April 07, 2009

Genesis 6.5-12

The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the Earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was continually evil. And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the Earth, and it grieved him to his heart.

So the Lord said, "I will blot out from the Earth the human beings I have created--people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.

But Noah found favor in God's sight.

These are the descendants of Noah. [Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God.] And Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

Now the Earth was corrupt in God's sight, and filled with violence. And God saw that the Earth was corrupt; for all flesh had taken up evil ways upon the Earth.

8 Comments:

At 7:07 PM, Blogger Tom Smith said...

This sounds to me like some of the Fundamentalist point of view in that the "whole world" is evil and is condemned for not believing like I(we) do. Thus "we" condone war, torture, etc. to rid the earth of evil ones.

However, we the "good" people are saved.

This attitude is reflected in the "Creation Museum" which purportedly has a full size ark to explore. The director has said that by their calculations the actual ark could contain 2 of "every kind" plus the extra "clean" animals and food for 40 days. It is obvious that there is no way that a ship of that size could hold what is claimed, but that doesn't stop "them" from saying that regardless of what the rest of the earth is doing we are right.

To me this is a rationalization of the Hebrew nation as told by oral "historians" discussing how the rest of the world is NOT CHOSEN, but we were.

 
At 8:19 PM, Blogger forrest said...

Hmmm, you might like Chuck Fager's piece on Quakers as "a people" or my own recent application of it (see acitycanbemoved.blogspot.com)

The Hebrews got this story, of course, from the Babylonians, who were not saying anything about being "chosen," or about people having become "evil," merely that there'd gotten to be too many of them & the gods were finding them annoying.

Notice, please, that the only specific "evil" here is that "the Earth was full of violence from them." There's nothing here about anyone being condemned for "not believing" anything, although the traditional Protestant emPHASis on "believing" could make people see it in those terms.

Muy interesting point in an old Marcus Borg book I just read: The use of the word 'believe' to mean: 'to believe some thing is a very recent invention. Traditionally, one 'believes in' a person--not meaning "I believe that so-&-so exists," or any other particular fact or notion about him, but meaning "I trust him." "He is dependable." Tony Priete was talking about this in one of his talks, saying that the Hebrew word for "true" did not indicate prepositional truth in the Greek sense, but rather reliability.

Is the Bible "true"? It seems to have some alarming logical inconsistencies. But as God is reliable, these must have been allowed in for some purpose. To my mind, this purpose is to keep us from mistaking somebody's notion of what the Bible means- - for something to be worshipped in its own right!

Anyway, one persistent theme in these old stories, is that when a civilization goes past endurability--when God 'hears a scream of pain' as in the Sodom & Gemorrah story- -that civilization is destroyed. That's not, to my mind, a problem for the dead. The survivors will suffer, but if "God is a utilitarian," as Raymond Smullyan reports, they should come out of it better off than they were in their old lives. This does not sound, to me, like a license for human beings to do evil to "evil" people!

 
At 10:33 PM, Blogger Tom Smith said...

"The Lord saw that the WICKEDNESS of humankind was great ... every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was continually EVIL..... all flesh had taken up evil ways"

For me evil/wickedness are clearly identified here. I see actions being condemned not beliefs but my leading is that the most deeply held belief is reflected in actions.

That's why I see this as the evil vs the "righteous."

 
At 12:40 PM, Blogger forrest said...

"Righteous" (a word used explicitly in later passages here) probably means, to the authors of this story, something akin to "following our tribal customs."

What I think you are complaining about is that some contemporary readers take this the same way, only assuming that 'righteousness' refers to their own tribal ways.

Biblical texts often do lend themselves to that sort of misuse.

But can we use these stories, not to bully or manipulate others, but to enlighten ourselves,

 
At 12:01 PM, Anonymous Amy said...

Perhaps I am oversimplifying but I always thought that one could find similarities between the story of Noah and the story of Abraham. I think these are stories about faith.

 
At 12:19 PM, Anonymous amybee said...

On second thought, I AM oversimplifying and maybe that isn't quite what is needed for these detailed discussions. My habit for studying any sacred text is to look for the essence, the positive message that I can (maybe too selfishly) use for my life of worship. I am sorry if I jumped in too fast without meditating on the details a bit more. These are very thought provoking comments and I am glad to read them.

 
At 12:35 PM, Blogger forrest said...

"Noah built the ark, that wonderous boat;
you know, he built it on the land
getting water to float..."
(exerpt, A Very Cellular Song, Mike Heron of Incredible String Band)

so this IS a story of faith, among other things.

But it isn't a story about faith in what some book or preacher was telling Noah!
Hmmm, this sounds like something for a new post!

 
At 10:38 AM, Anonymous aimeebee said...

Thanks,

Perhaps (and I am not at all sure I know what I am talking about) another way to think about the words "faith" and "belief" could be in reference to what I have been told friends call the inner light. Maybe, faith and belief in these stories and in out own lives have to do with putting aside distractions like guilt, lack of knowledge, society, in order to recognize and allow the universal love (or various other nominations, i.e.,God)to work around, in and through us even when the entire "big picture" eludes our simple minds. I was reading that one friend here was recently struggling with making a decision about how to reach out, use his gifts, and do good in the world. I am hoping he recognizes (as he likely does) all the good he is doing in the small ways. Simply, having the hope to help is a great faithful start, I think. Even playful dissection of words might work like a spiritual fractal or a ripple in a pond to allow light to flow in good directions :)
Sorry, what this has to do with Genesis eludes me this morning. Just felt compelled to communicate.

 

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