Vincent’s Re-reading of Genesis

Being a catholic, I have read Genesis before, but this is my first time reading the entire section at once.

Trying to read the bible as a secular document is impossible for me given my beliefs so the way I interpret what I read is heavily influenced by what I know of the catholic church.  The Book of Genesis, is both a historical text and religious text.  Not only is it meant to document the early customs of the Jews and Christians in order for future Jews and Christians to follow, it is also a documentation of the early humans who descended from Adam.  The combination of both religious and historical text gives The Bible a very unique style of writing. Events and religion are blurred together to create a extraordinarily cohesive    piece of writing in which God is dealt with as a real historical being.  Unlike the Greek Myths, in which the gods have very human-like characteristics, the God of the Bible is more distanced, and while human-like characteristics define him, he is less flawed like the Greek Gods, although just as demanding.  Lineage is extraordinarily important.  The Bible continuously provides long lists of names that link the families of Jacob to Abraham, to Noah, to Adam.  In a sense, these lists provide a list of continuity that link the various persons in The Bible together.

Genesis also describes events that can be described today as horrific.  Levi and Simeon’s slaughtering of the men who wanted to marry Dinah for example.  They had a reason, but their action was very monstrous, but since the code of honor at the time was extremely stringent, they might have felt their actions were justified.  These events usually made me narrow my eyes, but they also enlightened me to the code of honor and the conditions at the time.

Possibly the most debatable person in Genesis is God himself.  His actions constantly direct the lives of the men who would become the Israelites and there are some parallels to him and the Greek Gods.  God, does aid the Israelites and the men.  He also punishes men who are bad or evil.  Yet, unlike the Greek Gods, the God of Genesis can be very merciful as he did promise Abraham that if he found 10 good people in Sodom, he would not destroy the entire city.  While God can be extremely powerful and destructive, he is also capable of very compassionate acts.

All in all, it was interesting to read Genesis after reading Medea and The Odyssey.



2 thoughts on “Vincent’s Re-reading of Genesis

  1. Hello Vincent, I would just like to begin this rousing debate with a friendly greeting. Now, on to the action.

    You must be very careful to state the bible is a historical document. When modern science shows that serpents cannot actually speak to humans, fruit does not turn you into a god, creating a dome of the (what was believed to be) flat world and calling it the sky is not structurally possible, people living to be 900 years old, etc, we mustn’t jump to the conclusion that these things are true. Just as we know that Zeus and Apollo are fictitious creations by the ancient Greeks.

    You say that the greek gods are very human-like, creating the distinction with the christian god. God is said to require rest, makes mistakes regarding his decision of creating humankind, gets angry at people, plays favorites (men over women, Abel is favored, Cain is disregarded, needs to be reminded of things, needs physical things to be happy, etc. These, in my opinion, are all very human-like behaviors, and perhaps even more than the greek gods.

    So here it begins, I eagerly await your response dear sir.

    • I wish I had the Gandalf meme (so it begins, the greatest ****storm of our time)
      Good point Ralph, let me rephrase, because i didn’t mean the whole bible is true (i do acknowledge the big bang and all the science stuff). that’s why i said this is a blend of historical document AND religious text. Yes people can’t live 900 years old, yes fruit doesn’t turn you into a god. However, just to say that there are religious elements in the bible, doesn’t mean there aren’t historical truths. i’m afraid my bronze/iron age history isn’t that brushed up, but if you noticed the geneology and lineage lists, those are evidence that the bible, at least was written with the purpose of recording history . It isn’t a very reliable historical source, but it was written with the idea of recording past events in mind (at least according to the interpretation of the israelites, which meant that they often attributed god in these events).

      I’m not going to touch upon God’s mistake of creating humankind. He created it. Done. We sinned, don’t bother arguing about the fruit tree. he told us not to touch it but those two touched it and while the woman may have been directly in contact (probably a reflection of israelite society at the time, the men was basically equally responsible, or responsible on another level). But screw the tree argument, I prefer not to get too religious. But what exactly do you mean by mistake though? Can you please elaborate?

      Yes god has some human-like features, (it’s the only way we can understand him). However, on no occasion can we say just because God preferred Abel’s gift doesn’t mean Cain has a reason to kill Abel (unfortunately I’m in the dark on why God prefeered Abel’s gift). God needs to be reminded of things??? I may have missed that particular incident, because I don’t remember it, so pardon my ignorance. It’s not that God needs physical things to be happy, he needs to make sure ppl show their devotion in a way and sacrifice is that way (ALL GODS WANT THAT). What’s less human-like about God, is his mercy. God gets angry, but IF, if the person asked for forgiveness or begged for his help(Hagar with her son, Abraham with Sodom, abraham with Sarai… ETC ), they generally got it (Cain didn’t beg for forgiveness, neither did most of the people in the book). You can argue he’s playing favorites, but given the fact usually his favorites seems to be the only ppl in the whole canaan area who are virtuous, not surprising God is favoring them (for Jacob, Rebecca favored Jacob initially not God). Only when the person sinned (knowingly sinned, or knowingly disobeyed an explicit command or guide) did god seriously get pissed off.
      Now compare Zeus, Poseidon, athena to God. whose generally more prone to acts of Mercy and thus more godlike and less human-like? God. Poseidon kept punishing Odysseuse even though his son was the one who ate Odysseus’s men. That’s VERY human (not to mention Poseidon punishing the phaecians for nothing much than shipping Odysseus home and Zeus who planned it, allowed the Phaecians to go down). Did god ever punish someone NOT deserving of punishment? I don’t think so. Anything that the israelites did without god’s explicit command doesn’t count (including the Dinah incident) so Nope, God never really cast fire and storm to kill ppl who don’t deserve killing (I admit I IDK about Babel and what exactly is the point of that story though).

      I probably sound defensive, but that’s the way I’m interpreting the bible and meh. I don’t think arguing it out is going to change anything. I do want to hear your opinion on the opinion I just posted though so reply away.

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