Spread the Word

We started an exciting project in church: Spread the Word! In 2007, we are going to read the entire Bible in one year with the whole congregation. The fun part is that it will be in chronological order, which means we just started in Genesis this week but tomorrow we’ll jump to Job, because he obviously lived somewhere in the times of early Genesis. And it will become interesting when reading Kings and Chronicles, the Prophets, Psalms and Proverbs…

To make sure I’ll do my homework, I started downloading the Bible in mp3 from www.downloadbijbel.nl, so I can listen while waiting in traffic. And Ralph started to blog about Spread the Word here, and I already read some interesting thoughts. Let me add one or two here, without promising to do this every time.

When listening and reading the first 11 chapters of Genesis, it struck me how mysterious the creation of the world and the early years of creation are. It is as if you read just a very small portion of a much greater story. To some, this might indicate that it is all not true – for me, it is the opposite. Genesis seems not to be a general story of creation, but a very specific and personal one. God is interested in telling a certain story line that happens to start right at creation of man, that has to do with specific people and specific actions. Only between the lines you can learn about the physical and natural development of the world as such. For example: if you look at a map it is easy to see that the continents once fit together. A physicist probably wants to know how this happened, but the Bible does not tell a whole lot about it, apart from a sideline in Genesis 10:25 (‘in Peleg’s time the earth was divided’). Another example is Genesis 6: who are the sons of the gods, the heroes of old, men of renown?

A second thing that struck me (especially when hearing the Bible read) are the many repetitions in the story. Creation of man is told 3 times (in chapter 1, 2 and 5), and a number of times the pedigree of Noah and others are repeated. I think this has to do with the Jewish oral tradition, in which repetition was needed for accurate transfer. This tradition makes up for a special poetic style that is also an explanation for the different way of presenting a historical account. In our western tradition we like to see truth as a set of verifiable facts, but maybe in Jewish tradition it is not so much about the facts as it is about the meaning and the message.

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