I was in kind of a seventh-grader twist over Genesis when my cousin Tracy gave me her perspective and led me to take a step back to see the big picture. I listened to an audio version of The Bible: A Biography by Karen Armstrong. It was a little overwhelming to get a history of the Bible covering about 2500 years. But it is comforting to know that people have been arguing about and tinkering with the text during that whole time. It’s a great testament to how humans tend to overthink everything and how we love grappling with paradox.
It has been only in the recent couple hundred years that some people have dug their heels in and proclaimed every word of the text to be literal history (e.g. the Creationists). That’s a comfort too — though it’s too bad people are so fearful of science and of people who might see the world differently from themselves.
This morning I had an insight: assembling/interpreting the Bible must be like putting together your family’s genealogy. You know you have this big idea of yourself and you want all your ancestors’ stories to support that. But then then you find some ancestors who were nasty — owned slaves, went to jail, slaughtered Indians, abandoned their children, etc. Hmmm… you figure out how to fit those guys into the story of yourself too. It kind of makes your story more interesting, fitting the rascals and the sinners in — thinking about the lessons they teach you or accepting that your good inherited traits may also have a dark side. I suppose the ancient Jews knew enough of their real history (wars, famines, exiles) and had enough of an oral tradition of heroes and villains to feel the need to dump it all into their writing and leave it to future generations to add their own stuff.
Well, that’s today’s thought anyway.