Bible 101: Jumbled Voices
-Rev Melissa Fain-
This is part of a series. Please visit them in order if you are jumping in during the middle of all this:
Bible 101: An Introduction
Bible 101: Finding God
Bible 101: The Three Hebrew Bibles
Bible 101: Language Changes
Bible 101: Take a Breath
Bible 101: Voice
And for the adventurous side: Introduction to the Bible Using the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Correction: It is more important to me to get correct information rather than just looking correct. I had stated the order incorrectly on Genesis. The Priestly story is the first Creation story, while the J story is the second. I have already made this correction in last week's meditation.
Now I remember why this project always grinds to a halt. I get to this point where I have to say things I'm never sure you are ready to hear. Instead of laying it out in a caring way, I leave it alone for those who are far less caring to rip it apart. It's like you have appendicitis. It will be destroyed eventually, but if I walk away it will kill you. I know how dire that sounds, but the information I'm trying to relay has been delivered bluntly, and without concern for the Spiritual system. I will take many pauses to make sure you are not drowning. Let's go.
Last week we looked at two intact stories, telling the same story, side by side. The Bible isn't always that obvious. Time will erode and re-form what is left. That's what we have with Noah's Ark.
Break time. We are only two sentences in, and I can feel your blood pressure rising from across the internet. I can chip away at the Creation. Sixth grade science class did more damage than anything else. Why do I need to do the same thing with Noah?
Well, let me tell you. Kenneth Ham has made a career out of convincing the public that Genesis is a literal retelling of the first few thousand years of Earth. He has gone as far as to create a museum to the Genesis account(s) of creation. He also built a life sized ark. True, it was built by a team of builders, and would not float if Kentucky actually flooded, but that is truly beside the point. He is a real person who I have interacted with on Reddit, and who I have defended when users made fun of him personally. I respect him as a person while I deeply disagree with his theology.
He recently sent a large contingent of churches his book, "Gospel Reset" for free. I have minister friends all over the United States, and we spent about two weeks posting when we received our personal copy. As I was reading there was a moment of agreement: It's all about foundations. Your foundation in faith sets the tone for everything you do within that faith. Now, his faith believes we must see Genesis as chapter one. If we don't understand Creation and everything in Genesis as literal, we will have a skewed view of everything else. I, on the other hand, flip a few words.
If we don't understand what literally happened from history to the history of how those stories were kept, we will have a skewed view of everything else.
Noah's Ark used to be my hill to die on. Probably because I spent my free time in college arguing with atheists. Their favorite past time, throwing out real issues with literal readings of the Bible and watching Christians squirm. Foundations crumble under those continuous attacks. Only, Genesis isn't my foundation, and neither is Biblical literalism. God incarnate- or God made human, is my foundation. As these boys tried to dismantle my faith, they did a better job to prepare me for seminary to enrich and deepen my faith.
Remember your foundation, and let's jump into this.
The Two Tales of One Ark
Here is where we talk about set-up and pay-off. The Yehweh voice I mentioned last week set one view of creation, while the Priestly voice set up something very different.
The Ark is a great place where we can see two very distinct versions of the stories being stitched together. A piece of J survived, and a piece of P survived. Some of those pieces are unique, but some of them repeat themselves in different ways. When pulled apart we have two complete stories, capable of being mostly solid tellings. What they say, and the name they use for God helps us point to where one story starts and the other begins. It's pretty obvious, like taking hot pink and black PlayDoh and smashing them together for about five seconds.
If you realized what is happening, you should see how the two voices take turns telling the same story in different ways. There are two introductions. There are two set-ups. The flood is described twice. The resolution happens twice. Each time this happens each telling has a different name for God, and follows the set-up back when we were reading about Creation.
If you would like to check out a decent separation, Religion at the Margins created a solid one.
What's the Point?
That's the question I eventually had to ask myself as I spent countless hours arguing with atheists in our small music hallway. What was the point, as least, for me? What are any of us accomplishing making Creation and Noah's Ark our hill to die on?
First, I didn't trust God enough to be present outside the Bible. By fighting over stories that came before organized faith (before Abraham), I wasn't accepting those stories were humanity's toddler stage in faith. God is present now, and there are things to do now. I eventually took this statement to heart: "Does belief in a literal Creation and Noah's Ark get me into heaven?" No. When put against that specific test, the answer is an emphatic no. We are often called to trust by letting go. This is one of those moments. I had to trust God enough to let go of certain aspects of these stories.
Second, "truth" does not mean "literal." Part of us already knows this, but it still confuses us anyway. Almost all of us believes the parables are just moral lessons Jesus used to make a bigger point. We already know there are things in the Bible we are not supposed to take literally. Noah's Ark and Creation can be the same way. As in, there was a guy who God saw as redeemable, inspired him to build a boat way before trouble came, and when trouble came his faith saved him. Everything I said in the last sentence preaches. Do I need to go beyond it? I know that's an extremely crude condensing, but it gets to a truth within Genesis. We don't need to physically set a canoe in a pool and reenact the flood to find the truth. In fact, you might lose the truth in the process.
Finally, God is perfect; we are not. I can write that line every week and it will need to be said. If you put humans in charge of something, we are going to mess it up in some way. Guaranteed. Heck, I've been at Fig Tree for almost seven years and I still mess it up. People were tasked with transmitting the event of God to future generations. The event was perfect. The transmission of the event was not. Let me put it another way. The Bible is a heresy. Heresy is a fancy word for believing something that is at odds with our core belief. Right before Noah's Ark the Bible recounts this story where God had sons and those sons slept with the girls of Earth. They created giants. It doesn't say anywhere that they were fallen angels. In early Christendom the powers that be would get together and write rules of faith. They called them Creeds. One of those "rules" is that we believe in one Son. The fallen angels part was created to kinda tweak the scripture. If we took a true not literal approach to it, we would see how these "sons of God" is a continuation of Chaos and Creation. If we left the story alone we could simply see that Created Order hadn't stuck. Everything, including the Heavens were in chaos. Were there literal "son's of God?" Who cares? The truth is bigger than how that truth was transmitted.
Well, friends, next week we jump into the New Testament. I started with the Hebrew Bible, because for many of us, we can pick apart those older books, without changing a single idea regarding Matthew to Revelation. Now it's time to dig into the very thing we are most afraid to dig into.
As I'm often to remind everyone. I believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and I accept Him as Lord and Savior of my life. I still believe, even with everything I'm telling you. You can still believe too.