Day Three: Genesis 7-9, Psalm 3, Matthew 3

Jotting my ideas as I read.

Gen 8:21b …”I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth…” NRSV

When I first read that this afternoon I thought what a fickle god because just two chapters previously I had read how disgusted God was with humanity. But as I typed it out, I realized my error. God never says humanity will go uncursed but that the **ground** is what will be uncursed.

Interesting! That Rabbinic version of Genesis describes how the unicorn survived the Flood.

Hmm… I note that no sooner do they get off the ark then Noah is killing one of every kind of the clean animals as a burnt offering. As he had only taken seven pairs of males and females, he reduced the breeding stock to six and half pairs so I trust he offered up males.

Reading the Rabbinic version… while I didn’t see the movie about Noah’s Ark that came out last year (I think), I did have the misfortune to see the trailer. I wonder if the screenwriter(s) read the Rabbinic version of the story?

It seems likely to me that there must have been some sort of catastrophe of epic proportions. There are flood stories in every cultures’ mythos. Heck, to this day I remember a scene from a movie I saw when I about six or seven of rushing water and sheep swirling in it. I have no idea what movie that was and if I have seen it since, that scene did make the same impression upon me. I have lived through some pretty violent storms but nothing like this one.

The Rabbi writes that the ark had three stories: top for people; second for critters; third for dung. Seriously? They didn’t toss the dung overboard?

Gen 9:4 I’ve thought this ironic… In Gen 1:29 and 30 it is clear that every creature, man, lions, tigers, all of them were vegetarians. But in Gen 9:3 and 4, after having saved all the creatures, all of a sudden God gives people permission to eat the animals as well as the plants, only not their blood. Save them and now it’s ok to eat them?

Gen 9:6 doesn’t make sense to me. If a person A spills the lifeblood of person B, then person A must lose his lifeblood because people are created in the image of God. I would have thought being created in the image of God was a reason for compassion, forgiveness, not vengeance. Wonder what the rabbi has to say? A lot about how men might die (4 ways) but none of them have anything to do with the image of God.

God’s bow… I have seen so many images of this as though it is supposed to reassure us of God’s love but I have always found it kinda scary because the only thing that is promised is that God will not again destroy the world by means of a flood. After all, there are so many other forms of natural disasters.

As for the rest of Gen 9 and the curse of Ham and the origins of Canaan… that surely seems like some self-serving editing as a way to foreshadow what Joshua and his troops did to the land of Canaan on their way back across the Jordan River from Egypt.

Ah, the rabbi disagrees with me. The curse of Ham is to have the skin turn black. The rabbi also has a great deal to say about the evils of drunkenness and how it is responsible for the fall of the Israel to the Assyrians and the Babylonians. And poor Japeth… he wasn’t fast enough so his descendants are gonna get it from Gog and Magog.

I must say, I am not reading Genesis very reverently. It is 100% clear to me that the rabbi 100% believes in the existence of the people mentioned in Genesis 1-9 as historical beings. I’m afraid I don’t.

I certainly believe God created the heavens and the earth and the entire universe and I am convinced God did so as an act of love because God creates. God had fun with it, exploring all possibilities of a theme. One tree would not do, for example, God milked the concept of “tree” for all its worth.

I understand that ancient texts were written to explain why things happened. Clearly there was some horrible catastrophe and it had to be explained and how else could it be explained except by the evidence of their eyes which is that humanity is wicked.

People have been getting drunk since forever and I suppose it makes sense that even the holy book records something as important as the beginning of viniculture.

I daresay the curse of Ham was as good an explanation as any to account for different skin colors. Sad that it is called a curse. I have had a theory for decades that one of the primary causes of hateful things such as racism is fear of that which is different. Back in the days when we all lived in tribes, one’s tribe was known and safe. Other tribes had the potential to be the enemy. Maybe that is too pat, but it makes sense to me. Here in Gen 9 we have an ancient record of that dynamic.

Psalm 3: I look forward to meeting David in heaven, which I profoundly hope is a real place filled with all these people I’ve read about my whole life. Here is David, in the middle of that mess with his son, Absalom, whom David loves. Every reason to despair and yet he doesn’t. While I admire his faith, at the same time that makes me kinda hate him a little because I have certainly given into despair on more than one occasion. Ive read this psalm and asked what did David know that I didn’t?

Matthew 3: I hope I can be forgiven for saying I have the song “Shall we gather at the river?” running through my head. Ah, John the Baptizer (so I like to call him because as a child growing up in the Roman Catholic Church I never understood why one of those Protestant Baptists was doing in the Gospels. He is a character right out of the Hebrew Scriptures, is he not? I can see him in one of those schools of prophets that are mentioned in 1 and 3 Samuel.

And the mouth on this guy. I can just see all the winking and nudging when he lays into the Pharisees and Saducees and lets them have it. Such violent imagery. All that throwing into an unquenchable fire. What did that mean to people when they heard it?

A Rabbinic Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels points out that Matthew and Mark play up the Elijah theme but Luke omits it. He then quotes from Jospehsus, which is an extra-Biblical source which confirms that John the Baptizer is an historical person. Sadly the preview cuts off there.

The questions from the book the Bible Challenge:

Do I think the story of Noah’s Ark is one of joy? Why or why not? I confess a jolt went through me when I read the question. I have never in my life considered it from that POV and now that I have, I still say “no.” I think it is a tragic story. Of course there was no historical event such as Noah’s ark although I am willing to accept some sort of horrific catastrophe. How could there be joy in such devastation or the reasons given for it? The description of the flood itself makes me kinda seasick. if truth be told. As I said above, I don’t find the story of the rainbow particularly comforting and the origins of racism repel me.

The second question is how would a man such as John the Baptizer be received by today’s church? Are his startling words about Jesus relevant today? I very much fear that if someone similar to John showed up at church, 911 would be called and the person would be carted off for a seventy-two lock-up for observation. At least where I live. Perhaps in another community he might be seen as a source of entertainment. Are there places where he would be welcomed? My knowledge of the world is too limited to say.

As for his startling words about Jesus… I am a member of the Episcopal Church. We don’t talk about people being brood of vipers, trees being cut down and cast into fires, and chaff being thrown into unquenchable fire because we are too polite.

I have, to my regret, in my past hung out where such language was used and the result was to form a buncha judgemental, sanctimonious, point the finger of blame holier-than-thous.

Sin does exist and I follow the example of the Desert Christians which taught me to be concerned with my own and leave the other person’s up to that person and God.

Here’s a link to that Rabbinic Commentary on the Synoptics:  https://books.google.com/books?id=_qSWLVIi2xwC&pg=PA67&lpg=PA67&dq=rabbinic+commentary+on+matthew&source=bl&ots=pN2cMP1NY8&sig=UD4P0JfGd9h6Sq-Ljlu6Lr5fuQw&hl=en&sa=X&ei=N2ioVJvXGMmqogSp1oDwCQ&ved=0CCkQ6AEwAjgK#v=onepage&q=rabbinic%20commentary%20on%20matthew&f=false

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