Where do you begin with a piece of literature like The Bible? It’s the touchstone work of one of the worlds biggest religions, and there is so much here; so much to talk about, think about, recoil from, etc. When a class of young, wide eyed first year students read The Odyssey, we all have just about the same real life context. Unless one of us is a devout worshipper of Zeus, the concept of the divine in the poem can be tossed around fairly easily. Not so with The Bible. I felt excited reading Genesis for the first time… I could almost feel the years of conflict, bias, ancestry, belief, etc. on my shoulders, all stemming from this very, very old book.
I am by no means religious, although I do like the idea that all things are connected in some way. The point is, I read this story like I would any other story. Interested in the characters, plot, dialogue, you know, that stuff. However, I am very interested in how this story in all it’s infamy effects how people live and see the world. I will not deny it, on first read I was fairly amazed. This God fellow came across as sexist, racist, and a little too comfortable with all this power he had. I did one of those indignant atheist things where I found everything I possibly could that went against human morals today, and complained about it to a friend. This friend was far more educated in the ways of Christianity then me, and explained to me the whole Old Testament thing. He told me the New Testament is fairly different, more love, and less fire and brimstone. Not sure what i’ve decided about that yet, but here’s some thoughts on Genesis, and some questions, if anyone can answer them.
The chain of wrongdoing in the Garden of Eden was interesting to me. The first decision made was the decision to gain wisdom and knowledge, and this is seen as a mistake and something that deserves punishment. What does this say about early society and The Bible? Are Adam and Eve being punished simply for disobeying Gods will or for wanting to know some of what he knows? In some sense, the idea of innocence and obliviousness seems kind of nice, but the tree also implies that there is an evil power out there, an ungodly power, which God himself might not have control of… that was interesting to me.
Starting from Eve, women are often seen as a temptation, a means through which one can commit evil, although God also sees them as important for a man to “have” God himself says “your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you”. This explains a lot about the condescending way women used to be treated, and it makes me realise how deep seated all these concepts are, which is rather scary. In fact, the sudden way God decides anything, without needing any explanation, makes me nervous.
I have a whole number of thoughts, (why is some violence condoned and others condemned? Why is there such emphasis on spreading your “blood” around the world? What does this text say about family? When does The Devil come in?) But those can wait. Writing style not included, this is one of the most interesting texts i’ve read in a while.