Following the King & I project: Genesis 11-13

The current bible reading is Genesis 11-13 – Babbling about Sex, Lies and… Cattle?

I’m so happy that I’m going along with this project, because I just learned a new word when reading the the Tower of Babel story: etiology. I’ve been using the term “ethnic cheerleading,” but etiology is a much better description of these stories.

I have often wondered whether Neal Stephenson’s explanation of about the Tower of Babel story was correct. In Snow Crash, one of Stephenson’s characters described the tower as not being tall (“let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven”, 11:4), but as a tribute to other gods in the heavens. Rather than reaching to sky literally but a figurative reach via astrology and other god worship. Wikipedia and other sites mention the Great Ziggurat of Babylon and Marduk worship, and this seems reasonable to me.

Several people have commented over on the King & I site that the book so far seems more about obeying God without question than anything else. And it does seem like a long list of do-as-I-say-or-else stories.

What to make of chapter 12? Abraham lies to Pharaoh that Sarah is his sister, but Pharaoh and other Egyptians are the ones punished when Pharaoh takes a shine to Sarah? I don’t see any way to look at this story and have it make sense.

Chapter 13 ends with what I have heard Robert M Price call a land-grant myth (13:14-17). “No, seriously, our god gave us the deed to this a really long time ago. Sure, it was a verbal agreement, but it’s ours nonetheless. So all you squatters if you’re not packing now, we’ll send you packing.”

Following the King & I project: Genesis 8-10

The current bible reading is Genesis 8-10 – A Fresh Start for Man?

The Noah flood story began in the earlier reading and finishes up in this one. Here is a place where I must separate myself from other skeptics and atheists. I have often heard a condemnation of this story as brutal and repulsive, and if it is considered as a literal story then I think that’s sensible. Upon encountering someone who accepted the story as fact, history, and a claim to God’s goodness, I would be compelled to point out to that person the massive numbers of human deaths and the grimness of innocent animals dying when they had done no wrong.

But as a piece of mythic storytelling, the Noah flood story works. It’s no different than any other piece of mythology or legend from the ancient world. Go read the Greek and Roman legends and myths, and you’ll see that there is little difference between the savagery there and that found in the Bible. So, why not the damnation of the Greek myths from skeptics and atheists? I can only imagine that it’s because we don’t have people claiming them as history, so we treat them like the mythology that they are. We see them as another piece of ancient storytelling and we accept their violence and idiosyncrasies for the ancient literature that they are. So I must separate myself from the skeptics and atheists who universally denounce the story, and can only agree with them when encountering those who would claim the Noah flood to be a historical event and a demonstration of God’s love.

At the end of chapter 9, Ham sees Noah naked and his descendants, the Canaanites, are forever cursed. This looks like more ethnic cheerleading to me. “Look, those Canaanites are a rotten bunch of SOBs and deserve everything they get because they screwed up and were cursed a long time ago.” As a literal story it makes little sense, but as a big “screw you!” to another ethnic group it makes sense within human nature.

Remember when I posted that there were lots more lists of the patriarchs to come? Chapter 10 fulfills that promise! There’s not much to say about this, but I did learn that Nimrod was “was a mighty hunter before the LORD” (10:9) So he was, was he?

Following the King & I project: Genesis 4-7

I can finally post on Blogger, so I can participate with the group! For some reason, it won’t let me post when using Firefox. If I log in with Opera, it works.* But, no sense it letting things go to waste here as a blog comment sometimes isn’t enough room to really dig in.

The current bible reading is Genesis 4-7 Adam and Eve Start a Family
This section includes:

  • Cain killing Abel

  • A relatively short list of the patriarchs – (Get used to it. There’s a lot more to come.)

  • Noah and the early part of the flood story

I had often wondered why God rejected Cain’s offerings (4:5) but accepted Abel’s (4:4). As a literal story, it doesn’t make sense. And the it-fortells-Jesus! argument (blood sacrifice) is weak at its best. Ditching the literal story and seeing it as ethnic cheerleading makes a lot more sense. “Those farmers from other cultures aren’t worthy of our god, but we animal herder’s have it all figured out.” A story that never made sense to me in my youth actually lines up, now.

I posted this in the K&I comment, but I wondered about the sons of God mentioned in 6:5. Is there a clue to this in 4:1? When Eve delivers Cain, she says that the has “gotten a man from the LORD.” Not from Adam, but from the Lord. Does this mean that Cain’s children (Sons of God) are marrying Seth’s children (men’s daughters), and this mixing is what is angering God? Is this another piece of ethnic cheerleading?

The beginning of the Noah story is in this one, but I’ll save comments for the next reading.

* (What’s going on, Google? Some kind of anti-Firefox, pro-Chrome nonsense? Nah, probably just some crazy javascript behavior. I’ve seen different sites act weirdly before, so I’ll just log in with Opera for now.)

Following the King & I project: Genesis 1-3

Project: The King and I is an interesting project to read the entire KJV bible in a year and comment on it. I heard about this over on Skepchick, and it looks like fun. Unfortunately, I’ve been trying to post on the site but nothing will go through. I still want to participate, so I guess I’ll have to do it here. Which is fine. It’s long past time to dust off the old blog.

I’ll be reading from the KJV version (free!) just like the project says, but I plan on supplementing it with the World English Bible (also free!) and whatever else I have lying around the house or find on the web. I might also supplement with the Jewish Study Bible if I can find one at a good price. I’ll be sure to note whenever doing so.

So, on with the first day of this, Genesis 1-3 In the beginning…

The Lord tells Adam (because he hasn’t created Eve yet):
Genesis 2:16-17

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of
the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

But the serpent explains to Eve a bit later:
Genesis 3:4-5

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

Wait just a second, here. God only says in the earlier passage that eating from the tree will cause death. But Eve seems pretty confident that merely touching the fruit is deadly. Where would she get such an idea? It’s unlikely that the Lord would get this wrong since it’s all his, and nothing is written about him saying anything to Eve. It’s also unlikely that the serpent originally told her that, since he’s telling her something different now. So unless Mr. Ed was hanging out in the garden, I can only assume that Adam told her this big fat lie.

So, Eve holds the fruit and doesn’t die. And why wouldn’t she then take a bite when the first of the threats doesn’t come true? It makes sense to me that she would go ahead when half the warning is so obviously false. So, for any of you idiots out there who want to blame all of this on Eve or the serpent or women in general, none of it would have happened if Adam wouldn’t have been such a huge liar.

Genesis 3:14:

And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life

So, only now the serpent is going to crawl on the ground? This is a new condition? That’s sure how it appears to me. What was he doing before the punishment? The explanation I have heard is that the serpent is actually Nehushtan, who was one of the gods who the originally polytheistic tribes worshiped. And Nehushtan was sometimes pictured with wings, which gives the grounding some sense.

The story as told in chapter 3 is a way to write him out of the book and out of the temple. Nehushtan couldn’t simply be ignored, as he would have been in the minds of the worshipers of the time. But, if he could be shown to be a bad guy who didn’t deserve to be part of the temple practices, then his worship could be stamped out with good reason.

If the above is true, then the original writers were not referring to Satan. That’s just a late interpretation added over the text. Satan doesn’t appear until later.

Updating the outbound links

Just got finished doing some pruning on the outbound links. There were quite a few sites which were putting out some well crafted reviews when this site began, but have since disappeared. No sense in keeping the links if there isn’t anything on the other end.

A couple new ones have been added. There are links for my local comic shop, Elite Comics. If you’re in the Kansas City area, this is the shop that you need to visit. Most shops that carry comics are a horrible goulash of games, sports cards, and toys, with a few comics sprinkled in. Which means it’s a shop that does a whole lot of things, but none of them with any competence. Elite Comics has dropped all that other rubbish and concentrates on comics, with a huge back-issue section and a large selection of new comics. It’s a great place and highly recommended.

Another link is for one of the regulars at Elite Comics, Justin Cline. Justin is publishing his novel at his site and has an ongoing series cataloging all of the little annoyances that should get folks their own ticket to hell. Check it out.