At Bethany our adult education hour on Sundays starting February 19th is about to begin our next series – Journeying into Genesis. This will be five weeks looking into the book of Genesis, asking questions, and like Jacob, wrestling with our faith.
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
On Sunday next week (February 19th) we will be jumping into this journey into Genesis, starting with the first two chapters. The question that we will use to help shape our conversations as we tackle this week’s text: “Who wrote this stuff?”
It’s a question that really started speaking to me when I began seminary. There were a lot of things that surprised me and shook me throughout my time in seminary. But in many ways I was lucky, I seemed to come away from most of my classes without feeling that mind-blown-up-and-who-knows-if-it-will-ever-come-back-together feeling.
So many of my classmates had grown up with Scripture, they were what I would call “biblically literate” in a way that I just was not. I went into seminary with a call to ministry, and with a hard and fast realization that I knew absolutely nothing.
But it turned out, that my biblical illiteracy, my lack of knowledge, was actually helpful in allowing me more freedom to really wrestle with my faith. My classmates who had spent their entire lives in the church, who had been taught by Sunday school teachers and high school bible studies, had some pretty hard and fast formations for their faith, and when faced with that first bible class on the Pentateuch (the first five books of the bible), stuff comes up.
And it starts quickly – it starts with the first two chapters. Because all our lives, many of us are taught a story of creation that is very ordered (on the first day…on the second day…etc.) and part of that ordered creation is the story of Adam and Eve.
But if you actually read the text, you suddenly realize that this isn’t one narrative of creation in chapter one and two from Genesis – it’s two pretty different narratives.
The first chapter is an ordered account, the account where each day God focuses on a different part of creation, God seems to be the unimaginable deity whose fingers create the universe out of chaos.
The second chapter gives a different order (for instance, in chapter two animals are made after humans, rather than before) and the order itself is far less organized, and God seems to be more human in God’s emotion and relationship with humanity.
Now, I had a classmate or two who were upset at this discovery, because if there were two accounts that were entirely different – how could they be true? I listened to my fellow students share their questions and frustrations, and was grateful for a professor who could help us to wrestle:
She posed to us this question: “Who do you think wrote this stuff?”
And then she shared with us the many sources that have been attributed to just the first few books of the Bible, and how they each were answering different questions about God. Because especially for these first two chapters of Genesis, the question being answered with these narratives isn’t how God created the universe, but rather who God is in the universe, why God brought the universe into being, and what we are called to do as participants in this creation.
And so I don’t want to give too much away before our time together on Sunday, although I fear maybe I have (this stuff is just too exciting for me). But as we begin this series into Genesis, as we begin asking these questions, as we start to find ways God’s Living Word works in our lives today, I invite you to think about your own preconceptions around Scripture, your own questions, and how creation and authorship have deep impacts on our faith and our lives.