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?