γενήσομαι «ge-ney-soh-mey : i am becoming»
These are the chronicles of the esoteric . . .
reading genesis, part 1
Please note, this is the first post of a series.
I am a big advocate of reading the Bible properly.
Yes, I did say properly.
Of all the positive outcomes the Reformation had, there are a handful of problems that resulted.
Don't get me wrong, I think the Reformation was necessary—a necessary reaction against the way the Christian church was existing and operating, against the institutional and dominating empire it had become. However, there are always two sides to every coin, and there are more often than not both positive and negative consequences to any experience.
Here I want to focus on one thing in particular.
Scriptures were, for quite some time, left to those in religious power to interpret and administer. Only the religious elite had access to the Scriptures and only they had the education to read Latin—and the popular version of the time was the Vulgate, the Latin translation of the Hebrew. Thus, the common folk came to their bishops and priests to hear the Biblical story and they therefore often received teachings that were highly filtered by leaders who had their own agendas.
One of the things the Reformation sought to do was remove Scripture from the hands of the elite and place it into the hands of the people. Martin Luther's sola scriptura was a declaration that Scriptures alone were the authority for every believer. This was a direct critique of the ruling religious class—Luther was saying their interpretations weren't the final say on what the Bible was teaching. In fact, he believed many of the things the Church was teaching were misrepresentations of Scripture.
Thanks to Luther's tireless work and determination, a German translation of the Bible was produced and that finally gave the 'commoners' access to Scripture themselves, and they therefore didn't need the Church to regurgitate it for them. In effect, this served to decentralise the church's power.
The trickle effect of this, however, is it made everyone an expert. Giving everyone a Bible removed all of the nuanced reading of the texts because it allowed any and every person, regardless of their education and understanding, to interpret—nay, misinterpret—the Bible according to their own place in time.
In other words, with free access to the Scriptures common folk could read the texts and come to their own uneducated conclusions about what was being said by them or taught through them—anyone could read the Bible without guidance and therefore understand it from their own context as opposed to the contexts within which it was written.
And so we find ourselves where we are today, with Christian scholars needing to re-learn in the last century that Jesus was Jewish and therefore his teachings were steeped in Jewish theology.
And we find ourselves today needing to rethink Paul's theology toward women to see he was much more progressive than tradition has allowed.
And we find ourselves today arguing back-and-forth on the proper reading of the creation story.
Indeed, when we read the first few chapters of Genesis, we tend to do so through the lens of non-fiction. We have largely been trained to read the Bible as depicting nothing but straight-up history because we've been taught that the Bible is infallible and inerrant—that it is perfect and contains no errors—so we end up reading everything literally, as if the whole narrative is providing us with a play-by-play.
This however neglects the fact that the Bible is composed of different genres—and none of them are that of scientific hypotheses.
Despite our conditioning to read the creation stories as scientific fact, their widespread literal understanding is a somewhat recent phenomenon—and for some reason this is one of the hills Christians have chosen to die on.
But the creation stories were never meant to carry the burden of a literal reading.
So if the first few chapters of Genesis aren't to be read literally, how do we read them?
What do we do with Genesis? How should we approach it?
In the next post, I'm going to highlight a handful of things I think are important for everyone who reads Genesis. ✤
See the other parts of this series here:
☗ Reading Genesis, Pt 2: Genre
☗ Reading Genesis, Pt 3: Context
☗ Reading Genesis, Part 4: A Cosmic (Temple) Epilogue
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