Conservatives attribute the writer of first five books of the Bible to Moses. A book in the Bible is not referring to the form of a book familiar to us today but rather a scroll or the papyrus roll it is written on. Today we would refer to these books of the Bible as chapters or letters.
Moses hadn’t been born yet during parts of the narrative, so tradition holds the writing to be divine inspiration. These five books of the Hebrew Bible are considered one literary unit. The question of him writing it is not supported by conclusive evidence, still archaeological and literary research argues its written Mosaic origins. Who the writer is here, and for that matter in each of the Bible’s 66 books, is at times debated by scholars. My intent is not to dispute tradition but instead to take more of a viewpoint of poetic license to create the objective of applying God’s Word. God ultimately is the author of this book. Suffice it to say; Moses is the most prominent Hebrew leader and prophet in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, just to mention a few faiths, to be recognized for his role in the biblical narrative. The educated guesstimate is Moses wrote Genesis during the 40 years in the desert after the Jews left Egypt.
John Milton describes in “Paradise Lost” man’s fall in the first disobedience to God is found in Genesis followed by the consequences of that for the world, both bad and good. This disobedience was a fortunate fall. Where and when good comes out of evil, it’s God’s mercy leaving us in a better place, with the opportunity for a greater good than would have been otherwise possible without the fall. God knows of evil but does not do evil. Humans must endure the outcome of the problems we ultimately initiated by our actions, but evil will not have the last word. Good can come from it.
The Bible is about living life which helps explain the ongoing circumstances through the narrative as described as dichotomies, or paradoxes. We have a paradoxical faith (“Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it” [Matt. 10:39]). Paradoxes are not limited to the Bible. View living life from an existential, Taoist or secular worldview, paradoxes abound as well. Being impatient to grow up only to desire to be a child again or losing your health to make money only to lose your money to restore your health are a couple of examples. The ring of truth in “less is more” or “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” intrigues me. People mentally survive by learning to live within the tension of absurdity or contradictions only to find paradoxes are not that opposites cancel each other out but rather opposites mysteriously are in unity. The Asian philosophy of the yin and yang symbol is designed as a reminder of this duality (a situation that has two states that are both complementary and opposed to each other). We seem to live in the best of times and the worst of times concurrently.
While living in paradoxes, we need to be detached, yet at times fully present in life. The need arises to be self-disciplined, not disallowing the act of spontaneity. It takes just as much effort to realize when to do nothing. We need to cultivate compassion and relieve suffering, but also to understand that everything is perfect just the way it is. God is sovereign and his ways are not ours. In living a spiritual life, the path to choose is as part of an indivisible whole; it’s what India’s preeminent leader of independence Mahatma Gandhi defined as all activities running into each other. Author Sue Monk Kidd contributes to this topic by asking what if knowing who I am now is incomplete without knowing who I was?
To rescue us from our human dilemma’s, God designed a plan to rescue humanity from themselves. Directed at Satan (appearing in the form of a serpent) He said: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Gen. 3:15).
The curse mentioned above is one of the embedded themes for the rest of Scripture. There is a trifecta of curses as a result of the fall: the man will have to toil harder, the woman experience pain from childhood and the future prediction of a crushing blow to Satan once and for all to lead us ultimately to victory in God. Throughout the Bible, the alternative names used for Satan: the devil, Lucifer, Abaddon (which can be translated as destruction), Beelzebub, evil one, and King of Babylon are all metaphors for evil.
From this point forward, the great battle begins between the offspring of Satan and the eventual offspring of woman: God’s appointed Redeemer, Jesus. The outcome of the conflict is that Satan will wound the Redeemer (“bruise his heel”), with Him dealing the mortal blow to him (“He shall bruise your head”).
A difficulty I initially had to overcome in reading the Hebrew Bible’s narratives is not the language references of ancient times or their culture or geography of that historical era. Instead, it was the chronological order. In the Christian Bible, it is presented in topical order (historical, poetry, wisdom, prophecy, biographies and by letters). There is history in the biblical narrative to eras, places and even specific times but not to the satisfaction of the modern-day historicity. Also, the benefit of the Bible being divided up by literary section is depending on what it is (the genre or style, like history, poetry, apocalyptic, etc.) helps us with the interpretation of the Word. Once realized, it became easier to navigate but not always clearer. What is clear is that the main theme of the Bible, after the context it is written in, is the unending, consistent message from God.
In that vein, the sequence of my applications found in each book aren’t in chronological order of my life. If this book is read to completion, my stories come together as what happens traveling on a Möbius strip, looping the journey back to the beginning. There is an argument about quoting the Bible to prove the Bible; it assumes the Bible is true. This type of defense is called circular reasoning. It’s interesting if you think about this circular reasoning argument in regards to by whom and when the cross reference verses were written. There is too much physical evidence, (numerous manuscripts, archaeological finds, correct history of that era, coherent and consistent theology written by 40 different authors writing over 1600 years, etc.) that offer credence to the truth of the Bible, that anything I might add, like I believe it, isn’t enough to convince others to believe as well. That is done through the leading of the Holy Spirit and a personal decision.
As the Bible is written in a circular fashion (some verses help clarify others) so goes my thought patterns. One example of the Bible’s circular motifs is found in God who began a relationship with the man in a garden. Fittingly, at the site of the resurrected Jesus’ empty tomb, Mary sees someone she thinks is the gardener and says “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” (Jn. 20:14). Not recognizing the landscaper to be Jesus, the master gardener who appears on site as he did in Genesis, responded to her “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”
The Bible consistently in each book portrays a connecting thread to Jesus’ messianic coming and then his second coming. It’s estimated there are 63,779 cross references of verses between the Old and New Testaments of the Bible in this circular motif. Christianity, after all, has Jewish roots.
Genesis is full of the classic; familiar Bible stories first shared to many of us when children: Creation, Tower of Babel, Abraham and Sarah, Sodom and Gomorrah, Noah and the flood, Jacob, and Esau ending with Joseph. We go from the fall to the flood then the there are our flops.
In Genesis and elsewhere in the Bible, names with their designated meaning gives the reader clues to the biblical character and points prophetically to what’s in store. The genealogy of who begot whom from Adam to Noah (Gen. 5) the meanings of their names are:
Adam = man
Seth = appointed
Enosh = mortal
Kenan = sorrow
Mahalalel = blessed God
Jared = teaching
Enoch = dedicated
Mathusia – his death shall bring
Lamech = despair
Noah = grace and comfort
Put the meanings together in a paragraph, it is rephrased as the Mortal man appointed to sorrow, but the blessed God shall come down teaching the dedicated. His death shall bring despairing grace and comfort. This meaning points to the coming Messiah: Jesus.
The released dove (symbolizing the sign of new creation) that Noah lets go during those final days from the ark in hope that the dove would bring back a foliage of life from the dry ground as proof the water had receded is yet another connection to a dove (who flew at Jesus’ baptism).
Three hundred prophecies of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) prophecies are about the coming Jesus. There are over 1800 predictions on 700 separate subjects in over 8300 verses from both major sections of book verse count of 31,102. It’s inconceivable to me how to grasp the meaning of the New Testament without reading the Old, of not knowing the references nor the consequent culmination of promises mentioned in the New to the ultimate realization of God’s divine plan. By ignoring the Old Testament, approximately two-thirds of the Bible is left forgotten.
Jesus sightings show up often in Genesis. In Gen 14:18-20, Melchizedek provides wine and bread to Abraham after a battle, some proposes he was a pre-incarnate of Jesus (a Christophany) because he disappears after that. It wouldn’t be surprising as Abraham had other divine visits.
Another example is the parallel life of Jesus and Joseph, both beloved sons. Joseph, like Jesus, was also betrayed for silver coins, falsely accused, eventually exalted, unrecognizable (Joseph by his brothers compared to the resurrected Jesus at the tomb) and ultimately through grace and love that is depicted.
Joseph’s story teaches me how to view perceived past hurts in my own birth family. Fast forward through twenty-two years after the betrayal of his brothers; Joseph experienced the hand of God during a severe famine in Egypt. Even betraying and selling him into slavery at seventeen, Joseph forgave his brothers who came begging for provisions. Joseph often wept over them and the brokenness of the past. As an adult, with decades-old wounds still hurting him, he experienced God as he healed him from the consequence of being sold into slavery.
I came to terms with my childhood hurts by re-nurturing myself through my children. Joseph extends to his brothers a grace they have never extended to him. He sidesteps any notion of revenge and shows them kindness. My family hurts, lingering into adulthood, are still in the process of redemption. To be honest, I work on showing grace but it’s still an unwelcome gift rejected by the offender. Besides, seeking revenge has never been part of my life formula.
One of my first big leaps of faith in reading the Bible is about time and creation. I initially came to my faith when I was a young girl, but when starting college, I intellectually struggled with the concept of only seven days in the creation story. Little did I know the ongoing fascination I would have the rest of my life with the concept of time.
My intellectual bent is not towards math or science. I barely can grasp the concept of infinity. I approach it more from a romantic notion and try to understand the concept of no beginning and no end, of God, always being. One of the key things negating the fact that the Bible is not a myth is because God is transient and immanent (not to be confused with imminent although He can be that too).
As my children were growing up, I seem always to be saying no to their requests to do or asking for something (because it wasn’t convenient at the time, or it was just one of many times I refuse them the unhealthy snacks). I would try to use other words: “maybe,” “let’s wait and see,” “next time” or “perhaps tomorrow” hoping to redirect them from their spontaneous request of the moment. After a while, they figured out I was saying no. Early one morning, my bedhead toddler waddled up to my side of the bed waking me with the question: “Is today yesterday’s tomorrow?”
Another instance on my fascination of time came when a bachelor guest at my wedding gave a plaque as a gift with a poem, by Henry Van Dyke, printed on it. It read: “Time is too slow for those that wait; Too swift for those who fear; Too long for those who grieve; Too short for those who rejoice; But for those you love, time is not.” Once in a romantic note received was the inscription “You and I, together, like time, are eternal.” I discovered that that eternal love declaration proved only to be able to come from God.
A hard concept to comprehend is God’s infinite time. My understanding is there are two kinds of time: Chronos (clock or human time) and Kairos (God’s eternal time). God exists before time as we know it. There are hints of a triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) by the references to “We” and “Us” all being present (Gen. 1:26). The Israelites we the second plural pronoun as some kind of divine council made up of angles (even Satan) and seraphim.
He is not bound by the moments in time we associate with throughout earth’s seasons from the movement of the sun, moon, and earth. Measuring the lapses of time through weather seasons is Chronos time because the concept of time began and occurred in a garden. The creation story reveals when God created Chronos time. It was on the first day, He created light and darkness (the sun wasn’t created until verse 14, a light that creates heat). This is when God created time as humanity knows it. A cycle of day and night was created. On day one, God created time. On day two, He sets up the basics for weather (separating the waters from waters with the above expanse over it). This was in preparation for the third day when dry land was developed and vegetation was brought forth from this water source, soil, etc. for the provision of food. Some speculate the expanse created a hothouse effect providing an even temperature and filtering out ultraviolet rays to extend the growths life cycle.
Now with internet technology, the idea of time further can be challenging to grasp as we experience global events in “real time”. My kids live in the direction of the four winds that blow away from where they grew up. For a while I had four clocks hung on the wall each display with their time (one international) zone they lived. There is a computer weather application of their regions on my desktop computer screen. All this helps me keep in sync with what they might be doing at that moment day (or night).
Scientists use light not time for measurement in space. Sir Isaac Newton centered his thesis on time and space as the building blocks of the universe. Time was universal, unchangeable, and linear. Who hasn’t peered into the night sky with amazement from the prairie fields, mountain tops, aboard a ship or while flying in an aircraft knowing the lights from the heavens began coming our way thousands of years ago. Albert Einstein centered light as the single constant of the universe with his theory of relativity. Light is the framework of the universe and the fundamental reality. It’s appropriate to me that my God is described as the light of the world.
Each of us has a version of the ideal life we want to live, our own version of utopia. Living congruently with our ideal is a way for the concept of time’s movement to slow down. One definition of success, in turn, is defined as living that ideal for the maximum amount of time.
Meanwhile, in Chronos time, the church calendar follows a liturgical year. It begins with Advent season (the season about time), to Christmas then on to the Day of Epiphany, followed by a period of ordinary time, then the Lenten season and Easter through to Pentecost, another period of ordinary time then back to Advent. Regular periods of time have its fair share of secular holidays (Valentines’ Day, St Patrick’s Day, All Saints Day or Halloween), many originally based on church leaders or events. People enjoy annual holidays but underestimate the importance of ordinary, how common time shows ways of the daily living with a model presented by Jesus (not just at Christmas and Easter) for us on how to be Christ-like in our actions. German theologian and martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: “It is only because He became like us that we can become like Him.”
Each year, the liturgical calendar cycle is celebrated over again beginning with the annual (and appropriate) Thanksgiving holiday. And yet not celebrated over again the same way as I find I react to events slightly different being a slightly different person from the previous year. To help escape living in Chronos time and, as much as is possible, try to meditate on Kairos time, we use the liturgical year to minimize the risk of self-worship to more of a focus on the timeless one: God.
Sister Joan Chittister says in her book: “The Liturgical Year, the Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life”, remembrance of the past and recognition of its ongoing presence in our lives, reminds us once again that death is not the end, that rebirth of the spirit is always possible if willing to go back again one more time into the life of Jesus.”
The late Father Edward Hayes in his words from his book “Pilate’s Prisoner” about life after death says “The source of my belief that there is life after death is that love is stronger than death. The more you love someone, the more you desire never ever to be separated from her or him, even by death. While there are many things I doubt, I have no doubt that God is love.”
Who of us doesn’t have a love for someone that lingers on after their death?
Truth: God’s presence does not mean He is not there when I don’t sense him. When peace and contentment come to me while gazing at a view, hearing a song, an unexpected outcome or listening in my solitude, I attribute it to His presence but He is there as well when I am miserable, sad, hurried or in the grips of sorrow and pain. His presence isn’t synonymous with our ability to detect it.
There is a hint, of biblical warning, about looking back at the past. Lot’s wife looked back when fleeing and when she did she turned into a pillar of salt (Gen. 19:15-26). To think about the geographical position of the image of Lot’s wife standing watch over the Dead Sea area, a body of water where no life can exist, it warns not to look back, turn back or dwell too much on the past. I get stuck when I think about the past too much. When that happens, I do not move forward, falling into a retrograde way of unhealthy acting and thinking. It’s interesting that the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee, both in the same region, are fed by the River Jordan. One cannot sustain life, yet the other is plentiful: yet both feed by the same source. The difference is that the Sea of Galilee has an outlet that gives out water while the other (the Dead Sea) has no outlet and just stays within its the boundaries of the shores. Living in the past, to me, describes the Dead Sea.
By changing in the present, reframing the past, it alters the future. Danish philosopher and theologian Soren Kierkegaard said that life could only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward. If trying to control time, it isn’t about the quantity of time, but it is more about the highest quality of time. The quality time I experience depends on what I am doing with my time, it’s when the period of time slows down. Allowing the quiet to enter into us seems to change the flow of the movement of time and make it larger. I am entering a slower pace versus the craziness of before (which I wouldn’t have changed) of before juggling multiple family schedules, activities, and obligations. I was lucky to “get’er done” when it came down to it, not always able to put the finishing or special touches on personal things as time wouldn’t allow me (or there were sleepless nights). Kierkegaard also gives a big hint on how to handle any unhappy thoughts concerning the past and the future, think of them as a memory and as a hope which keeps you in the present.
Our annual celebratory events can be looked at as holidays or Holy-days. I have been guilty of spending too much money on Christmas decorations. My yarn of justification is I amortize the cost daily the decorations go up which is after Thanksgiving and through January 6 (Epiphany), six weeks later. The Holy-days perspective keeps the holiday frenzy at bay for me. Rabbi Sidney Greenberg wrote “On holidays we run away from duties. On Holy-days, we face them. On holidays, we let ourselves go, on Holy-Days we try to bring ourselves under control. On Holidays, we try to empty our mind. On Holy-days, we attempt to replenish our spirits. On holidays, we reach out for the things we want. On Holy-days, we reach up for things we need. Holidays bring a change of scene. Holy-days a changed heart.”
It was years after my initial struggle with the world created in seven days when God faithfully showed me through a Bible Study Fellowship program the sequence of science behind the seven days. In the first three days, God created the realms (Note light and dark came before the Sun, the moon, and stars which stand to reason). The last four days, He filled the realm with inhabitants. Moses wrote Genesis 1-11 to help in the simplify the understanding of the origin and nature of creation. Kierkegaard speaks of creation as well: “God creates out of nothing.”
This order of creation loosely follows a similar order of how science explains it. I was so convinced of this, I wrote a final paper on it for a biology class at a secular college during my undergraduate study. To think the order of creation from the beginning of time was conceivable to Moses at his point in history, in regards to the understanding of science , further convinces me the writing was God inspired. The Bible’s theme isn’t written to explain things scientifically, but instead, it is focused on salvation. Scientists say faith is not built on knowledge yet I find it interesting that as time marches on science comes alongside revelations in the bible to explain further it. I think God reveals his works through science when we are ready to absorb and understand it. Science is good at saying what is, but it can never tell what ought to be. I don’t need science to convince me though it’s nice when the scientific community comes alongside the spiritual.
Discovering this time sequence in the development of creation, years later after my initial puzzlement, began to show me that answers don’t always come when I want them but rather in time (God’s Kairos time) when I am most ready to receive. It probably shows more mercy than I know when God chooses not to answer me imminently.
For a brief period, I tried to study Hebrew formally. Hebrew is known as a language of the heart whereas Greek is of the mind. In Asia, there is one word for both mind and heart. It is “xin” (pronounced sheen). I appreciate how the two words are intrinsically woven. It allows me to conjecture that answers don’t just come from one or the other. I want my heart and mind to be collaborating in life decisions not divided exclusively to thinking or emotion.
To paraphrase C. S. Lewis:
“I believe in God like I believe in the sun not because I see it, but because by it all things are seen.”