Bible Study: Genesis
Disclaimer… These thoughts are my own and I do not wish to influence anyone’s beliefs or thoughts on religion as a concept or as their own personal belief.
Genesis: the origin or formation of something. In this case, Christianity (and Judaism, the Tenakh) It contains the most well known stories of the Christian faith; The Creation Story, The Fall of Man, Cain and Able, The Great Flood and more. Fifty chapters all telling a different story (with usually a few chapters spanning a person’s lifetime), conveying a different message. From my understanding, when a man dies the story passes on to one of his sons (always the father, always the son). Starting with the creation of Adam to the death of Joseph.
One of the first sentiments that I clicked with came straight from the first chapter, “God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1:4) Everyone reads the Bible differently; literally, figuratively, metaphorically. Although this verse refers to God’s creation of a physical world, I read it as in the separation of good and evil, light and dark – the desire to do good. I always try and make the best decisions I can to do good so this really resonated with me.
Another element of the creation story that I agree with is God’s creation of man and woman, nothing in between. I know that maybe sounds unusual coming from a transgender man. The reason I agree is because procreation is a human necessity for existence to continue (and a God would want his creation to hold fast) and in society when the Bible was written it was before the creation of IVF, and other family planning that allow for all kinds of people across the LGBT spectrum to have children. Also, even though “male and female He created them” that doesn’t automatically assign masculine to the male and feminine to the female, it is referring to sex not gender (Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble is a very good source if you want to explore the idea of sex verses gender further) The Bible states a principle and society of the time created ideas around that principle (whether rightly or wrongly)
Within the Cain and Able story (I think we all know how it ends) God says to Cain, “Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7) Everyone at some point in their lives have been tempted to be the lesser person, maybe to gain something you’ve wanted for a long time, to wrong someone who has hurt you, a number of things can make a person make the wrong choice. Whether religious or not, all people following the principle of resisting immoral desires would make society a much better place.
Lastly, I found Joseph to be an agreeable person, mainly because of his desire to do what is right even when he has been mistreated. Despite his brothers selling him into slavery, as it leads him to defending the people from famine, he forgives them of their mistreatment. Forgiveness, the desire to help people, the idea of the greater good, are strong principles that better humanity.
Reading religious scripture written thousands of years ago was always going to have its struggles. Especially to a young, open minded person living in the twenty first century. I realise that the Bible was written in a different time, a different society etc. But I want to be able to apply it to today, to now, and so I will be critical of it with that in mind.
Although I agreed with the idea that we should all resist sinful behaviour (I do have a different opinion on what is ‘sin’ than what is written in the Bible), I do not like or agree with the idea that we are all born inherently evil. After the Great Flood, God declares, “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood.” (Genesis 8:21) I wouldn’t want to raise children to believe that their natural instinct is evil, that they constantly need to prove that they are good and deserving. A child is not born bad, they grow to be either a mostly good individual or mostly bad individual (not everyone is 100% good or 100% bad)
My main issue throughout Genesis (and I think probably will continue throughout the rest of my reading of the Bible) is the power dynamic between men and women. As soon as Eve is created from Adam’s rib there is an ‘other’ in the form of the feminine and a hierarchy put into place. “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16) It’s interesting that God deems desire for a husband (or man in general) to be a punishment for her sin in eating the forbidden fruit. However, it is completely accurate. Woman’s sexual repression (and oppression) begins here, and it is a punishment. Throughout Genesis there is also the use of slaves to conceive when wives cannot; Abram and Sarai (Abraham and Sarah) use their slave, Hagar to conceive their first son (the same happens in other chapters with Job and his two wives) I can’t imagine that these women slaves wanted to be impregnated by their masters, so in my opinion we are dealing with rape in this scenario. A rape that isn’t punished. In fact, God rewards Abraham for being fruitful and promises that his family line will be blessed with land and wealth.
The main issue in Genesis is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Where all the men of Sodom demand that the men under Lot’s roof (who happen to be angels) be used for their sexual pleasure (hence the phrase sodomy) What they’re suggesting is immoral, definitely. Not because of their homosexual inclination but because they would be assaulting the men in Lot’s house. Lot begs the men not to do this “wicked thing” and instead kindly offers his daughters, “Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them to you, and you can do what you like with them.” (Genesis 19:8) There are so many issues here; Lot is using his daughters bodies (and their virginity) as a bargaining chip, homosexuality is seen as a greater sin than all the men of the city using two young women against their will. This strengthens my firm belief that the Bible (and Christians) presenting homosexuality as a sin to be ridiculous, as a loving relationship between the same sex is completely moral compared to Lot’s suggestion for his daughters.
This concludes my thoughts on Genesis. I want to again state that these are my own thoughts, it is not my intention to offend or undermine anyone’s belief system.
My next post in this series will be Bible Studies: Exodus.