Bible study

Day 26

Don Miguel Ruiz once said, “Always do your best.” It’s the fourth of the titular agreements in his book. But he also says

“Your best will be better when you are healthy as opposed to sick, or sober as opposed to drunk.”

— The Four Agreements

And I’m not drunk, but my best is not very good today. I’ve been battling a terrible stomachache and I’m exhausted, so let’s get this thing done.


Genesis 26

This chapter opens with a famine in the land, and although Isaac is tempted to move his family, God tells him not to and explains all the promises and oaths that He gave to Abraham. Isaac then does as his father did, and pretends as though Rebekah is his sister, and not his wife. It is not until Abimelech sees them together that he chastises Isaac. Abimelech proclaims that no one shall harm Isaac or touch his wife, on penalty of death.

Isaac does very well for himself in a year’s time, and he was the envy of the Philistines. These jerks went around and filled in all of Abraham’s old wells, and Abimelech kicks Isaac out. So Isaac leaves, heads to the nearby Valley of Gerar, and digs up the old wells. After running into troubles with the locals twice over, he names the first two wells Esek, meaning quarrel, and Sitnah, meaning enmity.

No one fights him on the third one, and he names it Rehoboth, literally spaciousness, because

“Now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.”

— Isaac, Genesis 26:22

All goes well, and Abimelech and his commander, Phichol, and one of his friends, Ahuzzath, come to visit Isaac. They make a non-aggression pact with him, announce that he is blessed, and do not want him to hurt them. Isaac makes a feast and they go on their merry way.

Then things end with Esau taking two wives at age 40, which apparently is a huge pain for Isaac and Rebekah.

I’m not going to go to Matthew Henry today, but just share one of my own observations about this chapter. The Philistines are jealous of Isaac and his success; they kick him out and stop up his father’s wells and generally just harass him. And yet they only see the material things. They do not see his spiritual wealth, and if they do, they are put off by it. It seems to me that Isaac is a dedicated man; even though he inherits a great deal from his father, he also makes his own success. He prospers materially as well as spiritually, and it is my belief that the two go hand in hand, the latter preceding the former.

I am not saying that everyone who is materially wealthy is spiritually wealthy, nor am I saying that anyone who is spiritually wealthy will become materially wealthy. It just seems to me that as in this tale of Isaac, having a strong heart, having faith and a sense of purpose, these things can lead one to success, whatever that may be. For Isaac, his destiny is to inherit a land and to father a nation of people. This is what he has been told by God, and he has faith enough to get things done toward this end.

By faith, all things are possible.

I’m sick again, now. My stomach feels miserable. Contemplate these points, and rest well, everyone.

Peace be upon you.

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Day 22

Three weeks! I’ve officially passed the three-week mark as far as consistent, daily writing. One of my absolute favorite quotes (which I just learned is attributed to Katherine Center) is

“You have to be brave with your life so that others can be brave with theirs.”

My soul burns with these words; it resonates on such an intensely personal level that it feels as though it were written for me alone. This is my philosophy and my creed. It is as beautiful as the Golden Rule of “doing unto others” but it is turned inward. It is about how one treats oneself, how a person lives his or her own life as a beacon, a shining example. It is about doing and about being, about taking risks and overcoming challenges and letting other people see and believe it is possible.

It is about challenging old ways of thinking and old patterns of behavior. It is everything I love about psychology and faith rolled into one amazing statement. My mind races and my body vibrates with energy every time I think of it. It makes me want to go out and change the world, to go out and do something incredible, something that would have seemed impossible.

That is why I am writing this blog. That is why I am reading the Bible. A daily commitment of time and effort to something is impossible based on all of my previous experience and attempts. I could not write poetry every day, I could not exercise every day, I could not clean my house every day. I had not the power nor the discipline to see these things through, to visualize them in my head, to need them to be true and to realize them, to use all of my strength and will to bring them into being.

But, by God, here I am. Three weeks in and I shall not cease. I will write every single day until I am finished reading the Bible. And then I will write more and more. I will fill my life with… I will fill it with many things. But I have a sneaking suspicion that by the time I am done reading the Bible three years hence, I will know how to decisively finish that statement.

I want to say thank you today to all my followers. Right now there aren’t very many but every single one means so much to me, because in a way it reminds me that what I have to say means something. I committed to this task and I will see it through no matter what, but it feels good to have others following on my journey. I know no one asked for my advice, but I want to share what I’ve learned thus far:

Search deep within yourself for that nagging feeling, that one thought, that one imperative that will not let go. Dig deep and find the goal that you cannot dismiss, and find a way to achieve  it. If you are to be a writer, then start writing. Find that desire that cannot be ignored, for that is the fire of your life begging to be lit.

My followers:

  1. Musings from a Tangled Mind
    http://www.musingsfromatangledmind.com
  2. GODisms
    http://godisms.wordpress.com
  3. Jarosław PlayWithLifE
    http://www.playwithlife.org
  4. Kendall F. Person, thepublicblogger
    http://thepublicblogger.com/
  5. thisyearinmusic
    http://thisyearinmusic.wordpress.com

I just want to say thank you, and I hope that despite our diverse backgrounds or beliefs or what have you, I hope that the ideas I spread through my words mean something. I hope that watching as I move forward toward completion of this task, I hope that it brings you inspiration, that it drives you to do more than you thought possible.

This is nothing less than a realization of a dream, a transmutation of desire into reality, an exercise of pure will. And now that I have made up my mind, I feel a true and deep conviction… It is like nothing I have ever felt, and I know that my will has strength and that it will triumph at any cost.

Triumph_des_Willens_poster

Oh for Christ’s sake… That’s not what I meant and you know it!¹

Hey, just because I’m baring my soul doesn’t mean I can’t keep a sense of humor. I know, I know, Nazis aren’t funny, but… I can’t resist a terrible pun.

Also while I’m thanking people I want to thank my partner for being with me through this trying time, for encouraging me and believing in me. I love you so much.


Genesis 22

Ah, famous Genesis 22. God calls upon Abraham to kill and offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. I like how God says, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love…” just to drive home the point and make this extra difficult for Abraham (Gen 22:2). But at this point Abraham seems to have learned his lesson(s) and this time he obeys without question.

Long story short, just as he is about to kill his son, God calls him again (“Abraham!” “Here I am.” I wonder if that rhymes in Hebrew too?) and tells him that he can stop now, and he doesn’t have to stab Isaac. God once again reaffirms his promises to Abraham regarding descendents and land and all that, and hopefully Isaac forgave his dad for this whole mess, and to wrap it all up, we get some genealogy of Abraham’s brother Nahor.

Matthew Henry says a good deal about this chapter but for the most part the story speaks for itself. The only thing that really struck me during this whole story was the parallels between the near-sacrifice of Isaac and the future sacrifice of Jesus Christ. “Your only son,” and so forth. Henry even makes the point that Isaac carries the wood toward his own sacrifice as noted in Genesis 22:6, just as Christ bore the cross on which he would be killed.

One excellent bit of information that Henry brings up is that

“In Hebrew, to tempt, and to try, or to prove, are expressed by the same word.”²

I’ll keep this in mind any time any of those words shows up. Also, I discovered Wesley’s Explanatory Notes today, my eyes having been drawn by a banner ad to that part of the page. I’d heard of them before but never explored them, having stuck with Henry. John Wesley is credited with creating the Methodist movement, apparently. His notes break each chapter down verse by verse. Frankly, I might use him for some clarification, but it’s… it’s just too much.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for today; I’m going back to bed.

Peace be upon you.


¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triumph_of_the_will

² http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=1&c=22

Day 10

Woo! Ten days in a row. So far so good!

So I added a new page, which I will be sure to whore out every day until it starts receiving regular attention. Basically I’m soliciting interpretations from the good people out there reading this blog. I have my opinion and I have Matthew Henry’s opinion, but I want to hear from a broader variety of people. I’m interested to see what people from different walks of life think about the Bible.

The submission page and guidelines can be found here. Click the link and go at it!

Also I want to clarify something before I get into today’s chapter: I keep referring to my partner as just that, my “partner.” I know someday she is going to read this and probably be confused as to why I chose that word. A few reasons:

  1. It does signify a close bond, as we go through our lives together.
  2. Saying “girlfriend” seems cheesy, even though I’ve already outed her gender.
  3. Part of it seems distant and mysterious, and for purposes of this blog, I kind of like that.

That’s all there is to it, really. Just wanted to clear that up because I know someday she’ll read this. (Yes, you. ♥)

Genesis 10

Today we have the weird inbred genealogy of the sons of Noah. I know Biblical genealogy is concerned with the lineages of sons, and that daughters are not mentioned, but seriously, either back in the day people knew that these were stories and that there were other people to be found on Earth… or people were just totally a-okay with a lot of incest and inbreeding. Maybe they just didn’t read into it.

What was that about inbreeding?

“Well, golly! Only people round here to beget with are my cousins, my sisters, and my mother!” ¹

So we have the sons of Japheth (see above), who become the Gentiles, who “separated into their lands, everyone according to his language, according to their families, into their nations” (Genesis 10:5).

Then we get into the sons of Ham: Pork, Bacon, Loin, Cubed, Shaved… Alright, I’ll stop. But seriously, the sons of Ham. Eventually through his lineage, we get one of Canaan’s nephews, the mighty hunter Nimrod, whose reputation lasted right up until Bugs Bunny came along and turned him into an insult. I wasn’t going to write much about him but then I looked up the Matthew Henry commentary. I’ll just leave this here:

“Nimrod was a great man in his day; he began to be mighty in the earth, Those before him were content to be upon the same level with their neighbours, and though every man bare rule in his own house, yet no man pretended any further. Nimrod was resolved to lord it over his neighbours. The spirit of the giants before the flood, who became mighty men, and men of renown, Genesis 6:4, revived in him. Nimrod was a great hunter. Hunting then was the method of preventing the hurtful increase of wild beasts. This required great courage and address, and thus gave an opportunity for Nimrod to command others, and gradually attached a number of men to one leader. From such a beginning, it is likely, that Nimrod began to rule, and to force others to submit. He invaded his neighbours’ rights and properties, and persecuted innocent men; endeavouring to make all his own by force and violence. He carried on his oppressions and violence in defiance of God himself. Nimrod was a great ruler. Some way or other, by arts or arms, he got into power, and so founded a monarchy, which was the terror of the mighty, and bid fair to rule all the world. Nimrod was a great builder. Observe in Nimrod the nature of ambition. It is boundless; much would have more, and still cries, Give, give. It is restless; Nimrod, when he had four cities under his command, could not be content till he had four more. It is expensive; Nimrod will rather be at the charge of rearing cities, than not have the honour of ruling them. It is daring, and will stick at nothing. Nimrod’s name signifies rebellion; tyrants to men are rebels to God. The days are coming, when conquerors will no longer be spoken of with praise, as in man’s partial histories, but be branded with infamy, as in the impartial records of the Bible.” ²

Come on, Matthew! You’re making me look bad, over here. I’m making incest jokes about Gen 10 and he’s busy analyzing that Nimrod is a tyrant, a “rebel to God,” which would make a kick-ass band name. But seriously, wow. Matthew Henry expands on this point in his analysis of the line of Canaan. I can’t not share this.

“The posterity of Canaan were numerous, rich, and pleasantly seated; yet Canaan was under a Divine curse, and not a curse causeless. Those that are under the curse of God, may, perhaps, thrive and prosper in this world; for we cannot know love or hatred, the blessing or the curse, by what is before us, but by what is within us. The curse of God always works really, and always terribly. Perhaps it is a secret curse, a curse to the soul, and does not work so that others can see it; or a slow curse, and does not work soon; but sinners are reserved by it for a day of wrath. Canaan here has a better land than either Shem or Japheth, and yet they have a better lot, for they inherit the blessing. Abram and his seed, God’s covenant people, descended from Eber, and from him were called Hebrews. How much better it is to be like Eber, the father of a family of saints and honest men, than the father of a family of hunters after power, worldly wealth, or vanities. Goodness is true greatness.” ²

Wow. This is a beautiful description, an amazing interpretation. It reminds me of everything I have read thus far related to goodness and success. It reminds me especially of that wonderful book, The Four Agreements, where Don Miguel Ruiz describes the dream of Hell in which mankind is living.

“We cannot know love or hatred, the blessing or the curse, by what is before us, but by what is within us.”

— Matthew Henry

This reminds me especially of something written in The Myth of Sisyphus:

“It is probably true that a man remains forever unknown to us and that there is in him something irreducible that escapes us. But practically I know men and recognize them by their behavior, by the totality of their deeds, by the consequences caused in life by their presence.”

— Albert Camus

All these authors and writers are privy to a truth that many of us feel but have no words to describe. No matter what shows on the outside, man suffers in the absence of God. In the Bible, Noah curses Canaan and his lineage, but in truth he need say nothing; Canaan curses himself and his children by his actions, by leading them down a bad road, away from the grace and love of the Lord.

Ruiz knows that we live in Hell, that men suffer in silence in the depths of their souls because we have abandoned love and truth and beauty. We are wounded, lost children, and we strike at others out of fear and anger. No matter the heights of our success, in the end we are empty and miserable. We cannot be placated with material things; gold does not fill the coffers of the soul.

Camus would not be thrilled that I suggest turning to God to rectify this, but let me clarify: the feeling, the knowing of God can be had on Earth by mortal men. One does not have to cling to a hope of a distant heaven. Ruiz says as much himself: Heaven is a state of mind, and it is possible to attain. There are people on Earth who live lives of happiness, who do not suffer despite having excuses to do so.

I recognize God, I love God, and I accept God, in my own way, but I also recognize and accept the absurdity of “the human condition.” I cannot prove God to you. But my experiences and my life have been nothing short of miraculous, and if you have the eyes to see it, you will realize that your life is the greatest miracle and the highest truth. God works his magic through you. Look at all the “coincidences,” learn from them, see where your life has come from and where it has gone. There is no place you could be but here, no time you could be but now.

This moment is yours.

Seize it.

 

¹ http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/25574/gomer-pyle-usmc-the-complete-first-season/

² http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=1&c=10

Day 3

This will be brief, out of necessity. My partner stayed over last night and to the morning and I have not yet had time to begin writing.

I asked her about the apparent discrepancy between Genesis 1 and 2. She said that perhaps it just appears out of order, perhaps that there were already plants and animals elsewhere but that God created the garden itself after breathing life into Adam. Speaking of “breathing life,” it’s going to be interesting how many sayings or metaphors we still use that come from the Bible. I have a feeling I’m going to find several.

One thing I discovered is that there is a chance that the word “formed” in the NKJV may be an incorrect or incomplete translation. There is a potential that the original Hebrew word could also be translated as “had formed,” which would make verses like Genesis 2:19 fall in line with Genesis 1. The other thing I pointed out to her was that Genesis 2 tells a different story with a different lesson than Genesis 1.

Also, I discussed that, if one believes that the Bible is divinely inspired, then any translation error would have to be intentional, have meaning, or both. There would be a holy purpose for every mistranslated word.

Also also, my partner pointed out that in Genesis 1, it appears to imply that all animals were vegetarians, and that meat eating didn’t begin until the Fall of Man. I asked why God would create wolves with such sharp teeth if they were meant to eat fruits and plants. She said perhaps that’s when evolution kicks in, and allowed animals to evolve into meat-eating forms.

I told her if you’re going to use evolution to defend the Bible, you better produce a fossil record; you can’t have it both ways. She didn’t seem to like that. But that’s just what makes sense to me. I keep my science and my faith separate because they describe two different things.

But this is why I’m reading this book. I have questions and I might not be able to find answers, but God put a burning desire in me to constantly seek understanding, and I think I have found a purpose for that fire. I want to seek understanding now of this book, of this faith, and I will raise questions as they come. There is no intended disrespect. I think it is fair and right to seek knowledge and to ask questions of God. Faith should not and need not imply ignorance; that is my opinion.

Genesis 3

People sometimes say that the serpent is Satan. I see nothing that implies this. It seems simply that the serpent is a trickster and a deceiver. Its name is not capitalized, and nothing indicates to me that it is anything other than a snake.

When I first felt and knew and understood the presence of God, I visualized an Infinite Serpent, coiled upon itself in an infinity symbol. There was no visible head or tail, just a body, infinitely entwined. In my mind, the head that I could not see represents the higher spiritual realm, and the equally invisible tail, the lower. This is my own interpretation of a strange and mystical experience.

But when I visualized this image, I felt the presence of what people call the Holy Spirit. I felt love and peace such as I had never known. I knew that I was a part of this universe, that God existed, and that all was Good.

It all came crashing down shortly thereafter and after weeping with joy, I wept with sorrow. I was afraid that the Serpent I saw was a deceiver, and it hurts my heart even now to remember this feeling. But like the Serpent at Yggdrasil, the World Tree, in Norse mythology, the Infinite Serpent I witnessed was indeed venomous.

The good and the bad were entwined within it, and I understood all the ills of the world. This might not sound right, but bad things happen because a) men are free to make decisions and sometimes those decisions hurt others, but more importantly because b) without some measure of stress, we would never grow strong.

Yes, there are things in this world that seem horrifying. We should all be more kind and understanding with one another. However, just as muscles atrophy without some measure of stress and activity, so too do the mind and soul wither without challenge providing the opportunity for growth. We must, out of necessity, rise to our occasions; otherwise all would be stagnant. “What a man can be, he must be.”

But back to Genesis 3.

I don’t have time to discuss talking snakes, so who cares. There’s a point to the story. God says that if you eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, that Adam or his wife will surely die. Long story short, they eat and are still alive! Is God a liar?

Of course not. One could argue that they do die, eventually, and that had they not eaten of the tree they would have lived forever! But I don’t like this explanation, because God later says in Genesis 3:22 that they would only live forever if they ate of the tree of life, which is why he banishes them from Eden in the first place.

In my opinion, the death is a spiritual one. By knowing good and evil, by being ashamed of their nakedness, by knowing how to judge, mankind has lost its innocence. Man is dead inside; he and his kind will suffer, toil, and die.

In the book, The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz, he discusses the fact that human beings are living in a dream. We dream constantly, we make assumptions about things constantly and dream things up in our imagination. Think about the way the mind alters and manufactures memories… think about the way the mind fills in the details of familiar things. Have you ever driven to work and realized that you were on autopilot the whole time? You can barely remember the journey!

I don’t have time to get into the scientific literature on the nature of memory, but let’s just say that I agree with his statements. The problem is that we live in this dreamworld and we are controlled by a judge inside of us that judges everyone and everything that ourselves and others do, say, or do not do. We judge because we have to make sense of the world. But when we are controlled by this judge, when we feel victimized, we live in the past, we hold on to the past and constantly dredge up painful memories. How often have you been haunted and ashamed of a mistake you made several years ago?

Don Miguel Ruiz says that by living in the past, by living under the tyranny of this judge, we are only half-alive. We are too busy dreaming to see the present, to see the truth that is always before our eyes. Everything we see and touch is the truth, but we have no eyes for this truth — we are blind to it. (I think somewhere down the road we will see that Jesus heals blindness, no?)

So anyway, in my opinion, God is telling the truth. Adam and his wife will “die,” when they eat of this tree. They are no longer innocent; and the FIRST THING they do is judge themselves. They are afraid or ashamed of their nakedness. Now that they have become able to judge, they are afraid of their innocence. They have forgotten it.

Another interesting part is that Genesis 3:8 says that “the Lord God walk[ed] in the garden in the cool of the day.” So God here is described as having a physical presence, a physical body. Perhaps, anyway. Just an interesting aside.

Also after the “Fall of Man,” when Adam and his wife eat the fruit, God tells her that she will suffer childbirth. This also appears to be different from Genesis 1, where God says to man and woman, “Be fruitful and multiply,” which seems to have no negative connotations. Again, it is my opinion that God created more than just Adam and Eve. I don’t know how else you explain where Cain and all his sons found wives. Plus what about the Neanderthals? Plus… ehhh we’re not going down that road.

I’m not trying to take this book literally. But there are people who do and I do not wish to insult or offend them. I believe these are stories with messages. As I discussed yesterday, narratives make us remember lessons; without the story, without the emotion, the lesson would easily be forgotten.

Back on track… Genesis 3:17-19 are interesting because they describe the advent of agriculture, it seems. Man has gained knowledge of himself, the understanding of good and evil. And he suffers for it. He becomes “like one of Us,” (Genesis 3:22, again with the first-person plural…) and he suffers.

The interesting thing to me is that in the archaeological record, human life gets worse after the advent of agriculture. God tells Adam that “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread/Till you return to the ground,” (Genesis 3:19) and it is bread or grain that appears to have caused mankind no end of trouble. Starches helped rot our teeth, and men and women both worked long hours in the fields and over grinding-stones to make flour. Backs became hunched, knees and joints arthritic. Mankind suffered from agriculture.

And, like being cast out of Eden, the free-spirited living off the land that early man enjoyed can never be returned to. There is no going back. Once a tribe or group can feed its members consistently, it grows, and can never again be supported by foraging. The way of life is lost, never to return. In a sense, this is Eden, an ever-providing garden that mankind will never again enjoy.

The interesting thing about Göbekli Tepe, which I mentioned yesterday, is that one of the men who discovered or wrote about it, believes that it is a temple in what was once called or referred to as Eden. Man ate of the animals and the plants. But by gathering together in large numbers, the people needed more food to feed themselves. They discovered agriculture; they could make plants grow on their own terms. But as I said, there is no going back. Their lifestyle changed, and they suffered for it. They farmed and farmed, not understanding crop rotation, or the nutrients of the soil, and they farmed the land to death. There is a reason there is  desert in that region of the world. So they cursed their fate, and buried their once-sacred temple. It reminded them of a past, of an innocence, of a forgotten Eden to which they would never return. An interesting theory to say the least. We shall never know the whole truth, but it is a hauntingly beautiful story.

Even in our disobedience, God shows Adam and Eve his love. He gives them clothing (Genesis 3:21), but he realizes that man cannot be allowed to live forever. So out from the garden they go. To me it is interesting, because even though this is seen as a “bad thing,” the Fall of Man appears to have been inevitable. People multiplied, and many lives were brought into the world, onto the earth, because of this Fall. Adam and Eve would bear children and multiply….

My life, your life, we are all here today as a result of agriculture, as a result of reproduction. There is an unbroken chain of life going back and back and back…. It seems to me that God knew this would happen all along. The world is not perfect, and man must be given suffering to rise above. Man must be given challenges to overcome. It is how we grow, how we strengthen our souls. Man, like an innocent child, cannot live in the garden forever. What would be the point?

Life is both means and end. Life is for living. We are here to have experiences, we are here to make connections, to live, to love, to learn, and to grow. We are here to make the best of this world, to make the best of the circumstances and the life that God has given us. What more could we ask for but to be alive?

This is one of the most fundamental questions a human being can ask. My favorite answer to this question comes from the movie Dogma. (Spoiler alert incoming)

At the end of the movie, the main character, a woman, Bethany, dragged into a universe-ending conflict, gets to meet a physical embodiment of God, played hilariously by Alanis Morissette. God cleans up all the mess with a blink of Her (His?) eyes, and before leaving, Bethany asks, “Why are we here?”

God thinks for a moment, and boops Bethany on the nose with Her finger. Bethany looks confused.

We are here because we are here. It is both as simple and as complex as that. Life is for living, learning and experiencing. I believe it should be about doing good, building bridges with other humans rather than burning them, bringing people together rather than pushing them apart. But we all have our own God-given paths and circumstances. Life is about finding the purpose, finding the good that one can do amidst those circumstances, or in spite of them.

I am already filled with joy and purpose from writing this. I feel better already. Thank you, God.

To anyone and everyone reading this, I love you. Thank you for joining me on this wonderful day.

Peace be upon you.

Day 1

“For God so loved the world…”

Wait, that’s not now this starts.

Interestingly enough, yesterday, the first day that I wrote anything for this project was March 16th, 2014. 3/16. Or 3:16, for those of you familiar with the famous verse in John. I have no access to the Internet as I write this, so there may be a time difference between the writing date and the posting date. And so we begin with…

THE FIRST BOOK OF MOSES CALLED

Genesis 1

“In the beginning” is a pretty good way to start any text, especially one that appears to be concerned with life, the universe, and everything. It is interesting that just yesterday, a Jehovah’s witness stopped by my house. He is an older gentleman and a man I have met often. I like him and I respect him and I hope he returns. Yesterday he gave me a copy of their publication, called “Awake!” which, appropriately enough, discusses “The Untold Story of Creation” as its main feature.

According to this pamphlet, here’s a rough outline of what the Jehovah’s witnesses believe about God and about the introduction of Genesis.

God:

a) “is a person, an individual. He is not a vague force devoid of personality, floating aimlessly throughout the universe.” I’ve thought of God for quite some time as a force, but not as one devoid of personality. Perhaps I just haven’t given thought to what an infinitely powerful spiritual body would look like. In a way, God could have a spiritual body the size of the universe, and thus be “everywhere” so to speak. Anyway, let’s move on.

b) “has infinite power and wisdom. This explains the complex design found everywhere in creation, especially in living things.” Natural laws appear to account for this complexity as well but I am getting so far ahead of myself…

c) “created all physical matter. Hence, he (sic?) cannot be made of physical elements that he (sic?) himself (sic again?) created. Rather he (sic?) is of a spiritual, or non-physical, nature.” This is interesting to me. It has no scripture cited but this would explain why we feel God, via what some call the Holy Spirit, but we cannot study or test for God using scientific instrumentation. Also, I guess society has really drilled this into me because I feel weird referring to God without capitalizing His pronouns. I’ll have to ask the JW about that next time I talk to them.

d) “has always existed and will always exist.”

e) “has a personal name […] Jehovah.”

f) “loves and cares for humans.”

Alright, so that seems pretty straightforward. Regarding Genesis, the pamphlet also says that the Bible “frequently uses the term ‘day’ to designate various periods of time. In some cases these periods are of an unspecified length.” The man who came to my door likened this to saying “In the days of my fathers,” or “In the days of my youth.” So he, and apparently JW doctrine, assert that the days of creation are not literal 24­-hour days, but instead extended periods.

Now I looked up a “Skeptic’s Annotated Bible” on my smartphone, and boy, do they rip into Genesis 1. Their website (skepticsannotatedbible.com) calls the creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2 “contradictory” and flat­ out states that it “conflicts with the order of events that are known to science.”

Now scientific research and observation tells us that the universe was likely created in a sudden expansion of material some billions of years ago, I believe somewhere to the tune of 13 or 14 billion years. The common age of the earth is estimated to be around 4 to 5 billion years. So the universal beginning, commonly referred to as “the Big Bang,” caused all this material to spread and spread and spread and potentially actually spread the fabric of space­time itself. I’m not a physicist so I have no idea how that even works or what that would even mean. But universe starts small and gets bigger. Yay!

Until recently, we had very little conception of how planets and stars might form. It would seem like gravity would take way too long to gather enough random floating dust to create a planet, much less a star or collection of stars. A recent demonstration of static electricity aboard the ISS showed that in the absence of gravity, objects, in this case, grains of salt, get attracted to each other via the electromagnetic force. In the absence of gravity, static suddenly becomes a really big deal. So, perhaps the planets and stars, etc., formed in this way.

THE FIRST DAY

So on “day” one, the heavens and earth are created. Is that, “Heaven” heaven? Apparently not yet, according to the New King James Version. So maybe it’s just the sky?

Even though God created the heavens and earth at the same time, the earth is described as being “without form, and void.” I made dinner! Oh, where is it? Well, it’s without form. But I made it.

So what does this mean? Could God have created the idea of the earth, created the path by which He knew the earth would form? Or by which He would later form it?

In case you didn’t read the about page, I’m interpreting the Bible as I see fit, and not literally. Also, I didn’t expect this to be a play­-by-­play of verses, but with Genesis 1, how can I not?

Anyway, so earth is formless. But there are “waters.” Somewhere. Anyway, now we get to the good stuff.

“Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” Genesis 1:3, God creates light. Now if we mean literal physical light, then on the first day, God created photons. So I like my idea of: the heavens are created, that’s space­time, and the earth is created, without form, so I guess maybe even just as energy, which will begin coalescing into matter right about… now! So there was light, and “it was good.” Sounds good. So we have light EVERYWHERE, because it’s not until Genesis 1:4 that God separates it from the darkness.

So maybe we have, the all the light and energy from the Big Bang, and then a moment later (or whatever) there are areas of the “heavens” without light. So later in the “day” we have empty space. Which isn’t really empty, yadda yadda yadda, I know, but this isn’t a physics textbook.

THE SECOND DAY

“A firmament in the midst of the waters”? So what’s a firmament? The New International Version uses the word “vault.” NKJV says that the firmament was called Heaven, with a capital H. The NIV says that the vault was called sky. Oh, boy…. And so it begins….

There are waters above and below this firmament, apparently.

THE THIRD DAY

So, here God separates the water from the land. So we have “Earth” and we have “Seas.” Or in the NIV, we have “land” and “seas.” The JW gentleman said that he’s going to bring me a copy of their translation of the Bible, which is written in plain modern English, translated as best anyone can tell from older Greek and Hebrew texts. I can’t wait to see that one.

But I digress. So on this “day” we get plants. Grasses, trees, and fruits, to yield seed “according to their kind.” So we have some biology now: life creating life. Apple trees do not bear seeds that grow peach trees, and vice versa, and so on and so on.

And everything is pretty good. Haha.

THE FOURTH DAY

So today we have day divided from night, and the Sun and the Moon are created. At least, that’s the implication, since it never says “sun” or “moon” anywhere in here. But it is pretty heavily implied since the lights are “‘for signs and seasons, and for days and years.'” So sayeth the Lord, Genesis 1:14. Some people interpret this as astrology, at least the “signs” bit. But anyway. Signs, seasons, days, years. So this is how we figure out a calendar. This is how we figure out holidays. Etc., etc.

The JW pamphlet states that on the fourth day, “the sun and moon become discernable [emphasis added] from the earth’s surface.” So, their interpretation is that prior to this, the atmosphere of the earth was such that they were not visible. Now it seems that in the early days of the earth, there were clouds of dust and volcanic ash, violent storms, and the like. But there probably wouldn’t have been plants at this time, at least not as we know them. If there were plants before the “sun and moon [became] discernable” then they would be little rinky-­dink single­-celled organisms. At least, in my opinion and understanding. But whatever.

One of the main things I talked about with the JW gentleman is that the Bible doesn’t need to be a science textbook. There is a difference between physical and spiritual things, as elaborated upon by their pamphlet describing God’s spiritual body. The Bible is a great book, but its concern is with spiritual matters. It is not a medical text, a science text, a biology text, and so on. Can we learn some things from it, or at least compare it to what our observation of the world tells us? I’ve believed for a long time that it would be a cruel or mischievous God that makes a universe that operates on a series of natural laws that are designed to trick and confuse its inhabitants (humans). And I don’t believe that God is like that; I don’t believe God would punish people for having the audacity to better understand how creation works. If you put an animal in an enclosure, it’ll probably try and assess the limits and contents of its domain, and humans are no different.

Anyway, day four, everybody.

THE FIFTH DAY

So now we have animal life in the waters, and birds in the skies. For some reason, birds come before land animals in Genesis 1. Modern birds appear to have evolved (gasp, I said it!) from dinosaurs as far as we can tell, and so likely came much later in this process. But again, not a science book.

THE SIXTH DAY

Now we get animals and beasts of the earth. Things again reproduce according to their kind. Perhaps this is where some of the evolutionary criticism comes from. If things reproduce according to their kind, then how can anything evolve? Anyone ever breed dogs? Or cattle? Or anything?

Given time and careful breeding, it’s possible to get something different from what one starts with. So even though it’s not in the Bible because who would have understood it when this book was written (or transcribed, or whatever), there is such a thing as mutation and genetic variation within a breed or species… and over time….

But here’s the first thing that made me go, “Huh?”

Genesis 1:26. “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…” So I find the first­-person plural interesting. God basically says “Let’s do this thing,” but who’s the “Us”? Not, “Let Me,” but “Let Us”. So perhaps this involves the idea of the trinity, what people would call a Godhead. That God is one but also more than one. Or maybe I’m complicating the narrative.

So anyway, God makes man. This is not really shown as that big of a deal… He “created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:27.

Wait, what? And then He tells them to go and have kids and be fruitful and he just gives everything to man! God gives man the herbs and the plants and the animals and He says, that man should “fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over […] every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Now this is a lot of responsibility to give one’s children or creations! Take care of the whole world! Be good!

But at least Genesis 1:27 might provide the answer to “Who was Cain’s (or any Old Testament man’s) wife?” Because apparently God just created a bunch of people!

And that wraps up the first six days of creation. Genesis 1.

Anyone who can provide insight or opinions or interpretations, please do so below! This is a project of discourse and understanding, as best I can accomplish it. Full disclosure, I am a man often swayed by logic, or at least by things that appear to make logical sense when held up to scrutiny. If this logic happens to come in the form of verses, so be it. I’m just trying to learn.

Peace be upon you.