October 19, 2017

Pete Enns: What Is Genesis About? (1)

Tree Under Gray Skies

Note from CM: Thanks to Pete Enns for allowing us to re-post this thought-provoking essay about the purpose of Genesis. As usual, from my perspective it is spot on. And, as usual, it goes against the grain of most of the evangelical/fundamentalist teaching which originally shaped my view of Scripture. But it makes so much more sense! And it reinforces to me that the Hebrew Bible was a book written for purposes that had to do with the story of Israel first and foremost. Our understanding of Jesus and his role must grow organically out of that narrative-historical context, that story. When it doesn’t, we end up with a kind of universalized theology that misses the point.

As a side note, Pete has a new The Bible for Normal People podcast for you to check out. HERE is one place you can access it.

• • •

What is Genesis About? The Big Idea that Cleared It Up for Me
by Pete Enns

A few years ago I stumbled onto an article online (actually a public lecture turned into an online article) by Gary Rendsburg: “The Genesis of the Bible.” It was a public lecture, so it’s not a heavy read (even if there is serious academic work lying behind it).

I don’t think I’ve ever read something so accessible and to-the-point about what Genesis is about. And the gist is this:

You have to read Genesis with one eye open to David, the monarchy, and ultimately the southern nation of Judah.

To expand on that:

The book of Genesis was written during the period of the monarchy (Rendsburg thinks not long after the time of David) for the purpose of setting up and defending the very idea of a monarchy. The writer (or “writers”) does this by embedding the issues and concerns of the monarchic period into the narrative of Genesis.

To put it another way, the book of Genesis, however old the stories may be, were recast and shaped into their present form during the monarchic period for the purpose of explaining and defending the present.

To put it another another way, the stories from the deep past were written in order to serve the present. (I cover this in my own way in The Bible Tells Me So, chapter 3.)

Let me highlight just one theme to illustrate (I’ll post more on this soon): God’s preference for the second (or late) born son over the elder/firstborn son.

Have you ever noticed this theme in Genesis? The younger brothers always win out over their elder brother/s: Abel over Cain, Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau, Joseph over the other 10.

Usually no explanation is given (Isaac being the exception)—unless we understand the purpose of these stories as setting the stage for something else.

Like the heroes of Genesis, David, Israel’s ideal king, was the youngest of all his brothers, yet he was elevated over them to the kingship (1 Samuel 16).

Likewise, David’s successor, Solomon, was the youngest of his surviving sons, rather than his eldest son and rightful heir Adonijah (see 1 Kings 1-2.)

Accepting the primacy of the non-firstborn is foundational to the survival of the monarchy. The monarchic writers wove that theme into the stories of Genesis.

But the stories of David and Solomon are really a set-up for something much bigger and even more important for the biblical writers. The theme of “God’s preference for the second/late born son” is played out on a national level:

The exile and return of the southern nation of Judah—the “younger brother” of the larger, northern, nation Israel.

Let me flesh this last point out a bit more.

David and his line are from the tribe of Judah. In Genesis, Judah, among all his brothers, is given a curious amount of attention, such as . . .

1. Judah is not the first born of Jacob’s 12 sons, but the 4th child of Jacob’s first wife Leah. Nevertheless he is promoted over his elder brothers Reuben, Simeon, and Levi.

Reuben’s demotion is worth mentioning specifically. He was demoted for sleeping with his father’s concubines (Genesis 35:22) just as Adonijah had attempted to do with his father David’s concubine Abishag in an effort to gain hold of the throne (1 Kings 2:13-25).

Judah and Solomon rose in prominence over their eldest brothers for the same reason.

2. We can also see Judah’s prominence in Jacob’s farewell speech in Genesis 49, where Judah gets far more attention than his brothers and is described in rather glowing and royal terms—especially verse 10:

The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and the obedience of the peoples is his. 

It looks like Judah’s line is a kingly line. David’s claim to the throne has a long pedigree.

3. In the story of Joseph, it is Judah’s long and noble speech that brings tears to Joseph’s eyes as he reveals himself to his brothers.
(Genesis 44:18-34).

4. Judah alone gets his own story in Genesis, though not very complimentary: illicit sexual encounter with his daughter-in-law Tamar in chapter 38.

It is hard to miss the similarities between the story of Judah and Tamar and the more famous story of David and Bathsheba (1 Samuel 11):

  • Both Judah and David are shepherds.
  • Both separate from their kinsmen to Adullam (Gen 38:1; 1 Sam 22:1).
  • Judah has a friend Hirah and David has a friend Hiram.
  • Judah’s wife is referred to as the “daughter of Shua,” which in Hebrew is bathshua—which is very suggestive of David’s Bathsheba. In fact 1 Chronicles, to make the connection clear, lists Bathshua as the name of Judah’s wife (2:3) AND the name of David’s wife (rather than Bathsheba, 3:5).
  • Both stories involve a woman named Tamar. In David’s case, Tamar is his daughter, not daughter in law (as with Judah). Moreover, David does not have sex with this Tamar, but rather she is raped by Amnon, Tamar’s half brother. Howeverthe rape of Tamar in 2 Samuel 13 is routinely understood as an implicit (and politically delicate) critique of David’s rape of Bathsheba 2 chapters earlier—much like Genesis 38.
  • Both David and Judah are publicly forced to admit their guilt (Genesis 38:26; 2 Samuel 12:13).

The Judah and Tamar story, which seems so out of place in Genesis, is a way of addressing indirectly a topic that the writer felt could not be whitewashed: David’s unjust treatment of Bathsheba and her husband Uriah. Judah’s parallel episode doesn’t let David off the hook but it does signal to the readers, “Yes, we know David did a horrid thing, but Judah did likewise and he is still honored.”

• • •

We could go on, and in subsequent posts we will. And Rendsburg’s essay is well worth downloading and reading carefully.

My bottom line point here is that Genesis—I do not hesitate to say—was intentionally written to reflect the realities of Israel’s monarchy, and especially to account for the survival of the southern nation of Judah, the younger brother, non-firstborn of all the tribes.

To be clear, this does not mean that the narratives of Genesis were made up during the monarchic period, but that they were re-presented, re-shaped, to address later concerns. The stories of the past were like wax—shaped as needed.

Reading Genesis is like reading a preview of coming events—which is precisely its purpose.

Comments

  1. The next question: can genesis STILL speak to the present?

    How does it resonate with the lives we actually live; individually and coorperately?

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > can genesis STILL speak to the present?

      Sure, why not? There are Genesis references littered all across modern, and even pop, literature/media.

      The underdog come-from-behind story is the very spine of American literature and ideology; even though we betray it all the time. Genesis, and much of the Old Testament, reads to me as a very American text in that regards. It is a people wrestling with extremely conflicted impulses and values – how can it not speak to the modern West?

      What do you do with a king whom you admire, who is nearly a folk hero, but is involved in blood-strained scandal? This feels relevant to too many situations to count.

      We use shared texts as intermediaries in these conversations. Genesis [or Scripture in general] is lousy if you study it for moral resolution – what it does is illuminate moral dilemma. It guided me out of Evangelicalism/Fundamentalism – because it is hard to find Fundamentalism is you take Scripture seriously; it is not in there.

  2. Robert F says:

    In other words, Genesis was written to revision the past, or solidify a certain version of the past, in support of the current political dispensation at the time of its writing? The victors write history, it is said. How can we believe this was the primary reason for the writing of Genesis without having a cynical and essentially skeptical view of both Genesis and its author(s)? After all, if this is the truth about Genesis, it’s just politics using religion for its own purposes.

    • Robert F says:

      See, folks, you have this king here because it’s what GOD WANTS!

      Thus has politics always used religion, and a sacralized account of national origins, to legitimize the current political dispensation, even to this day…

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > See, folks, you have this king here because it’s what GOD WANTS!

        I do not believe that is the message encoded in Genesis; note “Both David and Judah are publicly forced to admit their guilt ”

        Read as such in the arc of scripture it feels much more like an “i told you so, but you wanted to go your own way”. A king is, after all, what Israel **demanded** [1st Samuel], contrary to the ordained order [echo of Genesis? or perhaps better: reverberation in Genesis]. And they were warned what having a king would mean – here it is playing out – an impossible socio-moral-political dilemma.

        Israel’s and Judah’s sequence of kings were not an impressive lot. Scripture does not paint a picture many nationalists would love.

        • Genesis and the OT is the tale of God’s chosen people and their *failings*. The monarchy was a big part of that, but not the only one.

        • StuartB says:

          Admitting to a ‘moral failing’ is a lot easier for people to swallow than something like genocide.

          Monica vs Iraq.

        • Robert F says:

          Adam, Yes, those kings publicly admitted their guilt, and the people demanded a king, according to the text. But the text may be underwriting a more subtle legitimization in which the suffering of the people has been wrought by their own demands, rather than by the imposition of a king (or kings) and priests. Remember that the priesthood is a powerful political as well as religious office, and with its ability to shape the telling and writing of the nation’s history it keeps close to the authority of the state. The point is to make the people ultimately responsible for whatever misfortune befalls them at the hands of religious and secular rulers, rather than the rulers themselves. God is punishing this stiff-necked people for their sin because they asked for and deserve it; the king and priest are only his tools, as are the foreign conquerors who whisk them away into servitude later in the scriptures, is the message were meant to take away; it’s a message tailored by priestly scribes as part of their function in legitimating the national secular ruler currently in power, and thereby their own power as well.

          In some ways the New Testament and its interpretation by Christians down through the ages have done the same thing to the Jewish people, by pinning the responsibility for deicide on them (Let his blood be upon us and our children), and making whatever trials have befallen them as a nation (often at the hands of Christians) the result of divine punishment leveled against them for their ostensible guilt in the death of Jesus.

    • Robert, there is a difference between the authorship of Genesis and the final editing of the Hebrew Bible. The final message lies in the book as a whole, in which the commendation of David as Israel’s ideal king plays but a part. The final editing was not done by “victors” but by exiles looking for a better future.

      I’ll try to argue this on Wed.

      • Robert F says:

        I tend to see the same message recapitulated throughout the OT (and into the New Testament as well): The people of Israel suffers at the hands of enemies and rulers alike because of their own sin. This is a message that both kings and priests would want conveyed by the national narratives composed and shaped by scribes (who are religious functionaries, and as such have the same interest as priests), since it ultimately excuses and legitimates the rulers, who after all are only tools of punishment and blessing in God’s hands. The point is to make the people responsible, and give an out for the rulers, even where this is done in subtle and complex ways in the texts.

        “Victor” is a relative term. The people of Israel had their own rulers in exile, however circumscribed their power and authority might have been by their captors.

      • Robert F says:

        In other words, the “victors” were those who had the decisive influence in shaping the texts into a narrative that legitimated their own power. These “victors” occupied authoritative roles in the considerable overlap between sacred and secular institutions that was characteristic of the Jewish community down through the ages, whether in exile or not.

        • Robert, I get what you are saying and the concerns it raises. However, there is something rather unique about the Hebrew biblical canon.

          In his Intro to the OT, Walter Brueggemann states his debt to Brevard Childs, who introduced the “canonical” approach of interpretation to OT studies. Brueggemann is unwilling, however, to follow Childs completely. The canonical shaping of the Hebrew Bible does not end up overriding parts of the Jewish tradition that do not fit a single “message” or “rule of faith.” Brueggemann says, “It is my judgment that the canonical, taken alone and without attentiveness to the parts that do not fit, eventuates in a process of repression, surely the last thing that a church in a technologically repressive society needs.”

          Instead, what we see in the Hebrew Bible is the inclusion of multiple voices and perspectives — Brueggemann calls this “the interplay between the normative and the imaginatively playful — which turns the “canon” into a lively debate and gives it “transformative energy.” Michael Spencer wrote a post and called the Bible a “conversation in God’s kitchen” (a portion of which I will re-post Friday). In fact, it is this very talmudic quality that made it possible for the New Testament to emerge as an accepted interpretation of the Israel story.

          So, whoever the “victors” were in the final composition and editing of the Hebrew Bible, they apparently did their job with deference to seeing scripture as a matter for conversation and debate, for gaining wisdom and strengthening faith, for encouraging multiple perspectives and learning to live with them, and not for imposing a set interpretation upon the people of God.

          • Robert F says:

            I understand what you’re saying, CM. If we let the scriptures speak in its many voices, approaching it as a multivalent body of texts, instead of trying to assign a single “correct” interpretation and meaning, then we approach it as it perhaps really exists. To do that, however, we will have to give up certain concerns, such as finding the one right interpretation and meaning that would surely save us from a feared eternal hellfire; we will have to jettison some of the things that motivated much of the urgency with which the texts were approached by our forbears. It requires a significant theological realignment and adjustment, fraught with more than a little angst for many. We have to live with an uncertainty about many things that previously would’ve been thought intolerable.

            I tend to think that what allowed the scriptures to become a place of conversation and debate was not so much the good intentions of the writers and editors as the creative Spirit of God hovering in the interstices, where human manipulation and ulterior motives lose control of the texts, and humans say more than they know or understand or intend.

            • Thanks, Robert. Now don’t get me wrong. I still think there is an overall “message” and I would frame it in terms of release from exile and an expectation of restoration and new creation that revolves around Abraham and David as the key signifiers of that eschatological hope. I actually think that this way of looking at the Hebrew Bible ends up leading to the acceptance of Jesus and the New Testament presentation of him better than any of the “conservative” evangelical or fundamentalist views of the OT. Frankly, I think most of them simply have no idea what to do with vast swaths of the Hebrew Bible, and they ignore the plethora of contradictory materials by any number of creative means.

              But I also think this view honors something human (as well as the Holy Spirit). There is an essential Jewishness to the Bible that Gentiles have ignored for millennia, and part of that is the talmudic approach to truth and learning. In my view, to recover that is not to become “liberal,” heavens no! It is to conserve something far more organic to the nature of the scriptures than the Greek and modernist philosophical traditions that so much Christian theology relies upon and reflects.

              And in response to your statements: yes, let us please gladly jettison some of that!

            • Robert, I found this good quote from Pete Enns that is relevant to our conversation:

              The nation of Judah survived [exile] and the Old Testament is Judah’s story. Even though their northern counterparts certainly had written traditions that the Judahites possessed, these traditions were edited and brought into Judah’s story to reflect the story these postexilic survivors wanted to tell. The Judahites were the ones who determined its final shape and content. The flow of the long narrative from Genesis to 2 Kings culminates in Judah’s story. The prophets and the Psalms focus on Judah and Jerusalem. The Old Testament is “Judah’s Bible.”

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Instead, what we see in the Hebrew Bible is the inclusion of multiple voices and perspectives — Brueggemann calls this “the interplay between the normative and the imaginatively playful — which turns the “canon” into a lively debate and gives it “transformative energy.”

            Like the old joke “Two Jews, Three Opinions”.
            With a touch of the old Saturday Night Live skits “Wild and Crazy Guys”.

  3. seneca griggs says:

    Or, as orthodoxy has held for millenia – Moses wrote the Pentateuch LONG before King David.

    • Mere assertion without understanding, as per usual, Seneca.

      • seneca griggs says:

        “The book of Genesis was written during the period of the monarchy (Rendsburg thinks not long after the time of David)”

        No C.M., I understand very, very well. I’ve studied liberal theologians for decades now. Their game plan is very familiar, very old and their writings, sooner or later, attempt to impugn the ancient words of Scripture. How are all the liberal theological schools in the U.S. doing? Not so well I’m thinking.
        *
        I still take Moses as the author of Genesis and he was way, way before the Kings.

        • Their “game plan”?

          You just can’t see it, can you?

          In your world, anyone who has a different view of scripture, no matter how logical, reasonable, or defensible, is a “liberal” with an agenda whose goal is to “impugn the ancient words of scripture” and destroy the unchanging faith once delivered.

          You cannot fathom that this does not resemble Pete Enns’s character or position whatsoever, nor does it come close to describing me.

          You are a classic example of a horse with blinders on who just keeps running around and around the same circle and cannot imagine anything other than what has always been right in front of his eyes.

          • senecagriggs says:

            C.M., no one else will read this but “right in front of his eyes” I see this for those who accept theological liberalism – the death of the mainline, the death of liberal seminaries; then the theological wilderness where one becomes a “none” or like Klassie, simply rejects the faith. That’s what I see with my “blinders.”

            I ACTUALLY appreciate you letting me post; even with restrictions BUT watching decades of the liberal theological trajectory – it always ends in a whimper and then the death of those who follow it. Surely you see that. Sen

            • Seneca, actually, I don’t see that. I don’t attribute “the death of the mainline” to “liberal theology.” That’s a common narrative, but I think it’s a shallow and convenient diagnosis for conservatives. It’s actually much more complex than that, and I think other factors are much more to blame.

              You will note that many traditional churches, including Catholic, have experienced dramatic decline, shortage of ministers, etc. These churches have always relied upon the family and denominational loyalty to keep the church thriving from generation to generation. And they did so in the context of relatively stable small towns and rural areas. Children were baptized, confirmed, and raised in the church and when they became adults, they became the leaders and supporters of the congregation. Or, when people relocated to town, they would seek out the denominational church that fit their background. That small town and rural context has been declining in the U.S. since the 1950’s, which marked the height of mainline popularity.

              The genius of the conservative churches was not their “conservative” theology (although that helped), but rather their emphasis on conversionism and church growth, which fit the new and growing suburban reality perfectly. The mainline churches did not adapt nearly as well to the new social and cultural realities of an urban/suburban world. For example, my own ELCA still has well over half of its churches in rural areas or in towns under 10,000 people. Those are not places where young people are staying nor are many people relocating to those areas. The only places where they are thriving are in communities that have found a way to remain more stable from generation to generation.

              Church growth and decline can be as much a cultural phenomenon as a religious one. Because people like us tend to look at everything through a religious lens, we think it’s all a matter of theology. But that’s simply not the case. Context matters.

        • “How are all the liberal theological schools in the U.S. doing? Not so well I’m thinking.”

          Hmmm…so how well a theological school is doing equates to correct theology? How exactly does that work? Do you have statistics on “non-liberal” theological schools?

          What this all amounts to, in the end, is dogma.

          • Rick Ro. says:

            –> “…so how well a theological school is doing equates to correct theology?”

            Me-thinks that sometimes theological schools get so ingrained in their theology that they end up distorting the truth. I’m guessing all schools are guilty of this, the more conservative probably more so, thinking their brand is the the only correct one.

          • Yes. If the test of correctness or ‘God’s blessing’ is ‘how well’ is something doing, Islam must be correct and have God’s blessing, because it is doing very well world-wide.

        • “When was Genesis Written and Why Does it Matter” – Peter Enns
          https://biologos.org/uploads/resources/enns_scholarly_essay3.pdf

          Much of what is discussed in that essay is with the text itself. Nothing “liberal” about that.

          Examples:

          –“These are the words Moses spoke on the other side of the Jordan.” Deut 1
          Was written by someone who had crossed the Jordan. Moses, as the narrative goes, did not.

          –“to this day no one knows where his grave is.” Deut 34:6
          When is “this day”? Written by Moses prior to his death?

          Etc.

          While important for discussing “inspiration”, arguments over authorship are a distraction in some ways…. Effective for establishing fundamentalist boundary markers though.

          • StuartB says:

            –“These are the words Moses spoke on the other side of the Jordan.” Deut 1
            Was written by someone who had crossed the Jordan. Moses, as the narrative goes, did not.

            Well, um…since God wrote the Bible, he just had Moses assume his body would cross at some point.

            –“to this day no one knows where his grave is.” Deut 34:6
            When is “this day”? Written by Moses prior to his death?

            The Holy Spirit didn’t see fit to verbally plenary put those words of the location into Mose’s fingertips. Or something.

            There. Inerrancy defended. And one trillion dollars to the first person to find me an actual contradiction in God’s Perfect and Holy Word!*

          • Cue “death by a thousand qualifications” in 5… 4… 3…

            • Robert F says:

              Perhaps this “death by a thousand qualifications” is one of the deaths we must undergo if we are to follow Jesus on the way of the cross. Not pleasant, to be sure, but if it seems that the truth is leading there, what choice does one have?

              • Rick Ro. says:

                Great comment.

                I’m leading a class in Galatians and it struck me, as I read your comment, that Paul faced this unpleasant death, too. To paraphrase some of his writings, “Am I sent by man, or by God and Jesus Christ? And if by God and Jesus Christ, what choice do I have, really?”

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      And he may very well have done so. But we do not have that edition of the text.

    • Seneca, at no point in the Pentateuch does it claim to have been written by Moses. What abut all the times when it refers to Moses in the third person? Did Moses describe his death before or after he died? Moses’ authorship is just a tradition.

      You want to have a real fight about authorship? Let’s talk about the Pastoral Epistles.

    • StuartB says:

      And here’s the crossroads. You will continue seeing and seeking that uphold an orthodox view. I for instance will continue seeing and seeking things that do not uphold that orthodox view. But not because I am so against the orthodox view or ‘hate God’ or insert some other reason…no, it’s because truth and reality won over dogma and faith.

      So be it.

      • Heather Angus says:

        Stuart, I am truly glad that moving away from Christianity has been a great relief and help to you. And I’m glad, I guess, that you feel you have thereby achieved “truth and reality,” as opposed to us poor schlubs. (I too felt the same way when I became an atheist, though I wasn’t so cheery about the nature of “reality.”)

        I was going to say more, but I’ll just say may the universe bless you on your path.

        • StuartB says:

          Poor schlubs?

          I’m referring to what the Bible actually is, rather than what we want it to be. Yes, I’m moving away from Fundamentalism, but that doesn’t mean I’m moving away from Christianity, unless it’s the version that is narrowly defined by the Fundamentalists.

          • Heather Angus says:

            Ah. My misunderstanding and my apologies.

            • Rick Ro. says:

              I’ve never viewed Stuart’s postings as thinking of Christians as “poor schlubs,” and it’s nice to see the little back and forth that clarified the misunderstanding! This is a great place!!

              • StuartB says:

                Now Steven Anderson is a poor schlub of the nth degree…

                I’m not above muttering “you ****ing idiots” under my breath at times at some of the more out there interpretations…but that’s hardly confined to just Christians lol

  4. Along similar lines, you may find this podcast interesting which looks at the reasons why the Elohist source was written. http://www.mirrorreading.com/podcast/2017/1/8/episode-2-mirror-reading-the-elohist-source

  5. But….Jesus was the first born son. How does that fit into the overall ‘second born son wins’ narrative?

    • Dana Ames says:

      The compilers of Genesis did have a point to make with the “second born son wins” scenario, but that didn’t change the fact that firstborn sons had the prestige and privileges (double portion of the inheritance, head the clan, etc.). Anyway, in Jesus’ household (which was that of his guardian, Joseph) the oldest of the step-brothers was James, who seems to have been the honored one and head of the clan (and the Church) in the view of Paul’s narratives, and in the tradition of early Christianity.

      Dana

  6. While there are details to quibble about (Genesis is way too late to have been written during the monarchy which itself didn’t exist as portrayed in the Hebrew Bible) but Enns makes some dead on points.

    1. We have to look at these works as totalities not piecemeal.

    2. The writers were not objective disinterested historians (which we privilege but hardly even exists today) but had a definite point of view to get across.

    3. The writers took their older narratives and shaped them to reflect their contemporary concerns.

    And the kicker is that this is just as true of the New Testament as it is of the Old.

  7. StuartB says:

    Oh wow this is an incredibly good post!!

  8. Heather says:

    this post has my mind spinning! More conversation please!

  9. Heather Angus says:

    I tend to agree, CM, that looking at Genesis this way is very plausible. I also tend to agree with Robert that it is therefore rather cynical, like any other piece of political propaganda. (BTW, in the Koran, Isaac *is* the second son, after Ishmael, who is *not* the son of a slave woman; Hagar is his honored mother. Different strokes for different folks)

    Genesis is a wonderful read of ME mythology, but not until now had I seen Peter Enn’s point about the support of the monarchy. Very interesting.

    • Robert F says:

      In highlighting how the narrative was shaped to support the monarchy, he is employing the hermeneutic of suspicion typical of deconstructionism, though I would imagine he’d be loathe to acknowledge it. Such acknowledgment would put an even bigger target than already exists on his back for fundamentalists to take aim at. Things can get pretty ugly out there in the Christian academic world of biblical studies.

      • Rick Ro. says:

        –> “Things can get pretty ugly out there in the Christian academic world of biblical studies.”

        And it sounds like some places are okay with questions and uncertainty, and some aren’t.

        (I don’t suppose it’s a whole lot different than some secular institutions, either.)

        • Robert F says:

          The world and the church, not so different after all. And despite all that, doesn’t Jesus Christ love them both?

          • Rick Ro. says:

            –> “The world and the church, not so different after all.”

            I think that would make a good bridge in a song, or a good line in a poem.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      (BTW, in the Koran, Isaac *is* the second son, after Ishmael, who is *not* the son of a slave woman; Hagar is his honored mother. Different strokes for different folks)

      And different depositions in the Inheritance Feud over Abraham’s legacy.

  10. The King James Version was intended to support monarchy, specifically that of James, who preferred to be addressed as “Majesty” and was a staunch upholder of the divine right of kings, which apparently included the right to dabble with good looking youths. But that doesn’t stop it from sharing the epitome of English literature with Bill Shakespeare. If indeed Genesis was put together to support monarchy, and I’m not necessarily on board with that, I still regard it as a collection of family history along with the rest of the Olden Testament, and like most family history the stories can be a bit fuzzy with unknown agendas. Doesn’t mean that truth is not to be found in the stories, whether or not they are factual, which is how Jesus seems to have treated them.

  11. Laura W. says:

    I’m curious about something. If Genesis is indeed written to support the Davidic monarchy, does the Samaritan version of the Pentateuch have differences that support this? If the Samaritans are the descendants of tribes in The Nortern Kingdom, I would expect to find some differences in their version of events. I’m no expert in Near East history or textual criticism, so I was wondering if anyone here could answer this.