Monthly Archives: April 2012

4-24-12 Genesis 9 (21)

There are a number of questions about the stories in this chapter and how they could be taken figuratively or literally. Steve suggested that we should look at Genesis in general and this chapter in particular as an amalgamation of stories gleaned from an spoken tradition to describe man’s relationship with God and with other men. The question that should be asked is what can we learn from a particular story or set of stories. Many of us grew up in a tradition of the stories being presented as a literal truth, but there are too many things that suggest that we should learn from them as teaching stories rather than literal truths.

We had a good discussion about the story of Noah getting drunk and being seen in his nakedness by Ham, supposedly his younger son despite the fact that when the sons are introduced earlier, Ham is the second in the list. A number of comments were made about individual comfort or discomfort with nakedness as they were growing up. Even a case of bullying in that situation. The earlier story of Adam and Eve suggested that they became aware of their nakedness and covered up, so this would suggest that this modesty existed in Noah’s time as well. It may also reflect on the fact that Noah was embarrassed by being drunk as well as naked. Some author’s have suggested that Ham may have joked about his father being drunk and naked and then told Shem and Japeth and they did something about it with seeing their father. There is even a suggestion that seeing his father may mean that Ham had sex with him as that is frequently the meaning of seeing someone’s nakedness or knowing someone in the Old Testament. One thing we can learn from this might be to respect other’s dignity.

Another aspect of this is the way that Canaan was really the victim of the story. It wasn’t Ham or his other children who were cursed, but rather Canaan. It was suggested by Mark that this might be the guilt of Ham, but the shame of his guilt being the burden of his family. Curt suggested that this opened up the concept of vulnerability of an individual. Ham approached Noah in a time when he was most vulnerable and thus violated him at that time. This is another lesson that we can learn from this story. In the image of God, can be interpreted by saying that even though we have sinned and fallen away from what God intended, because we are in his image, we are still the object of the care and providence of God. It also suggests the hope of immortality and that man may not take that away from another man and if he does then he must pay the consequences of that act.

Bill raised a question about other cultures having similar creation stories. Bill asked if at the conclusion of an native American telling the creation story, should we respond, “The word of God.?” Kurt suggested that the Bible is divine revelation and that the Bible represents God’s word and promise to us. In other words there is a difference and it demonstrates God’s authority in our lives. All of the creation myths seem to speak to deeply meaningful questions held by the society that shares these myths, revealing their central worldview and the framework for the self-identity of the culture and individual in a universal context. Here is a web site that describes Flood Legends from around the world. Here is a quote of the introduction of this article: “Native global flood stories are documented as history or legend in almost every region on earth. Old world missionaries reported their amazement at finding remote tribes already possessing legends with tremendous similarities to the Bible’s accounts of the worldwide flood. H.S. Bellamy in Moons, Myths and Men estimates that altogether there are over 500 Flood legends worldwide. Ancient civilizations such as (China, Babylonia, Wales, Russia, India, America, Hawaii, Scandinavia, Sumatra, Peru, and Polynesia) all have their own versions of a giant flood.”

We could have a long discussion about the literalness of the Biblical account. One aspect of it is that it was written at a time when the Greeks were the major influence in philosophy and religion. They taught and believed that God was timeless, and therefore the acts of creation are done in that respect and even though the days and years are mentioned in Genesis, they might be attributed more to an attempt to explain the timelessness of God with man’s need for finiteness. It appears that people like the Alexandrian church father Origen (AD 185-254 and Augustine (AD 354-430 taught that creation days were to be understood allegorically, rather than literally. The 16th century reformers agreed that the Bible should be read as a literal interpretation of the history of man’s relationship with God. This certainly continued through the Pietist movement of the Scandanavian Lutheran church of the 19th and early 20th century.

Hebrew Calendar – Babylonian Analogs

Here is a link to an article that described the Hebrew calendar and has the table that Mark provided to us this morning. It explains the leap months and how they were used. It is very interesting to see how people developed a calendar and made attempts to keep it balanced with the sun and the moon. I think it is a significant leap to introduce the concept of Leap years to keep things on target with their relationships with the sun and the moon.

4-17-12 Genesis 8 (17)

Our topic was Genesis 8 which is the story of life on the ark and leaving the ark and beginning a new life again. There is an interesting account of Noah from various traditions, including Jewish, Christian, and Islam among others. I thought you might enjoy some of these thoughts. I read some excerpts this morning.Here is the link.’s_Ark

An ongoing theme this morning was what our first impression of this story was from our early Sunday School days. Some of us remember it and thought every word was true and others or us wondered how this could happen. Could we have such a flood again? How did they live in the confined area of an ark, no matter how massive? It must have been like the first cruise ship!! This material was written down in maybe the first century BC and clarified and commented about for several hundred years after that to produce the versions that we read today. Remember also that the people who wrote this down were supposedly talking about some;thing that had happened maybe thousands of years before and had been related verbally all those years. I find that to be very interesting and I wonder how much the story was refined over the years. And the questions that people raised at that time.

Again we are reminded that we don’t usually think of the Bible as a DVD version of what actually happened, but rather stories that are told to guide us in our faith. Pastor Lutz referred to “Doubt being the handmaiden of Faith”, and I found the following reference in which said:

“To WALK BY SIGHT is the complete opposite of to WALK BY FAITH. It is walking like a blind man groping and waving his white stick before him to find his way. Why is walking by sight described as a blind man? You only see what is in front of you and you react by your body stimuli, not your spirit and not realizing the pitfalls of your actions. A body has has a mind and soul, and when you walk by sight, you use your mind, and not your spirit, which is given by God. When you follow God, your path will lead to salvation.” I am not so sure that I subscribe to the rest of this article, but it is an interesting perspective and I really don’t know the author or origin of this piece other than the web address.

The dimensions of the ark are 300 cubits (450 feet) long, 50 cubits (75 feet) in breadth, and 30 cubits (45 feet) high. In comparison, the Grand Princess cruise ship which holds 2,600 passengers is 951 feet long and 159 ft. wide. The Oasis of the Sea which accommodates up to 5,400 people is 1,181 feet long, 154 ft. wide, and 236 feet high. This gives some perspective of the dimensions of Noah’s ark in comparison with the huge modern cruise ships.


4-10-12 Rabbi Portman’s visit (John Grundstad)

The flood was on the agenda for today and Rabbi Portman was our guest. As a reform Jew, Portman does not regard the OT as a history book. (Or, as Mark is fond of saying, a videotape). For him, the flood story is allegorical for God’s unhappiness with the world because of people not taking care of each other. He reveres the Bible as “somehow” divine and as a source of wisdom, but not by itself, only in conjunction with Torah. He believes that the OT has to be constantly re-interpreted in the light of human experience and understanding. “Tradition has a vote, but not a veto.” That was refreshing to hear, because it means that to reform Jews, the scripture is not static.

Scripture as a guide: Jews’ approach to living the word is “mitzvah-driven.” This means that the ideal is to follow the law and the commandments. This is how a life fully and faithfully lived is justified.

“Grace” to Portman is to be alive and to be allowed to follow the mitzvahs. Prayer is good, he said, but insufficient in and of itself. One must also do the right things.

Heaven: Jews of Portman’s persuasion don’t claim to know anything about the hereafter, nor do they spend a lot of time worrying about it. These things will take care of themselves. He also doesn’t believe in a personal Messiah, preferring to think in terms of a “messianic period,” a time of harmony and peace.

Homosexuality: The liberal (reform) movement of Judaism has accepted homosexuality and reform rabbis may officiate at homosexual marriages. Orthodox Jews, on the other hand, would never do that.

Abortion: A fetus is not considered to be a viable human until birth, and abortion is OK in all forms of Judaism as long as it is for health reasons. This includes psychological health. The parameters for acceptability therefore seem quite subjective.

Those were the highlights. It was kind of funny that Gerry H. brought bagels, a food very much associated with the Jewish tradition. But Portman had to decline because of Passover. None of us ate them in front of him!

4-3-12 Genesis 6-7

Lost Boys Genesis 6-7 (I am away so am not able to attend today.)

This is the story of Noah and the great flood. The people on earth were very wicked. They were ruled by neophilia, thugs, bandits, murderers and sons of god. That is interesting because it suggests people who have used their god like capability for evil. God finds one righteous person, namely Noah and commissions him to build an ark and save all living life because God is going to obliterate all life on earth.