For March 5. Gen.2:15-17, 3:1-7. Psalm 32, Romans 5:12-19, Matt. 4:1-11
For me, reading the first few chapters of Genesis is both hugely inspiring and somewhat frustrating.
Inspiring because I find the background study of Babylonian creation stories and the two strands of different traditions (chapters 1 and 2 have different accounts) instructive. It's fascinating to try to understand the world views that existed when Genesis was first written down and to wonder about the new revelations God was speaking into those contexts. (Example: The Genesis account is a peaceful creation of humanity in God's image, whereas in the Babylonian myths people are a result of violence between gods and a desire to create servants. How did people react to this new understanding of God? What did they think when, after the flood, God "retires" the war-bow by hanging it in the sky as a promise that this destruction would never happen by God's hand again?) I love the Genesis themes of creativity, a good creation with a built in purpose of care and companionship that extends to all the earth, and a "nothing hidden" relationship between God and humanity. The idea of sin as trying to be like God, disobedience, and dishonesty still resonate today.
I find the reading somewhat frustrating because of the persistence of outdated interpretations. Genesis is metaphorically and symbolically rich, an amazing resource for learning, but when it is reduced through literalism/creationism, it becomes shallow in meaning and irrelevant to today's minds and experiences. Bits and pieces of the idea that men and women aren't equal (only in ch. 2!), remnants of the theory of original sin (Eve as a sexy temptress, poor hapless Adam...I can't actually figure out where this all comes from), and recitations of the 7 days of creation as if this is historical fact (only in ch. 1), try to pack these amazing stories into small, inflexible boxes that are easily dismissed.
Here is an example of how I keep getting excited about Genesis and the things this story can teach if we are open to creativity in our study, thinking, and application.
A few years ago, as a joke, a friend gave me a book called: The Mushroom in Christian Art by John A. Rush. I have a bit of an interest (my family says obsession) with mushrooms, so the gift was perfect. (Here is a link to see the pictures from the book.)
The basic premis is that "Jesus is the mushroom experience." (The book is far fetched, I think maybe the author may have had a few too many of the wacky kind of shrooms....) It includes many examples of early Christian art with mushrooms imagery. It was not unusual for the tree of knowledge to be adorned with mushrooms, not apples. Now that I found interesting, especially when you read that eating the fruit results in gaining the knowledge of good and evil...Genesis 3:5. There are many mushrooms known to have psychedelic effects, and many religions have used them throughout history. So...what was the understanding of these early Christian artists?
This morning, when I read Genesis 3, I thought the account of the first sin in chapter 3 could be used creatively as a warning against poor lifestyle choices-specifically lifestyle choices that involve drug addiction-so the mushroom is apt. Certain drugs have been used by some people to "open the mind", and might have short term effects that feel quite good. In verse 3 the woman tells the serpent that God has forbade them to touch the fruit because they will die. The serpent says they will not die but instead will have their minds opened. Well, the mind-altering effects of drugs may not cause instant death, but their use certainly leads down an unhealthy path both for the individual and their loved ones. The death may not be instant, but it is real. Perhaps there are interesting and creative new ways to understand and learn from this old scripture! What kind of death was Eve being warned about?
Lots of other good stuff in these passages-but we are off on a ski trip, so I'm finished for today. What did you find in your reading that got you thinking creatively?