Thursday, April 27, 2017

Let's Try Again...

How does one view the account of Adam and Eve in Genesis?


DennisCDiehl said...

I view the account of Adam and Eve as a non-literal event but with meaning. An "earthly story with a heavenly meaning" as I was taught in Presbyterian Sunday School.

I believe the story was written to dissuade the people of Israel from Goddess and Fertility worship practiced by the nations around them and to install Patriarchy instead of Matriarchy in Israel and to prepare the way for Temple worship complete with a Priesthood and animal, meat and blood sacrifice dominating. I believe the story was told to dethrone women and to make them subservient to men being blamed and punished for the fall of mankind by having babies painfully from now on and having to call their husbands "Lord" I believe the Serpent, which was in the culture a wise counselor to the goddess was also cursed and demonized, literally for effect.

I don't believe serpents can converse with humans nor is the story to be taken literally as actually to have happened in the same way the crash of the Hindenburg happened in time.

Questeruk said...

Version 2 is an improvement on version 1.

However, given the comments on version 1, why not just give the reasons you are asking this question?

DennisCDiehl said...

Nor for me is it an origin story on where humans, male and female actually come from. I believe all humans and life have evolved over billions of years, through natural processes, to the present state.

Anonymous said...

Just got an email from the PCG announcing the line up for the new season at Armstrong Auditorium, and guess what!!!! Ryan Malone has a new musical "Abraham" that will be next April!
Will it ever end?

Dennis Diehl said...

I was simply interested in the answer to a simple child's bible question from the readers current beliefs. I am less interested now actually.

Gerald Bronkar said...

No, I do not believe the story of Adam and Eve is literally true.

As you describe, I believe the story was concocted by the priests of the day in order to introduce the concept of a sinful human race, and blame women for it. Now, of course, we need a blood sacrifice to wash away our sins and restore our relationship to the Lord God, and to accomplish this we need the priests. Such a deal!

Naturally, I hold this belief because I am one of the acolytes you have brainwashed , just like you are trying to do to every other participant on this site. I jest. I too have taken my nose out of the Bible, and read extensively about the Bible, how we got it, who wrote it, and why. It has been a mentally healthy activity.

Byker Bob, I don't know you, but I believe I have read that you were once an AC student in Pasadena, and long ago jumped ship, but still adhere to much of the Christian dogma, or at least you believe in the infallibility of the Bible and Jesus as your personal savior. That is fine, but what gives you the right to even suggest that those who may have taken additional steps away from Armstrongism should be pushed aside? There must be thousands of gods you have chosen not to believe in, why should Dennis and his "acolytes" be banished because they may have chosen not to believe in one more god than you. The God of Israel is not easy to trust. I tried for years, but He was a big disappointment.

After all the effort to help and heal that I have seen from Dennis on this site, it is hard to believe you would, now, like him to go away. Are you beginning to question your faith? Are his questions getting to you?

Leaving Armstrongism is like one light bulb turning on, leaving the Christian religion is a whole series of light bulbs turning on. You can be conscious, but not fully awake. Think about it.

Dennis, pay him no mind, he may have been in a bad mood when he posted. I think most of us enjoy much of what he has to say, and it's a lot! He does have a way with the written word.

Anonymous said...

I view the story of Adam & Eve as obvious mythology.

Christianity is the belief that 6,000 years ago a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree, thus incurring a magical curse from an imaginary "friend," who then figured the best plan to fix that was to wait 4,000 years before magically impregnating a teenage girl with himself so that she would bear him as her son, so that he could undergo an ancient ritual of blood sacrifice to himself, before returning from the dead so that he could then dispel that curse and bring eternal bliss, but only for those who symbolically eat his flesh & blood and telepathically tell him they love him and accept him as their lord.

Because what's not plausible about any of that?

Anonymous said...

To those who got their panties all wadded up about version 1 of this posting, stop selectively deciding which bits of your sacred verses to follow, and which to ignore:

1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily offended...

James 1:19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;

2 Timothy 2:24 And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil

2 Corinthians 12:10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Psalm 119:165 Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.

Anonymous said...

Everyone knows that Adam was made from the dust And everyone knows the eve was made from one of his ribs In the snake talk to even tractor and she ate some bad fruit and gave it to Adam that just goes to show you how bad women are Never since then everything is been messed up because Adam and Eve that a bad thing And we're so lucky that God came back to earth and he was Jesus and he said a lot of nice things and then he die just like it said in the Old Testament know we have to do is believe that story and then we're not bad like Adam and eve It's such a simple thing to do And I like simple I think simple so don't mess with me I'm happy with my simple thoughts

Anonymous said...

The story of Adam and Eve can be neither proved nor disproven. Who's to say whether God chose a location somewhere in the Middle East and created two human beings who lived in a beautiful garden? It could have happened; if one believes it did happen one does so solely on faith. However, the idea that those two individuals were the progenitors of the entire human race can most definitely be disproven by genetic and other evidence. If Adam was the first man then he was the first man in a different sense than being the first male human to walk the earth. Perhaps he was the first progenitor of those who became the Israelites, although I suspect that genetic evidence could disprove that also. Perhaps Adam and Eve were the first humans to choose disobedience after being explicitly instructed by God. Perhaps they were the first fully self-aware human beings. One can devise all manner of scenarios in an attempt to harmonize the Biblical account and scientific evidence. In the final analysis Occam's razor indicates the story is a myth, but Occam is not necessarily right in every case.

Ed said...

The thing about creationism that puzzles me the most is idea that God for an eternity existed alone and suddenly decided he was bored or lonely being alone and decided to create life. To me this tends to disprove creation. A God bored and lonely suddenly decides to create life after being alone for eternity? Give me a brake!

Miller Jones said...

For those who are truly interested in how I would answer the question, my opinions are represented in a couple of posts from my own blog:

Anonymous said...

I was raised in a Baptist household, so it's no secret how I believed 20 plus years ago, but now I find the more I learn, the less I know- I guess that's part of getting old. The irony is that I now find faith (even though it may not be so black and white) is far more important to me than it was long ago when I thought I had concrete answers. If it wasn't for our ability to extend faith ('substance of things unseen' as Paul described) we would be no more than the animals we eat in my little opinion.

One thing is for sure- religious convictions bring out the extremes, both best and worst. The question is: do the best outweigh the worst?


Retired Prof said...

There is a saying among professional storytellers that applies here: "All stories are true. Some of them are also factual."

Get past the glibness, and what this motto implies is that stories express something important to somebody, even if only to a very few, perhaps only the speaker. But usually a story resonates with other people--maybe a small "in" group, maybe almost everybody who hears or reads it. Even tall tales, which obviously cannot be literally true, nevertheless reveal something true about the window through which people who share them view the world. The fact that these and other folk stories have been passed from person to person for generations suggests that people find nuggets of wisdom (truth, if you like) in them.

I used to tell stories in a coffeehouse frequented by folk musicians, poets, and singer-songwriters in a college town. I told audiences that the places in my stories were actual places and the people I mentioned were actual people, but the stories were nothing but lies.* One night after the songs had been sung, the poems recited, and the stories told, we closed up and some of us stood around outside visiting before we dispersed. Suddenly I said, "Wait, I thought of another story. Now this one is true."

One of the musicians said, "No, no! I don't care whether it's true or not. I just want it to be good." He and I weren't using the same terminology as the motto, but the spirit was the same: that this story was factual did not matter, as long as it was "true" in some way on some level, which is a requirement for it to be good.

The story of Adam and Eve is obviously a good one. If it were not, it would not command such broad and deep attention. It's true for countless people. It's just that, like other stories, we can't expect it to hold the same truth for everyone.

*I would claim that an audience member asked me, "Wouldn't your friends and relations back home get mad if they found out you were going around telling lies about them?"

I would say, "Think how they'd feel if they found out I was telling the truth!"

Michael said...

Ed said...
"The thing about creationism that puzzles me the most is idea that God for an eternity existed alone and suddenly decided he was bored or lonely being alone and decided to create life. To me this tends to disprove creation. A God bored and lonely suddenly decides to create life after being alone for eternity?"

Well put, Ed.

Parallel to that point, I would say the idea of an "eternal God" at some point deciding to "reproduce himself", or to create humans for any other purpose for his pleasure, is even more puzzling (=ridiculous).

If "He" existed for eternity, but is by definition Perfect and Good in every way, then there is no room for improvement in his condition. No need to reproduce, or do anything. Throughout the uncountable eons of past forever, he was perfect, end of story. If he and Jesus needed, or even wanted more companionship, then that means they were "incomplete" in some way, imperfect. Or bored, as you say. Not maximally fulfilled.

Again, it means they were "imperfect" *throughout all past eternity*. That's a looong time to be waiting to create humans.

In other words, the whole idea of a Perfect God is ludicrous. If he/they were perfect, then making humans can only be considered a step down for them. Perfection is just that, perfect in every way, in need of nothing, in want of nothing.

Arno said...

Thanks, Dennis,, for "Let's Try Again..." :-D And big THANK YOU too, to Gerald Bronkar, Anonymous @ 3:53, K-BARADANIKTO, and Miller Jones whose URL's I will "check out" in due course, as well as Retired Prof. (BTW, Can't all you "anonymous' girls/guys decide on SOME KIND of personal identifiable moniker/handle? I find it extremely difficult at times to really figure which Anonymous actually said what, and unfortunately more often than not, just skip over all the anonymity, except when I notice an identifier at the bottom of the post of an anonymous poster, like Ian Boine, Ronco, and a few others ...)

Anyway, here's my round-about ake on how I view the account of Adam and Eve in Genesis:

I don't accept/view/believe at all that the Bible is infallible, inerrant, inspired-as-in-god-breathed, let alone being The Word of God. I came to this conclusion after not only having made a thorough investigation of the contents of the 66 little books contained in this interesting ancient anthology, but have read it completely from cover to cover in versions/translations such as KJV, ASV, JB, NEB, and quite a few times in my mother-tongue (and this reading includes those repetitious, tedious and extremely boring genealogies and instructions how to put the Tabernacle in the Wilderness together as well as the construction of the Temple of Solomon.) Oh, AND I've wrote out by hand every single word in block-letters, not only the scripture references in the old AC Correspondence Course, but the course itself to boot :-) Having said all that, I'll be one of the first to admit that there really are some good stuff put together in this Book, but the Adam and Eve account as recorded in Genesis, most definitely does not count under some of these "good stuff."

Arno said...

I am convinced that the Bible, especially the OT, is an effort as well as a progressive account of one specific tribe's search for, and understanding of God. That a lot of historical accounts re. our ancient past have become distorted and corrupted in an effort of one nation trying to push their own "agenda." I take from the Bible what good I can and leave the rest to the fundamentalists and biblicists amongst us. I believe in God as the First Source and Center of Everything past/present/future. I believe in the historical Jesus, but not that he came to save or ransom us from the awful wrath and indignation of a petulant, childish, bloodthirsty caricature called the "God of the Hebrews/Bible."

But, back too Adam, Eve and Genesis:

Amongst other things the Jews held confusing ideas about racial sin and the supposed evil nature of man. Some taught that Adam's sin had cursed the human race, and that the Messiah would remove this curse and restore man to divine favor. Others taught that God, in creating man, had put into his being both good and evil natures; that when he observed the outworking of this arrangement, he was greatly disappointed, and that "He repented that he had thus made man." And those who taught this believed that the Messiah was to come in order to redeem man from this inherent evil nature.

Jesus did not come to die as a sacrifice for sin. He did not come to atone for the inborn moral guilt of the human race. We as humans have no such racial guilt before God. Our hope of a better world is bound up in the progress and enlightenment of the individual, you and me. Never have we been the property of any kind of archdeceiver. Jesus did not die to ransom us from the clutches of any apostate ruler or god of this world. The Father in heaven never conceived of such crass injustice as damning a puny human being, let alone an entire human race, because of the so-called evildoing of ancestors. Neither was the death on the cross a sacrice which consisted in an effort to pay God a debt which we as a race had come to owe him. The doctrine of the total depravity of man destroyed much of the potential of religion for effecting social repercussions of an uplifting nature and of inspirational value. Jesus sought to restore man's dignity when he declared that all men are the children of God.

Arno said...

The Genesis-account of Adam and Eve is a rather garbled and confused account of an actual and historical account associated with something that occurred more than four hundred and fifty thousand years previously.

I'm closing with a quotation from a tome I personally invest trust andplace faith into:

"There has been no 'fall of man.' The history of the human race is one of progressive evolution, and the Adamic bestowal left the world peoples greatly improved over their previous biological comechanistic

"Adam should not be regarded as the cause of a curse on the human race. While he did fail in carrying forward the divine plan, while he did transgress his covenant with Deity, while he and his mate were most certainly degraded in creature status, notwithstanding all this, their contribution to the human race did much to advance civilization...

"All in all, there probably never was a more disheartening miscarriage of wisdom on any planet ... But it is not surprising that these missteps occur in the affairs of the evolutionary universes. We are a part of a gigantic creation, and it is not strange that everything does not work in perfection; our universe was not created in perfection. Perfection is our eternal goal, not our origin.

"If this were a mechanistic universe, if the First Great Source and Center were only a force and not also a personality, if all creation were a vast aggregation of physical matter dominated by precise laws characterized by unvarying energy actions, then might perfection obtain, even despite the incompleteness of universe status. There would be no disagreement; there would be no friction. But in our evolving universe of relative perfection and imperfection we rejoice that disagreement and misunderstanding are possible, for thereby is evidenced the fact and the act of personality in the universe. And if our creation is an existence dominated by personality, then can you be assured of the possibilities of personality survival, advancement, and achievement; we can be confident of personality growth, experience, and adventure. What a glorious universe, in that it is personal and progressive, not merely mechanical or even passively perfect!"

Anonymous said...

This point of anonymity keeps coming up. People do it out of self protection. Expressing unpopular views can make one a target. Just one example, some people who voted for Trump have been beaten up by Hillary supporters. It's a dangerous world.

Sweetblood777 said...

Since Yahshua mentioned it, I believe it.

Questeruk said...

To be even handed, some people who voted for Hillary have been beaten up by Trump supporters. There were several televised incidents of that during Trump rallies. Don't recall any the other way round.

Just saying - (I don't live in USA, it not my fight!)

RSK said...

Thing is, you can easily just enter "ABC123" or whatever as a username. Then everybody can tell who is talking on a long thread.

RSK said...

Semi-objectively, the concept of a "First Man" and "First Woman" is a widespread one outside of Judaism, though it is not the only variety of origin/creation myth. Sometimes there is a "first pair", sometimes a simultaneous creation of multiple individuals (avoiding the "Cains wife" question), sometimes it comes about in a different paradigm entirely. (I mention this because there is too easy a tendency for believers and nonbelievers to latch onto one or two seeming parallels and say "see, its true/a myth!")

Regardless, I'd say the Genesis account would be difficult to set out to "prove" in any final sense. It is too lacking in key details to allow for that - and why should it include many, unless you claim Adam himself wrote the account? I see no real reason anyone should automatically assume its fully truthful, unless you do it because of a larger, more general belief in biblical inerrancy.

But then again, I've always wanted to open an adult bookstore called "Adam and Steve", just so that when some old codger grumbles the slogan, someone else can say "What're you talking about? Adam and Steve is over on 5th Street." :)

Arno said...

Anon @ 5:53

I do understand that some of you anonymous posters feel threatened. That is why I made mention of "SOME KIND of personal identifiable moniker/handle." Sign off as Cat, Dog, Parrot, Boxer123, or something that will at least distinguish the various Anon's from one another. Surely doing so will not put you in danger in any way whatsover? What do you think -- reasonable request? :-)

Anonymous said...

Since the universe came into existence in a instant, why not Adam and Eve. Both are 'magic.'

RSK said...

(I should point out for the concerned Anons that when you select the "Name" option, you do not have to register your personal information like some forums do)

RSK said...

I recall some of both, but of course there have been incidents of that type in my lifetime as long as I can remember. You didn't hear about them as frequently pre-Internet, but they occurred.

Questeruk said...

Anyone that claims to be a Christian, by definition believes that Jesus Christ was who he said he was, and that he told the truth when he claims to be your personal saviour, and that you too can have eternal life.

If you are prepared to believe that, should you not also believe other statements he made, which have little effect on your personal life. Such as Jesus talking about Abraham, and Moses, and the city of Sodom, and indeed the reality of Satan - all things that are ridiculed by many on this board. If Christ got all these things wrong, can you really trust him regarding your salvation?

All the above of course will only apply to Christians - but there are a number of Christians that both read and contribute to this board. A Christian that denies the existence of such people as Moses, who Christ talked about, surely is on thin ground believing in Christ as a saviour of mankind?

NO2HWA said...

Anyone can reply to any message here with a "name" with the "name/URL" button. Create your own moniker. No further information is asked for. You are still anonymous, but at least have a name that people can respond to.

Retired Prof said...

For those casting about for some sneaky screen name that cannot be traced to your real identity, I offer the following two dozen items as a public service. You are free either to adopt any name here or use the list as inspiration to make a name for yourself.

Grocen N. Dellicutt, Haydn N. DeForrest, Ruston V. Hickel, Salton D. Rhodes, Ray Scarr, Rohren Torrance, Earble T. Brewer, Penny Zwerth, Nicole Zwerth, Hugh Jorgen, Artie Fischel, Benny Fischel, Molly Kewell, Adam Baum, Rachel Tenschen, Wylie von Naegler, Hope Loess, Notney Moore, Lon Moore, Otto McCannick, Hugh Boettcher Rass. Pauline E. Pistol, Golda Neagle, Khandibar Papsmir

Anonymous said...

Retired Prof, you have waaaaay too much time on your hands! LOL!! :)

Retired Prof said...

Too much time on my hands?

I know. I love it!

DennisCDiehl said...

Questeruk, Jesus was a product of his times too. He had no special knowledge beyond that of his day. As a Jew he would only have known what others thought they knew

Questeruk said...

Dennis, yes, of course you are correct if we are taking Jesus just to be a man.

However, if Jesus was who he claimed to be, i.e. that he was previously God, then he was in a position to know about salvation. He also, in passing, mentions his personal experience of past events.

For example statements from Christ like, "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven" and "Truly, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am."

In this context I am only talking about Christians, those who believe that eternal life is being offered by God, through the sacrifice of Jesus. Someone that believes Christ is telling the truth about salvation, are they not also prepared to believe what Christ tells of his previous experiences before his human life? Or are they to say Christ is telling the truth about salvation, but is lying about his past experiences.

Clearly, someone that does not accept Christ's words is in a different position, and would have a different viewpoint. I fully accept that.

Anonymous said...

I used a alias on another site, yet church members worked out who I was, since they were familiar with my mental profile. So even a identifier on a anon, can enable the person to be identified. Camouflage in nature protect animals lives, and Christ used camouflage to the point that Judas had to use a kiss to point him out.
Anonymity is a right that should be respected, rather than complained about or challenged.
You sit on your rights when it's in your self interest, no?

Byker Bob said...

On the original topic, what difference does it make whether something is literal, a metaphor or an allegory? Do we allow our opinion of that to blind us to the point or lesson?


Byker Bob said...

Of course they did, 9:04! Next time I read a post by someone who frequently uses "a" instead of "an", I will suspect that you authored it. That's called a "tell". You might be recognized whether you post under "anon", or use a screen name.


Arno said...

Thanks BB, you beat me to it :-)

9:04 or A vs. AN, or AN vs. A, please do take note what BB has pointed out. For someone who is very much concerned about his/her anonymity, think again ;-)

BTW, I'm not challenging you or any other anon at all, just a friendly request to ensure the flow of different thoughts between all of us here. Just think about it, its like two or more people who are in deep conversation re. some topic in a relatively big crowd, and someone out of the blue/nowhere pipes up and interject. "Whose said that?" No reply, or just another retort while the phantom speaker ducking and diving within the crowd. Ummm, catch my drift?

Of course you have the right to remain in whatever guise of anonymity you want, but have a bit of heart, 'K?

Just a thought, the evil one disguised himself in the form of a snake in that mythical biblical garden...

Byker Bob said...

As a general comment, I did not suggest that Dennis be banned, or that he be compelled to start his own blog. All I'm saying is that posting pro-atheist or pro-agnostic materials, mythicist theories, and overt anti-Bible exposes directly to the "Mulling it Over With Dennis" folder would give our visitors from LCG (and members of other ACOGs who have questions) a better range of choices as they process their matters of faith. Some may be doing their own independent studies and investigations for the first time in their lives, and the last thing they want or need is to be dog-piled by people attempting to sell them a point of view which they have been taught automatically goes hand in hand with bitterness.

To appreciate the issues, and how it might affect certain readers, you have to consider the sheer volume of the constant barrage, and how tenaciously and vociferously it gets defended, as if it were the only acceptable or intelligent viewpoint. Personally, I have a package of beliefs and feelings that I left behind when I quit Armstrongism, and I have a similar package from when I left Atheism, so, from a "been there, done that" perspective, none of this bothers me. As Armstrongism continues to contract, people are making choices which will determine the make up and consistency of the rest of their lives, and the lives of their children. Surely, as they embark on the next chapter in their journey, they should not be force-fed by the atheist equivalent of the Jehovahs Witnesses. The funny thing is, some of the force-feeders actually resented it when someone else tried to force-feed them another package back in '95!


Gerald Bronkar said...

Byker Bob, I am sorry if I misinterpreted your prior post, and I agree moving from Armstrongism probably does need to be done in steps. It is not a normal process to jump from total faith in Armstrongism, to complete non-belief. For me it was a process covering many years. I will say however, that once the prophecies failed, somehow I was aware enough to recognize it and make a move away from the WCG. Researching Christianity took much longer. I concur, there is much good done in many churches. I still do not consider myself an atheist, as life, matter and consciousness exist, accepting it all as accidental is not something I choose to do.

As I have stated numerous times, I attend a mega-church regularly with my wife, and that organization does much to save marriages, and help turn lives away from destructive behavior to a more positive track. I am all for charity and helping people in need, I simply disagree with the premise. I do not have the answers, and so I remain agnostic. I may never know, but my understanding or lack of it will have no impact on the outcome.

I hope you will read this, as I see it is an "old" subject as I post.

Byker Bob said...

Got it, Gerald, and thanks for that. It is a long process, and yes the failure of the prophecies helped me greatly with that as well.

Somehow, Armstrongism has largely found a way to mute the failure of their prophecies, and to even question the mapping of the human genome, a process which in reality killed the basis both for British Israelism, and German Assyrianism. Thus, they've retained the ability to instill fear into their members, where fear should not even exist. I can't believe that leaders even continue to set dates, and preach about meat hooks, but they do.

One of the things that it took me years to realize is that any of us can align ourselves with either flip-side of the coin that has good on one side, and bad on the other. In a lot of cases we're working with the balancing scales of lady justice, to determine percentages of good and bad. I want to be on the side of groups, individuals, and activities which are tipped to the net good side. Armstrongism brought so much bad into our lives that it is very easy for us to think of all belief and religion as being net bad. Now, there are some other groups that are also net bad, and we need to be aware of them. But, I've seen a lot of good happening through some Christian groups. The fact that you are with your wife tells me that she's net good bigtime, because none of us from Armstrongism have the tolerance any longer for the badness or toxicity that came into our lives through Armstrongism. I'm assuming that over the years, your wife has tested the spirit of that mega-church, and found it to be good.

All any of us can do is to continue to live life, and to never stop looking for answers. To the extent that we do that, we're on the right track.


Arno said...

Thank you, Bob, for an uplifting post, especialy your closing remark:

"All any of us can do is to continue to live life, and to never stop looking for answers. To the extent that we do that, we're on the right track."

Byker Bob said...

My pleasure, Arno. I enjoy your posts as well.


Arno said...

I was wondering how many of you are aware of, or maybe have read already, Isaac Asimov's Guide to the Bible. This very interesting and captivating "almost commentary" came to mind while thinking on and off about specific stories in the Genesis account, especially Adam and Eve and the Garden. Below is a blurb as well as a rather "balanced" review of this book that is freely available in PDF at for your reading pleasure :) That's where I sourced my copy from.

ASIMOV’S GUIDE TO THE BIBLE is Isaac Asimov at his professional and informal best. With its careful scrutiny of Biblical places, events and characters in light of secular sources, it is an important fund of fascinating knowledge for any reader of the Bible—and also absorbing reading for anyone with an interest in historoy. For the Bible is, among other things, an important source of the history of the first 4,000 years of human civilization. Along with explications of such historical phenomena as the place in the world of David’s kingdom, Dr. Asimov offers informed speculations on the real nature of The Flood, the parting of the Red Sea, and many more historical and legendary events, places, and people. “I cannot pretend that I am making any significant original contribution to Biblical scholarship,” says Dr. Asimov; yet by bringing the breadth of his scientific and historical erudition to bear on the Bible, he has added a new dimensions to studies of the Bible’s secular side.

Arno said...

This is a terrific book. Being, however, Asimov’s major opus about religion, it offends a lot of people.

Basic rule of thumb—if you have problems with modern Biblical scholarship, you’re going to hate this book and may as well ignore it.

I’ve gone through three distinct stages in my own reaction to the book, coming as I do from a strong religious background.

Stage one was shock and outrage. It was really quite a blow to my faith, all these terrible things the Good Doctor says about the early parts of Genesis. (Not to mention the rest of the Bible.) I mean, I knew he was a Godless Atheist™ who believed in evolution and all that, but, really—all this stuff about Genesis, source criticism of the Pentateuch, the number of Isaiahs, the date, historicity, and meaning of Daniel. And this is just in volume one!

Stage two was condescension. Well, what could one expect from a Godless Atheist™ who believed in evolution and clearly doesn’t understand God and true religion at all. I at least knew better than Asimov.

(I’m sorry to say I even sent him a few letters calling him to repentance. It’s horribly embarrassing and I can only hope that they’ve been destroyed. Please, please, please...)

Stage three is acceptance. Asimov says a lot of things about the Bible that I still don’t agree with, but I can put that down as a difference of faith and leave judgment to God. (One of the advantages of believing in God is that you can leave sticky things like judging other people to him and avoid judging others entirely yourself—an advantage, alas, of which too few of the devout avail themselves.) Asimov also says a lot of things about the Bible that I didn’t believe thirty years ago but have come to accept since. (Heck, he’s even converted me to organic evolution, the Godless Atheist™!)

And Asimov says a lot of things about the Bible that I didn’t know then, would never have known in all likelihood if I hadn’t read the Guide to the Bible, and have never had any problems accepting, things which enrich and have enriched my own understanding of this large, complex, and obscure book from the first time I read the guide.

More to the point, however, is that Asimov himself deeply loved the Bible. True, he didn’t think much of it as theology, but he saw in it a deeper ethical message that seems to be missed by most of the people I know who scream about needing to believe the first ten chapters of Genesis are literally true. He admired it as history, he admired it as literature, he admired it as a record of humanity’s striving for something better, and he admired it as pointing the way to better ways we should be living and dealing with one another.

That message in Asimov’s religious works is here far more muted than it would become in The Story of Ruth, but it’s still there. Here, however, his love for the Bible as a fascinating book to study and to understand comes through clearly—and to Asimov (and to me) the first step in understanding the Bible is understanding who the heck are all these people it’s talking about, and where did they live, and what else do we know about them.

This is not a commentary. Asimov lacked the ability to write one, and he admits it in the introduction. To be sure, he tends to explain what such-and-such a passage means, but that’s not his overriding theme. His overriding theme is to give the background material that many a modern reader of the Bible lacks altogether, the knowledge of peoples and places and hard-to-pronounce names we stumble over. Asimov here brings the world of the Bible alive, gives us a map and compass, and sets us off to explore on our own.

This is a terrific, terrific book. I know an awful lot of people who really need desperately to read it.

nck said...

I believe Genesis is an echoe of the transition period from hunter gatherers to farmers as it occurred in Anatolia. No one in their right mind would assume that a & e sons married their sisters. They married the other existing tribes. But this family settled. The religion that consequently developed is agriculture based and follows its cy les. All plagues that the God needed to be appeased about are threats to agriculture. Floods are of no consequence to fast moving hunters. Dissease develops from close contact between animal and man etc etc etc. Nck

nck said...

etc etc means

"Paradise" is the place where hunter gatherer people roam around naked. Eat and gather the fruit that is provided.

Agriculture is the place where people work their pants off. Flood is a dangerous thing instead of the place where the animal to be hunted drinks.

All indication are that the temple in Southern Turkey is the place where animals are still revered in an animistic sense but it is clearly a work of centralized worship and a "work" of more than one community. In fact it is the first evidence of centralized power over the entire plain.

Just like the English word Lord actually comes from "Loaf Ward" or "the one who distributes the grain." This is how centralized religion, temple worship, and the one God originated.

The entire book of Genesis reflects the "curses" that accompany a transition to centralized agriculture and therefore come to define the God who needs to appease those curses.

Like agricultural women/skelletons being smaller than hunter gatherer women and therefore have to deliver in pain during their transition to the new circumstance.

Some may argue it is "the chicken and the egg". One can argue either way for its development. Observing the world it is all fine with me as long as it works, I eat both the egg and the chicken no matter what was first. But I beware of the farmer, setting the prize and especially trade tarriffs.