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Bible Study 1: Genesis 1 (10/21-10/27)
#1
Welcome to the first Troll Cave Bible Study. 

This should be fun. I've never tried to do a Bible study on a message board, but the format should actually be well suited for it. Before we jump in to this weeks Bible passage, let me introduce the study and make a few suggestions to help facilitate discussion.

Introduction

The Bible is amazing. The Hebrew Scriptures were written over a millennia by countless contributors, some known and many unknown, including prophets, leaders and nameless scribes. It's a beautiful family quilt that has been woven and passed down through generations of ancients Hebrews that tells a rich story that ends like a cliffhanger. The New Testament was written in the decades that followed Jesus' death and resurrection by folks that believed that Jesus moved the story of the Hebrew Scriptures forward. The New Testament closes with an ending that's really a new beginning, but says that this new beginning is in the future, and that folks who want to live out this Story, told by the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, will be like sign posts, pointing to Jesus as the culmination of the story, and pointing forward to a day when God's Kingdom (promised in the Hebrew Scriptures and inaugurated by Jesus in the New Testament) will be fully realized in a new heavens and a new earth where God is no longer separated from humanity and earth (humanity's domain) is no longer separated from the heavens (God's domain). 

The goal of these Bible studies will be to trace this large story arc of the Bible, and draw out as much from the text as we can while doing so. 

To facilitate the goal I have a suggestion.

Ground Rule

Context matters. Many of the lenses through which discussions about the Bible take place these days are lenses that didn't exist when the text was written. For our Bible studies, let's try to stick to what we can glean from the passages themselves. I think I'll start another thread called Theology Free For All where we can discuss the various debates that are wont to arise but that would bog down a Bible study. For these Bible study threads it would be great if we could stick to the text. 

Format

Each week I'll post a passage and a few simple questions. Let's each read the passage and start the discussion off by answering the questions, and then let the discussion go from there. 

See one more intro post below, the passage for the week below that, and then our study questions below that.



One More Introduction

Up above I mentioned that the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament form a story. To give you a little tidbit about what I'm talking about:

The Bible begins with:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth...

And then it ends with:

...the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

This is just a small example. It can be seen in other ways too...The Bible presents itself as a story with a beginning and an end.

So let's start at the beginning of the story...



The Creation of the World
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
And God said, “Let there be an expanse[a] in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” And God made[b] the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven.[c] And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth,[d] and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
11 And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants[e] yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons,[f] and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
20 And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds[g] fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” 21 So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. 25 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
26 Then God said, “Let us make man[h] in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27 So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.


Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.



Questions

1. How would you summarize the meaning of this passage? How would you tell someone verbally what this passage said or meant? 

2. What does this passage tell us about God?

3. What does this passage tell us about Humanity? 

4. If this passage is true, what does it say about how we should live?
[-] The following 2 users Like fifteenth's post:
  • ClutchDirk, Kammrath


#2
The passage is definitely in contrast to the "Enuma Elish" which is the creation narrative of the Babylonian Empire. Here are some comparisons...

Enuma Elish: 
  • The heavens and earth (and humans as well) are born out of the violence and vengeance of the gods. 
  • It is that violence which keeps chaos at bay.
  • Humans are slaves that allow the gods to be free.
  • The city Babylon is created as the safety and sanctuary from the chaos.
Genesis:
  • The heavens and earth (and humans) are born out of the speaking of the Creator.
  • The Creator's word, not violence, keeps chaos at bay. 
  • Humans are free, but called to serve and protect the creation (see Genesis 2:15).
  • It is the garden of creation (the trees, rivers, mountains, animals, etc) that is the safety and sanctuary from the chaos (this creation is called "VERY good"). It is only later in Genesis 3-4 that humans will fall into violence and THEN build the first city (which is rebellion against the Creator and the creation).
To answer your questions:

1.  The passage is about establishing the GOODNESS of all creation and that humanity's home is within that, not in escaping it to human-made habitats.

2. It tells us that the Creator LOVES his creation and that he creates not with violence but by speaking. It also shows that he is generous to his very core. To give, not to take, is the core of the nature of the Creator.

3. Humans are part of the creation, yet are called to reflect the image of the Creator within the creation. Humans are called to be agents of manifesting God's Kingdom (or "dominion") throughout the creation. A "dominion" which is about "serving and protecting" the creation (again see Gen 2:15 and the story of Jesus). The fullness of humanity is found in both male AND female.

4. This passage shows that humans are called to live within the creation in a way that serves and protects the best interests of the creation as a whole.


#3
Great stuff Kam! I'll have to answer the questions in the morning. Family stuff is now in full swing for the evening.


#4
In answering your questions:
1) Creation is not a random act of nature.  Then entire universe had a beginning with something being created out of nothing.  The creative agent that made that happen was God.  As part of His creation we too are not the result of random evolution.  We are created beings, bearing His image, with a divinely ordained purpose in relationship with the rest of creation.
2) God is all powerful; He speaks and things happen.   And as Kamm said above, He is loving and His creation was initially "good".
3) Humanity is created in God's image.  We were created to be in a relationship with Him.  We are God's ambassadors in this world with the task of caring for His creation.  Humanity was also created male and female with the command to bear children.  We are created male or female and don't get to choose our gender.  (God also doesn't make mistakes putting a female in a man's body or male in a female body)  We also are designed for relationships with the other sex; not male/male or female/female.  Of course this is all against our current culture with the exception of being caretakers for the world we live in.
4)We should be responsible stewards of the world we live.  This is one of the few areas our current culture has correct.  We should be responsible with the planet's resources, environment, plant and animal life.  We should also acknowledge God as our creator and seek a relationship with Him, learning more about Him and our purpose.

In response to Kamm and the Babylonian description of creation:
Much of early Genesis (not just creation, at least through the flood account and possibly through the tower of Babel) can be viewed as a polemic against the Babylonian narrative


#5
(10-22-2019, 10:05 AM)rocky164 Wrote: In response to Kamm and the Babylonian description of creation:
Much of early Genesis (not just creation, at least through the flood account and possibly through the tower of Babel) can be viewed as a polemic against the Babylonian narrative


Absolutely, Genesis 1-11 is highly polemic against Babylon. Yet I would say the entirety of the Biblical narrative is a polemic against Babylon (see Revelation). Babylon was the first human civilization and therefore comes to represent all of Civilization (including Egypt, Assyria, Rome, Persia, Greece, etc). The Bible is a pro-creation, anti-Civilization narrative from beginning to end. You also see this in the pro-shepherd (Abel) vs anti-farmer (Cain) narratives as well.


#6
I'm going to attempt to hold to my suggested format, which can be difficult. Genesis 1 sparks so many thoughts about so many things that I have preconceived notions about, but I'm going to attempt to restrict myself to offering only what I draw from a fresh look at this text. 

1. How would you summarize the meaning of this passage? How would you tell someone verbally what this passage said or meant? 

God created the world (and the universe). He spoke each piece of creation into existence, including time itself. And after he spoke each piece into existence he called it good. The crown jewel of his creation was humanity, male and female. He created them in his image, provided for their needs and gave them a job: to have families, fill the earth with people and collectively rule over his creation. Upon completion of the project God said that it was all very good. He completed his project in 6 days, rested on the 7th day, and set aside the 7th day as special because it was the day he rested from his work of creation. 

2. What does this passage tell us about God?

God has a spirit (an observation from the text  Smile , not planning on going deeper on that point at the moment). God is creative, powerful beyond my imagination and amazingly detail oriented. He calls his creation, and us, good, even very good. God seems to like light, order and substance rather than darkness lack of form and void. This suggests to me that he's active and productive. 

He doesn't seem to be interested in doing everything by himself because he not only provided for our needs, but he gave us a job to do, and spoke a blessing to us regarding the doing of our job. Since God can create by speaking, it seems that "speaking" a blessing to us would be very empowering. So he's a giver, a ruler, an empower-er. 

The fact that he created humanity and told us to multiply makes the think that God loves families. And three things in the passage make me think that the passage suggests that he created both a heavenly and earthly family. God called some of his heavenly creation "rulers", said "Let us create", and then said "the heavens and earth were created, and the host of them". It appears that he created a "host" in earth and a "host" in heaven. This checks out with something I know of ancient Israel's (the audience of the passage) thinking. They spoke of spiritual beings using sun, moon, star vocabulary. They thought of the stars that they saw in the sky as representative of spiritual beings who lived in God's realm (the heavens). I make this point in a question about what God is like to say that it appears that God loves family so much that he created a heavenly family and an earthly family, and involved both families in his business ("Let us", and "Be fruitful, fill, subdue, have dominion").

This passage suggests that God is a God of abundance. There is lots of life created, and plenty of provisions for the sustaining of that life. 

3. What does this passage tell us about Humanity? 

Humanity was created to be good and created to work for/with God to accomplish God's plans. Humanity is valued, honored and empowered by God to such an extent that he puts them (male and female together) in charge of his plans on the earth he created. So humanity was created with the capacity to grow, be productive and rule (with God), and to do so in a way that fits with God's plans and character. Humanity has the capacity to have all their needs met from God's creation. 

4. If this passage is true, what does it say about how we should live?

I should live in connection with the God that made me and gave me a job to do. But God didn't just give me a job to do, he gave the job to humanity, so I should live in connection with other humans, and work with them (male and female) to do this job that God have us to do. I should seek to carry out my task in a way that jives with the One who created me, my task, and the world inn which my task will be performed. 

I should live in awe of God who shows himself to be creative, caring and powerful beyond my imagination. I should live in respect of humanity who God created and called good. I should exhibit care towards God's creation, the kind of care worthy of the responsibility he imparted when he asked us to husband something that belongs to him. I should live in humility, knowing my responsibility to the Creator and to creation, yet with confidence that comes from knowing that he empowered me for my task. 

I should love my family knowing that families were God's idea, and knowing that I must teach my family that they have been created by God for a purpose, and are not just answerable to themselves. I should follow God's example and be creative and productive in work, but also follow his example in rest, knowing that he set apart time for rest, and built it into the very fabric of creation. 

I should live knowing that I serve a God of abundance and not scarcity. He has provided for my needs and the needs of all creation, including all of humanity. This makes me think that if there is scarcity then it is not caused by God, but caused by the failings of humanity's stewardship. I must not join with those who assume scarcity, but instead, be like God who is amazingly generous and caring. 

That's my contribution to Q/A part of the study!


#7
(10-22-2019, 02:41 PM)fifteenth Wrote: Be fruitful


Some musings on this concept of "be fruitful and multiply." 

I think we have classically interpreted this in an overly literalistic way, thinking this is primarily about having kids. I think this is not the case and in fact that classic way of reading can be highly dangerous if we are not careful.

All throughout the prophets there is the talk of the fruit of justice and righteousness. How Israel was to bear good grapes and instead produced wild grapes or no fruit at all. 

In Paul we see the language of the "fruit of the Spirit" and it has nothing to do with kids, "love, joy, peace, patience..."

We see in Jesus talk of bearing fruit "thirty, sixty, and hundredfold" and again it has to do with multiplying and bearing the fruit of the Word of God and nothing to do with having kids.

We see the intro to John's Gospel talking about becoming "children of God" born not of "blood or the will of the flesh or the will of humans" and instead born of God. 

We see Paul talk about the blessed state of singleness and Jesus affirm this by saying those who can accept it, should. We see both Jesus and Paul be extremely "fruitful" and "multiply" while having no family or kids in a worldly sense. 

I am not suggesting that having kids is bad (I have two!), but I think it is essential that we not read a family-idolatry into the story that does not exist. Jesus attacks traditional family as an idol in opposition to God and calls us to "disown wife, children, brothers, sisters, and even our own selves." It is family responsibility that gets in the way of those called to the banquet of the Kingdom of God in Luke 14. Jesus says his family are those who listen to the Word of God and do it, and in the process disowns his blood family if they will not listen (a blood family which at that point in the narrative thinks Jesus has gone "insane").


#8
(10-23-2019, 09:22 AM)Kammrath Wrote:
(10-22-2019, 02:41 PM)fifteenth Wrote: Be fruitful


Some musings on this concept of "be fruitful and multiply." 

I think we have classically interpreted this in an overly literalistic way, thinking this is primarily about having kids. I think this is not the case and in fact that classic way of reading can be highly dangerous if we are not careful.

All throughout the prophets there is the talk of the fruit of justice and righteousness. How Israel was to bear good grapes and instead produced wild grapes or no fruit at all. 

In Paul we see the language of the "fruit of the Spirit" and it has nothing to do with kids, "love, joy, peace, patience..."

We see in Jesus talk of bearing fruit "thirty, sixty, and hundredfold" and again it has to do with multiplying and bearing the fruit of the Word of God and nothing to do with having kids.

We see the intro to John's Gospel talking about becoming "children of God" born not of "blood or the will of the flesh or the will of humans" and instead born of God. 

We see Paul talk about the blessed state of singleness and Jesus affirm this by saying those who can accept it, should. We see both Jesus and Paul be extremely "fruitful" and "multiply" while having no family or kids in a worldly sense. 

I am not suggesting that having kids is bad (I have two!), but I think it is essential that we not read a family-idolatry into the story that does not exist. Jesus attacks traditional family as an idol in opposition to God and calls us to "disown wife, children, brothers, sisters, and even our own selves." It is family responsibility that gets in the way of those called to the banquet of the Kingdom of God in Luke 14. Jesus says his family are those who listen to the Word of God and do it, and in the process disowns his blood family if they will not listen (a blood family which at that point in the narrative thinks Jesus has gone "insane").


That's good. I agree. In my "what does this say about how we live" section I was thinking about how God created a family (and a family business) in Genesis 1 and how that should impact my thinking about my family. But you're point is really the bigger one. God has always been, and is still, building his family. 

Originally, humanity forsook being God's children in order to go their own way. God started the rescue mission by starting small, with Abraham, and then with Jacob's family. But the point of starting small was to plant the see through which God would come to earth. Jesus brought reconciliation and an invitation into HIS family, and the invitation was not just to the small family that was the seed of the rescue mission, but to all the nations (families) of the earth. We're all invited to be apart of THE family, God's family.


#9
(10-23-2019, 09:42 AM)fifteenth Wrote: God started the rescue mission by starting small, with Abraham


Exactly...a man and wife too old to have kids and with a "dead womb." God starts his family not through human procreation, but through the power of his Word and promise. Same with Jesus, no worldly father, but the Word and promise and Spirit of God brings Jesus into the world. Me having kids doesn't produce THE family (as you put it), it is only the Word of God that can do that. So whether we have kids or not, we must humbly surrender to that reality.


#10
(10-23-2019, 09:53 AM)Kammrath Wrote:
(10-23-2019, 09:42 AM)fifteenth Wrote: God started the rescue mission by starting small, with Abraham


Exactly...a man and wife too old to have kids and with a "dead womb." God starts his family not through human procreation, but through the power of his Word and promise. Same with Jesus, no worldly father, but the Word and promise and Spirit of God brings Jesus into the world. Me having kids doesn't produce THE family (as you put it), it is only the Word of God that can do that. So whether we have kids or not, we must humbly surrender to that reality.

yes! Really good stuff! Just thinking off the top of my head about the times God worked through barrenness, and the promises given to the barren in the scriptures, makes me want to trace that topic all the way through. 

I don't personally come with the baggage of having ever believed the silliness that we must produce children (physical) to be spiritual, or to please God, or follow God, so when I see Gen 1 I can note that God tells humanity to produce children and fill the earth without falling into the trap of thinking that being married and having children is somehow more spiritual than being single. BUT!! ...

Two things:

1. I know some folks believe that kind of thing so I'm really glad you brought it up.

2. I absolutely believe that the word "fruitful" in the Gen 1 means more than producing physical offspring. Genesis 1 is a masterfully written, multi-layered treasure trove that's packed full of meaning that takes a thousand years of literature of the written word to fully unpack, the depths of which still have not been fully delved these multi-thousands of years later. 

So great stuff Kam. Now, not only do I want to trace the concept of "barrenness" through the scriptures, I want to trace "fruit" all the way through the scriptures.  Smile


#11
(10-23-2019, 10:13 AM)fifteenth Wrote: I want to trace the concept of "barrenness" through the scriptures


So real quick.... Abraham and Sarah....then Rebekah....then Rachel...so the mothers of ALL the patriarchs.

The mother of Samson.

Hannah, the mother of one of the first prophets, Samuel. 

Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Christ.

Mary, the mother of Jesus....not barren, but no man is involved. 

You also get in Hosea 9 and 11 the imagery of the nation as barren and not producing offspring (I think in the spiritual sense).


  


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Bible Study 1: Genesis 1 (10/21-10/27)00