The Bible BookBenjamin Philips
Learn more about the ideas and beliefs key to the teachings of the most widely printed religious book of all time, in this perfect introduction to The Bible.
The Bible Book features breakdowns of some of the most well-known passages ever written from The Bible. Looking at more than 100 of the most important Old and New Testament stories through beautiful and easy-to-follow spreads, The Bible Book profiles key figures, from Adam and Eve to Peter and Paul, locations, such as Jerusalem and Rome and essential theological theories, like the Trinity, to help create a clear insight into Christianity. Packed with biblical quotes, flowcharts and infographics explaining significant concepts clearly and simply, The Bible Book is perfect for anyone with an interest in religion.
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BOOK BIBLE THE US_001_Half_Title.indd 1 28/09/17 2:43 pm US_002-003_Title.indd 2 28/09/17 2:43 pm BOOK BIBLE THE US_002-003_Title.indd 3 28/09/17 2:43 pm DK LONDON PROJECT EDITOR Sam Kennedy SENIOR ART EDITOR Gillian Andrews SENIOR EDITOR Victoria Heyworth-Dunne ILLUSTRATIONS James Graham JACKET EDITOR Claire Gell SENIOR JACKET DESIGNER Mark Cavanagh JACKET DESIGN DEVELOPMENT MANAGER Sophia MTT PRODUCER, PRE-PRODUCTION Gillian Reid PRODUCER Mandy Inness MANAGING EDITOR Gareth Jones SENIOR MANAGING ART EDITOR Lee Griffiths ASSOCIATE PUBLISHING DIRECTOR Liz Wheeler ART DIRECTOR Karen Self DESIGN DIRECTOR Philip Ormerod PUBLISHING DIRECTOR Jonathan Metcalf DK DELHI SENIOR ART EDITOR Ira Sharma PROJECT ART EDITORS Vikas Sachdeva, Vikas Chauhan ART EDITORS Sourabh Challariya, Revati Anand ASSISTANT EDITOR Smita Mathur ASSISTANT ART EDITORS Monam Nishat, Simran Saini ILLUSTRATORS Arun Pottirayil, Mohd Zishan JACKET DESIGNER Suhita Dharamjit JACKETS EDITORIAL COORDINATOR Priyanka Sharma SENIOR DTP DESIGNERS Shanker Prasad, Harish Aggarwal DTP DESIGNER Nand Kishor Acharya PICTURE RESEARCHER Aditya Katyal MANAGING JACKETS EDITOR Saloni Singh PICTURE RESEARCH MANAGER Taiyaba Khatoon PRE-PRODUCTION MANAGER Balwant Singh PRODUCTION MANAGER Pankaj Sharma MANAGING EDITOR Kingshuk Ghoshal SENIOR MANAGING ART EDITOR Arunesh Talapatra TOUCAN BOOKS EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Ellen Dupont SENIOR DESIGNER Thomas Keenes SENIOR EDITOR Dorothy Stannard EDITOR Abigail Mitchell ADDITIONAL EDITING John Andrews, Guy Croton, Larry Porges, Vicky Richards, Rachel Warren Chadd EDITORIAL ASSISTANT Michael Clark EDITORIAL INTERN Zara Mandel INDEXER Marie Lorimer PROOFREADER Marion Dent ADDITIONAL TEXT Autumn Green, Jeremy Harwood, Vicky Hales-Dutton original styling by STUDIO 8 First American Edition, 2018 Published in the United States by DK Publishing 345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014 Copyright © 2018 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK, a Division of Penguin Random House LLC 18 19 20 21 22 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 001–305929–Feb/2018 All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under the copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the copyright owner. Published in Great Britain by Dorling Kindersley Limited. A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. ISBN: 978-1-4654-6864-2 DK books are available at special discounts when purchased in bulk for sales promotions, premiums, fund-raising, or educational use. For details, contact: DK Publishing Special Markets, 345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014 SpecialSales@dk.com Printed and bound in Hong Kong A WORLD OF IDEAS: SEE ALL THERE IS TO KNOW www.dk.com US_004-005_Imprint_Contributors.indd 4 28/09/17 4:35 pm TAMMI J. SCHNEIDER, PHD, CONSULTANT Dr. Tammi J. Schneider is a Professor of Religion at Claremont Graduate University, having received a doctorate in Ancient History from the University of Pennsylvania. Her books include: Sarah: Mother of Nations; Judges; Mothers of Promise: Women in the Book of Genesis; and An Introduction to Ancient Mesopotamian Religion. She excavates in Israel. SHELLEY L. BIRDSONG, PHD Dr. Shelley L. Birdsong is a member of the Religious Studies faculty at North Central College, Naperville, Illinois. Her interests range from topics such as women in the Bible to specific text-critical issues in ancient Jeremiah manuscripts. ANDREW KERR-JARRETT Andrew Kerr-Jarrett read English at Trinity College, Cambridge. He is a writer and editor of more than 25 years’ standing. He facilitates seminars and workshops at the Mount Street Jesuit Centre in London, UK. REV. DR. ANDREW STOBART Rev. Dr. Andrew Stobart is a Methodist Minister in Darlington, UK, and commissioning editor of Holiness, an online theological journal published by Wesley House, Cambridge. He studied theology at the London School of Theology, Aberdeen University, and Durham University, and has contributed to a number of reference works, including DK’s The Illustrated Bible and The Religions Book. BENJAMIN PHILLIPS, PHD, CONSULTANT AND CONTRIBUTOR Dr. Benjamin Phillips is Associate Dean and Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Houston Campus, where he teaches courses in Christian doctrine and preaching. He is also Director of Southwestern’s Darrington Extension, which offers a bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies to offenders in the Texas prison system. GUY CROTON Guy Croton is an author and editor who has written, co-written, or edited books and articles on a variety of subjects in a career spanning more than 30 years. A Christian Humanist by religious and moral inclination, he studied theology and biblical history as part of his degree at the University of Sussex. NICHOLAUS PUMPHREY, PHD Dr. Nicholaus Pumphrey is the Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Curator of the Quayle Bible Collection at Baker University, Baldwin City, Kansas. He specializes in Biblical Studies, Ancient Near Eastern history and literature, and Islamic Studies. He is currently a senior staff member on the Tel Akko Total Archaeology Project in Akko, Israel. CONTRIBUTORS US_004-005_Imprint_Contributors.indd 5 28/09/17 4:35 pm 10 INTRODUCTION GENESIS GENESIS 1:1–50:26 20 And God said, “Let there be light” Creation 26 Let us make man in our image, in our likeness The Garden of Eden 30 They realized that they were naked The Fall 36 Am I my brother’s keeper? Cain and Abel 38 At that time people began to call on the name of the Lord The Origin of Prayer 40 Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark The Flood 72 When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as He promised, observe this ceremony The Passover 74 Stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water The Exodus 78 You shall not murder The Ten Commandments 84 They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshipped it The Golden Calf 86 The place will be consecrated by my glory The Ark and the Tabernacle 88 It does flow with milk and honey The Twelve Spies 89 The Lord opened the donkey’s mouth Balaam’s Donkey 90 There is no other Only One God THE HISTORICAL BOOKS 1:1 JOSHUA–ESTHER 10:3 96 Take up the Ark of the Covenant Entering the Promised Land 42 Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens The Tower of Babel 44 I will make of you a great nation Covenants 48 For the sake of ten men I will not destroy it Sodom and Gomorrah 50 Now I know that you fear God The Testing of Abraham 54 May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you Esau and Jacob 56 Your name will no longer be Jacob Jacob Wrestles with God 58 We will see what will become of his dreams Joseph the Dreamer EXODUS TO DEUTERONOMY EXODUS 1:1– DEUTERONOMY 34:12 66 Though the bush was on fire it did not burn up Moses and the Burning Bush 70 All the water was changed into blood The Ten Plagues CONTENTS 6 US_006-009_Contents.indd 6 28/09/17 2:43 pm 154 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows The Suffering Servant 156 Before I formed you in the womb I knew you The Prophet Jeremiah 160 My heart is poured out on the ground Lament for the Exiles 162 I will remove … your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh The Prophet Ezekiel 164 My God sent His angel, and He shut the mouths of the lions Daniel in Babylon 166 Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights The Disobedient Prophet 168 And what does the Lord require of you? The Prophet Micah 172 The remnant of Israel will trust in the name of the Lord Call for Repentance 173 Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace The Day of Judgment THE GOSPELS MATTHEW 1:1–JOHN 21:25 178 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son The Annunciation 7 98 None went out, and none came in The Fall of Jericho 100 Has not the Lord gone ahead of you? Gideon and the Judges 104 The spirit of the Lord came upon him Samson 108 Your people shall be my people and your God my God Ruth and Naomi 110 Speak, for your servant is listening The Prophet Samuel 116 There was no sword in the hand of David David and Goliath 118 The man who did this must die David and Bathsheba 120 Cut the living child in two, and give half to one and half to the other The Wisdom of Solomon 124 I have directed the ravens to feed you there A Prophet in Hiding 125 Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land Elijah and the Prophets of Baal 126 Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit The Chariot of Fire 128 So Judah went into captivity, away from her land The Fall of Jerusalem 132 I will go to the king … if I perish, I perish Queen Esther 133 Hear us, our God, for we are despised Rebuilding Jerusalem WISDOM AND PROPHETS JOB 1:1–MALACHI 4:6 138 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing The Psalms 144 From everlasting to everlasting you are God The Nature of God 146 Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on Earth like him The Suffering of Job 148 Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord Proverbs 152 I am my beloved’s … my beloved is mine Song of Songs US_006-009_Contents.indd 7 28/09/17 2:43 pm 180 A savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah The Birth of Jesus 186 They … presented Him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh The Magi 187 He gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem Herod’s Infanticide 188 Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house? A Child in the Temple 189 Prepare the way for the Lord The Coming of Salvation 190 The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us The Divinity of Jesus 194 This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased The Baptism of Jesus 198 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan!” The Temptations of Christ 200 “Follow me,” Jesus said, “… I will send you out to fish for people” The Calling of the Disciples 204 Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you Sermon on the Mount 210 Do to others as you would have them do to you The Golden Rule 212 This, then, is how you should pray The Lord’s Prayer 214 Whoever has ears, let them hear Parables of Jesus 216 When he saw him, he took pity on him The Good Samaritan 218 This brother of yours was dead … he was lost and is found The Prodigal Son 222 From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes? The Temple Tax 223 So the last will be first, and the first will be last Workers in the Vineyard 224 My name is Legion, for we are many Demons and the Herd of Pigs 226 The man who had died came out The Raising of Lazarus 8 228 And taking the five loaves, and the two fish, he looked up to heaven Feeding the 5,000 232 Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid Jesus Walks on Water 234 His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as light The Transfiguration 236 For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son The Nature of Faith 242 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost Jesus Embraces a Tax Collector 244 He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables Cleansing the Temple 246 She has done a beautiful thing to me Jesus Anointed at Bethany 248 This is my body, which is given for you The Last Supper 254 The hour has come, and The Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners Betrayal in the Garden US_006-009_Contents.indd 8 28/09/17 2:43 pm 9 256 I don’t know this man you’re talking about Peter’s Denial 258 Surely this Man was the Son of God The Crucifixion 266 Remember me when you come into your kingdom The Repentant Thief 268 Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed The Empty Tomb 272 Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road? Road to Emmaus 274 Go and make disciples of all nations The Great Commission ACTS, EPISTLES, AND REVELATION ACTS 1:1– REVELATION 22:21 282 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs The Day of Pentecost 284 In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk The Healing of the Beggar 288 He told him the good news about Jesus The Word Spreads 290 I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting The Road to Damascus 292 He purified their hearts by faith The Council of Jerusalem 294 I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way Paul’s Arrest 296 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud The Way of Love 298 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit The Holy Trinity 300 But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, and kindness Fruits of the Spirit 301 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith … not by works Salvation through Faith 302 Put on the full armor of God Armor of God 304 I want to know Christ The Power of the Resurrection 306 And He is the head of the body, the church The Body of Christ 308 Scripture is God-breathed The Bible as God’s word 312 Know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance Faith and Works 314 Just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do Holiness 316 The dead were judged according to what they had done The Final Judgment 322 There will be no more death or mourning The New Jerusalem 330 DIRECTORY 340 GLOSSARY 344 INDEX 352 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS US_006-009_Contents.indd 9 13/10/2017 15:44 INTRODU CTION US_010-011_Inroduction_Opener.indd 10 28/09/17 2:43 pm INTRODU CTION US_010-011_Inroduction_Opener.indd 11 28/09/17 2:43 pm T he Bible is the world’s most famous book and a keystone text of Western civilization. It has been translated into more languages than any other text in history, and it remains the most prolifically published book since the invention of the printing press. Christians worldwide look to it as sacred scripture—the written word of God, given by divine inspiration. It has influenced art, language, music, and literature for more than 2,000 years: in fact, the history of Western art cannot be fully understood without at least some knowledge of the Bible. The Bible’s teachings have also shaped social, economic, and political developments, contributing to Western civilization’s emphasis on the value of the individual rather than the state. It is the subject of academic study by believers and skeptics, and its words are the source of comfort and challenge from pulpits on every continent. Moved by God The Bible is a collection of 66 books, written by some 40 authors, living on three continents (Africa, Asia, and Europe), over 1,400 years (c.1200 BCE–c.100 CE). These authors understood themselves to be “moved by God” to write “the word of the Lord.” By the 1st century BCE, most Jews had come to recognize the 39 books of the Hebrew Bible, written in Hebrew and Aramaic, as God’s written word—the scriptures (from scriptura, Latin for “writings”). Later, the Christian churches of the 1st and 2nd centuries CE similarly acknowledged the four Gospels and a range of apostolic letters, written in Greek, as the word of God, alongside the earlier Hebrew scriptures. These texts communicate to the modern reader through a system of transmission and translation that began with the ancient Israelites. As early as the 3rd century CE, scholars were comparing copies and translations of the Hebrew Bible. This process continues among scholars today, who collect and compare newly discovered copies of biblical texts in order to establish a “critical text” from which translations are then made. The most famous English translation is the Authorized Version, also called the King James Version, published in 1611. The Bible Book refers to the New International Version, an English translation from 1978 that aims to make the text understandable to modern readers. Book of books The 66 books of the Bible are divided into two major sections. The first in the Christian Bible is the Old Testament (the Hebrew scriptures of Judaism, known as the Tanakh), comprising 39 books, which were written for the ancient nation of Israel. It begins with the five books of the Law (the Torah: Genesis to Deuteronomy), and proceeds through the Historical Books (Joshua to Esther). Although these books are arranged in roughly chronological order, the writing of the books occurred at various points along the timeline. For example, Psalms was probably written quite early, while Isaiah INTRODUCTION12 We did not follow cleverly devised stories … but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 2 Peter 1:16 US_012-015_Introduction.indd 12 12/10/2017 17:31 and Amos were contemporaries. The third group of books are the Poetical Books (Job to Song of Solomon), followed by the Major Prophets (meaning “large books”: Isaiah to Daniel) and the Minor Prophets (meaning “small books”: Hosea to Malachi). These books are considered sacred texts by both Christians and Jews. A small set of books, often referred to as the Apocrypha (from the Latin apocryphus, meaning “hidden”) are considered by Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians to be part of the Old Testament. These seven books, plus additions to the Books of Daniel and Esther, were primarily written in Greek from 400–300 BCE. They are not regarded as scripture by either Protestant Christians or Jews, who argue that these books deny that there was any prophetic word from God (the characteristic of scripture) during the period in which they were written. The New Testament comprises the Christian scriptures, 27 books that are accepted by all Christian denominations as the complete list of New Testament books. The title “New Testament” arises from the prophecy of a new covenant (“testament”) that God would give to His people (Jeremiah 31:31–34). Most of the 27 books of the New Testament were written in the 1st century CE by Jesus’s apostles, although some books, such as Hebrews, are anonymous. They were written for Christian churches and individuals scattered across the eastern half of the Roman Empire. The first group of books are the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), which present the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies heralding a savior for Israel and the nations. The Book of Acts describes the spread of the message about Jesus in the 30 years after His death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, while the New Testament letters, known as “epistles,” are divided into the Pauline Epistles (Romans to Philemon) and the General Epistles (Hebrews to Jude). The final New Testament text is the Book of Revelation. Literary genres There are many different types of literature in the 66 books of the Bible. Historical accounts, genealogies, and legal texts comprise most of the Law and Historical books of the Old Testament. The Poetical books contain proverbs, laments, praises, and even prayers for judgment on the wicked. The longest chapter in the Bible is a poem (Psalm 119), in which each of the 22 stanzas comprises 16 lines beginning with one of the 22 letters of the ancient Hebrew alphabet. The prophetic books contain parables, historical accounts, songs, and visions. The Gospels are a unique literary genre, containing speeches, sermons, arguments, visions, and miracles, often interpreting events in Jesus’s life as the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. The letters of the New Testament contain teaching, encouragement, and even rebuke. Many use literary devices common in Greco-Roman literature of the 1st century CE ❯❯ INTRODUCTION 13 Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. Matthew 4:4 US_012-015_Introduction.indd 13 28/09/17 6:06 pm such as lists of vices and virtues, household codes (instructions about family relationships), and topical treatments of moral questions. Finally, the most difficult form of literature in the Bible is the apocalyptic texts. Found in the Old Testament books of Daniel and Ezekiel, and in the New Testament Book of Revelation, these highly symbolic texts describe God’s triumph over the wicked and vindication of the righteous. Key themes The Bible begins with the creation of the world and humanity. This original paradise indicates God’s intent for humanity—to live in a rich and joyful relationship with God and others, exercising stewardship over God’s world. This goal is challenged, however, when Adam and Eve disobey God, bringing ruin and decay upon themselves and creation. This “Fall” introduces the central tension in the biblical narrative; the holiness of God demands the judgment of sinful humanity, yet the love of God calls for the restoration of humanity and the fulfillment of God’s purpose for creation. The rest of the Bible is taken up with resolving this tension, culminating, in the New Testament, with the fulfillment of the prophecy in Genesis (3:17) of one who will “crush the head of the serpent” and lift the curse of God’s judgment on humanity and the Earth. Often, God pursues His purpose by making covenants with humankind, such as those made with Abraham, Moses, and David. God promised Abraham that his descendants would become a great nation (Israel) and that one particular descendant would bless the whole world. The Mosaic Covenant, also called the Law of Moses, was given through Moses to the nation of Israel, setting the terms of their relationship with God. The covenant with David promised that one of David’s descendants would sit on the throne of Israel forever. Christians believe these covenants converge in the life of Jesus, who claimed that “[the Scriptures] speak of Me” (John 5:39) and explained how Moses and all the prophets pointed to Him (Luke 24:27). Human weakness is a recurring theme in the Bible. Even the greatest leaders are shown to be flawed. Jacob was a manipulative liar, Samson fornicated with Delilah, David committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband to cover it up, and even the prophets Elijah and Jeremiah wanted to give up their calling. God uses the weak to confound the strong. He makes a slave nation into His Chosen People (Israel), a murderer into a liberator (Moses), barren women into mothers (Sarah and Hannah), and a shepherd into a king (David). In the New Testament, God uses murderers (Paul) and flawed leaders (Peter) to spread the teaching of Jesus. Early analysis Traditionally, Jewish scholars, or rabbi, focused on memorization of the Hebrew scriptures as well as debates over their interpretation and application to Jewish life. By contrast, early Christian scholars, mostly pastors, analyzed the way in which the scriptures INTRODUCTION14 Within the covers of the Bible are all the answers for all the problems men face. Ronald Reagan US_012-015_Introduction.indd 14 28/09/17 2:43 pm The Bible has been the Magna Carta of the poor and oppressed. The human race is not in a position to dispense with it. Thomas Huxley spoke of Christ. Many tools used by these scholars are still popular today. They included examinations of grammar and analysis of word choice, such as the links between the words “Passover” and “passion.” Some, such as Clement (c.150–215 CE) and Augustine (354–430 CE), adapted pagan philosophy to aid their reading of scripture. Christian scholars tended to see difficulties and differences within scripture as fruitful sources of knowledge for those with enough faith to ponder them deeply. In the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE, such scholars struggled to understand how there could be only one God, while the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each fully God, yet also distinct. The 200-year debate, which took account of the full range of biblical statements on these points, without undercutting any, eventually led to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Modern perspectives Modern-day biblical scholars utilize many of the same tools as their ancient counterparts, analyzing, for example, the range of meaning in agape (love) across the Bible and contemporary Greek literature. Some scholars affirm the ancient Christian conclusions about scripture, while others operate with a skeptical mindset and rely on external confirmation—physical evidence or historical records— before accepting biblical accounts of events. For example, some scholars rejected the biblical account of David as the founder of a royal dynasty until the discovery of the Tel Dan stele in northern Israel in 1993–1994. This battle monument, raised about 200 years after David would have lived, tells of an Aramean king celebrating a victory over “the house of David.” In cases such as this, some Christian scholars, through their employment of skepticism and the scientific method, use historical evidence to inform their theology, and in order to develop conclusions as to the legitimacy of biblical scripture. Those who possess a naturalistic worldview (insisting that things are the result of natural causes) generally reject claims of divine intervention in history. As a result, skeptical modern scholarship often employs an archaeological approach to the Bible, in which perceived errors must first be sorted through in order to expose underlying truths. Lay study Study of the Bible is not the sole domain of scholars and clerics, but their work can enlighten the understanding of the average reader. Today, a number of readable Bible translations place the sacred books of Judaism and Christianity into the hands of any interested reader. While certain books are more difficult to read than others, and history and the Gospels are more engaging than the lineages and law codes, those who read carefully can find wisdom, inspiration, and hope in its pages. The Bible Book is intended to help readers to understand more of this most significant of books. ■ INTRODUCTION 15 US_012-015_Introduction.indd 15 28/09/17 6:06 pm GENESIS US_016-017_Genesis_Chapter_1_Opener.indd 16 28/09/17 2:43 pm GENESIS US_016-017_Genesis_Chapter_1_Opener.indd 17 28/09/17 2:43 pm G enesis (Beresht in Hebrew) means the origin of everything. For Jews, Genesis is the first of the five books of the Torah (the Pentateuch in Greek) that open the Hebrew Bible. It not only relates the origin of humankind but also how the Jews’ ancestors, the Israelites, were chosen by God to be monotheists. For Christians, the origin story of Genesis is the first in a pair of bookends, the second of these being Revelation, the last book of the Bible, which describes the apocalypse. Themes and authors Genesis divides into two sections, the first concerning the primeval period, and the second the historical, or patriarchal, period, although some scholars view the story of Joseph as a third section. The primeval period is concerned with creation, disobedience (the Fall, Cain and Abel), uncreation and punishment (the Flood, Tower of Babel), and recreation. In the patriarchal period, God chooses two descendants of Noah— Abraham and Sarah—to travel to the Promised Land and “be fruitful and multiply.” The narratives then follow the exploits of their offspring, especially of Abraham’s grandson Jacob, whose sons found the 12 tribes of Israel. In the final story, Jacob’s son Joseph brings the family to Egypt, preparing the ground for the transition to the Book of Exodus. According to Jewish and Christian traditions, Moses, inspired by God, penned the entire Torah, including his death in Deuteronomy, a belief still held by traditionalists. However, in the 17th century, Protestant reformers began to doubt the Mosaic authorship. In 1878, the German biblical scholar Julius Wellhausen published his theory that the Torah was written by four authors, whom he labeled J, E, P, and D—J for the Jahwist who used the name YHWH for God; E for the author who used Elohim; P for the Priestly class who wrote about genealogies and rituals and created the structure for the narratives of J and E; and D for the author of Deuteronomy. Many scholars see repetitions and contradictions in Genesis as a sign of this composite authorship. Genesis 1 and 2, for example, tell different creation stories, with God creating humans at separate points in the narrative. Abraham tells two INTRODUCTION 2:7–22 4:8 11:1–9 19:28–29 7:11–9:17 15:18–21 God creates Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, who live in the Garden of Eden. Cain kills his brother Abel in the first example of murder in the Bible. God destroys the Tower of Babel and scatters its people around the world. Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed by God because the people are sinners. Over the course of six days, God creates the world, and then rests on the seventh. Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit and God expels them from Eden. God makes a covenant with Abraham to worship only Him and no other God. 18 God floods the earth, leaving only the patriarch Noah and those with him on his Ark to survive. 1:1–2:1 3:6–24 US_018-019_Genesis_Chapter_1_Intro.indd 18 28/09/17 2:43 pm different kings that Sarah is his sister, not his wife (Genesis 12 and 20), and Jacob is renamed Israel twice (Genesis 32 and 35). The acceptance of these multiple truths is a fundamental aspect of rabbinic Judaism. For Christian traditionalists, however, there can be no contradictions: Genesis 2 is a further explanation of 1; Genesis 12 and 20 are two separate stories; and Jacob’s name is only officially changed in Genesis 35 after his covenant with God. Political purpose Wellhausen and other scholars also believed the identity of the Genesis authors could be contextualized from theological and political implications present in the text. One theory dates the authors to the reigns of David and Solomon (c.900 BCE), with the “J” author compiling stories from Judah and the “E” author compiling stories from the northern tribes, creating political narratives to unite the divided Israelites. Schools of interpretation In the 1960s, scholars led by Robert Alter turned to literary criticism to unlock Genesis, examining its “final form” in Hebrew. They looked at literary devices, such as wordplay (often lost in translation), and repetition, and the different genres (which might indicate the merging of multiple texts). In the latter half of the 20th century, scholars shifted criticism from the text itself to the personal agendas of its interpreters and claimed there was no “right” way to read the Bible. Most interesting to nonscholarly readers of the Bible, perhaps, is the tension between Genesis and science. Translation of Gilgamesh, the Babylonian creation story, in 1872 revealed a flood story similar to the biblical one. For some, this confirmed that Genesis was accurate, but for others, it indicated the influence of Babylonian mythology. This translation came only 13 years after Darwin published his theory of evolution in The Origin of Species (1859). In 1925, the Scopes trial to determine whether Darwin or Genesis should be taught in Tennessee schools pushed the issue to the top of US politics. Debate continues in the US today, as a new wave of creationist museums seek to demonstrate that science and Genesis are not necessarily incompatible. ■ GENESIS 22:1–14 25:33 32:24–32 41:40 50:22–26 27:1–29 37:12–28 49:29–33 Esau sells his birthright to his brother Jacob in exchange for food. Jacob wrestles with God at Peniel, after which he is given a new name: Israel. Pharaoh appoints Joseph as his second in command after Joseph interprets his dreams. Joseph dies in Egypt, requesting his family take his bones with them when they leave. God tests Abraham by asking him to sacrifice Isaac, his son. Abraham proves his loyalty. Jacob tricks his aging father, Isaac, into blessing him by pretending to be Esau. Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers, who are jealous that he is his father’s favorite. Reunited with Joseph, Jacob dies after giving his blessing to each of his 12 sons. 19 US_018-019_Genesis_Chapter_1_Intro.indd 19 28/09/17 6:06 pm AND GOD SAID, “LET THERE BE LIGHT” GENESIS 1:3, CREATION US_020-025_Let_there_be_Light.indd 20 21/09/17 11:25 am AND GOD SAID, “LET THERE BE LIGHT” GENESIS 1:3, CREATION US_020-025_Let_there_be_Light.indd 21 21/09/17 11:25 am 22 CREATION IN BRIEF PASSAGE Genesis 1:1–2:2 THEME The creation of the universe SETTING Primeval period Inside the Garden of Eden, during the time covered by the first 11 chapters of Genesis. KEY FIGURE God Creator of the universe. of seven days unfold, life springs into existence. First, God calls out, “Let there be light,” and light appears. Then God makes the sky. On the third day, God calls the water to gather into seas, creating dry land, on which plants and trees flourish. On day four, the sun and the moon are put in place, along with a host of stars. Next, God fills the sky with birds, and the seas with all their creatures. On the sixth day, God populates the land with all kinds of animals, and finally creates humanity “in his own image” (1:27). At this point in the story, the pinnacle of God’s creative work, God entrusts creation into humanity’s stewardship. On the seventh day, God rests. Rhythms of life The story of creation has its own structural beauty. Each account of God’s activity is punctuated with “and God said,” “and there was evening and there was morning,” “and God saw that it was good.” This rhythm helps to emphasize three key messages of the creation story. The first of these is that God creates simply by speaking. Throughout the rest of the Bible, T he first few words of the Bible—“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”—introduce us to its central character, God. They also reveal the universal scope of the Bible’s narrative, from the heavens to the Earth, and present its overarching theme— the relationship between God and everything else. With so much covered in so few words, it is not surprising that the start of Genesis is considered to be one of the Bible’s most eloquent yet difficult passages. These opening verses were most likely written down sometime in the 6th century bce, while the Israelites were being held in exile by Babylon, the most powerful state in the region. The story provided a hopeful message about God’s purposes for his people and for the entire world. In contrast to the Babylonians’ own origin story, Genesis attributes the existence of the universe to the goodwill of one God. It served to reassure the Israelites that even on foreign soil, they were not out of the reach of God’s care, since God had created all land. God did not stand at a distance, but was intimately involved in the story of the world. A world in seven days Genesis 1:1–2:2 tells a single story about the beginning of everything. The origin of the universe starts with darkness and emptiness (1:2). As God’s actions over the course The Babylonians’ creation story Believed to have been written down during the Israelites’ captivity in Babylon, Genesis provides a significant contrast to the Babylonians’ own creation story known as the Enuma Elish (“When on High”). While the God of Genesis has a loving relationship with humans and regards them as stewards of His creation, the Babylonian god Marduk enslaves humanity. Enuma Elish is essentially an explanation for the supremacy of Marduk in the Babylonian pantheon. After a power struggle between the gods, Marduk defeats his rival Tiamat, ripping open her body and fashioning the two halves into the earth and the skies. Marduk then destroys another rival and uses his blood to create humankind to perform the work that the lesser gods have done until then. Marduk also imposes order on the universe by regulating the moon and the stars and takes control of the weather and calendar. This impression on a Neo-Assyrian cylinder seal used to create imprints on wet clay shows the battle between Marduk and Tiamat. US_020-025_Let_there_be_Light.indd 22 21/09/17 11:25 am 23GENESIS The Creation is one of 117 woodcut illustrations by Lucas Cranach the Elder in Martin Luther’s Bible of 1534. It shows a benevolent God looking down on his creation, with Adam and Eve at the center of the Garden of Eden. the word of God is understood to be powerful and dynamic, able to pronounce blessing, judgment, and forgiveness. If God’s word can speak the whole universe into existence, then God’s word can bring hope to exiles in Babylon or provide wise advice for ordinary life. The creation of the world by God’s word stands behind the repeated invitation throughout the Bible to “hear the word of the Lord.” The second message is that, while Genesis speaks about the creation of the physical world and all living things, it is also about creating a rhythm to life. Along with the daily rhythm of night and day, there is a weekly pattern of six days of work followed by one day of rest and a seasonal cycle marked by the creation of sun, moon, and stars. Throughout the Old Testament, these daily, weekly, and yearly rhythms are enshrined in Jewish religious practice, with daily prayer, the weekly rest on the Sabbath, and an annual cycle of religious festivals. While it would later become theological orthodoxy to speak about creation ex nihilo (out of nothing), here in Genesis God’s act of creation is understood as the giving of order and purpose to the chaos of “the deep.” The third message of the story is that God’s creation is “good,” even “very good” (Genesis 1:31). ❯❯ See also: The Garden of Eden 26–29 ■ The Fall 30–35 ■ The Flood 40–41 ■ Entering the Promised Land 96–97 ■ The New Jerusalem 322–29 The heavens declare the Glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Psalm 19:1 US_020-025_Let_there_be_Light.indd 23 21/09/17 11:25 am 24 CREATION This illuminated illustration of the Creation is from the Bible of Souvigny, produced in Cluny Abbey, France, in the 12th century. In the Middle Ages, even non-religious books often opened with an image of the Creation. Contrary to many ancient philosophies, which saw the physical world as a cumbersome drag on the human spirit, Jewish and Christian thinking begins with an affirmation of the goodness of the created world. Despite humanity’s later departure from God’s intentions, a belief in The opening of Genesis is a vision of the entire creation. This stands behind many of the Psalms—songs or hymns—later in the Bible, which delight in the beauty and variety of the created world, and find that creation is a signpost to the existence and character of God. It is a concept developed in “natural theology,” which uses the beauty and complexity of the world as proof of God’s existence. Natural theology is sometimes explained using the “watchmaker analogy,” in which the skill that brought a watch into existence is “proof” that a watchmaker exists. Those who have faith see the complexity, order, and purpose of the natural world as an indication that the Earth is no accident, but rather designed and made by God. Modern response This creationist view was challenged in the 19th century, when scientific discoveries led to new theories of the universe’s origins. Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859) put forth the theory of evolution, which stood in stark contradiction to the Genesis account of a seven-day creation. For some people, the theory of evolution is a reason to reject not only the Genesis account of creation, but the whole Bible. Among Christians, there is a spectrum of responses to the creation story. Some believe it is absolutely true and a reason for rejecting theories of evolution and geological evidence; others view the biblical account as allegorical rather creation’s innate goodness means that Judaism and Christianity have an earthly character. They expect the spiritual life to have an impact on the physical world, whether through the rhythms of worship and prayer, or through acts of service and love that promote the original goodness of God’s world. US_020-025_Let_there_be_Light.indd 24 21/09/17 11:25 am 25 than literal; a third camp seeks to combine the two by promoting the idea of intelligent design that set the process of evolution in motion. Current biblical scholarship also considers the Creation story in the context of the period in which it was written down—during the exile of the Israelites in Babylon in the 6th century bce. Faced with a threat to their identity by King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon, God’s people are encouraged by the poetic affirmation in Genesis that the world is a result of God’s good and creative purposes, which will ultimately triumph over chaos. ■ GENESIS The symbolism of seven In Genesis, the world is created in six days, followed by a seventh day of rest. This is the origin of the understanding of the number seven as a perfect, or complete, number throughout the rest of the Bible. Seven— or its multiples—are used to draw the reader’s attention to something that is complete, in the sense that it is all that God wants it to be. For instance, in the Hebrew Bible, God has seven different names. In the New Testament (Matthew 18:22), Jesus tells his disciples to forgive 70 times seven, meaning completely and repeatedly. In the book of Revelation, there is a series of sevens—seven letters, seven lampstands, seven judgments, seven trumpets—that represents the completeness of God’s plan. The seven churches that the apostle John addresses at the start of Revelation represent the universal church. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God … Through Him all things were made. John 1:1–3 According to the first book of Genesis, God created the world, all that is in the world, as well as the entire universe in seven days. The menorah, the candlestick used in Jewish rituals, has seven branches. The design of the lamp was revealed to Moses on the top of Mount Sinai (Exodus 25:31). Day 1: Light and Day Day 7: Rest Day 3: Moon and Stars Day 6: Animals and Humans Day 5: Fish and Birds Day 4: Plants and Trees Day 2: Sky and Sea US_020-025_Let_there_be_Light.indd 25 21/09/17 11:25 am 26 I n chapter 2 of Genesis, God creates the Garden of Eden, an earthly paradise. We cannot know Eden’s exact location, but scholars have proposed several possibilities, including Mesopotamia (now Iraq), Syria, Turkey, Iran, and Armenia. Genesis 2:8 mentions the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers, which both flow into the Persian Gulf via Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. God creates the garden by bringing streams up from the earth and filling the ground with plants that are “pleasing to the eye and good for food.” There are two trees in the middle of the garden—the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The making of man Genesis depicts the creation of humankind in two separate passages. The first of these (1:27), LET US MAKE MAN IN OUR IMAGE, IN OUR LIKENESS GENESIS 1:26, THE GARDEN OF EDEN IN BRIEF PASSAGE Genesis 1:1–2:25 THEME Creation of humanity SETTING Primeval period Inside Eden, during the time covered by the first 11 chapters of Genesis. KEY FIGURES Adam The first man, made in God’s image, who is the ruler of all animals and steward of the Earth. Eve The first woman, and companion to Adam. Created by God, either at the same time as Adam or by using one of Adam’s ribs. US_026-029_Let_us_make_man.indd 26 21/09/17 11:25 am 27 See also: The Fall 30–35 ■ Covenants 44–47 ■ Entering the Promised Land 96–97 ■ The New Jerusalem 322–29 Paradise According to the Bible, the Garden of Eden is perfection itself—a place of beauty and abundance, free of disease, death, and evil, into which God sets Adam, the pinnacle of His creation. After around 500 bce, this wondrous place becomes synonymous with the Hebrew term pardes (orchard), stemming from the Persian word paridayda (walled enclosure). The concept of paradise is important within Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Even as He is dying on the cross, Jesus says to a thief hanging beside him, “Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). The Jewish Talmud (the written version of oral law) associates paradise with the Garden of Eden, and within Islam, the concept of jannah or “garden” describes the destination of the righteous after death. believed to have been written in the 6th century bce by the Jewish priestly writer referred to as “P,” is cursory. It implies that both sexes are formed at the same time, on the sixth day of creation: “So God created mankind in his own image,” “male and female he created them.” The second passage, chapter 2:7, attributed to the oldest source of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible), known as Jahwist (or “J”), provides more detail and describes God in human terms. In this account, God forms the man out of dust and “breathes into his nostrils the breath of life.” God goes on to create Eve when He sees that it is not good for Adam (Hebrew for man) to be alone. Putting Adam into a deep sleep, God removes a rib from his side and creates a woman from it (2:21). Seeing that this new being closely resembles him, Adam composes a poem: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man” (2:23). She is not referred to as Eve until Genesis 3:20, after eating the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (see pp. 30–35). Biblical references to God’s image, in which humankind is made, are contradictory. Some passages ascribe human features, such as arms, eyes, hands, and a beard to God and refer to Him as “walking in the garden” (3:8). Others depict him as a type of angel, sheltering humans “under his wings.” More significant are the spiritual attributes shared by God and humankind, which include intellect, the capacity for rational thought, morality, free will, creativity, and compassion. Divine spark Inherent in God giving Adam life through His divine breath is the implication that humans themselves—unlike animals—❯❯ GENESIS Adam is made in God’s image in Michelangelo’s God creates Adam (c.1512), one of nine scenes from the book of Genesis painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. Strange and familiar beasts populate the Garden of Eden portrayed in the left-hand panel of Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights, c.1510. US_026-029_Let_us_make_man.indd 27 21/09/17 11:25 am 28 THE GARDEN OF EDEN are blessed with the essence of divinity. Mankind’s capacity for rationality and morality is the reason why no suitable companion could be found for Adam among the animals and why God gave Adam and Eve responsibility to look after the Earth and rule over the animals (1:26–28). In Judeo-Christian philosophy, these passages have been cited to justify humans using animals to serve their own needs. Yet, despite having divine spark and being created in God’s image, Adam and Eve are flawed (Matthew 19:26). God is everywhere (Proverbs 5:21) and is superior to everything else in the universe (Psalms 115:3), while Adam and Eve are limited. In the 13th century, the theologian Thomas Aquinas defined God as perfect (lacking nothing), immutable, and infinite, unlike humans, whom he described as spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally limited. Original innocence Although their flaws are revealed by subsequent events, Adam and Eve are created without sin and in complete innocence. Genesis 2:25 tells us that they are naked and unashamed. As they are alone with God, some readers assume that their days are centered around worshipping and communing with Him; their relationship with God is unlike any other creatures’. In addition to managing the animals and tending the garden (“to work it and take care of it”), the pair are instructed to reproduce (“be fruitful and increase in number”). For now, at least, Adam and Eve are content with their bountiful lives and observe God’s one prohibition: while they are free to eat the fruit from the Tree of Life, which grants them immortality, to eat the fruit from the mysterious Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil will be on pain of certain death (2:17). One man, one woman Adam and Eve are the first couple (2:24–25 says the pair become “one flesh”) and their union has traditionally been the yardstick for God’s perfect intention for marriage—one man and one woman united in matrimony for life. Crucially, the affirmation in Genesis that both sexes are made in the image of God is often used to support the concept that God created all humans as equal, regardless of gender, race, or any other characteristics. Yet the Bible is sometimes cited in support of claims that women are inferior to men. Genesis 2:18 refers to Eve’s creation as Adam’s “helper” (Hebrew ezer) and therefore potentially subordinate to him. However, some scholars suggest that ezer should have been translated as “companion,” implying greater equality. The divine “We” In Genesis and throughout the Old Testament, God is often talked about in the plural—for example, “our” likeness (Genesis 1:26). This has triggered much debate and many theories. Possible explanations include polytheism (meaning that God himself is referring to more than one god), although this is soundly refuted in passages such as Isaiah 45:6 where God states, “I am the LORD, and there is no other.” God pulls Eve from the rib of the sleeping Adam in an image from a manuscript of 1480 based on St. Jerome’s 4th-century Latin translation of the Hebrew Bible. Adam was placed in Paradise in perfect estate … God walked and did talk with him. John Jewel (1522–1571) Bishop of Salisbury US_026-029_Let_us_make_man.indd 28 21/09/17 11:25 am 29GENESIS theories of creation, recent surveys in the United States have revealed a widespread belief in the existence of Adam and Eve. (They are partly supported by a group of scientists who have traced human genetic history back many thousands of years, potentially to the first men and women.) The Bible is clear—in Genesis and elsewhere—that Adam is the first man and not descended from other humans. Adam is referred to in Luke 3:38 as “the son of God,” just as angels in the Old Testament are made by God (for example, Job 1:6, 38:7 and Daniel 3:25). The Bible depicts Adam as a living entity with many descendants who, according to Genesis 5:5, lives until he is 930 years old. ■ Adam and Eve The first human couple, Adam and Eve were created— as adults—in the image of God. As they were not born in the same way as their descendants, they would not have needed umbilical cords. Despite this, navels are still present in many artistic representations of the pair. Genesis 2:7 says that Adam is created out of dust. Adamah is Hebrew for “ground” or “earth,” a reference to both Adam’s origins and his fate after the Fall (see pp. 30–35). The word Eve means “life.” She and the man are inseparable, made from one flesh, as they come from the same body (Adam’s) and are brought together, both in marital union with each other and in full communion with God. Humankind’s remarkable journey begins with Adam and Eve. Without them there is no fall from grace or sin, and thereby no need for suffering, mortality, redemption, atonement, or Jesus Christ. Other explanations are that God is including his attendant angels in the “us” of Genesis 1:26. Another explanation is that the plurals here and in Genesis 3:22 (“the man has now become like one of us”) describe a conversation that God the Father is having with God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, the Trinity, a concept developed in the New Testament. Human origins The creation of Adam and Eve and the events unfolding in the Garden of Eden are also described in the Islamic Qur’an. While many Christians reject a literal interpretation of Genesis in favor of a more allegorical approach that also encompasses evolutionary God creates Adam out of the earth. God puts Adam to sleep and removes a rib from Adam’s body to create woman as a companion for Adam. Yet despite their divine spark, Adam and Eve are limited, unlike God. God breathes his divine breath into Adam, giving him life. Unlike the animals, Adam has divine spark. God sees that he needs a companion. The pair tend the garden and commune with God. They are innocent and know no sin. US_026-029_Let_us_make_man.indd 29 21/09/17 11:25 am THEY REALIZED THAT THEY WERE NAKED GENESIS 3:7, THE FALL US_030-035_The_Fall.indd 30 21/09/17 11:25 am US_030-035_The_Fall.indd 31 21/09/17 11:25 am 32 THE FALL The forbidden fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil passes from Eve to Adam in a detail from Cornelus van Haarlem’s The Fall of Man, c.1592. I n the third chapter of Genesis, Adam and Eve’s disobedience, punishment, and alienation from God pave the way for the emergence of evil, bringing suffering, discord, and death into a sinless world. Until then, Adam and Eve live and work in paradise, enjoying a close relationship with each other and with God. They are forbidden only one thing—fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which grows in the center of the garden. Eating this, warns God, will result in death. He gives no reasons or details for His command, but Adam obeys and avoids the Tree. IN BRIEF PASSAGE Genesis 3:1–24 THEME Original sin SETTING Primeval period The Garden of Eden during the time covered by the first 11 chapters of Genesis. KEY FIGURES Serpent In the Christian view, the embodiment of Satan, the archenemy of God. Adam The first man, created by God in His own image on the sixth day of creation. Eve The first woman, created as a companion for Adam, with whom he would populate the Earth. It is the serpent, identified in Genesis 3:1 as an extremely crafty animal, that questions God’s motives in forbidding the fruit. It slyly implies that God is deliberately withholding something desirable—the means by which Adam and Eve can obtain wisdom and be like God. Eve needs little persuasion. The fruit looks good and she is tempted, so she eats For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. Genesis 3:5 US_030-035_The_Fall.indd 32 21/09/17 11:25 am 33 it and gives some to Adam. Immediately, the couple see that they are naked. Ashamed, they sew fig leaves together to cover themselves and hide. Later, Adam admits to eating the fruit but blames Eve: “She gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it” (3:12). Eve passes on responsibility too: “The snake deceived me, and I ate” (3:13). God’s punishments are swift and severe. He condemns the serpent to crawl and eat dust for the rest of its life. Eve is told she will suffer excruciating pain in childbirth and be ruled by her husband. Cursing the ground from which Adam was made, God tells Adam he must forever toil before he can eat. Finally, God expels Adam from the garden—Eve leaves with him—and places cherubim (angelic hybrid creatures) and a flaming sword on the east side of Eden to keep them out. The creation of death It soon becomes clear that there is a price for gaining wisdom—pain, toil, scarcity, fear, and suffering. Denied access to fruit from the Tree of Life, humans are now mortal and will die. As God informs Adam, “For dust you are and to dust you will return” (3:19). Cast adrift, humankind is now in constant danger from the evil within themselves and from others. Humankind and free will In Christian thought, a sinful act is a deliberate action, attitude, or thought against God. This includes things that are done but should not be (sins of commission) and those that are not done but should be (sins of omission). The fact that all choices are open to sin takes humankind down a path of perpetual wrongdoing, frequently referred to in the Bible as “slavery.” For Christians, the exercise of free will is central to the story of the Fall. Adam and Eve’s actions show that human beings have the freedom to make poor choices, but there is a price to pay. Up to this point, Adam and Eve have chosen to obey God. In the face of temptation, they make unwise choices that have catastrophic results. God insists that the couple face up to what they have done— with every exercise of free will comes a consequence (desirable or not) for which responsibility must be taken. Theologians have long been occupied by the matter of theological fatalism, or the incompatibility between the concepts of free will and God’s omniscience. If people can choose, how can God foresee their choices? Judaism accepts this as a paradox beyond human understanding, believing that God exists outside of time. His knowledge of the past, present, and future does ❯❯ See also: Sodom and Gomorrah 48–49 ■ David and Bathsheba 118–19 ■ The Crucifixion 258–65 ■ Salvation through Faith 301 GENESIS The serpent descends from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil to tempt Eve in the defining moment of the Fall. For its part in the catastrophe, the serpent is cursed above all livestock and all wild animals. The role of the serpent No one knows why the crafty serpent is chosen to tempt Eve into disobedience. Unlike most animals in the Bible, it is able to talk, implying that it is more intelligent than other animals. Whispering into Eve’s ear in Genesis 3:5, it causes her to doubt God. The Genesis account does not mention Satan, although the wily serpent is seen within Christianity (but not Judaism) as the devil or his mouthpiece. Satan is later specifically alluded to in Revelation 20:2 as “that ancient snake, who is the devil, or Satan …” Snakes are not always represented as evil entities in the Bible. They are also seen as strong, courageous creatures. For example, Moses’s staff turns into a snake on his command (Exodus 4:3) and God asks him to make a statue of a serpent with the power to heal snake bites (Numbers 21:8). By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground. Genesis 3:19 US_030-035_The_Fall.indd 33 21/09/17 11:25 am 34 not interfere with free will. Some Christians reconcile this conundrum by believing that God limits his omniscience to preserve humankind’s dignity and freedom. Original sin According to Christian doctrine, the consequence of Adam and Eve’s disobedience is that all humans are born sinful, with an inborn tendency to succumb to temptation and disobey God. While God is blameless, people are damned, deserve to suffer, and require salvation. Known as Original Sin (or ancestral sin), this doctrine was set out by Paul the Apostle, in Romans 5:12: “Sin came into the world through one man [Adam], and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” In the 5th century, St. Augustine (354–430 ce) developed Paul’s doctrine further, saying that spiritual weakness was inherited via “concupiscence,” or sexual intercourse, which deprives people of self-control. THE FALL A cherub drives Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden with “a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the Tree of Life” (Genesis 3:24). The Augustinian view of Original Sin was formally adopted by the Roman Catholic Church during the 16th century. The doctrine was also popular among Protestant reformers, such as Martin Luther and John Calvin. They equated it with perpetual human longing for fleshly pursuits that persist even Judaism and sin The doctrine of Original Sin became a central tenet of Christianity but this concept is rejected by Judaism. Instead, Jews believe that we are born pure rather than tainted by the sins of our ancestors. They think Adam is not to blame for the wrongdoing of his descendants. We commit sin (het in Hebrew, meaning “something that goes astray”) because we are not perfect beings. We must accept that we all transgress at some point in our lives. Because we have free will (behirah), we are naturally frail and likely to give way to our sinful inclinations (yetzer). Not all sins are committed deliberately, but those that are will be punished, either here on Earth or later, after death. The many Old Testament stories concerning the nation of Israel and its sins look at the nature of human beings, the meaning of sin, and the potential for the forgiveness of those sins. US_030-035_The_Fall.indd 34 21/09/17 11:25 am 35GENESIS after baptism (the rebirth and the washing away of hereditary sin). Calvin went further, rejecting the concept of free will in favor of predestination—the idea that all events are willed by God. Both Judaism and Islam reject the idea of Original Sin. According to the Qur’an, Adam and Eve are equally responsible for the Fall. After their expulsion from the Garden of Eden, they are forgiven by God and become His representatives on Earth. The wages of sin Original Sin helps to explain why God allows innocent people to suffer. Personal innocence is no immunity against God’s wrath; everyone is a sinner by nature and (eventually) by choice. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” says Romans 3:23. Christian doctrine maintains that because of humankind’s Original Sin, every person is born separated from God. When Paul states in Romans 6:23 that “the wages of sin are death,” he is referring to Adam’s original sin and death as a condemnation by and separation from God rather than a physical death. The inability to have a relationship with God is described in Ephesians 2:1 as a form of spiritual death: “You were dead in your transgressions and sins …” For Christians, it is only through faith in Jesus Christ, who was sent by God to die for humankind’s sins, that someone can be born again and reawaken spiritually. This is a central theme of redemption (the act of cleansing away Original Sin). Redemption is achieved by receiving God’s grace, through baptism, and accepting that Jesus Christ died for the sins that enslave humankind. In his letter to the Galatians (5:1), Paul proclaims, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Christians sometimes refer to Christ as the “Second Adam.” The first Adam sins and causes the fall of humanity; the second (Christ) dies and redeems humanity. Blame falls on Eve Christianity has traditionally blamed Eve—and all womankind—for the Fall from God’s grace, and seen her as degenerate, morally weak, and subordinate to man. Paul contributed to this view. In 1 Timothy 2:14, he absolves Adam and blames Eve, saying, “Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” Many medieval theologians echoed Paul’s views, and Christian art reinforced this interpretation. Michelangelo’s fresco of the Fall (c.1510) in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican shows a serpent with the upper body and long blonde hair of a woman, an image that was prevalent during the Renaissance. However, Genesis itself does not attribute blame for the Fall. On the contrary, it indicates that Adam is present when the serpent speaks to Eve and receives equal punishment, suggesting that they are both culpable. ■ Nor can the Apostle mean that Eve only sinned … for if Adam sinned willfully and knowingly, he became the greater transgressor. Mary Astell (1666–1731) English feminist God punishes the wrongdoers. The serpent is forced to crawl on its belly and eat dust; Eve and her daughters are destined to endure pain in childbirth; and Adam and his sons will always toil in order to eat.The serpent The woman Adam US_030-035_The_Fall.indd 35 12/10/2017 15:01 36 AM I MY BROTHER’S KEEPER? GENESIS 4:9, CAIN AND ABEL Death of Abel by Andrea Schiavone (c.1510–1563) shows Cain committing the first murder in the Bible. The dying sheep depicted in the background foreshadows the death of Abel. IN BRIEF PASSAGE Genesis 4:1–16 THEME The first murder SETTING Primeval period The unnamed land where Adam, Eve, and their children live after leaving the Garden of Eden. KEY FIGURES Cain Eldest son of Adam and Eve and the brother of Abel. Like his father, Cain is an agriculturalist. Abel Second son of Adam and Eve and younger brother of Cain. Abel is a herdsman. T he story of Cain and Abel is the second installment of the Fall narrative, describing the first manifestation of evil in humankind. Genesis 4 tells how Adam and Eve’s elder son, Cain, murders his brother, Abel. It follows a similar pattern to the previous chapter: ignoring divine warnings and committing a sin is punished, in this case with exile. While Adam and Eve disobey God’s specific command, Cain’s sin is violent: his anger at God and jealousy of Abel lead him to commit an act of fratricide. Sibling rivalry Genesis 4 begins with the birth of the two brothers to Adam and Eve. When the boys reach adulthood, they pursue different occupations. The elder brother, Cain, becomes an agriculturalist, a tiller of the soil, like his father; Abel, the second son, becomes a pastoralist, a keeper of sheep and goats. These were the chief occupations during the time in which the authors of Genesis were writing, and tensions sometimes flared up between agriculturalists and pastoralists over the use of the land. However, there is no suggestion that disputes over land use—or any inherent conflict between the occupations—was the source of the animosity between Cain and Abel. In the passage, both brothers bring sacrificial offerings to God. Abel takes “fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock,” while Cain brings “some of the fruits of the soil” (4:3). God responds favorably to Abel’s offering, but US_036-037_Am_I_my_brothers_keeper.indd 36 21/09/17 11:26 am 37 See also: Joseph the Dreamer 58–61 ■ The Ten Commandments 78–83 ■ The Prodigal Son 218–21 ■ The Final Judgment 316–21 GENESIS not to Cain’s, which is less valuable. Cain is jealous of Abel. Noticing Cain’s anger (4:7), God warns him that if he does not do what is right, sin will “crouch” at the door (the Hebrew word for “crouching” being the same as the Babylonian word for a demon that waits in doorways, a play on words by the authors of Genesis, who were writing during the Jews’ captivity in Babylon in the sixth century bce). God tells Cain to master the demonic temptation of sin. Cain, however, does not temper his impulses. Instead, he lures his brother out into the fields and murders him. Cain’s punishment When God asks Cain where Abel is, Cain says that he does not know. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” he asks (4:9). In another play on words, he is insolently asking, “Am I, the agriculturalist, the shepherd of my shepherd brother?” God knows what Cain has done and banishes Cain from the land onto which he spilled his brother’s blood. “You will be a restless wanderer on the earth,” God says (4:12). Unrepentant, Cain says his punishment is more than he can bear. Before exiling him to the land The sanctity of life The Ten Commandments that God gives to Moses on Mount Sinai in Exodus are clear: “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). Cain’s punishment for murder was exile. God punished him, but also showed mercy by extending Cain his protection. In this way, God sought to avert a potential cycle of violence and retaliation. By marking Cain (Genesis 4:15), He stopped others from taking the law into their own hands by killing Cain. God’s plan seemed to work, for a time, as the next murder to be recorded by the Bible happens five generations later in Genesis 4:26. This time the murderer is Cain’s descendant Lamech, who kills a man for wounding him. Lamech says: “If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times” (4:24). In Israel during biblical times, “Anyone who takes the life of a human being is put to death” (Leviticus 24:17), but places of refuge were also created for anyone who killed someone “accidentally and unintentionally” (Joshua 20:3). of Nod (“east of Eden”), God puts a mark on Cain. Contrary to popular wisdom, this “mark of Cain” is a sign of God’s continued protection, not a brand of shame. God says that anyone who kills Cain “will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Cain then leaves for the land of Nod. ■ All murder is condemned in the eyes of the Lord. Murderers shall be put to death. (Exodus 21:12) God exiles Cain for slaying Abel. (Genesis 4:12) Anyone who takes human life is to be put to death. (Leviticus 24:17) Murderers will never enter the Holy City. (Revelation 22:15) If someone kills unintentionally they may seek sanctuary. (Deuteronomy 19:4) 1 John 3:12 condemns Cain as “evil”. US_036-037_Am_I_my_brothers_keeper.indd 37 27/09/17 5:55 pm 38 AT THAT TIME PEOPLE BEGAN TO CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD GENESIS 4:26, THE ORIGIN OF PRAYER T he first extended prayer in the Bible arises from the anguish of a couple longing for children. It bursts forth during a conversation initiated by God with Abraham. After the King of Sodom tries to strike a deal that will obligate Abraham, God tells Abraham not to be afraid. God himself will be Abraham’s shield and “very great reward.” To this Abraham retorts: “What can you give me since I remain childless?” (Genesis 15:2). God’s answer to this outburst, or prayer, is to take Abraham outside and point to the night sky: “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” God pauses, then adds: “So shall your offspring be.” A God who cares Abraham’s encounter says much about prayer in the Bible. First, it takes place within the context of a dialogue between God and humankind, initiated by God. It assumes there is a God who cares and can be pleaded with. The person praying expresses themself with honesty and vigor, the prayer often taking the form of a lament about a painful situation. A common pattern involves a crisis, leading to prayer in which the person praying complains about, or laments, the situation and petitions God to intervene. This leads to resolution following divine intervention, which may take the form of a promise. Petitioning God According to Genesis, the cult of Israel’s God, Yahweh, begins during the third generation of human life on Earth, when Adam IN BRIEF PASSAGES Genesis 15:1–6 Abraham prays for a child. Genesis 21:8–21 Hagar, Ishmael, and the well. THEME The potential of prayer SETTING Primeval period During the time covered by the first 11 chapters of Genesis. KEY FIGURES Abraham Son of Terah, the ninth son of Noah. Sarah Wife of Abraham, who is barren for many years. Hagar Sarah’s Egyptian handmaiden and concubine of Abraham. Ishmael Hagar and Abraham’s son. Prayer beads, used to count prayers, are clasped by members of the congregation at a Catholic church in Baghdad, following the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005. US_038-039_Origin_of_prayer.indd 38 21/09/17 11:26 am 39GENESIS See also: Esau and Jacob 54–55 ■ The Exodus 74–77 ■ The Prophet Samuel 110–15 ■ The Crucifixion 258–65 A conviction that prayer of all kinds reaches God. Petitionary prayer. Abraham prays for an heir and is rewarded with one. Genesis 15:5 A prayer in peril. Moses prays for help when his people turn against him. Exodus 17:4 Silent prayer. Hannah prays in her heart. Samuel 1:13 Prayer as confession. Ezra prays and confesses. Ezra 9:5–10:4 and Eve’s third son Seth has a son called Enosh. At this time, Genesis tells us, people begin to invoke the name of Yahweh. Many of the earliest prayers are petitions for the birth or protection of children. Isaac’s prayer to Yahweh on behalf of his wife Rebekah leads to her becoming pregnant with the twins Esau and Jacob. The passion of such petitions is sometimes expressed in the names given to longed-for sons. For example, Leah, the first wife of Jacob, names her first son Reuben (“See, a son”), because, she explains, “the Lord has seen my misery” (Genesis 29:32). Another particularly poignant prayer involves Hagar, the Egyptian concubine of Abraham, Isaac’s father. The jealousy of Abraham’s wife, Sarah, leads to Hagar and her son Ishmael being banished to the wilderness, where they run out of water. Hagar places Ishmael in the shade of a bush, then sits a short distance away because she cannot bear to watch her child die. Her prayer brings a response from the angel of God, who calls out to reassure her of God’s protection. She opens her eyes to see a well. Prayers of thanksgiving Another great strand of prayer, praise and thanksgiving, occurs when Abraham sends his servant to Mesopotamia to find a wife for Isaac. The servant petitions God for success in his mission. When his prayer is answered, he bows down and worships Yahweh, saying: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master.” The addition of such praise becomes more common later in the Bible. For believers, biblical examples of prayer show that humans can communicate with God and that God listens and responds. In the New Testament, prayer is usually communicated to God in the name of Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit. Prayer relies on promises of the Spirit’s aid in prayer and God’s favorable reception of prayers offered under Jesus’s authority (Romans 8:26 and John 14:13–14). ■ The names of God Names in biblical times were more than just a label: they stood for a person’s being and status. Even more significant were the names of God. The three names for God most frequently used in the Hebrew Bible are El (more than 200 times), Elohim (2,570 times), and Yahweh (6,800 times). El was both a generic word for “god” and the name of the chief god of the Canaanites— a benevolent deity portrayed as an old man with a beard. El is often used in compounds: Everlasting God, God Almighty, Most High God. Elohim is another generic word for “god,” emphasizing God’s universality. It is used in the first verse of Genesis: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Yahweh (or YHWH, since ancient Hebrew script lacked vowels) is the personal name of the God of Israel. The name is explained in Exodus, during Moses’s encounter at the burning bush, where God’s words are translated: “I am who I am.” The evolution of prayer US_038-039_Origin_of_prayer.indd 39 02/11/2017 11:06 40 ONLY NOAH WAS LEFT, AND THOSE WHO WERE WITH HIM IN THE ARK GENESIS 7:23, THE FLOOD A t the end of the first chapter of Genesis, God surveys His creation. “God saw what he had made,” Genesis tells us, “and it was very good” (1:31). By the sixth chapter, the mood has darkened. “God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people of the earth had corrupted their ways” (6:12). His heart “filled with pain,” He resolves to “wipe mankind … from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them.” IN BRIEF PASSAGE Genesis 6:1–8:14 THEME Obedience and trust in God SETTING Primeval period The floodwaters sent by God to cover the Earth; Mount Ararat, Mesopotamia. KEY FIGURE Noah Son of Lamech, who is a descendant of Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve. A righteous man, Noah becomes father to Shem at 500 years old, and then to Japheth and Ham. Genesis establishes humans as stewards of the Earth. But he preserves Noah and the animals to begin a new life after the Flood. God makes a covenant with Noah that he will not destroy the earth again. God tells Noah all creatures are given into his hands. Humanity must now care for the Earth and behave well. But after several generations, humanity has grown corrupt. Human stewardship is affirmed in Psalm 8. God resolves to remake the world. US_040-041_The_flood.indd 40 21/09/17 11:26 am 41 See also: Creation 20–25 ■ Covenants 44–47 ■ Sodom and Gomorrah 48–49 ■ The Psalms 138–43 ■ The Suffering Servant 154–55 ■ The New Jerusalem 322–29 GENESIS One thing makes Him modify His intention, however: the existence of one “righteous man,” Noah. Remaking the world The writers of Genesis used the story of Noah to reflect upon what scholars have called creation, un-creation, and re-creation. God makes creation good; humanity spoils it. Patiently, God un-creates in order to re-create. Like other stories in Genesis, The Flood shows that God will judge and punish sin but also offer salvation to the faithful and penitent. To deal with human depravity, God sends a flood to wipe out “all life under the heavens” apart from “righteous” Noah, his family, and a full sampling of animal life. God tells Noah to build an ark, or ship, to contain him, his family, and “two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive” (6:19). Noah does as God bids. When they enter the ark, God shuts them in. As the waters rise, God remembers Noah, and all the animals and livestock. In the Bible, remembering often involves the fulfillment of an obligation or promise. Here, God sends a wind, and the waters recede. In a famous passage, Noah sends out a raven to test how far the waters have withdrawn. It flies back and forth until the land is dry again. The second time, Noah sends out a dove—it returns with an olive leaf in its bill. The next time, the dove does not return. Noah now knows that it is safe to leave the ark. The first covenant Cleansed by water, the world emerges anew. Noah, effectively a second Adam, makes a sacrifice to God, who repeats to Noah and his family the blessing made in Genesis 1: “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.” God also enters into a covenant with Noah, the first of a series of covenants between God and humankind. “Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” The sign of this pact is the rainbow. ■ Noah’s family and the animals leave the Ark when it comes to rest in the Ararat region of Mesopotamia. Simon de Myle’s painting (c.1570) shows aggression and chaos soon returning. Flood stories Cultures worldwide have sagas of cataclysmic floods. In the case of ancient Mesopotamia and the surrounding region, there are at least three other versions of the Great Flood story, possibly inspired by a devastating flooding of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers known to have taken place in 2900 bce. In the Sumerian flood story, the equivalent of Noah is Ziusudra, a man known for his humility. In a version of the flood narrative found on one of the tablets recording the Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh, which may have been written down as early as the 22nd century bce and was probably based on an older oral tradition, the sole human survivor of the flood is called Utnapishtim. The third account is the Akkadian epic of Atra- hasis, written down in around 1700 bce, whose eponymous hero is “exceedingly wise.” These stories later found their way into Greek and Roman mythology—the Roman poet Ovid tells a version of the flood story in his Metamorphoses. US_040-041_The_flood.indd 41 27/09/17 5:55 pm 42 COME, LET US BUILD OURSELVES A CITY, WITH A TOWER THAT REACHES TO THE HEAVENS GENESIS 11:4, THE TOWER OF BABEL pyramid that reaches toward the heavens. Not surprisingly, they are proud of this achievement. High ambitions The story of the Tower of Babel comes at the end of the first section of Genesis, before moving on from the creation of the universe to a more particular account of the ancestral origins of the nation of Israel. The Babel narrative draws on historical realities—people did migrate and Babel was an early name for Babylon—in order to tell a universal story about humankind’s tendency to behave against God’s wishes. It is not just the Babylonians who are depicted here, but the whole world, all speaking the same language. After settling in Shinar, the people spur themselves on with two emphatic statements: “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly. … Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4). Wary of what is happening among the people of Shinar, God visits the city and its tower. He sees that if the citizens of Babel continue to progress at this rate, nothing will be beyond them. Part of their power, He decides, lies in the fact that they all speak the same language. The sin of arrogance Genesis does not explicitly state the reasons for God’s disapproval, but among the options suggested by scholars is that the tower is an outward expression of the sin of human arrogance. In a statement of His own, God says, “Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other” (11:7). IN BRIEF PASSAGE Genesis 11:1–9 THEME The power of humanity SETTING After the Great Flood Shinar, Mesopotamia. KEY FIGURE People of the world Descendants of Noah, who speak one language. G enesis 11 describes a large people journeying westward in a mass migration. They decide to settle in the land of Shinar, another name for Babylonia, after finding the Mesopotamian floodplain fertile. Although there is no stone with which to build a city, the people are technologically innovative and learn to create imposing structures using bricks, with bitumen for mortar. They establish a great city and begin to build a ziggurat, a temple tower in the shape of a If … they have begun to do this, then nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Genesis 11:6 US_042-043_Tower_of_Babel.indd 42 21/09/17 11:26 am 43 Cloud obscures the soaring tip of the Tower of Babel in a painting by an unknown 16th-century Flemish artist, who set the tower in a busy river port with basilicas and mosques. He separates the people of Babel by language so that they are unable to complete the tower. God then scatters them across the world, in accordance with His previous command in Genesis 1:22 to be “fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.” Political purpose The story also has a satirical undercurrent. In the last verse, for example—“That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world” (11:9)—play is made of a similarity between the name Babel and the Hebrew balal, meaning “confuse.” The intention may be to poke fun at Babylon, whose name meant “Gate of God.” A more appropriate name, the Genesis writers may be suggesting, would be confusion. Hostility toward Babylon is not surprising given that the book of Genesis probably took its final form in the 5th century bce, not long after the Judeans had returned to Judah from their enforced exile in Babylon following the Babylonian capture of Judah. That experience, along with the Israelites’ sufferings at the hands of other regional powers, may help explain the author’s seeming preference for smaller scattered nations, each with its own language and territory, over the consolidation of power in a single imperial city. ■ Gateways to heaven Most Mesopotamian cities, including Babylon, had ziggurats, which rose from the surrounding plain like artificial mountains reaching up to the heavens. These temples were seen as gateways between the world of humans and the gods—an act of pride disliked by the God of the Israelites. They were built with brick—there was little or no stone in the Mesopotamian floodplain— with solid mud-brick cores and exteriors of fired brick. Sometimes their sides were landscaped, as is commonly depicted in images of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The inspiration for the story of the Tower of Babel is thought to be the Etemenanki (“House of the Foundation of Heaven and Earth”), a seven- story ziggurat topped by a sanctuary dedicated to the god Marduk. The chief temple of Babylon, the Etemenanki was destroyed by the Assyrian King Sennacherib in 689 bce. Ziggurats have not survived as well as the stone-built pyramids of Egypt but their remains still exist, including those of the Great Ziggurat of Ur in southern Iraq. GENESIS See also: The Fall 30–35 ■ The Flood 40–41 ■ Sodom and Gomorrah 48–49 ■ The Fall of Jerusalem 128–31 ■ The Day of Pentecost 282–83 Partially restored, the Great Ziggurat of Ur, in modern-day Iraq, was built during the Third Sumerian Dynasty, c.2100 bce. Like other ziggurats, it was climbed by sloping ramps. US_042-043_Tower_of_Babel.indd 43 21/09/17 11:26 am 44 I WILL MAKE OF YOU A GREAT NATION GENESIS 12:2, COVENANTS T he conversion of Abraham by God is one of the most remarkable in the Bible. God’s decision to reveal Himself to this ordinary man resulted in the emergence of three of the world’s major religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In Genesis 12:2, God appears to Abraham and urges him to leave his home and go to Canaan. In this critical narrative of posterity, introducing the concept of a people chosen to deliver God’s message of salvation, God tells Abraham: “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” IN BRIEF PASSAGE Genesis 12:1–20:17 THEME Abraham’s Covenant SETTING Early 2nd millennium bce The Fertile Crescent, Canaan, and Egypt. KEY FIGURES Abraham Son of Terah, who becomes the father of all nations. Sarah Abraham’s famously beautiful wife. Lot Abraham’s nephew, who travels toward Canaan with Abraham and Sarah. Pharaoh Unnamed ruler of Egypt. US_044-047_Covenants.indd 44 21/09/17 11:26 am 45 See also: The Fall 30–35 ■ The Flood 40–41 ■ The Testing of Abraham 50–53 ■ The Ten Commandments 78–83 GENESIS A 16th-century Brussels tapestry dramatizes the calling of Abraham and his journey. In fact, the biblical passage mentions neither the setting nor circumstances of the calling. The Abrahamic Faiths Abraham is one of the most important figures in the religions of the Middle East and the Western world. He is universally recognized as the father of the three great monotheistic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. To the Jewish people, Abraham was the founder of Israel and their first patriarch. He taught them that there is only one God and inspired their faith with his unquestioning obedience and unwavering loyalty to God. Christians view Abraham as possibly the greatest exponent of a human relationship with God. They believe that it is through Abraham’s descendant, Jesus, that all God’s promises are fulfilled. In Islam, where he is known as “Ibrahim,” Abraham is regarded as a great prophet whose son Ishmael, by Hagar, became the father of the Arab peoples and the ancestor of the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam. Muslims celebrate Abraham on the festival of Eid-al-Adha, held in memory of Abraham’s willingness to obey God’s command to sacrifice his son (see pp. 50–53). God reiterates his promise on several occasions. The basic components always remain the same: that Abraham’s descendants will become a great nation, live in a fruitful land, be blessed, and be a blessing to all the peoples of the Earth. The nation God promises is one of generations of worshippers in their own land. This is the “covenant”—binding contract—that God and Abraham make. God offers divine promises in return for the continued faith of Abraham and his descendants. The covenant is part of God’s plan of establishing a nation of people free from sin. A momentous journey In a clear demonstration of his faith, Abraham obeys God’s call to leave his homeland. He is ❯❯ The Five Great Covenants of the Bible Noah Genesis 9:11 Abraham Genesis 12:2–3 David 2 Samuel 7:12–17 Jesus Luke 22:20 Moses Exodus 19:5 US_044-047_Covenants.indd 45 27/09/17 5:55 pm 46 COVENANTS accompanied on his great journey through the Fertile Crescent by his wife Sarah, their nephew Lot, and servants. They travel along a well- trodden trade route from Harran in Mesopotamia to Egypt. Following God’s instructions, they eventually stop at the Great Tree of Moreh near a place named Shechem in the heart of Canaan. Here, God appears to Abraham once more and tells him that his descendants will inherit this new “Promised Land”—the chosen land for God’s people. Seeing in advance the rewards God has promised him, Abraham builds the first of many altars to his Lord (12:7). Father of many At the time of their departure, Abraham and Sarah are 75 and 65 years old respectively. Although these might appear to be very advanced ages at which to establish a new nation, let alone have children, the patriarchs were long-lived. Abraham dies at the age of 175 and Sarah at 127. At this stage, Abraham and Sarah are referred to as Abram and Sarai. God changes Abram’s name (meaning “exalted father”) to Abraham (“father of many”) in Genesis 17. In this same chapter, God promises Abraham a son— Isaac—whose descendants will found a nation named Israel. The significance of Sarai’s name change to Sarah is less clear. Both names mean “princess,” but “Sarah” may also mean “queen.” Journey to Egypt Abraham, Sarah, and Lot’s initial stay in the Promised Land is brief due to a famine. Along with all the other people of Canaan, they are forced to flee to Egypt in search of food. Concerned that Sarah’s great beauty may attract the Egyptians’ attention, and that he may be murdered in order to clear the way for a marriage, Abraham instructs Sarah to tell the Egyptians that she is his sister. The ruse backfires when Pharaoh takes Sarah into his harem. In turn, Pharaoh rewards Abraham for having a beautiful “sister” and showers him with Covenants in Judaism and Christianity In religion, a “covenant” denotes a formal alliance or agreement between God and humankind, either a religious group such as the Israelites or humanity in general. The covenant God makes with Abraham is fundamental to Judaism, as it forms the basis for the Jews being the “chosen people.” God promises to make Abraham the father of a great nation and commands that his descendants must obey Him. To this day, Jewish males are circumcised when they are eight days old as a symbol of this covenant. In Christianity, a covenant has a different significance. Christians believe that the New Covenant was instituted by Christ at the Last Supper as part of the Eucharist. They believe it represents an ongoing relationship between God and his followers that will only come to full fruition with the Second Coming of Christ. Punished by God, the repentant Pharaoh returns Sarah to Abraham and sends them out of Egypt. Pharaoh permits Abraham to retain the riches he has amassed during his stay. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance. Psalm 33:12 US_044-047_Covenants.indd 46 21/09/17 11:26 am 47GENESIS wealth, servants, and livestock. When God hears that Pharaoh has taken Abraham’s wife as his own, he inflicts plague on Pharaoh and his household. Realizing he has been lied to, Pharaoh summons Abraham and asks him why he pretended Sarah was his sister. After an angry exchange, Pharaoh commands Abraham and Sarah to leave Egypt, yet he allows Abraham to retain the riches he has accumulated. Leaving Egypt, Abraham, Sarah, and Lot head toward the Negev. Traditions and meanings The biblical account of Abraham’s life is rooted in oral traditions rather than historical records, so no true biography of Abraham can be written. However, the story of Abraham’s life is so central to the fabric of the Bible that scholars have long debated when Abraham lived and what were the precise circumstances of his existence. One commonly held view is that the story of Abraham’s journey to Canaan was first related in the early Persian period (late 6th century bce) by Jewish landowners defending their property in the face of Jews returning to Judah from their captivity in Babylon (see pp. 128–31). They were keen to trace the ownership of their lands back to their “father Abraham” to counter the land claims of the returning exiles. Many readers of Abraham’s narrative are struck by the moral ambiguity at its heart—Abraham’s lie that Sarah is his sister instead of his wife, which he tells in order to preserve his own life. As if to soften the blow of this deception, the story later reveals that Sarah is Abraham’s half-sister, as well as his wife: “Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father” (20:12). This means that Abraham’s statement to the Egyptians can be construed not only as a practical measure to ensure his survival, but also as a half-lie, or half-truth. A merciful God The ambiguities in the story also serve to show God as a benevolent, forgiving Lord. Later in the Bible, all kinds of noble acts are ascribed to Abraham (see pp. 50–53), but here he is an ordinary man, an example of how God’s work can be carried out through anyone. God allows Abraham to lie to the Egyptians in order to save his life, but punishes Pharaoh for taking another man’s wife as his own. Abraham is allowed to retain the riches he has accumulated because God is gracious and lenient. Although God does not approve of Abraham’s actions, He will not rescind His promise or His blessing. In order to understand the full impact of God’s choice of Abraham as such an important representative on Earth, the reader must look beyond his deception in Egypt in the broader context of the subsequent events in his life. ■ Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war. Isaiah 2:4 God calls Abraham to leave his homeland and journey to the land of Canaan. God promises to make Abraham’s descendants into a great nation. God says all people on earth will be blessed through Abraham. God will bless those who bless Abraham and curse those who curse him. God tells Abraham that his descendants will inherit the Promised Land. Abraham has faith in God and builds his first altar to the Lord. US_044-047_Covenants.indd 47 21/09/17 11:26 am 48 FOR THE SAKE OF TEN MEN I WILL NOT DESTROY IT GENESIS 18:32, SODOM AND GOMORRAH L ike the Great Flood, in which God destroyed and remade creation, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is one of the most dramatic examples of divine punishment in the Bible. It illustrates the need for human beings both to fear God’s power and trust in His judgment. In Genesis 18, Abraham is visited by three angels in human form. One of them, speaking as if he is God, tells Abraham that He has come to investigate reports of sinful behavior in the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah. The angel— or God himself—indicates that if the “outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous” as He has heard, He will destroy the cities. The writers of Genesis then reveal the close relationship between Abraham and God. Abraham challenges God’s plan and humbly asks, though he is “nothing but dust and ashes,” whether it is right to take such drastic action. While he is not prepared to resist God’s wishes, Abraham bargains with Him, confident that the “judge of all earth” (18:25) will do right. Eventually, God agrees that He IN BRIEF PASSAGE Genesis 18:1–19:29 THEME Divine punishment SETTING Around 1900 bce In Sodom and Gomorrah, two towns in the Valley of Siddim, possibly near the Dead Sea. KEY FIGURES Abraham Son of Terah and the future father of all nations. The angels God’s messengers on Earth. Lot Abraham’s nephew, who has settled with his family in Sodom. Lot’s wife A woman who may have enjoyed living in the sinful city of Sodom. The men of Sodom Depicted as a sinful and unfaithful people. Other biblical references to Sodom and Gomorrah In Deuteronomy 29:22–23, Moses refers to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In Isaiah 13:19–22, Isaiah warns Babylon that it may end like Sodom and Gomorrah. In Ezekiel 16:48–50, God compares Jerusalem to Sodom. In Luke 10:12–13, Jesus cites places that are more damnable. US_048-049_Sodom_and_Gomorrah.indd 48 12/10/2017 15:01 49 See also: The Fall 30–35 ■ The Flood 40–41 ■ The Ten Plagues 70–71 ■ The Fall of Jericho 98–99 GENESIS will not destroy the cities if He finds at least ten good people within them. God’s wrath The story moves to the city of Sodom, where Lot, Abraham’s nephew, invites two angel- strangers to stay at his home rather than in the town’s square. Lot prepares a meal for the angels, “baking bread without yeast,” foreshadowing the hasty meal the Israelites prepare when they flee Egypt (Exodus 12:8). Later that night, the men of Sodom arrive at Lot’s door and ask: “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them” (19:5). Refusing the men’s request, Lot offers his two virgin daughters to the crowd instead, but the men refuse Lot’s offer and try to break down the door. The angels strike the crowd with blindness. They warn Lot and his family that God is about to destroy the city. Lot flees from Sodom with only his wife, two daughters, and the angels. God rains down fire and brimstone to destroy the two cities. The angels warn Lot not to look back, but Lot’s wife glances behind her and is turned to a pillar of salt. Saving the penitent The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah is traditionally considered to be homosexuality, giving rise to the word “sodomy.” However, passages about the cities’ sins focus on the abandonment of justice and neglect of the poor (Isaiah 3:8–15 and Ezekiel 16:48–50). More significant is what the story reveals about God’s judgments and His relationship with Abraham. God considers the evidence before making judgment and allows Abraham to bargain with Him. God is prepared to reward the righteous and save the penitent. Nonetheless, His judgment is final: the cities of sin are not spared. ■ Cities of sin Sodom and Gomorrah are not the only sinful cities in the Bible. Other debauched or lawless settlements include the other three cities of the “Valley of Siddim” (Admah, Zeboiim, and Zoar), Edom, and Jerusalem. States such as Egypt and Assyria are also censured for their lack of morality and disregard for God’s laws. These cities of sin were held up as dramatic warnings about the terrifying power of God’s wrath. The book of Revelation describes the destruction of the city of Babylon at the end of time, noting that “the smoke from her goes up for ever and ever” (19:3). This is a direct reference to the smoke from fire and brimstone (sulfur) that rose up from the cities o