The Lunatic Gospel: Ch. 10-11

10 08 2009

Click here to read the full text of Gen. 10-11.

Chapter 10 is called the Table of Nations. It’s easy to think that this genealogy was written out to explain where each of the nations came from. (ie. “There’s that city named Tarshish. I wonder why it’s called Tarshish. I bet there was somebody named Tarshish once upon a time. Oh, look, there’s an empty space in Japeth’s family tree–let’s put him there). After all, this chapter does seem to tie together conveniently into one lineage a whole lot of the places that will come up later: Magog, Cush, Canaan, Sheba, Sidon, etc.  This–the etiological explanation — is the view that many scholars take.

But is it really so implausible to think that the nations & their citizens really were based on real people? After all, over 500 years ago a man by the name of Amerigo Vespucci was born in a little town in Italy. And his name later became the major place-name of an entire hemisphere. I derive part of my identity–as an American–from him. I imagine that this genealogy provided the Israelites with a tangible way to understand their identity as the descendants of Noah–and as the people of God!

**bonus trivia: Shem, the ancestor of Abram & the Jews, is the root of the words Semite & Semitic**

All of the nations are connected to that same ancestor: Noah. And feasibly, they could have all remained as part of this one people-group, connected by familial ties and a common worship. But then, they build–and are destroyed by– the Tower of Babel.  And all of the people have to divide themselves up into smaller groups, distinguishing themselves and their own unique culture.

In this world of increasing separation, it’s no longer self-evident that everyone will continue to worship the same God. Only one of the nations will keep YHWH-worship as its distinguishing feature. And that one nation also had to start from somewhere, too. And so, it all “started” with Abram (who came from Terah, who came from Nahor, who came from Serug…..)

(Originally posted 6/14/08 at

The Lunatic Gospel: Genesis 5

22 07 2009

Click here to read Genesis 5.

This is the boring stuff of the Bible: lists, ages, chronologies, genealogy. Details, details, details.  Begat upon begat.

Maybe I’m weird, but I like this stuff. In fact, I’m devoting a whole (albeit short) entry to this one chapter. One fascinating thing that I learned in Hebrew Bible class is that Genesis 5 is thought to be a “doublet” (or, repeat) of the previous chapter’s genealogy.

Genesis 4 lists: (Adam), Cain, EnochIradMehujaelMethusaelLamech
Genesis 5 lists: Adam, Seth, Enosh, KenanMahalalelJaredEnochMethuselahLamech

So the question remains: why was this stuff important enough to write down? And, why was important enough to write down twice?

I think one answer lies in the first two verses of the chapter, which recap the creation story. But here, instead of drawing out an epic picture of the deity’s triumph over primordial chaos, the biblical authors pare it down to three essential elements: the creation of mankind (in God’s image), the blessing of mankind, the naming of mankind.

“When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them ‘man.'”

The naming of mankind. Over and over again, we will see how important names are to God and to his people. Everyone in this lineage was created, blessed, and called by name.

This isn’t filler material. It’s not just a nice little transition between stories. We can’t skip over it impatiently and say, “Adam….blah blah blah blah blah…Noah.” It’s important for us to know these names. To know that each of these people had a role in this story that God prepared for us. And most of all, to connect to a heritage that shows us that we, too, have been created, blessed, and called by name.

(originally posted 6/7/08 at