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MESSAGE AND TEACHING
Well, I hope this little story I have retold serves to better understand what that vision, that revelation might have been.
We now have a clearer idea about what could have happened, what he had actually narrated and about one more thing: the reason for the days.
When I thought about writing the story of what the observer saw, I immediately considered the dilemma of the seven days. I thought: what if the seven days were not God´s days but the observer´s? Or both? Again-what if ...?.
And yes, it would make sense. It is a lot of information to receive in one day and also if it was given to the observer in seven sessions, we could consider that the narrative was told in seven days. Maybe that was the case because God probably desired to generate the need to divide the narrative by days, because there is a reason for the seven days -from a religious point of view- which we will discuss below.
Let´s see the religious side of the story.
The first thing the sacred author says is: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth"; in this phrase he gives us the key that we must use to understand the text, and in turn, he tries to express the synthesis of everything that he is going to describe in detail. We have seen that by integrating heavens and earth he attempts to cover everything, all that exist; and that by mentioning heavens and earth again at the end, he draws our attention to the purely human and earthly perspective of the narrator.
It is also possible that, due to the fact the word kosmos is of Greek origin; and because in the Hebrew language there is no word that corresponds exactly to that idea, he uses this redundancy of heavens and earth. For me, it is clear that by bundling everything he is including the intangible, as the world of ideas and the laws governing the systems.
It is assumed that the hagiographer, the sacred author, besides telling a conceivable view, would intend to catechize, to give a lesson in theology in a simple and direct way, in a language that may have been popular to simple-minded people. Do not forget that this must have happened a thousand years before Christ, and that the scientific knowledge of that time was extremely low.
At the same time there is something very important; he is transmitting that God did this and God did that, God as singular, as one. This is not a minor issue, on the contrary, because at that time polytheism prevailed in different cultures. It didn´t occurred to anyone, or they found difficult to accept that everything was the work of one God, for He creates animals, plants and man and nothing else, not does He at any time make other gods or demigods, or anything of the sort.
The message and lesson left after reading it should be loud and clear: God is one and, moreover, it is pre-existing; He existed before the origin of the world.
This teaching of "one God" continues throughout the Bible and leads to Jesus; it is the theme of the story and the chosen people´s reason for being; but let´s not stray.
Let´s carry on with the Genesis.
The next sentence is also very significant: "a wind of God hovered over the waters." This gives us the feeling that God's presence is almost tangible; that the author feels the spirit of God above the initial chaos, He cannot only see but also feel, perceive the existing intention behind the work.
Then he begins the description of creation. Here it is important to emphasize that the hagiographer possibly cared more for the doctrinal and religious aspects of the narrative than for its scientific side, obviously. First, because he may not have understood the scientific part; and second, because if he understood it he could not tell anyone because no one would have understood.
To me it is obvious that the author is unable to fully understand what he is seeing, because he believes in some basic concepts of his time, like that the sky was solid, or that the stars, the sun and the moon were gods, etc.
Moreover, he remains still along the transformations and everything happens around him. For him, the place in which he stands is the center of the universe and the sun, the moon and the stars move around it. That was the general idea, shared by scholars, to the point that the belief that the Earth was the center of the universe prevailed beyond 1600 AD. If anyone doubts, we can ask Galileo Galilei, who uttered the famous phrase Eppur si muove or E pur si muove ("And yet it moves”) after abjure the heliocentric view of the world to the court of the Inquisition on June 22, 1633 in the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, which cost him house arrest.
The heliocentric vision (from the Greek: helios - sun, center) placed the sun at the center of the system and the Earth as one of the planets revolving around the star.
I find it interesting to note that we usually judge the Inquisition as totally irrational and wild, but in this case –it struck me-the Church condemns him to "house arrest", without even sending him to prison! This is not a minor issue; Galileo was moving mankind from his place, the maximum creation of God, the center of creation! And still, they only sentenced him to house arrest? ...!?
Well, let's continue.
Many times we find that Genesis commentators wonder why the author does not speak of the creation of darkness but of the creation of light; and they try to explain it, in general, arguing that darkness is associated with evil and light with good; but in the text there is no reason to believe that darkness represents evil; it´s simply that before the light it was dark and after the light it was not.
I think we should remember that outer space is dark by nature because it lacks atmosphere and the light has no way to spread and create that feeling of being surrounded by light that is so familiar to us.
It is important-critical we might say- not to forget that when talking of Genesis and, obviously, of the Bible, we are usually in the area of religion. Therefore the text tries to leave -at all times-religious teachings to those who read it, as that's the main reason of all these writings´ existence: to lead man in his spiritual journey.
At last, when the time of the creation of man comes, he says: "Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea ...". Behold the most accurate reference of man as God´s representative stand before what was created on earth; that he will command about animals and plants, and that this allocation entails the enormous responsibility of caring for them.
I happened to find people who, mistaking this paragraph, feel entitled to do anything to animals and plants because "God sent them" ...!? The famous "power"… It is clear that we can misinterpret sacred texts and adapt them to our interests or needs as we see fit, but we should not do so.
God is above all a merciful and loving father, and nowhere does He give the mandate that we can mistreat animals or subjugate others; quite the opposite. Just read the teachings of Jesus and His exhortations: "Love your neighbor as yourself", "forgive seventy times seven." In fact, we should not overlook His intention that sustenance should be vegetarian, as the hagiographer remarks: "Look, to you I give all the seed-bearing plants everywhere on the surface of the earth, and all the trees with seed-bearing fruit; this will be your food. And to all the wild animals, all the birds of heaven and all the living creatures that creep along the ground, I give all the foliage of the plants as their food ". In this paragraph it is clear the intention to convey the idea, indication or teaching that -as plants are there for sustenance- man must protect and respect all animal life.
Undoubtedly man, being intelligent, can make that discrimination -discrimination that animals are unable to perform. However, after the flood we feel that God is resigned to the view that it is too much to ask, "Never again will I curse the earth because of human beings, because their heart contrives evil from their infancy. Never again will I strike down every living thing as I have done "(Genesis 8:21), and thereafter He allows them to eat animals (Genesis 9:1-5).
Well, beyond what we have for lunch, it is interesting to notice that God is presented in the Bible as a loving, merciful father who gives up His designs or renews them depending on the struggles with His children, with this Humanity, with His obstinate chosen people, as we read throughout the Old Testament more than once.
The doctrinal content of the story, the lessons that persist after we finish reading it, the theological lessons we might call fundamental could include:
• God is the only Creator of all things, of all the concrete and abstract, of what is above and what is below, of all entities and creatures. All matter, and the forces acting on it are created by Him and respond to His mandate...
6 month ago
Alberto Canen Books
by Alberto Canen
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