Friday, 29 October 2010

Genesis 12 to 14

Abram is called by God at the start of chapter 12; this is the beginning of the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Mandaeism, it is said he acquired his wealth in Haran, which is in southeast Turkey today and he is promised to be a great nation. In the Genesis account Abram is to leave for Canaan, he is promised the land for his offspring, with his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot and the people and possessions that have been acquired.

Genesis 12 gives an account of Abram dishonoring himself, interestingly he has just been called by God and he then sins against the Pharaoh, by saying Sarai is his sister and the Pharaoh has been sent a disease from God because of Abram. This is definitely an example of moral failure/sin by the patriarch Abram, in a way it shows that men of god are also likely to sin just as much as a normal person, in a way it should give comfort that we are all fallible.

Genesis 13 gives the account of the separation of Abram and Lot, with Abram heading to Hebron, in the modern day West Bank and Lot heading to Sodom, near the Dead Sea. In Genesis 14 an account is given of a conflict between Kings and how Lot is rescued by Abram, a strange set of verses are given at the end of chapter 14, saying about Melchizedek king of Salem and that he is a priest of God Most High and him blessing Abram, this suggests that more people were practicing monotheism in Abram’s time.
In Islam, Abram (Abraham) is known as Ibrahim and is considered an important prophet as he is the father of Ishmael (Arabs) and of Isaac (Jews), he is mentioned a large number of times in the Quran. Some traditions in Islam state that Ishmael was to be sacrificed instead of Isaac; the specific son is not clearly given in the Quran. Lot is also considered a prophet in Islam because of his strong stance on homosexuality while in Sodom.

The account of Abram has problems in placing him in history, it is always consider being at the start of the second millennium BC, there is no clear indication, some theories believe he was an historical invention at the time of the exile, to help explain the founding of the Jewish people.

The “Cave of the Patriarchs” is given as Abram’s last resting place, which is in Hebron, technically the site should be a place of pilgrimage for all the Abrahamic faiths, whether the actual place of burial, no one would be able to verify it.

Genesis Chapter 10 & 11

In Chapter 10 of Genesis the discussion moves to the beginning of nations, or the development of tribes through Japheth, Ham and Shem, the sons of Noah. Ham is given more space as he is seen as the father of the empires and Nimrod is given a mention as the first king of a tribe. Japheth is seen as the father of maritime peoples whose descendants spread out through the world. Shem is the direct descendant of Abram, who is seen as the father of the nation of Israel.

The dispersion of the human family is given in chapter 11 verses 1 to 9; the Tower of Babel story always is represented pictorially as a Babylonian ziggurat, this may be where the story comes from as there was one called Etemenanki dedicated to the deity Marduk in the ancient city of Babylon; this was meant to be a great tower, due to the nearness of Israel and Babylon, it is not improbable for a crossover of stories between nations.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Genesis 6 to 9

Genesis 6 verses 1 to 8 are some of the strangest verses in the whole Bible; they mention the marrying of the Sons of God to human wives and the Nephilim in verse 4, the strangest phrase is that “Sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them”, as is shown below, it is very odd verse.

“ 4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.”

I personally believe that we could spend hours speculating about the verse, as it meaning seems to come from a previous document we do not know about, my belief is that the Old Testament is written from a set of previous documents that have been lost. The Nephilim are mentioned in the Book of Enoch and the Book of Jubilees, both works that were probably written before 200BC, but would have been widely known about at the time of Christ. We must remember that we are reading from a Jewish interpretation of stories from that area, we cannot exclude the influence of Egypt and Mesopotamia.

The wickedness of men comes to the story of Noah, God says he will destroy the earth and wipe it clean, all except Noah and his family, who then builds and ark and with his family is saved. Noah is an interesting tale in Genesis as unlike Abraham, he does not plead with God to save the world he just builds the Ark, in comparison Abraham pleads to save Sodom. Stories of a Deluge and a Flood from around the world, such as in Mesopotamia the Epic of Gilgamesh mentions the flood, Manu in Hinduism and Deucalion in Greek mythology, one theory is that a meteor hit the earth and caused a tsunami, it is interesting that the flood story exists in several ancient civilizations, this seems to show something probably happened that caused a serious flood.

In the Koran, there are large number of references to Noah as a prophet and being a man of God and trying to bring the pure monotheism of Allah upon the people. The main difference between the biblical account and the Quran is the absence of the account of Noah’s drunkenness and that Noah had fourth son who was drowned in the flood.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Genesis Chapters 4 to 6

In the story of Cain & Abel in Genesis 4, it is interesting that we are not told why the offering is not accepted by God, is it a random reason? Is it the attitude of the way the offering is given? Is it what is in each of their hearts when they give the offering? Is it because one was animal and another was plant based? We are not told and we almost can fill in our own ideas what the reason is that God accepted
Abel’s offering over Cain’s.

In the next section, the conversation between God and Cain is even more interesting, it discusses what is in the heart of Cain and the sin that is consuming him. Cain then goes and kills Abel, God asks Cain where Abel is, the following quotation is very important as it says the following:

God: "Where is your brother Abel?"
Cain: "I don't know," he replied. "Am I my brother's keeper?"

Cain is marked and goes to the land of Nod, at the East of Eden. How can the mark of Cain (sin) be lifted, we could see the mark as the sin that bears down on human beings? The answer is the Lord Jesus.

We see from further reading that Cain produces children; also Adam and Eve have another child Seth. In the Koran Sura 5 v26 to 31, the story of Cain & Abel is also mentioned, but what is given is slightly different version, where Abel is considered pious and gives a strange saying that follows:
Koran 5v26 "I would prefer you to take sole responsibility for both our sins and thus become a dweller of hell; this is what an unjust person deserves."
This to me is strange as it is not the same as “Am I my brother’s keeper”, which means we look after one another, Abel in this sense seems selfish and uncaring as he allows his brother to go to hell, also it says no man can be sacrificed for another’s sins, the sign that God wants to love us.
Genesis 5 is a genealogy between Adam and Noah; this mentions Enoch, who was carried up to heaven, which happened to Moses, Elijah and Jesus. The Book of Enoch, is an apocryphal text, it is accepted as part of the cannon by the Ethiopian Coptic Church. The date of the Book of Enoch being complied is given as about 3rd century BC by certain scholars, some fragments of the Book of Enoch were found at the Dead Sea Scrolls, dated to the 2nd century BC.

Hebrews 11 v5 references Enoch, which is taken from Genesis description and says about him, been taken to heaven. In Jude 1 v14 to 15, there are is a direct quote from the 1st Book of Enoch; this could mean that the book was a widely known work at the time, especially amongst Hebrew scholars and who was writing this epistle.

In Islam, Enoch is known as Idris and in the Koran he is mentioned twice in the following two verses Koran 19:56-57 and Koran 21:85-86, with the text saying he was a righteous man of God, this shows that the story of Enoch was being told all over the Middle East in the First Millennium, the interesting point to be made is that he is seen as one of the great men of God even though we have only a few lines in Genesis about him.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Genesis Chapters 1 to 3

Genesis chapters 1 to 3, the first chapter deals with the order of the universe and that God created it; there is no scientific sense to the text, it just deals with the idea of order, the six days of creation, says that the world is created, we live in a universe which does seem almost exceptionally perfect. The writer of the text seems to be trying to say about how perfect the order of the world actually is from their observation of what is around them and how the universe works.

Genesis Chapter 2 v4 to v7 actually is another creation story, one that gives a different view on how man is created, that he is in the image of God from the dust of the ground. This gives the idea of dust to dust, ashes to ashes, when we die we go back in a form of burial to the ground that has provided us with life, through food, therefore the cycle of life begins again and we are part of creation.

Genesis Chapter 2 v8 to v25, humans are innocent of right or wrong, not knowing a moral compass or laws of living together, therefore they felt no shame in the fact that they are naked and are just enjoying the earth, they were in a perfect innocent state. Adam and Eve are in state of perfect bliss, knowing only peace and not what sin was.

Genesis Chapter 3, is the fall of man, in other words human beings learning the difference between right and wrong, the serpent, is the villain of the piece, a creature that that is tempting Eve to eat forbidden fruit, then Adam also eating the fruit, I feel the writer is transmitting the point that when we get the idea of learning what is right or wrong, that to live together laws need to exist, also we could say that our inner feelings and knowledge of sin have separated us from the perfect peace that only God can give and we need a way to get back to that peace, answer to this is the Lord Jesus.

In the Islamic tradition, in the Koran Chapter 7 verses 10 to 27, that in the story of the fall of man, it is not the serpent, but Satan who is the villain of the story. In Islam, Adam is the first prophet of God. The Koran was written around 600AD, this could be considered a change of the story from Genesis, using Satan as the villain instead or the serpent, also Adam and Eve are equally guilty. As the Koran was written at least 1000 years after Genesis, the oldest version of Genesis is from the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were written between 150BC to 70AD, but the time of the final completed text is estimated to have been between 1450BC for Biblical Conservatives to 300BC for Biblical Minimalists, the problem of any date before about 1000BC, is that we have no example of Hebrew writing before then, a lot of modern scholars date Genesis to the either the exile and restoration period of between 600BC to 450BC.

Adam, is used in Gnostic works such as the “Testament of Adam” and the “Apocalypse of Adam”, which are likely to be 4th century AD and have been found in the Nag Hammadi library, a Coptic Gnostic Codex.

I am personally a Theistic Evolutionist, in that I believe that the evidence for evolution is overwhelming, but God is behind the whole process, the Natural History Museum, Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, in Cambridge I would recommend the Zoological Museum, Archaeological & Anthropological Museum and the Sedgewick Museum, have more than enough evidence, combine this with DNA, the Genome project and finally that masses of research that has been done, it is impossible to accept anything else as the way life began on Earth. I recommend the book “Creation or Evolution: Do we have to choose?” by Denis Alexander if you have any doubts about evolution and Christianity being compatible.

The following website is helpful:

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Stories & Reading the Bible

Why I am having problems believing in the Bible? I met someone at Easter who said the first 11 chapters of Genesis were literally true, the earth is made in seven days etc, now 99% of scientists agree with evolution, most people in western society agree with evolution, we come from a process of natural selection and adapting to specific environmental terrains to survive and we at one point split from apes to develop our own form of primate species we call man. Every sane human being would agree with evolution, the evidence is overwhelming; we have fossils and bones that we can date from millions of years ago, no problem. The Earth is over 4 billion years old is not a problem as well for sane human beings, the universe is much older, no problem. So why in this modern age do people keep going on about Genesis? Is it that there faith has be literal as doubt is too scary, I wonder what this says about certain interpretations.

The account of Genesis is even more interesting as it was written by effectively two different scholars who were using previous material at about the time of 600BC, while the Jews very exile in Babylon. The writing of Genesis shows a very different if not schizophrenic view of God, with him being show as indecisive, loving, caring and ruthless & very human in the whole book.

This gets now on how do we read the Bible, as a book of fact or as a folk history, written from a specific bias perspective? I personally view the Bible as a folk history, the stories are true from a certain perspective but they have been embellished and added to prove a specific viewpoint, in a way we could view the Bible as propaganda for a Jehovah religion. I also of course view the bible as showing man’s ongoing stupidity, if we looked at the mistakes of people in the past they all suffer from anger, greed, lust, gluttony, avarice and sloth, nothing different from the modern era. Faith means by human nature that we have to have some doubts, which is not a bad thing as it can develop us in so many different ways.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Emotional, Physical and Mental Healing

Someone asked me a while ago about the problem of her mother suffering from arthritis and how could God exist could she suffer by being physically challenged, I had pondered this question a lot over the years, it was then all of a sudden I realised that we all were challenged emotionally, physically or mentally in different ways.

In the bible many people are physically challenged, but are healed by Jesus, Mark 5 v21 to 43 gives examples of chronic bleeding and raising Jairus’s daughter. Humans can be physically challenged, having internal bleeding, etc, but need to be healed by Jesus.

Emotionally challenged, the woman at the well in John 4 v1 to 26 had a number of husbands; she is emotionally challenged by her past actions and the feeling of being rejected by society. Jesus needs to heal her inner pain caused by shame and the judgement of others and her own background, as she had married five times and was living with a man who was not her husband.

Mental illness, I am going to equate mental illness and demonic possession as that is the best way for me to use it as an example. Mark 5 v1 to 20, talk of a man being healed from demonic possession, some would say mental illness, we may even say paranoid schizophrenia, but a healing needed to take place.

Healing is an important part of the Christian faith and at the Kings Arms this led by the wonderful Wendy Mann, who goes and prays for people. An important part of being human and being a Christian is excepting that we all need regular healing to get closer and closer to God, human beings live on their knees due to emotional, physical and mental pain.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Fallibility of Humans

When considering human beings, one question is repeatedly being raised in my mind, when undertaking any form of action how can we be sure we are taking the right decision. If a human being is limited by their own experience of life, limited by their knowledge, the result of any decision is not known in the long term, therefore consequence is unknown, infinite diversity in infinite combinations, this phrase taken from Star Trek, but helps explain the complexity of our society. Now politicians are undertaking policies, while trying to say that their policies are the definite way forward, the result of their policies can be disastrous even deadly, human beings with definite ideas seem very dangerous, examples of people who thought they were creating the perfect society such as Pol Pot, Hitler, Franco, Stalin and Mao, instead brought death and destruction, they had definite ideas.

I am a Christian, now definite ideas end up being in a different realm; I can’t even being to understand the complexity of the universe and the mind of God, but I am made very humble by just trying to contemplate it as I start realise my own limitations, therefore how little I know and understand. Human beings due to their limited knowledge, understanding and experience have no way of always making good choices, in other words they are fallible and make mistakes. Part of my faith requires me to believe and trust God to unravel the universe and to trust his will, in other words I have to have faith. Knowing we are regularly wrong, we make stupid mistakes, say silly or hurtful things, in a way it is learning to be a human being and therefore having faith in God to guide us, we should be humble because of our limitations, but that should not stop us asking God what he wants us to do, it is down to trust & faith.