Thursday, 4 June 2009

Reading through Genesis

I've just set myself the project of reading right through the Bible. I have done this once or twice, a long time ago, but this time I'm determined to enjoy it! Never mind about puzzling out its meaning or consciously asking "what God is telling me". I'm just reading it as a book, and letting myself react to it in a natural way. At the same time, I am sure God will tell me lots of things through it.

I'm actually reading it in Welsh, partly because being a late learner of Welsh I want to familiarise myself with the Welsh Bible, and partly because it means reading a version I have never read before. It comes very fresh in this way. I can recommend that if you have a second language you try reading the Bible in it.

One thing that jumps out of the page at me in the early chapters of Genesis is the obvious inconsistencies. The second chapter is quite incompatible with the first. In Genesis 1 God creates plants on the third day, birds and reptiles on the fifth day, and animals and human beings on the sixth day. In Genesis 2 he creates a man before there are even any plants. He then plants a garden for him, then creates the animals, and finally a woman. They are quite obviously two different stories, each beautiful in its own way, and we ruin them by trying to interpret them as literal.

Other inconsistencies are obvious too. Where did Cain find a wife? How could Cain's descendant Jabal be the ancestor of those who live in tents and have livestock, and Jubal the ancestor of all those who play the lyre and pipe, when the whole human race except Noah and his family was wiped out in the Flood?

After generations of people who lived more than 900 years, we read in Genesis 6:3 that just before the Flood God determined that from then on no-one would live more than 120 years. And yet in Genesis 11 we find the descendants of Noah for several generations living for more than 400 years, and for a few more generations at least 200.

All this makes it quite incredible to me that anyone can interpret the Bible as literal history. It is a huge collection of stories, and we enjoy them best by reading one at a time.

1 comment:

  1. I would have to disagree with the inconsistencies. The Bible does not contradict itself in anyway. For example, about Cain getting a wife, just because the Bible doesn't mention it, does not mean there were no other women on the face of the planet. Also, about God creating man in the second chapter is clearly a simple recollection of what happened in the first chapter. Remember that the Bible is a book inspired by and written by the Holy Spirit. Often times, you cannot explain some things because they are open either only to the faithful, or if God desires to open them to someone. Otherwise, you can bring up a lot of "inconsistencies" or simple "this doesn't make sense" points if you take everything from a human perspective. How could Jesus possibly walk on water? Through walls? Talk to demons? Therefore, it's not necessarily right to read the Bible as you would any other book. I hope you understand where I am coming from. Blessings to you.