God Questions His Creation: Genesis 8:6-12 (b)

See:  God Questions His Creation:  Genesis 8:6-12(a)


Photo by Jim Forest

Genesis 8:6      At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made, 7 and sent forth a raven; and it went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. 8 Then he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground; 9 but the dove found no place to set her foot, and she returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put forth his hand and took her and brought her into the ark with him. 10 He waited another seven days, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark; 11 and the dove came back to him in the evening, and lo, in her mouth a freshly plucked olive leaf; so Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. 12 Then he waited another seven days, and sent forth the dove; and she did not return to him any more.

From the Prayer Blessing the Oil of the Catechumen at Baptism:  “O Lord and Master, the God of our fathers, who sent unto them that were in the ark of Noah your dove, bearing it is beak a twig of the olive, the token of reconciliation and of salvation from the flood, the foreshadowing of the mystery of grace, and You provided the fruit of the olive for the fulfilling of Your holy mysteries… Bless also this holy oil…”  In the blessing of the holy oil, we see that the church does understand the story of Noah and the ark to have symbolic value to it.  It is in its conclusion a story of reconciliation between God and humans.   Note also the emphasis in this prayer that the story is about salvation from the deadly, destructive powers of the flood.  The prayer does not see the drowning of the wicked as the point of the flood story, but rather focuses on how God saves the righteous from destruction.  The implication is clear – there may be a final judgment day, and the prospect of eternal punishment, but God saves those who love Him from this reality.  Those Christians, who are quick to pronounce God’s judgment on sinners, forget the Gospel is Good News – God saves us from eternal punishment and destroys death.   It is not God’s hope that any humans spend an eternity in hell; rather He rescues us from such a fate. “The Lord will rescue me from every evil and save me for his heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18).

The Angel explaining the meaning of the empty tomb to the Myrrhbearing Women

At the end of 40 days…”  If we accept the Source Theory, the 40 day flood belongs to the J-Source.  In this story, Noah enters the ark 7 days before the flood begins, the flood lasts 40 days, and then Noah releases the raven and seemingly the dove for the first time– his 47th day in the ark.  He waits 7 days and releases the dove a second time, and 7 days later he disembarks as the flood is over.  In the J-Source Noah and crew are in the ark 61 days, 54 of them while the flood waters were rising and then receding. If we don’t accept the Source Theory notion of 2 distinct stories intertwined, it is a little more difficult to establish the time line of the flood.  How does the 40 days of 8:6 match up with the 150 days of 8:1-5?   The P-source has Noah in the ark for a total of 340 days, nearly an entire year.  What part of that total the 40 days represents cannot be easily established.   Harmonizing the details of the two stories, if that is what we believe must occur for the Bible to be considered “true,” is sometimes difficult.  It becomes fodder for those who ridicule the literal inconsistencies of the Bible.  Source Theory in this case can help unravel the problem and show the significance of the story is not in its literal details but in its prophetic message and in the moral to the story.   We accept the fact that our Scriptures do in fact contain several versions of the same story – this is the result of God inspiring a community, an entire people, to remember His story.  There is much that God wants us to understand through His revelation and obviously He thinks we will best grasp His purpose by giving us more than one version of a story so that we can get beyond the literal details into the depth of His intended message.

Next:  God Questions His Creation:  Genesis 8:13-19 (a)

Truth and Christian Witness

7th Sunday after Pascha:  Commemorating the Fathers of the 1st Ecumenical Council

Early Christianity understood the fact that Jesus is the Christ to be a revelation of the truth about God.  Jesus was not only the Messiah but also the Son of God, which his miracles confirmed.  The truth about God is that God is Trinity, and one of the Person of the Trinity became flesh/human.  Everything we understand about God, about Creation, about being human, about the relationship of God and humans, is radically altered by the incarnation of the Son of God.

This Sunday after the Ascension is dedicated to the Christian leadership which assembled in council in 325AD to wrestle with the implications and understanding of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  They affirmed what they believed to be the truth about God as revealed in Jesus Christ.

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages. Light of Light; true God of true God; begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man. And He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried. And the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead; whose Kingdom shall have no end.

What we sometimes forget today is that the Church has always fought for the truth.  Today we sometimes act as if the truth is self-evident and needs no discussion.  The first Christians were witnesses to the truth – like the Myrrhbearing Women who came to the tomb and found it empty.  The meaning of the empty tomb was not self-evident to these disciples of the Lord: they thought a theft, not the resurrection had occurred!   It is only when the meaning of the empty tomb is explained to them (by the angelic beings, or by encountering the risen Christ) that they understand what has happened.  Only as time unfolds do they and the Apostles realize the implication of the resurrection of Christ.

We too have to witness to the truth about the resurrection and its implications about God.  We too have to struggle with the truth about Christ in the modern world, which means relating to that which the rest of the world knows or believes to be true about science, relativism, and materialism.   Self evident truth since the 18th Century Enlightenment and as enshrined in the Declaration of Independence is that which can be observed, verified and deduced from what is known.  The Christian message  however is something to which we Christians must bear witness through our lives, and it is tested by the non-believer in terms of its rationality as well as by how they see us living.

The early Church battled against heresies – distortions of the truth – because they knew that a correct way or thinking (correct opinion = Orthodoxy) leads to the right way of living.

Truth is something you enter into a relationship with. Taking cues from the Scriptures, the Christian goes still further. Truth is linked to a way of life, one that is in concert with the way things really are. Truth is not just something that we learn; it is something that we do, how we live. Truth can be an action, an activity. St. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:15 about “speaking the truth in love,” or at least that’s how it’s commonly translated. The Greek here uses truth as a verb—aletheuo—so that Paul is really talking about “truthing” in love. That means speaking, thinking, and acting rightly, truly, honestly—and with love, lest we forget the relational dimension of truth. The Scriptures speak in the same breath about walking before God “in truth, with a truth of heart” and doing “that which is pleasing in the sight of God.” Isaiah 26:10 talks about learning righteousness and doing the truth. We usually think of it the other way around, doing the righteousness and learning the truth…But Jesus goes one step further when says to his disciples, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6). What could he mean? He could mean simply that he speaks the truth and is trustworthy. Some say that this pronouncement shows Jesus in an unattractive light: he sounds so full of himself! And he excludes other expressions of truth. But a genuine follower of Jesus Christ interprets these words only in their fullest sense, to refer to absolute truth itself: Jesus links truth not only with salvation, freedom, and action but also with his own person. This is remarkable, to be sure. But Christians can believe no less.      (Peter Bouteneff, Sweeter than Honey:  Orthodox Thinking on Dogma and Truth, pgs. 22-23)