In this season of Passover and Easter, my thoughts are drawn to mankind’s search for God and Wisdom and how that is relayed in Bible Stories. I approach those stories with 21st Century reasoning while keeping in mind that each generation’s search reflects their society’s stage of development. Do I believe the Bible is God-inspired? Indeed I do; but God’s inspiration passed through the minds and hands of men in an era of limited knowledge. Before there was writing, information was passed on orally thru story telling with no requirement for factual accuracy. The Bible writers were from that tradition and used stories to convey the wisdom that was beyond their ability to fully reckon with.
In our present information age, we read stories to find the essential facts or points the story is making—that was not the ‘norm’ four thousand years ago, they just told interesting stories to get something across. I’ve considered some essential points from stories in Genesis. The first chapter of Genesis is the story of creation; I’ve selected the wisdom points that it conveys.
1) God is the Creator. Can we translate that to mean ‘that which called being into existence’? [Being = materialization; (i.e. the universe, world, life forms, humanity . . .) existence = the known and experienced reality]
O.K., that’s a bit much to process, but the rest of Genesis’ wisdom is easier.
2) It describes an order of creation (1st day, 2nd day, 3rd day, etc. that
agrees with Science)
3) God made man in God’s own image (able to create and bring order)
4) In contrast to other creatures, humans had the unique ability to make choices (free will)
5) some of the choices made by man would be to his own detriment. (sin,. . . Atomic bombs?)
From Creation, my thoughts take a jump to Abraham and the ‘chosen people’. Chosen how? Why? For what? The story tells of God directing Abraham to “leave your home country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation . . .” [Gen. 12, NIV]
The point seems to be that the Jews were to make a significant contribution to the world and civilization. (they have)
Some four thousand years ago (estimated to be the time of Abraham) humanity was emerging from the primitive world whose only rule was largely ‘survival of the fittest’ and ‘might means right’ with honor going only to the rulers and virtual enslavement of the masses. Yet since the beginning of civilization there is evidence of humanity’s reaching for ‘something’ beyond the immediate experience of life—1) burying of their dead, 2) collecting and honoring totems, 3) developing dances and rituals, 4) calling upon spirits . . . the ‘something’ sought was vague and without a clear direction. The descendants of Abraham and Sarah were to begin the movement of humanity toward a God of purpose and direction. God as God truly is. Over time the Jewish people (the ‘chosen people’) established laws, both for settling disputes (legality), and of personal conduct (The 10 Commandments); to teach of One God; and to assemble sacred literature (the Old Testament/the Torah). From my vantage point I see that as the advancement of civilization. But the essential point was not that the Jews would advance civilization, but they were chosen to be the genetic line from which the Messiah was to come. Messiah: “the one chosen to lead the world and thereby save it”, “the anointed”, “God’s appearance on earth”.
Approximately two thousand years after Abraham, Jesus entered the world. Jesus was a Jew. He instructed people in how to live with compassion and kindness, forgiving enemies and caring for all in need. He performed miracles, prayed to God, calling him ’Father’; his followers—first Jews then others—believed him to be the Messiah, but the Jewish authorities did not. He was crucified and rose from the dead.
Stories of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection were added to the Bible as the ‘New Testament’ for Christians. For Jews, the Torah alone is their sacred scripture.
Each year Passover and Easter come at the same time. I am pleased that there is mutual respect and at times there is sharing together of their celebrations.