Thursday 30 January 2014

Genesis - Racy Soap Opera?

When somebody mentions the book of Genesis, what do you think of first, and is your initial reaction positive or negative?

I'm probably like most ex-fundamentalists, thinking of the pre-scientific myths - Eden and the flood - and all the idiots who still imagine they're literally true. My knee-jerk reaction is definitely negative.

So it's a bit of a jolt to read a positive assessment of the old pot-boiler by someone who has never suffered "Answers in Genesis" syndrome. I'm referring to a posting by Caroline Blyth on the Auckland Theology blog.
Genesis is a fantastic biblical book to look at in depth with students and one of my favourite to teach – using the tools of literary criticism... The students are never bored, in my experience, and thoroughly enjoy probing and pondering what’s going on in this rollercoaster of a narrative. There’s more sex, action and drama than even the raciest soap opera; we read about the miraculous, the unbelievable, the cataclysmic, and the plain old bizarre... Genesis is a book that I think explores the human condition in all its fullness and frailty; in particular, its ancient authors seem at pains to articulate the complex and at times incomprehensible relationship that exists  between humanity and the divine. In my opinion, they do this incredibly well.
Genesis as literature is quite a different thing to Genesis as fuel for text-quoting literalists who advocate for creationism. Clearly the winds of enlightenment are blowing strongly through Theology 210/310 Genesis, and it's delightful to see Robert Alter's translation being used (one can only hope someone turns up with Robert Crumb's illustrated adaptation).

But, would somebody in the class please pass on this approach to the folk who run the Christian bookshops, stocking their shelves with moronic rubbish that perpetuates the reigning anti-scientific world view among those neither privileged nor predisposed to attend varsity classes? Once out of the academic environment, how many of these "never bored... probing and pondering" students will end up soft pedalling on their progressive understanding back in their churches, lest apple carts be upset?

Laying down that reservation, what do you think of the points Caroline Blyth makes? Can Genesis be prised from the clammy hands of Ken Ham, Ray Comfort and their ilk, or has the battle already been well and truly lost?

1 comment:

  1. It's written by Jews, the same clever people who delivered the best movie scripts and Musicals.
    It's so good that Hicks like Ken Ham, Ray Comfort and Joseph Tkach still take it literally today!