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Archive for the ‘Genesis’ Category

Once upon a time I was a public school teacher. When you are a public school teacher, you are generally also what’s known as a “mandatory reporter”. This means that if you suspect child abuse, you are legally obliged to report any evidence to the appropriate authorities.

During this close re-reading of the Old Testament, I am pretty well convinced that if God were the father of one of my public school students, I would be reporting his omnipotent ass to the DCFS ASAP.

Here are some choice nuggets from Genesis:

  • He places his children in a garden, naked and unsupervised. They are to work for Him, tending the garden (2:15)
  • He then leaves a tree in the middle of the garden that they’re not meant to touch; if they do, “[they] shall surely die” (3:4)
  • When they actually eat the fruit, it contains a mind-altering substance (“and the eyes of them both were opened”- 3:7)
  • In return for eating the fruit which He left out in the open, He curses them and evicts them from the only home they’ve ever known (3:16-24).
  • When He gets bored by/angry with his children, He drowns all but a few of them (Chapter 7), who have to build a boat from scratch in order to survive his wrath.
  • To Abram/Abraham, He gives riches, land, and Isaac, a cherished son– whom He then asks Abraham to sacrifice like a sheep. Just before Abraham goes through with it, God says “Psych! I just wanted to see if you’d obey me.” This is sociopathic.

We won’t even get in to Exodus– dicking Moses around for hitting the rock instead of speaking to it is kind of OT God’s “I TOLD YOU NO WIRE HANGERS, EVER!!1!!” moment. And we won’t touch the Book of Job here, either, because I’ll be covering it in more detail later.

It’s manifest to me that Old Testament God is not a loving father. He’s a nasty, petty, capricious tribal deity. I’m glad we don’t see much of Him anymore.

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Having been raised and educated in a religious school, it’s pretty surprising to me when I talk to people about the Bible and discover that outside of the story of Christ, the only Bible stories they know are from Genesis.

There are 66 books in the King James Version of the Bible, or 73 if you’re reading from a Catholic version. In both of these, Genesis comes first, and in its short chapters it contains the great bulk of Bible stories from the Old Testament most people are familiar with:

  • The Creation
  • Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden
  • Cain and Abel
  • Noah and the Flood
  • The Tower of Babel
  • Abram/Abraham and Isaac
  • Lot and Sodom and Gommorah
  • Jacob and Esau
  • Jacob’s Ladder
  • Joseph’s Coat of Many Colors
  • Joseph and Pharaoah

Most people with a passing familiarity with the Bible would probably also mention the story of Moses (seeing and hearing Charlton Heston in their mind’s eye the entire time)– but that’s the next book, Exodus.  Taken together, these two books have a definite narrative arc: Genesis goes from the creation of the world to the establishment of the twelve tribes of Israel in Egypt. Exodus traces the nation’s enslavement in Egypt, their liberation by Moses, and their wandering towards the promised land.

Together they make up the “how did we get here?” portion of the Israelite story (Deuteronomy and Numbers, for the most part, cover the “What do we believe?” and “How shall we live?”– but we’re not going through the entire Bible in the BOAT reading list.) The Old Testament, as a whole, deals with the trials and tribulations of the nation of Israel.

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I read the Bible very often at school when I was young. It was a Catholic school, so the translation was not the King James Version, but some neutered edition for children that avoided very hard words and skipped all the sex, incest, and bloodthirstiness.

The nuns drilled it into us that the Bible was the greatest book ever written, that it contained the word of God and must be treated with respect according to protocols more elaborate than the Flag Code.

You shouldn’t stack other books on top of a Bible. You shouldn’t write in it, except to write your name on the inside cover. You shouldn’t fold down the pages, or tear them, or use inappropriate bookmarks with cartoon characters on them (Sister Raymond Mary said this while eyeing my Snoopy bookmark pointedly), or store other papers inside of it. You shouldn’t stand on it, sit on it, let it get wet or dirty or lie on the floor, or use it to prop something up. Above all, you shouldn’t let it get dusty. Because that means you’re not reading it. Har har.

I have several Bibles in the house now. One’s a St. Joseph Textbook Edition from the 50’s that was my Dad’s when he was in high school. One’s a KJV with the words of Christ in red ink that was my husband’s grandfather’s. And one is a paperback KJV I bought a while ago when I was into reading the Bible and the Apocryphal Gospels. I’m not observant anymore. And intellectually, I know they are just books.

However, I’ve made notes in the margins of all my other books, and highlighted passages, and used receipts and index cards as bookmarks. I can’t bring myself to write in my cheap paperback KJV. I can’t dog-ear the pages, either. It has a ribbon for a bookmark. And when I put it away at night, I make sure it’s on top of the stack of books on my nightstand.

Nuns. They get to you.

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For the next few weeks, I’ll be reading some of the most widely-quoted and alluded-to books of (what we Christians call) the Old Testament.

After that, I’m off to the races on a number of other sacred writings in cultures that I, frankly, have little to no experience with. So if I say something profoundly ignorant, I hope someone will understand that this is because I am profoundly ignorant, and come along and explain, as gently as possible, why that’s the case.

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