Ridiculously Complicated

Ridiculously Complicated September 21, 2015

Ridiculously Complicated

Presumably there is a logical explanation for this, although it is one that is often overlooked by religious believers. The Biblical authors didn’t think of God as omnipotent. They had eliminated other gods by rolling them all into one. But God was still one who acted through flood and storm, earthquake and lightning, plague and famine. The development of the idea of God as one who can simply strike everyone dead still lay in the future.

But do you agree that, from the perspective of our time and contemporary views of God, the Noah story does indeed seem to be ridiculously complicated?


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  • John MacDonald

    Kind of like God making Jesus go through all he went through instead of just snapping His fingers and forgiving sin?

    • I know. That sort of theology makes even less sense. I don’t need to shed blood in order to forgive someone. Why would God?

      • Phil Ledgerwood

        He doesn’t. There are plenty of instances where God forgives sin without it. In fact, one could argue that demanding a payment for sin isn’t really forgiveness. Penal substitution needs to do some serious thinking about itself.

        • Honestly, any plan in which someone gets crucified needs to do some serious thinking about itself.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            In addition to the protection racket. See, Jesus dying is “needed” to save us from our sins. Save us from what? Eternal punishment, of course. But who will punish us eternally? God, of course. And since Jesus is God, Jesus.

            I mean, it’s basically the Don thinking he is being benevolant by having Guido pay the protection cost for us to prevent him (God and/or Guido) from coming over to torch our store. He loves us so much that he let’s Guido pay the protection cost instead of coming over to burn our store down. Oh thank you, Godfather, for letting Guido pay my protection fee instead of sending him over to destroy my business! You are so loving….although couldn’t you just not send him over to destroy my business in the first place and let Guido keep his money? But thy will be done…

            Yes, the question of requiring sacrifice begs the question of why said sacrifice can be required in order for us to be saved, but it also begs the question of why we face eternal damnation in the first place.

        • John MacDonald

          And then there’s this:
          1. Roger Nicole, professor of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary: “Atonement is the central doctrine of the Christian faith, and penal substitution is the heart of this doctrine.”
          2. Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School and executive editor of ‘Christianity Today:’ “The doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ can be abandoned only by eviscerating the soteriological heart of historic Christianity.”
          3. Carl Trueman, professor of historical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary: “The perennial attempts throughout church history to relativize and even deny the propitiatory and substitutionary nature of Christ’s sacrifice should not simply be understood as peripheral discussions; they indicate a constant tendency to revise the very essence of the Christian faith to conform to wider cultural mores and shibboleths.”
          And the list goes on – lol

          • Iain Fyffe

            “The doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ can be abandoned only by eviscerating the soteriological heart of historic Christianity.”

            Sounds good, let’s do that.

          • Phil Ledgerwood

            I think penal substitution is an ahistorical doctrine. It’s a Greco-Roman synthesis of the New Testament data, and that’s how it ended up being a staple in the West. The people you listed were raised with those assumptions and, therefore, ascribe any scholarly attempt to review our understanding in light of historico-critical data as “conforming to wider cultural mores and shibboleths.” What a cop out.

          • Phil Ledgerwood

            These were great. I think I see more continuity with the theology behind 4 Macc. than you do, but I think we pretty much agree.

          • Do you see some other theological significance to the cross? Do you see the crucifixion as an event planned by God with some purpose? Or was it an unplanned tragic event, for which Christians later tried to find some theological significance?

          • Phil Ledgerwood

            Hmm. Some of both?

            I’d say that Israel at the time saw their occupation as the result of a historical progression of God’s wrath against their disobedience. Jesus voluntarily becomes a faithful martyr to that wrath in the hopes that God will see his sacrifice on behalf of Israel and, because of that, remove the curse and be reconciled to His people. I would say that’s the primary theological significance of the cross.

            Gentiles are brought into the theological significance by having faith in what Israel’s God has done through Israel’s Christ, and because of that faith, they are co-opted into the story of faithful Israel and made one people with them, at least as far as the kingdom of God is concerned.

            I think the Scriptures certainly present that God foreknew the crucifixion would happen and the results thereof. Jesus seems to think so, too. But how much of that was added after the fact or how much that entails God’s active planning and engineering, I don’t know. Did God plan for Moses’ offer of annihilation to change His mind about wiping out Israel? I don’t know.

            In the world of Greco-Roman theologians, this story would not make a lot of sense outside of its Jewish roots, so they had to think through a significance -for them-, and that’s where I think a lot of the raw material came from for more of a penal substitutionary understanding as opposed to the “faithful unto death martyr” story.

          • So Jesus intentionally sought death by crucifixion (and, as I recall, checked with God in the garden of Gethsemane to see if it was avoidable) – and the purpose was to appease God’s wrath? You had another phrase for it … remove the curse?

            I don’t see how this is less problematic than a blood-bought forgiveness.

            I don’t need bloodshed in order to calm my anger. I don’t generally “curse” people, but if I did, I don’t think I would need bloodshed to have a change of heart.

            Why would God?

            It just seems to me that any theology that involves God planning a crucifixion … makes God look pretty monstrous.

          • Phil Ledgerwood

            Well, I don’t think of it so much as Jesus dying and God saying, “Now my vengeance is satisfied!” so much as Jesus dying and God going, “This shouldn’t have happened. You were everything I wanted my people to be. Ok, that’s it, we’re calling the whole wrath thing off.”

            When Jesus is praying in Gethsemane, he’s definitely worried about the crucifixion, but he sees that as obedience. Why is Jesus being crucified? Because he is proclaiming a rival kingdom and a rival Lord. Rome doesn’t want any of that, and the rulers in Judea don’t want any trouble with Rome, so here you go. The only way for Jesus to avoid crucifixion would be for him to say, “You know what? Forget that kingdom of God stuff. Caesar is the only real Lord, and Rome is the only real Empire. Sorry for all the trouble.” It’s not so much that Jesus wants to be crucified as crucifixion is the natural political outcome of his faithfulness to his mission and message which he believed God had sent him to do.

            You may see that as equally problematic. I’m not trying to defend it so much as discern what’s in the narrative, and I think it’s hard to put the narrative together without a concept of God’s wrath being in force in some way. Certainly this was how first century Israel understood her situation and longed for restoration.

          • Well you may be right that this was the view of the New Testament writers in the narrative. I can believe that an ancient middle-east culture could conceive of a tale in which the only way to appease the wrath of God was unavoidably through a tortuous death.

            It’s not the only ancient mythology that looks monstrous today.

          • OK maybe there’s a little too much snark in my last response. Sorry.

            I guess I’m saying that I have a very sympathetic response to a 1st century Christian community, looking back at their executed leader, and trying to make sense of it retroactively. But I just don’t see any way that a powerful, personal God could be involved at any level in the story of his own son’s crucifixion, and come out of it with his hand’s clean.

          • Phil Ledgerwood

            If I got upset with you for snark, that would make me a huge(r) hypocrite.

            I definitely see your point, but this seems to be more an issue for us than it was for Judaism. For instance, in Isaiah 53, whomever the referent is for that passage, Isaiah makes some very strong statements about what will befall this suffering servant that will mean peace for Israel, such as v. 10 “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief.”

            Once again, this is Isaiah making theological commentary on Israel’s history, and that very well could describe some of the similar sentiments we find in the New Testament. It’s also worthy to note that the same authors that talk about the theological meaning of Jesus’ death also believe God raised him from the dead. That resurrection has a lot of theological import attached to it as well, and you can’t have a resurrection without death. And not just death, but death at the hands of the powers that be. That’s also key to the theological import of the resurrection.

            From the Gospels, Jesus seems to place this all in the complex of the Son of Man story from the OT: “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” – Luke 9:22

            But obviously, that’s material looking way back on the events long after they happened.

          • Yes, I see that you are placing this in the perspective of ancient Judaism, and I’m familiar with the messianic claims associated with Isaiah 53. Clearly, tales of blood sacrifice and resurrection made sense to those who lived in ancient religious contexts, as well as demon exorcisms, virgin births, water to wine transformations, and ascensions into the sky. Although, the NT claims of connection with OT prophecy require rather enormous shifts of the original OT contexts.

            All very interesting in the study of ancient belief systems. But that doesn’t make such tales any more believable today.

          • Phil Ledgerwood

            I’m not sure Isaiah 53 is talking about a future messiah, although that’s possible. The main thing I wanted to point out is that the idea that a faithful servant of God would suffer for the nation under mechanisms God Himself produced wasn’t really a theological problem for them. If that same story were commented on, today, we might get a different slant because our concerns and theological climate are quite different.

            And, in fact, part of the task of the church which is almost entirely beyond the horizon of the Bible is to reimagine these things and their relationship to us in our own historical context. Penal substitution served that purpose for a developing Christendom in the West. Now that that context is dying, we’re looking for a better appropriation. Maybe Christus Victor is that appropriation; I don’t know.

            As far as NT use of OT prophecies, I think “repurposing” is a good word. Rarely are those prophecies about something beyond the immediate horizons of the prophet (although they exist), but the meaning of the original prophecy is something the NT authors will repurpose because they want to make the same point. Case in point, Matthew’s use of Isaiah 9. Isaiah’s child is a sign from God that Israel’s deliverance from Assyria is near. Matthew wants to repurpose that for Rome. Isaiah 9 isn’t “about” Jesus, but the theological import of that prophecy is what Matthew wants to latch onto, and rightly or wrongly, this seems to constitute a fulfillment for him.

          • Yes, I can see how a God who pre-ordains suffering may not have been a problem for ancient conceptions of gods who were jealous and violent. A crucifixion might not seem so bad to people who believed in a god that decimated the entire earth in a flood. But however, much the idea of a suffering servant might have been familiar to the Jews of the first century, they certainly didn’t all embrace Christ as the fulfillment of the idea. Isn’t it true that the suffering servant was also seen as a representation of the nation of Israel?

            I’m not a member of the Church, so I don’t really have any vested interest in reimagining ancient religions for contemporary use, fascinating though they may be to study.

            I do appreciate the snippets of valuable philosophy to be found very occasionally in Biblical texts, such as the 1st century version of the Golden Rule (though I prefer the rendering found in the Book of Mozi).

          • Guest

            I think it’s important to remember that in the Bible, God is not a superhero. Rather, God is the Creator, and as such “will of God” is not so much about what some entity that happens to be very powerful wants, but about the fundamental nature of reality. Furthermore, the world is fallen, and thus God’s will – the true nature of Creation – is hidden beneath layers of corruption, and can easily get confused with self-serving and even self-destructive justifications for corrupt behaviour. So the Bible is, besides whatever else it might be, also a record of a philosophical debate that took place over centuries.

            Given this, submitting to crucifixion rather than either striking back or backing down has nothing to do with God’s bloodlust, but is simply the answer to the logic of Hell: “kill this random stranger or I’ll kill you and your children.” It means there’s no offer you can’t refuse, because death is the limit of don Corleone’s – or even the Roman Emperor’s – power. If you’re willing to trust God beyond that – that is, if you’re willing to be tortured to death along with all your loved ones before participating in evil, then Devil’s power is broken. And since few people _want_ to be evil, anyone who lives or dies that way will further erode it by showing that it’s possible.

            This is, of course, the moral influence theory, and also a revelation: apparent defeat doesn’t matter. The universe’s real nature – God’s will – is such that _only_ moral victories have any effect in the long run. Or, rather, a moral victory is always a victory, no matter what it’s apparent immediate effects might be; a moral transgression is always a loss, no matter how succesful it might look in the short term. So in that way the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus frees humans from their sins, not because God demands payment for them but because it defangs the fear that is their main source.

            Just look at what’s happening in Europe right now. All that fear of strangers becomes complitely impotent to empower even a single demagogue if people are no longer afraid of “terrorists” or whatever the current buzzword is.

          • This is all familiar, but these are theological constructs that I no longer believe reflect the world as it really is. I no longer find it useful to see the world as “fallen”, as though there is some imaginary ideal type of existence or creation, which has been corrupted.

            Death, for example, is a natural part of the cycle of biology. Without death, life would never flourish because life feeds on death. Virtually all life processes – from fertilization to digestion to nutrition to procreation – involve death at some level. Death as a corruption of some ideal might make sense as an ancient human response to the fear of death; but there’s nothing about that notion that rings true from a biological perspective. Death is natural and necessary, not corrupt.

            So from my perspective, your “Given” (second paragraph) is simply not a given. A God with a will (much less an opposing Devil) is not necessary or even desirable, to explain humanity’s progression from ancient tribalism to an altruism that may someday be universally inclusive.

          • ObscurelyAgnostic

            Christus Victor is an excellent (and ancient) non-propitiatory alternative … as a pastor I prefer Rene Girard’s anthropological hermeneutic — here’s a primer on its basic concepts and principles … https://www.ravenfoundation.org/faqs/

          • Guest

            More cynically, penal substitution is a way of nullifying “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” If forgiveness is universal, if the entire concept of debt is completely artificial or even satanic, then it becomes rather difficult to hold power over other people.

          • Phil Ledgerwood

            Unless we are genuinely meant to seek repayment from other parties, right? Which makes even less sense. “You sinned against me, but I’ll forgive you if you can find someone else I can beat up.”

          • ObscurelyAgnostic

            But there are biblical grounds for refuting penal substitution — e.g., the book of Hebrews explaining that Christ came to do away with the whole sacrificial/propitiatory system …

        • Tim

          Aye, something different was definitely going on there. I personally think the cross/ resurrection was more about the defeat of death than the forgiveness of sin.

          • This, of course, presupposes that death is some sort of unnatural corruption of a created ideal, the result of a “fall”.

            Biologically, though, death is as natural as life. virtually all the cells in our body are the reconstituted materials of dead plants and animals. We feed on death. We fertilize with death. Our bodies naturally break down and reuse dead materials. We even pump eons of death into our automobiles every morning.

          • Tim

            And what’s interesting about this is that in a number of places in scripture, death is described as a necessary precursor for life, particularly a certain kind of (spiritual?) life. Sometimes it’s difficult to draw the line in scripture between ‘biological’ death and ‘spiritual’ death. My understanding of scripture is that both types of death were conquered by the resurrection. One of the mistakes Christendom often makes is focussing too much on the death part and not enough on the resurrection. I suppose one could make the argument that a death was necessary for a resurrection to take place. At any rate, one could presuppose (and many do) that biological death is an aberration from the created order, but I don’t think it is. Regardless, it is something that is ultimately done away with in the Revelation narrative. I think many make the mistake in thinking that the goal of God is to restore things to the way they were in Eden, but I think the scripture is saying something different; that God wants to make an entirely new creation that surpasses the original, not returns us to the original.

          • Again, a focus on a resurrection presupposes that death is something to be conquered, as opposed to a part of the natural cycle of life in evidence all around us.

          • Tim

            Well it’s both, in my view. As I said, the goal is a new creation, not old creation 2.0

          • Right – I understand the common Christian notion that creation needs to be replaced with a new creation. I just don’t find that such a notion makes sense in any way – intuitive or otherwise.

      • Graeme Sutton

        OCD

    • Tony Prost

      If Jesus died for my sins, he way over-reacted!

    • John, I guess this is another reason why God is self-limiting. As far as the Noah story, I am glad God has literary chops.

    • Nimblewill

      Maybe God in His omnipotence knew that we would never accept forgiveness without blood. How hard is it for you to forgive?

      • John MacDonald

        I would accept forgiveness without blood. Wouldn’t you?

        • Nimblewill

          Indeed I would! God has not required my blood and yet He has forgiven me.

          • John MacDonald

            Good. For the same reason God does not require your blood to forgive you, God didn’t require Jesus’ blood either.

  • Matthew Funke

    Well, yeah, sure, it’s complicated and sideways — but honestly, I don’t think the point of the story was to show how efficiently God can kill stuff. It was a flood story, because gods need flood stories. It was to show how the Hebrew God compares to other gods by having Him in a story with a narrative structure everyone around would recognize.

    • I would rather say that the author and readers had inherited a story about a flood, featuring multiple gods, and in altering the story to reflect developing monotheism, the author faced constraints not just of his own theology but also the story that he inherited. In one Mesopotamian version, the god who warns Utnapishtim is at odds with the gods who want to flood the Earth because humans have become too noisy. The author, in trying to do something with that story in a monotheistic form, tries to make the destroyer and warner the same God, creating not only awkwardness but a depiction of one God that is morally disturbing.

      • And weren’t there at least two authors that attempted this? One with Yahweh and one with Elohim?

        • Gary

          From “Who Wrote the Bible”, Richard Elliott Friedman. Pretty overwhelming evidence, I think.
          “But it is not only that it is possible to carve out two stories. What makes the case so powerful is that each story consistently uses its own language. The P story (the one in boldface) consistently refers to the deity as God. The J story always uses the name Yahweh. P refers to the sex of the animals with the words “male and female” (Gen 6:19; 7:9,16). J uses the terms “man and his woman” (7:2) as well as male and female. P says that everything “expired” (6:17; 7:21). J says that everything “died” (7:22).
          The two versions do not just differ on terminology. They differ on actual details of the story. P has one pair of each kind of animal. J has seven pairs of clean animals and one pair of unclean animals. (“Clean” means fit for sacrifice. Sheep are clean; lions are unclean.) P pictures the flood as lasting a year (370 days). J says it was forty days and forty nights. P has Noah send out a raven. J says a dove. P obviously has a concern for ages, dates, and measurements in cubits. J does not.
          Probably the most remarkable difference of all between the two is their different ways of picturing God. It is not just that they call the deity by different names. J pictures a deity who can regret things that he has done (6:6,7), which raises interesting theological questions, such as whether an all-powerful, all-knowing being would ever regret past actions. It pictures a deity who can be “grieved to his
          heart” (6:6), who personally closes the ark (7:16) and smells Noah’s sacrifice (8:21). This anthropomorphic quality of J is virtually entirely lacking in P. There God is regarded more as a transcendent controller of the universe.”

          • I picked up Friedman’s “The Bible with Sources Revealed” a few years ago. He shows the the Pentateuch with all of the JEPD sources indicated typographically. I’m sure there are areas of scholarly divergence, but it’s fascinating to see laid out in typeface.

          • Gary

            Yes, scholarly divergence on dates, and which JEPD belongs to which verse. But overall concept is hard to deny. I wish Friedman would write some new stuff. I already read his old stuff.

      • Matthew Funke

        That’s entirely possible. It’s also possible that the author took advantage of this now-dualistic character to teach us an important aspect of the Hebrew God — that He is capable of *relenting*, even though He is One. (And we see this over and over again later. It’s only a few chapters further on that God and Abraham have this argument over how many righteous people can live in Sodom to permit it to be spared, or that Jacob wrestles with God and wins.)

        Of course, the disadvantages of portraying the character this way are the moral problems you mention — but we do this to showcase noble aspects of characters we’re supposed to love in stories we write *today*. As a random and ridiculous example, let me point out an episode of “Batman: The Animated Series”: “Harley’s Holiday”. Harley Quinn, the Joker’s girlfriend, is found to be sane and released back into society. Unfortunately, when she tries to buy a dress, a misunderstanding snowballs into outright chaos (a tank is involved at one point). Batman, being Batman, manages to catch her and bring her in. At the end of it all, though, after Harley has been taken into custody, Batman relents and give Harley the dress she adored: “I know what it’s like to try and rebuild a life. I had a bad day too, once.”

        Now, on one level, the very *character* of Batman is horrifying — he is the lone barrier between the criminal element and the population of Gotham at times, and as such, he gets opportunities to dispense justice as he sees fit and create the society *he* wants (in potential opposition to the desires of the citizens of Gotham). But we’re willing to ignore those disturbing moral implications for a moment in order to drive at a deeper truth in the story: Compassion is good — and perhaps under certain circumstances, it should prevail even in the face of justice, because *everyone* has bad days. In a similar way, I think we can momentarily ignore the disturbing moral implications of this weirdly dualistic, vengeful, catastrophic, remorseful God to see some of the deeper ideas. (Some of our evil is so systemic that it may seem like the only way good can be done is to burn it all down — but even at times like those, there can be individual exceptions.) Maybe, on some level, the author (or one of the authors) tried to make the confusing God character work for him.

        I even think it possible that we’re both right, and that there may be reasons and ideas still deeper that neither one of us is currently expressing (or even grasping). And that, too, may be part of the point; it invites discussion, which gives us practice at being considerate actors, since we have to try to understand where different points of view might be coming from (be it the author or members of his audience).

      • arcseconds

        In one of the versions of the mesopotamian flood myth (Atrahasis, I think) the particular gripe the gods have about humanity is that humans are making way too much noise and are disturbing the sleep of the gods.

        This combined with the flood waters coming from above makes the origin of the story quite clear: the author lived in an apartment block, and his or her downstairs neighbours were making too much racket late at night.

        Under such circumstances, the idea of drowning everyone downstairs by blocking the drains and leaving the showers and taps on must have emerged quite naturally!

        (And it’s also easy under this situation for one’s antipathy to one’s neighbours turn into general misanthropy, so the notion of destroying all of humanity might also have its origins in this situation…)

        • When I talk to students about the Atrahasis version, I suggest that those who live in a particular dorm on campus know the feeling of thinking that you would destroy the entire human race if you could just get an undisturbed peaceful night’s sleep…

  • primenumbers

    Not only ridiculously complicated, but false in that it didn’t actually happen.

    • Steven Waling

      So I guess you’re not a reader of fiction then…

  • Phil Ledgerwood

    How else would all those fossils get buried?

  • Robert Fisher

    Sure. This is the main problem with any misunderstanding of the Bible, right? Looking at it at face value rather than the stories of people learning to understand God. (Or that God is meeting people where they are at the time.)

    • nobody

      If a god needs a global catastrophe to teach a lesson then it’s a crummy teacher. Especially when it’s supposed to be all-powerful, all-knowing and all-present.

  • If the purpose is to kill off almost everyone, then it is too complex.

    If the purpose is to tell a good story, with God just a prop, then I guess it is about right.

  • Tony Pepperoni

    Sounds good, but there was never a mysterious event where everyone was struck dead. If there was God would have been there front and centre. God is the explanation, and since most cultures experienced a few massive floods and/or tsunamis this was a no-brainer.

    “Why did it flood so horribly?”
    “Because God id it.”
    “Why would he do it?”
    “Because.. hmmm, let me work on that and get back to you.”

  • Keith T

    I think you could have stopped with doesn’t the story of Noah just sound ridiculous. No need to qualify it with complicated.

  • nobody

    Strike them dead? No, he can simply make them vanish just by thinking about that, no need for physical interaction.
    Well, he could, if it would have been truly omnipotent.

    • Chris

      God is the Creator. He creates. He doesn’t uncreate.

      • nobody

        Your god is just like every other god out there, living only in your imagination. As such it can’t do anything at all.

      • Mr. Spiffy

        Have you read the bible at all? What are His Many Slaughters if not uncreation?

  • TC Coltharp

    Especially considering he was able to kill with pretty good precision (Firstborn of Egypt) to perfect precision (various sinners who like touched the ark or spilled their seed) throughout the Bible, it is clear there was nothing stopping him from striking individual sinners.

    The God of the Bible is more akin to how Superman has different capabilities under different writers. One writer who doesn’t understand physics will give Superman the ability to go back in time by going really fast. One writer who wants drama will have Superman strain to lift falling plane. While another writer who wants to do some fan service will have Superman yoked up to Earth and have him move it around on two page splash page like a pet rock on a leash.

    The reason you can’t reconcile these contrary behaviors of Yaweh is because he not real, he a story told by many people in many different ways.

    • Now don’t over-simplify Superman’s writers! He didn’t go back in time JUST by going really fast; he had to go really fast around the Earth in the opposite direction of Earth’s rotation! Now, THAT is a much more accurate depiction of the physics of time-travel – isn’t it? Because, you know, rotation, relativistic, timey-wimey, stuff …

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Yes, if you forget that (as posted below in various places) the flood and the boat are a given, understood by author and reader to be an undisputed fact common, rightly or more likely wrongly, to all the historical traditions of the region at the time.
    The Bible version is intended to make sense of the story, not confuse it, and (in its own terms) largely does so. The author (s) explain that the flood was not an arbitrary or capricious act by God / the gods (again his / their involvement is a given) but something which, by their wickedness, mankind have brought upon themselves. They go on to explain that Noah was not arbitrarily saved by the caprice of a dissenting god, or because he picked the right god of many to worship, but because he heard and was prepared to listen to God and thus could be saved from the general, inevitable disaster that mankind’s wickedness had brought about.
    They go on to describe a God who requires Noah not to save just the “clean” domestic animals that would be of use to him but also play his part in preserving God’s creation from the destruction his fellow men have wrought.
    Finally, they add the promise that this was a “one-off” by God, that it is not part of his nature to ditch his creation every time it goes wrong and have another go, but will stick with it and try to fix it no matter how badly we mess things up.
    I don’t think that’s complicated at all.

  • R Vogel

    We read the Noah passage from Genesis this weekend and my wife and I were laughing over the fact the G*d had to make a rainbow in 9:15&16 in order to remind G*d not to flood the earth because, ya know, G*d’s memory isn’t what it used to be….

  • R Vogel

    I recently read a piece that proposed that many of the stories of the Hebrew scriptures should be read as an epic story with an unreliable narrator. That the narrator, who is not G*d, is claiming to speak with the authority and insight of G*d. I thought this was compelling and potentially enlightening.

  • I maintain that if you read YHWH like some sort of SuperZeus, not only does most of the Bible (especially the OT) make much more sense, but it also leads to fewer nasty theological consequences. Henotheism was all about having the biggest God; not much thought was given to infinite categories until the Neo-Platonic Hellenists got their hands on the thing.

    • Andrew Dowling

      This is right on point. Despite all of the redaction, one can see this throughout much of the OT.For a significant time-period in Jewish theology, Yahweh was the biggest and best god, not the only god.

  • Jurgan

    Job shows this, too. God talks about battling the Behemoth and the Leviathan, when if he were actually omnipotent it wouldn’t be much of a battle.

  • As has been stated many times, the early Jews (and even many later Jews) thought that there were many, many Gods, and their God just so happened to be the strongest (or at least the most cunning). It just goes to show that Biblical literalism and Biblical inerrancy is impossible to logically believe in because the viewpoints of individual books of the Bible say contradictory things about what God is, how God operates, etc. It was written by different people with very different ideas.

  • gewaite

    The whole Bible, the whole Quran, all religions, seem ridiculously complicated. They appeal to the same people who like conspiracy theories and alien visitations-and for the same reasons.