Scripture: Feb. 8. Lectionary # 330: Genesis 1:20-2:4. Psalm 8:4-5.6-7.8-9.
Genesis gives us the ending of the first tradition in the story of
creation. It consists of chapter one and goes up to the fourth verse of
chapter two. By reading this narrative in the perspective of the priestly
and the levites point of view we are closer to the interpretation they
wished to give it and which was divinely inspired. Both their natural
talent of telling the narrative and the spirit-inspired influence of God
shows us that the Bible is a work of God and humans; of nature and grace.
After all, we have heard that grace builds on nature.
The liturgical background of the first chapter is seen in the contrasts of
light and darkness and the influence of the priests and levites who
appreciated God’s presence in the Temple and composed writings to glorify
the Lord both in the psalms, songs, and here in the creation account. Since
they owned no land, they were the writers and hymnologists of the Temple
and its worship services on the feasts. All of these services are
adumbrated in Genesis 1:1-2:4.
We will continue to see a change as we approach another tradition handed
down to us in chapter two after verse four. It is called the Yahwist
tradtion and is more ancient, more simple in its theology, and very human
centered. Here we will see differences in the creation story of the man
and woman compared with the deeper insight of the priestly tradition in
verses 26 and 27 of chapter one. Differences are important in our learning
about God’s revelation to us. There is an ongoing development in the
library of the Bible. We would do well as Christians to read a Jewish
interpretation of the Genesis. (cf. of the Jewish Study Bible, Oxford
Press, New York, 2004, pages 8-18). We learn that Scripture is not
fundamental literalism but an erudite and literary masterpiece good for the
mind, the heart, and the soul.
We are fortunate to listen to both tradtions and to the contrast in the
retelling of certain events in the life of Abram and Sarai once they are
introduced after chapter twelve. We must read the Bible not only
spirtually but also with all the skills we have learned in knowing how to
distinguish poetry from prose, metaphor from simple statements, and styles
seen from the different authors and composers. The library of the Bible is
thus a treasure for study and spirituality for a lifetime. We cannot race
through it or speed read it.
By appreciating the narratives set before us we can see that God’s Word is
a key to our union with God and God with us. It is God’s love-story
written for us by those who have experienced God in the different events of
history whether in good times or bad times. We learn much about ourselves
in the Bible since it is a mirror of who we are. And when we are at our
best we appreciate God telling us that we are made in God’s image and
likeness. Gandhi’s words are correct, “Honest differences are often a sign
of progress.” Amen.