Category Archives: Bible

Advent Through the Centuries – the second Century

Every day during advent (December 1 to December 24) I’ll be posting a scripture reading, a short passage by a pastor, theologian, or church father, and a prayer. Each day will follow one century of church history, so today will be 100-200. Tomorrow will be 200-300, and so on. Some days will be more closely related to advent than others, depending on the availability of texts. This has been posted before, but I’ve updated the scripture readings and in some cases the historical texts too. Enjoy.

Friday, December 2
The Second Century of the Church

Scripture:

Isaiah 29:17-24

Is it not true that in a very short time the Lebanon will become productive ground, so productive you might take it for a forest?

That day the deaf will hear the words of the book and, delivered from shadow and darkness, the eyes of the blind will see.

The lowly will find ever more joy in Yahwehand the poorest of people will delight in the Holy One of Israel;

for the tyrant will be no more, the scoffer has vanished and all those on the look-out for evil have been destroyed:

those who incriminate others by their words, those who lay traps for the arbitrator at the gate and groundlessly deprive the upright of fair judgement.

That is why Yahweh, God of the House of Jacob, Abraham’s redeemer, says this, ‘No longer shall Jacob be disappointed, no more shall his face grow pale,

for when he sees his children, my creatures, home again with him, he will acknowledge my name as holy, he will acknowledge the Holy One of Jacob to be holy and will hold the God of Israel in awe.

Erring spirits will learn to understand and murmurers accept instruction.’

Reading: 
2 Clement c.130-160 AD. Full text here.

BRETHREN, it is fitting that you should think of Jesus Christ as of God,–as the Judge of the living and the dead. And it does not become us to think lightly of our salvation; for if we think little of Him, we shall also hope but to obtain little [from Him]. And those of us who hear carelessly of these things, as if they were of small importance, commit sin, not knowing whence we have been called, and by whom, and to what place, and how much Jesus Christ submitted to suffer for our sakes.

What return, then, shall we make to Him, or what fruit that shall be worthy of that which He has given to us? For, indeed, how great are the benefits which we owe to Him! He has graciously given us light; as a Father, He has called us sons; He has saved us when we were ready to perish. What praise, then, shall we give to Him, or what return shall we make for the things which we have received? We were deficient in understanding, worshipping stones and wood, and gold, and silver, and brass, the works of men’s hands; and our whole life was nothing else than death. Involved in blindness, and with such darkness before our eyes, we have received sight, and through His will have laid aside that cloud by which we were enveloped.

For He had compassion on us, and mercifully saved us, observing the many errors in which we were entangled, as well as the destruction to which we were exposed, and that we had no hope of salvation except it came to us from Him. For He called us when we were not, and willed that out of nothing we should attain a real existence.

fresco from beneath the Vatican, dating to the 2nd-3rd century.
fresco from beneath the Vatican, dating to the 2nd-3rd century.

Prayer:
Polycarp, c. 110-140

May God the Father, and the Eternal High Priest Jesus Christ, build us up in faith and truth and love, and grant to us our portion among the saints with all those who believe on our Lord Jesus Christ. We pray for all saints, for kings and rulers, for the enemies of the Cross of Christ, and for ourselves we pray that our fruit may abound and we may be made perfect in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Noah: A dissection.

Noah

 

How far would you go for God? How sure would you have to be that he was speaking to you? That it wasn’t just some delusion? What is our responsibility as Christians towards the planet? How important are the choices we make?

Those are just a few of the questions that Darren Aronofsky’s film Noah asks. And they are all very, very good questions. This review is going to be full of spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movie yet, please go see it first. Do be warned, however – it is a dark movie, and quite disturbing at times. You know, kind of like the actual story of Noah.

There have been a number of responses to this movie, ranging from the EXTREMELY critical (as in, this movie is Satanic) to the academically critical, to the somewhat positive. A lot of reviews get caught up in the weird details that Aronofsky used (and there are a lot of weird details), rather than dealing with the thematic elements of the film. This is what I’m going to try and focus on, for the most part.

One more thing before I start. I’m a Christian, and I value the story of Noah. I don’t think it’s literal, but it’s probably based on some very important historical facts. However, this movie is NOT a Christian movie. It’s a Jewish movie. It’s heavily inspired by Jewish Midrash – this is a certain style of reading the Hebrew Scriptures. Essentially (and I might be getting this wrong), midrash is reading the scripture and then interpreting it several different ways, and letting the interpretations sit. It’s not about finding the ‘right’ way to interpret a scripture, but about providing possibilities. Noah is definitely in this vein.

Ok, let’s begin.

The film opens with a quick recap of the story so far. The world began because the Creator began it, and placed Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. They ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, and were cast out. Shortly after, their son Cain killed their other son Abel. Cain was cursed and marked by God, and sent out into the wilderness where he began busily building cities and such (where the other people came from we’re not really told.) This is all true to the Biblical story. In the movie version, there are also certain creatures called The Watchers which descend from Heaven as well. These are taken from a stream of Jewish mythology. The Watchers, we’re told later, came to Earth as Angelic beings to help the humans who were cast out of the Garden. This was against God’s plan though, and so he cursed the Watchers to be coated in rock and stuck on the Earth forever. We’re not told, in the film, WHY God cursed them, but I’m going to take a guess. The Watchers didn’t understand God’s plan. This is a common theme throughout the movie – people THINKING they know what God wants, but getting it wrong.

The Watchers thought that they could help humanity by teaching them technology. God knew that teaching them these skills would be a bad idea, and it was. Humanity used the technology that the Watchers taught them to enslave the earth, killing almost everything. They then enslaved the Watchers themselves. Methuselah eventually shows up and protects The Watchers, freeing them from their captivity with a crazy fire sword. Again, part of Jewish mythology (I think. Or maybe Aronofsky just thought it was cool).

Ok, so we’ve got the lineage of Cain building cities all over the place and generally ravaging the Earth. This is scriptural, by the way – Genesis 6:11-12 read: The earth was ruined in the sight of Godthe earth was filled with violenceGod saw the earthand indeed it was ruinedfor all living creatures on the earth were sinful.
Alongside Cain’s lineage, however, is the lineage of Seth, Adam’s third son. From the lineage of Seth comes Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, and eventually Noah. The film opens with Lamech being killed by Tubal-Cain, the descendent of Cain. Tubal-Cain steals Lamech’s snakeskin, a ‘relic’ that has been passed down from father to son from the time of Adam. It is later revealed that the skin is the skin of the serpent, who shed it upon becoming evil and deceitful. It is a memory of a time when God was with His creation, and so is used to bless every generation.

Noah was noted for being a righteous man in the Biblical story, and in the movie he’s shown as loving his family and desiring to follow the Creator, no matter what the cost. He also doesn’t eat meat, unlike the Cain-ites. They’ve basically eaten everything on the planet.

So now we’ve got Noah and his family, the last ‘righteous’ people on the planet. Aronofsky takes ‘righteous’ to mean that they desire to follow God, not that they’re perfect. I think this is not a bad description of ‘righteous’. The planet has been basically ruined, with barren landscapes and dead stumps everywhere. Noah has a vision of water – water killing everything. Even he’s under water, although he can swim to the surface. From this vision he comes to believe that the world will be destroyed by water, and so he and his family (three sons, all young-ish, and his wife), pack up camp and head for Methuselah’s mountain, hoping the old sage can lend them some wisdom. Along the way they pick up a girl who was wounded badly by the cain-ites, and she becomes an adopted daughter of sorts. She’s barren (apparently they can tell by the wound she has), but you can see she’s going to fall for the oldest son, Shem.

So, this vision. This is the first major theme I want to touch on. In this film, God does not speak verbally. We never hear God’s voice. We get visions, dreams, revelations, signs from nature, and stories, but we never hear the voice of God. This is troubling for some. I admit, I found it a bit disconcerting. But if we’re doing midrash here, it makes some sense. When was the last time YOU heard God speak verbally? I never have. And yet I KNOW he has directed my path at times. I KNOW that He put certain things before me, and gave me the choice of what to do with them. You can read about many of these moments on this very blog. So in a way, Aronofsky is placing Noah into our story – God speaks to him through visions and dreams, but not verbally. God prefers to use the mouths of his servants, rather than a voice from the sky. This seems… right to me.

So they arrive at the mountain, and Noah climbs the mountain with his son to see Methuselah. the old sage helps Noah have another vision, and in this vision Noah sees the Ark. He sees all the animals being preserved. on the Ark, and all the people dying below. When he awakens, Noah knows that he must build the ark. He apparently has knowledge of how to do so as well, which must have been given to him by God, although again, not verbally. Methuselah also gives Noah a seed from Eden, which he plants, growing enough trees to build the ark. Oh yeah, those Watchers decide to help Noah build the ark, in the hopes that they can be forgiven for their sins of pushing humanity along this path to self-destruction.

Are you with me so far? The ark is being built, Noah believes that he’s supposed to save the animals from the coming flood, and there’s a storm a’brewing.

Flash forward ten years. The Ark is almost finished. Ham is mad that he doesn’t have a wife like Shem. Jeph is too young to care still. Tubal-Cain shows up with an army, carrying weapons made of iron (gen 4:22), hoping to storm the ark and take it by force. They kinda-sorta believe there might be a flood coming, but more they just want the fertile land. Noah keeps building, but promises Ham that he’ll find wives for him and Jeph before the flood. Tubal-Cain sets up camp near the ark. Noah is still sure he’s doing the right thing, and that his family is the last righteous family on earth.

Here’s the important part – a part that I think many reviewers miss. Noah goes into the Cain-ite camp in an attempt to find a couple women for his sons. I guess he assumes that he might be able to rescue some slave girls or something. Upon entering the camp, he realizes that it is chaos. Pure evil. But it’s not an evil that he expected – it’s an evil of survival of the fittest. Men killing other men for food, men dragging away women to have their way with them, men fighting over and eating raw meat in desperation. In the midst of the chaos, Noah sees a man, the man looks at him, and Noah sees himself in the man. The man’s face is bloody from the meat he’s been eating, and there’s anger and fear in his eyes. He runs off, and Noah, shaken, leaves the camp alone.

When Noah returns to the ark, he has changed. Seeing his doppelganger in the camp has made him realize that there are none who are righteous – no, not one. Even he and his family is corrupt. He says so to his wife – either of them would kill for their family. They’re no better than those out in the camp. From this revelation, Noah begins a new course of action. He believes that all humans must die. Illa, the girl, is barren, and his wife is too old to conceive. They will all board the ark, and they will be the last humans on the planet. This, Noah believes, is the will of God – that all should die due to their sin and corruption. He doesn’t see anything good in himself.

His wife disagrees, and so asks the sage Methuselah to provide a way for humanity to survive. She sees good in her sons and in her husband. The sage agrees, although he warns that it will hurt. He heals the girl, Illa, so that she may bear children once again. Ham, not knowing what his mother has done, goes to the camp himself to try and find a bride. He finds a woman, but she is killed as they flee to the ark. Ham blames Noah for her death, because he didn’t try hard enough to save her.

The floods and the rains come, and the army tries to board the ark. There’s a horrific fight scene, with the stone Watchers fighting off the horde of unrighteous men. In the process they are killed, but forgiven by God – their Angelic selves are seen returning to Heaven.

Some commentators on the film have said that the forgiveness of the Watchers was salvation by works – they did something good, so they got forgiven. I don’t see it that way. They helped Noah not because they hoped for redemption, but because they realized their folly. It was through this realization that they were allowed to go home.

Anyhow, the ark leaves with all its passengers, plus one – Tubal-Cain has hacked his way through a wall, and is hiding in the bowels of the ship. We’ll return to this in a moment. First, I want to mention the story that Noah tells his family while they sit on the ark. He tells them the story of creation, and it is shown in a way that I’ve never seen before on film. It nearly moved me to tears. Now, if you’re a literal seven-day creationist, you’ll probably hate it. I thought it was incredible. Watch it and judge for yourself.

Back to Tubal-Cain hiding in the bowels of the ark (with the snakes, I might add). Now, this is not Biblical, at all. But it is useful for the midrashic style of the movie. Noah, Tubal-Cain, and the women provide three distinct and separate interpretations of God, the Creator.

First, Tubal-Cain sees himself as equal to God. Before the flood he cries out to God, saying something along the lines of ‘I give life, and I take it, just as you do! Why won’t you answer me?’ He thinks God has given him the ability and the right to ‘subdue’ the planet. He quotes Genesis 1:28b to Ham, in the belly of the ark: ‘Be fruitful and multiply! Fill the earth and subdue it!’ – It sounds an AWFUL lot like the serpent in the garden – ‘Did God REALLY say that you would die?’ or like the tempter Satan with Jesus in the wilderness – ‘Doesn’t the scripture say…?’ For Tubal-Cain, God doesn’t care what happens to the Earth. He abandoned his people, gave them the tools they needed, and they just have to do as they see fit. Echoes of Judges ring here as well.

Second, Noah simply wants to obey God. He wants Justice. He sees God as just, and that justice MUST be satisfied, even if it means the extermination of all human life. Humans are all sinful, and so all must die to satisfy the justice of God.

Third, the women, Naamah and Illa, feel and see God’s mercy. They see him as merciful, as having saved them from the flood for a purpose, and appeal to that mercy. All three of these voices appeal to the same facts, the same revelation of God, but not all see the same thing.

Things come to a head when Noah realizes that Illa is pregnant. He swears that if the child is male then it will live to be the last person on Earth, but if it is female and able to bear children eventually, that he will kill it. He firmly and completely believes that God’s Justice must be satisfied, and that the only way it can be satisfied is with the end of the corrupting force of humanity.

Illa gives birth – to twin girls. After fighting off Tubal-cain (and Ham killing him), Noah climbs to the top of the ark, knife in hand, ready to kill the children. The scene echoes Abraham – one almost expected a ram to come wandering over. With the knife poised, Noah’s resolve falters. He feels only love towards the children, not the righteous justice he believes is necessary. he drops the knife, defeated.

Fast forward. The ark has made landfall, and Naamah, the boys, and Illa have started a small farm. Noah spends his days at the shore, cultivating grapes and turning them into wine. Many commentators have been confused at this point – why is it that Noah is drinking? Is it survivor’s guilt? No, actually – it’s the opposite. Noah drinks because he believes he has failed God. He still believes that the right thing, the just thing, would have been to kill the children and to let the human race die out. He drinks because he sees himself as having failed God. After all he did, after all he suffered, he still failed.

He drinks himself into a naked stupor. Ham, seeing him, scoffs, and throws back the snakeskin he took from Tubal-Cain. There is no curse like there is in scripture, but the emphasis is there – Ham is disgusted with his father, angry at him for allowing his bride to die, and upset with how everything turned out. He packs his bag and leaves, ‘cursed’ to wander. The other sons cover Noah, and allow him to sober up.

Once sober, Illa speaks to Noah. Once again, it is through the female voice that Noah hears of mercy. Illa believes that God gave Noah the ability to choose – here we hear echoes of Deuteronomy 30:19 – Today I invoke heaven and earth as a witness against you that I have set life and death, blessing and curse, before you. Therefore choose life so that you and your descendants may live! Noah was given the choice of saving humanity, of giving it a second chance, or of ending it all. Through the love he felt (finally) towards his grandchildren, he chose life.

The film ends with a dedication ceremony of the twins, and a rainbow pulsing through the sky. God, it seems, is pleased with the choice of Noah. He truly has become a righteous man.

 

I loved this film. It humanized the characters of the story for me, and placed them in a world of real choices and real consequences. The various ‘voices’ speaking about God were delightful – it was if the characters were having a conversation, debating who God really was. We still do this today, don’t we? I also loved the theme of misunderstanding God. Tubal-Cain, even quoting scripture, missed the point of our relationship with the earth. We’re not called to destroy the Earth, but to use it wisely. This is a lesson we desperately need to hear today. Noah, likewise, misunderstood God. Even though he was given revelations directly from God, and signs from the Heavens, he was still able to misunderstand God – because he only understood God in terms of justice, rather than in terms of justice AND mercy.

Now, are there some weird things about this movie? Yeah. The rock monster/angel things are weird. I kind of like their redemption moment, but it’s weird. Also, the snakeskin took me a while to figure out, but I think it does make sense – as a symbol. I don’t think it’s magic. Also, Methuselah the sage with a flaming sword, a seed from Eden, and a drink that helps with visions? Weird. Finally, Adam and Eve are shown in one shot as glowing beings. While this is weird, and seems to lean towards a spiritual/carnal divide that I don’t like, there is some evidence in Scripture which connects glowing light to God – the pillar of fire in the desert, for example, or the glowing of the face of Moses coming off the mountain of Ararat, or the glowing of Jesus coming off the mount of transfiguration. I would have preferred to see more fleshly Adam and Eve, though. It would have fit better with the larger themes of the movie as well.

I think far too often we dehumanize the characters found in Scripture. We don’t think about their emotions, their thought patterns, their doubts and insecurities. We don’t imagine Joseph as actually wrestling with lust towards Potiphar’s wife, or imagine Moses wrestling with his anger and disappointment towards God and towards the Hebrew people. We don’t think about David as his power and love of power begins to corrupt him. We don’t think about Noah wrestling with doubt. If we really believe that the Bible has something to say to real people, It’s important that we engage in these stories in a real way. Perhaps there’s something we can learn from the midrashic style of teaching.

Mark 1.32-2.12

Well, today I’m returning to my series through Scripture. I know it’s been a long time since I wrote last, but these things come and go in waves. I’ve never been very good at consistency. Before we start, I thought I would let you know about a few other things I’ve been working on lately.

1. I’ve put in applications for scholarships to Regent College here in Vancouver. If I get the funds, I may be going back to school in September, possibly.
2. I’ve been following along with the Atheism for Lent series found here. The idea is to take a critical look at faith from an outside perspective in order to ground oneself better in true faith. I’m not sure what I think of it yet. These kinds of things can get very depressing. Believing in God is like breathing to me, so it’s not like I could just give it up, even if I wanted to… it colours everything I do. But it is good to look in from the outside, to see the flaws in our organized religion, and to get back to the heart of what my faith is – a relationship with my creator, who is bigger than anything I can imagine, and yet cares intimately for all of his creation.
3.I’m writing an editorial series on casual facebook games at JTMgames.com. This has been fun! Go read it.
4. I’m applying for an addictions counselling course that runs through the summer, with the potential to continue into next year. I’m excited about this opportunity, and about the doors that it might open in the future.

Now, on to Scripture! We’re picking up the story immediately following the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law. I’ll be liveblogging through it, and adding some theological asides where I feel I have the wisdom and / or resources to do so. mastly I’ll be asking a lot of questions though.

Mark 1.32-2.12

32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons.33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

Interesting, the line ‘he would not permit them to speak, because they knew him’. This indicates that Jesus was still hiding something of his nature from the people. Perhaps Mark wrote this line in response to questions that were asked after Jesus’ death – ‘well, if he was the son of God, why didn’t the demons he cast out recognize him?’
I don’t know why Jesus didn’t want to be fully known yet. My suspicion is that if people knew what he was claiming to be they would have killed him all the quicker. It’s a possibility for sure.

35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

I like this. Jesus did not come just for a small group of people, but for everyone – he knew that people would try and contain him, or would just use him as a miracle man, and there was much more to his story. He had to keep himself from becoming hemmed in by his audience.

40 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 AndJesus[h] sternly charged him and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 45 But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.

Jesus did not want the credit from this, but wanted to give the credit to God. He also knew that this would restrict his movements, as the people would become desperate for healing while missing the point. It’s important to note here that Lepers were dirty in more than one way – they were sick and disfigured, yes, but they were also ceremonially unclean, unable to worship in the Temple before God. Jesus healing the leper represents more than just a healing – it represents a cleansing of the body before God.

 

2.1 And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

This is one of those accounts that those of us who grew up in the church heard in Sunday School all the time. It’s a neat little package with a good story, and so makes for an easy lesson for the Sunday School teacher. Plus, there’s something awesome about friends who would tear open the roof of a house in order to get their buddy in to see Jesus.

We often miss the theological significance behind the story though. The question that Jesus asks is actually a puzzling one. What is the correct answer? Is it easier to say to someone ‘your sins are forgiven’, or to tell someone to get up and walk? I would argue that the easier thing to do is to say ‘your sins are forgiven’, but saying either if you are lying about it will do no one any good. And so Jesus does both, proving that his words have power, by telling the man to get up. This astonishes the crowds on two levels – one, Jesus has the power to heal, and two, he has the power to forgive.

The Weightier Matters

I haven’t blogged recently because last week was spent preparing a sermon which I gave at Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Abbotsford. I’ll return to posting later this week, but for now, here’s the links to the sermon:

Text version – which my friend Brad Jersak very kindly included in the Clarion Journal… I feel honoured to be on the same page as authors such as Bob Ekblad and Brad. Here’s the link.

Audio version – I apologize for the awkward delivery, I’m still new at the sermon thing. Here’s the link.

Genesis 2.10-24

Here is my liveblog through the second half of Genesis 2. Hope you are enjoying this – it’s helping me read more consistently, and I’m enjoying what is being revealed as I read and write.

 

10 A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. 11 The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. 13 The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. 14 And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.

The specifics here are really interesting. Why did the writer feel the need to point out that gold, bdellium, and onyx could be found in Havilah? Why point out that the Gihon flowed around Cush? And just as interestingly, why no mention of characteristics of the Euphrates? My guess is that the Euphrates needed no introduction, being one of the most important waterways in Mesopotamia. My guess as to the other details is that it is showing that all good and precious things flow from the river of Eden… but that’s just a guess.

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

‘In the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die’. This is an important piece of information… and will become vital to the story. I see choice here available right from the very beginning – is Adam going to trust God, or is he going to deny him? God did not need to give him that choice. he didn’t need to make the tree of Good and Evil at all. But he did.

18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 

A few very important things going on here. First, the word ‘helper’ can also be translated ‘helpmeet’, or ‘indispensable companion’. It  implies much more than a servant. The word, I believe, is ‘ezer’, and is often used of God – He is the one who does what we cannot, and is our helper. In no way does this word imply a subordinate position… which is why, I think, no animal was suitable for the job.

Again we see the order totally different here than in Genesis one. First man, then animals, then woman – while in Genesis one animals came first, then man and woman together.

Finally, Woman was made from man – they are of the same stuff, the same substance. Beautiful.

23 Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
    because she was taken out of Man.”

And this beauty is accentuate by the poetry that falls immediately afterwards. ‘flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone!’ Incredible way of describing something impossible to capture with mere words.

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

‘And were not ashamed’. They knew who they were, and what their place was before God –  can many of us say the same? Can we hope for anything better?

Of course, it was not to last. soon, things would change. To be continued!

Mark 1.16-31

We’re back in Mark – The beginning of Genesis is a lot of information all at once – I think it’s best to take it slow. We’ll come back to the second creation story later in the week, I think. I also need to gather some resources – my memory of OT theology is fading fast.

Anyhow, back to Mark. Here’s the second part of the first chapter of mark – already action-packed. Mark doesn’t take his time! Here it is, from the ESV:

16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he [Jesus] saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him.19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.

This passage has always been very important to me. I grew up in a small village on the west coast of Vancouver Island – a village founded on fishing and logging. Many of the people in my church were fishermen, and my dad worked on and around fishing boats for most of my life. One thing I realized is that fishermen are fishermen (excuse the sexist language) pretty much everywhere you go. Working men, gruff, hardened by a hard life of manual labour. But beneath the hard and sometimes seemingly simple exterior often lies a man of great depth and deep thought. Fishing means keeping to a different cycle of life than others, and it means always smelling funny. Even more so, I would imagine, in the days before proper hygiene and good rain gear.

When I think of Simon (later Peter) and Andrew, and of John and James, these are the types of people I think about. I think about Randy, almost always smiling and working hard on his little boat. I think of his brother Shane. I think of my dad, running his prawn boat up and down the BC coast. I think abou the slightly bawdy jokes told with just a hint of guilt, and the strain of muscles and bones when a haul is being brought in. I think of deep discussions in the middle of the night, talks about life and death and anything else in an attempt to stay awake. I think about the wariness to new ideas that these types of men often have; they have been doing the same thing their whole lives, as have their fathers, and their fathers’ fathers.

And yet, despite the fact that these fishermen were probably fairly traditional in their way of life, they were eager to follow Jesus. It seems like they didn’t need much convincing. Now, maybe they thought Jesus was a revolutionary, come to overthrow the Romans and their oppressive taxation and pagan gods; or maybe they thought he was simply an itinerant preacher, spreading teaching that would traditionally only be accesible by the upper class. Regardless, they followed, because they saw something true, something honest.

21 And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. 22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. 23 

I’m curious who ‘they’ are in this passage – the fishermen brothers? Or others in the synagogue? I’m thinking it’s the brothers, as perhaps this would have been their synagogue – maybe they had come for sabbath learning every week of their lives, taught by the same old men who taught off the scrolls, with no passion in their eyes or true understanding in their hearts. But Jesus… Jesus was something different.

And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him andcrying out with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.

This is interesting – The demon is the first besides God to claim that Jesus is Holy. John alludes to it, but here the demon outright says it. Contrast this with the questioning onlookers: ‘What is this?’ Well, the demon seemed to know.

29 And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

And right away we have the first healing. This is incredible – within half a chapter we have: the Spirit of the Lord descending like a dove, a man teaching with great authority, a demonic exorcism, and a healing. And we’re just getting started. Stay tuned!

Genesis 2.4-9

Let’s try a smaller bite of Genesis this time, shall we? Here we go!

Liveblog through the ESV:

These are the generations
of the heavens and the earth when they were created,
in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.

This sounds like a new beginning to me. ‘These are the generations…. in the day that the lord God made…’ what happened to seven days? Now we’ve got one day?

When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. 

Hold on. we just read that plants and vegetation were created on the third day, and humanity not until the end of the sixth day. So how is it now that ‘when no bush … was yet on the land’ The Lord breathed life into the man? you have to do some pretty creative thinking to balance out that discrepancy, especially if you want to be an inerrantist.

And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

So now God plants a garden, but no mention of anything outside of the Garden. I would assume he created other places too, and the Garden doesn’t exist in some barren wilderness. And here also, we have two trees – the tree of life, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  The two trees which will define humanity for the rest of history.

Rather than go through the NET here, I’m going to look at the theology of this second creation account as a whole in a couple of weeks… saves a lot of going over the same material again and again. back to Mark next!