The Apocrypha of Genesis: Part 1 REDUX: Is God who we think he is? Or is he a perv?

OK. I have to go back to something touched upon here.

Specifically Gen 2:18-20. Not only does God say “ooops”, but in order to fix it he creates… the animals?

Just picture it…

Adam is lounging around paradise, naked. Alone for like half an eternity and he’s all like “Daaaaaaaa’d! I’m so bored! Make me a companion.”

And God comes in, “what?! what?! you don’t like the things I get for you?!”

“Please. Dad. I’m going to go eat some fruit. You can’t stop me.”

And so God creates all manner of fowl and beast and parades them in front of Adam, trying to placate his son. “See this one?” He does that annoying thing with his eyebrows.

And finally after so many animals have come before him, Adam says… “For the last time Dad! I don’t want to fuck another sheep!”

And thank God right! Cuz then God made woman (Gen 2:21-25). Whew. Thanks Bro!

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The Apocrypha of Genesis: Part 2: What is the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil?

You know the basic premise, boy meets girl, girl meets snake, apples are eaten… yadda yadda yadda, boom, original sin. There’s just one problem; “original sin” is not in Genesis. What does the book actually say and what lessons, if any, does this story actually teach? Welcome to the hidden meaning of Genesis. See Part 1: Is God who we think he is?

Tree Of Knowledge

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

Gen 2:16-17

So, lets talk about the tree, because if anything in this story is going to make sense, we’re going to need a good explanation for what it is. Here are four ideas. But before we get into them here is something to consider. Why does God want to keep this knowledge from man? Is this knowledge bad for mankind or bad for God?

1) Christians typically argue that the tree itself is not evil or sinful, but that because man (well Eve actually) wanted wisdom, wanted to be like God, the act of eating the fruit brought sin. In other words, it was the disobience not the tree itself that brought about the fall of man. The interesting thing about this explanation is that humanity is forever cursed because their ancestors broke an arbitrary rule. And since it is arbitrary, not based on a moral truth or utilitarian necessity, this takes on the shape of a game. In other words, there’s no reason for why this should be a big deal other than the fact that God says so. Either that, or else the knowledge of the tree is actually significant.

2) Some argue that the knowledge gained was sexual knowledge since it appears that Adam and Eve don’t have sex or concieve children until after they eat. This seems to be true. Before chapter 4, there is no hint of sex. Starting with chapter 4, cue the raunchy bassline because the Adam and Eve are getting busy. This theory is tempting, but doesn’t make complete sense given everything else.

3) Another idea is that it symbolizes moral knowledge, literally knowledge of good and evil. This ties into the act of disobedience, since the process of indoctrinating our children with ideas of good and evil is one of punishing incorrect behavior, and rewarding good behavoir. However, are Adam and Eve actually punished? And why would God want to keep this knowledge from them? What does it mean to be unaware of good and evil, to be “naked” and “not ashamed”? Does this mean a natural state unburdened by social convention or does this mean a state of animal-like consciousness? Or does this mean that anything is permitted and there are no real consequences (outside the one tree, of course)?

4) A newer scholarly idea claims that the Hebrew words that name the tree literally mean “Tree of Knowledge, both Good and Evil” and that “both good and evil” is a figure of speach that should be interpreted as “everything”. This also makes sense and is a safe bet to make since it naturally includes knowledge of morality.

What does the book say? In truth, it’s actually fairly ambiguous, hence why we have so many theories.

Instead of taking a line by line reading, I’ve decided to summarize the significant changes that appear to happen. In other words, there is no real explanation for what the tree is or why it is forbidden (more on this in the next essay). Therefore, we can try to understand it by it’s effect.

Here’s everything that appears to have changed.

– they suddently know they’re naked, they know shame
– Eve now has the power to bear children
– man must toil for sustenance
– Begining the next chapter, they now have sex
– they are now mortal or at least revealed to be
– God gives them some “skins” (suggestion of animal sacrifice?)
– They are forced out “lest they eat of the tree of life.”

If we put aside for the moment the meaning of the mysterious Tree of Life, this list begins to look very recognizable. I would think that anyone older than 12 can begin to grasp what is happening here. They become sexually active, they are kicked out of the house, they’re forced to work for food, and they have to abide by the rules of society.

You know, once your parents have taught you everything you need to know, “both good and evil,” they throw you a party (sacrifice some lambs), give you some skins (new clothes, new adult identity, the graduation gift, etc), kick you out the door and say “get a job, you hippy” and “don’t get pregnant (cuz it’s going to hurt)!” These changes of Adam and Eve are the clearly the markings of children growing up.

And remember the previous post regarding the nature of “God” in Genesis. Clearly he is not acting the part of an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good godhead. Things don’t match up that way, but as a parental figure, well, he’s suddenly very understandable. Of course parents want to protect their children and keep them in a state of innocense, even though doing so is impossible. and Yes, parents must discipline their kids to teach them the rules of society. If you do wrong, society will punish you. “God” is really a symbol that stands for the highest power, and when you’re a child, the highest power is your mother or father.

The Fall is clearly an allegory for becoming a socially “corrected” adult, the indoctrination of social convention, an explanation of the process of socializing the youth so they may become responsible civilians. At the very least, this meaning appears contained in the text (unlike original sin) and it is a common understanding that reverberates culturally. The next time you see a movie or book which contains a special tree or garden, in most cases, it’s a not so subtle reference to this aspect of the Fall.

The Apocrypha of Genesis: Part 1: Is God who we think he is?

Genesis is a funny story. Or should I say stories. Did you ever notice there are two creation stories? Yes, god created man and woman in chapter one, then later on in chapter two he creates them again. Weird. But that’s not the weirdest thing about Genesis. The weirdest part it is what we call “The Fall”. This is the point at which man rejects the perfect life of union with God, loses his innocence and becomes mortal. This is the moment man opens Pandora’s box, lets evil and corruption lose upon the world, and becomes a rebel, a deviant! Thunder cracks and sinister laughing echoes over the mountains…

The Temptation and Fall of Eve by William Blake

You know the basic premise, boy meets girl, girl meets snake, apples are eaten… yadda yadda yadda, boom, original sin. There’s just one problem; “original sin” is not in Genesis, its just an interpretation, and not a very good one either.

The Fall is, culturally speaking, a very important story, but the problem is that we’ve been told what it means, before we’ve had a chance to read it for ourselves. What would happen if you just read it without all that extra crap that everyone else is telling you? What does the book actually say and what lessons, if any, does this story actually teach? Welcome to the hidden meaning of Genesis. It’s actually quite ironic, because in telling you this, I must play the role of the serpent.

Part 1 – Is God who we think he is?

All the monotheisms (I’m assuming) believe that God is all-poweful, all-knowing and all-good. This idea however, is problematic [see the Epicurean paradox]. However, we can put those philosophical questions aside for in Genesis the very first book of the Bible there is quite a bit of scripture to challenge this conception.

Exhibit 1: Gen 2:18

And the LORD God said, It is NOT GOOD that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

Did you see that there? Did you see those words “not good?” God himself admitted it. He made a mistake. Not only that, but he proceeds to make all the animals and birds and he gives them to the dirtman, but the dirtman is still not satisfied, “there was not found an help meet for him.”

Exhibit 2: The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil

Remeber how God says that “in the day you eat it, you will die”? Why would God do this? Eden is supposed to be perfect. And it is, except for that tree, which is just another way of saying that Eden is not perfect. For if it were perfect, then there would not be one iota of danger. Surely if he wanted to remove it or destroy it or put a giant fence around it, he could’ve. So why doesn’t he?

You may be thinking, this is because he wants to test Adam, but why test man if He is all-knowing? Doesn’t He know what man will do? If He knows, then why test man? Is this all an elaborate ruse, a trick?

Exhibit 3: The serpent

Similarly, why create the talking serpent who “seduces” Eve to eat? Surely God know this creature was up to no good, right?

Exhibit 4: Gen 3:9-12

So God comes tromping through the garden after the two naughty monkeys have eaten and says… “Where art thou?… Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?… What is this that thou hast done?” So what is happening here? God sounds outraged, incredulous, but how could he not know what happened? Why ask these questions?

Exhibit 5: Original Sin

If The Fall, as many Christian’s claim, is the story of original sin. Then we have a problem. Either God made a mistake and is not perfect, or he wanted this to happen, he designed it to happen this way. In either case, we have to ask… is he really who we think he is?

Ancient of Days by William Blake

It appears reasonable to argue that God is too complex to understand by reason and logic. However, surely He knows that about us and expects (some of) us to try. And if our intelligence were so limited, wouldn’t you expect God to provide us with unequivical evidence or would you expect him to taunt us? Therefore his behavior in Genesis (supposing that it really is God) should be intelligible in some way. Right? And if not, what are we to make of someone who is not intelligible?

In Genesis it say that man was created in God’s image (Gen 1:26-27). But when I read these OT stories like The Fall, I can’t help but feel that God was made in man’s image. Of course, what these contradictions show is that this story cannot be read as historical fact. As an allegory, they are much less problematic.

If you have another explanation, lets here it. And stay tuned for Part 2: What is the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil?

The Origins of Original Sin

Dear Michelangelo, what where those two naughty monkeys up to just before the serpent showed up?

Original Sin is well known concept among western societies. Although some denominations don’t consider it a big baddie, others basically say that humans are utterly depraved beings and are headed straight for hell because of it. In other words, the moment you are conceived, you are guilty. All because of Adam and Eve.

So… where did this truly amazing and momentous idea originate from? You know how it came about, right?

Are you thinking of Genesis, the apple, the snake and the Garden and all that? Well, then you would be wrong. I have just read the Book of Genesis, folks and there is no such thing as Original Sin in those pages, and furthermore, the Book of Genesis is also part of the Jewish faith and they don’t have the concept of Original Sin. Why is that?

So… where did it come from? God? No. Jesus? Nope. Paul?

Yes, Paul. Well, sort of anyway. Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:22, however, it’s not really a full blown idea here. It’s more of a cute saying with poetic symmetry. It didn’t really become a full blown doctrinal idea until St. Augustine and Tertullian and other “church fathers” started building it up. And this occurred when? Several hundred years A.D.? For such an important concept, such a central teaching of the church, you’d think there was a more authoritative source. When you have such a rich body of teachings from the man himself, Jesus Christ, why go and garble it all up with something like this? There is a reason, I’m sure.

I don’t know, I guess I’m more of a Christ purist than the Christian church.

In the coming days I’ll be taking a closer look at the creation story of the Book of Genesis and really getting down to the heart of the matter. Somehow, the Christian religion has got this story all backwards and I’m going to walk you through it so we can set the record straight. Should be a good time.

In the meantime, consider this question: who lied to Adam and Eve? Did the snake lie or did God lie?

St. Augustine vs. the Fundamentalists

Augustine of Hippo also known as Augustine, St. Augustine, St. Austin, St. Augoustinos, Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed.

Saint Augustine by Philippe de Champaigne

Wicked picture, yeah? Augustine was born in 354 and lived to be 75! He is highly honored by The Catholic Church, The Assyrian Church of the East, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, The Anglican Communion, Lutheranism, and The Aglipayan Church. He was a very prolific writer and theologists.

Check this out… after a lifetime of living and writing about Christianity, he writes Retractationes (ca. 426-428) or reconsiderations . In this book, he reviews his entire body of written work… and makes corrections.

One of these is the remarkable statement…

“What we now call the Christian religion existed amongst the ancients, and was from the beginning of the human race, until Christ Himself came in the flesh; from which time the already existing true religion began to be styled Christian”.

– St. Augustine (Retract., I, xiii, 3)

In other words, Christianity is but a style of the one true religion. It is a mask, a face, one of many secretaries to the president of real spirituality. Some people like to think that Christianity is somehow special, somehow superior than other religions, and this is unfortunate. This is a fundamentalist attitude that hurts Christianity in the long run. Christ never asked for the organization of the Church, instead he warned us to be wary of those seek to use religion in false ways. Have we been diligent in this task?

Christ is well known for being critical of the Pharisees; they focused too much on the rules and politics of the day, and so missed the message of Jesus. They weren’t evil, but they were blind. Therefore we should question dogma and hold fast to the spirit of His life and teachings.

References

Augnet 

Bible Study: Would Jesus Occupy Wall Street?

First of all, yes, I actually have been reading the Bible. And for those who know me: no, you are not wrong; I’m not really a God freak. I don’t go to church and by comparison, I lead a rather heathenish lifestyle. However, these are not normal times. Not only is the country struggling, but I’ve been struggling too. It’s been a very emotional month, err, couple of months. It’s not that anything specifically bad has happened. It’s just that… well, I’m poor and sometimes that really sucks. I’m not going to go into it, but there is plenty of research out there on the mental effects of poverty, especially on children. Now, I’m not that poor, compared to a lot of other people out there. I do count my blessings, but that doesn’t mean I have it easy either. It’s stressful. At any rate, the Gospels have really impressed me and helped me out this past week. I guess I’m a closet Christian. Lol. I do like Jesus, I just don’t like the church. And maybe that will change. The last time I was in church, I was a teenager.

While I was reading (and cathartically weeping), it occurred to me that there are a lot of similarities between Jesus and the Occupy movement. I decided to do some googling and sure enough, the internets is abuzzing. “Would Jesus occupy” is a popular question these days.

Lots of people are weighing in on the issue, and predictably, where people place Jesus depends a lot upon their ideology. Surprisingly there seems to be more pro-Jesus-occupy than anti-Jesus-occupy and the pro-group contains a healthy contingent of clergy. You can argue that everyone is trying to co-opt Jesus, because Jesus has power and influence and that’s what people try to do with power and influence. However, the issue that’s really being debated is whether or not the Occupy protest is valid and justified in the eyes of Christians. You can bet the conservatives and anti-protesters are bristling. It’s a minefield in the culture war, so naturally, I want to wade in.

Here’s an anti-jesus-occupy blog piece and (thank you lord!) it’s found on a Breitbart blog. You couldn’t ask for a better set-up. See “Jesus Would NOT #OccupyWallStreet

Wow, there is so much wrong here that I scarcely know where to begin.

Although Leftists often derisively dismiss the value of religious beliefs to contemporary government and economics, these same individuals now wish to claim Jesus as a fellow social revolutionary, wealth redistributionist, and civil agitator.

No and no. With the exception of deliberately provocative atheists, “leftists” do not dismiss the value of religious beliefs. They do, however, abhor the misuse of religious belief as a substitute for science, education and public policy. This is a huge difference.

Here’s my counter argument.

Point 1 – Roman Rule. First thing you have to remember is what is Jesus trying to do? Will he have fulfilled the prophesies if he provokes the Romans and is killed by them? No, he will only fulfill the prophesy if he is killed by his own people. Therefore, he does take great care to avoid direct conflict with the Romans, and therefore you get the tax scriptures that you point out. Furthermore, God is not asking Jesus to overthrow the government or insight a rebellion against the Romans. This does not mean that he is apolitical, but we’ll get to that later. The point is He has a job and he does that job.

Point 2 – pay your taxes passages. Mark 12: 13-17. This is an awesome bit here, but you’re missing the point. He is not saying the Romans deserve their tribute or that the Romans are justified, or that the oppressed should do nothing in the face of injustice. What he is saying is don’t get yourself killed or thrown in jail over something as small as paying your taxes. (and remember this question is put to Jesus as a way to bait him into making a mistake.) Since money really isn’t important to those who dwell in the kingdom of heaven, then it really makes no sense to get into a dispute over this. Winning or losing will have no bearing on your soul. Those who dwell outside the kingdom of heaven don’t understand this. They are too busy trying to serve two masters.

Matthew 17: 24-27. Again, the article misses the point of Jesus’s teaching. It’s basically the same thing as the “give unto Caesar passage;” Jesus is teaching how one should relate to God, not to political issues. True, He is presented with a political question, but He doesn’t speak to that; instead He turns this into a spiritual lesson. He tells Peter to… go fish!? Huh? Remember, now that Peter is a disciple, he is a “fisher of men”, of conscience. He is telling Peter to do God’s work and God will provide for your financial need. The message here is not political, it’s spiritual.

(I would also like to point out that the occupy movement is not against taxes; that’s the tea party.)

The last few points of the article only serve to illustrate that Jesus would not have agreed with certain individuals who do participate in the protests. Big deal, I don’t agree with using violence either. It is a logical fallacy to fault the entire movement based on the views of a few supporters. The Occupy movement is not about destroying dissent. In a democracy there are many voices. The movement acknowledges that and seeks to work with those voices, not to silence them.

I agree that in Matthew 19:13-30 Jesus is not advocating for forced redistribution of wealth, but neither is the occupy movement. The protesters have pointed out that income inequality is bad for society, democracy and the economy. Are you are saying that raising taxes on the rich or closing tax loopholes is a forced redistribution? Then wouldn’t lowering the taxes on the rich (from where they were in the 50’s and 60’s) also be a forced redistribution? And how do you defend the argument that we already live in a socialist state only that instead of favoring equality for the people, it favors corporations and the super rich? Corporate welfare state.

Now let’s get to the positive side of the argument.

Notice how when Jesus is asked a spiritual question, he replies with a parable? He replies with a story that is entirely contained within the mundane or ordinary world of everyday people. And when he is asked a question of mundane or worldly concern, he instead uses it to teach a spiritual lesson and takes no position on the mundane? Instead of answering directly (as his opponents would wish of him regarding Caesar’s taxes), he answers in such a way that the listener must carefully consider the words. The listener must engage and wrestle with the truth. This serves many purposes: 1. The truth is not self-evident, but can only be discovered through an examination of one’s values and assumptions. In other words Jesus is not giving man a fish (the truth), he is teaching man to fish (to find the truth). 2. His teachings are impressionable and easy to remember (ie this is an oral tradition). 3. His enemies have a harder time trying to pin him down. They want him to take a specific political position, in the same way that detractors and the media want the occupy movement to make demands.

OK. Now here’s the point I want to make: Jesus had enemies. Right? You know it. I know it. We all know it. Also, these enemies where politically empowered. Remember how they killed him? They used the “lawful” political system to do it. Now, ask yourself this, if Jesus was not political, then why did he have such strong, well-connected enemies? If Jesus did not threaten the status quo, why should they care about his life and death?

You’re not going to find a political treatise in the Bible, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t politics in there. Jesus doesn’t lecture on or teach politics, but as anyone with half a brain will tell you, the values you hold (including religious beliefs) inform your political beliefs and Jesus is no exception to this rule. If you want to know what His political position is, you have to first know what He teaches. i.e. read the gospels.

Here’s a good one, Matthew 19: 16-30

So here we have someone who has followed the Ten Commandments and yet, is still unsatisfied. Despite his fealty to the law, something is missing; he does not yet have “eternal life”, he cannot enter the “kingdom of heaven”. Why?

The Master tells him, but he does not like the Master’s answer. (And neither does the 1%, nor the fools who support the 1%.)

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdomof God.

Although Jesus is not advocating for a “forced” redistribution of wealth, it’s obvious he is asking for the wealthy to give it up. Why? See, among many, many other passages Matthew 6: 19-34

(Back to Matt19:25)

This story is not over yet. Look how his disciples respond with a lack of faith, “Who then can be saved?” They can’t believe that Jesus would ask such a thing. And Peter asks further, what about us? What is our reward?

Notice how the Master wraps it up with this final line, the great reversal…

But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.

Even though Peter has been following Jesus since the beginning of his ministry, (and is arguably first or second in-line behind Him) he still has to ask, what’s in it for me? Really? This shows the Master that his disciple still doesn’t understand the kingdom of God.

And this is precisely the problem with America today. How long have we been a “Christian” nation, and yet everyone is still asking “what’s in it for me”. These are the people who shall be last to enter into the kingdom. You want to argue that by raising taxes on the super wealthy and closing corporate loopholes that this is advancing a socialist agenda and will destroy the competitive element of capitalism?  But I say to you, the demand for excessive reward is Mammon worship. Where is our social responsibility? Where is our goodwill and brotherhood toward our fellow citizens? Why is asking the government to do this any different from asking an individual to do this? Shouldn’t the government serve the will of the people?

I’m sure Jesus would challenge the protesters (to be better), but who really knows, right? What we do know is that things that Occupy is protesting against are the same things that Jesus denounced… greed, materialism, corruption, lack of compassion, etc.

Don’t Worry – Luke 12:22-34

The things that you worry and stress about can be quite revealing if you take the time to consider it. Do you worry about your investments? your job? your house? These are trying times. And these do seem like more noble, responsible things to worry about than say your hair, or your child’s fashion. But what is your job, your house to God? What do these things matter to the dead?

I like that quote attributed to Gandhi… “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

That sums it up for me. I would never call myself a Christian, because I do no like the institution it has become. However, I would call myself a Christ-follower.

That said, here’s a great article called “Don’t Worry” that discusses Luke 12:22-34. And this is a timely message for me in particular with all the stress I have in my life right now. It really drives home the point that my heart is not in the right place.