Thursday, April 25, 2013

Random Biblical Thoughts Part 1

Passing thoughts on the Bible:

The first and second creation story are pretty radical in their differences. In the one God is wholly other and in absolute control, knowing all before it happens. In the second God is very much living inside the world He has created, and that world forms some kind of limitation on Him. He experiments, He learns and He is frustrated. Both of these stories have important theological truth, I think. Reconciliation is difficult, but with complexity of thought a truer picture than either gives on it's own can emerge.

I love the story of the Nephilim. It is so weird and mythic in it's scope. Angels mate with human women, giving birth to demi-godlike figures. People often ignore the strangest parts of the Bible, but I'm with Albert Schweitzer in that I think we should enter fully the 'strange, alien world' of scripture.

I despise the way rape victims are often treated in the Bible. The Bible is unambiguous that rape is a great evil, but the way that evil is handled is almost just as bad. There is to excusing it.

The ancestors of the Canaanite tribes are often accused of incest. The implication being that these tribes are descendent from (usually) a child's rape of their own father. It seems fairly clear to me that these actions are far out of step with human nature. Isn't it obvious that polemics against the ancient enemies of the Jews have been included in the text?

Abraham fights the enemies of Sodom and Gammorah to free his captive nephew Lot. The scope of these battles is presented as mighty and great. Yet the text reveals that only 318 men accompanied Abraham on his raid to save his nephew. This number seems very believable, and so I'm convinced there is historical truth here. Yet the scope of such a battle seems much smaller than the way the whole event is described.

God is called El Roi by Hagar when she is lost in the Desert. It means 'The One Who Sees'. There is something simple and beautiful in that name.

I love the way Abraham is willing to 'bug God' with his questions about God's punishment of Sodom and Gammorah. It is a hilarious scene, with Abraham simply asking the same question over and over again, avoiding the direct question about Lot. It says a lot that God lets him go on this way without just telling Abraham what God already knows Abraham wants to hear. God is silly sometimes.

Genesis 21:9 says that Ishmael was 'playing with' Isaac, and this was what angered Sarah. It is not clear whether this means Ishmael was 'picking on' Isaac or playing with him like a brother. Was Sarah mad that Isaac was being picked on or upset that Isaac was deferring to Ishmael in some game?

There are so many GOOD interpretations of the near-sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham. I am convinced that God would never ask a man to do this. I am equally convinced that there is some divine, cosmic lesson behind this moment. There is something numinous about it. It captures me as revelation. Yet I am repulsed by some of the details.

The Hittites played some important role in the background of the story of the Bible. Individual Hittites become important in the story, and they are encountered in deals with the Israelites from time to time. But it is more than that. The Hittite concept of covenant is the model for the covenantal system in the Bible. I don't know enough about the Hittites. It is a gap in my Biblical knowledge that should be closed.

The story of Sodom and Gammorah seems parallel to the horrific story of Judges 19-20. It seems obvious to me that the Judges story is the one closer to actual history. It is one of the most terrible things in all of scripture. Few are familiar with it. Read the two and tell me you don't come to the same conclusion, that the Genesis story is a re-working of the Judges story.

The story of Jacob is one of my favorites in all of scripture. His early sinful ways, the way those sinful ways come back to haunt him, his wrestling with God and then re-acquaintance with his brother in whose face he sees "the face of God", it all comes off as so genuine. There is the historical and the physical and the spiritual truth that lies behind it, all easy to point out and easy to re-live. It is the way God really works, at least in my life. I identify strongly with Jacob, the frail and sinful reluctant holy man.

Jacob wrestling with God and being re-named "Struggles With God" is one of the most important moments in all of scripture for me. I come back to it over and over again.

There is something Christologically significant about Joseph. He is one of the most heroic figures in all of the Bible, that is for sure. I know that he was particularly important for Rene Girard, and rightly so. The Scapegoating theme is clear. So is the theme of sibling rivalry, which is so very powerful in Genesis. That theme has long interested me. Why such a concern with brothers?...I wonder if Alfred Adler ever reflected on this. Surely it has something to do with Israel's often-downplayed connection and roots as a Canaanite tribe.

It is really amazing that Potiphar doesn't just kill Joseph. The TBS BIBLE MOVIE series took this as a sign that Potiphar didn't really believe his wife, and remained affectionate towards Joseph. This seems plausible, to me.

Can you imagine what that moment was like when Joseph was revealed to his brothers? It would be wild to have been a fly on THAT wall...

No comments:

Post a Comment