CONTENT WARNING: What follows is a discussion on The Bible, so it contains discussions about violence, sex, fratricide, incest, rape and God – all of which could be considered offensive.
It is also written by an atheist, so Christians without a sense of humour, beware.
We begin, funnily enough, at the beginning. Now the words of the ESV bible say “God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void…” Many of you might be asking how you can ‘create’ something that is ‘without form and void…’ but I’d suggest you listen to Justin Bieber’s latest album before asking that question. I think you’ll come to understand.
This chapter is a lot of words about God making stuff. He realises he’ll probably trip over the formless Earth if he doesn’t flick the light on first so he goes “Oi! Light!” and they come on, “and God saw that the light was good.”
God looks at a lot of what he creates and proclaims it good, which is how you know he’s either a) not real or b) a narcissist. Every creator I know constantly complains about how their creations are not good enough.
Then God separates his firmaments, the waters and the heavens (or sky), and makes land and calls it ‘land’. I’m not kidding. It’s put down as “God called the dry land earth” with a footnote that it could also translate to ‘land’. So “God called the dry land land.”
He sees it’s good.
Then he makes plants and veggies and it’s also good.
God is coming across as a smug git.
Then he separates the days and nights, the seasons etc. the swarms that swim and the flying things (presumably birds and not Boeing 747s).
They are all, of course, good.
Then he makes people, and tells them “Be fruitful and multiply.” So they ate too many strawberries and did mathematical calculations.
He also tells them to ‘subdue’ the earth and that they have dominion over the creatures, the fish and the birds.
Theologically this is possibly one of the most important passages in the book. I obviously have a biological background, to me evolution by natural selection is what created humanity, and any dominion that humans feel entitled to comes out of that natural instinct to dominate and procreate – to remove effective competition from the face of the earth so our genome can triumph.
We are rapidly coming to learn that the genome is hideously misguided in this regard, and ecosystems lacking in biodiversity very quickly decline and thus no longer remain for us to exploit for our own survival. Indeed, fruitful multiplication is only so good up to a point, at that point growth becomes exponential, and slowing growth for the sake of sustainability becomes far more important.
So this small passage that gives Christians permission to subjugate the earth and dominate its animal inhabitants is something I passionately disagree with. To me, every creature has survived a very long, arduous process of evolution and just as validly exists as any other, however to someone who believes in the Bible it could be construed that people are better than animals.
“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good…” remember that for later. He’s just made everything, Adam and Eve included and he thinks it’s “Very good…”
On the seventh day, God’s lazy. In all fairness we’ll let him have a break, he did just create the heavens and the Earth and the seas and days and – it’s a lot to get done in a week. I can barely paint the bathroom of a long-weekend! Okay, we are about to find out he didn’t do as good a job as he likes to give himself credit for, but he tried hard.
In this chapter we find out that Homo sapiens is not actually a remarkably well-adapted, bipedal, upright hunting ape but is actually just some dust that got breathed on.
Now this is where we move on to one of my favourite bits of the book of Genesis for discussion.
God makes man, shoves him in the Garden of Eden, presumably like that little yellow person on Google Maps when you drag them to street view, says “Matey boy, you’re gonna love it here. You can eat everything…Except that! DON’T TOUCH THAT!”
Point one, if man is made in God’s image then God must be a curious bastard because asking anyone not to touch something is going to do one of two things; make them ask why, and want to touch it.
But more importantly what man is not allowed to eat from is “The tree of knowledge of good and evil.”
There is a massive discussion to be had about ignorance and innocence, the wrongful equating of those two ideas, and the fact that according to the scripture, God effectively wanted to hold humans captive in the Garden of Eden to tend it whilst keeping them ignorant.
After all what is innocence, what is goodness, without a sense of bad, or evil? How can one truly say one is ‘good’ if there is no idea of ‘evil’ to contrast it with? Surely goodness comes from having knowledge of right and wrong and choosing to do right, even when it is the harder option?
Having knowledge of the differences between good and evil will merely make humans more knowledgeable, not necessarily evil. In fact, it would allow them the opportunity to demonstrate themselves to be truly good. Yet God prohibits them from gaining that knowledge.
I would ask the question “To what benefit?” and the only suppositions I can come up with are that God is so stupid he conflates ignorance and innocence, or God is evil and doesn’t want humans figuring it out.
It then brings a whole new meaning to the serpent of temptation, too. But let’s wait for that bit.
Somehow God parades all the creatures of the Earth before Adam (which basically just means ‘the man’ in Hebrew) and has Adam name them and whatever he names them is what they should be called. That’s why we have such wonderful animals as the fatpinks, the bigmoos, colourbawks and of course the Idontknowcraftmeawomanalready.
What they were searching for was a ‘helper’ for Adam, and since none of those creatures was good enough it’s necessary to anaesthetise Adam, remove a part of his body and craft a woman out of it.
There are possibly scientific ways this could be done, but all of them would leave Eve a little genetically lacking, so let’s just say it was Godly magic and not look too deeply into the fact that Adam’s wife is literally a gender-swapped clone of himself.
Whatever, they were naked and unashamed, so they were clearly winning.
This is the chapter where the wily serpent convinces poor, dear Eve to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and she gives it to Adam, and the serpent laughs and God loses his shit.
You see Eve thinks she has ‘been deceived’ – and she has, just not by the serpent. God said to Adam that if he ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil then he would ‘surely die’. To this point there has been no reason to suspect Adam wouldn’t die, in time, anyway. The implication, then, is eating from that tree kills you by the action of the fruit of that tree, it’s poison, in other words.
Except it doesn’t.
The serpent knows as much and says to Eve;
“You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
And that’s exactly what happens, as confirmed by God near the end of the chapter when he says
“Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil.”
He goes on to confirm my suspicions that man did not have eternal life by saying;
“Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat and live forever – “ and he casts them out of Eden.
So clearly there was another tree that they didn’t know about, this so-called ‘tree of life’ that they hadn’t eaten from yet. They did not ‘surely die’ because of eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and everything the serpent said was actually true!
Now personally I think this is all a metaphor.
At one point in time humans were naked, free, unaware and unashamed, and then as culture developed, civilisation and communities developed, suddenly we start coming up with rules. Put your nob away, cover your nipples, don’t touch this, don’t do that, etc.
The longer we exist in our environment the more we learn about it thus the more we eat of the metaphorical tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Morality is not innate but rather is something that has developed as behaviour to protect us from ourselves, each other and our baser behaviours. To some extent there is a socially cohesive cognitive mechanism, that one could call ‘shame’, that encourages us to fit in, co-operate and abide by these social norms. Naturally, over time, these are subject to change, such is the whim of fad and fashion and the quickness with which human culture develops. These rules are constantly shifting.
The thing is there are people who don’t think this is a metaphor, who think this actually happened and who think God is in the right. How?
I mean for one thing God curses serpents to crawl along the ground and eat dirt. Snakes are very adept at climbing trees and eat whatever the hell they want. Clearly God did a bad job of cursing the serpent.
Now again, anthropo-sociologically I look at the serpent metaphor and I say okay, a species develops in the plains of Africa, moving to the fertile crescent at some point, we’ve got cobras, mambas, vipers, adders – all in those regions. As a long-distance, walking, hunting species Homo sapiens would have had snakes as one of their worst enemies. Serpents would have directly led to an awful lot of loss of life.
There is a theory, the ‘snake detection hypothesis’, that credits the incredible development of primate visual acuity, including that in humans, to the necessity of the ability to spot snakes – often well camouflaged and difficult to spot. There is some evidence to back this up, although the theory is still contested.
I’d argue it makes sense, snakes eat smaller primates and many of the snakes humans would have evolved around still had the power to kill us. Being able to spot a snake is a valuable survival skill, therefore I look at the serpent in the book of Genesis as reflecting that necessity. We are being taught to be wary of serpents. This, to me, is exactly what is referred to when God later says, of the serpent;
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
It is saying “You guys are gonna hate each other, because humans will step on snakes’ heads and snakes will bite back!” as far as I’m concerned.
But again, some people don’t believe it’s a metaphor, they believe that the devil, in the guise of a serpent, tempted Eve.
Let’s say it is all true. Everything written in Genesis, Chapter 3 is true.
God lied to Adam about exactly what would happen if he ate from that tree, the serpent told the truth, Eve gives some to Adam, and Adam, like a little bitch, grasses up his wife to God; God then curses the serpent to crawl on his belly and eat dirt, Eve to have the tremendous pain of childbirth and subjugation to her husband, and Adam to have to work and suffer to make any food, but God also makes sure the ground is full of thistles and thorns. He concludes by saying “Now you’re half as good as me you can all fuck off!” and sends them out of Eden, and he put a Cherubim, an angel, with a sword of fire, in the way of their returning not in case they wanted to squat, in case they wanted some food, in case they just fancied a nap somewhere safe, it specifically states to ‘guard the tree of life’. God put a guard to prevent Adam and Eve from gaining eternal life.
You still wanna tell me God’s the good guy here? It’s like kicking a homeless person out of a shop doorway in the middle of the night because you’re scared of how it’ll look to your brand. God is an insecure little whelp. He seems to be obsessed with subjugation, with humiliation and with proving how big and ‘ard he is.
As a metaphor for the development of complex human social structure, and a weird innate, primate ability to be cautious of snakes this chapter is incredible. It’s fucking poetry, frankly.
To take it literally, though, is to demonise snakes and women, to excuse Adam for being not only a suggestible twit, but also a fucking grass, and to forgive God for literally being the biggest bastard in the Bible.
Again, God does not stop Adam and Eve from returning to Eden lest they live a comfortable life. Having eaten of the tree of knowledge of good and evil they are, cognitively, as God. They know. They are simply missing the eternal life part. God needs to keep them from that, apparently.
But why? What is God so afraid of? And this reaction, this anger, acting out in this way does scream ‘fear’. Perhaps man was not so much made in God’s image so much as their capacity for togetherness worked out some kinks of this selfish, petulant creator. Perhaps a unified group of people with eternal life beats a solitary God?
I don’t know, but I know if I took this literally, if I believed this was the literal word of God and was the truth of how things came to be I’d think long and hard on those passages. There’s a lot that doesn’t add up.
Adam ‘knew’ Eve. Now, ‘knew’ is Bible for ‘fucked’.
They knew each other twice in quick succession, and Eve gave birth to Cain and Abel. Abel was a shepherd, although how well he knew the sheep is not mentioned. Cain, meanwhile, grew fruit and crops.
Anyway, Abel took some fat portions of lamb to God and he was chuffed and loved it. Meanwhile Cain took him some fruit and veggies and God hated it.
Oh yeah, by the way, apparently despite all of the “Get the fuck out of Eden, you good and evil knowing bastards!” Eve thanks God for her kids, and they’re all busy giving him tribute.
I mean…That sounds less like a God/subject relationship and more like indentured servitude, but whatever…
So yeah, being the first violently self-righteous opponent of livestock farming, Cain kills Abel. It seems a perfectly reasonable reaction to God preferring a bit of lamb over his veggies.
So God punishes Cain by telling him he’s a dick, and to piss off. In my opinion this ‘Curse’ seems more like a blessing to get out of the toxic relationship his family seems to have with their ‘Lord’.
For the crime of murdering his own brother (which, incidentally, comparative mythology speaking, big theme – Fratricide is big in human myth, I don’t know why) Cain goes to settle in the lovely sounding Land of Nod, and is banished from the general area of Eden, but nobody can take vengeance on him because if they do Cain will be avenged ‘sevenfold’. That’s his punishment.
Now, I’m confused anyway, because who’s going to murder him? Adam and Eve had two children, Cain and Abel, of which one is now definitely dead. If Adam and Eve were the first and only people, for one, as a biologist, one couple is not enough for a stable, healthy population. Indeed they would be considered functionally extinct because eventually inbreeding effects would destabilise the population such that future complications and infertility are inevitable – so I call bullshit straight away.
But, yeah, who is Cain worried about taking vengeance on him? His dad? His mum? They’re literally the only two people left on the damn planet and you’re their only remaining kid!
Allegedly, Adam and Eve had more kids we just don’t hear about. That’s convenient!
Anyway Cain gets a wife from somewhere? Won her in a card game or she fell from space or something.
They have a child named Enoch, and apparently they founded a city and, in the pioneering spirit of originality, named it Enoch. You know, just to avoid confusion.
This is where the Bible does what the Bible loves to do and tells us a bunch of consecutive kids.
Enoch has Irad
Irad has Mehujael
Mehujael has Methushael
and Methushael has Lamech.
The bible loves doing this – so and so begat so and so and all that. Get used to lists like that above.
Anyway, Lamech has two wives, Adah and Zillah. Adah gives birth to Jabal who apparently was the father of all nomadic shepherds. Zillah gives birth to Jubal, who is the father of all musicians. Zillah also gives birth to Tubal-Cain, who apparently foraged bronze and iron instruments. So presumably the first archaeologist? Although I suspect the intention is the first metallurgist. He had a sister called Naamah as in “Please, Naamah of these fucking pointless stories about biblical kids.”
Anyway, Lamech tells his wives he killed a dude, so now nobody can attack him because, like Cain, he’s now protected.
You see! God’s punishment of Cain literally makes murder preferable! The ‘Mark of Cain’ is a mark of God’s protection. When you do a murder, God protects you!
Seriously, though, I have no idea what this passage is even about. So of course I googled ‘Genesis Chapter 4 meaning’ and discovered the treasure trove of interpretative biblical comedy that is EnduringWord.com. This is the world’s foremost resource in post-hoc biblical interpretative nonsense.
According to them what it’s supposed to be suggesting is presumably how humanity is growing quickly, and further away from God. But they’re developing housebuilding, the arts, music and metallurgy! I mean, did God not give humans dominion over all things? And then cast them out of Eden and tell them to make their own way? And then God’s, what? Disappointed when they actually do well? What did he expect? That humans were going to sit in a corner crying about how they disappointed ‘Daddy’?
Again, this is where the theological concept of God creating man ‘in his image’ just seems to fall apart for me. To steal a line from King Lear it seems our God “Hath ever but slenderly known himself.” If mankind is created in God’s image then they are just as prideful, capable and murderous as he, surely?
Finally we end the chapter with Adam and Eve (yeah, they’re still, apparently, alive) having another kid named Seth to replace Abel.
Seth has a kid named Enosh.
“At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.” Too right they did! They were probably moaning about the inbreeding defects. Where did all of these wives come from!?
Shall we answer that? As far as I am aware (which means making fun of enduringword) the thought is that at this point the human genome was of such Godly purity that incest was fine, and the genome would only be compromised further down the line.
Biologists understand this is literally not how life works. Besides the fact that to make a human female out of a biological part of a human male would likely involve extracting one set of that man’s chromosomes (including the X, sex-determining, chromosome). Then at least cloning that X chromosome to give Eve two copies, making her already, effectively, a sex-swapped identical twin of Adam. But actually relatedness, the closeness of a relation, is the bigger danger in inbreeding. The more closely related you are to your mate, the higher the danger of unviable embryos, stillbirth or birth defects.
What’s more at no point does it say “And Cain married his sister.” Which you would think would be a pertinent point. What’s more, Cain is banished and cursed to wander the earth, settling in the Land of Nod, East of Eden. He went somewhere completely different. Did he take his wife with him? Did he go back to his parents and say “Yo, gimme a sister to shag?” – I think it’s most likely Adam and Eve are metaphorical ‘first people’.
There were others upon the Earth. Humanity did not evolve in a vacuum, this is not a story of the ‘first of all people’, this is a story of the ‘first of all of a specific group of people’ namely what would be the nation under Abraham, named Israel – It is the origin story, specifically, of that group. Cain got himself a woman from elsewhere!
To have a belief in scripture that fundamentally accepts inbreeding on the basis that God had created a creature so pure in humans that what are presumably clones could fuck each other, and then their kids could fuck each other and have kids who wouldn’t be severely compromised is fabricated, post-hoc bullshit.
If this is, in any way, rooted in the history of people it is the history of a specific group of people. Otherwise you should take it for what it is – a story from that alien world of the far-distant past that would have been told for close to a thousand years around campfires and hearths, spread orally, before it was even written down. The original stories would already be so alien to us, but when their true intents, meanings and purposes are obscured by a millennium of interpretations, changes and cultural shifts – There’s not a priest, rabbi or imam on the planet who can tell you what is truly intended to be meant. Claims to the contrary merely represent arrogance.
Are you ready for a list! Because this chapter is basically just listing the generations between Adam and Noah, and their respective ages! It’s thrilling, but there’s a cheesy punchline at the end for ya! I’ll make it worth it!
By the way, only one child is ever named but everyone has ‘other sons and daughters’ – I bet those ‘other sons and daughters’ feel really important in heaven right now.
Anyway, Adam was 130 years old when Seth was born.
Adam lived to 930 years old and then he died.
Seth fathered Enosh when he was 105 years old.
Seth died when he was 912 years old.
Enosh fathered Kenan when he was 90 years old.
Enosh died when he was 905 years old.
Kenan became best friends with Kel (who, behold, loved orange soda, it’s true).
They went on many adventures together, including inventing the burger.
They made an offering of Burger to God who said it was “Good.”
Henceforth it was known as Good Burger.
Kenan fathered Mahalalel when he was 70 years old.
Kenan died when he was 910 years old.
Mahalalel fathered Jared when he was 65 years old.
Mahalalel died when he was 895 years old.
Jared fathered Enoch when he was 162 years old.
Jared died when he was 962 years old.
Enoch fathered Methuselah when he was 65 years old.
Enoch walked with God (or ‘pleased’ him, according to the Septuagint version) – Either way, Enoch and God were besties.
Enoch only spent 365 years on Earth.
He did not die.
He went for a walk with God and was not found. So apparently God took him.
It is obvious they did not have dog-walkers in those days, because I’m fairly certain Enoch’s body would have been found if they did.
Methuselah was 187 years old when he fathered Lamech.
Methuselah died when he was 969 years old.
Lamech was 182 years old when he father Noah.
Lamech was 777 (JACKPOT!) Years old when he died.
After Noah hit the big 5-0-0 and had his 500th birthday he had three kids; Shem, Ham and Japheth.
Since Ham is the middle child you could call Noah’s sons a Ham sandwich.
Badum-tisch! Thank you, I’m here all week.
What does this teach us? Well, keep fucking! Apparently if you keep fucking well past pensionable age you live to be nearly a millennium old! Look at these horny old bastards!
Now I’ve worked out that I absolutely love EnduringWord.com because they’re hilarious. At the beginning of Chapter 5 it explains that God’s naming of humanity. It says, in the ESV “Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created.”
Literally no reasoning whatsoever – It’s just what God called people.
EnduringWord’s analysis on any supposition that this could be considered sexist nomenclature is thus;
“It is not sexist or gender-biased to call the human race by the general heading Mankind because God does this.”
So, if ever you feel like impregnating someone with your only begotten son, then specifically delivering them up for torture and execution that’s okay, because God does this!
Ever get the urge to drown everyone and everything because it is morally impure in your eyes? That’s okay, because God does this!
Feel like completely obliterating two cities because you disagree with their morality? It’s okay, because God does this!
Feel like giving two daughters permission to rape their drunk and sleeping dad? It’s okay, because God does this (oh yeah, we’ll get there!)
The circular reasoning “It’s not sexist, God did it…” well…how do you know God’s not sexist? I mean, he literally, according to the Bible, created Eve to be Adam’s fucking ‘helper’! It kind of feels like the cards are stacked against woman from chapter fucking 1!
This is where we’re going to call it. The heavens and the Earth are made, life is flourishing and I’m sure nothing could possibly go wrong!