Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Wondering Through the Bible

Several years ago my wife and I learned about Edgar Cayce, famous in his day as "America's Sleeping Prophet."  His was a truly fascinating life, and I'm sure that now that I've brought him up I'll get around to blogging about him at some point.  But what makes me think about him today was his habit of reading through the full Bible annually, year after year after year.  I was so inspired at the time that I purchased a copy of The One Year Bible, which takes the Christian Scriptures and divides it up so that there is a reading (Hebrew Scriptures, New Testament, Proverbs, and Psalm) for each day of the year that will, over the course of the year, take you consecutively from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 21:27.

I've already done this once or twice.  I recently decided that 2011 seemed like a good year to do it again.

Now, why would one want to read the entire Christian Bible from cover to cover?  Isn't there a lot of excess and repetition in there and things entirely irrelevant to life in the 21st century?  (After all, wasn't Reader's Digest able, when it came out with its version of the Bible in 1982, to cut the New Testament by approximately 25% and the Old Testament by a whopping 55%?)  And for somebody, like me, who grew up within the Christian tradition(s), don't I already know pretty much what the thing's about anyway?

Well, yes and no.  I must say that I'm only on my fourth day of reading -- I started on 1/1/11 -- but I've already come across some fascinating things that I've never noticed before.  You see, I'm reading with an eye open for surprises, with a wondering perspective -- "why does it say that?  what could this mean?"  Some day I may find myself learning Greek and Hebrew so that I can go even deeper with this, but for now even reading in translation has revealed some wonderful things to wonder about.  Here are a few:
  • In Genesis 3:22, after Adam and Eve have eaten that apple from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and, then, been discovered by God, God says, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”  Yet back in Genesis 2:16 God had said, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”  Does this mean that it would have been okay for Adam and Eve to have eaten from the Tree of Life?  God had only forbidden them from eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, that makes it sound like the Tree of Life was okay.  How things might have turned out differently . . .
  • Genesis 5 begins like this (1-3):  "This is the written account of Adam’s family line. When God created mankind, he made them in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And he named them “Mankind”when they were created. When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth."  Two questions here -- first, what does it mean that Adam and Eve were "made in the image, the likeness of God," while Seth was made in the likeness and image of Adam?  Second, this wasn't said of Adam's first children -- Cain and Abel.  Why not?
  • In Genesis 9:4, after Noah (and company) have left the ark, God commands, "But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being."  I'm intrigued with this statement that God will demand an accounting from every human being and from every other animal.  Is this the answer to the classic question, do animals have souls?
These may not seem like very weighty issues.  Not when there are hungry people living on the streets, and the devistation of disesase and natural disasters causing untolled suffering, and people wondering how they're going to make it past the next paycheck, or through their divorce, or . . .

And yet, the Christian Bible -- like the Qur'an, the Bhagavad Gita, the Three-fold Lotus Sutra -- is an attempt by our forebears to wrestle with "the twin facts of being alive and having to die."  It is one of humanities depositories of wisdom.  Reading it with a wondering eye, asking questions, looking for meanings, is one way of continuing the exploration that our forebears began.

That seems like a worthwhile use of time in 2011.

In Gassho,

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David said...

Oy. You've opened yourself quite a can of worms here, Rev. WAMR.

Robert Hagedorn said...

Do a search: The First Scandal Adam and Eve.