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. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creation_myth Here is a web site that describes Flood Legends from around the world. http://www.nwcreation.net/noahlegends.html 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. http://www.ldolphin.org/haseldays.html This certainly continued through the Pietist movement of the Scandanavian Lutheran church of the 19th and early 20th century.