Friday, June 1, 2012

R-Rated Beginnings: A Survey of the Book of Genesis

The book of Genesis is like, dysfunctional family story hour. The text is not lacking any form of malice, deceit, debauchery, or violence. I say family dysfunction because the Genesis story is one tale of a broken home after another. It’s fratricide, upon deception, upon some funky familial relations.

When it comes to the Genesis text, I tend to side with scholars who segment it into two forms: metanarrative and historical narrative. Usually, I place the metanarrative around Creation and Fall, but a recent reading of the text has me leaning towards a larger segmentation (Ch. 1-11). This leaves the historical narratives consisting of the Patriarchs and their Jerry Springer like, family stories.

The myth (tradition/legend) of the giants and sons of gods consorting with female humans (Ch. 6) contributes to the metanarrative, which explains the fallen nature of humankind, as does the Flood, as does, Cain and Able. In this metanarrative, we have the makings of two crucial covenants (Noaic and Abrahamic) One where the Lord promises not to destroy people and the other where the Lord promises the growth of a people. In short, through legend and history, the book of Genesis depicts the bonded will of humanity.

The basic gist of the book of Genesis, humans are inclined to do messed up things. There’s everyone’s favorite Sodom and Gomorrah, where the townsmen want to “get to know” the angels a bit. There’s the split of Jacob and Esau (Israel and Edom) who were at odds throughout the Primary History (Genesis-Kings). Not to mention, Lot’s daughters (Ch. 19).

Frankly, the book of Genesis is R-rated for violence and disturbing sexual content. Lot’s daughters and their freaky relations may be the most unsettling to modern readers. But, Abraham (you know, the father of many nations) married his half-sister Sarah (20:12).

As I reread Genesis today, the text brought out some interesting questions. I wondered how any Christian could believe in Free Will (if they’ve read Genesis in its entirety). I wondered how we’ve managed to convey many of the stories as fantastical children’s tales. I wondered how anyone could find it boring (whether they treat it as sacred or not). If you haven’t read the book of Genesis, I encourage you to read it, not so the Lord convicts you (or whatever spiritual motive you may favor), and not in order to disprove its legitimacy. Read it for the story, where copious amounts of human brokenness are met by a divine covenant of grace.

(I listened to this on vinyl today)

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