|Latest||First||Next||Previous||About This Site (and me)||Home page||Table of Contents||Contact|
The Bible and Early History of the Jews as metaphor for existence.
I will preface this particular post. If you are the sort of person who firmly believes that the Messiah has, come, has stuck around for long enough to deliver the message and the world is now in a blissful post-messianic era, and you get offended by statements to the contrary, I suggest that you skip this particular entry. Further, I suggest a stint with an organisation such as Care and see if a stint in somewhere such as Darfur can disabuse you of those notions.
For everyone else, I am making the assumption, that you are familiar with the basic outline of Bereishit (Genesis). In particular, the Jewish Creation Myth, Adam and Eve, Noah’s Flood (which is remarkably similar to a couple of other culture’s floods) and Abraham finding God. I will skip over some other stories, just because there is the danger that I start pushing the forthcoming analogy a little too far, and because it will just lead me into unnecessary details.
The basic idea behind this post is that the bible provides a metaphor for an individual’s growth, maturity and personal development. I’ll follow this through with a couple of examples. And we’ll see what this suggests for the future.
In the beginning…a whole lot of stuff happened which we don’t actually know about, so we have a convenient story which does two things: It starts from the very beginning – a very good place to start - and it sets the scene for what is to come. It also invents a day of rest, which I think is the most important social advance any culture has developed. But that is a subject for another day unless this current set of experiments takes me long into the night, in which case I might have time to do it as well. But then, if I have time and inclination to do that, then I will probably have also put in a griping post about my experiments. But I digress…(frequently)
After all this stuff which happened before the birth of humanity, we finally come across Adam and Eve. 7 days is a short courting period leading to conception, but then, you can’t take it literally. Adam and Eve are totally innocent and amoral. Much like a foetus. They have no knowledge of good and evil – they haven’t yet tasted the fruits. They grow and eat and prepare to live. Birth is analogous to leaving Eden. Before that, you have no choice, no options, no decisions, no consequences. You suck nutrients from your host. But eating of the tree was never a sin. It was an absolute necessity. (If anyone wants to quibble about it, try this: As soon as Eve went to make a decision about whether she would eat the fruit or not, she had knowledge of good and evil, and had to leave the Garden. There is no room in Eden for someone who has the ability to do wrong. (Or to do right, for that matter).
After a while, humanity then faces a more difficult decision – they must learn what is right and what is wrong. This is the same problem faced by a child. As they grow, they must learn what they must do and what is essential for survival. There are false starts. Witness Cain, everyone but Noah and family, Sodom and Gemorrah, etc. And occasionally they get it right. Fortunately, the punishments a child experiences tend to be a little more in line with a smack on the wrist or being told off rather than being wiped out.
And then we get to Abraham. Abraham is the pre-teen who is finding his feet. He is provided with some basic rules to live by and is beginning to work out what he actually has to do. He does some good things (such as negotiating with God to try to save a city here or there – and yes, I am aware that there is some overlap. Do we really believe that, apart from the watershed moment of birth, there are any other times when a person goes to bed and wakes up the next morning a different person? Such resurrections are the stuff of fiction.) but he also does some bad things (slaughtering his son (or trying to, depending on the version of the story) is not a nice thing to do. I don’t care who tells you to do it.) And so humanity-as-metaphor now is getting a basic framework of life, and some basic rules, but nothing too complex.
The complex rules come later. They are given to Moses, who represents humans-as-teenagers. This is about the time you are really, fully held responsible for your actions, and are held to more severe laws than just “don’t kill” or “don’t throw your brat of a brother down a well, even if it doesn’t have water in it (or even if you think that it is funny).” This is where God starts punishing people for more complex things, such as causing insurrections or gossiping. Things which a child is incapable of understanding, but a teenager is.
And then we venture out of the home. The Israelites enter the promised land. We need Mum and Dad to help us move the furniture, or do the washing, or any one of a number of things people try to get their parents to help them with. Josh had a bit of help moving in to Jericho. God knows that the Judges didn’t do it all by themselves. Even if Debbie did invent rheology (and the mountains flowed before God). Samson was still loved, even if he went out with the wrong girl and got a bad haircut. But God was always there in the stories. Letting the Israelites live when possible, but helping them when necessary.
And we grow up, and have to fend for ourselves. We send Dad to the old folks’ home. We still come and visit and support when we can. Maybe 3 times a year on the holidays. Meanwhile, friends are dying, we have our own problems, Dad’s long since retired and we’ve moved away. He called us up just the other day. He’d like to see us if we don’t mind…oh, wait, sorry, where was I? Umm…yeah, things go wrong, and we struggle through. And you can fit most of the prophets as an analogy for this part of life.
Then Dad dies. Although knocking down the old folks’ home with him in it was a little excessive. And we mourn for a long time. But we know that we are now forced to fend for ourselves. We can wish for him to come back all we want. He ain’t coming back, even if we do temporarily latch on to another father-figure temporarily.
And this leads us to the present. We are living, and fending for ourselves and bolding going where no man has gone before (why were there always people there when they got there?) So the exercise for the reader is, what is the next stage? What is the only thing we have left to do as a final stage in our development? There are no messages left from Dad. He’s said all he is going to. The only way we are going to get any more info is to either work it ourselves, or go the same way Dad did. So, continuing the analogy, what does a messianic era mean for us as a people? Be careful what you wish for…
At this point I will digress slightly, in case there are any concerned readers. I am still happily in the entering the promised land stage. Mum and Dad still provide me with lots of help when I need it, and biscuits when I don’t! They are both a long, long way of being sent to a retirement home, and I am still doing rheology, carrying on from Deborah.
My favourite procrastinations
The Head Heeb - Jonathan provides a balanced view on various Israeli and (former) colonial states in less developed regions of the world.
The Bladder - a sports satire site. Well worth a look.