How to Read the Most Abused Book of the Bible: Part 3
Genesis is an ancient story.
And it’s just the beginning. Imagine if someone told you they understood Star Wars, but only saw Jar Jar Binks in Episode 1 or they understood all the ins-and-outs of Harry Potter, but only read Sorceror’s Stone. The beginning of the story only makes sense in light of the middle and end of the rest of the story. In the same way, Genesis only makes sense in light of the following four books which collectively make up the Torah.
Yawn, I know.
But there is so much more that Genesis offers to us when we place it back in its intended context and learn to pick up on literary tactics such as context, and pattern, and meaning. Which brings us to our final stop on our mini-series of Genesis.
Take a moment to put aside everything you “know” about Genesis and let’s now consider. . .
It’s easy for us to get lost in what Genesis means for us. . .today. . .in 2019. But should we really be getting lost there? I feel like the author of Genesis would be scratching his head wondering why so many people are debating if dinosaurs were on Noah’s Ark or if Jacob really did beat God in a wrestling match (yeah, that is in your Bible, too).
You’re missing it entirely, he might scream as he frantically pulls out his hair, there are so many bigger things at play here! And I agree with him, which is why I want to end our series with a little nugget to show the deeper, more pervasive, meaning of one story in Genesis. Hopefully this will serve as a peek behind the curtain of of the vastness of God’s Word.
Let’s begin [the crowd goes wild]
Genesis 3 is a critical moment in human history. It’s the children storybook scene of two first humans standing under a tapestry of greenery as they talk to a snake who persuades them to do something adventurous and forbidden. God is then found walking in the the garden (God has legs now?) and catches the two humans in the act of disobeying him (I imagine the deer-in-headlight eyes with fruit juice dripping down their chin). And now we come to the meat of our topic today.
God looks to the serpent and shake his head in disappointment. You messed up, dude, now you’re gonna crawl on your belly and eat dust fro. . .wait a second. . .Does that mean snakes had legs before?!?
[shakes the disturbing thought out of his mind] Anyways, and then God says,
This is the part where I ask what stood out to you here, but you will most likely fail the test. Why? Because you already know how this story ends and other “meanings” have already been engrained into your mind. You’re thinking about Jesus crushing the metaphoric head of Satan, or Mary being foreshadowed as the woman here, and there are some of you still stuck on the part when the snake had legs (gross).
I actually spent some time with young adults last night studying this verse, and it took a young girl with limited Bible knowledge to actually ask the right question. She was reading this story for the first time, just like the first ancient people who would have been hearing it for the first time. When you can find yourself in this headspace, a pretty remarkable claim is about to be made.
Her question: Wait, is this a story about baby snakes?
Boom! Come on to the stage, claim your reward, and give us your tear-jerking acceptance speech. That’s exactly the question the author wants you asking in this moment.
So there are two lines we are looking for in our upcoming stories: human babies and snake babies. This is the great division; the line between good and evil. The ‘good’ humans are made in the image of God and the crafty, malicious snakes are what you want to avoid. Right?
You are sitting at the edge of your seat as you sit at the feet of your Rabbi; you are anxiously waiting to turn the page of your Bible to read about the great division between snakes and humans. Here. It. Comes.
Wait, where are the snakes? I thought this was going to be a story between the offspring of the woman and the offspring of the snake? I thought this was suppose to be a story of the battle between good and evil!
[The author author lifts an eyebrow as a smirk appears on his face]
Do you see the momentous point the author is making? He says that you are looking outward to identify where evil is, but evil exists inside of each of us. There is an internal war taking place in each our heart, every moment of every day. Stop looking out there and begin looking inside yourself.
When we spend time considering the actual meaning of these weird stories found riddled through Genesis, we begin to recognize there are truths that apply to us because they apply to humanity in general. Sure, there is a lot that can be covered in Genesis, but I want to help you look at Genesis as an ancient story. That means trying, as best as we can, to lay aside what we as modern Christians think Genesis is saying or ought to be saying and pay closer attention to what the ancient author was actually saying to his ancient readers.
Whatever you think Genesis means for us today, you need to start by understanding what Genesis meant back then.
We have covered a lot in this minis-series on Genesis, but at the same time have only just scratched the surface. Reading Genesis, and all the Scriptures, is a lifelong journey of discovery, learning, and refinement. Welcome to the journey; good luck!