This year I’ve made a goal to read through the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible (known as the New Testament). There are a number of interesting Jewish interpretations of Torah but I’m not going to get into much of those at this time. I’m simply going to read straight through to get a reminder of the basic story lines and principles found within.
Starting at the beginning, it seems that the earth already exists. Of course, we realize the Bible is not a scientific book (obviously) but even from a theological perspective, this should mean something to those who hold to literal interpretations of the text. Another interesting note in the commentary is that the word בָּרָא, translated as the verb “create” never means to create out of nothing. At least at the start, the Bible does not assert that god created the world from nothing which is a complete contradiction to what creationists claim.
Skip ahead to Adam and Eve. The story from a Christian perspectives takes on literal meaning but in other traditions, there is room for interpretation. Adam and Eve eat the fruit of knowledge, thereby learning wrong from right. One could say this marks their entry into adulthood. Just like Adam and Eve, we too one day reach adulthood where we begin to know what is right and what is wrong. We’re then held responsible by our families, friends, communities and governments to act accordingly. As Adam and Eve had to leave the safety and security of the garden, we leave our homes and start our lives as adults in the wider world.
It is unfortunate that so many interpretations of the Biblical text are left to literal understanding, as when you look at the stories form different perspectives, they make a hell of a lot more sense…and they are slightly less disturbing.
At this point, looking superficially, we see Genesis degrade into lying, murder, worldwide genocide, more lying, child sacrifice, citywide genocide, offering up one’s own children for rape, incest, deception, seething jealousy, family conflict and general bad behavior. The most appealing theme in all of Genesis, I think, is that of brotherly reconciliation. After having stolen his birthright and blessing, Jacob meets up with his brother Esau (both the sons of Issac; Grandchildren of Abraham) twenty years later with fear that he and his family may be killed. Rather, his brother greets him with a hug.
Later, Jacob’s son Joseph is sold by his brothers who despise him. Jacob is understandably distraught but has been lead to believe the young boy is dead. Many years later, the men meet their brother in Egypt and after a few tricks to determine their character, Joseph tells them he is their long lost brother. Jacob is reunited with his son.
I noticed the tales of Abraham are more detailed than the first few. Once the book opens up to Jacob and his children, there is also more emotional drama. The reader is told of Jacob’s despair when his child is missing and repeatedly the text mentions Joseph crying in regards to seeing his brothers again.
That isn’t to say these stories aren’t still gruesome. This the same family wherein a daughter is raped, the boys murder the perpetrator (and his associates) and take all of the women and children in his clan for their own. The same family where envy for one brother leads them to consider killing him and then decide eh, they will just sell him instead. They also tend to lie. In short, they’ve got problems.