Genesis, chapters 1-12

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Genesis, chapters 1-12

REVISION HISTORY: 2005.08.21 -- Initial draft/offering. On this page: {Introduction} {A Naive View} {A Literary View} {A Rhetorical View} {"Conclusions"} {A Note on the Format of this File}


NOTE: The author of this paper is *at best* a skeptic. The purpose of this essay is examine (from several points of view) the first twelve chapters of "Genesis"; ie, the "document under study". The controversial nature of the document indicate that at least some attempt to approach this story from several points of view is advised. The first approach (refered to as "A Naive View" will be to attempt to view the work outside of any modern or external influences; ie, from "child-like" POV with little or no pre-conceptions as to *what* the story *is*. The next approach (refered to as "A Literary View") will be to approach the work in terms of symbols references to the real world, etc. The work will be examined both *in* and *out* of its original (supposed)context. The next approach will be at a more mechanical level (refered to as "A Rhetorical View") and seeks to examine the writing style, grammar, and other "points of order". And of course *finally* there will be somethng resembling "conclusions" (what-ever those things are ;). Next: A Naive View. {
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A Naive View

The selection tells the story of how the Earth (see map) was created. God creates the world two times (GEN-1-1 thru GEN-2:3) and then again in (GEN-2:4 thru GEN-2:25). God says for "Us" to make man in our image. Who is he talking to? Is he like a King who would use the plural when refering to himself (We are not easily amused), or perhaps he is talking to the Angels. If this was in the Greek times, he would obviously be talking to the other gods and godesses on Olympus. Then, starting in Chapter 3 things do not go well, the Serpent decides to stir things up a bit and tells Eve that even if she *does* eat from the forbidden tree, she won't die. And of course she and Adam don't, in fact they live a long time and have several children. God tells them to eat herbs which HE has put for them, but all of that changes, when Cain and Abel are born. Abel was supposed to be the keeper of the sheep (which I suppose that they eat them as well as use the wool). Meanwhile, Cain is supposed to be the farmer which he apparently resents this (GEN-4:3&ff). He is after all, the older son but when they bring the fruits of their labors as gifts (offerings) to the LORD (I presume they mean God, not Adam, but it's difficult to tell). Anyway, the sheep is acceptable, but the fruit of the ground isn't. This of course makes Cain so angry that he kills Abel. When the LORD asks where Abel is, Cain replies, "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?". Anyway, apparently Abel is to be punished and banished. But, he finds a wife, whose name is NOT given and sires a long line of sons. Meanwhile, Adam and Eve have another son, Seth and he sires a whole line of sons as well. Chapter 5 is pretty boring, it just tells the history of who is who and who is the father of whom and how long they all lived. I know my Great Grandma Ida would be interested in all of this, since she's the only one who tries to keep track of our family history. Anyway, in Chapter 6 God (not the LORD anymore?) gets angry and of course the whole Great Flood story is now told. Again, it's told twice. I'm not sure that this means that there are like two worlds out there or what. It's interesting that in the first time, two of every creature are to be included (GEN-6:19-22), but in the next version there are some animals that get special treatment (GEN-7:1-3). The so-called "clean" animals are to be gathered in 7's. Anyway, after 40 days and 40 nights (sounds like a Las Vegas Package Deal), there are two things that happen. It takes 150 days of flooding (GEN-7:24) but that's a lot more than 40 days and 40 nights. But, then in GEN-8:1 "Then God remembered Noah" and used the wind to dry up the water. (Apparently he was busy with other things and forgotten about the entire remainents of the human race and the only living animals ;) Anyway, when they finally come out, Noah builds an altar (GEN-8:21) and sacrifices some of the clean animals and God sez, "I will never again curse the grounds for man's sake, although the imagination of man's heart is evil from this youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done". This all seems pretty un-fair, since it was God that gave us that "imagination" to begin with, it really seems that he surely would have known that if he told Adam and Eve to *not* do something, that that would make them even more curious (again with the imagination), and that further God should have known the snake would tempt them. Or did he just do the whole thing (including having the snake tempt Eve) just to *test* them? Anyway, in GEN-9:11-17, God creates the rainbow as a "covenant" or a sort of promise not to ever flood the world again. Next, Noah gets drunk (9:20-27) and because Ham sees this and tells his brothers, who then (in order not to see their father naked) walk backward into the tent and cover up their father. Somehow when Noah wakes up he finds out that it was Ham (the youngest) who saw him and curses him and his decendents (Canaan) and decrees that he has his decendents will be servants. During the civil war, this line was used to say that Ham was black, and that was why blacks were to be servants. It doesn't mention that any of them were black, so I assume that they were Jewish, possibly of the darker, Mediterranian Sephardic types. ==== insert note about ashkenazem Again, Chapter 10 tells who begat who, etc. It is also at this point that it sez (GEN-10:1-6), that the sons of Ham were Cush, which may or may not be related to the Kush region of Africa; it could refer to the Kush region of India, but probably not. Chapter 11 finally gets around to the Tower of Babel and how God punishes the arrogance of the humans of for trying to make a tower that actually reaches into heaven. And he says (GEN-11:7) "Come, let Us go down there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech". I'm not sure what this means, to "confuse" a language. Do the adverbs of one show up as the nouns of another, does the noun-verb order get turned into a subject-less form of verb-verb-adverb-prepositional-phrase? Anyway, (GEN-11:9) God scatters humans to all parts of the Earth. It is interesting to note that Terrah (GEN-11:32) lived 205 years, even though it was earlier decreed to have only 120 years for each person to live. I think this was to reward Terah for taking Lot (his grandson), his son Abraham and Sarrai (Abraham's wife) out of Ur to Canaan. This is where the "great nation" is to be made. And as Kosh sez in Babylon V, "And, so it begins". Next: A Literary View. {
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A Literary View

To return to a less skeptical POV, these tales were clearly designed as part personal history and as narrative of the people that would eventually become the Jews. Historically, the time of Moses is given as about 1200 BCE, and the oral traditions give the first written form of the Torah as about 400 BCE under the guidence of the Rabi Glimille ?sp? ----------- WEB CHECK.
Further, the evidence is [NOTE 1] that after the various sects (tribes?) settle in Israel, the process of integrating the various forms of the stories begins. This would explain why there are the various and *different* versions of a story. Regardless, as tale of a people (or peoples), the works obviously integrate personal history (geneologies) that were of importance to the people. I draw that conclusion that a people who are tribal and just barely eeking out an existence carry with them tales that are *necessary* to their survival culturally. And if we can "extend into the past" the very strong traditions of the modern-day (and recent and historically documented) Jews, then this need to maintain the narrative of who they are, where they came from and the various stories, histories, and even mythologies *was* of great importance to those ancient peoples. I once attended a seminar on biblica literature sponsored by the American Humanist Association, and I will never forget a Jewish scholar who was talking about how the stories of the Old Testament were part of the Humanist Tradition and should *not* just be "handed over to" the fanatical relgious types. He asked us to imagine we were sitting around a camp fire in the middle of no-where, we "God's Chosen People", and then a story teller gets up and begins relating one of the great stories of "our" people. He or She starts telling of the Genesis myth, and then as the story teller gets to the serphent you can just see all of the little kids around the camp fire saying "oh,oh. No, don't do it". And so forth. These stories were then *just* stories (the scholar maintained), but they were *sustaining* stories that helped those people to not just survive (myth and story as supporting metaphor for existence), but to continue their unique perspectives and beliefs; eg, monothesim, and the belief in a *very* personal god, and that despite their hardships that they were *the* chosen people, and thus had a very special destiny. And of course, personally, I have always loved the tale of "The Tower of Babel". This love made only stronger by the word of Jorge Luis Borges seminal work, "The Library of Babel". NOTES (this section only) [1] According to [WINTERS; "jp.html#duplication"] [Note 2] There have been identified several "versions" of the old-testament text; eg, the "E", "J", "D", and "Q" texts. These texts are interpreted as being parts of different sects that were once separated and then settled in Israel. Each separate text carries with it the *history* of that people as they carried the tales with them. I would say that they were probably one people or tribe and for what-ever reason became separated and then came back together, as with all things the stories evolved and mutated depending upon the environment. Unless a narrative (eg, Homer's Illiad) is of such a formal and restricted form that it is difficult to introduce changes into it, then its almost inevitable that such evolutionary/mutational changes will occur. {Back to the TEXT} [2] Most references to biblical criticsm and history are made to the work: "OUR JUDAIC-CHRISTIAN HERITAGE: An Inquiry into the Ideas and Forces that Link the Thought of Our Time with our Religious Past", by Lynn Winters which is currently "self published" and under field trial at the University of Oklahoma. Your current narrator is gratefull to Ml. Winters for access to this work which (again) is "in progress". *i* am in the process of "digitizing" the work into a series of web pages. This process will (eventually) be automated using text-tools; see {A Note on the Format of this File} ALL extracts from the files, are from the snap-shot taken 2001.10.14 off the original web-posting on the now defunct: (your current narrator's original attempt at an on-line public domain encyclopedia; ie, the PDE). {Back to the TEXT} Next: A Rhetorical View. {Back to the TOP of this page}

A Rhetorical View

Again, the most common rhetorical problem is the repetition. As a story (written down), it is completely tedious to the "general reader" (such as myself) to read all of this "begating" stuff. Also, it strikes me that "Enoch" (and his progeny) in GEN-4:18, and "Enosh" (and his) in GEN-5:6, that Enoch:Irad:Mehujael seems very similar to those of Enosh:Cainan:Mahalalel. Although, this could be a co-incidence (or a naming convention in the then extant Jewish culture), this would appear to be again a "merging" of the various "texts". Again, this reads more as narrative and is in the ancient way, rather than the more modern. For example, in most modern tales "everything comes in threes"; eg, there are three sisters, or three brave knights, etc. The varfious narratives are pretty much presented "as is" and no inter-action from one to the next are given. For example, since Adam lived as long as he did, in most modern narratives he as "Great Grand Dad Adam" would probably be mentioned from time to time. And as noted, there is essentially *no* dialog what-so-ever; ie, all dialog occurs betwen God and someone, but not between any of the other protagonists. The tale of Noah and the ark have been commented upon by Elain Pagels in "The Epic of Gilgamesh". As i recall from my reading, the word "pitch" (mentioned in GEN-6:14) is a unique and odd word for Hebrew, and is found no where else in the bible. This is one of the strongest evidences --- RESEARCH NOTE that the Flood Story of Genesis was "borrowed/adapted/adopted" find your damned copy of PAGELES!!! into the Jewish oral tradtion. Also, it's interesting that the phrase "be fruitful and multiply" in the Flood Story is essentially a repetition from the Creation Story. Also, as with all tales, they must "adapt to the times". In this case, the stories of the Pharaoh are integrated into the personal history of the Jewish people. Thus, this places the story into an evolving and on-going effort struggle, and not just a static set of stories that are more or less "stand alone". Thus, it appears to me that the "later" stories start to take on a more episodic nature, rather than just isolated moral lessons. Next: "Conclusions". {
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Taken as literature, the stories of Genesis are wondrous and beautifully constrcuted -- albeit, a bit on the mysogynist and dictatorial side. Obviously these tales do not entertain in the least the concept of "Mother Goddess" or "Mother Earth/Father Sky" traditions. Taking that into consideration does not detract from the sheer beauty, bredth or imagination of the tellers' works. However, in these dark times, many maintain the literal truth of this work. Arguments against such a view, were first raised (to a certain extent) by scholars such as
Peter Abelard (around 1100 CE) whose "Sic et Non" (Thus and Not) found some 135 "problems" with various parts of the bible. Also, the concept of original sin was first (documented) questioned by such scholars as Pelagius, a devout ascetic from Britain) as well as Didymus the Blind (an Egyptian teacher), who wrote: "now we are found once more such as we were when we were first made: sinless and masters of ourselves." -- Didymus the Blind, DE TRINITATE 2,12, as quoted by Elaine Pagels p 131. That is, that even though we might be sinners, when we are baptised this sin is erased. "Prior to Augustine and Jerome, most Christians believed the same doctrine as the Pelagians -- ranging from the early church fathers Justin, Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria in the second century AD to John Chrysostom and of course Origen." -- [WINTERS: Augustine#Pelagius) The problem with viewing the bible as ABSOLUTE TRUTH is exacerbated by the obvious short comings of the text (the repetiton and self-contradtions being the least of it, adding to that "interpretations" to justify various political and/or social policies). That this is used by some as a blue-print for a Christian Nation is indeed frightening. And when cornered as to the nature of how these contradictions are supposed to be sorted out, one is told by the fanatical believers: "Well, there are just some things we're not meant to understand". This of course harkens back to that most dire of warnings to skeptics, free-thinkers, and even small, curious children: "... the imagination of man's heart is evil from this youth..." GEN-8:21. Your estemed narrator and scribe, "Brother James" (also known as Frank). --42-- Next: A Note on the Format of this File. {Back to the TOP of this page}

A Note on the Format of this File

The format of this file (and indeed all files in the "pizo" system) use a consistent set of rules that are rational and well-thought out. This section details this format so that the reader might more easily "navigate" the pages. {} vs [] -- Links that are LOCAL to the page use {}, Links that are on a separate page use [] The exception to that are NOTES [1] etc. They are local to the page and are included in the SECTION where they are referenced. (This makes page flipping for printed copies are minimised). This also means, that the NOTE numbers are NOT sequetial. Unless a file is RE-FORMATED, then you may have in ONE section notes, [1], [2], [12] and in another section notes, [3], [4], [5], [17]. -- we applogise for the in-convenience. Links to other directories are usually indicated with a notation such as (philo DIR) after the referece link. Major "links" pages are noted variously as ** major JUMP page ** or similarly. The way that *i*, see this evolving is that any page can be "extended" with notes, the notes would expand into a wider format page --or-- a separately opened window. Also, the internal HTML structure is kept in a fairly rigid and "predictable" format so that the text can be converted, included, indexed, etc. automatically. Further ideas include INDEXES as wel as possible concordences. The only DIR to have even the beginnings of a concordence are the CRIT DIR (Lynn Winter's "OUR JUDAIC-CHRISTIAN HERITAGE: An Inquiry into the Ideas and Forces that Link the Thought of Our Time with our Religious Past"). Tools are needed to do this, and are "under way"; ie, don't hold your breath. -- Frank. Next: The "End of the File" is coming! Are you ready???? ! {
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That's all folks!