Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

First Day is Goldingay

On the first day of the month, unless it falls on a weekend, we dip into a chapter of John Goldingay’s Old Testament Theology: Israel’s Gospel. This month we look at chp 3, “God Started Over: From Eden to Babel.”
And I’ll tell you what I like most about this chp: Goldingay gets right into the narrative shape of these chps and tells it like it is — he does his best to keep outside interests overriding the seeming bent of the narrative and he presents a view of God that very much just like the God of these chps — and that is no easy task.
Now if you want the big question, here it is for me: How would you describe and what do you think of God’s interactions with humans in chps 3–11? Think about it; is it the way we’d describe God’s interactions with the world today? If you get a chance, breeze through those chps and observe how God interacts with creation. (By the way, Goldingay’s got some really funny prose here, but you have to read it carefully to see it — and I’d be interested in your favorite ones.)
The first think I liked about this section is that he keeps the theme of Genesis 1-2 guiding us. It is easy for many of us, for me especially perhaps, to skip chps 4-11 and jump on to chp 12. Goldingay says there is no material break between chps 3 and 4-11 — the so-called “fall” best describes the mess-ups (in almost Dumb and Dumber fashion) of chps 3 through 11.
The theme is that God wants to bless the earth by extending his rule to everything and he chooses to extend that rule through his Eikons — Adam and Eve and their children and families. That blessings runs into all kinds of obstacles — Adam’s and Eve’s being only the first; then Cain and then folks like Lamech and Noah and then up the idolatrous sorts who created the (collapsing) tower of Babel.
God converses with humans — seemingly seeking information at times: “This sounds like a conversation like any other … such anthropomorphisms presumably tell us something true about God’s relationship with the world” (136-137).
He compares God’s relationship to the world like that of a novelist — who sets the characters and knows where they are headed but lets the characters develop as they unfold naturally.
Patriarchy will seek to ruin mutuality in all its forms — marriages and families and nations — and patriarchy rules … as does testosterone … “the finding of identity and significance in the number of women you possess and the number of men you overwhelm” (155). [Note to self: is this the issue in Gen 3:16?]
The biblical God, contrary to Barth, is not hidden; God’s normal ways are not to hide but to be present.
God does not abandon humans or creation — even when it ruins what God has planned.
He connects Babel with the desire to get back to Eden; falling short of that, they seek to get to God on their own.
Is the point of chps 4–11 to show us that on our own we can’t do it? Is it to set up humans for the covenant relationship with God, in the shape of a community, so that God’s blessing can be extended into the world?

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Scott Watson

posted June 1, 2007 at 1:21 am

The Babel theme is very instructive here;it’s a theme that is picked up at various points in the biblical tradition,OT and NT.It denotes human hubris over against God,embodied in anti-YHWH construals of human community–oppressive empire. The thing that struck me is how the values of Babylon:religion,technology,beaurocratic government,an religious ideology of conquest,etc. is uncomfortably like many of the values we espouse.

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Greg Laughery

posted June 1, 2007 at 2:40 am

I wonder if, in following Clines, these chapters (Gen 1-11) present the narrative unfolding of the spread of sin and the spread of grace? If so, they give us a portrayal of why and how God is against and critiques sin and affirms and enhances grace, which leads straight into covenant which will enable God’s blessing to come to the world.

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Ted Gossard

posted June 1, 2007 at 4:14 am

I like the idea of God being present rather than hidden. The only thing is I do think this presentness of God is for those who have faith, or are in the process towards faith. To the rest, God is hidden. And even to the faithful (including Jesus) this can seem true at times.
God is certainly very active in the Genesis 3-11 narrative. Though unfortunately for many this seems to be an activity of letting people go their way before intervening in judgment.

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posted June 1, 2007 at 12:03 pm

His idea is interesting. If you have a “grand narrative” view of the Bible, you would expect the material between the fall and the call of Abram to be related to that arc. I think he’s got a good idea of what that connection might be:
Right after the fall we have a picture of a heinous sin that culminates in such wickedness the flood is necessary. Humans are given the chance for a fresh start, but right after the flood we see how well that’s going to go with Noah and sons culminating in Babel. It shows that given a chance, we’re going to screw things up. What can we do? Is there no hope? In answer to the reader’s question, God chooses a man for Himself and sets about to change this situation.
Good stuff.

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John Frye

posted June 1, 2007 at 9:53 pm

A cursory review of Gen 1-11 shows God interacting/relating to human beings the way human beings interact/relate with each other. Genesis presents a God in whose Image we are truly made—relational. I’m disappointed that Goldingay had to resort to “anthropomorphism” as a litrary device to down-play the deeply relational (human) aspects of God.

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Georges Boujakly

posted June 1, 2007 at 10:02 pm

“Is the point of chps 4–11 to show us that on our own we can’t do it?
Very much so. And history since has shown that we cannot do it (live at peace with God and others in our own strength). The present shows it so. Past behavior and present behavior are very good predictors of future behavior!
This warrants a Lament: How long, O God, must we wallow in the dung of our own sinfulness? Maranatha!
“Is it to set up humans for the covenant relationship with God, in the shape of a community, so that God’s blessing can be extended into the world?”
Yes community, on God’s terms. Community, the channel of his blessing to the world. The world may spurn the church but it cannot spurn community. It is in our blood. One day the two (church and community) will be wed eternally.

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tim atwater

posted June 2, 2007 at 12:42 pm

grace and peace,
yes (i believe) Gen 3:16 is a mega-tipoff of the general direction of the fall — malignant forms of patriarchy, pain, suffering, domination…in the very place where we were meant for grace and mutuality and love without measure…
the first murder amplifies the 3:16 plotline… then Lamech and the trophy wives/kill you threats… amplifies further…shows the escalation pattern…
The flood is among other things an ecological response to human evil…(and as a fisherman i note the preferential treatment of aquatic species)…
i am wondering about the flood… whether it does impede some of the worst effects of sin for awhile? or not..?
(Babel, bad as it is as yes, extreme hubris, does seem less evil than Lamech’s serial killer threats…?)
i also wonder about the way Gen 10 talks about the different languages of the nations and Gen 11 (first section) then talks about all the world w one language…
is this word-play on the meaning of language, one sense literal, another sense, deeper? general? communications theory and practice…???
i agree w the comment (Greg #2) re the simultaneous roll-out of sin and grace… again, an ecological phenomena… (Romans…)… the grace covenants are v different, of course, in nature from the sin patterns…
my tendency is to want to focus almost exclusively on the fish and dolphins … the rainbow sign… the weakness of Abe and Sarah… as the trail of grace…
but in the ecology of God… probably the sin stuff is also v important… to get us to understand consequences, etc etc? (just wish we were quicker studies!)
And whether or not (as Wesley says) the atonement (aka the at-one-ment?) flows all directions in time and place…
What difference is it now making for us who believe…that the Messiah has come?
What does Jesus do re Gen 3:16? and–
How are we, people (M/F) made in the image of God (Trinitarian)now to follow the grace side of the spectrum…?

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