Monday, August 6, 2012

Making it up as He goes along

In one of my doctoral courses, we were assigned to read the Epic of Gilgamesh, which is considered the world's oldest recorded "novel." It describes the life of a human blessed by the gods and his adventures with his man/beast friend Enkidu. Assignment 2 was to read a few chapters from the Bible, including Genesis.

I recently read Genesis over the spring break. The famous underground comic artist, R. Crumb has published Genesis in comic book form. The artwork is amazingly detailed and he has become somewhat of a biblical scholar, so he footnotes passages where there are discrepancies between various translations, but it is a very faithful and reverent rendition of the Book. With that as a foundation, I read the King James version for this assignment.

Not having paid attention to the Bible in general and Genesis specifically since my days in Sunday school (I was probably about 10 then), I was intrigued to revisit these stories. The first impression after all these years is I'm not sure where the whole omnipotent God myth came from. It seems to me that God had some major flaws in his plan from day one. These are just the observations of an uninformed agnostic who is less familiar with the text and all the collateral assumptions that go along with it.

First, there's the whole idea of putting the tree of knowledge in reach of Adam and Eve. Shouldn't God have known that "human nature" would make tasting the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil inevitable? He designed Adam and Eve, didn't he? It's kind of like the mind reader who has to ask you your name. Shouldn't she just know?

Then, flash forward to the Noah story in chapter 6 when God decides to "reboot" the whole thing. In golf terms, he's taking a mulligan— a do-over. He made a mistake. But I thought God didn't make mistakes. Blame it on the "giants?" If he is the one God, then aren't they part of his creation, too?

Then in chapter 11. Man gets too "uppity" so God makes different tribes speak different languages. He couldn't see that one coming? Part of God's plan? He is making it up as he goes along.

And what's this about Abram pimping his wife off to the Egyptians in chapter 12. Why would God look favorably on someone who exhibits that sort of behavior? When Abram/ham pimped his wife in Gerad, (is this the same story as in chapter 12 with different names, or was this a scheme Abe used whenever he needed to add to his wealth?) God punished the guy who thought he was dating Abe's sister, and rewarded Abraham. Again, I question his reasoning.

Then in chapter 19, when the citizenry from Sodom decide they want a chance to meet the three newcomers (angels), Lot offers them his virgin daughters instead. And God doesn't raze the city with him in it? Seems to me that God had a serious lapse in judgement when he let Lot leave with his family. The daughters? Sure. The wife? I didn't hear her defending her daughters. She gets hers when she turns to see what happens to Sodom, but Lot not only gets a pass, his daughters get him drunk later on and sleep with him. Apparently they didn't know he was going to entrust the preservation of their virginity to the good people of Sodom. Had they known, perhaps they would have had other plans for him once he passed out.

I suppose my observations could be taken as offensive to some. But think of me as the proverbial alien dropped down among you trying to make sense of it all. After reading Gilgamesh first, it puts the Bible in a different perspective. I guess maybe it is just a random sequence of events that made it so that when you open the nightstand drawer in a hotel room, there is a copy of the Bible and not a copy of the Epic of Gilgamesh.

No comments:

Post a Comment