Friday, 25 March 2016

Genesis chapter 3: Adam and Eve

A talking snake, a forbidden fruit, a tempting woman, and humankind is doomed to grovel before God for forgiveness for all eternity.
If God can do anything, and see everything, knows everything before it happens, then God would have known that his human experiments would fail at the “don’t eat it” test. So he set them up to fail, which is simply cruel.
Unless we look back at chapter one, and make assumptions about people possibly eating the animals over which they were given dominion, then telling them that they “would surely die” would not have made sense. It wasn’t disobedience, it was merely human nature testing the prohibition on the fruit. And especially when they didn’t die, but only discovered their nakedness, then tried to cover themselves, showed that God was lying when he said “thou shalt surely die!”. 
Also God’s true nature is revealed. Firstly, he knows what death is, but doesn’t explain it to his humans until he demonstrates it by killing animals to make skins for them to wear. The horror of seeing an animal slaughtered for its skin to the uninitiated is simply horrific, yet God does it with impunity because nudity is something to be ashamed of.
Putting the decision to wear clothes into the creation story, that of man’s fall from grace, says more about the Hebrews’ obsession with sex, and the resultant unwanted children, than it does about human evolution.
It is however a way to explain the wearing of clothes using mythology.
Then there’s the business about Eve tempting Adam with the fruit of the tree, and God telling her that because she tempted him, she would,
...in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children (Genesis 3:16)
and
...thy desire shalt be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
Three thousand years of the subjugation of women by the followers of biblical religion have ensued as a result of these words. 
Then there’s death. Was God’s intention that Adam and Eve should live forever, if they had abstained from the temptation of the fruit? If this were true, and if it really happened the way Genesis explains, would they still be living today? 
This chapter serves the purposes of the followers of biblical religion.
It is a reason for the abhorrence of snakes, and the desire to kill them when confronted by them in the wild. “They’re evil, tempters. cold, slithery, can’t be trusted”. People who use confidence tricks to extort money from gullible people are called “snake oil salesmen”. This text is one cause of the bad reputation of snakes when their place in the evolutionary chain serves some good purposes.
This chapter is also the reason behind the “Protestant Work Ethic”:
Verse 19: In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground.
From the Wikipedia link above:
The Protestant work ethic (or the Puritan work ethic) is a concept in theology, sociology, economics and history which emphasizes hard work, frugality and diligence as a constant display of a person's salvation in the Christian faith, in contrast to the focus upon religious attendance, confession, and ceremonial sacrament in the Catholic tradition.
Chapter three ends with a death sentence. Access to the “Tree of Life” the fruit of which would ensure that man would not die, is blocked by angels bearing flaming swords in verses 22-24:

And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever; Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from when he was take. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

Why would God need to use angels with flaming swords to keep them out of the Garden of Eden. From this text we may conclude that he left it intact. If so, when did it disappear? Does it still exist - complete with the flaming sword-bearing angels? Since God is all-powerful, he would know if someone tried to enter the garden. He could simply “smite” them with something horrible. This little addition to the garden myth is mere embellishment for dramatic purposes. 

Friday, 18 March 2016

Genesis Chapter 2

Chapter two begins with the conclusion of the week’s work, and God resting on the seventh day.
It summarises the week’s work, in verses 4 and 5:
These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth and when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.
We saw in chapter one that God created man “in his own likeness” after which he told him what to eat,
29 …Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree in which is the true of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
…and in verse 30,
And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that crept upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every herb for meat.
This is important because God has told man to eat whatever fruit and seed he may find, and that all “beasts” should also eat the same food.
However, at the beginning of chapter two, after man and beasts were created in chapter one, it says that the plants weren’t yet growing, because there was no rain. So what were the animals and the humans eating?
In verse 6, he sends mist to water the ground, causing the plants to start growing. 
Verse 7 explains how man was formed. In chapter one it merely says, “in our likeness”. In chapter two it explains how the likeness was formed.
In chapter one, it’s an announcement of man’s creation. In chapter two, it’s the method of the creation, out of dust. The order of creation in this chapter should demonstrate this.
In verse 4 it reiterates the order of creation:
Heavens and the earth
Plants and herbs
Man
Eden with trees
Rivers
Animals other than man also made from dust
Woman
No day numbers are given in this chapter, my conclusion is that if the chapter is taken as an explanation of the creation in chapter one, then that the creation is not in the same order as that of chapter one, it is merely an explanation.
To conclude whether this is the case, we need to examine evidence for when these two chapters were written. Doug Linder, of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, in 2004 wrote, 
Four or five centuries [after creation], five-hundred-plus miles to the east in what is most likely present-day Iraq, a remarkable Jewish writer—whose name we do not know—set about the ambitious task of constructing a primary history of his people…[He] hoped that his history would help his people endure their many trials. The writer was most likely a priest, and might have been assisted in his work by other priests and scribes.  To accomplish his mission, he acquired at least two pre-existing writings on Jewish history. The prior writings came from different places and different times.  One set of writings used the Canaanite term, “Elohim,” as the name of the creator god. A second set of writings, more ancient than the first, used a Judean term, “YHWH” (translated “Jehovah” in English), to describe its deity.   
The priest wove the two texts together, trying to avoid repetition and altering them where necessary to avoid blatant inconsistencies. The priest confronted an additional problem: the two texts originally reflected views about two different gods in a time of polytheism, but by the time he compiled his history, belief in a single god had become prevalent among Jews. The priest, therefore, sought to remove passages supporting the polytheism of an earlier age—and, except for a few hints here and there, he succeeded.  Finally, he added some writing of his own, or of his priestly contemporaries, that reflected the ideas of his own, more mature, period of Judaism. 
I tend to support this hypothesis: the story had been handed down for hundreds of years as an explanation for how people came to be what they were. Then during the exile a priest, who had access to old writings containing the stories of the creation and especially the creation of humans, and, to explain how laws came about, added the story of the Garden of Eden and the first “sin”. This story too was taken from old texts, written possibly by another author.
While we cannot identify the exact location of the Pishon and Gihon (the two in Genesis 2) rivers, and the land of Havilah, the mentioning of Ethiopia, is a confirmation of the story being written after there was knowledge of Africa, and the ancient land of that name, south of Egypt. In verse 13, the River Hiddekel, (Tigris, again depending on the Bible version) flows to Assyria, and the name Euphrates is mentioned. These two rivers flow from the Persian Gulf through Iraq).
These names are still in use today.
Then the story continues with Adam and Eve and their fall from grace.
Verses 8 and 9 speak of the Garden of Eden and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. 
Again, I can see mythological writing in this. I don’t see actual intent to explain the appearance of life, or the ability to know good from bad, all I see is a mythology, a method of explaining the inexplicable the way all people have done in all cultures. I really don’t think the writers intended this to be history.
The rest of chapter two is devoted to the process of naming the animals and plants, and again the word “cattle” is mentioned.
The two people in chapter two are named “Adam”  and “Eve”.
Modern thinking appears to be that these were not two actual people, but figuratively the ancestors of all humankind. This is borne out by the naming of the oldest human fossils found, “ancestral Adam” and “mitochondrial Eve”. 
Thus it would appear that the ancients, with their limited knowledge of biology, or rather with complete absence of knowledge of biology and evolution, sort of got the idea that all humans are descended from a pair of common ancestors. Even if these two ancestors didn’t breed with each other, they are the evolutionary parents of all of us. 

This however, does not mean that the first two chapters of Genesis should be consulted for the history.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Genesis Chapter One

Chapter one begins with the creation of the earth, and the seas.
It does not begin with a creation of a universe, merely with an earth in darkness with God “moving over the waters”. 
Then he creates light. He divides light from darkness and calls the light “day” and the darkness “night".
These are verses 1-5 of Chapter one.
This is interesting, and of course, incorrect. 
In order to create light, he would have to have put a light into place but he does this only on day four. 
Thus for three days, there is light, but it’s not the sun. Here is the first important problem with the creation story, especially given that before he creates the sun, he makes grass and fruit trees, which require sun, and water, to survive. What is this light? 
Christian apologists have explanations for this, but they do not clarify how “light” came to be before a sun and moon were created.
In the following few verses, God divides the land from the “firmament” and creates the light - sun by day, moon by night. There is also an allusion to where he is to be found: in heaven, which is above the earth. Again, apologists tell us that God is “ineffable” and “unknowable”, thereby “incorporeal” but we know from later writing that he appears to the patriarchs, so he’s not any of those. The definition of God simply alters with whatever the writer of the story wants him to be.
In the dividing up of the land into “earth” and “sky” and “waters”, the writers demonstrate their belief that the earth began and ended with their tiny ambit. They don’t speak of other landmasses, because they were aware that their landmass was connected to that of their neighbours. Possibly later when they became aware of Africa, given that they were able to travel across to Egypt without having to set sail, they believed that it was all just one big “earth” (and that it was flat). 
Being familiar with their land, their skies, and their night sky, phenomena such as comets, earthquakes, floods etc., would have been terrifying. Yet ancient people kept records of these, demonstrating that not all people imagined their wellbeing was determined by the caprices of a single deity.
The Akkadians are among the first people credited to have kept astronomical records, and the earliest date from around 2500 B.C. They lived in the northern part of what was later called Babylon. The astronomer-priests that lived later in Babylon were able to use the records of the Akkadians to predict some of the motions of the sun, Earth's moon, and stars. Read more here
Going back to the creation of plants and trees, before the sun to grow them. There is the absence of sufficient water, which even though there may have been dew on the ground, or a "mist", we know it is not enough to sustain plant growth, indefinitely. Later on in Genesis with the flood story, we are told that the flood was the introduction of rain. Therefore, during the thousand and more years between the creation, and the flood, plants magically grew without any proper watering. Just a mist, and in the first few days, no light!
On the sixth day he gets around to creating all the big stuff: “living things” on the land, and man “in our likeness” and gives him and woman dominion over the earth and all the animals, and tells them to “go forth and multiply”. He also tells them to eat, any plants, and any animals.
Verse 24 says, 
…Let the earth bring forth the living creatures after his kind, cattle…
The words are very clear, it says “cattle”.
Looking at verse 26, God creates man “after our likeness”. This means that despite apologetics’ claim that God is incorporeal, and unknown, it is clear the writer of Genesis 1, at least, thought that man was the personification of God. In other words, if humans were created “after our likeness” then the human form, was that of the gods who occupied heaven. 
Here is the order of creation in chapter one:
Day 1: light
Day 2: Firmament and body of water separated.
Day 3: Land with vegetation.
Day 4: The cosmos, including the sun and the moon, although they’re not named.
Day 5: Birds and fish.
Day 6: Land animals and man to tend them.
Day 7: Resting.
Merely reading chapter one of the Bible, puts the whole book into the realm of mythology.  According to the Documentary Hypothesis, this chapter was written by the author P, a priest. 

From the point of view of priests, their interpretation in all cultures are seen in relation to their being able to communicate with the gods, for this reason, I conclude that this chapter was not intended to be taken literally, i.e. it is mythology. 

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Rationalising the Bible Book Series: Genesis: Introduction to the Book of Genesis

The Book of Genesis sets the stage for the biblical history of the Jewish people by explaining the creation mythology, how the various peoples came to be, and how they established their languages. 
It introduces the patriarchs, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the “Children of Israel” to where they experience their first great exile in Egypt, and ends with Joseph’s death, after he has brought his family to live with him in his adopted country.
The whole book is a work of creative fiction, probably taken from the oral tradition handed down around camp fires to amuse children while their mothers prepared the family’s meals after a long day of herding sheep. I base this hypothesis on the similarity of the tales with those of the neighbouring, possibly ancestral people, and which were written down long before the people of the western Near East become the “Children of Israel.”
Also simply taking, for example the flood story, it speaks “fowls after their kind”, of “cattle” but not of wild life except to mention “unclean” animals. This demonstrates the limited range of experience of the writer, that he didn’t mention predators, which, if he’d been aware of the danger of them, would have been explained in the narrative. To me this demonstrates ignorance of how important they would have been to the restocking of the world’s animals. Not only that, the writer/s (and redactors) of that portion Genesis also did not understand how important the impact on the ecology of the entire region would have been, had such an event actually happened, and only the members of a single family lived to tell the story.

From an anthropological point of view, this is interesting because it demonstrates how the various writers whose work was cobbled together to form the book, interpreted the stories and how they saw their narrow little range of movement as important, perhaps being a little overwhelmed with the force of nature: storms, earthquakes, meteor showers, eclipses, and so on, and how, when confronted with great civilisations, the extent to which other peoples built, causing the writing of the tale of the Tower of Babel to explain why their languages were different.
In this series of books, I analyse the books of the Bible, verse by verse, and chapter by chapter, the aim of which is to validate my claim that "...the Bible is mostly mythological history, inaccurate science, exaggerated reports of violence and discrimination against the people who settled the Fertile Crescent, and a set of laws plagiarised from those already in existence in the area. Even the writing of it, claimed to be that of the patriarchs, can clearly be identified, in the reading of it, as belonging rather to a period when all people in the civilised world were writing their stories. It was not written, as atheists often charge, by illiterate nomadic tribespeople in pre-history. Instead, it was written by politicians and priests at a time when the western civilisations were making their mark on the world’s politics."

Rationalising the Bible - Volume 2, Conquest, Kings, Poetry and Prophecy is published

The second volume of my manuscript, which covers the period from the settlement of Canaan to the prophecies, i.e. the rest of the Old Testament is published and available for purchase.

Rationalising the Bible - Volume 2, Conquest, Kings, Poetry and Prophecy