bible blog 1623 with God cartoon in response to recent events


Whole villages destroyed and villagers killed "every form of their heart's planning was only evil all the day"

Whole villages destroyed and villagers killed
“every form of their heart’s planning was only evil all the day”

This blog gives a meditation on the Book of Genesis and the Gospel of Mark. Today I will quote from a radical translation of Genesis”The Five Books of Moses” by Everett Fox, (Schocken Books) which gives a vivid imitation of the Hebrew text.


Now it was when humans first became many on the face of the earth

and women were born to them

that the divine beings saw how beautiful the human women were

so they took themselves wives, whoever they chose.

YHWH said:

My rushing-spirit shall not remain in humankind for ages, for they too are flesh,

let their days be then a hundred and twenty years!

The giants were on the earth in those days, and afterward as well

when the divine beings came in to the human women, and

they bore them children-they were the heroes of former ages, men of name.

And YHWH saw

that great was humankind’s evildoing on earth

and every form of their heart’s planning was only evil all the day.

Then YHWH was sorry

that he had made humankind on earth,

and it pained his heart.

YHWH said:

I will blot out humankind whom I have created, from the face of the soil;

From man to beast, to crawling thing and the birds of the air

for I am sorry that I made them.

But Noah found favour in the eyes of YHWH.

The lines in this translation do not indicate poetry but rather the kind of phrasing which would be used by someone reading it aloud, as the author expected. YHWH is the four consonants of the name of God which most hebrew readers would not have spoken.

There are two stages noted here in the corruption of humankind: firstly the sexual shenanigans between the divine beings and human women; and secondly the total absence of goodness from the human heart. The first of these has aroused much speculation by scholars, but it seems clear that the author reckoned on the existence of divine beings outside the control of YHWH. Divine  human sex is a common theme in most ancient literature, but not in te Bible.Here the danger seems to be that the offspring of these liaisons would be even more unruly that ordinary humans so YHWH limits the gift of the spirit of life to 120 years. Again the Genesis author shoes YHWH as unready to deal with events and having to make new plans as trouble brews. Again also, he shows human women as more active and daring than the men, not to mention being so beautiful as to tempt the Gods!

The second stage is eve more serious. God’s goodness is refused by human beings as noted in the devastating summary:

“every form of their heart’s planning was only evil all the day.”. We can understand YHWH’s sorrow and pain, but perhaps not grasp the very subtle view of God expressed here and throughout the Genesis story. God has created a being whom he does not control. That’s what it means to bring a human being into the world, as every parent knows. This truth means that the “God” of Genesis is much stranger, than the Christian tradition has admitted. This God’s creative impulse is (temporarily) baffled and turns towards destruction. What God sees is no longer “good”; therefore it all must go. If this seems a pretty bad deal for the blameless animals birds, fish and reptiles of the earth, we can perhaps see it as a comprehensive withdrawal of God’s creative spirit rather than mass murder. 

augustineEven as the author notes the destructive intention of God, he also notes that it will not be comprehensive since Noah has “found favour with YHWH.” From minute to minute God’s intention changes in response to changing circumstance. This is a very undignified God, almost as undignified indeed as the God depicted by Jesus of Nazareth in his story of the father so daft with love for his younger son that he forgives him anything. Every chapter we read reminds us that Genesis offers us a profound and relevant picture of God.


7 And Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea; and a great multitude from Galilee followed him, and from Judaea,

8 and from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea and beyond the Jordan; and from around Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, having heard what things he did, came to him.

9 And he spoke to his disciples, that a little ship should be made ready for him on account of the crowd, that they might not press upon him.

10 For he healed many, so that those who had diseases surrounded him to touch him,

11 And the unclean spirits, when they beheld him, fell down before him, and cried saying, You are the Son of God.

12 And he rebuked them firmly, that they might not make him manifest.

I think this is the picture which hung in my Sunday School

I think this is the picture which hung in my Sunday School

I said in my blog yesterday that Mark depicts Jesus as an explosion of life, and here in this passage he paints a picture of mass hysteria, with a huge crowd, including foreigners, surrounding him and demanding miracles, while people possessed by evil spirits scream his secret name. If I am right in thinking that the tradition of Jesus as a charismatic healer reflects historical fact, doubtless such scenes occurred. The vivid detail about the little boat may be a small fact embedded in the tradition which Mark received. He may also have invented it in his desire to find an mage that expressed his sense of Jesus as a life-giving bodily presence, a physical locus of God’s goodness in the midst of the world. Those people whose hands stretch out towards the figure on the boat, they are not of the comfortable classes of the world nor of religious searchers; they are of the sick, the mad, the poor and the desperate, who know that words and philosophies are no help, for only flesh can rescue flesh.

The spirit – possessed people identify Jesus as “Son of God” that is, as The Messiah, and Mark is consistent in reporting that Jesus commanded their silence, refusing to accept this title publicly. The reader knows from Mark’s opening scene that God has already acknowledged Jesus as his dear son. Mark tells the reader that this remains a private experience of Jesus, shared only with his closest disciples, until it becomes a public announcement by the centurion who has watched him die.

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