Sunday, June 4, 2006

Blogging The Bible

Over at Slate, David Plotz is "Blogging the Bible." A self-described "lax but well-educated" Jew, here's part of the preface to his latest blogging project:

My goal is pretty simple. I want to find out what happens
when an ignorant person actually reads the book on which his religion is based. I think I'm in the same position as many other lazy but faithful people (Christians, Jews, Moslems, Hindus). I love Judaism; I love (most of) the lessons it has taught me about how to live in the world; and yet I realized I am fundamentally ignorant about its foundation, its essential document. So, what will happen if I approach my Bible empty, unmediated by teachers or rabbis or parents? What will delight and horrify me? How will the Bible relate to the religion I practice, and the lessons I thought I learned in synagogue and Hebrew School?

An interesting project, and probably a common start to many spiritual journeys. I've been there myself. Today, roughly six years after that similar moment in my own life, I'm 5 years a convert to Christianity.

As of today, Mr. Plotz is eight entries deep into Blogging the Bible; but, to cut to the chase, I'd like to go back to
his second day of blogging:

Yesterday, I wrote that God's warning to Adam and Eve about eating the tree of knowledge—"for as soon as you eat of it, you shall die"—seemed like lax parenting by the Lord, since in fact Adam and Eve don't die when they eat it, but are merely punished.

Lots of readers wrote in to critique my reading, and offer another interpretation. They point out that until this point in Creation, death didn't exist in Eden. There was no reason to think that Adam and Eve would ever die. By eating from the tree, Adam and Eve bring death into the world. God does not promise to kill them if they eat the fruit, he just promises that they shall die. And in fact, they do die. My quibble with this interpretation: It ignores, "as soon as you eat of it." Adam and Eve don't die for hundreds of years.
Plotz's readers refer to a common interpretation of the Fruit Story: That Adam and Eve (that is, Humanity) became mortal at the very moment they tasted of the fruit. Like many passages in the Bible, there are several levels on which you can find lessons and meaning. And I happen to believe that we are to understand that they did become mortal at that moment.

But the Christian explanation goes further in at least one important regard. A constant theme in Jesus' teachings is that he is offering Life to his followers--Life, because they are Dead; or, to put it another way: they are living apart from God. When Adam and Eve chose to eat the fruit, they chose to separate themselves from God; and that, in Biblical terms, is Death. And, yes, to answer Plotz's "quibble," that "Death" was immediate.

By definition, sins are choices we make which further separate us from God. The eating of the fruit was literally (or symbolically, if you prefer an allegorical interpretation of Genesis) the first sin, the Fall, Mankind's first decision which separated it from its Creator.

In Jesus' teachings--in Christianity--we are told how to narrow that separation--how to draw closer to our Creator once again. And so, when one converts to Christianity, and invites God's Holy Spirit into his heart, he begins to enter true Life--the Life Adam & Eve chose to leave. As Jesus says in the Gospel of John 6:32-35:

"...Moses didn't give [bread] to [the Hebrew people in the Wilderness]. My Father did. And now he offers you true Bread from heaven. The true Bread is a Person--the one sent by God from heaven, and he gives life to the world." (my emphasis in bold)
With Jesus, Genesis comes full circle. By
accepting Him as our Messiah, we are given a means to mend our separation from God.

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