shell. Fireworks makers pack everything that "will happen" in to that shell. They know that if they put this stuff in this way that when it explodes it will do that. God made the Universe, then BOOM - the Big Bang and everything that follows after. Just my opinion.
An interesting thought, however. What if this isn't meant to be a literal creation story? What if, rather, it was meant as a prayer or mnemonic device to teach children about God? Look at your hand. Make a fist and look at knuckles. If you count your knuckles and the 'valleys' between them there are 7. Put your finger on the first knuckle and think "Day and night". Then move to the first valley and think "land and water". And so on.
What if the creation story in the first part of Genesis is really a nursery rhyme?
The Bible is made up of many types of literature. Not every part is meant to be taken literal. Psalms, for example, is made up of poetry and songs. If we take some of those literally, then we might assume God is a big chicken because there are verses that talk about the feathers in His wings.
Just my opinion, this isn't "thus spaketh the Lord", but the creation story in Genesis 1:1-2:3 reads more like a story told to a child than something to be taken 100% literal. So in that context the days are not literal days, but rather a way to teach a child about God in a form that can easily be remembered.
This makes sense when you look at Genesis 2:4 and following. It's like the writer is just starting over on his creation story and telling it differently.
Which brings us to the story of Adam and Eve.
This is where things get messy in my mind. Personally, I believe the science of evolution is accurate. While it is not perfectly (in some people's opinion) supported by the fossil record, there is certainly enough to convince me.
However, in my opinion, there is something about Man that defies evolution. There is something that OBVIOUSLY sets us apart from the animals.
Here the writer tells us that God formed Man from the dust and breathed life into his nostrils.
If God formed Adam from the dust and breathed His own breath into his nose, then how can we have evolved?
My answer, I don't know. My own personal theory is that Man is unique and the writer is trying to show us that that uniqueness stems from our relationship to God. That unlike the animals, even the apes that resemble us, we were uniquely designed and produced. Here is a point in history where we can say "here is where Man began". Regardless of whether Adam evolved from lower forms or was formed from the dust directly, there is something unique about him. And thus unique about us and our relationship to God.
I've seen news reports from time to time that say all humans share a common "mother". And I"ve seen others that say we share a common "father". The "mother" is usually thousands of years older than the "father". This would make sense if Eve the common mother and Noah is the common father.
Next comes the story of the Garden of Eden, of Eve and the fruit and the serpent and "original sin". I am never sure what to make of all that. Did all humans inherit the sin of Eve because she ate some apple?
There are many many commentaries on this and I won't go into it. But I do know that one thing is true. Humans are responsible for their own actions. And Jesus died to forgive all sins, even that first.
There's a verse in here that is often used for "gay bashing". Chapter 2:23-24. Adam responds to this new creation that is Eve by saying she is "bone of his bone" and "flesh of his flesh". The writer of Genesis adds a commentary in verse 24 saying "man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh."
"See?", some say, "It's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!". But guess what? This verse says nothing about homosexuality. A definition for heterosexual relationships is not a condemnation of homosexuality.
And so they left the garden. They had children. Cain murders Abel. And then Cain takes a wife. Wait, where did she come from? Well, probably his sister, or a niece. Not really all that important to me. And they have kids. And then there's more kids. And so on.
Which brings us to the story of Noah.
Was there really a guy named Noah? Did he really build a boat and save all species of animal from extinction due to a world-wide flood event?
The geologic record and the fact that a similar story exists in almost every culture of the world seems to support that there may, indeed, have been a huge flood and a Noah and an Ark. But again, is this a truly true story or is this another nursery rhyme? Is this a fact of history or is it a children's story meant to teach a certain lesson about obeying God?
I am torn. I tend to lean toward the view that yes, Noah was real as was the Ark. However I'm not sure the flood was global. Maybe (and again, this is "thus spaketh Allen" and not "thus spaketh the Lord") there are two stories here. A factual story of Noah that has been merged with a nursery rhyme retelling of the story.
So Noah saves the world and mankind continues....
And then we get to the Tower of Babel. The descendants of Noah's sons and their wives had made themselves at home in one corner of the world. They all speak the same language and are quite happy. So they start building a tower to God. So God messes up their language so they have to spread out.
Was there a literal tower? Is this how languages were actually formed?
When I look at today's reading, from "let there be light" to "the Lord dispersed them over the face of the Earth", I see several stories that are trying to explain "why". If God is so great, why do we have to tend the soil to grow food, why doesn't He just give it to us?", "Why is there a rainbow in the sky?", "Why are there so many different languages on earth if we all came from Adam and Eve?"
I know there are those that will flame me for this, saying that I don't believe the Bible is the Word of God. There are those that think that every single syllable should be taken at face value and completely literal. I do feel the Bible is the Word of God, but I do not feel that every single thing is meant to be taken totally literal. The Bible is made up of many different kinds of literature written by many different people to many different audiences.
In the first part of Genesis we have creation, recreation, and the spreading of man all over the world. What we have here sets the stage for everything that comes after. Is everything here meant to be taken 100% literal?
No. I don't think so.
Just as a mother teaches her child the story of Red Riding Hood to show the dangers of going into the woods alone, God has given us these stories to teach us where we came from and how things got to be the way they are. Sometimes the best way a parent has to describe "the way things are" is a story. Does that make the stories untrue? Is Red Riding Hood untrue? On the surface, maybe, but the lessons, the way things are under that surface are very real and true. Maybe that's what these Genesis stories are, stories that teach us why things are the way they are in terms we mere mortals can understand.