Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Word of God

This may seem like an out of place post, given that this is a political blog but since many people blur the lines between religion and politics, I think this is a necessary article to write.  I'm looking at the idea of the Bible as the Word of God.  The Bible is often used in politics to explain why something should or should not be.  For example, in the fight for gay marriage, those opposed to the idea will say, "It's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve."  While it is true that the book of Genesis uses the characters of Adam and Eve, the question is, are these just characters or were they actual people?  Those who believe that the Bible is the Word of God will see them as true people who actually lived several thousand years ago. 

The story of Adam and Eve is an excellent starting point for this discussion.  The story is in the book of Genesis, which is the first book of the Tanakh or what the Christians call the Old Testament.  This is the story of creation and explains the beginning of our planet and the life on it.  In fact, the word "genesis" means beginning.  It is the origin of something, which makes the book aptly named.

Most people in America know the basic story of Adam and Eve.  It goes something like this:  Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden.  God told them not to eat the apple but the devil came disguised as a snake and tempted Eve.  She ate the apple and gave it to Adam.  He also ate it.  When God found out they ate the apple, He threw them out of the Garden and they had to raise their own food from then on.

This is the story that most people repeat in one form or another.  The problem with this story is that it is wrong.  The following is the actual story.  I'm not going to copy it from the Bible and paste it here since there are many different versions of the Bible.  I will, however, include the chapter and verse numbers so anyone who doesn't believe me can look it up for themselves.

The story of Adam and Eve begins in Chapter 1 verse 26 (1:26) of the book of Genesis.  The people aren't named but this is when God creates humankind.  In 1:29 He states that every plant is theirs to eat. 

In 2:3 He creates man.  The story is basically repeated because the Israelites had split into separate kingdoms and each had their own story.  When they came back together again, the stories were merged together.  Musch of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) is repeated this way. 

In 2:7 He makes man from the earth.  In 2:9 He puts the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the center of the Garden of Eden.

In 2:17 He tells Adam not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or else he will die.  In 2:19 he makes Eve out of Adam's rib.

In 3:1 the serpent comes and asks Eve what God said about eating the fruit.  She says they'll die if they eat it.  The serpent tells her that she won't die, she'll simply become more like God having the knowledge of good and evil.  In 3:6 she eats the fruit and gives it to Adam.  In 3:7 they realize they are naked (nakedness was seen as evil, showing that they now know the difference between good and evil).

In 3:10-11 God asks why they are hiding and Adam replies that they were ashamed of their nakedness.  God asks who told them that they were naked and asks if they ate the fruit.  In 3:12 Adam blames Eve.  In 3:13 she tells God that the serpent tricked her.

In 3:14 God curses the serpents.  In 3:16 He curses the woman.  In 3:17 he tells man that going forward he must toil to produce his own crops.

In 3:22 (from the New English Translation) "And the Lord God said, 'Now that the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil, he must not be allowed to stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.'"

So, what does all of this have to do with the Bible being the Word of God?  According to this story, which is in the beginning of the Bible, God is a liar.  God told Adam that if he ate the fruit he would die.  Adam ate the fruit and did NOT die.  God lied.  Now, many Christians will say that man was immortal until then and that since he eventually died, God did not lie but this argument does not work because of 3:22.  God never told them not to eat of the tree of life but they never had.  They were always mortal.  Since they did not eat of it, they were still mortal and He was preventing them ever becoming immortal by banishing them from the garden.

If God is a liar and the Bible is the Word of God, you cannot trust the Bible.  If, however, God is not a liar, then the Bible cannot be the Word of God.  This makes more sense.  The Bible is the work of man and as such, it is a wonderful book of stories but it is not the final word from the Creator.

A few other points to make in this story; the story does not have a devil.  Satan was unknown when this story was written.  In fact, the concept of a devil did not yet exist in Judaism.  That idea was borrowed from the Babylonians many centuries later.   God cursed serpents for this action.  If the devil was disguised as a serpent, He would  not have cursed serpents for the action of the devil.

There is not an apple in the story.  The fruit is never named.  It is only referred to as "the fruit." 

God had to ask why Adam and Eve were hiding.  He is not omniscient.  That idea came along later as well. 

The story is wonderful and it's perfect that it is placed at the very beginning of the Bible because it sets the tone for how to read the book.  Enjoy the stories but remember, they are only stories.  Not God's laws.