Friday, October 2, 2009

Notes, Quotations, and Thoughts

from Understanding Genesis by Nahum S. Sarna.

  • "The literalistic approach serves to direct attention to those aspects of the narrative that reflect the time and place of its composition while it tends to obscure the elements that are meaningful and enduring, thus distorting the biblical message and destroying its relevancy." p. 3

  • "In the popular mind the word myth has come to be identified with fairy tale and associated with the imaginary and the fantastic...Myths, then, in the final analysis, have as their subjects the eternal problems of mankind communicated through the medium of highly imaginative language." p.6

  • "The theme of creation, important as it is in the Bible, is nevertheless only introductory to what is its central motif, namely, the Exodus from Egypt." p. 8

  • "[T]here is no room for magic in the religion of the Bible. The God of Creation is eternally existent, removed from all corporeality, and independent of time and space. Creation comes about through the simple divine fiat: Let there be!" pp.11-12

  • The creation narrative may be myth, but it's not mythological; there is no account of how God came into being.

  • "Evil then was a permanent necessity and there was nothing essentially good in the pagan universe...Far different is the outlook in Genesis. One of its seemingly na├»ve features is God's pleasure at His own artistry, the repeated declaration, after each completed act of creation, that God saw how good His work was." pp 17-18

  • "This basic belief in the essential goodness of the universe was, of course, destined to exert a powerful influence upon the direction of the religion of Israel and to affect the outlook on life of the people." p. 18

  • "[T]here are no biblical sources recounting the founding of the weekly sabbath-day. The antiquity of its existence is presupposed in all the legislation and even in the narratives."p. 19

  • Lots of things in Genesis, while having some overlap with other regional myths are distinctly a)unique and b)probably reaction to other things going on at the time in other narratives.

  • It [the serpent] is not an independent creature; it possesses no occult powers; it is not a demoniacal being; it is not even described as evil, merely as being extraordinarily shrewd...The role of the creature is that of seducer, laying before the woman the enticing nature of evil and fanning her desire for it." p.26

  • [W]e are being told by he Garden of Eden story that evil is a product of human behavior, not a principle inherent in the cosmos." p.27

  • [A] brief word must be said about the notion expressed in God's rebuke
    Hark, you brother's blood cries out to Me from the ground. (Gen 4.10)
    The Hebrew verb employed here is the same as that used on many another occasion when the cry of the oppressed comes before God. The idea is that injustice sets in motion countervailing forces that must ultimately prevail because they are sustained by God." p.31-32
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