iGod, Part 2 – Return to Eden

Genesis 1When we Christians designate some of our normal people-parts as God-parts, we make a calculated trade. If we talked about our felt truths or our conscience in human terms, we would find ourselves with a festering surplus of uncertainty. And a certain lack of cosmic stature. And stature is no small thing.

Genesis has outlasted its peer creation myths from the Ancient Near East for one reason, and one reason alone. Genesis contains four magic words: “the image of God”.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

~ Genesis 1:27

We moderns do not retain Genesis because of what it tells us concerning the origins of the earth, for it is a tale told at the same grade level as any fable. It falls desperately short giving any real information about what happened. It collapses when compared to the manifold evidences we find etched into the book of Nature: evidences ostensibly imprinted by the same creating Author. No, the debate over a six-day creation would have little interest for the Christian, except that the same passage tells us who we are:

Made in God’s image.

In charge of this rock.

Descended from immortals.

The object of Divine attention.

Central to the cosmic plan.

Yet our trouble has always pertained to grasping at God’s throne, in a manner of speaking. Though made in His image, we were instructed to keep ourselves from the last tidbit of godliness withheld: a certain knowledge, imbued by a certain vegetation. And so the temptation which brought humanity’s downfall was a desire to be like God. This usurping impulse has been on the pious watch list ever since, and it has borne along every kind of admonition against reason, the use of critical thinking, the presumption of knowledge, and of course, the indictment of human pride.

Irony plays the final puppet master in this drama, however. For though the temptation of the Garden may have been axiomatic to Judaism, Christianity has managed a minor miracle of blasphemy on this score. By way of a shrewd key change, the teachings of the New Testament have managed to give us what our ancestors wanted in the first place… We actually get to think of ourselves as God. Or at the least, we get to call pieces of ourselves God.

The cleverness rests in the proxy, for we would never directly call ourselves God. We instead quarantine parts of our humanity and pretend that they are not really pieces of us. And then, with the interment complete, we assert that the people-parts are God-parts. And then God is within us. And our bosom is content, having what we claim was its object from Eden: to be like God. Even more, to actually be infused with God.

Evaluated objectively, Genesis doesn’t work. It doesn’t explain the world we see. It faces serious evidence issues at all fronts. It also doesn’t help. Being honest, what it tells us about a family living 6,000 years ago is desperately irrelevant to anything in modern life. Save one thing:

Genesis tells us that we are the center of all things.

The Gospel sells for much the same reason that Genesis sells. It gives us permission to call parts of ourselves God, by which we derive unwarranted confidence in our claims to knowledge. It affirms our centrality. It promises an antidote against our fear of insignificance.

[Related video: http://youtu.be/pzKZb3qHyXk]

Comments

  1. The Genesis story tells us something else, humans alone would not have fallen. YHWH had to let that snake into the garden to make sure Eve would eat it. Knowing this YHWH let the snake in (if he was not the snake to begin with) to ensure the fall of humanity. Before the first book even gets going we’re taught that to screw up ‘heaven’ on Earth takes divine assistance.

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  2. Don’t forget the Judaic creation myth lifts an awful lot from the far older Zoroastrian creation myth. Man is venerated in this story and is gifted with godly attributes.

    http://www.read-legends-and-myths.com/zoroastrian-creation-myth.html

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  3. archaeopteryx1 says:

    “Genesis has outlasted its peer creation myths from the Ancient Near East for one reason, and one reason alone. Genesis contains four magic words: ‘the image of God’.”

    Mesopotamian (Sumerian/Akkadian) mythology indicated the gods made man to work for them, to grow the food the gods needed and sacrifice it to them. Not quite so glamorous.

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    • I’ll admit that I was thinking more along the same lines as Arch in this case. Besides, it seems like claiming Zoroastrianism as predating the Hebrew creation myths presupposes a later date for Genesis. Lot of folks will dispute that, even though I tend to agree with the later dating.

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      • archaeopteryx1 says:

        Gen 1 was written by the Priestly (P) Source during the Babylonian captivity, in the BCE 500’s, intended to replace the more anthropomorphic god of what became Gen 2, written by the Yahwist (J) Source around 950 BCE in the Southern Kingdom of Judea, in Jerusalem, and was the first to have been written, – there is no evidence that Hebrews had a written language before 1000 BCE, as the very earliest Hebrew writing has been dated to a pottery shard from 972 BCE. Of course the oral stories were around much longer than that, constantly changing with the teller, but there’s no reliable way to date those.

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  4. Mariah Windrider says:

    “Genesis has outlasted its peer creation myths from the Ancient Near East for one reason, and one reason alone. Genesis contains four magic words: “the image of God”.

    You seem to have left out a few things: political power and repetition without contrasting ideas. Notice that as soon as it became safe to not accept Genesis or any of the Bible for that matter, people stopped doing so. While not accepting all that stuff will no longer land you in jail or in a torture chamber or the executioner’s block, the Churches still had that trump card, Hell. Don’t believe the Bible? God will send you to Hell! Even that is fading out for most people. I don’t think I had even hit High School yet before I realized that the main character God in the Bible was a horrible monster, I tried my best to like Him to keep my family happy and, after all, what did I know, I was just one pre-teen girl, maybe there was something I was missing. Finally figured it out, I was missing that mental derangement, faith. Oh well.

    But don’t think that Genesis and the Bible have any real call to humanity, Most non-Christians who read it toss it as well. Sure, some of them buy into it, just like people raised Christian switch over to other gods and religions (besides the classic non-religion position). Remember, there’s nothing like brainwashing to get an idea across. Back up repetition with the Roman Army and Government and you have a sure deal! Don’t forget to burn the dissenters.

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    • archaeopteryx1 says:

      Mariah Windrider – what a great choice for a username – Mariah, of course, from “Paint Your Wagon“!

      Re, “burn the dissenters”:
      John Seldon (1584-1658), was a scholar of ancient English law, as well as a scholar of Jewish law. Of him, writer John Milton once referred as, “the chief of learned men reputed in this land.” Seldon once wrote:

      “‘Scrutumini scripturas’
      (‘Let us examine the scriptures’)
      These two words have undone the world.”

      By 500 CE, the Bible had been translated into over 500 languages. Just one century later, by 600 CE, it has been restricted to only one language: the Latin Vulgate. The only organized and recognized church at that time in history was the Catholic Church of Rome, and they refused to allow the scripture to be available in any language other than Latin. Those in possession of non-Latin scriptures would be executed!

      The first hand-written English language Bible manuscripts were produced in the 1380’s CE by John Wycliffe. With the help of his followers, called the Lollards, Wycliffe produced dozens of English language manuscript copies of the scriptures, translated out of the Latin Vulgate, which was the only source text available to Wycliffe. The Pope was so infuriated by his teachings and his translation of the Bible into English, that 44 years after Wycliffe’s death, he ordered his bones to be dug-up, crushed, and scattered in the river! Boy, could that guy hold a grudge!

      One of Wycliffe’s followers, John Hus, actively promoted Wycliffe’s ideas: that people should be permitted to read the Bible in their own language, and they should oppose the tyranny of the Roman church that threatened anyone possessing a non-Latin Bible with execution. Hus was burned at the stake in 1415, with Wycliffe’s manuscript Bibles used as kindling for the fire.

      One man was even burned for reading the Lord’s Prayer to his children, in English. What one can’t read, one can’t examine, then one is totally dependent upon a central authority for the official translation – which is essentially what Seldon was trying to say: Pandora’s Box is open.

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      • And indeed, it has been opened. The disclosure of information is the irreversible event. And that is what is happening again. Israeli archaeology, textual criticism, Dead Sea scrolls, lost gospels, etc. Revelation of the true sort splinters myth. Brisance follows.

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      • I have to sadly admit that I don’t know any hard dating for the evolution (ah, that evil word!) of Latin into it’s localized children,French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and don’t forget Romanian. When Jerome headed the translation of the Septuagint from Greek into Latin, they called it the vulgar language translation or Vulgate. In essence, he did what Wycliffe did, and all those others since then, put it into the common language so everyone could read it. OK, anyone who could read that is. But reading was much more common in Rome at the time than it would become later in other parts of Europe. By the time of the Tutors in England, few spoke Latin anymore. Did anyone see the scene in the movie Braveheart where the (anachronistic) Princess was examining Wallace and she was speaking to an associate in Latin about him? He answered her in Latin as well, “Non mendicatus sum” I’m no liar. While that movie played hard and fast with history, that particular scene tells us a lot about the local languages. Besides, Normans spoke French. OK, their version of French.
        The Bible as we know it now had already been pretty well reshaped to conform to Roman political needs, it didn’t matter who read it or in which language. I have been amazed in the last few years at the number of Christians that I’ve met who have never read the whole book, cover to cover. They take a verse here and a chapter there according to what they are told to study by their pastors and Sunday School teachers, but never fully in context, and never simply as a book. May not just be a translation problem?

        Mariah, Domina Ventorum

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        • Wow, I’m getting a language education just from perusing the comments. 🙂

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        • archaeopteryx1 says:

          “…and don’t forget Romanian”

          How could anyone?:-)

          ~ pax vobiscum ~

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        • archaeopteryx1 says:

          Speaking of the Greek, in 1514 CE, printer John Froben, of Basle, engaged Desiderius Erasmus, who produced a dual Greek/Latin version and the Greek New Testament was printed for the first time in 1516, based on only five Greek manuscripts, the oldest of which dated only as far back as the twelfth century. With minor revisions, Erasmus’ Greek New Testament came to be known as the Textus Receptus or the “received texts.” It was hardly that, as the edition was full of errors, and not traceable to particular Greek originals. It was an instant success, reprinted with corrections several times, and led to nearly 200 successors, all suffering from errors to a certain degree between 1516 and 1550. The damage was done, the world was flooded with erroneous Greek text.

          And speaking of your compound username, Mariah, I find it interesting, when I’m having a “Cliff Klaven” moment, that Johann Gutenberg, who invented the printing press in the 1450’s, was born as “Johann Gensfleisch” (John Gooseflesh), he preferred to be known as “Johann Gutenberg” (John Beautiful Mountain) – just in case you ever get the opportunity to make a bar bet at any of the more erudite bars.

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        • archaeopteryx1 says:

          “I have been amazed in the last few years at the number of Christians that I’ve met who have never read the whole book, cover to cover….May not just be a translation problem?

          I take it to be a syndrome I call, head-in-the-clouds-itis, a symptom of which has the sufferer going around, saying, “I know all I need to know!” subtext, “Don’t confuse me with facts!

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          • I have had believing friends tell me point blank that they do not need to study the Bible.

            I start with history. “I don’t need to look into that, I have the Bible”.

            I go to the studying about the Bible and where it comes from. “I don’t need to look into that, I know what’s in the Bible”.

            Then I go to actually just studying what’s in the Bible. “I don’t need to study the Bible.”

            I had to consciously close my gape after that response. There is really nothing to talk about at that point. It is a dogma of ignorance.

            And its funny – I’m still the only person (to date) to suggest opening a Bible and going straight to the text in any of the myriad conversations that I’ve had. No takers.

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            • archaeopteryx1 says:

              And yet when they buy appliances, these same people will read the owner’s manual – it boggles the mind, and mine can’t take much more boggling!

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