Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Genesis

Started reading the Bible January 1. It's the King James version because I like the traditional language with all the "thees" and "doests" and whatnot. Decided to start at the beginning and work through it chronologically instead of beginning with the Gospels. I figure it will be the easiest way since that's how most people read books. Beginning to end. Front to back. I'm going to read a minimum of one chapter a day until I'm done.

I've heard parts of the New Testament (most letters from people to other people) read many times in church when I was younger, of course, being raised Catholic, but I've never made any attempt to read it myself. And I think it's something that would have been useful to know thoroughly when I was doing my bachelor degree in English Literature. Anyway, I'm reading it this year and will hopefully learn some things. More likely, I'll have a million questions. But then, that's okay. That's what it's all about. I like the Christian idea of working through one's faith with the Good Book. Maybe it will be more useful to me than simply a good foundation for literature.

Genesis -- Chapters 1-3
God created the world in six days, rested on the seventh. He made a man and a woman and told them not to eat of the tree of wisdom. As everyone knows, the serpent suggests to Eve (why her and not the guy, I wonder?) she should try the forbidden fruit, she does, and offers it to her man. They're both suddenly enlightened, cover their privates and hide from the Lord. God is angry when he finds out they've done the one thing he told them not to, and when he asks Adam he blames his wife. So God asks Eve why she did it and she blames the serpent. God then curses the serpent for what he's done, telling him he's doomed to slither on his belly for the rest of eternity. He also curses Adam and Eve, telling them man will have to sweat and toil to grow his food and women will always be in major pain when giving birth. They will also die, and to the dust return. Thanks a lot, snake.

So my questions are:

1. Why does God, knowing all that has and will ever happen, put temptation in the way of his children, whom he created from nothing? Why allow for that temptation? More importantly, why create them at all? The first thing that jumps to mind, of course, is Free Will. But why create a being free only to know it will suffer much longer than it ever lived in relative contentment? I just don't really get the idea of hell. I don't imagine it's fire and brimstone (I'm not a child), but if it's a state of turning away from God, and therefore of not experiencing heaven, why would God create a being like that to begin with?

2. Why does God put something as tempting as the tree of life and wisdom right there in front of them and then say, "Do whatever you want except eat the fruit from the best, most delicious tree in this garden."? Again, I realize it's symbolic, but it's like putting a kid in a room with a bunch of toys and then telling him you're going out for a while and he can do whatever he wants except play with the coolest, shiniest, most awesome toy in the room. This is ludicrous. Why not just leave that toy out? Maybe I'm a simpleton, but I honestly just don't get the idea of free will, as illustrated by the Garden of Eden metaphor. I'll have to do some research... talk to some theologians.

Chapter 4 -- Cain and Abel

Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Abel, a farmer and a shepherd, respectively. Cain decides to bring God an offering of his crops, and Abel brings Him a lamb. God decides Abel's offering is great, "But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect." So Cain is upset about this, and God tells him he shouldn't be upset. Cain is really mad now and kills brother. Then comes the famous line, "Am I my brother's keeper?" when God asks where Abel has got to. God is angry again and tells Cain he is now cursed and will suffer in his work from now on. But he tells God he can't bear the agony of the curse, so God says he'll put a mark on Cain so that he won't be murdered himself. He goes away from God to live in the land of Nod, which is east of Eden. Cain and his wife (where did she come from?) have kids, who they themselves have kids, and so on. Adam and Eve then have a third son, Seth, to make up for the lost Abel. Seth has a son, Enos, and then "men began to call on the name of the Lord."

My questions:

1. Why does God not like Cain's offering as he likes Abel's? It seems arbitrary. WHY is God not satisfied with the "fruit of the earth"? Why is a lamb a better offering? Okay, assuming I have to read between the lines, and understand the point is simply that Cain hasn't done well -- maybe he didn't make the offering with an honest heart. Fair enough. Still need to learn more about this one, though.

2. Where does Cain's wife come from??

3. Why do people start calling to God again after a while? Was there a big span of time after Cain got to Nod when no one was talking with Him? And what made them call out to Him again?

4. Okay, I know it's incredibly cliche, but why is God a He and not a Her? Of course we would be asking the opposite question if that were the case, but then this is how it is, so I'm curious. Maybe it's just what made more sense in the time of Moses when men ruled and women were subordinate. Maybe it's just a stumbling block of linguistics and the point is that God is outside gender but we, being stuck in the confines of language, have to accept one or another pronoun. It just doesn't seem to work. Then again, if you're going to take the time to write about The Creator, why can't you make up a word that describes this being without indicating gender? Or does it really matter at all? Maybe it's just the age we live in, where gender is a Big Deal, but a few thousand years ago would have been unimportant. Hmn, so many things to think about.

**NEXT: Exodus

2 comments:

jMa said...

This is why some people completely write off religion the first place: the book its based on does not make sense. I don't mean this in a cruel way, but it makes you wonder just how ignorant some people are to accept it as it is word for word, no questions asked and never believe anything else.
I think it's a good idea to read the bible so one will have more an accurate opinion when discussing the bible with others, but it's up to the individual to take it at face value or believe it's the only real history book that's reliable because it's the word of God.

But when you started asking questions, I started laughing. I laughed for a couple of reasons: 1) your questions are legit, and 2) I think there are questions to be asked in the first place because the bible is man made and, therefore, flawed.

I don't doubt that there are some valuable verses to be learned, especially from the gospels, but the bible (like, I'm sure, other religious texts) asks for one's wholehearted faith and belief, for faith and belief can be blinding and the questions overlooked.

Anyway, sorry about my rambling. But I like your questions, and I've thought about reading the bible front to back before. I mean it climaxes with the apocalypse. How cool is that?

Anonymous said...

Dude. I laughed and laughed and laughed. Not AT you, more... I hope, along with you.
Can you limit your questions to just one or two? Otherwise we'll never get through! How did we never get theological on all those walk? Too much talk of ponies, obviously. I have comments for all your questions, but by writing them all down I think we'll lose something. I'll hang on till we can really get down-to-Bible-business.
For now, I'll leave you with my thoughts on the first... I'm sure, that were it me, I would have created fallible beings to suit my own sense of humour. Where's the fun in having everything go according to plan? Do I occasionally leave a dozen eggs on the counter knowing that there is nothing George Michael loves more than to break the rules? Heck ya.

-Katie