bible blog 1618

Police protect elderly worshiper

Police protect elderly worshiper


GENESIS 3 (translated by Darby altered by me)

3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any animal of the field which Jehovah Elohim had made. And it said to the woman, Is it even so, that God has said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

2 And the woman said to the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, God has said, You shall not eat of it, and y0u shall not touch it, lest you die.

4 And the serpent said to the woman, Certainly you will not die;

5 but God knows that in the day you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing everything.

6 And the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a pleasure for the eyes, and the tree was to be desired to give intelligence; and she took of its fruit, and ate, and gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.

7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig-leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

This is the point in the Genesis story where the human creatures become homo sapiens, that is, the same kind of humans as ourselves. Before this point, although they have intelligence, they are dependent on God and the generous arrangements God makes for their welfare.They eat the fruit because they want to live on their own terms, by their own knowledge, as beings who are “like God”. The right name for the tree is the the tree of the knowldege of eveything, “good and evil” being an expression like A to Z. The desire to know everything, the conviction that in principle everything can be known, is the engine of human progress, yet also the quality which makes humanity so dangerous, in that it is capable of actions whose consequences it is not wise enough to predict. Its creation of global warming is one case in point, as is its commitment to violence as a way of solving problems. 

The snake, which is after all just a personification of human arrogance, suggests that they will be “like God, knowing everything.” The Genesis editor, who stitched all the Genesis stories together, would have seen at this point an interesting connection with Genesis Chapter 1, in which human beings are created in God’s likeness. They are already made by God to be like God! These human beings however, want autonomy and see knowledge as the key to it; for knowledge is power.

snakeThe strory is briefly but beautifully told, in a folk-tale mode (remember, this is a talking snake with legs!), in which the woman shows herself to be bolder than the man and more ready to defy the rules. She wants to eat for perfectly sensible reasons:

a) it’s good food, b) it also looks good c) it gives intelligence.

The fact that she can make these judgements is a sign that she need not remain dependent on God and is capable of taking her own decisions. For most of Christian history theologians have seen this a “the fall of humanity” and the eating of the fruit as the original sin. Without doubt that is a Christian view of the story as neither the Hebrew bible nor its Jewish interpreters had ever taken that view. Of course, in the story, this is the first act of disobedience, which as we shall see forces God into instituting Creation Plan B, and pitches humanity into the kind of world we know only too well. It is a wise, sober and witty account of what human beings are like. 

“God” as imagined by the storyteller, has to take some responsibility for the consequences of his project. He, after all, has made these beings to be different from and superior to the animals.

The story immediately hints that the results of this human decision may not be all as they had imagined, by telling the reader that “they knew that they were naked”. As we have been told before that they were naked and felt no shame, we must assume that they now feel shame. Somehow they have become conscious of their own sexual desire and of their bodies as sexual instruments, and realise that these should be concealed. It’s almost as if, although there are no other humans around, tnat they have become social beings whio might be seen by others. Again many scholars, especially modern ones have interpreted this detail as a decline from primally innocent sexuality. Probably that says more about them than about this passage which is simply describing an ordinary element in human sexual awareness.

The author is gradually describing the development of creatures capable of going thousands of miles to help Ebola sufferers; but also capable of killing journalists because of a difference of opinion.

Mark 2 Darby Translation (DARBY)

2 And he entered again into Capernaum after several days, and it was reported that he was at home;

2 and straightaway many were gathered together, so that there was no longer any room, not even at the door; and he spoke the word to them.

3 And there come to him men bringing a paralytised man, carried by four;

4 and, not being able to get near to him on account of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where he was, and having dug it up they let down the couch on which the paralysed man lay.

5 But Jesus, seeing their faith, says to the paralysed man, Child, your sins are forgiven.

6 But certain of the scribes were there sitting, and reasoning in their hearts,

7 Why does this man speak so? he blasphemes. Who is able to forgive sins except God alone?

8 And straightaway Jesus, knowing in his spirit that they are reasoning this way within themselves, said to them, Why reason these things in your hearts?

9 Which is easier, to say to the paralysed man, sins are forgiven; or to say, Arise, and take up your bed and walk?

10 But that you may know that the Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins – he says to the paralysed man-

11 I say to you, Arise, take up your bed and go to your house.

12 And he rose up straightaway, and, having taken up his bed, went out before them all, so that all were amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw anything like this.

model of Capernaum houses in Jesus' time

model of Capernaum houses in Jesus’ time

This another of Mark’s stories which illustrate the “glad tidings” which Jesus brings. “At home” is the natural translation in the first verse. It’s quite probable that Jesus had a house in Capernaum. Immediately this house is besieged because he, the bringer of God’s goodness, is there. Jesus never touts for an audience; people seek him out, as here, and he “teaches”, that is, announces God’s goodness available to them. The house is being used as a “house of God”.

The story emphasises a sense of shared trust in Jesus; the paralysed man is assisted by his friends, who recognising the presence of God’s goodness, break intio the house through the turf roofing, to bring their friend to Jesus’ feet. Jesus recognises the urgency of their faith. Again Mark shifts to the present tense for the words of Jesus, which he wants the reader to hear also, “Child, your sins are forgiven!” – surely a bizarre response to paralysis. In fact Jesus is removing any obstacle between the paralysed man and God’s goodness. He can be completely open to the God of glad tidings. 

But this announcement of God’s forgiveness disturbs the religious leaders who control access to God. To them this is outrageous. If anyone can announce God’s forgiveness, who’ll come to church? So they accuse Jesus of blasphemy, which is still a popular accusation of religious thugs everywhere.

Jesus picks up their accusation. He indicates that announcing forgiveness and commanding health are one and same, as both open the person to the goodness of God. Here the two dimensions of Jesus’ ministry, teaching, which announces God’s goodness, and healing, which applies it, are united. The people understand what’s happened because they go out “gloryfying God” not Jesus.

Again Mark trusts the reader to see that Jesus puts himself at risk to communicate God’s goodness, (blasphemy is the charge that will bring him to the cross)  and that he channels God’s resurrection life in his word of healing, “Arise!”

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