How to Read the Most Abused Book of the Bible: Part 2
Genesis is an ancient story.
No, you’re not rereading the post from yesterday. I am merely reminding you of the crux of what I want you to walk away knowing once we finish this mini-series on how to read one of the most abused books of the Bible. Here is the profound thing about stories: the best ones shape our lives precisely because as we read them, we are presented with both reality and possibility. Regardless of the setting or fictitious surroundings, we resonate with the characters and circumstances because they often mirror our own experience.
You have probably never cast a spell in your life, but there is something about the friendship between Harry, Ron, and Hermione that is both alluring and familiar. We most likely will never experience a utopian world of chaos and destruction where entertainment is found in teenagers killing one another to save their district, yet there is something captivating about Katniss’ loyalty and determination that we desire for our own life.
A good story pulls you into another world that you are less familiar with, a world that is often strange and dangerous. And it is this type of storytelling (please don’t get caught up on that word) that we must embrace as we approach Genesis. As stated in Part 1, this is not a claim that Genesis is fiction, rather illuminating the fact that it is ancient. It is a world completely foreign and different than our own. Despite this, when we learn to read Genesis with “ancient eyes,” we pick up on some profound truths about ourself.
Yesterday, we discussed context. Context adds specificity to your writing and directs the reader attention to a particular train of thought; thus avoiding, to a certain extent, unwanted interpretation. You can find that post here.
Take a moment to put aside everything you “know” about Genesis and let’s now consider. . .
The Bible is full of patterns that work on a deeper level to unify the wider view of God’s workings.
It’s like a beautiful painting that includes subtle repetition, visible only upon close inspection of the brush strokes, the hues of the colors, or the direction objects are facing. This is why connoisseurs can spend hours standing in front of a painting, relishing every last detail while the casual museum-goer walks past it in a matter of seconds.
Need convincing that your Bible is stuffed (and I mean the kind of ‘stuffed’ you feel after gorging on your third helping of Thanksgiving meal ‘stuffed’), then simply look at Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1. Do you think it’s a coincidence that both these entries (separated by thousands of years) both begin with “In the beginning. . .” Think again!
So, your Bible is filled with patterns. What does that mean for you? If you want to read Genesis with “ancient eyes,” and know where the author wants to take you, then it is critical that you know when and where to spot these hyperlinks.
I love thinking of patterns in your Bible as hyperlinks. They are subtle moments when the author wants to take your mind to another place (just for a second), because it’s going to open up an entire new understanding of what he is saying in that moment. In fact, some of these moments are so subtle that we miss them entirely today.
So, how about an example? [the crowd goes wild]
There is a pretty important ‘Bible guy’ born in the first pages of Exodus (I know, I know we are supposed to be in Genesis). Moses is born and there is a price on his head: actually a price on every Hebrew boy’s head (are you thinking of Jesus’ birth story yet)? Anyways, so Moses is put in a “papyrus basket.” Here is the verse:
Um, so what, you might be thinking to yourself, I thought we are talking about patterns? WE ARE!
Ready for another Hebrew lesson (too bad, here it comes)? The Hebrew word for the translation “basket” is the word Ta-va. This doesn’t mean anything to you, but it would have mean’t everything to someone reading this story for the first time. The word Ta-va is only used twice in the entire Bible. Where is the other place? I can guarantee you won’t see it coming. . .
Your hyperlink senses should be tingling. The same word used for Moses’ baby-basket-to-safety is also used to describe Noah’s massive floating zoo. What?!? What am I supposed to do with this information?
Here is the point. Like so many important themes in Scripture, the echoes we hear from story to story should alert us to a deliberate parallel. The theme of salvation resonates between the two ta-va moments.
You can see the similarities between the ta-va that carried the remains of humanity that were worth saving along with the bare essentials to reestablish the animal kingdom, and the ta-va that carried Moses, who was to be a savior figure – a prelude to the ultimate Messiah, both floating perilously off into the future.
Both were absolutely critical for the future of humanity, and both carried great treasures.
Pretty fascinating stuff. What once was understood as a boat and a basket become a webbed understanding of God’s prevailing promise to maintain his people and provide them with salvation. A theme that will eventually take us all the way to Jesus. And we are able to hop on these biblical stepping stones because our eyes have been opened to the importance of patterns.
Next up. . .meaning!
Tomorrow we will come to the conclusion of our mini-series on reading Genesis. When it comes to meaning, too many of us boil the messaging of the Bible to our very specific circumstances. Even worst, we go to Scripture looking for affirmation of our traditions, beliefs, and arguments. [slaps top of hand], stop that! There are much more serious matters to talk about than how Noah was able to tell the difference between male and female lizards. When we draw out the deeper meaning, Genesis becomes far more significant.