Genesis V

Genesis V is the first instance of a chapter listing a lineage, specifically Adam’s direct line. This shows two things: how certain events are tied by the paternal bloodline later and provides a means of accounting the time between these events. However, there are two figures in Genesis V which deviate from the formula of providing a name, the age at which they bore the next significant figure, and then the time until they died: Enoch and Noah. Enoch is significant because God took him, without dying. This is the first confirmed instance of a man being saved by the grace of God. Noah is the titular figure in another one of the Bible’s most iconic stories, Noah’s Ark, and his trials begin in Genesis VI.

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Genesis IV

There are several interesting points within Genesis IV, though none are intrinsically significant, taken together, the chapter explores the creation of agriculture, the trades, religion, and also forms the first reference to both the Enemy and man’s eventual salvation.

Cain and Abel are the first humans which can definitely be said to have farmed, though Adam probably engaged in the activity—there is no explicit mention of specific activities associated with farming. In the case of Cain, tilling comes on the scene, bringing with it fruit of the ground. This is probably a reference to vegetable or grain matter, though fruit from trees, shrubs, and viness is not completely off the table either. Abel kept sheep, a feature which has a significance that will eventually be made clear.

When Cain commits fratricide, it is important to note that he does so in a rage inspired by envy born from God’s relative displeasure with the offering Cain presented to Him. Furthermore, this displeasure is not tied to the fact that Cain’s offering was not an animal, specified in Genesis IV:7, rather it is due to the inferior effort put into that offering which is fundamentally unimpressive to the Lord. God even goes so far as to point out that shoddy work invites sin and an unspecified “he”, while also maintaining that doing well results in “him” being ruled by the one who does well. Curiously, the same language as was used to curse Eve appears here. Now, Cain’s actions parallel the disobedience of Adam and Eve, even going so far as to deny, hide, or otherwise attempt to deflect guilt in the face of an omniscient entity. In response, God inflicts His second curse, a curse which cannot truly be argued as a wholly bad thing, further implying that the curses God places on men produce hardship while also providing opportunities: the earth will not feed Cain as the fruit of his own labors. Obviously, this is disastrous for Cain, who tills the ground, but the effects of his curse on his children led to the domestication of cattle, music, metalwork, and most likely bartering as a means by which the children of Cain could get food beyond their own ability to produce. Formal religion appears slightly after this with Enos, Cain’s nephew.

What is more theologically significant is Abel’s offering: as the first shepherd, he probably gave a sheep or lamb, most likely the finest of his flock—as it not eclipses what Cain offered in value, but actually pleases God. Abel had to understand that giving anything to God would result in him not having it, so, he chose to do without the best for himself, unlike Cain. Abel made a sacrifice, if one is inclined to use the term, and that sacrifice was good.

Despite how little seems to happen in Genesis IV at first glance, it is the story of the birth of industry, and the first example of a satisfactory sacrificial offering to God. It is a sacrifice which will be repeated again and again throughout the Old Testament, refined with each iteration, until the Lord sends His finest lamb to be sacrificed for the sake of men. Cain’s legacy is technology; Abel’s, the hope of salvation.

Genesis III

Genesis III contains what is probably the most iconic story in the Bible, indeed, the general progression of events in the tale of Adam and Eve is quite widely known, but the details of how those events transpired enjoys some dispute. There are at minimum three points of contention which deserve an individual examination: one, the means by which the serpent beguiled Eve; two, where Adam was while that aforementioned beguiling took place; and three, why this series of events was permitted to unfold.

It would be trivial to simply state that the serpent lied to Eve, but this misses much of the point within the provided information. To be sure, the serpent does lie to Eve, but it is accompanied by a truth about the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil: the lie is the direct contradiction to the words of God in Genesis II:17 found in Genesis III:4; the truth immediately follows this lie in Genesis III:5, where it is revealed to Eve that eating of the Tree results in the godlike state of knowing good from evil. Now, it is not clear who exactly told Eve about the ban on eating the fruit of the tree, but one can be reasonably sure that it was Adam due to the law being implemented before Eve appeared and the law as Eve understands it includes touching the fruit of the Tree, specified by her in Genesis III:3—a detail missing in Genesis II:17. So, it is likely that Adam included the verbiage about touching the Tree as a means of forestalling other problems, it being somewhat difficult to eat something without touching it first. Which does raise the possibility that the serpent was rebutting to the death on touch claim only when he went about lying to Eve, a lie which would technically be true. This is an important point in conjunction with the fact that both Adam and Eve are innocent prior to this: neither understands the true nature of wickedness, deceit included. Thus, Eve believes that touching the fruit of the Tree results in death, but the serpent whom she has no reason or ability to distrust contradicts this and informs her that she too can be as a god in wisdom and understanding. Additionally, the truth of the serpent’s words can be easily tested by simply touching the fruit, which is not lethal or even remarkable as only after eating were their eyes opened. Taken as a whole, an image of deception appears distinct from the more mundane understanding of a lie. Typically, a lie is simply an uttered statement which is deliberately known to be false by the speaker. The deception of Genesis III is a series of assertions which are technically accurate and are convincing because of the inaccuracy of the original understanding of the law in question. In essence, the entire affair boils down to the commonly observed dichotomy of false but technically accurate and true but technically inaccurate.

The question of where precisely Adam stood during the deceptive event is both pivotal and silly. It is pivotal because if Adam were standing next to Eve throughout her conversation with the serpent, then he is at least somewhat more culpable in the Fall of Man than might otherwise be supposed for both failing to prevent Eve from eating and for eating himself. This is a silly position to hold because the argument in support of it hinges on a narrow definition of the word “with”, ignores Adam’s statement of the event, and manages to implicitly contradict God’s own words on the matter. While it is fair to say “with” when one is right beside another person, it is also quite a common usage when describing general locations. For example, one can be at a theater with a friend and see two different movies, among a slew of other examples. Basically, the use of the word “with” in Genesis III:6 could mean that Adam was right next to Eve or just in the general vicinity, such as the entire Garden. Adam remains remarkably upfront when discussing his consumption of the fruit with God, merely stating that Eve gave it to him—though there is some mention of God’s role in the event by providing Eve to Adam. Finally, God quite clearly puts the blame on Eve in Genesis III:14 by asking her what she has done, and again in Genesis III:16-17 by cursing Eve to be ruled Adam and Adam for listening to Eve.

Finally, the meta-question of why an omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good entity would first create a system wherein evil could occur and then fill that system with agents who would perpetrate that evil by their very design ought to be addressed. God would necessarily have to have known Eve would eat of the Tree and Adam would listen to her in her folly. In essence, this is the Problem of Evil, which is famously attributed to being articulated by Epicurus. The short answer is that the presence of evil is conducive to a better state of affairs than its complete absence. This paradoxical statement is supported by the fact that God refers to state of the Earth after the Fall of Man as very good rather than simply good in Genesis I:31. Any solution presented by a mere mortal is obviously going to fall short of the genuine reason, chiefly due to that solution being nothing more than speculation. However, that speculation may very well be the point of the Fall of Man. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil opened the eyes of Adam and Eve to evils, causing them to experience the new sensation of shame for their nakedness. In short, Adam and Eve had already perpetrated an evil before eating of the Tree, but they did not know that it was an evil. This idea of responsibility applying only on understanding appears elsewhere in the later books and suggests that God’s intention is to create entities which are capable of fully appreciating the distinction between what is and what ought to be. Presumably to allow those entities to self-correct, coming closer to the glory of God by improving themselves above the base level of what is easy.

The is-ought distinction is one of the more interesting problems in formal Ethics, owing in large part to its fundamental nature, but cannot be reasonably answered on the basis of Genesis I-III alone. That said, it is problem which is answerable within the Christian cannon, and it will be dealt with eventually. For the time being, Genesis III begins the long drama of man as a fallen being seeking redemption or turning away from it under his own authority, a feature of humanity not present prior to the events of Genesis III on the sixth day.

Genesis II

Genesis II opens with a brief continuation of the Creation, but quickly shifts into the story of Adam and Eve. This makes the break between Genesis I and Genesis II a somewhat odd choice: the more obviously logical place to divide the two is after Genesis II:4, where the summary of Creation ends and the great saga of man begins. So odd is the decision that there must be some good reason(s) for doing it. On reflection, two such justifications immediately leap to mind: one, it separates the labors of God from His rest on the seventh day and the material labors of man; and two, it ties the events of Genesis II to Genesis I in a more concrete manner than would otherwise be apparent. Indeed, even with this oddly placed division, some theologians hold that the creation of man in Genesis I is a separate event from the creation of man detailed in Genesis II. Such a position fundamentally misses an important aspect of good and evil within the broader context of Genesis, and the Bible generally. Therefore, the dual homogenesis theorem warrants a more particular examination, specifically, in how it is not scripturally sound.

From Genesis I:26-30, it is apparent that in that instance of the creation of man, his purpose is to care for the myriad flora and fauna, yet in Genesis II:5, there is no one to work the ground. This is a poetic way of noting that at the time of Genesis II:5, nobody is caring for the plants, and animals—by extension. In short, the man created on the sixth day in Genesis I is Adam, a fact which becomes even more apparent after Genesis III—though that is a matter for another time. Briefly, the major events of Genesis II are a more particular description of the sixth day, outlined in Genesis I. In light of Genesis III, this fact has some very interesting implications for Genesis I:31.

Unfortunately, there is little else which can be more definitely discussed without extraneous information in Genesis II. It certainly has a great many implications across a broad swath of subjects, but on its own, Genesis II is expositional: it provides the setting and principle characters with whom the serpentine McGuffin will cause the Fall of Man.

Genesis I

Whenever God deigns to reveal some event to a man, and that man bothers to write the experience down, it must be noted that the particulars of the record of the event are going to be sensual and restricted to the verbiage known and knowable by the recipient of the revelation. In practice, then, one would expect complex concepts which are still not fully understood and were not even in the most esoteric of literature at the time of recording to be reduced to a description of the appearance or function of the item in question. This is similar to someone describing the entity when its name escapes them: a doorknob becomes the “twisty door opening ball”, for example. Therefore, the events surrounding the Creation should be understood as a descriptive approximation of what Moses was shown rather than the more precise language for certain features one might be inclined to use today. Indeed, without the benefit of Wilkes, Mendel, or Watson and Crick, one might refer to the phenomenon of genetics along the lines of fruit trees with their seeds in themselves or beasts which bear their own kind. In this way, one can not say with certainty that the early events of the Creation proceeded literally as described, instead maintaining that the events probably looked very much like those things: waters prior to the advent of light, among other things. However, it is likely that getting caught up in these weeds rather misses the point of Genesis I: one, to clearly differentiate God from man while demonstrating the similarities; and two, the repetitive use of the phrase “it was good”.

Much can be and has been said regarding the creation of man in God’s image, classically, this has lead to God frequently appearing as a bearded man in the sky. However, this depiction misses the more salient point: that God and man are both creative entities, yet they differ in the realm where their creation can occur. When a man goes about creating something, he is truly only creating an imaginary figment. To put it simply, the process of creation as man experiences it revolves around taking assumptions concerning reality and combining them in such a way as to perform a task. The engineer creates the scheme by which a machine might be built from raw parts, the author creates a universe entirely populated by people and events which are never made real, and the artist constructs an image of something the way he sees it. In contrast, God can simply pull that machine, that universe, that image from nothingness. Creation as man performs the task is transformative, objects are shifted about based upon their intrinsic properties; Creation as God does it breaks the Laws of Thermodynamics.

Any thoroughly deep discussion of the topic of Ethics will eventually devolve into a debate concerning the properties of goodness, as all ethical postulates are necessarily downstream from whatever it is which constitutes the good. One could easily argue that the sum totality of the Bible is an allegorical treatise on the nature of goodness, so, choosing to display the most significant properties of goodness in the opening chapter is simply a classic choice of craftsmanship through placing the thesis at the head. Specifically, there are two assertions being made concerning the nature of goodness in Genesis I: one, goodness can exist independently; and two, the level of goodness is greater after the advent of man than it was before. The first assertion can easily be observed by noting that certain mechanical portions of creation, such as the separation of Heaven and Earth, the stars and so on, are good in and of themselves, despite there not being an opportunity for something other than goodness to become an extant thing. In less abstract terms, if a work of purely mechanical actions is good, with no way to act in some manner distinct from the initial design, then the opposite of goodness cannot be present, by the simplest of logical laws: p cannot be not-p. The second is a matter of noting that the phrase “it was good” is slightly modified in Genesis I:31 to “it was very good”, which is uttered in response to installing man as the despot of the Earth.

In summary, Genesis I is best viewed as a sensual summary of the Creation event while establishing the biblical habit of referring to itself and implying a great deal of wisdom in the midst of going about the business of the plot.

Preliminary Notes

Before truly diving into the simply massive corpus christianitatus, something should be said of the methods and processes which will be used in the examination of it, in the interest of getting the best possible picture of the thing.

At this juncture a Protestant is likely to assert that an examination of the Bible is sufficient. If the goal were to only study the contents of that tome, that would be true. It is not true because the goal is to understand the sum totality of the multifaceted phenomenon known as Christianity, rather than merely become passingly familiar with biblical text. That said, actually going through the bible chapter by chapter is a perfectly sensible place to begin. For this purpose, the King James Version shall constitute the initial port of departure. Despite the artistic liberties taken with that translation and the intermittent shifts in the meanings of words since its appearance, it is well suited to getting the broad point across—which is more or less the point of a writing in general. Should a time come when the specific meaning and context of a particular word or phrase is definitively relevant to the meaning of the whole, then the original language shall be consulted. This consultation will be composed of two parts: one, a notation of the denotation; and two, a brief commentary on the connotation of both the original word and the closest English translation. For example, an Elective Monarchy and a Dictatorship are essentially identical, but the former implies a rational and contractual agreement between the ruler and the ruled whilst the latter implies a more coercive arrangement between the two. This will cover the totality of the Protestant sola scriptura tradition. The logical continuation from this point is into the scriptural portions of Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and the Coptic variant.

After accomplishing that admittedly daunting task, the major supplementary theological points of each will be addressed through the consultation of the significant figures in the histories of each variant of the faith. Fortunately, Catholics, Orthodox, and Copts keep a list of the notable intellectual and historical figures in their respective traditions as an implicit function of the maintenance of formalized sainthood. While the Protestants do not do this, there is considerably more secular material on the development of Protestantism due to its relatively young age and dominance of the wealthier portions of Christendom, most notably Germany and Britain.

While it would be pleasing to fully study the attendant traditions found in the various flavors of Christianity, much of that is bound up in national and ethnic identities where those happen to overlap with the theology. So, the third portion of this opus is going to address these attendant traditions where they are derived from theology rather than discuss all traditions associated with Christianity in general. To illustrate, liturgy is fair game, but decorating eggs is not.

Finally, each of these disparate forms will be compared and contrasted with each other and the scripture from which they are derived. The expectation of the author is that each has some definite virtues, and some clear vices: if perfection in anything were easy, everyone would do it. However, we are called by God to improve, especially with respect to our understanding of Him. This sad and trivial effort is what I can offer.

The Decision

There comes a point in every man’s life where he becomes compelled to ask a question of complex simplicity. A question which dwarfs all other questions in gravity, a feature which can be easily observed by noting the logical extensions of the two possible answers to it: one, that life is a curious function of chemistry, itself an extension of physics, with no inherent worth or value beyond that which may be assigned to it by a reflective lifeform, the very property of which is solely attributable to a competitive advantage gained through such a reflective nature; or two, the entirety of the universe is a golden cage which houses the pets of some unfathomable entity. Indeed, the very purpose of existence is the thing being addressed by the question “does God exist?”.

By definition, a thing which exists is anything which is not nonexistence, and the state of nonexistence can only be described by noting the nonexistence of the thing. In other words, if a thing exists, then it can be described because a thing which does not exist cannot be described in any way shape or form. However, this would indicate that certain fantastic things exist even though few would bother arguing that they genuinely do “exist”, unicorns—for example. For such cases, where an existent thing needs to be segregated from other things which also exist but do not exist in the same manner as a unicorn, the proper and precise categorization would be “real”, with “imaginary” functioning as the antithesis. Thus, the question can be more accurately put as “is God real?”. Regrettably, for ease of answering the question being asked, this is a category error.

The terms “real” and “imaginary” are epistemic labels to segregate two classes of objects: those that occupy physical space, and those that do not. It is easily arguable that an individual of the species homo sapiens is not a purely real entity, then, as there is a nonnegligible portion of human existence which is certainly not real: language, mathematics, or any other product or mechanism of abstract thought. With respect to the matter at hand, in any religion—and Christianity in particular, the deity(ies) are not necessarily a functional part of reality, instead being present outside of it. Usually, such a characteristic is presumed to be a level of abstraction beyond mere imaginariness. Therefore, the question does not lend itself towards being answered by empirical means, regardless of the hypothesis, all experiments will corroborate the original presumption. To illustrate this dynamic consider the following two scenarios: an atheist is scooped up by the Archangel Michael who explains the exact clockwork of the universe and then places him down on another continent, this exact series of events could also be explained by the atheist as a hallucination, the work of aliens, an elaborate practical joke, or a very strange form of amnesia, among other possibilities; by the same token, showing some physical event to a theist as a fundamental disproof of his presumption is essentially the same as holding aloft a kitten and proclaiming that there are no such things as tomcats. There are no words which can quite encapsulate the genuine meaning of the question under examination, but “is God present?” does a fairly decent job of conveying the point without sliding into definitional obscurity.

There are four responses to this question, though only the first two are logically consistent: one, yes, God is present, or, the theist; two, no, God is not present, or, the atheist; three, maybe, there is no point in pondering the question due to lack of possible information or relevance to day to day life, or, the agnostic; and four, no, God is not present and everyone should put away such silliness, or, the secularist. The foolishness of Gnosticism is apparent upon noting that an agnostic admits the possibility of the presence of God and simultaneously asserts that it is an unimportant topic. As for the secularist, one is compelled to wonder why the idea of God ignites the fires of their passions, but someone who holds that leprechauns exist does not stoke the same fury.

Between atheism and theism, one can make an empirical assessment of which ideology better serves the individual or society, depending on the precise values of the assessor. In either case, theism emerges victorious: individually, there is the presence of a support group for all the trials and tribulations of life, and certainly a reservoir of solutions to similar problems faced by earlier men, to say nothing of the question of an afterlife; societally, formal religion provides a glue for people at large, often disdainfully referred to as “the opiate of the masses”. Furthermore, with Christianity in particular, the modern world is built upon ideas contained within the holy text, albeit in an implicit form rather than an explicit one.

Science is premised upon two assertions: one, that humans are fallible in all that they do and perceive; and two, that there is a definite set of consistent and permanent laws governing the behavior of the universe. Equality between persons regardless of social position, the separation of church and state, and several other jurisprudential points besides, barely begin to describe the footprint left on Political Philosophy by Christian thought. To say nothing of the role Christianity has played in art. Put another way, the material comfort of the modern age, the opportunities which the state of liberty affords an individual, and much of the highest peaks of aesthetic pleasure exist because of Christianity. In the interest of continuing these undeniably good and useful things, a thorough examination of Christianity is in order.