God Helping Humans, Take "1"...

God:  OK, Eve... Adam... thanks for coming.  I have a somewhat urgent matter to discuss with you.

Adam:  Urgent?

God:  Yes... it means that it's important we discuss it right away.  To delay discussing it might cause undue stress.

Eve:  Stress?

God:  Yes.  You know that little pang you get when you're hungry or thirsty... or when you're not with me or not with each other but you suddenly wish you were... or when you're working the garden here and your heart-rate increases too much... or the sensation of being curious... you know the things I'm talking about?

Eve:  Oh yes.  Those are wonderful feelings because they inspire us to eat or reach out to one another or rest or explore.

Adam:  Those feelings are all stress?

God:  Yes, different kinds of stress.  And all of those kinds are good, as Eve points out.  But there are ways that you can make more stress in your lives and it becomes not so good.

Eve:  Not... good?

God:  Right.  I'm sure you can imagine how you might feel if you couldn't find food or water when you need it.  Or if you wanted to be with one another but couldn't be for some reason.  Or if you couldn't rest when you felt like it.  Or if you weren't allowed to explore.

Adam:  Well... I know that the longer I wait to eat or drink or rest, the stronger becomes my desire to do them, so I imagine that after a time without doing them my mind would be overcome and able to think of nothing else but my stress.

Eve:  And that doesn't sound pleasant at all.

God:  It isn't, believe me.  So, the thing you're imagining now is unnecessary stress.  Stress you don't have to feel in order to lead a full life.  And we can avoid that kind of stress simply by thinking through situations ahead of time a bit.  And that's what makes our meeting urgent.  Understand?

Adam:  Yes.

Eve:  Indeed, I do.

God:  Good.  Now, I've asked you to meet me at this tree.  I presume you've had a good look at it?

Adam:  Yes.

Eve:  It's a lovelier tree than any other.

God:  Right.  Well, I need to ask you not to eat any of its fruit.

Adam:  Why?

God:  Well, it turns out there's a very good reason, but it's kind of complicated and you'll have to allow me to explain it to you over time.  But for now I'd like for the only reason to be simply that I asked you not to.

Eve:  You mean, you want us to stay away from this tree for no reason?

God:  Oh no no no... it's for a reason.  But for now your reason is because you trust I know what I'm doing in taking my time to explain it to you.

Adam:  And our reason for trusting you is?

God:  Your reason for trusting me is... not obvious?

Adam:  Um...

Eve:  God made us and gave us all of this, Adam.

Adam:  And it is very good.

God:  So? What do you say?

Adam:  You can count on me!

Eve:  Me, too!

God:  Great!  See you in a few days.

Later...

God:  So... what happened here?

Adam:  She told me to eat from the tree!

Eve:  What???

God:  Er... and, Adam, I had asked you not to eat from it.

Adam:  I didn't know what to do!  I could trust you and not eat, or I could trust her and eat!

Eve:  Nobody forced you to do anything, pal.

God:  Well, we could have discussed it together.  There was no need to be hasty.

Eve:  Well, the serpent told me...

God:  Sorry, who?

Eve:  The serpent!

God: O... K...

Eve:  He told me that you were just trying to control us.

God:  OK, I can understand the thought-processes going on here, but... why didn't the two of you discuss it with me before...

Adam:  Because she's a psycho, that's why!

Eve:  Whatever, jerk.

God:  OK, see, THIS is precisely the kind of thing I was trying to avoid.  I was trying to teach you two about self-discipline, but the only way to do that was to actually put you in a position where you'd need to discipline yourselves.

Adam:  Discipline? Have you SEEN her eat?

Eve:  What???

God:  Now, just look at yourselves for a moment here.  Remember our discussion about stress? The two of you are feeling levels of stress that are unnecessary and unpleasant and you're feeling fear.

Adam:  Fear?

God:  Yes.  You don't know what to do with these feelings and your imagination is starting to put together that if you don't do SOMETHING with them they'll only get worse and worse.

Eve:  Wow.  I really want to punch this guy.

God:  Alright, Eve, what you're experiencing now is a response to fear.  You feel you must either fight the thing that is frightening you or you must flee from it.

Adam:  Flee... yes... I can relate to that one.

God:  All of this could have been avoided if you'd have just let me help you through it.

Eve:  I hope you don't still expect me to have babies with this creep.

Adam:  She made me put on this fig leaf.

Eve:  He looked ridiculous.

God:  OK, you two need to calm down.

Eve:  But here's the thing... even though I don't like how I'm feeling right now, I don't want to STOP feeling it.

Adam:  She's crazy!

God:  Eve, what you're experiencing now is another defense mechanism.  Psychologically, you don't want to face the reality that you're responsible for these bad feelings you're having so you project the blame onto others.  But THEN you get the notion that harming those others will help the feelings go away, so you begin to believe that your anger is something that will help you feel better rather than seeing that it's the thing that's making you feel bad.  So you nurse the anger until you have your vengeance.

Eve:  Sounds good to me.

Adam:  I'm outta here.

God:  Wait... wait, both of you please.  Right at this moment you have only two choices.  You can give into your fears and shed blood.  Or you can forgive one another and have peace.

Eve:  Forgive?

God:  Yes, just acknowledge that a great harm was done but then decide, by the power of your wills, that you're going to let your bad feelings run their courses right out of you, and then you're going to let the crime go without seeking some kind of compensation for your pain.

Eve:  Stupid.

Adam:  I'm not going to forgive her!

God:  Really, I'd intended to cover this over a longer period of time...

Adam:  Can't you just get rid of her and start over?

Eve:  Oh, SOMETHING'S going to stop breathing, THAT I can promise you.

God:  ... I mean, I had it all planned out, actually.  You really can't crash-course this kind of thing.

Eve:  I've got an idea... I'm going to kill that pet goat of yours.  That'll be better than killing YOU because it'll make you feel awful.  Then I'm going to skin it and give you something to wear so I don't have to look at you.

Adam:  HA!  I'll kill him before you have the sick pleasure and then I'll make YOU something to wear to cover the cottage cheese that passes for your thighs!

God:  Cottage cheese?

Eve:  Well, that sounds like a compromise to me.  We kill the goat, we put some clothes on, and we'll call ourselves square.

Adam:  Fine.  What do you think of that compromise, God?

God:  You mean which do I prefer, you killing a goat or killing each other??

Eve:  Done deal.  Get the goat.

God:  Actually, I'd prefer it if you'd just forgive one another and we start over.

Adam:  Eve's right, God.  This works just as well.

God:  Look, you two, can't we talk about...

Eve:  Ugh!

Adam:  Gross!

God:  ... this.

Adam:  Oh, sweetheart... what have we done?

Eve:  This poor creature died because of our sin!

Adam:  Let's never have to do anything like this again!

Eve:  Agreed, my love!  But... please still skin the thing so you can put something on.

Adam:  Yes, dear.

God:  *sigh*

the tree of knowledge

ok, so to know someone in the bible is about sex. So God asked Adam and Eve to not have sex, Eve, teased Adam she teased him by seducing him with her body(the apple). He, like anyone who is hungry(for sex) gave in  and had knowledge with her(sex). They fell, for the serpant (evil) wanted Eve for himself. So Eve, ashamed for what she did, by tempting Adam, offering temptation is a sin, saw what she did and felt ashamed.  This is the circle of life, The creation of the new world, repeated many times over, inclusive of Jesus' life, and now in the world as well.  The new messiah will be tempted by his/her utmost desire after being celibate as a sacrifice for the ability to heal others.  The creation of the new world is happening now. The new messiah is not a man in a robe and sandals that's so not cool right now. The new messiah is an ordinary person, someone you would least expect(God has a sense of humor) Imagine the "least of my brothers" someone perhaps disabled, female, gay, poor, non-white.  There is your answer to who the next messiah is. 

the tree of knowledge

There are no valid exegetics of the Hebrew that would lead to this interpretation.

"To know" used euphemistically in the Bible is a product of translation to English by prudes. The Hebrew lacks this masking of the act. The tree of knowledge is quite clearly about knowledge, and Adam and Eve quite clearly had sex after their expulsion from the Garden. Even the most liberal of trapeze acts with the text will not yield any different results. Additionally, if Adam and/or Eve were simply intended as metaphors for the trees of the Garden or vice versa, it is overwhelmingly probable that Eve would have been represented as the tree of life, not the tree of knowledge.

Nowhere is the fruit of the tree of knowledge depicted as an apple.

The serpent and the man are clearly distinct entities with separate thoughts. The serpent is the source of the temptation, not the woman or the man. The woman succumbs first, then entices the man. If this exchange were intended as a cover to describe sexual intercourse, then it would have been described as a single act for the simple reason that the woman had no one else to choose from. I suppose that it could be stretched that the serpent was available, but since this incorrect redaction requires that the serpent be an allegory for a penis, such an interpretation would unravel itself. Additionally, all three entities are prescribed their own punishment, further proof that the serpent of the story is a distinct, thinking entity, not an anthropomorphic penis.

No second Messiah is ever alluded to anywhere in any version of the Bible. The concept of a second Messiah would be ruled instantly heretical as it would imply that Jesus was an imperfect sacrifice. This is in direct contradiction with writing accepted as Scripture. Any idea of a secondary Messiah would instantly render both Judaism and Christianity as internally inconsistent religions, thus they would both be thoroughly invalidated.

I'm sorry, your sources have misled you into an interpretation that is completely unsupported by Scripture and verboten by core doctrine.

:o)

 

(ESI you rock!)

serpent and the tree

what i want to know is what happen to both of them , and now you know what they both repersent ,

apple and snake

*sigh*... if  this is all about sex and you say the apple is representative of Eve's body.... then why wouldn't the snake represent the part of Adam's body associated with his temptation?

Ok... it's just that ... I really don't buy "the woman is the evil temptress and the man is this poor hapless victim" thing... and if you're going to go over the top in one direction with silly metaphors, it would only make sense to go over the top on the other side of things too. 

I also think the GC has a point ... that the suggestion God makes to "go forth and multiply" does not lend to the "sex is evil" or "God doesn't want them to have sex" arguement either.

Re: the tree of knowledge

Um... OK... hadn't really noticed anyone asking who the next messiah would be, but thanks!

One question, though... didn't God tell Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply? How were they going to do that without... you know... having sex?

Tremendous

I always love the way you tell stories (and please ignore the response I submitted as Anonymous, I keep forgetting that this browser wipes its cookies after each session).

I never particularly thought this story needed that much retelling. The biggest question to me has always been how much of it is literal. This story is quite ancient. The Hebrew used is very straightforward, implying that it should be taken literally. Someone I was talking to about it tried to settle the matter by saying that if the author had intended a non-literal meaning, he would have used broad, flowery language instead of being so direct and simple. I have several counters, all of which were ignored by the person I was talking with, but might be considered by others.

  1. Moses, the probable author of Genesis*, stated that Scripture has two texts: its surface reading and a subtext, and that both must be grasped in order to understand Scripture.
  2. The author probably did have a more direct and simpler way of telling the story. Ancient Hebrew (and probably modern Hebrew, although I don't think I've ever worked with any text based on it) is so full of heavily weighted words and double-meanings that it's tough to use it without the words developing a second meaning. I've read many scholars that simply marvel at the way the entire Torah seems to be carefully crafted to tell two stories simultaneously. Of course that leads us right back to point #1, but to continue with point #2, it's easy to understand why the Jewish community embraced languages like Aramaic and Latin and English, etc. Hebrew is beautiful to read but sometimes you just want to ask where the bathroom is without starting a three-hour philosophical discussion. It is highly probable that Genesis' author had access to another, simpler language. If Moses truly is Genesis' author, then this is not probable; it's a given. Yet this person chose to write it in Hebrew**. It may simply be for the inherent beauty of the language, but given the structure of Genesis and the rest of the Torah, it's equally likely that Hebrew was used for its practically automatic subtexting.
  3. Even if this story is intended to be read as only the literal meaning of the words, it is still a parable. It is entirely possible that the text meaning of Genesis 3 is that it was an actual event and that the subtext meaning of Genesis 3 is that it is an example to the rest of humanity of the choice presented to us.

To treat Genesis 3 simply as a parable and discard its story-like elements, this is what I think is being demonstrated: God says, "I've given you all of creation, you've seen it all and been given dominion over it. With that as evidence of both My power and My willingness to give you everything, you may choose to trust Me and walk with me on My path, or you may choose to go alone on your own path. I will warn you that I will continue walking on My path, so if you walk your own, you do it without Me, and you cannot live without me." The people in the story chose their own path. That path had disastrous consequences, not only on those who chose the path, but on everyone who relied on them.

That parable has been extended to the rest of the Old Testament, in that each time Israel chose to walk on God's path, things were good, but when Israel chose to go their own way, they suffered disaster. That further develops into another teaching that the Israelites could have chosen to trust in God or in the decision of Adam and Eve, thus demonstrating that more important than trust is who that trust is placed in.

Or, I suppose it could just be a case of, "If you're going to live in my house, you're going to follow my rules."

*There is a lot of scholarly debate over the authorship of the Torah, the first five books of the Christian Bible and the Jewish Tanakh. After a lot of research on the subject, I personally find the idea of Torah being a redaction of the work of multiple authors to be unlikely. I also feel that the evidence of Moses being the most likely candidate for the authorship of the Torah is quite powerful. The number one argument promoted by those who support single authorship but oppose Moses as the author is that it includes some events after Moses' death. I feel that the evidence that all that post-mortem text contains hallmarks of a student trying to emulate the style of the teacher, and that it tells no more than is precisely necessary to finish the story before segueing into the book of Joshua, compelling enough to be satisfied that Moses wrote the Torah. I am not a credentialed Bible scholar, ancient language expert, writing expert, nor do I have much direct knowledge of ancient Hebrew.

**Some say that because much of the older books of the Bible may have spent a fair bit of time traveling orally more than as written language detract from the possibility that we know what the original version of Genesis said. They will then call upon the child's game of 'telephone', in which a person says a phrase to one person who tells it to another etc.etc. and then the final phrase is compared to the first. The fact that the phrase usually gets pretty mangled during a normal game of 'telephone' is then offered as proof that the Bible is mangled beyond all belief. While this may seem compelling, the only thing it really demonstrates is that some people are more than willing to display their ignorance of ancient methods of retaining information orally and of just what the Hebrews mean when they call their Scripture 'sacred'. Self-proclaimed experts who decry the oral transmission of the Bible, or any other ancient knowledge, are the scholastic equivalent of guys that go to football games in subzero temperatures without shirts on: they cause a ruckus and might even leave a long-term impression on some of the people near them, but it is neither favorable nor useful.

oral vs. written knowledge

Your post really got me thinking in a lot of different directions ESi. First, your description of Hebrew--man, sounds like my kind of language :-) OK put that on my always added on to list of things to do...

The description of the Genesis as a story about walking a path and choosing to go with God or to go their own way--how much of that has to do with the fact that it's being told by a people with a nomadic culture?

I like what you said about oral culture and memory. Does oral vs. written culture in fact have something to do with trust/knowledge? An oral culture based on a first-hand immediate experience--trust vs. a written culture which is not as dependent on relationship with an other (God) but more on objects and history (knowledge)? I'm thinking for example of the fact that there is no "name" for God--God is beyond knowledge or language--in fact one can't say the name (didn't that used to be a capital crime?). So maybe it's not even an oral vs. written language question, but a question of what can and cannot be represented in language at all. So God telling Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of knowledge is very like the fact that God's name cannot be spoken--these are areas that transcend knowledge?

Time to Think

Now that I've had a little more time to process what you were saying, I can address the portions I sort of ignored. I believe that today's animosity toward oral retention and transmission of knowledge is simply an artifact and abuse of the anthropic principle. Almost every American is literate, and, in this country, "illiterate" is held as a popular synonym for "stupid". As a result, many people implicitly think that the ancients were stupid. Alarmists also love to jump up and down every time one ancient copy of Scripture differs from another. The alarmists practically have to make a point of ignoring that the true remarkability is in how often ancient texts are identical... the variances could easily be written off as a statistical anomaly if one were so inclined. Knowing that many of these texts were transmitted orally and later written independently of each other, yet match so closely, is a true testament to just how well preserved this knowledge was during its oral transmission. Also, the alarmists forget to tell you that almost all of the variances are along the lines of one person saying "a history" compared to another saying "an history". Yes, technically, these are variants, but they can't even survive the translation into English. As an example, the French phrases "l'histoire" and "le histoire" must be considered variants, but both can only be rendered in English as "the history".

I wouldn't say that the name of God transcends all knowledge, but that it is outside the scope of human comprehension. Sure, these concepts are very similar, but they're not identical (that was a pre-emptive warding off of our anti-semantic buddy the GC :) ). I believe the presence of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is a representation of the availability of choice. Upon eating it, Adam and Eve knew they had chosen to defy God, which is the root definition of sin. Whether some property of the fruit of the tree or the act itself was the catalyst that brought them that knowledge is largely irrelevant to the outcome. God said "no" and they did it anyway. I personally don't think that this particular story alludes to any transcendental knowledge. In fact, the Gnostics say that special knowledge is required to know God, and they are unequivocally considered heretics today and throughout history. It seems to me that God has told us that those things we can't understand, we don't need to understand.

time & thinking

ESi, I know what you are talking about with the disdain for oral transmissionof knowledge.  I don't know if there's a word to describe it but it seems like the temporal version of ethnocentrism--temporalcentrism maybe?

Hmm, I'm glad you made that distinction between knowledge and comprehension actually.  I think comprehension is understanding through the intellect, but there are other ways of knowing--is that the distinction you were drawing?

In your reading of the story then the emphasis is on choice and what Adam and Eve were given as the temptation is not as important?  For me the fact that it is knowledge which is forbidden has always been the sticking point.

Jackpot

Temporalcentrism is an actual word, according to my anthropologist buddy.

jackpot

Heh, I made up an actual word Smile

temporalcentrism

I'm pretty sure there's an existing term for it, but I don't know what it is. I'll pass the question by my anthropologist buddy and see if he knows.

"Hmm, I'm glad you made that distinction between knowledge and comprehension actually. I think comprehension is understanding through the intellect, but there are other ways of knowing--is that the distinction you were drawing?"- After a fashion, that is the distinction I was drawing. Mainly, however, I think that perceptions of the story of Genesis 3 is often focused much too strongly on the perceived temptation of the tree and an erroneous belief that God was trying to deviously withhold knowledge from Adam and Eve.

People often say, "If the tree was such a temptation, why did God put it there?" A smart retort would be "Well, if your bug zapper will burn your child's finger, why do you put it on the porch?" The reason God put it there is because He had to in order to complete His design goal for humanity. The greatest gift God gave us is free will. Our choices in life are not restricted to that which will keep us or our species alive. We can do things for no other reason than because we want to. As a kid, I had to write a three-page report on why I decided to jump over the back of a chair. I simply repeated "Because it was there." over all three pages. I didn't have another reason that I knew of.

If God had not placed the tree in the garden, then Adam and Eve would never have had a choice to defy God. Nothing else was forbidden. By placing the tree, God said to them, "You have the choice to defy Me, but the consequence is pain."

The so-called "hidden knowledge" here was of the pain. I can tell my daughter not to touch the bug zapper because it will hurt, but if she's never really been hurt before, then what does that mean to her? As the GC's parable illustrated, Adam and Eve could not grasp the pain of separation from God because they had never experienced it... but the only way to know it was to experience it. God told them in advance that the pain of obtaining that knowledge was death, and also that the pain was completely not worth the knowledge.

I find it odd that people today still believe the serpent. He told Eve that God was withholding knowledge and that eating the fruit would give her that knowledge. Adam and Eve learned that the "hidden" knowledge was to know the pain of separation from God. People today STILL think there's something else to it, thus they continue eating from the tree.

knowledge & choice

OK I think what you wrote helps clarify what *ahem* bugs me about the original story. God gives human beings free will and the purpose of the tree is to give them the choice to defy God. Then the "hidden knowledge" is the pain of separation from God which they can't yet understand. So Adam & Eve are given the ability to make a choice, but not the knowledge of what the choice will cost them.

Maybe this is where the parenting analogy kind of breaks down for me. I think I would describe my parenting strategy as of necessity having my child initially depend on love/trust in me rather than knowledge, but that over time I'm trying to give my child the knowledge to make informed decisions without me, whereas it seems this story says that human beings should never have gotten the tools (eaten of the tree of knowledge) to make informed decisions. They are given choice but not the knowledge to make the choice (in fact the choice they are supposed to make is to deny knowledge). So is the point of that that human beings are always supposed to be in a kind of infant dependent relationship with God unlike children who we are trying to teach to be independent?

knowledge & choice

I think at this point we return to the GC's parable. God had told them one thing, the serpent another. They relied on their own decision, not that of God's. God would have wanted them to return to Him with this contradiction so He could guide them through. At one point, a human child becomes more or less equivalent to his parents, so we have to train them for the times when they'll be more or less alone on a decision. Finite humans never compare to the infinite God. So, while I don't think that an infant-adult relationship is what God has in mind, I do think God always desires a parental role as our guide and advisor. If we seek God's wisdom before we act, we can never go astray. It is the pride of humanity that our decisions are superior to God's that caused the Fall and that is the root of all sins committed today. The strongest, most mature Christians I know admit to this as being what they struggle with the most: taking problems to God first and seeking His guidance. That's why we say, "If Jesus is your co-pilot, you're in the wrong seat!"

knowledge & choice

Thanks ESi, and thanks to the GC too for the original parable--this has actually given me a lot of insight, not just about the story but about why it has always rubbed me the wrong way. I think I might be noticing the plank in my eye--so to speak--which has to do with my own very early independence and necessary self-reliance, and I think the idea of relinquishing that is a tough one for me.

knowledge & choice

I am but a servant, here to help as I can.

I would say your strengths set you ahead of a great many people that I've encountered. I'd also say the struggles you mention are a common thread in most people.

God grant me the serenity to
accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

knowledge & choice

Thanks for the kind words, ESi

oral vs. written knowledge

I've heard it said that reading the Bible in English is like reading it in black and white, but reading it in its original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic is like reading it in color. My mom found a site for Messianic Jews that has free training in Hebrew. I don't have the link handy but I've been debating on signing up. What little Hebrew I've been introduced to is absolutely fascinating. If you like the Bible and would like to get to know some Hebrew but don't have the time, then I highly recommend the Key Word Bible which has a Hebrew and Greek lexicon to match the NASB English with the more important words in the original language, and then lists references to the other times the same word is used. This is an amazing tool for people who want to do their own exegetics but don't have the time to attend seminary or the desire to be subjected to someone else's exegetics. Of course, the Bible commentary included in the Key Word Bible is biased, but nobody said the world is perfect.

I could probably have a lot of fun with the comparison of walking God's path and the nomadic history of the Jews, but I should say that the paraphrase I presented is all mine. I would say that a better example including a literal path walking is found in Exodus. The Israelites came to the edge of the Promised Land and sent in scouts. God had told them through Moses that the land was occupied and they'd have to fight for it, but that if they'd trust in Him, it wouldn't be a problem. The scouts returned with their assessment. Ten of them said that it was too risky, two of them said that it was the way God had described it and that they should continue in (10 said no, 2 said go). The people accepted the advice of the 10 and refused to enter the Promised Land. For defying God, they were "given" exactly what they asked for: God denied them entry into the Promised Land. They served out their punishment by wandering a meandering path through the wilderness between Egypt and Canaan. A path that would normally take a month or so on foot took 40 years... all because they chose to walk their own path rather than the one God laid out for them.

Your last paragraph is extremely deep and opens up areas I hadn't considered. Any answer I give the more probing portions of it would be somewhat off-the-cuff and would run the risk of not giving them the attention they deserve. I'll explain some facts first and see where that leads.

The Third (or Second, for Catholics and Lutherans) Commandment as most people recall it is to not take the name of God in vain. More modern translations render the same text as an order to not misuse the name of God (Exodus 2:7, Deuteronomy 5:11). As such, there was no direct commandment to never use the name of God, but because it's on the 'big list' as it were, and right at the top to boot, it's understood that you had better be certain that any time you do use His name that you are doing it appropriately. During a particular phase of Jewish history when the chief priests were more of the legalistic variety, they took it upon themselves to alter the written texts and change every time a name for God was written into a term that would be safe. This is similar to today's authorities restricting the publication of the instructions to build a nuclear bomb from popular literature. The knowledge itself isn't bad, but what some might do with that knowledge could be. Also, the practice wasn't entirely unheard of. This method is reminiscent of a common rabbinical style referenced as "building a wall around the law". Jesus used this technique during his sermon on the mount when he said that though the law called adultery a sin, even looking at someone lustfully was equally bad. The thought process behind this teaching style is that if I never look at a woman with lust in my heart, then the odds are very slim that I'd ever commit adultery. Therefore, I've hit a "wall" that prevents me from violating law (Matthew 5ff). So, it's not necessarily "wrong" to speak the name of God, it's just something you do not do whimsically.

Much of Kabbalah is focused on God's names. Kabbalah's main problem is that it is highly misrepresented even among the Jewish community. The "pop" Kabbalah we see so much of today is little more than the name of an ancient Jewish practice (if it can be called that, since you can't actually "practice" Kabbalah) stuck on ancient pagan practices that have been updated for modern pluralism. You can find an excellent overview of authentic Kabbalah on this site. I doubly recommend you read that page because it will probably at least address some of your other questions. Note that the person that wrote that page uses a technique very common among Jews that is also gaining popularity with some Christians: he uses "G-d" instead of writing out "God". This is a prime example of what we're talking about. Since using one of God's names carelessly is a sin, these folks figure if that they refrain from even using the abstracted label of "God" that they'll be that much further away from sinning. It may seem like overkill, but it's certainly well intentioned and has no negative consequences.

In Kabbalah, there are many names for God. Since the definition of a name is that it is a concrete manifestation to describe an abstract concept, there is no reason for God to not have many names. However, in my mind, these names are more like nicknames. This next part is typically not something I talk about a lot outside my normal Christian circle just because it involves a lot of large, complicated topics. However, I can't use the Scripture I want to use without it, so you're about to go through a quick crash course on Old Testament exegesis. I do feel that God has one True Name, but that, as you talked about, it is simply beyond understanding. To illustrate, consider Judges 13:17-18:

17Then Manoah inquired of the angel of the LORD, "What is your name, so that we may honor you when your word comes true?" 18He replied, "Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding. (NIV)

Interestingly, an alternate rendering of "It is beyond understanding" is "It is wonderful". The prior meaning is used in English translations because it makes more sense, but the second is an equally valid translation. You gotta love Hebrew! The reason this gets sticky is because of the verbage "the angel of the LORD". People are going to argue over this phrase until the Return, but I've joined Dr. David Jeremiah's camp on the subject: I believe that every time you see "angel of the LORD" in the Old Testament, it is referring to the pre-incarnate Jesus. There's no one piece of evidence that will support (or refute) this, it's a "big picture" outlook you get when you compile all the instances of "the angel of the LORD" as well as other passages, such as Genesis 32:22-30. Dr. David Jeremiah gives this subject a much better (if somewhat introductory) treatment in his book about angels. Remember that Dr. David Jeremiah tends to write books targeted for Christians, and this subject is somewhat advanced even for mature believers. I have absolutely no idea what an agnostic would think about all this, so if I've presented it poorly, it's just because I don't know how to find common footing. I didn't feel I could skip it though, because I wanted to present the passage in Judges as relevant to our conversation but didn't want to gloss over the use of the word "angel" either.

oral vs. written

 Thanks for providing such great information, ESi!

 Smile I had a feeling I had misread that section of your post about the path, but thought I'd just let it stand because I seemed to remember something from a course I took in we which read the Old Testament (among other things) and the Professor talked about the context of the nomadic history of the Jews in relation to God not being representable--not localized as in the worship of idols.

What I had in mind in referring to God's name was "Yahweh" as the English version of the four Hebrew consonants which I think are not pronounced in Jewish tradition (could they be pronounced?). That may be related to the idea of not taking the name of God in vain; I'm not sure.

I love that "beyond understanding" can also be rendered as "wonderful." I'm sure you can tell I'm fascinated by language, but part of that is also thinking about that border between what can and can't be reprsented--the root word "awe" for instance, in "awesome" and "awful"--the way in which what strikes us dumb can be joyful or terrifying.

oral vs. written

I totally wish I had the ability to sit a real Old Testament course. There are so many tiny facets going on in it that it just defies the imagination.

I've never heard anyone draw a direct line between the nomadic history of the Jews and the inability to make a proper representation of God before. That's really interesting. I do know that "Tabernacle" means "tent". The study of events surrounding the Tabernacle and the two Temples are fascinating to say the least. Even the Ark of the Covenant attests to God's intangibility. The two cherubim (sorry folks, cherubim don't look anything like babies) were placed above the Mercy Seat with their wings touching, creating a sort of delineated empty space -- where God would be.

The "tetragrammaton" is often transliterated into English as YHWH, YHVH, or JHVH. Every time you see "the LORD" with Lord printed in small caps in a modern English Bible, that's when the translators encountered a tetragrammaton. Each of these is the result of what I spoke about above, when the priesthood outright removed every use of one of God's names from written copies of the Bible. These copies were jealously guarded by the priesthood, so they had nearly complete control over them. The best translation of the tetragrammaton is "I AM". The priesthood chose to use this representation because of God's answer to Moses from the burning bush. It also happens to be my single favorite representation of God, because I can't think of a simpler way to talk about Him that so completely encompasses His identity and power. In fact, one of my favorite verses of the Bible is John 8:58: "Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am." This statement was almost certainly the turning point that gave the Sanhredin enough popular support to have Jesus executed without inciting a riot. Claiming to be the Messiah or even the Son of God was one thing, but claiming to be God?

In regards to your last paragraph, don't forget that each time an angel visited a human in the Bible, one of their first phrases was to not be afraid! Every person who saw an angel was terrified! If angels can command that sort of response in humans, and the Bible tells us that those angels who are constantly in God's presence hide their eyes in fear of Him, then it makes perfect sense to me that awful and awesome should have the same root. In fact, David Jeremiah preached a sermon once where he chided people for overuse of the word "awesome". He said it has lost most of its connotational power because it has been used to refer to such mundane things.

"Abashed the devil stood, and felt how awful goodness is" - John Milton, Paradise Lost

I've always had a knack for language, but I have a hard time keeping focused enough to truly learn entire ones. I do really enjoy etymology, however.

Being & Nothingness

Yes I've heard that definition of God's name as "I am"--and to me it makes a lot of sense, the idea of God as the very essence of what being is--existence.  I just finished teaching Dr. Faustus and Faust asks Mephistopheles to tell him where Hell is, and Mephistopheles replies that it's where he (Mephistopheles) is.  It has no location, but is wherever God is not (nonbeing--nothingness).  Marlowe almost seems like he prefigures the existentialists there.

Awesom/Awful: You know in "Raider of the Lost Ark" when they open the Ark and the first thing Belloq says is "It's beautiful" and then it destroys them--thought that was a very good imagining of what might happen even though the effects were kinda cheesey. Smile

Home

I've been familiar with the story of Faust but never actually got much closer than that. Funny that I was brought up with the idea that "Home is where momma is." Of course, "momma" is no longer my birth mother but the mother of my child, but I don't think I'd compare it with Hell Laughing

And thanks, now I feel compelled to watch RLA tonight. Sheesh. Oh well, not like I had other plans anyway. I don't think I remembered Belloq saying that at all, I just remember, "Once again, Dr. Jones, what was briefly yours is now mine."

Going Tangential

Heh, this is my favourite exchange between Belloq and Indy--

I am but a shadowy reflection of you. It would take only a nudge to make you like me. To push you out of the light.

Now you're getting nasty.

knowledge, stress, trust

This story has always been difficult for me--brings out my rebel archetype I think. I understand parts of it much better in your telling, but there are still things that don't make sense to me, particularly the relation of knowledge to stress. At first it seems like God is saying that knowledge reduces unnecessary stress--a little advanced planning, thinking about the future. But then he tells Adam & Eve to leave off thinking about the future--that is worrying about the reasons for not eating from the tree which he'll reveal later--but live in the moment, in trust in Him. That's the part which actually makes sense to me and explains how stress & knowledge connect. It's like the advice you get in a lot of meditation texts--to let the future unfold without trying to control it. So the part I don't understand is the very first part in which God says unnecessary stress can be avoided through planning (through knowledge)--isn't it planning that causes unnecessary stress and giving up of control (putting the future in God's hands so to speak) that helps alleviate it?

(Cottage cheese thighs-LOL. Eve: "ummm, Adam, do these goatskins make my hips look big?")

Re: knowledge, stress, trust

Well, in the story, God does say "think through things a bit"... one can consider the future without "stressing out" about it or trying to control it.  It's an issue of balance, naturally.  Living in the moment doesn't absolve one from considering the consequences of one's actions.  And note that God was trying to teach self-discipline... not self-control.

You bring up a good point, though, and I do intend to do some more of these so that the subtleties will come through better. Smile

I love the discussion y'all are having, by the way.  At the moment my computer access is spotty, though, so I'm not able to comment in all the places I'd like.  Not that I need to, of course... you guys are awesome. Smile

knowledge, stress, stories

Thanks for the clarification, GC. Self-discipline vs. self-control makes sense--Adam& Eve are given the ability to choose and part of learning what to choose and what not to choose is self-discipline. Self-control is oddly not really about controlling the self--it's about trying to control everything else (in a godlike way in fact) because not really trusting the self--if everything is determined ahead of time (through knowledge) then no choice required.

Reminds me of something I was thinking about in regard to story-telling (an idea that came out of thinking about Sayid as a troubador figure, for all you Lost Theorists out there Smile). I think when faced with some future event about which I have some fear or anxiety as to the outcome, or even when something is happening in the present that I don't really understand and am feeling anxious about--I tend to come up with some story that explains what is generating the feeling. Maybe people do this generally--when something is causing discomfort, look for the cause in order to end the discomfort. But the irony is that those stories always increase rather than decrease the fear/anxiety, I guess because in constructing stories we're both making ourselves the central character and also looking for causes outside ourselves--I feel anxious therefore in this story something bad must be about to happen to me rather than I feel anxious, I wonder what in me is generating that feeling.

Re: Awesomeness, reaping what you sow Smile

 

 

knowledge, stress, trust

That does seem to be a paradox for me as well. 

How do you know when you're "thinking/planning too much"?  vs. How do you know when to just trust in someone/something?

I'm not really sure I even have anything more than a guess and a half baked opinion on that one...

Maybe the rebel comes in because I think the need to trust has to do with what level of growth a person is at.  The novice is often seen as a child that lacks knowledge.  When a child is seeking independence and seeks to test the trust of the parents (or someone who claims to have more knowledge than them) or test their own knowledge in a contradiction - they rebel.  What makes it rebellion vs. standing up for themself is that the action is for the sake of the test not for the sake of seeking the truth.  They are looking for "proof" often to ease their own sense of insecurity... perhaps even motivated by the avoidance of pain.  I think controlling in the negative sense is being afraid of what might be the truth and acting on that out of grief and/or denial because they don't want to accept it.  They thought they were secure, or they thought they were knowledgeable and this was important to them for whatever reason... a suspicion is presented.  Do they accept this as evidence and lose what they want?  Humans on the whole resist this.  It's easier to fight and blame than to see something about ourselves or our situations that we don't want to accept.

That sense of security all humans crave is an illusion really... We know the cycles of agriculture and so planning on planting helps us to feed our families.  But it's still true that even if we do this we can't know for sure if our crops will produce or if they will be devistated by a storm.   There's only so much we can do.  The point is we do what we can and hope for the best.  There is no security for our expectations really. 

But it also strikes me that knowing something or someone and acting on that knowledge is not necessarily the same as trying to control.   I know my friend will listen to me and likes to help me sort through my problems... so when I need someone to talk to, I act on this knowledge.  In that instance I am acting on something that is true... something this friend told me.  I'm not doing this as a test or challenge or looking for "proof".... I'm acting based on a true need and utilizing the blessings offered to me.

Maybe the bottom line is that when you don't have knowledge you pretty much have to trust or you will spend your energy suspecting and fighting and that never brings anything positive.   Also I think the point is being made that you can't really be held responsible for that which you do not know and spending too much time on the "what ifs" takes away from energy best spent on the true challenges of the moment.

knowledge about the future, knowledge of a friend

I think I understand the distinction you made DL as it applies to the GC's parable.

There's knowledge of the future, which we can't really have, but then there's knowledge about a friend (which could also be called trust). So in fact, Adam & Eve, though they are being told not to eat of the tree of knowledge, in fact already have knowledge--that is the knowledge that they can trust in God, but they sacrifice that knowledge for the hope of the other kind--knowledge and control of the future which is in fact illusory and might better be called anxiety.

Still not sure if the very beginning of the parable makes sense to me though as that still seems to about knowledge of the future.

Second part of what you raised--rebellion vs. standing up for yourself. I think in my case I remember struggling with the realization that my parent's representations of the world didn't seem to accord with my own perceptions--so in the story of Adam & Eve and the Garden of Eden I identify with the kids, and the kids needing to know as a protection/security, a way to take care of themselves. So maybe the parent/child=God/humanity analogy kind of breaks down there. To me the stages as a child are first that stage where you do realize that your parents don't always see the world accurately--they lose some of that godlike quality and you take that personally, feeling disappointed or angry with them as if they did this to you deliberately and of course you, the kid, know the world as it really is; and then there's a later stage where you realize that everyone has defenses, parents (and self) included. Maybe that's where the teen or young adult actually loses their own sense of themselves as godlike and gains empathy for their parents.

Ooooo...

Heh, how sagacious of you. You should do more of these. Smile

Hmm...

Interesting.... :)