This summer I will attempt to read the entire Old Testament from start to finish. This blog serves as my personal diary to reflect on my readings as I make my way through the summer.
Before I reflect directly on the first ten chapters of Genesis, I want to make some preliminary remarks. First, I believe firmly in peace and read the Bible through a peaceful lens. It is my belief that God is a loving, merciful, forgiving, and gracious God that does not intend for life to be taken but for life to flourish. Second, I am aware that the Hebrew Bible stood alone prior to the New Testament so do not expect me to do a lot of allegorical interpretations of Hebrew Scripture as a revelatory remark about the coming of Christ.
Without further ado, my reflections on Gen. 1-10. While I could reflect upon many things (such as how the creation narrative that begins the Pentateuch differs from the Enûma Eliš or how even though the writing is clearly patriarchal the image of God is on both males and females), I chose to reflect on one part of the narrative of the first sin and its punishment. Contemporary Christianity does not forsake, forget, or reject its Jewish roots but it is often not consciously aware of the role the Hebrew Bible, particularly the Pentateuch, plays in contemporary Christian theology.
Indeed, the creation narrative at the beginning of Genesis lies directly in the center of debate over theological anthropology. Are humans good? Well, God declares that humans are created good (Gen. 1:31). What about sin? Evil? Well, humans clearly sinned first and were cast out of the utopia of Eden and into the perils of the world, so humans must be evil. Death is the curse that humans must now live with because of their sin (Gen. 3:19).
So then which is it? Good or evil? Some traditions have emphasized the complete spiritual takeover of one's day-to-day actions because of the pure evil of humanity, the desiring to be like God (Gen. 3:22a). Since humans are pure evil then there is nothing in them that can do good but only as God works in them may they do good. Humans do not have the capacity for good but they do have the capacity to be redeemed by God.
Is this so? Does humanity deserve punishment for their wickedness? Perhaps. Notice that humans are punished in this story. However, upon reading this story I noticed something vitally important to the story itself: God provides for the humans after they sin. Notice in Gen. 3:21 that God "made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them." God is a loving and gracious God in the face of the failures of humans. I want to stress that despite the flaws and failures of God's people, God still forgives and provides for them. The God of the Israelites is a loving, forgiving, and graceful God.
Through my studies in religion at Bluffton University, particularly the Hebrew Bible, I have come to believe that these set of Scriptures are ways of talking about how a particular people understood their God, how they experienced their God. This is juxtaposed to other religions that understood their gods in different ways. As a result of this understanding, by declaring that I want to be a part of the same faith tradition I am confessing that I understand and experience my God similarly to how these particular people did centuries ago.
For further reflection: What does it mean that God destroys humanity in the great flood (Gen. 7) after being angry with Cain for destroying Abel (Gen. 4:11-16)?
What is revealed about God when God protects Cain after he murders his brother Abel (Gen. 4:15)?