You know what’s a minor pet peeve of mine?  When people mispronounce the word literal.  Instead of saying literal (three syllables) they say litrel.  Or when they say something is literal when it isn’t.  “It was lit-relly, like, bigger than the planet.”

Anyway, are Adam and Eve literal?  Lots of people think that they are, and it’s a really fun idea.  So while thinking about them, I like to come up with ways that Adam and Eve could really be real people, 6000 years ago, when we have fossils of people much earlier than that.

So, there’s the standard ‘we don’t know what the measurements of time were that were used–a day could mean an era of some sort.  Especially since this was all written later, if someone was sort of having a vision of all that happened and then tasked with writing it down, well, God would sort of have to speed up the process.  So a vision with a time-stop thing that sort of showed the creation could make it seem like, okay, this was a day.  (Do you know what I’m talking about?  They do it in the movies all the time but I don’t know the technical name for it.  Let’s just say that if you were in the Twilight movie universe, you’d be spinning around a chair showing the seasons going by.)  Then the next thing happened.  And that was, like, another day.  If Adam and Eve were real people, that probably makes the most sense.

But!  What if God isn’t talking about the very first man at all?  What if there were totally men and women hanging out, living lives, herding, hunting, gathering, farming, whatever, but Adam and Eve were the first of God’s people?  So, evolution happened the way that we think, but the Bible has this record of the Israelites, who were some of the descendants of Adam and Eve.  But what if there is some other -ible, the Gible or Zible perhaps, about Ronald and Sue, the first people of another set of people.  Why haven’t we heard of these people, you ask?  Well, there’s the flood, after all.  I bet a lot of paperwork was lost in the flood.  Also, have you heard about all those fires that California keeps having?  Stuff that’s written down is notorious for just, like, disappearing when there is a wildfire.  (And obviously all this stuff is written on pieces of paper, right?  I mean, my NIV is, so I extrapolate that to all documents by every culture ever in history.)

*Note that in all of this, I haven’t said that I actually think that Adam and Eve were real people.

So, now, what if Adam and Eve were not real people, but are in fact myths, stories of the beginning of time that aren’t supposed to be literally interpreted, but mined for the wealth of information that they give.  I suppose it is also possible to very narrowly interpret the story, possibly putting too much emphasis on ideas that could then skew your entire perception of the Bible.

If Adam and Eve were not real people, there are some questions.  What about all of those random descendants who are named but (as far as I know) never really returned to or seen again?  Why bother with the cameos of these children who didn’t turn out to be the ancestors of Abraham?  Perhaps they had (have?) more meaning to the Jews at the time that it was written.

Also, when did the people start being real people and not just myths?  It’s possible that there is some blurring here–maybe Abraham was real, but more has been attributed to him than actually happened, or stories about a few people were combined into one.  You see this a lot in the Greek myths–depending on which stories you read, you get different versions of which god did what, etc.

*Note that in all of this, I haven’t said that I actually think that Adam and Eve were mythological people.

So, is it time for my opinion?  I warn you–it’s going to sound wishy washy.

I don’t know if Adam and Eve were literal people or not.  And I don’t really think that it matters.  Whether they were literal people or not doesn’t change the lessons that we have to learn from them.  It doesn’t make or break my faith.

In any case, I think it is a beautiful story about the origins of mankind (civilized mankind?) with so much to learn about man and God and what our relationship should and could be with God.  And for what God thinks about people and how He treats us.

Wishy washy?  Maybe.  Post-modern?  Probably.

The Tumble Outta Eden

Genesis 3: The Fall of Man

So, reading about the Fall of Man in Genesis 3, this is what I was thinking about and focusing on.

In vs. 16, Eve is given the consequences of eating the fruit.  Specifically, God says that He will “greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children.  Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” Continue reading

My Genesis of Bible Study

Before I begin discussing Adam and Eve, and while I was reading it, there are a few important issues that I sort of have to mentally rummage through.

First, do I believe that the story of Adam and Eve is literal?  Was there really a man, Adam, and a woman, Eve, who lived in a paradisaical garden wherein there was a fruit tree that would give them knowledge of good and evil and a snake that could talk and tempt?  (Now that last part sounds sort of derisive, but obviously if it is literal, my disdain of the talking snake is just part of the enmity between me (woman) and the serpent, and I’m crushing its head (ego).  So, please, literal readers of the Bible, don’t get all up in arms about me yet!)

Second, if I do believe that the first few people in the Bible were real people, and it all happened exactly as Genesis claims, how do I reconcile that to dinosaurs and early fossils of humans, as I don’t really buy into a fossil-hiding god.

Third, if I don’t believe that the first few people were real people, but are in fact mythological (as in, early stories that evolved through years of retelling to explain the beginnings and nature of humankind, through which a person can find rich life lessons and meaning about life), when do I believe that they start being real?  If not Adam, then Noah?  Abraham?  King David?  Jesus?  As someone who has absolutely no understanding of the actual history of the times of the Bible (or, you know, recent history), if I don’t believe that everything in the Bible is literal and exactly as written, I have to make decisions (prayerfully, hopefully) about what I believe were real miracles and what are good life lessons.

Also, something worth noting as I begin discussing Genesis, is that I began reading A New Kind of Christianity by Brian McLaren.  In the first chapter, he discusses the narrative question, specifically, how should we approach the narrative of the Bible, and is the way that we’ve historically approached it the best way?  (Note: my words and how I understood the chapter.)  I found the chapter to be incredibly rewarding and generative of a ton of questions to ask while reading.

Basically, McLaren suggests that we (Christians) historically have looked at the Bible from a Plato-esque worldview, with perfection, the fall, condemnation, salvation, heaven, and hell.  And that the Bible is messier than that.  And more real and earthy and dirty and alive than that, if that makes sense.  Anyway, he said it much better than me, so go read the book (although I might blog more about it later).

So, without further rambling by me, I will begin my discussions with some thoughts on Adam and Eve and the so-called Fall.

Recommitting to the Bible

Doesn’t that sound just so religiously provocative?  It’s like I’ve come to this realization and been reborn or something, and really getting back to the roots of my faith.

Except that’s not it.  Last year, I started reading the Gospel of Mark and blogging about it.  My plan had been to be ridiculously thorough and really pick apart every word and verse and chapter using four different translations, and really be transformed.  The problem with this lofty goal is that I am, in fact, lazy.  And I really don’t have time to read and blog about every word in the Bible.

However, reading the Bible is something important to me and something I’ve wanted to do for awhile.  So, my New Year’s resolution for 2011 is to read the whole darned Bible.  So I found a few ‘read the Bible in one year’ reading plans (thanks to Jack for her links which got me started), and ultimately decided that reading it chronologically made the most sense for me.  (I’m one of those people–if there are more people like this than just me–who can’t start a TV show or book series in the middle, even if they are completely episodic.)

So, I started reading.  I don’t read every day–it turns out that I can’t even rip a page off of a calendar every day for a year, so I probably won’t do much of anything else consistently for a year either.  But when I read, I read in the order and check off the days that I’ve done.  I’ve had a couple of days where I had large chunks of time and was able to read a bunch of it.  (Including one day when my hard-workin’ man had to do something “quick” at his office over the weekend, so we all drove downtown and I sat in the car with my hazards on in a no-parking zone reading some Genesis out loud to Hazel while Oliver hung out with his daddy for the 30 minutes that quick turned out to be.)

Anyway, I’m not going to blog about every word.  But if I think of something that maybe interesting, or may spark a good discussion, I’ll probably blog about it.  Or, you know, compose a brilliant blog post in my mind while I’m falling asleep at night and wake up to realize that my theories don’t actually hold any water when it’s light outside and I’m not so tired that zombies seem like a plausible explanation for the Fall.

Okay, okay, I admit it.  I actually liked the zombies idea.  It really did make everything else make sense.

Bible Study – Mark 1:14-20

Jesus Begins His Ministry and Calls the First Disciples

In this passage, we find out that John has been arrested. I don’t see where in any of the gospels it says what for, and I feel like that’s sort of random to just put there as if everyone would know. Then again, John the Baptist was clearly super important and well known, so maybe it’s like if someone said that someone really significant in our society had been arrested-it would just be known that it had happened and not something that would need further intro.

Jesus goes into Galilee, and says, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (ESV) Now, for me, that’s pretty cryptic. (And, I think, probably for a lot of people, as religions have risen and fallen attempting to declare that the time has come.) What does it mean? The time is fulfilled–what time? And what does it mean to say the kingdom of God is at hand? Is it literal? How current is ‘at hand’, especially since for God time has got to move at a totally different pace–thus making it totally relative and impossible to discern. And He says to repent and believe in the gospel–but he hasn’t, in Mark, at least, declared what the gospel is that I’m supposed to believe.

I think that sentence could take on so many interpretations. However, maybe the end result is the same–repent and believe in the gospel. It doesn’t matter if ‘at hand’ means here-right-now or coming-soon, because in either case, repentance and belief in the gospel is essential. And, I think that both are processes as opposed to final destinations, so practice of both is just a good thing. I may not be good at repenting, or believing, but I won’t get any better at it without actively trying to do it.

So, then, logically, I lead to… what is repentance and what does that entail, and what does it mean to believe in the gospel? As this is the first chapter of this gospel, I imagine that the answer is forthcoming throughout the rest of the book. But, this means that one of the things I need to be looking for is the answer to these questions while I read.
What is repentance? How do I do it? What do I need to repent for?
What does it mean to believe in the gospel? Are there certain things I need to do to show my belief (from an LDS perspective, there are ordinances that you must get that kind of “show” this belief.

Moving on, next in the story tells of Jesus calling his disciples. Now, if you were just going to read Mark, what happens next seems totally nuts (to me, at least). Basically, Jesus walks up to a pair of fishermen brothers (Simon and Andrew), and says, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And they get up, abandon their fishing nets, and follow him. And then he does the same thing again to another pair of brothers (James and John), who leave their dad in the boat and follow him.

Context free, it seems totally crazy. This story, alone, makes you wonder why in the world that sentence would be enough to get people to abandon life as they knew it. So, I looked to the other gospels to see if there were more details. Luke has a more involved story, telling of Jesus actually getting on the boat with Simon to preach to people, and afterwards telling Simon to cast their nets into what had previously seemed like empty waters, and they caught so many fish that their nets couldn’t handle it all. To me, it seems like the kind of thing that one could easily explain away, but that you could come away from, especially after some powerful teaching and some witnessing by the Holy Ghost, that this was the real deal. And then, getting up and following doesn’t seem so crazy.

I have had times in my life that I have up and followed the whispers of the Spirit in directions that seemed to be total about-faces from where I had been. No amount of logic or rationalization could make me deny the spiritual experiences that I have had, even when my family and friends have disagreed or been unhappy with the outcome. So, while I certainly am not, and was not, trying to imply that an overt miracle was necessary to prompt the disciples to follow Christ, I feel like more details to elaborate about what prompted their decision really help shed light and understanding.

The story specifies that James and John left their father Zebedee in the boat. I think the fact that that was noteworthy implies that there was dischord in the family when they left (although I have nothing but supposition to back it up). But I know from experience that it’s hard when you disappoint your family when you follow what you believe.

And that about sums up my thoughts about this passage of Mark.

Something that I’ve always been terrible at is geography, and maybe something I’ll want to do when this is all over is actually map everything out. This story takes place in Galilee, but I don’t really know where that was, or how much happened there. I don’t know if it would be helpful, or even interesting for me, but it’s probably a good exercise to try, at least.


Bible Study – Mark 1:9-13

So, my goal is to do the Bible study blog posts at least once a week, and ideally more. With all the craziness of still trying to unpack, this week I wasn’t able to do more.

The Baptism and Temptation of Jesus

The story this week seems pretty straightforward–it is, as the title suggests, about the baptism and temptation of Jesus. There aren’t a lot of differences between the translations that I looked at, so I won’t focus any time on that.

Basically, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. When he comes up out of the water, he sees heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.

What does that mean? Did the sky open up? It is metaphorical? Did he actually see the Spirit, and was it actually in dove form? Or is that metaphorical too? Did anyone else see it?

On glancing through the other gospels, this story is actually told in all four gospels, which is incredibly rare, and probably points to its importance. John gives the most details, and says that John the Baptist saw the Holy Spirit descend out of the sky and was told ahead of time that whoever that happens to is the one who baptizes with the Spirit, and that’s how he knew that Jesus was the one.

I’m still not sure of the dove thing. I think it has some kind of symbolism, but I’m not well-versed enough in Bibleology to know that that symbolism is. (Anybody reading who’d like to elaborate… please do!)

And, back to the story, then a voice comes from heaven saying, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Presumably, that’s God. And I guess that helps other people understand what they saw (even if they left confused, it was clearly a monumental occasion.)

After that, the Spirit sends him out into the desert, where he hangs out for 40 days with wild animals, all the while getting tempted by Satan. Luke and Matthew give more details about what the temptations consisted of. John doesn’t talk about the temptation of Jesus. It doesn’t say in Mark, but in Matthew and Luke it is clear that he did not succumb to the temptations.

Once again, the question that I come away with is why is this passage important? Why does it matter that Jesus was baptized?
According to Wikipedia, there is some background of water purification rituals in the Jewish tradition, so baptism through water wasn’t a totally foreign concept to the Jews.

The question of baptism is one that I haven’t fully thought through or researched. Is baptism necessary for everyone? Was it necessary for Jesus? I know that my LDS baptism was a day of some significant spiritual experiences that I have had. But is baptism required for everyone? Does God care if we’re baptized? If so, why? (Note that I’m not making light of the question by being somewhat flippant, but just trying to flesh out my questions so that as I read more, I know what kinds of answers I’m looking for.) The fact that churches don’t agree on necessity, mode, or age of baptism makes me think that the whole issue isn’t totally clear. And if it isn’t made totally clear by the Bible, and according to most Christians that’s the Word we have to go on (excluding the LDS who believe in latter day prophecy which clears up a lot of the specific requirements for things like baptism), how important can it really be?

Then there is the spirit descending like a dove. I have no idea what that means.

And finally, the temptation. Why was Jesus tempted four 40 days? Is it one of those foreshadowing of things to come (since 40 is one of those Biblically significant numbers that perhaps doesn’t literally mean 40, it might mean that he was tempted for a long (infinite?) time, foreshadowing the infinite nature of the atonement)?

Also, and finally, I wonder what it is like to be ministered to by angels.

I realize as I’m reading and writing that my questions mostly revolve around ‘why was this put in the Bible’ and ‘why should I care’. It’s not because I’m a big cynic, but more that it seems like if this is the stuff that has stuck around, and is the stuff on which I should be basing my faith, what about it should be resonating with me, what about it is significant?

Bible Study – Mark 1:1-8

So, this is the first post in my online Bible Study. See that link for the background about what and why I’m doing this. Basically, I am going to go story by story through the gospels, reading different Bible translations, asking questions and adding my own interpretations and blogging about it. I think that blogging about it will keep me on track and make me actually do it, and I think that there is a lot to be earned on my part from having people comment and correct me where I’m wrong and help me understand things that I don’t know about. So, here goes!

John the Baptist Prepares the Way

This is the first story in the Book of Mark. As the section heading suggests, it is basically about John the Baptist preparing the way. Isaiah foretold a messenger who prepares the way, and John the Baptist fulfilled this prophecy by preaching baptism and repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and proclaims that someone else (i.e. Jesus) is coming, and is way more awesome than him.

The first thing I noticed in comparing the translations was the difference in story titles (the NIV and ESV both call it “John the Baptist Prepares the Way”, the NRSV calls it “The Proclamation of John the Baptist”, while the Message is safe and calls it “John the Baptizer”). I realize that these aren’t necessarily scriptural at all-the KJV doesn’t have them-but I think that looking at the story titles (or whatever the proper term for them is) gives an idea of what you’re supposed to get from the story. The NIV and ESV seem to want to emphasize the scriptural basis in Isaiah’s prophecy, while the NRSV places emphasis on John the Baptist’s proclamation. I’ll come back to this.

After reading through the story, my first question was, Why do I care that John the Baptist prepared the way? (I mean, I guess I could ask that question about each story–why do I care that Jesus healed this guy or that guy, etc., but bear with me here.) My understanding is that Mark is generally believed to have been written for the Greeks. So there isn’t the same emphasis as in Matthew (I think it is) to speak to the Jewish people and show that Jesus is fulfilling the prophecies of the Old Testament. So, I think there must be more to this than just the fulfillment of the prophecy, although I’m sure that plays a role.

I don’t know a lot about John the Baptist, aside from what little I remember from my reading of the Bible ages ago, and the little I remember from reading the Ann Rice book Christ the Lord (which I quite enjoyed, I might add). But I wonder if John the Baptist was well known by the Judean people (and/or the Greeks) which would make him a credible witness to Jesus?

Moving on, while reading, I noticed that it says that basically everyone was baptized (“The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem” (NIV), “all the country of Judea and all Jeruselam” (ESV), etc). And they all confessed their sins. That’s a lot of people (if done the LDS way, John’s arms must have been super tired when it was over, or he had muscles of steel)! And, flippantly, it made me think that that’s a lot of temple work that the LDS don’t have to do…

And when it says they confessed their sins–what kind of sins are we talking here? Sins of the Jewish laws? Would we even consider the sins they were confessing to be sins? This leads me to start wondering what counts as sin? Does sin change? Nothing I expect to be able to answer right now, but questions that I might want to keep in mind as I keep reading and studying.

Another thing I noticed that was different between the translations was John the Baptist’s proclamation. In the NIV, John says, “After me will come one more powerful than I…”, which is easy enough to understand. The ESV and the NRSV use slightly stronger verbiage, “After me comes he who is mightier than I…” and “The one who is more powerful than I…”, implying that nobody is more powerful than John the Baptist but Jesus. The Message isn’t really helpful here, because it uses a metaphor in place, and the KJV sides with the NIV and says, “There cometh one mightier than I after me…”. It’s not a major thing, but the ESV and NRSV implication that John the Baptist is the mightiest so far gives a better understanding for why I might care that he prepared the way.

Now, back to the story title. I guess it isn’t clear in the NIV or the ESV what the ‘preparing the way’ entailed. Perhaps, more than the baptism it was the proclamation-the witnessing that Jesus was coming. This would make the titles basically interchangeable (although then I would suggest that the NRSV was the clearest in terms of getting the point across).

So, that was basically what I was thinking about when reading the first story in Mark. If you have comments or opinions or answers, please comment!

Updated to add: some other questions I had: how did John know? I know he was related to Jesus and stuff, but why did he know what to say and what to do and when? It may be explained in another of the gospels, but it is a question I have here.