Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Chapter 12

What if the Bible, instead of starting with the first eleven chapters of Genesis, started with Chapter 12?

This isn't as unusual of a question as it might seem. The first eleven chapters are almost purely "mythological," while the rest of Genesis is "historical." This means that the first eleven are interesting to humanity in a universal way, while the rest of the book (and most of the rest of the "Old Testament") simply isn't. Beginning the book with Chapter 12 would start the book more properly, without misleading us into thinking it's about something that it isn't, and it would help eliminate many of the needless "controversies" surrounding education, science, and the way we think about and live our lives.

As a reminder of what occurs in the first eleven chapters, Genesis 1 gives us the famous six day creation story. Chapters 2-3 gives us an almost completely different creation story involving Adam, Eve, the serpent, and the forbidden fruit. Chapter 4 is Cain killing Abel and other murder stories. Chapter 5 (not mythological) is the lineage of Adam to Noah and his sons. Chapters 6-9 is Noah's ark and the re-boot of humanity after the flood. Chapter 10 (also not mythological) is the lineage of Noah's sons. Chapter 11 is the Tower of Babel and the scattering of people and languages, with some additional non-mythological lineage thrown in at the end of the chapter.

These scant chapters of Genesis (only 8 1/2 if you take out the lineages) are some of the main things we remember and care about when we think of not only this first book but of the entire Bible. In these chapters, we learn where the world and humanity come from (two versions: take your pick, or force-merge if you like), where sin and evil and death come from, the notion that the planet -- at one point in its history -- became so wicked that it had to be destroyed by water and begun anew, where rainbows come from, where language comes from, where races come from, and more.

Unfortunately, the book of Genesis -- in a rush to get to what it really wants to talk about (which I'll explain soon) -- rushes through all of these large ideas haphazardly, confusingly, wrongly, ignorantly, immorally, and every other negative "ly" you wish you add. So now we live with the God-given "facts" that the universe (which apparently only reaches to the visible sky) takes a week to make and is only a few thousand years old, evil and death come from a magic fruit that we ate, "sin" is something we're born with and inherit, women come from a man's rib, man is the ruler of woman and animals, a sampling of every species in the world once fit on a boat and were saved from a world flood, different languages are punishment for humanity working together to make a great city and building, and so on.

We're stuck with these idiotic ideas, even after the Age of Enlightenment, even after Darwin, even after we landed on the moon, even in the 21st century where the Bible is proven false while science fiction novels become truer every year. If these unnecessary eleven chapters were gone, we may not have some of these stupid problems and misguided notions--or at least not to such a degree.