Saturday, September 25, 2010

Bible Study #1

There is a curious notion prevalent these days. It’s the notion that both Judaism and Christianity were always the great monolithic belief structures that they are today: that the basic core beliefs of those religions were divinely revealed early on, and therefore present in those religions from that moment onward. And that those core beliefs, and the situations in which they came into being, are written down in Bible pretty much exactly as they happened. And that nothing much has changed except for people’s “unfaithfulness” to those beliefs and the struggles of various prophets to bring the people back into line. With regard to the Old Testament, many people seem to think that Moses sat down to take dictation one day, writing out the first five books of the Old Testament known as the Pentateuch. With regard to the New Testament, people seems to think that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were following Jesus around taking shorthand.

Oh, I know not every Christian or Jew believes that; but many do. But it’s simply not true. Both of these religions developed over time, adding and expanding concepts because that’s how things work. Biblical scholars have identified no less than five different “author voices” in the Old Testament; these voices have been labeled J, E, D, P & R. More about this in another post.

Within the first two chapters of the Book of Genesis there are two different stories of the creation of humankind. The first account is found in Genesis 1:26-27:

Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. (26) So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. (27).

Please note the use of the plural terms—us, our, and them—which I have rendered in bold text. Although this is not so in the first part of verse 27, in general, the verse seems to indicate that the voice (i.e. God) that is speaking is talking to someone—someone who is going to help in the job to be done—and that the “man” to be created is plural as well.
Male and female created he them.

The second account of humankind’s creation is found in Genesis 2:7 to 2:22. In this scenario, the Lord God creates Adam from the dust of the ground and breathes life into him.

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living soul.

Later, he decides man needs a “helpmeet,” and after none of the newly created animals fill the bill, God casts Adam into a deep sleep, removes one of his ribs, and makes a woman from it.

And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; (21) And the rib, which he Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. (22)

This account differs from the first in that the “Lord God” is a singular entity who creates the male first and the female secondarily. This is the account that has been used ever since to justify the position that women are inferior beings and subject to men.

In the next chapter of Genesis, Adam names his wife Eve, “because she was the mother of all living.” It should be noted that the word
Adam means "earth, clay," and that Eve means "life."

Why these differing accounts? Well, as previously mentioned, biblical scholars have identified at least five different “author voices” in the Old Testament, writing at various times hundreds of years apart. These early chapters of Genesis give evidence of that. In addition, by the time these stories were written down, the people calling themselves Hebrew had incorporated into their culture influences from Egypt, Babylonia, Persia, and the surrounding Canaanite culture. The scriptural texts written and edited over hundreds of years reflect this.

There are traces of both Sumerian and Egyptian myth in this story. The god Enki and goddess Ninhursag (also known as Nintu or Ninti) created humans using clay and blood. Later, their daughter Ninti, whose name means “Lady of the Rib,” heals Enki’s injured rib, thus giving him new life—a sort of echo of the much later Hebrew myth later wherein Eve is created/given life from Adam’s rib. In Egypt it was the potter god, Khnum, who made humans using clay (and his potter’s wheel) and breathing the breath of life into them—just as the Lord God created Adam from the dust of the earth and breathed life into him. 

Clay/dust/earth and the breath of life....In a sense, Eve, whose name means Life, is the form the animating spirit of God takes when it enters into the dust of the earth. Eve is the life that is breathed into the sculpted dust that is Adamwho, both legends and Kaballah say, contained both male and female essences and energies within "his" earthen body. 

Thus Eve IS the mother of all living, because if it weren’t for Eve the human entity would be incomplete—without breath and therefore not “alive;” a hermaphroditic physical form incapable of reproducing itself and thereby continuing Life.