Open Letter to the Administration at Greenville University

An Open Letter to the Greenville University Administration Regarding the LGBT Community

What is the point of being a university? Is it not to educate? Is it not to encourage the exploration of ideas? Is it not to foster the “universe” of ideas in a community where these are then explored?

What is the point of a liberal arts education? Is it to be an unthinking cog in a workforce, well suited for following orders and not much else? Is it not to enable one to think freely? Is it not to enable one to be an engaged, reasoning citizen? In today’s world, does it not mean to be equipped to live as a citizen of the world. If free, reasoned thought is the goal, would it not then entail that free thought must include freedom from institutional control, as institutional control is antithetical to free thought?

What place, then, does the administration have in determining what people may think? Does it have the right to dictate how students are to interpret what is moral and what is not? Does the administrator of a liberal arts university have the right to dictate how students live? One could argue quite reasonably that any institution has the right to determine that those within must not engage in behavior which is harmful to others. We recognize that we as individuals do not have the right to remove the agency of others, and institutions such as Greenville University rightly recognize that, in the interest of protecting everyone’s right to live freely, the freedom to impinge upon the lives of others-the freedom to engage in actions which limit another individual’s agency-must itself be impinged upon. It is a paradoxical view, but a necessary one for society to survive: in order for us to live freely together, certain freedoms are sacrificed.

It seems to me that it would logically follow that the administration’s role is preserving and defending the freedom of those within the community to be engaged in a liberal arts education, which by nature includes the free exploration of thoughts and beliefs, religious or otherwise, which naturally entails a variety of life-expressions, which are protected so long as those expressions do not impinge upon the agency of another individual’s right to live freely.

Greenville University is a liberal arts educational institution, yet it somehow finds it necessary to limit the freedom of LGBT expression. It somehow says that, even though it is dedicated to the mission of providing a quality liberal arts education, it will limit the rights of certain individuals to live according to their understanding of the world, even though that understanding of the world does not limit the ability of any other individual to 1) live freely and 2) engage in a liberal arts education.

At what point in betraying the underlying principles behind a “liberal arts education” does an institution no longer have the right to claim itself as being a “liberal arts” institution? At what point in refusing to allow a plurality of belief within the community does a university lose the right to call itself a university in the truest sense?

We are not asking the administration to change their beliefs regarding the LGBT community. We are not asking for anti-LGBT Christians to betray their convictions. What we are asking is simply that Greenville University, an institution devoted to providing a quality liberal arts institution, live up to what it means to be a liberal arts university and allow people with different beliefs to live according to their beliefs at GU. We are simply asking that you provide to us the same respect we provide to you. To do so isn’t a betrayal of one’s Christian beliefs, it is the recognition that within the Christian community there is a plurality of beliefs. While throughout Christian history the church has seen fit to become divided over a huge variety of disagreements, I believe Greenville University is uniquely poised to reveal Christ in the world by showing that, though we might disagree, we can still live freely and humbly with each other and engage in the mission we all believe in. As Christians, we are not called to use force to “convince” others of the rightness of our beliefs, nor demand that others act according to our beliefs. We are called to influence the lives of those around us into freely accepting our beliefs. The church of the past attempted to use force-whether force of law or of weapons or economics-to make people live according to one view of Christian beliefs, let us not continue in this tradition.

We can be a Christian liberal arts university, but as long as such suppression of the LGBT community continues at GU, we are failing to live up to this goal.

What I propose is this:

  • Allow an official LGBT group to exist on campus. This group may host events and meetings, and must conform to the same requirements as any other group on campus.
  • LGBT students on campus may live according to their beliefs, which includes the right to be in relationships and get married if they so choose.
    1. However, LGBT students are still expected to conform to the rules which apply to all other students at GU.
  • The Administration and staff will choose, in keeping with the goals of being a Christian educational institution, to actively engage in and encourage learning about not only LGBT issues, but issues pertaining to racial, economic, and political issues as well-including intersectionality.
    • The purpose of this being to encourage discussion and understanding regarding social justice matters in the U.S. and the world.
    • To be clear: this is not to say administration, staff, and students must agree with any one side of an issue, but is instead to be done for the purpose of understanding the issues in our world today.
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The Forgotten Self: Recovering from Depression and Anxiety.

While spending a year as a truck driver, I encountered some pretty severe health issues. I would sleep for 10 hours, and be tired after driving for just 2 or 3. At the end, I was taken by ambulance to the hospital for what I and the paramedics thought might’ve been a heart attack. I was awake for about an hour before I fell asleep again. I hadn’t had a heart attack, but then again they didn’t know what it was, so they slapped me on some antibiotics and sent me on my way.

I was sent home by my dispatcher to get with a doctor-which apparently is incredibly difficult to do around Christmastime. They fired me (though claimed I quit) a day before my doctor’s appointment. During this time my health problems persisted-there was no sleep schedule, I rarely left the house, and I was pretty confident I was dying (thanks webmd). By February, after scans and blood tests, I realized it might not be a physical problem, but a mental one. Immediately I discovered that all of my problems were typical of anxiety/depression. Apparently I’d been driving an 18 wheeler with panic attacks, coast to coast, for months. That supposed heart attack was just a major one of those.

I’d been diagnosed with depression when I was 15, though hadn’t treated it. I’d always thought anxiety was a myth, and that those who claimed to have it just needed to take a deep breath and maybe a bit of weed. After researching it though, I found that all of my problems up until that point in my life, at age 22, were most likely caused by varying levels of anxiety/depression.

depression and anxiety

The real problems had started when I was 14. High school was a nightmare for me. I was certain I was either messed up mentally somehow or that I had cancer or some other terrible thing. There was a point when I thought, “maybe I’m retarded, and no-one is willing to tell me?” My perception of myself wasn’t very high.

I turned to religious fundamentalism as a (poor) coping mechanism. Nothing gave life meaning or excitement for me. Socializing was (and still is) difficult. School was damn near impossible, though the material was all so easy (a frustration to both my parents and I). I eventually dropped out of high school and scored in the top 10% on the G.E.D. So many of my decisions throughout this time was a result of my failure to identify and cope with anxiety and depression. In all of this, I lost myself. I was a reclusive shell of a person, with no personality.

So from Jr. High to 23 and in college, I had no sense of who I was. I simply existed as, and I say this somewhat jokingly, “A depressed piece of shit, conscious enough to be anxious.”

I started on SSRI’s a month after learning I had anxiety. They kicked in a month later, and for once I felt happy. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than I’d been in years. Then I started at University and quickly realized that the meds only worked when there was no external stress in my life. The panic attacks resumed in full force, and I was thoroughly and utterly screwed up.

After thinking I’d developed coping mechanisms over winter break, the problems resurfaced within days of Spring semester’s start. Leaving the dorm was a challenge, and if there were a bathroom in my dorm room I probably would’ve never left it. I started researching meds to see what my options were, because something had to give right? Otherwise, I might as well just die, or marry some rich person and regale them with my cooking abilities and memes.

SSRI: regulates serotonin in body.

SNRI: regulates serotonin and norepinephrine in the body.

I discovered SNRI’s, a different class of anxiety/depression meds. I went to my doctor over Spring break and started on the medication. Within days I began feeling the effects. It’s been two weeks of mostly going to class and doing my work and I even started going to the gym again (after noticing my potbelly). All of this, of course, is “no brainer” stuff to people without mental health issues, but when you have anxiety and depression, everything is as “nothing.” I would say it’s all difficult, but that’s not quite accurate-everything simply feels void. Like a black hole has sucked you and everything around you up, including motivation and passion, hopes and dreams, goals, personality, happiness..everything.

Two weeks in and I’ve started feeling “myself.” But I have a new problem, though it’s really a “happy problem.” I don’t know what “myself” is. The last time I was lucid was in Jr High and elementary school, living in Rwanda. I can tell even as I’m writing this that those without experience with mental health issues have no clue what I’m talking about. That’s okay.

black hole light exit
(Light exiting black hole)

My point is this: We are pulling ourselves out of a black hole when we’re recovering. Everything I listed before, like motivation and passion, etc, was swallowed up and wrenched from our grasp. That passion you feel in life, or the sense of belonging and purpose, people like me haven’t had that in ages. Imagine having all of that taken from you, and being told you need to reconstruct everything in your life that actually makes your life worth living. Would you know what to do? You’ve been going through the motions for so long that when given the choice of what to do, do you know what you actually *want* to do? Does a lifelong slave know what to do when given freedom? All they’ve known is being bound and directed, forced to do things against their will and mentally abused throughout to tear their hopes and dreams from them, and their very personality, until they’re as close to chattel as a human being can get. How does one go about rebuilding their life?

learning cycle

I’m still learning how-I mean, its only been two weeks now-but I know I’ll get there. Most of the time I just feel like an impoverished kid who has been taken to the world’s largest arcade/candy store/fireworks shop with a blank check. There’s a lot to get to, and I plan on getting to all of it. One important thing I’ve learned throughout all of this: if I’m feeling it, there’s a 99.9% chance someone else has, is, and will feel this as well.

Reclaiming one’s life after living with depression and anxiety for years on end, existing on auto-pilot for the vast majority of it, is a hurdle-a necessary one-to climb over and struggle with. To those of you who are recovering, keep fighting. I’m confident we’ll figure it out and get through it. To those of you who haven’t had this experience, and especially those who know people who have, you have one job: don’t push or shove people through recovery. Don’t patronize us or baby us. Just be there as we struggle, okay?

To Christians, this is building shalom-this is building the Kingdom of God-coming alongside those who are bruised and broken and loving them. More than anything, those of us in recovery just need someone to understand our struggle and be willing to be there for us.

 

 

Psalms, retold. 3+4

Honestly didn’t feel the need to change much in these two chapters. Minor differences.

Chapter 3

1A psalm of David, when he fled from his son Absalom.

2How many are my foes, Lord!

How many rise against me!

3How many say of me,

“There is no salvation for him in God.”

                                                                        Selah.

4But you, Lord, are a shield around me;

My glory, you keep my head high.

5With my own voice I will call out to the Lord,

And answer will come by the holiness of the Lord.

                                                                        Selah.

6I lie down and I fall asleep,

And I will wake up, for the Lord sustains me.

7I do not fear, then, thousands of people

Arrayed against me on every side.

8Arise, Lord! Save me, my God!

Harm not my foes,

Save the wicked by your great power!

9Salvation is from the Lord!

May your blessing be upon all people!

                                                                        Selah.

Psalm 4

1For the Leader; with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David.

2Answer me when I call, my saving God.

When troubles hem me in, set me free!

Take pity on me, hear my prayer.

3How long, O people, will you be hard of heart?

Why do you love what is worthless and chase after lies?

                                                                                      Selah.

4Know that the Lord is a wonder to the faithful one;

The Lord hears when I call out.

5Repent and sin no more;

6Love mercy, walk humbly with your God,

And trust in the Lord.

7Many say, “May we see better times!

Lord, show us the light of your face!”

                                                                                      Selah

8But you have given my heart more joy

Than those with plenty.

9In peace I will lie down and fall asleep,

For you alone, Lord, make me secure.

Psalms, retold. 1 & 2

*Author’s note.

The idea for this began in the Fall of 2017 during an assignment for a college course where we had to read/pray 3 psalms a day and write a reflection at the end of 3 weeks. I quickly realized that I couldn’t stand most Psalms. They didn’t reflect the God I’ve come to know and love, nor did I find many of them to be overly inspiring for one who seeks to follow Jesus. As I read/prayed the Psalms, I’d modify them as best I could, and I realized that it was a great practice for shaping my mind toward redeeming the dark, human, tribalistic evil we all are so heavily immersed in. For instance, I didn’t want to curse those who persecute me.

SO, I’ve decided to go through all of the Psalms and write out modifications. If you decide to do the same, feel free to tag me or something as I’d love to read them as well. I’ve found praying them can be enjoyable and spiritually edifying, but so is just the practice of “Christianizing” the psalms.

Also, this is NOT a translation by any means. It’s more like “editing,” with a Christian worldview in mind. Basically, I’m doing what the exiled Jewish community in Babylon did to their texts/traditions to fit their new realities/theology.

 

All original sourcing of text is taken from NABRE unless otherwise stated.

Chapter 1

I

­1Blessed is the one who does not walk

In the counsel of the wicked,

But stands in the way of sinners,

And does not join with scoffers.

2The way of the Lord is their joy;

And on the Lord’s way they meditate day and night.

3They are like a tree

Planted near streams of water,

That yields its fruit in season;

It’s leaves never wither;

Whatever they do prospers.

II

4But not so are the wicked!

They are like chaff driven by the wind.

But the wicked will be redeemed.

By the loving mercy of the Lord

Sinners will be found in the assembly of the Just.

Justice is the way of the Lord,

The wicked do not know it.

Chapter 2

1Why do the nations protest

And the peoples conspire in vain?

2Those in power rise,

They plot together

Against God and those who follow the Lord.

3The say, “Let us break their shackles

And cast off their chains from us!”

For the way of the Lord

Is a threat to them.

4The one enthroned in heaven laughs;

For God knows their efforts are foolish.

5God then weeps for them,

With great sadness the Lord says to them:

6“I make known to you my ways,

Those who follow me are on earth.

Your way leads only to self-destruction and sorrow.”

7I will tell you what the Lord has taught me,

“We are sons and daughters of the King.”

8Ask it of me

And I will show you your inheritance:

All the nations will be brought to peace,

The way of the Lord will be known everywhere.

9God will be our shepherd,

Like a father and mother will the Lord care for us.

10And now, you who are powerful, give heed;

Take warning, those who presume to judge.

11Serve the lord with ultimate humility and respect.

Accept correction,

As consequences befall on mankind

For wickedness and evil.

Those who find refuge in the Lord

Will find peace,

and all will be drawn to the Lord!

Creation in Genesis and Near Eastern Mythology

This is from an assigned paper for a class I’m in-Old Testament-and thought I’d put it out there. If you’re interested in knowing more of this kind of material, this will be enjoyable. Those who don’t care about any of the subject matter will probably find this to be a bit of a drudgery and should probably click the X on this tab (or share it with a nerdy friend).

 

Clint Jackson

2/25/2018

 

A Comparative Evaluation of Near Eastern Creation Myths and the Biblical Creation Myths

 

“In the beginning.” Such has been spoken of all over the world. Different cultures, different Gods, different stories-all seek to address the question of where everything came from. Often, these stories contain less of a direct answer to this question and instead more of an etiological reasoning for a culture’s understanding of the way the world is ordered and maintained. In other words, the task of understanding the theological genesis of existence is taken up and forgotten within the same story, and instead a more practical pursuit is engaged by means of a mythological account of creation. Near and Middle Eastern creation myths did the same, though with a tendency toward increased emphasis placed upon the divine creator’s continued existence, dominance, and relevance within the created order. Today, the Bible’s creation accounts are the most well-known, and most misunderstood. However, what has become increasingly understood by scholars over the past 100 years is the similarity between Biblical creation and other contemporary regional accounts of creation. It is not uncommon to find arguments stating that the Biblical authors and redactors of Genesis wrote and edited the accounts in chapters 1-11 with texts and stories contemporary, and thus relevant, to their times in mind, or perhaps even beside them as they worked. Evaluated here will be both the similarities and differences between the creation in Genesis and other Near Eastern accounts.

The Enuma Elish is one such ancient creation story. Its current form is mostly a revised version of an even more ancient version of the story, retold by the Babylonians, currently thought to have been transcribed sometime around the 12th century BCE. In the Enuma Elish, we find the creation of 1) the gods, 2) the world/sky/stars/etc 3) an ordered hierarchy of the gods 4) an explicitly stated reason for the creation of man, ie, our purpose.

These Babylonian accounts use, of course, the Mesopotamian pantheon of gods. Though there is some discrepancy on as to whom the chief or king God is, it doesn’t ultimately affect the story. Starting out, nothing exists. There is only Apsu, the pre-existent, and Tia-Mat, the mother of all, and these two beings exist alongside chaos. Essentially, the universe was not ordered, and that, therefore, is chaos. Based on the text itself, it would appear that Apsu and Tia-Mat could both be considered “Gods of the water,” as the text says that they “intermingled their waters together,” which is what gave birth to their children, the gods. This could be a simple matter of translation, or mistranslation though. In a more theological sense, however, neither of them are truly “Gods,” but instead are simply “being.” They are what is, and out of them flows the reality we live in.

It must be made clear that at this point in the story, there is no Earth, nor sky, there is only the “Gods,” and, presumably, chaos has been defeated, as the birth of the gods is the catalyst for order and there is no further mention of it. What follows, then, is a series of begats in which more gods are born to those created by Tia-Mat and Apsu. As the story goes, the younger gods are noisy and annoying, and Tia-Mat grows angry and wishes to destroy them all. After a series of attempts by other gods, Marduk rises up and overthrows Tia-Mat, slicing her in half “as one cuts a dried fish.” As a result of Marduk’s victory, he is made king over the gods and the one who decrees the fates of the gods.

This former portion of the story with divine battles and the creation of heavenly beings appears to be set in some form of “Godly court.” Put another way, all the gods seem to be living in a cosmic-sized house. The driving factor behind Tia-Mat’s rampage is her annoyance with her offspring’s noise and the desire to rest. This, combined with the idea of Marduk becoming king over the gods, reveals a huge degree of anthropomorphic qualities bestowed upon the gods. Whether this is because the storytellers actually viewed the gods this way or if it is to make them more relatable to human ears is not clear. Regardless, the theology could be summed up by stating that the Mesopotamian/Babylonian gods are basically super-powered humans whose primary claim to “god-hood” is ultimately a result of this power as well as their pre-existence.

The Earth and the Sky is then created by the gods out of Tia-Mat’s corpse, with the Tigris and Euphrates rivers flowing from her eyes. Humans are made from her spouse’s blood, and upon them is bestowed all of the God’s work, though what exactly that work is isn’t clear. Essentially though, the humans were created so that the gods may rest, and the humans are also to offer sacrifice to their creators, which comes across in the story as a sort of etiology.

So, in short, there are many gods, there is a divine abode for the gods-which in the Babylonian retelling of the story is, of course, Babylon-there is a king god and all the others are below him, the gods have sex and produce children, and the actions of humans affect the happiness of the gods.

Another ancient story, this time from the Akkadians-though related to the Babylonian mythology-describes both the creation of man, a great flood, and provides an etiological explanation behind death, infertility, miscarriage, and the institution of making some women be temple virgins, as well as answering the question of why natural disasters occur. It’s known as the Epic of Atrahasis, named after the human protagonist in the story.

At the beginning of this story, the gods and the Earth are already created, as well as a hierarchy of gods already in existence. In many regards it could be considered a continuation of the Enuma Elish, though with some differences in content. The oldest recorded version of the story is from the 17th century BCE, which predates the 12th century recording of the Enuma Elish. However, it’s generally agreed that both stories are descendent from older oral traditions in circulation throughout the region, and it’s almost a certainty that what we have today is but one surviving version among what would’ve been many during its time.

The opening scene is with a group known as the “lesser Gods” working away at digging the canals for the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, reportedly for 40 days. These gods grow weary of their hard labor and rebel, demanding a solution. The solution comes in the form of a new creation: humans. The purpose of humankind would be to do the work of finishing the Earth, which was unfinished at the time. Created from the blood of a god who sacrificed himself to make humans and the skin of another God, mankind was created. Their population then swelled, and they became noisy and annoying to the king of the gods, Enlil, who then decided to destroy the humans-or at least severely deplete their population. He sent plague, drought, and famine upon the land, but upon seeing the ultimate failure of these measures, he decides to convince the gods to join forces and flood the Earth.

A man loyal to the gods, named Atrahasis, was warned in a dream of the god’s plans to flood the Earth and is instructed to build a great ship and to fill it with two of every kind of animal. Though the gods are angry with Atrahasis for thwarting their plans, they ultimately decide to spare him as they no longer had crops to eat nor beer to drink, thus reducing the gods to mourning. Furthermore, they were terrified of the great storm they’d created. Eventually the storm ends and Atrahasis makes sacrifice to the gods, who come to eat and take Atrahasis up to live away from the other humans-essentially turning him into a human-god hybrid, typically referred to as a demigod. Enki decides instead to enact other measures for population control, namely miscarriage, demons who steal babies away, and pious observance of celibacy.

Here we see a similar theological understanding of the gods as in the Enuma Elish. However, what is of interest is the role of sacrifices as being literal food offerings to the gods, who would come and eat of the sacrifice. We see one god-Enlil-take special interest in human welfare, even going so far as to betray the plans of the gods to save humanity. We also see an explanation for mankind’s purpose: to essentially “co-create” in the world. Furthermore, there’s the etiological nature of why natural disasters happen, namely population control enacted by the gods, as well as the age-old human problem of miscarriages, and infant mortality, and an etiological explanation in defense of the institution of pious celibacy. In both stories the gods are anthropomorphic in nature, are affected by and affect the events occurring on the Earth, and exist once again as essentially superhuman and preexisting beings whose only claims to supremacy over humans are that they are more powerful, created humans, and are preexistent. This two stories do a good job of summarizing Near/Middle Eastern theologies as they pertain to creation, the flood, and the creation and purpose of mankind, which will now be compared and contrasted with the account(s) in Genesis 1-11.

Genesis 1 starts out with “in the beginning, God…” The account then goes on to detail creation as having occurred by one God’s hand over the course of 6 days. The existence of God isn’t particularly addressed, but is assumed to have been preexistent, like the gods in the Enuma Elish. It is simply said that everything was formless, and that the spirit of God (wind) resided over the waters (chaos/disorder). God then decided to create and then spoke out, and whatever was spoken was created. Last created in this account are humans, whom he creates as male and female. Thus, the means of creation in Genesis 1 wasn’t physical, nor is creation built off of something else, but is entirely brought into being by God and God alone, and by only his words.

This creation account posits some huge differences with that of those in other Near Eastern accounts. As mentioned, everything is brought into creation simply by speech, no further action needed. No god was sacrificed to create the Earth or humans. God isn’t recorded as needing to dig ditches for rivers nor place mountains upon the breasts of another god, as is recorded in the Epic of Atrahasis and Enuma Elish, respectively. However, the idea that God is the only divine being is not upheld by Genesis 1. Upon creating humans, the text states, “let us create humans in our own image.” On the Seventh day, God rested.

Genesis 1, having been edited during or just after the Babylonian exile, includes source material that predates its actual current form. Thus, the idea of there being only one God in existence was not a belief of the authors-the exiles from Judah. Rather, it was believed that there was a pantheon of Gods and other divine beings, all of whom served the one chief God-Yahweh, or Elohim-though the creation of these beings is not included in this account, so it’s indeterminable whether or not these beings were also pre-existent like Yahweh. Regardless, humans were created in the image of Divinity. In this we have similarities and a disparities between the Jewish creation story of Genesis 1 and other Near Eastern stories. God/the Gods as preexistent is similar. Humans in the image of the gods may be similar as the humans in the Enuma Elish and EOA (Epic of Atrahasis) are created from pieces of the gods. Creation or “all that is” being disordered/chaos is similar. Furthermore, God or The Gods rest in both stories. The main differences are really that God doesn’t get dirty, and God speaks to create out of nothing.

Etiologically, the story serves to establish the idea of the seven-day week, the seventh day being for rest, or “sabbath.” The story, therefore, reinforces the Jewish Sabbath. It serves to show why, or how, humans are different from other animals: we’re created in the Divine image. Furthermore, it shows us why we are “male and female,” instead of just “man,” as would’ve been easier to understand in a patriarchal society: humans are supposed to fill the Earth and subdue it. Thus, women are for reproductive purposes so that man can fulfill the work of subduing the Earth. This particular matter could be seen as both similar and different from the other Near Eastern stories. Humans are created to do work, but what work and why the creation took place appears to be different. In the Enuma Elish and the EOA, the humans are created so the gods don’t have to work. However, in Genesis 1 no such reason is given, instead only a purpose is provided. While the purpose bears similarity to that of EOA and the Enuma Elish, it is not similar enough to consider it identical. It may be reasonable to suggest that the Jewish understanding of the purpose of mankind is a retelling, or at least influenced, by the EE and EOA. Furthermore, and this may or may not be purely etiological, God declares creation to be “good.” No such verdict is declared specifically regarding creation in the other stories and is unique to Genesis 1 alone. As an author’s note, I’ve never come across any other creation story that declares such an inherent moral quality upon creation, and may actually be totally unique to all other creation stories.

The second Hebrew creation story is found in chapter 2 of Genesis, though the actual narrative of which it is part continues on for several chapters. It is, in it’s own right, the “Hebrew Epic of Creation.” Though it bears evidence of the same editing/redaction/compiling as other Biblical texts, including Genesis 1, it’s source material is generally agreed to have come from the 8th century, approximately, though of course all of these recorded stories, whether Biblical or non-biblical, are descended from older oral traditions, which are largely impossible to accurately date. In this story, God creates man first, out of clay-though the translation generally denotes any sort of earthen material, meaning it could be dirt, dust, mud, and so on. Before God has made anything else on the Earth, He erects a garden and places the man within it. However, God has made a mistake. He realizes that man, whom he names “Adam,” is lonely. So, He creates animals and brings them to Adam to name and to hopefully find companionship. Even after bringing forth the dog to Adam for inspection, Adam is still lonely. So, God makes Adam fall into a deep sleep, and from man’s rib He creates a human in Adam’s image. When Adam awakes he declares that this is bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, and names her Eve, declaring her to be mother of all others. The story uses this as an etiological explanation for why men and women long for each other and have sex.

The Adam and Eve then live in this garden together as caretakers, with their only command being to not eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, with punishment for disobeying being death. However, a serpent comes to Eve and convinces her that God lied, and that by eating the fruit from that tree they would be like Gods themselves, knowing good from evil. So, Eve decides to eat the fruit and gives it to Adam as well to eat. Immediately they realized they were naked, covered themselves with leaves, and fled and hid. Later, in the cool of the evening, God was walking in his garden. He called for Adam but could not find him. Upon discovering him, Adam tells God that he hid because he was naked, and he was ashamed of this. God, furious, demands to know who told him he was naked, and Adam says that it’s not his fault, that it was because of Eve that he ate the fruit, and Eve rats out the talking snake. What follows is a series of curses. The snake will be cursed to slither upon the ground for the rest of eternity, which it apparently hadn’t been doing beforehand. Furthermore, humans will forever attempt to stomp the snake’s head with their feet, and the snake will forever attempt to bite humans. Eve’s curse is to be eternally subservient to her husband, setting a pattern for men to always be lords over their wives, and women will now suffer great pain in childbirth. Adam’s curse is to be forced to work for food, toiling in the ground to produce crops, but the ground will always be an enemy and produce thorns. After a brief meeting with the divine host, God determines that if Adam and Eve stay in the garden, they’ll eat from the tree of life and live forever, so all of them are cast out of the garden. The garden is now forever defended by divine beings whose task is guaranteeing that humans will never be able to re-enter the garden. In an act of kindness though, God crafts clothing for the humans out of animal skins.

In this story we see a far more anthropomorphic God. God makes mistakes, gets dirty in the act of creation, walks in the garden in the cool of the evening, doesn’t know where Adam is, and can’t see the future. Thus, while the actual narrative is hugely different from that of the EE and EOA, the theological content and ultimate etiological ramifications of the events therein don’t differ all that much. Regarding etiology, this story is full of it. Why don’t animals speak like humans? Well they can’t now, but they used to be able to. Why don’t humans live forever? Well, here’s this story. Why do women have pain in childbirth? Because we disobeyed God. Why do we wear clothes and feel ashamed if we’re naked in public? Well, because we know good and evil, we recognize that being naked is evil. From death, to the events that fill our lives, to the existence of evil, this story answers all of these questions from the perspective of the Jewish people. It is not altogether different from creation mythology both regionally and globally, and answers what may be considered to be “core universal questions” humans have asked, as well as providing answers to questions particular to the region and storytellers themselves.

While it may be of some worth to also discuss the story of the flood in the Bible, it comes across as somewhat redundant. The flood narrative in the Bible and the flood narrative of the EOA is nearly identical. The gods decide to destroy all of creation, declaring it to be wicked, but save one man (and his family). Noah, righteous in the eyes of the Gods, is warned in a dream of the impending deluge and is instructed to build a boat. The boat will be filled with provisions, Noah family, and two of every animal-though the priestly source records a different number and differentiates between clean and unclean animals, reflecting the tradition of editing stories in later years to fit the needs of the current owners of the story. God then unleashes a flood, the flood subsides, Noah comes out and makes sacrifice to the Gods, and they promise to never again flood the Earth. Reading the story of the flood with the Epic of Atrahasis in mind ultimately reveals the numerous similarities in the text, making much further analysis pointless. The theology is similar, even though the narrative particulars differ. The result is also the same in both stories. Furthermore, such flood narratives are entirely commonplace in any populated area where floods are commonplace.

Ultimately, we can see that these stories are similar to those of other Near Eastern and Middle Eastern cultures. While we can never be one hundred percent certain, it stands to reason that the creation stories of the Jewish people were influenced by those far older stories, albeit modified to fit their own contexts. None of this is an anomaly in the study of mythology. Such influence, or cultural borrowing, is commonplace anywhere you go where different people groups interact or interacted with each other. To find this occurring in Biblical stories is, therefore, unsurprising, and only comes as shocking to some of us as a result of our conditioning to believe that the Biblical stories are somehow separate or removed from the historical contexts in which they were written. The fact is, the Jews are a Near-Eastern people descended from Near Eastern people. Their culture, and thus their stories, reflect this fact, and we shouldn’t expect anything different.

Unfortunately, people of faith in the modern world misuse the term faith. When they hear such analysis of their prized stories, they grow angry, or they abandon it all, claiming it challenged or destroyed their faith. The fact is, what they had was never faith. It was blind obedience. What faith they had was in their own minds. The conflict arises only because our beliefs are conflated to mean faith, so much so that to discuss one almost always elicits the need for discussion of both. For people of faith, our beliefs are irrelevant. We recognize our own inability to fully grasp the truth, and we recognize that the stories we tell are equally inadequate to the task of containing and conveying ultimate truths about the world or God. Thus, such discussion doesn’t hinder true faith, it can only ever destroy our beliefs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

Genesis. (2011, March 9). New American Bible Revised Edition. Charleston, South Carolina, United States: Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.

Lambert, W. G. (1999). Atra-Hasis: The Babylonian Story of the Flood. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

  1. King, L. (n.d.). Enuma Elish Vol 1 & 2: The Seven Tablets of Creation; The Babylonian and Assyrian Legends Concerning the Creation of the World and of Mankind. Retrieved 2 26, 2018

 

 

 

Lost Man

Have you seen this man?

I sure would love to talk.

Sit a little, maybe blow a little off.

He’s been gone lately, I hope I can find him.

You see these demons inside,

They’ve got him in binds

And blind

Yeah he knows,

Blind as a bat but he’s still got ears.

Have you seen this man?

Gone forever I fear,

He gets lost sometimes but he always finds his way back

Home.

I hope he ain’t too far off track

I’ll catch flak, stacked,

I was supposed to watch him,

Make sure he ain’t lost again,

I promised his mama,

His dad can’t find him,

Lost sight again,

Over the blues-the wind and the waves.

I thought I saw him,

Out sailin a ship,

Lookin for shore

A port in a world that’s left him unsure

and sure, he might be one tough bastard,

But mama that storm there is dark,

And.png

Ain’t no light to be found.

But I guess he blind so he goes by sound.

His names always called,

maybe this time he answered?

Leave a note in a bottle, friend

I sure wish we’d speak again.

I sure wish I was me again.

But this hope inside got me feelin alive

And this fire is burnin up,

Scorchin a mile wide

The tide

is receding now,

a man I can see.

That man was me.

Hello old friend

Callin out o’er the wind

I tend, to be hard of hearin,

Why you fearin, he was always in

Me.

At sea I see.

He sees, we see.

The storm is nothin to a blind man

It took weatherin it to see,

In God I’m surely free.

Seen the lord Job