Friday, June 03, 2005

Bible Blogging: Genesis, Ch. 4

After their ignomious fall from grace for eating of the tree of knowledge, Adam and Eve figure out the joys of each other and their first son, Cain, is born. Somewhere in the not too far future, Eve also bears Cain's brother, Abel. (Again, the timeline is sketchy because both are born in subsequent sentences. God must be a fan of Hemingway.) Abel's a shepard and Cain's a farmer, naturally, competition ensues as Cain gives God "an offering of the fruit of the ground," while Abel offers the "firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions." As it happens, God is not a vegetarian and lifts his nose at Cain's apparently less than stellar offering. But for Abel's succulent gift God "had regard."

Cain doesn't take God's disapproval too well. God, being that disciplinarian he is, warns Cain of sin's creeping influence.
The Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry, and why has your contenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is couching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it."
God sure is cold and obtuse. Doesn't this benevolent and adoring creator understand that Cain's anger is a product of his green gifts being disregarded?

Well, things spiral out of control, Cain invites Abel to the field, and then murders him. The funny thing is God's not sure what has occurred.
Then the Lord said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" He said, "I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?" And the Lord said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground."
I guess God acquired that omniscience ability a little later -- although his intuition seems acute.

And you know a punishment's a coming when God's favored son gets the shank.
"And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength: you shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth."
What happens next demonstrates how one has to leave all logic and rationality in limbo when reading the bible.
Cain said to the Lord, "My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me this day away from the ground; and from my face I shall be hidden; and I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will slay me."
Hold on there, who will slay Cain? All those other people God must have created, yet declined to mention in the text. But aren't we all descended from that loving pair, Adam and Eve? So many questions, no apparent answers.

To top it all off, God establishes the precedent of unequality before the law. In regards to Cain's fear others will murder him too, God says:
"Not so! If any one slays Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold."
That's biblical justice for you, it makes secular law look oh so...liberal and reasonable.

I know that many of you reading this will say these stories are allegory and not supposed to be taken literally. I agree. But how can one believe these stories from the Old Testament are allegory while the Gospels of the New Testament are literal? What makes the Gospel writers reporters, and the writers of the Old Testament allegorical storytellers?

I'm sorry, but picking and choosing from the bible sort of dilutes the factual accurancy of the whole book. Since there's no way to ensure what story is allegorical or historical, there's really only one option if believers want to remain consistent: either the book is a historical document of God's revealed truth or it's an allegorical attempt by men to make sense of the harsh world they find themselves in.

Sure, it very well could be both allegorical and historical at times, but how do you know which is what?