All That Is Within Me, Bless His Name

For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.
(Psalms 139:13-16)

Fetus at 6 months

On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those parts of the body which we think less honorable we invest with the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior part…   (1 Corinthians 12:22-24)

Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name!  (Psalms 103:1)

St Cyril of Jerusalem writes:

Look within yourself. From your own nature you can learn something of your Maker.

There is nothing to be ashamed of in your body. If you are in control of its members, they are not in the slightest evil. Adam and Eve in paradise were naked at first and their bodies did not appear shameful or disgusting. Our limbs do not cause sin, but the wrong use of them does. The Creator of our bodies knew what he was doing.

Who makes the secret parts of the mother’s womb able to bear children? Who gives life to the lifeless fruit of conception? Who shapes the sinews and bones, who covers all with flesh and skin? When the baby comes to the light, who gives the milk that it can suck? How does the newborn infant grow to become a child, then an adolescent, then an adult, and then in the end an old person?

Who imposes on the heart the regularity of its beat? Who protects so skilfully our eyes with their eyelashes? Who makes our whole bodies able to be kept alive by our breathing?

Look at your Maker. Admire your wise Creator. The greatness and the beauty of his creatures will help you to contemplate him.

(Drinking from the Hidden Fountain, p. 60)

Male & Female He Created Them

The primordial story of man and woman hints that, despite all the dangers that accompany the humanization of sexuality, it is complementarity — the heterosexual difference — and not just doubleness that may point the way to human flourishing altogether. Conscious love of the complementary other draws the soul outward and upward; in procreation, love, mindful of mortality, overflows generously into creativity, the child unifying the parents as sex or romance alone never can, and the desire to give not only life but a good way of life to their children opens both man and woman towards a concern for the true, the good, and the holy. Parental love of children may be the beginning of sanctification of life. Perhaps that is what God was thinking when He said that it is not good for the human being — neither for man or woman — to be alone. Perhaps this is why “male and female created He them”.

Jacob & Rachel

(Leon R. Kass, The Beginning of Wisdom, pp. 121-122)

Women AND Men in Christ

 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3)

Commenting on Psalm 1, St. Basil the Great notes the psalm speaks in the singular about “man” yet he says we should never doubt that it refers to both men and women.  Men and women share the same nature and the same blessings from God.

“Why, you say, does the prophet single out only man and proclaim him happy? Does he not exclude women happiness? By no means.  For, the virtue of man and woman is the same, since creation is equally honored in both; therefore, there is the same reward for both. Listen to Genesis. ‘God created man,’ it says, ‘in the image of God he created him. Male and female he created them.’ They whose nature is alike have the same reward. Why, then, when Scripture had made mention of man, did it leave woman unnoticed? Because it believed that it was sufficient, since their nature is alike, to indicate the whole through the more authoritative part. ‘Blessed, therefore, is the man who has not walked in the counsel of the ungodly.’” (St Basil, The Fathers of the Church: Exegetic Homilies, pp 155-156)

God Questions His Creation: Genesis 6:1-2, 4 (a)

See: Reading Noah and the Flood Through the Source Theory Lens (c)

Genesis 6:1 When men began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair; and they took to wife such of them as they chose.             …3* (Verse 3 will be dealt with after verses 1-2 & 4 which have a similar theme and so are grouped together)  …   4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown.

“When men began to multiply on the face of the ground…”   Although God had commanded the humans at their creation to be fruitful and multiply, throughout the early chapters of Genesis increasing numbers of humans seem to exponentially multiply sins and problems.

“…daughters were born…”   Daughters and women in general have played a very minor role in the opening chapters of Genesis.  Eve was the first human to rebel against God, but the only other women mentioned by name are those in the genealogy of Cain.  It does appear that the reference in these chapters to daughters or women in general is a sign of further problems.  In most of the genealogy following the descendents of Seth wives are not even generically mentioned; only fathers and sons get mentioned by name.  After Eve, the next time a wife is mentioned in the Seth lineage is with Noah and his sons.  The next wife actually named will not occur until Sarai, wife of Abraham is mentioned at the end of Genesis 11.

“…sons of God…”   It is possible that this section of the story with the references to the sons of God might actually have originated in a pagan source where avatars,  “sons of Hercules,  and other human offspring of the gods are common themes.  Judaism developed its own language and imagery which includes the phrase “son(s) of God”.   The inclusion in Genesis of verses 6:1-2 and 4 may have resulted from the Jews adapting some erstwhile pagan stories to their own use.    Some interpreters have seen the “sons of god” as a reference to angels or demons intermarrying with humans and producing “divine” offspring.  Such an explanation is totally inconsistent with Jewish and Biblical anthropology.  First neither angels nor demons have been mentioned in the text.  Second, both angels and demons are bodiless powers and would have no way to have sexual intercourse with the humans.  Angels in Biblical thinking don’t become human when they sin – that would be more a pagan or dualistic idea, not a biblical one.   No matter what the origins of stories about the “sons of God’, probably the interpretation of the text which is most consistent with the witness of the rest of Genesis would be that the descendents of Seth (the sons of God) began intermarrying with the daughters of the outcast Cain, something which displeased God.

“…they took to wife such of them as they chose…”     The text indicates a disorderly world, with each person doing as they saw fit with no regard for anyone else and especially with no regard for God’s wishes.  If God intended an orderly universe with each kind of animal and even each kind of human (descendents of Cain or the Sethites) maintaining separate realms, then the story is showing that the humans continue to push the world toward disorderly chaos by failing to respect the boundaries in creation established by God.  The human penchant for disregarding and destroying God’s established boundaries and realms is a major theme of the early chapters of Genesis.   In the Flood story God will be described as grief stricken because of this destructiveness of humans.

“…daughters of men…”  The earlier genealogies rarely mention daughters (except in the lineage of Cain), here nameless daughters are mentioned, and their role is that of temptresses.   Is it the women’s fault that they are good looking?  It is not the women who are out of control; they simply are what they are.  It is the “sons of God” who are doing whatever they want.  Is the text suggesting that lust is uncontrollable in the sons of God?  St. Isaac the Syrian believed that lust was the only major sin of these early citizens on earth.  Such stories will contribute to the monastic ideal of chastity and celibacy as the means for humans to overcome their own sinfulness.  It is desire which gives birth to so many evils, a theme common in ancient Hindu and Buddhist writings as well in which desire destroys the underlying unity of all things and causes the formation of the “self” which is in opposition to all other “selves.”

Next:  God Questions His Creation: Genesis 6:1-2,4 (b)

God Questions His Creation: Genesis 5:6-20 (a)

See:  God Questions His Creation: Genesis 5:3-5 (b)

Genesis 5:6 When Seth had lived a hundred and five years, he became the father of Enosh. 7 Seth lived after the birth of Enosh eight hundred and seven years, and had other sons and daughters. 8 Thus all the days of Seth were nine

Old Testament Patriarchs

 hundred and twelve years; and he died. 9 When Enosh had lived ninety years, he became the father of Kenan. 10 Enosh lived after the birth of Kenan eight hundred and fifteen years, and had other sons and daughters. 11 Thus all the days of Enosh were nine hundred and five years; and he died. 12 When Kenan had lived seventy years, he became the father of Ma-hal’alel. 13 Kenan lived after the birth of Ma-hal’alel eight hundred and forty years, and had other sons and daughters. 14 Thus all the days of Kenan were nine hundred and ten years; and he died. 15 When Ma-hal’alel had lived sixty-five years, he became the father of Jared. 16 Ma-hal’alel lived after the birth of Jared eight hundred and thirty years, and had other sons and daughters. 17 Thus all the days of Ma-hal’alel were eight hundred and ninety-five years; and he died. 18 When Jared had lived a hundred and sixty-two years he became the father of Enoch. 19 Jared lived after the birth of Enoch eight hundred years, and had other sons and daughters. 20 Thus all the days of Jared were nine hundred and sixty-two years; and he died.

There are no wives’ names mentioned in the genealogy.  No accounting is given of where the wives came from or who their parents were.  The genealogy is purely patriarchal: a father-son schema.  Each man’s life is marked by only three events:  1) the man’s birth, 2) what age he was at the birth of his son of this genealogy, and 3) how old he was when he died.  The only mention of females at all is almost parenthetically – they are among the “other” sons and daughters each man had.   These “other” sons and daughters are not named, are not part of the direct lineage being followed, and though their existence is acknowledged, they are not significant for the story.  That they must have been marrying and producing families and descendents is not within the interest of the text. 

St. John Chrysostom reminds his audience that every word of the scriptures are inspired, and that they must not just be read in dull, leaden  literal fashion, but rather one must allow the Holy Spirit to reveal the depth contained in the verses.  He did feel the genealogies were inspired and important, but in his own commentaries he often glosses over them and does not do the verse by verse parsing which is his usual way to approach the biblical text.   “I beg you all not to pass heedlessly by the contents of Holy Scripture.  I mean, there is nothing in the writings at this point which does not contain a great wealth of thought; after all, since the blessed authors composed under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, on that account they hold concealed within them great treasure because written by the Spirit. … You see, there is not even a syllable or even one letter contained in Scripture which does not have a great treasure concealed in its depths. … Sacred Scripture does not call in to play human wisdom for the understanding of its writings, but the revelation of the Spirit, so that we may learn the true meaning of its contents and draw from it a great benefit.”  For St. John not only are the writers of Scripture inspired by God, but also inspiration comes upon those who listen to or read them.  It isn’t literalism that is necessary to read them but more importantly we need inspiration to understand them.  Like many Patristic writers, Chrysostom saw the understanding of scriptures to be similar to mining gold – we cannot be satisfied with what we find on the surface, we must dig (work hard) to get deeper into them so that we can mine the depth of their riches.  

One might ask why should we read these ancient texts with their lists of names, describing a world that no longer exists and lifestyles to which we cannot relate?   St. Peter of Damaskos (12th Century AD) offers these thoughts about reading less interesting scriptural passages:   “I  went through all these slowly and diligently, trying to discover the root of man’s destruction and salvation, and which of his actions or practices does or does not bring him to salvation.  I wanted to find what it is that everyone seeks after, and how people served God in the past, and still serve Him today, in wealth or poverty, living among many sinners or in solitude, married or celibate: how, quite simply in every circumstance and activity we find life or death, salvation or destruction … Cain and Abel… between them jealousy triumphed, and deceit, and these gave rise to murder, cursing and terror.  I was astonished, too, by their descendants, whose sins were so many that they provoked the flood…”   For St. Peter, scripture offers us a chance to learn about the sins and mistakes of others, so that we don’t repeat them, and to realize there have been righteous people in every generation even when most people in the world practiced evil. 

On the Sunday before Christmas the Orthodox Church commemorates the Holy Ancestors of Christ and has the holy men of the genealogy celebrating the birth of Christ:  “Adorned with the glory of divine communion Adam exults today; with him, Abel leaps in gladness and Enoch rejoices; Seth dances for joy and Noah with him.” (Vespers hymn)

Next:  God Questions His Creation: Genesis 5:6-20(b)

God Questions His Creation: Genesis 5:1-2 (b)

See: God Questions His Creation: Genesis 5:1-2 (a)

Genesis 5:1 This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. 2 Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created.

God intended for humans to have some affinity toward him.  Our God-likeness relates us to God by nature, whether or not we believe in Him!   But the image of God which is bestowed on us by God  does not make us God, nor even like God, a lesson which Eve and Adam learned to their and our eternal sorrow.   Elsewhere in the Old Testament the people of God are sternly warned away from mistaken idol/image worship.   Isaiah 40:18 states flatly that no “likeness” of any sort compares with God.  So though we are created in God’s image, we humans are not comparable with God.   God is totally other.  In Deuteronomy 4:15-18, the Israelites are reminded that God is invisible and therefore it is forbidden to make any graven image in the likeness of any male or female or of any animal which humans might then worship.   Christians believe that the imagelessness of God changed when the Word became flesh and dwelt on earth and we were able to both see and touch Him.   The incarnation of God suddenly made God visible in the flesh.  To see Christ is to see God the Father (John 12:45).   This becomes the basis for the theology of the icon in Orthodoxy.  God really has brought about a new revelation, and Orthodox icons are an affirmation of the truth of the Gospel that Jesus is both God and man.

And again as in Genesis 1 both male and female are created simultaneously and co-equally, both in God’s likeness.  God blesses both the male and female.  In the Septuagint God names the male Adam.  Naming another being is a sign of the power God has over the man.

“When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God.  Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man.”    The unusual wording which is reminiscent of Genesis 1:27 reinforces the idea of God making man both male and female and giving them one name.  This may be what St. Paul had in mind when he wrote:    “there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus”  (Galatians 3:28).  For in Christ we both are blessed with what humans were before the Fall as well as with being a new creation.

Despite the apparent equality between man and woman being repeated here from Genesis 1, many who read Genesis including St. Paul still saw a male dominance as being normative on earth.  Paul comes to that conclusion by reading Genesis 1:27 through the interpretive lens of Genesis 2:22.   Genesis 5:1-2 repeats the Genesis 1:27 version of God creating humans:  male and female are created simultaneously and both are ikons (in the image of) God.  Usually such a repetition in scripture would be seen as significant by the Patristic writers such as John Chrysostom who thought that every verse and word was essential – doubly reinforced if the verse is repeated.  In this case despite this particular repetition, St. Paul more or less downplays Genesis 1:27 and 5:1-2, in favor of a notion that the woman is created after the male so therefore is not equal to the male but must submit to the male (1 Timothy 2:12-14).  His interpretation of Genesis 1 & 2 because it is part of Christian scripture becomes normative in Christian thinking, and yet it must be noted that his interpretation is not entirely faithful to the verses he downplays or outright ignores in 1Timothy.  In the Gospels, the Lord Jesus clearly accepted and affirmed the text of Genesis 1:27 and did not reinterpret that text through Genesis 2. “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female…”  (Matthew 19:4, Mark 10:6)     Jesus uses this passage in arguing against easy divorce and affirms that the husband and wife become one flesh – they share a union, a oneness which God intended when He made them male and female.   Here Jesus does not rank the woman as either second rate to the male or somehow below the male in God-given dignity.   When Jesus then makes the statement, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mark 10:9, Matthew 19:6 ), one realizes He is not simply referring to their marital union but how God created them from the beginning – male and female sharing a God ordained oneness. 

“… he blessed them…”   The original blessing of humans in Genesis 1:28 included words for the humans to be fruitful and to multiply and to fill the earth and subdue it.  The blessing by God is not fleshed out in this text.   To “bless” is far more than to “wish them well” or “wish them good luck.”   In the Bible words and names have power and are chosen carefully for they are thought to contain the essence of thing they represent.  To “bless” means to convey vigor, strength, life and peace to the one being blessed.   God in blessing is bestowing the very life and peace which belong to Him.

Genesis 5:1 takes us back to the beginning of humanity one more time.  It is not going to repeat the story of the original Fall of humankind.   Rather the story simply reminds us that in the beginning humans were blessed by God.  No paradise in the story this time, and no original sin is mentioned.  But quickly in the story it becomes clear that the world is not paradise for in it there is sin, and though humans live long, they still die.   The story is going to move quickly to the lives of the most important characters in the early history of the people of God.

Next: God Questions His Creation: Genesis 5:3-5 (a)

God Questions His Creation: Genesis 4:19-24 (a)

See:  God Questions His Creation: Genesis 4:16-18 (b)

4:19 And Lamech took two wives; the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. 20 Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have cattle. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. 22 Zillah bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron. The sister of Tubal-cain was Na’amah.

23 Lamech said to his wives: “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, hearken to what I say: I have slain a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. 24 If Cain is avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”

Unusual in these early genealogies Lamech’s wives are not only mentioned but their names are given – Adah and Zillah.  Some scholars think they are mentioned because they are disapproved of.   Is it possible that the author of the text so despised these women of Cain that their names are in the text for the same reason that Pontius Pilate’s name is in the Creed?  As can be seen in the other genealogies, not only are woman seldom named, often no woman is even mentioned with men fathering sons without reference to woman.   The first mention of wive’s names in the Seth lineage will come only in 11:29 with Sarai wife of Abraham. 

“…took two wives…”    The first mention in the Bible of polygamy occurs in the genealogy of the accursed Cain.   In Genesis 1-3,  God intends for the man to leave his parents and cling to his wife implying monogamy.  God does not command or bless polygamy here, Lamech simply takes two wives just as Eve took the forbidden fruit.  Lamech son of Cain is the only man in Genesis 1-11 to practice polygamy.  Later in Genesis Abraham will take a concubine to bear him a child, but that is not within the scope of our interest. 

“…the father of those…”   In some sense the text introduces an inconsistency.  Since all these people will supposedly be destroyed by the flood, in what sense they can be claimed to be the father of all tent dwellers, or musicians or metal workers is unknown.  Perhaps if different sections of the bible were actually written by different authors as Source Theory suggests, this source may be one that did not know of a flood tradition.

“Jabal…dwell in tents… have cattle”    This is the first mention of domesticated cattle.   It also is the first mention of any dwelling place for humans – tents.   Tents are the only housing mentioned directly in Genesis 1-11.  Noah also slept in a tent (9:21).  There are references to cities which one would assume implies some form of housing.  Genesis remains surprisingly barren of references to tools, transportation, furniture, housing, clothing, cooking utensils, food, weapons, commerce, or technology of any kind.

Jubal…lyre and pipe…”   The first mention of musical instruments.  Civilization and culture are appearing.  The fact that this is occurring in Cain’s lineage may indicate the scriptural author somewhat disapproved of this development.   Same is true of “Tubal-cain…forger of bronze and iron.”  This is the first mention of industry and technology.  The Iron and Bronze Age have arrived.  A certain degree of sophistication and technical knowledge is needed to make iron and bronze yet the text gives us little evidence of these emerging technologies.

“sister…was Na’amah”    This is the first mention of a daughter/sister by name. Among the descendents of Seth, the lineage which the Bible clearly favors and follows, neither wives nor daughters will be named until Abram takes Sarai to be his wife in  Genesis 11.   We are given virtually no insight into the domestic lives of these men of God.

“Lamech said to his wives…”    This is the only time in Genesis 1-11 that a man says something directly to his spouse or that any man directly addresses a woman – and he addresses them by name.  Adam spoke in the presence of his wife but the Scriptures record no words directed to her.    St. Paul commented that women should learn from their husbands at home (1 Corinthians 14:35), but Genesis might give an idea as to how hard that would be since the only man who spoke to his wife in these chapters is a vile and violent man.  In the more godly lineage of Seth through Noah, there is no record of the men talking to their wives.

“Lamech said…”   This is considered to be the first poem recited by a human in the bible.  Historical scholars do consider it to be poem from antiquity – thus representing the development of culture. 

Next:  God Questions His Creation: Genesis 4:19-24 (b)

Chromosomes: “Y” Males are Evolving Faster?

DNA

I continue to read with great interest about the science of genetics.  Admittedly I read mostly on a popular level though I have read several books on the topic.  I am no scientist and I acknowledge the risks of getting my science mediated through the popular media!  (Example in the fairly short Seth Borenstein article below there is this quote: “’Wow,’ said R. Scott Hawley, a genetics researcher at the Stowers Institute in Kansas City.  ‘That result is astounding.’”  Like wow, did we really need a scientist to offer this awesome quote?  Hopefully Hawley had a lot more profound things to say about the topic, and it does reveal the risk of getting science only from the popular media).  

Two articles I saw recently that piqued my interest both because of their content and because they offer examples of how scientific thinking continues to evolve as new data comes in changing scientific ideas that themselves had been well accepted in the scientific community.   Do the science – the scientific research – and offer the data and the minds of scientists can be changed, even if slowly and reluctantly.  This certainly is how scientific knowledge differs from the revealed knowledge of theology – “truth” in science is malleable in the face of factual data.  “Truth” can constantly change as it conforms to new experience.  Religion also relies on real experience, but theology claims there are some unchanging truths through which all other knowledge must be understood (for example, the existence of God).  Scientists do have a lens through which they view reality, but sometimes new data requires that the lens be changed or modified.  What is hotly debated in both science and theology is what changes are made necessary by experience, and what part of truth is non-negotiable  (For example, must scriptures be read literally?  Does epigenetics mean Lamarckian ideas must be reconsidered?)

Men more evolved? Y chromosome study stirs debate  by Seth Borenstein – Associate Press Science Writer  (Published – Jan 13, 2010)    

“Women may think of men as primitive, but new research indicates that the Y chromosome _ the thing that makes a man male _ is evolving far faster than the rest of the human genetic code.

A new study comparing the Y chromosomes from humans and chimpanzees, our nearest living relatives, show that they are about 30 percent different. That is far greater than the 2 percent difference between the rest of the human genetic code and that of the chimp’s, according to a study appearing online Wednesday in the journal Nature.

These changes occurred in the last 6 million years or so, relatively recently when it comes to evolution.”

Some are suggesting that the reason the Y chromosome may be evolving faster than other parts of the human genome is that the Y chromosome is unpaired, unlike the rest of the chromosomes in the human genome.  A female has two X chromosomes which makes them paired like all other human chromosomes.   But the male’s lone Y chromosome means when there are mutations there’s no matching chromosome to recombine and essentially cover up the change.”    This new research is changing the way some scientists understand gender.   In evolutionary terms gender is no more natural that asexuality – all is the result of evolution and must be accounted for in evolutionary terms.  All differences within a species (like gender) must also be accounted for by evolution.  So the fact that the Y chromosome may be evolving faster than the human species as a whole seems quite plausible and reasonable within evolutionary theory.   The studies author, Jennifer Hughes, cautioned that while the Y chromosome may be evolving more rapidly than the genome as a whole, this doesn’t mean men are more evolved than women.  And it should be noted that in any case in evolutionary theory “evolving more” has no qualitative value since evolution is not thought of as progress.

“Until recently the Y chromosome was considered the Rodney Dangerfield of genetics, especially because it had fewer genes than other chromosomes. A few years ago some researchers even suggested that the Y chromosome was shrinking so that in 50,000 years it would just disappear _ and so would men.

“The story is not as cut and dried as many would have liked to predict,” Hughes said. “It’s kind of fun to say that men are going to die out, but the science is proving _ now that we’ve got data _ that that’s not true at all.”

So science itself continues to evolve as new data challenges existing assumptions.  This means of course that “the final word” on some aspects of biology or quantum physics may always be beyond the limits of human knowledge.  Even scientists are capable of the hubris which has caused so many arrogant cultural warriors to fall.

Next:  DNA isn’t Destiny