What if it is not the frogs but the water that is significant?
When considering the plagues in the book of Exodus that precede Israel’s departure from Egypt, various explanations have been suggested for the order of and the reason for specific plagues. Why frogs, why hail? Do the boils have anything to do with the gnats and flies? Following and building upon lectures given by Rikk Watts at Regent College, I suggest that the best explanation is that the God of Israel is revealing Himself as the Creator God.
Some have attempted to map the plagues onto the Egyptian deities and this suggestion seems to me to be one of the more plausible interpretations. However, Continue reading “Creation & the 10 Plagues of Exodus”
Duck-Rabbits and Other Ways to Transform Perception
In these well-known optical illusions, on initial observation the observer sees one or the other of the two possible figures in the image. At first, one sees either the duck or the rabbit. When the observer who sees a duck is told to look for the rabbit, they must begin to identify rabbit features to reframe their perspective. The duck’s bill becomes the rabbit’s ears. Similarly, with the old/young woman, one must focus on a particular feature and reinterpret it or see it as something else.
It is not possible to see both simultaneously. The brain switches back and forth between the two possible interpretations.
In a somewhat analogous way, something similar happens when we look at other creation accounts in the Christian Scriptures. And yes, you read that correctly. There are other portrayals of creation beyond the two that are most familiar to us in Genesis 1-3. (See for example Job, Psalm 77, 78, passages from Isaiah, John 1, Colossians 1, etc.) Moreover, it may be that these other biblical creation accounts pre-date those we find at the beginning of our Bibles. That is, they may have existed as part of the oral culture and worship practice of Israel and may even have been committed to papyrus before Genesis 1-3. (Of course, dating of texts is often difficult.)
As the title of this post suggest, the two events that Israel often described coincidentally and in overlapping images are the establishing of the cosmos and the establishing of Israel. Both events are seen as the creative acts of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These events are so closely associated for the biblical authors that it is frequently (and, perhaps, invariably) the case that they find they cannot speak of one without speaking of the other.
Let’s look at an example from Psalm 89. Continue reading “How to Teach Genesis 1 (Part II): Psalms: Creation or Exodus”
Or the Harmonization Temptation
This post continues and concludes (for now) my engagement with Augustine’s On the Literal Meaning of Genesis.
I simply want to note some of the intriguing and insightful elements in this work. I will give particular attention to Augustine’s suggestion that Genesis 1 presents God’s causal creation of all things, including human beings, while Genesis 2 describes the formal or material creation of human beings which for Augustine is God’s ongoing creative activity. Finally, I suggest that one of the errors that is common to Ham, Augustine and many errors is the desire to harmonize Genesis 1 and Genesis 2.
[For related Ham-Handed posts follow these links: Augustine I, Augustine II, Augustine III)
Continue reading “Ham-Handed Hermeneutics VI: More Hippo, Less Ham”
Given that my post How to Teach Genesis 1 in 30 Minutes remains one of my most popular posts, I thought my readers (new and old) might appreciate a little more detail and a slower walk through the process.
While my previous post was aimed at a single session, this series will hopefully aid those who teach introductory or survey courses either in an academic or church setting.
Related Posts: Why Seven Days?, Review of Michael Cosby’s Interpreting Biblical Literature, Have Sex and Eat: The First Two Commandments, When is a Snake not Merely a Snake?, Review: Pete Enn’s Inspiration & Incarnation 1
Mistakes to Avoid:
Mistake 1. Beginning with Genesis
Do not begin with Genesis. As I have stated elsewhere, I think the majority of textbooks and biblical overview courses make a pedagogical error in beginning with “In the beginning . . . ” In any other subject, you teach the basics first before you jump into the really difficult material. You don’t jump into Hamlet before you teach grammar and the basics of poetry.
What’s a rhyme? What’s a simile? What’s a metaphor? Am I reading a comedy or a tragedy? If Romeo & Juliet is really a love story, then why do they die in the end? If Hamlet is a tragedy, why are there so many funny moments? Is that another dirty joke? Err, I mean, Is that more ribald humor? How come the clowns aren’t funny? Continue reading “How to Teach Genesis 1 – Part I: Don’t Begin with “In the Beginning . . . “”
In Genesis 12:10-20, immediately after the call of Abram (aka Abraham) and his journey to Canaan (aka the Promised Land), the author tells the following disconcerting narrative:
Abram and Sarai in Egypt
Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to reside there as an alien, for the famine was severe in the land. When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know well that you are a woman beautiful in appearance; and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife’; then they will kill me, but they will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared on your account.” When Abram entered Egypt the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. When the officials of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female slaves, female donkeys, and camels.
But the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. So Pharaoh called Abram, and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife, take her, and be gone.” And Pharaoh gave his men orders concerning him; and they set him on the way, with his wife and all that he had. (Genesis 12:10-20 NRSV)
So, what is going on here?
Think Exodus. Continue reading “Sarai’s Exodus: from My Princess to Princess (Genesis 12)”