Category Archives: Genesis

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.

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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!

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!

Back to the Bible: Genesis 1.3-31 part 3

Well, the last few months have been full of upheaval. I graduated in April, got a job working construction for the summer (as my three readers may remember), moved to Vancouver, started a new job (you can read about that process here and here) and started settling into a routine. I think I’m finally ready to start writing again – Breaking Bad and Dr. Who can wait a couple hours. Yes, I have a great deal of free time on my job.

We’re going to pick back up where we left off – blogging through Scripture. Some days I make take a break from this, and blog about life in the Downtown East Side of Vancouver, or about my life as a husband, or about community or family or maybe about something completely different. These will be asides however, and the main focus of this blog will be blogging through the scriptures. As a reminder of my chosen format, I will be alternating between the Old and New Testaments, and reading through each passage twice. The first time I will be reading the ESV, and writing my initial reactions to the text. The second time I will be reading from the excellent NET online bible, which you can find here. I love the side-by-side Greek and Hebrew translations, and the translator’s notes – I know just enough Greek to be able to butcher it badly, and so these notes help me greatly. This second reading will get into the original languages a little bit, as well as some more in-depth commentary on the passage at hand.

And so we return to the Word. If you need to catch up, read these posts first:

Genesis: an introduction
Genesis 1.1
Genesis 1.3-31 Part 1
Genesis 1.3-31 Part 2

And now, part 3, starting in verse 14.

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14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 

What strikes me right away is that the creation story is about purpose. The lights in the sky (stars, moon, and sun) are not there to simply look nice – the authors believed (and I do too) that there was divine intent in the way the stars were placed in the sky. This was no grand accident, nor was it God showing off – the stars and sun and moon were created to be signs and to mark out the seasons, days, and years. They were put there so that Earth would have light and heat. This is exciting! It shows a God who cares very much about his creation.

And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth,18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

The writers obviously didn’t care that there wouldn’t have been any way to mark out the days until the fourth day. Nor did they care that vegetation was created before the sun and moon. What they cared about was that God had a purpose, and created everything with intent.

20 And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” 21 So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

Again we can see that the authors of Genesis did not consider plants to be life in the same way that animals are considered to be life. We get so caught up in our modern scientific viewpoint, sometimes it is hard to understand the viewpoint of the writers of the text. Here we see God caring for both the aquatic and avian life that he created. They were not to be simply discarded, nor were they created to be window dressing. They are a part of a beautiful tapestry of life.

24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. 25 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

I’m really getting the sense that we’re building towards something. Dry land, then plants and vegetation, then birds and fish… and now animals on land. It is a crescendo, and it is leading us somewhere. It is also interesting to me that God commanded the fish and birds to ‘be fruitful and multiply’, but gave no such instruction to the animals. I’m not sure what to make of that. I’m also noticing the three categories of animals in the minds of the writers : ‘creeping things’ (bugs, maybe? maybe lizards?), ‘beasts of the Earth’ (I’m assuming lions, wolves, etc – non-domesticated animals), and ‘livestock’ (domesticated animals, I suppose). No sense here that humans domesticated animals – this was something God created.

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Finally we get to the climax – Humanity. God entrusts his creation, which he calls good, to his prized creation – humans. This is incredible enough, but what comes next is what really excites me.

27 So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them.

Poetry! After this immense act of creation, rather than simply moving on, the writers stop and give meaning to creation through the language of poetry. ‘God created man in his own image … male and female he created them’. Beautiful. Incredible.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Again God states that we are to care for creation, to rule over it justly. Notice that plants have been given to both humanity and to the animals for food; Also notice that god said to them, ‘have dominion’, not to him. God is speaking to both male and female here, and the writers here conclude the account of the creation of the world. Or do they? Drat our chapter-verse system.. we have some bonus verses to end the story with!

2.1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

Why the transcribers who added the chapters and verses to the Scriptures did not include these verses in chapter one is beyond me. the idea of God resting feels funny to me, but I don’t think we should read ‘rest’ as going on vacation. I know that when I rest, I try to fully enjoy my home and those around me… I think the idea of God enjoying his creation is more appropriate than the idea of God hanging up a ‘do not disturb’ sign. Regardless, this is the end of the macro view of creation, the overview of the incredible work of God.

In my next post we will be going over this passage again, reading from the NET and looking at some various interpretations of the creation account. If you enjoy this, please let me know!

Genesis 1.3-31 Part 2

Time for the liveblog through the creation account!

Genesis 1.3-31

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

I love this story. It has such incredible imagery. I picture God as a grand conductor, standing at his podium, raising his hands, and beginning the symphony of creation. One of my favorite stories when I was young was The Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster. In that book, Juster describes a conductor orchestrating a sunrise. You can hear someone reading the passage here (skip to 9:45 for the symphony, although the whole thing is grand). This imagery makes Genesis come alive to me. God is the ultimate artist.

And God said, “Let there be an expanse[a] in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” And God made[b] the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

It is completely clear to me why the ancients would have seen the world like this, with water above the sky (the sky is blue, after all, and rain comes from the sky) and the water below the sky (the ocean, wells, springs… it makes sense, it really does). I wonder how it would have felt, living like this, believing that you were in a life-sustaining bubble of air surrounded by water. Interesting thought.

And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11 And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

This is the first time I’ve noticed that this day lumps vegetation in with the creation of dry land, rather than placing it with the creation of animals and earthbound life on the sixth day. it would seem that in ancient Hebrew culture plant life was not considered real life at all – definitely flies in the face of animists who see a unique spirit in every tree. Regardless, it was good – This is more than just beautiful – this is GOOD by the standard of God. That’s powerful.

That’s it for now – tomorrow we will visit days 4, 5, and 6 before starting the more in-depth look.

Genesis 1.1

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Creation. So, this is how these posts are going to work: I’m going to liveblog while reading through the passage in the English Standard Version (ESV) quite quickly, and then go back through the passage again with the New English Translation (NET, link here), an open-source, always-free-online translation, which allows both side-by-side english and greek/hebrew with word highlighting (a useful feature for those of us who can’t read much of the ancient languages), and fully public translator’s notes. Seriously, everyone should be using this.

Along the way, I’ll talk about how I feel, things I’ve learned from various classes, and how I see this text influencing my theology. Now, let’s get started.

Genesis 1.1: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

Bam. A couple things strike me right away. First, why didn’t God just create everything already in motion? I mena, it’s not like he had to come up with stuff on the fly. If he had wanted to, he could have snapped his Eternal Fingers and created a fully-formed Earth fully populated with everything.

This reminds me of an old Atheist mind game called Last Thursdayism. It’s the idea that an omnipotent being created the world last Thursday. Everything prior to last Thursday are memories created within our minds at the moment of creation. It’s very interesting that the Scripture does not speak about creation this way – or at least, doesn’t seem to.

Second, God was there. Right from the very beginning, God was there. He has always been connected with his Creation, and has never been distant from it. Awesome.

And now, with a little more in-depth analysis, using the NET as source.

1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
1:2 Now the earth was without shape and empty, and darkness was over the surface of the watery deep, but the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the water.

The first statement has been interpreted in two main ways. I’m not going to source a lot of stuff here, but if you’re interested ask in the comments and I’ll find sources for you. First, it could be ‘at the beginning of everything, God created everything’ – that is, all the raw matter that would be necessary to carry out the act of creation. The second way it could be read is as a summary statement of what will happen over the course of the creation event – ‘God created everything at the beginning’ – essentially a title for the creation narrative that follows. The nuance may be slight, and perhaps it doesn’t matter much. Personally I prefer the second reading, as it fits better with a narrative reading of Genesis, which I am personally more comfortable with. I’ll get into why later on when we deal with the six days of creation.

One final note on v.1 – the word ‘create’, bara, is often connected with renewing, restoring, or creating something right and good. Beautiful. Sometimes I wish I could read the nuances of Hebrew.

On to v.2. The phrase ‘without shape and empty’, tohu bohu, is fascinating. Later, the prophets (Jeremiah, I think) would use this construction to speak about judgement – perhaps they were evoking the imagery of the chaos prior to creation. Another interesting note is that the sea was often representative of the grave or of death for the Hebrew people. Darkness, throughout the OT, often represents evil, sin, or destruction. So, out of a chaos of destruction and death, God brings life. Beautiful. In the first two verses of the Bible, we have a God who has the power over the forces of death and destruction, and who is intimately connected with his creation.

 

There is always more that could be said, but let’s leave it there for now. Creation narrative coming up on Friday (hopefully) – tomorrow, we look at Matthew!

Genesis: an introduction

Genesis is a huge, epic book. From creation myth to genealogy, from promises to journeys, from epic towers and epic floods to famines and fornication, there is just so much going on in this book.

I view the bible, and subsequently Genesis, as inspired by God, but not inerrant in the classic sense. I believe that the Bible we have today is the bible we are meant to have, and that it is good for teaching, preaching, reproof, and generally revealing who God is. It is not, however, precise, in the modern scientific meaning of the word. It was written to reveal God, not to report with 100% accuracy every little fact about the history of the world or of the nation of Israel.

With this view in mind, I can read Genesis and believe that what it speaks about is 100% rooted in theological fact – what it says about God is what the writers thought about God. But I can also say ‘eh, worldwide flood… maybe not’.

Non-Christians would say, based on this, that I am inconsistent. Christians would say that I am wishy-washy and have no ground to stand on. I disagree. I simply believe that the Bible is not our sole revelation from God. Instead, I believe that we have three.

First is the Scriptures. They point to God, and reveal christ.
Second is Creation. Science is simply the study of Creation, and creation shows the glory and wonder of God. If Creation is a revelation of God, then Creation can be used to interpret Scripture, and Scripture can be used to interpret Creation.
Third is the Community of believers, past and present. God is present within the Community, and allows the community to interpret both Scriptures and Creation. In return, both Scriptures and Creation interpret and help form the Community. If these three are not kept in balance we begin to lose sight of who God truly is, and begin to make gods in our own images.

So, back to Genesis.  I believe this books contains important truths about who God is, and what he is ‘on about’, if this makes sense. Soon (hopefully tomorrow) I’ll post my first real look at the content of Genesis, starting right at the very beginning. See you then.