Even though I have a lot to study for exams, right now I have some time to explore the beginning. Part of this was prompted by recent declarations that Christians who read a love-based faith from the Bible are all wrong, terrible, false believers who don’t understand the true nature of God. Well, I am going to explore my assessment of God as merciful by taking words straight from His Good Book, hopefully as objectively as I can. I am not fluent in Greek or Hebrew or anything like that, but I will have faith that God has guided sufficiently accurate translations of His Word. I will also be using the (gasp) New International Version for my studies. I know, I know, the King James Version, written a thousand and so years after Christ is the “real” gospel, right? I don’t have a problem with the KJV and may use it when I take quotes because the language is beautiful, but I must admit that even though I read Shakespeare in high school and apparently comprehended it well enough to get good marks on my essays, my understanding of Old English can still be rocky. I would like to not have any confusion while I’m doing my studies, so there.
So the book of Genesis, starting from the beginning, chapters 1-3. I must admit when I first started reading Genesis I cringed a little bit, because I was always taught that the universe was created in a certain order and the book of Genesis seemed to conflict with that. That was before I realized that God is not a temporal being, so order wouldn’t mean a thing to Him; He is the First and the Last, after all – He knows and planned all things from beginning to end. The universe may seem like it was created in a somewhat orderly fashion to us, but to God there wouldn’t be any difference between the first second of the Big Bang and the time the moon was created. Why we would confine God – a non-temporal being – to our understanding of time is a bit amusing to say the least. Thinking about it like that, I have no problem with the order of creation as it occurs in the Bible. It also makes me consider – what if the person writing the book of Genesis was told by God about atoms and explosions, about how the moon was – according to current estimates – created by a rock smashing into earth and the resulting debris circling around it and gathering together due to gravity? Can you imagine how confused the poor guy would be? He might not even have the courage to write at all and prefer to just wallow under a rock for the rest of his life muddling over the grand revelations of creation he heard, wondering if he’d gone mad. We hear stories about how much conflict occurred over even minor developments in the study of science – how much more would occur because of one man’s details of the entirety of creation! There he is with his culture’s simpler understanding of the world, and now he has to spend years dictating how the universe was built in a way that would make no sense to him whatsoever? You can see even here God’s mercy at work, sparing the soul so that he only had to write two short books on this subject! In any case, the creation story as told in Genesis is no less poetic and beautiful than watching a documentary on the “real thing.” Actually, I like it much better that I don’t have to hear it in Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s voice. The guy’s arrogance gives me migraines. Another display of God’s mercy at work.
Now, after everything else was created, God produces man “from the dust.” Again, I don’t see a problem with this description, considering all of the atoms and molecules that exist in our dirt, when combined and reacted in a specific way, especially in the hands of, you know, the Creator of atoms and molecules Himself, could easily create a human being. After all, didn’t scientists discover that we share 50% of our DNA with bananas? Sounds like small peas for God to work with. Moving on. We see that God’s only commandments for His creation is to be fruitful and multiply, and for Adam to take care of the earth and all its animals. God even lets Adam give names to all of His creatures, which is actually a great honor if you think about it. “Here, I made this for you using methods that would mash your brain if you tried to understand it all now, but I want to know how you would like to call it so that it would be easier for you.” How sweet.
The most surprising thing to me when reading Genesis is that God creates a “helper” for Adam, because “It is not good that man should be alone.” One would think that Adam isn’t really alone. He has God, right? He gets to walk with his Creator in a beautiful garden. And he has all of God’s creatures to keep him company as well. But God still thinks it is not right that Adam should be alone, that he should have another person that he can relate to, since he is not a god himself. God also believes that this person should be different – of the same kind and flesh and bone, but still different, in order to help Adam in a meaningful way. And so woman was created. And God gives them a new commandment, that like the animals they should also “be fruitful and multiply.” Care for the beautiful garden and all the interesting animals, make lots of children, and walk with their loving Maker in the cool of the day. How beautiful is that! And the garden isn’t even that difficult to take care of, because only after the Fall are there thistles and thorns, and only then will Adam actually break a sweat (Genesis 3:18-19). Multiplying is also not difficult, because at this time Eve wouldn’t have birthing pains to contend with. So all they have to do is make love and just pop out babies no sweat. Sweet! So this is all that man and woman have to deal with. Why do people think God is cruel, again? And why do some Christians think God is all no fun? They can’t be getting that from the Bible, right? Hmmm…
And, at the end of Genesis 2, we learn that Adam and Eve are actually naked, but they feel no shame. You would think this is kind of scandalous, no? But after all, Adam and Eve don’t know good and evil. They don’t know that being naked might be bad because they don’t know what lust is, and without lust I guess nakedness isn’t really a bad thing. What you don’t know can’t hurt you, right? Nakedness is also symbolic of openness. They have no secrets to hide, no trouble to deal with, and no shame. If they feel no shame, then God must not be shaming them.
There is only one condition to their peaceful paradise: that they must not eat from the tree of knowledge. To be clear, it is the tree of knowledge of good and evil – the tree of moral wisdom. I doubt that God was preventing them from learning about His creation. He probably would have delighted in answering their questions or humoring them by making them think about it. Anyway, they can eat all of the other tasty fruits that God created, but not the tree of knowledge, for if they even touch that fruit, they will “die.” Die? How would they die? I’m guessing because human brains are too small to really understand the implications and consequences of evil, so if they knew it, there wouldn’t be any way that they could not perform evil, because they just don’t know what to do about wrong and right or what happens when you do wrong; the temptation would be too great. God couldn’t create mini gods with infinite knowledge of the consequences of evil, because it’s not possible to create someone with infinite knowledge, for they would have to infinitely exist as well, and if they infinitely exist, then they wouldn’t have to be created because they would already be there… I’ve done math with infinities, and I know you can’t divide infinity by infinity. So, God understands that humans cannot handle knowledge of good and evil, because there is no way they would be able to make the right decisions all the time, and so they would “die” by not being at peace with Him, as He is the One Who gives them life. And He doesn’t want His beloved, made in His image, to hurt each other when they know what evil is.
So why is the tree there? Because God knows He has to give the humans a choice. They can choose to love Him and follow His simple commandments (made simple precisely because they don’t know all of good and evil), or they can choose not to. He cannot force their love, as much as He knows how much the lack of it will hurt them, because true love can only be given by choice. So He wants His beloved to love Him freely, not forcefully. And that is why the tree is there, to give them choice. Notice as well that the tree of life is also there. I have to wonder if the humans could have eaten from that tree instead. Would choosing to eat from the tree of life rather than the tree of knowledge ensure that they would be at peace with God forever? Would the tree of knowledge no longer exist after they chose to eat from the tree of life? After all, God only said they couldn’t eat from the tree of knowledge, but He said nothing about eating from the tree of life. Questions, questions. Don’t quote me on any of this, by the way – I have a lot of questions, but I don’t have the answers. That’s kind of why I’m reading the Bible to search for them, but I know my questions will never cease, and this is actually comforting as a student.
Now, unfortunately, the humans were tricked by Satan into eating from the tree of knowledge. I wonder if this was inevitable, if not for Adam and Eve then for their children, and then their children’s children…If it wasn’t inevitable, then God surely would have created a world in which Adam and Eve made the right choice. But perhaps in giving them complete freedom then they would have made the wrong choice simply without really understanding the implications, for if they understood the implications, then they would understand what evil is, and then they would already be spiritually dead. Of course God would have wanted them to make the right choice, because He hates all evil, but I wonder if this speaks to just how much freedom God gave Adam and Eve in their choice. Questions, questions.
“You will not certainly die,” the infamous serpent hisses, “for God knows that when you eat from [the fruit] your eyes will be open, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Ah, ‘like’ God, but not truly as God, for they will have the knowledge without any of the power to resist the evil that they know, as only God in His infinite wisdom and love is capable. In any case, this is a damned lie, because after eating from the fruit Adam and Eve can no longer live forever in paradise, so they will die, and their children will die as well, and their children’s children, and each generation will be ripe with spiritual and physical death and decay. Being unable to understand the consequences of their actions, however, Adam and Eve ate of the fruit. And so evil was introduced into the world.
After eating from the fruit, Adam and Eve were ashamed that they were naked, and tried to sew together fig leaves and hide in the garden to shield themselves. Now they are afraid that God will see their nakedness and their betrayal. God already knows this happened, of course, but still He asks them, “Where are you? Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” He already knows the answer, but He wants to hear it straight from them. Can you imagine how painful it must be for God to know that thousands of generations of His creation will suffer because of this? And yet still the respectful questions, still the demand for honesty. He could have exposed them and declared them naked and cursed them on the spot, but He asks them questions first. It’s almost like He’s asking, “Why didn’t you trust Me?” It’s certainly a very convicting question.
Then comes the blame game that continues to this day. “This woman you put here with me,” Adam starts, “she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Already we see the accusations of being a temptress that will later plague women in the church.
Now, God could have already went ahead and accused the woman of being responsible for the betrayal, but He knows that both of them are culpable – Adam could have refused the fruit, so he’s no better off than his wife. And so He continues to ask questions. “What is this you have done?” And you know how the rest of the conversation goes. Adam and Eve are banned from the garden; Eve is doomed to birthing pains and being ruled over by her husband (I feel like this is not so much a punishment from God but the natural progression of things, as many husbands might subconsciously/spiritually blame their wives and insist that their way is right because “After all, you ’caused’ the Fall!”); Adam is doomed to toil and sweat for food from the ground and, really, the whole ground is cursed because of him; they will both eventually die; the serpent is cursed to be an enemy of man.
And so is the Fall of Mankind, which continues to this day. But already we see the beginnings of God’s plan to fix things. Notice that He could have just killed Adam and Eve on the spot and started over with another, possibly more faithful lot, but instead He lets them live (at least temporarily) and continue to multiply, and not only that, He gives them proper clothes to cover themselves with! This seems to be symbolic of Jesus Christ covering man’s sins with His own skin, flesh, and blood. God’s plan for reconciliation is already in action. However, man will not be allowed to eat of the tree of life, because imagine if the harbingers of such evil and destruction would live forever to continue their misdeeds! That would be quite the conundrum, so God fiercely guards the garden such that this cannot happen. People can no longer live eternal life in peace unless they once again return to faith in God. To be continued…
That’s it for today’s dissection. If you have any problems with the way I read these chapters, feel free to discuss it with me in the comments! I am still learning, after all.