Genesis Revisited: Genesis Chapters 1-6
God, the Divine Lover, the Self-Sufficient One, the Infinite One, Omnipotent One, Omnipresent and Omniscient One, Elohim, the Creator, Owner of Heaven and Earth, wants for nothing and lacks nothing. God is complete.
Yet, God’s yearning to share the power of love knew no bounds. For love to be love, it must be expressed. God’s supernatural divine love is expressed in God Self.
But how to convey such profound concepts to us, when they are beyond human comprehension? As such we have no words and yet we have to use them. We are trying to define that which is beyond concepts and whatever words we use they limit and constrict our understanding.
Clearly, the problem is language, then and now, in naming un-nameable concepts and having to resort to human ideas which are not only imperfect but limited to time and culture. Once we accept this, we need not feel apprehensive about opening our mind to new concepts.
We can begin to read the biblical text afresh and allow new creative thoughts to emerge and take shape. We can even find new ways to describe God and what Genesis can convey beyond the traditional interpretation.
Genesis chapter one is the account of creation. The ideas it is conveying to us are immense and we are immediately cast into the role of interpreter. Those who wrote did the best they could but that’s only the beginning, not the end.
Toward the close of chapter one, we read simply, ‘male and female, created He them’. This confines the human species living in two fixed sexes and genders, depending upon our own mindset. Further, the interpretation, ‘created HE them’, immediately imposes onto the divine image, the creator, male sex.
Fast forward this to our twenty first century, and today’s preacher is doing her or his best to teach Genesis from an understanding of a Trinitarian God, limited to male imaging. So too, of today’s human modelling of female and male, woman and man, feminine and masculine images. These were originally borne out of the human experience of the translators and interpreters. Their language, a product of their cultural narrative, imposed upon them and their interpretive work, and also upon us.
Genesis chapter two is confusing as it appears a repeat, albeit in another version, of chapter one. Various documentary hypothesis such as J and P, for instance, have attempted to explain this as two written strands of the text from differing backgrounds being brought together. I am not following this line of thought in my commentary here.
Beginning in the latter verses in chapter two the idea of marriage being defined as the relationship between a woman and man has its biblical origins here. Chapter three describes the development of society, an ongoing evolution still relevant today.
When we read the bible, we have to bear in mind how far we have come with the development of Christianity and our understanding of God. It is easy to make the mistake of reading about the early biblical characters and forget that monotheism, for example, was not a given but rather, a developed concept. Abraham and Sarah did not have a developed theology about God any more than we do.
Early Arabia shows traces of female kinship and endogamous marriage. Sarah and Abraham lived in such a society. That society was not as deeply rooted in patriarchy as it is in ours today, with its gender inequality. Certainly not the patriarchal image of the family unit living together under a male head-of-house.
It is also critical we bear in mind the phenomenon of ‘translator’s bias’, particularly when reading the bible as a woman. This is also in relation to the position of women in early Arabian society. Once understood, such biases are detectable, influenced by the role of women in the translator’s own society.
The early decipherers of the bible could not step outside of the culture and society in which they lived any more than we can today. The problem we face is, that early bias has not been corrected. It is carried forward into today’s translations and commentaries.
However, recognising that we are constrained by both history and our own limited thinking will hopefully spur us on to question, examine, and consider. As believers we need the courage and energy to open our minds to new thoughts and concepts; to give time to allow our thinking, and thereby our understanding and believing, to change. Not only will our image of God expand but also the wonder of God’s relationship with us.
The Apostle Paul writing to the Church prays ‘…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3 17-19 The Bible).
We are limited to the time in which we live and the human modelling we have created by which we attempt to define spiritual concepts. We are squeezed and constrained by our own life experiences and our understanding of human relationships.
To the best of our ability let us not limit God. Let us pray Paul’s prayer above with him. Let us open our hearts and minds to learn more. Let us never get to the place where we believe we have arrived. There is so much more.
What can be known about God is perfectly plain to everyone, since God has given us a heads up by making it natural and ordinary through the creation. Ever since God created the world, God’s everlasting power and deity—however invisible—has been perfectly evident. Give a shout out to all those whose head is in the sand! All we have to do is use our imagination, for the mind to see in the things that God has made God’s undying never ending everlasting divine influence. (Romans 1:19-20 Paraphrase RBW).
Love and hugs albeit from a distance : )