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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A look at Abrahamic Religions — 2

Part 1 is here in case you missed it.

Let's take a further look at the whole Old Testament (OT). I'll start with Genesis since that applies to Jews and Christians alike, with both claiming that it was dictated by their Gods. I have used the plural version (Gods) because they are not the same: YHWH (although pronounced 'Yahweh', the vowels are never written down) is the Jewish God; Jesus is the Christian God.

[Given the fact that Allah, the 'Muslim God', is also different from the other two mentioned above, I wonder how these religions are considered to be similar when their very basis is different. But that would lead us to other stories about Ibrahim/Abraham or Ahlé Kitaab - so let's forget about it here. Maybe you can ask some scholar for their views. Mohammad Sheikh's video about Ahlé Kitaab, for example, is totally different from what the majority of Muslims believe.]

As a starting book of the OT (and as part of the Pentateuch) it has several errors in it. While I accept that it has changed, anyone changing a religious work - unless s/he is evil - is more than likely to remove the 'bad' or 'inaccurate' parts, if any, and make the book even better. This certainly did not happen in this book. I can't believe that these changes were made by scholars or believers۔ Let me start with Chapters 1-5 of Genesis in this post.

Genesis 1

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.
5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

There was Light and Dark? Really? These are effects that take place as the Earth revolves around itself and continues to do so around the Sun. But this goes on until this happens:

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years,
15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so.
16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.

Well, the lesser light (the Moon) doesn't agree with God and comes out, fairly frequently, in the day time. This is apart from the fact that it's actual Light is its reflection of the Sun.

17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth,
18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness.
And God saw that it was good.
19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

Genesis 2
It took 6 days to create all this.

1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.

2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.

Rested? Does he get tired?
I mean, it's not physical labour for him, no.
Of course there are other things to Create, too.
So let's have a Creation Story. Right.

Genesis begins with two contradictory creation accounts.

In the first creation story,
humans are created after the other animals.

And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. [Genesis 1:25-27]

In the second story,
humans were created before the other animals.

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. [Genesis 2:18-19]

In the first creation story,
the first man and woman were created simultaneously.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. [Genesis 1:25-27]

In the second account,
the man was created first,
then the animals,
then the woman from the man's rib.

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them.... And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. [Genesis 2:18-22]


There is a small problem, here, too. For Genesis 5.2 states that He created them male and female and blessed them. And he named them “Adam” when they were created.

Rabbinic discussions about the two versions of Creation and 'the androgyne' can be found in Genesis Rabbah and Leviticus Rabbah, which are collections of midrashim (ancient writings attached to the Bible by Jews) about the books of Genesis and Leviticus. In Genesis Rabbah the rabbis wonder whether a verse from Psalms offers insight into the first version of Creation, perhaps indicating that ‘adam was actually a hermaphrodite with two faces':

“You have formed me before and behind’ (Psalms 139:5)… Rabbi Jeremiah b. Leazar said: When the Holy One, blessed be He, created the first ‘adam, He created it with both male and female sexual organs, as it is written, ‘Male and female He created them, and He called their name ‘adam, (Genesis 5:2). Rabbi Samuel b. Nahmani said, “When the Holy One, blessed be He, created the first ‘adam, He created him with two faces, then split him and made him two backs – a back for each side.” (Genesis Rabbah 8:1)



By the way, I am not even counting another story in which Adam has a wife before Eve. Her name was Lilith.

Here's Lilith for you. 

Though Lilith is not mentioned in the Torah/OT, this is how she is described in the Jewish tales:
According to the Alphabet of Ben Sira, Lilith was Adam’s first wife but the couple fought all the time. They didn’t see eye-to-eye on matters of sex because Adam always wanted to be on top while Lilith also wanted a turn in the dominant sexual position. When they could not agree, Lilith decided to leave Adam. She uttered God’s name and flew into the air, leaving Adam alone in the Garden of Eden. God sent three angels after her and commanded them to bring her back to her husband by force if she would not come willingly. But when the angels found her by the Red Sea they were unable to convince her to return and could not force her to obey them.  Eventually a strange deal is struck, wherein Lilith promised not to harm newborn children if they are protected by an amulet with the names of the three angels written on it —  
“The three angels caught up with her in the [Red] Sea…They seized her and told her: ‘If you agree to come with us, come, and if not, we shall drown you in the sea.’ She answered: ‘Darlings, I know myself that God created me only to afflict babies with fatal disease when they are eight days old; I shall have permission to harm them from their birth to the eighth day and no longer; when it is a male baby; but when it is a female baby, I shall have permission for twelve days.’ The angels would not leave her alone, until she swore by God’s name that wherever she would see them or their names in an amulet, she would not possess the baby [bearing it]. They then left her immediately. This is [the story of] Lilith who afflicts babies with disease.” 
(Alphabet of Ben Sira, from "Eve & Adam: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Readings on Genesis and Gender" pg. 204.)
Some tales tell us that Lilith changed her form into a Serpent and came to Eve and Adam to ask them to eat the fruit that God had said they shouldn't.


Just remember that He said to them that they could eat everything except fruit from that one tree. You may be surprised (as were they, perhaps) later.


More next week!

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