Monday, January 03, 2005

Genesis: the beginning

The Bible begins with a poem of creation.
I am not as concerned with the details of Genesis 1-11 as science or history -- How long is a day to God? To whom was Cain married? -- as I am concerned with the meaning. God creates the universe, and it is good. God creates humankind, and we are "very good" - but how quickly we mess up. Humankind ("Adam"), male and female, is made in God's image. As I understand that, being made in the image of God is a rich concept: we are relational, loving, reasoning, creative beings, given responsibility as stewards of the creation of which we are members.

Recently, my four-year old son asked a great question at the dinner table. "Where are we before we are born?" My wife and I thought about it for awhile, and then she asked him, "Where do you think we are before we are born?" He answered, "In God's heart." Perhaps that is why God said, "Let us make humankind in our image..."

The first three days of reading through the Bible in 365 has taken me from the Creation, to Adam and Eve in the garden, to their eating the forbidden fruit - the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil (don't be too hard on Eve - she was seeking wisdom - Gen. 3:6). Cain kills Abel, and the downward spiral of violence in the world ends only with God obliterating the world with a flood, save for Noah and his family. God makes a covenant with Noah and all of creation, laying his (rain) bow in the sky and vowing never again to destroy the whole world with a flood (and only then does God allow people to eat meat). Then, after some genealogy, the three days of reading end with the tower of Babel - an anti-urban, anti-empire kind of story.

The whole mythic prelude to the Bible, the pre-history of the peoples of the Bible and all the world, is compressed into these few pages. The essence seems to be this: God is the Creator, we are creatures in God's image. Humanity is sinful, disobedient, violent almost from the beginning. God cares, and decides to do something about it, to deal with sin and violence - first with violence of God's own (and we have had a glimpse of the violence of the primordial waters in the tsunamis in the Indian Ocean). The rest of the Bible may be seen as God striving against sin and violence through other means.

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