Bible as Literature
Bible as Literature
One of the central arguments of the Old Testament book Genesis is its credibility as a historical account. Nobody may never really know if the events written in this book actually happened or not, especially parts (or chapters) where hints of culture and detailed places can be read. Except maybe chapters 1 and 2 which is the beginning of existence itself. Then again, details may have been passed through oral tradition, but considering the eternity of years between the time of creation and the time words were even put on to the most primitive of ways, details may be greatly distorted.
After the creation story (Chapters 1 and 2) virtually all introductions of all chapters start out with the father siring a son, and that’s son’s son. A family tree in other words. An elaborate one at that, because the writer can trace back up to Adam. The Chapter starts out as, again, that familiar family tree starting from the children of Abraham and Keturah, Abraham’s other wife, up to the twins Esau and Jacob. By this, Genesis chapter 25 provides evidence that it should be taken as part of history and not as fiction. Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah.
And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah. And Jokshan begat Sheba, and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were Asshirim, and Letushim, and Leummim. And the sons of Midian; Ephah, and Epherm and Hanochm and Abidahm and Eldaah . All of these were the children of Keturah. (Genesis 25: 1- 4) It is not clear whether Abraham married Keturah when he was still with Sarah or after her death. At any rate, Keturah seemed to be more fruitful, which just helped Abraham seal his place as the Father of All Nations.
Patriarchal Theme Indeed Abraham is the father of all nations, heck, we even have a nursery rhyme to prove it, but what about the mother of all nations? Or in this case the mothers of all nations? The patriarchs are always one of the great figures in history and literature, which what the Bible actually is, a piece of (very old) history and literature. Patriarchy is the accepted system in most societies since people evolved into social creatures. Social groups are based in this system, governments, religion, and the family alike.
Perhaps the most controversial of all, would be in religion, God is branded as “He” even though no one can ever really tell. But if Jesus and God are one in the same, logic tells us that the Supreme Being is also male. There’s a popular saying that in order to be of worth in this world; one must either write a book, plant a tree, or sire a son. Sons were always cherished by families, especially fathers since they would be able to inherit the family’s wealth and continue the blood line.
In fact, during biblical times, and in some countries, even today, people are addressed by their names following who their father is: I am (name) son of (name of father), or I am from the house of (name of father) They only recognize who the father is. The theme of Patriarchy is a sensitive topic today, especially when women now are becoming more and more involved in the society, and sometimes more successful than most men. It has long been argued what the role of women are in the world. If they are fit in every position the world has to offer.
Tradition (and our patriarchal society) tells us that men are supposed to be the leaders, but things has changed since Abraham’s time. There’s no doubt that men should hold high positions in the church, that’s just the way it is. Feminists can’t argue with that, but with everything else, men and women should have fair chances in finding their place in society. Covenant Theme Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country, and from your your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your
name great; And so, you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. (Genesis 12:1-3) This is the covenant that God made with Abraham, it’s more like a promise of God to Abraham than a mutual agreement since Abraham benefited a lot from this covenant regardless of his future actions. As long as he leaves his country, his relatives, and his father’s house, all of God’s promises to him would be fulfilled This covenant making business isn’t new to God, e has done this in a couple of occasions.
First was his covenant with Adam and Eve after they ate the forbidden fruit and was expelled from Paradise, God cut them some slack so they could still live and procreate. Another was during Noah’s time after God destroyed the rest of Mankind, except Noah’s family, He promised Noah that he would no longer destroy man by the use of flood. Then came Abraham. (Genesis 6-9) Abraham lived a comfortable life before God called upon him. What God was asking Abraham wasn’t easy. Nomads were considered inferior during that time plus the fact that God didn’t specify where exactly He wanted Abraham to be.
Regardless of this uncertainty, he followed God’s will, and left the city, with all its comforts, to live the life of a nomad in the desert plains. (Genesis 12:1-3,7; 13: 14-18; 15: 4, 5, 13-18; 17-19; 22: 15-18) The covenant that God made Abraham is known as an Unconditional Covenant, for the promises that God made to Abraham would not be revoked even if he does not continue to comply on his side of the bargain. As long as Abraham leaves the city, all the conditions would be fulfilled by God. There’s more to it than God blessing Abraham’s descendants and making them more numerous than the stars.
Let’s see what are some of the things that Abraham got from this deal: 1. Abraham will become the father of all nations (technically just Israel) 2. Abraham would inherit Canaan 3. He would be blessed 4. His name would be great 5. He would be a blessing to others 6. He and Sarah would have a son despite their old age Brewer, David, God’s Covenant with Abraham These promises however aren’t instantaneous, some are in the distant future ranging from Isaac’s birth, about 20 years later, and the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, which is a good 400 years later after the covenant.
Critical Analysis of the literary, cultural, and religious issues The first issue that may be noticed in this chapter is from the first verse. Abraham taking a new wife, Keturah. The author does not say if Keturah was concubine of Abraham or if she was “taken” by Abraham after his wife’s death. One thing’s for sure, God is fulfilling His promise that Abraham would have descendants more numerous than the stars. It might sound a bit odd for a Christian to read about a Christian figure having concubines, but apparently, Abraham have had lots of concubines, and have had many sons with them.
Another issue is Abraham’s death. Genesis tells us that he died one hundred and seventy five years old probably three times, on average, of today’s life expectancy. Sure, people back then lived a lot longer than today, but 175 is way too old. The calendar year then may have been different from today. Abraham gave gifts to his sons and sent them away towards the country to the east, while everything else he gave to Isaac. There’s Hebrew story that Abraham sent the other sons away fearing that they might begin conflicts. He might be right, because Islam can be traced back from the other sons of Abraham.
On the family level, favouritisms were already a part of the family during that time. Isaac preferred Esau while Rebecca likes Jacob. Isaac probably liked Esau more, because he was a hunter, he provided the family with his game. Esau would make any typical dad proud. Esau liked the outdoors and was very masculine . Jacob on the other hand stayed at home, tending to the tents or in modern day terms, doing household chores. Of course mothers would have loved this. (Genesis 25: 27-28) Divine election is the power of God to choose whoever He desires, to do something or receive his blessing.
God had already chosen Isaac and Jacob to be the recipients of Abraham’s blessings way before they were born. However this doesn’t mean that God chose them because he already knew that they would be more pious than the others. In Jacob’s case, Esau might have been more worthy of God’s blessing since Jacob took advantage of his brother’s weakness. Esau sold his birth right to Jacob for food, saying that he doesn’t need it since he is dying. God had chosen them simply because it is his will. He is God after all. (Deffinbaugh, Th. M, Divine Election)
Arguably the most controversial issue is Jacob, as mentioned, Jacob schemed to buy his brother’s birth right so he can have most out of the inheritance he would get from his father. He need not do this because he was already chosen by God. Which Rebecca probably revealed to him already since he is her favorite. (Genesis 25: 31-33) Genesis’ Author The author of Genesis was probably a nomad just like Abraham, who raised livestock like cattle, and sheep on the plains of their land. The author may have written the book out of the urge to tell a story to trace their roots, or if it’s true, really trace his family tree up to Abraham.
The author must have felt that he had to write into account his family’s heritage. What Genesis is, is really just an extensive family tree from Adam, to his last descendant in the book. The author might have written the chapters of the book, sitting under a shade of tree after tending to his flock. To pass time, he might have decided that he might as well do something productive during his break. It’s possible that these stories were later told at his household and soon became popular that it was told to every tent in the community.
There’s also a chance that the author was a scholar, born several hundreds of maybe a thousand years after the estimated date of its last chapter. He (assuming he was a man) maybe the very first ethnographer of the world. If in deed, he was, he was very successful. He gathered a large number of information; from traditions/cultures: what the ancient people actually do during those times and how they lived, what they wore…etc. , history; detailed accounts of what happened, including probable conversations that might have happened between the people and God, and among themselves.
What the author has done is simply astonishing, generations upon generations of ancient history, written in just one book, and its not even as thick as today’s novels. which may hypothesize that the book wasn’t just made by a single author but by the family historian in each generation. Works Cited Deffinbaugh, Th. M. “The Principle of Divine Election” bible. org. September 1, 2008 http://www. bible. org/page. php? page_id=104 New American Bible. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops 3211 4th Street, N. E. , Washington, DC 20017-1194 (202) 541-3000