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Journaling on Old Testament--by Maria Grace, Ph.D.

Journaling on Old Testament--by Maria Grace, Ph.D.

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Published by maria7093
This is a journal I kept as an assignment in my Old Testament class, during my first year in Seminary. It is interesting to see how my views of the God of the Old Testament changed during that class. Reading the Old Testament as poetry, and seeing the world from God's point of view--and not from my own-shifted my understanding of that God. I now see the OT God as one who is mad in love with God's people, yearning to incarnate through actions of social justice and faith.
This is a journal I kept as an assignment in my Old Testament class, during my first year in Seminary. It is interesting to see how my views of the God of the Old Testament changed during that class. Reading the Old Testament as poetry, and seeing the world from God's point of view--and not from my own-shifted my understanding of that God. I now see the OT God as one who is mad in love with God's people, yearning to incarnate through actions of social justice and faith.

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Published by: maria7093 on Jan 04, 2010
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9/9/08Reflections on Genesis Verses 2-11In reading the first 11 verses of Genesis, I first respond by imagining the world as itis being created by God. The imagery in Genesis is powerful. I envision an abysmalpre-ordered world, amorphous, and utterly silent. I find it interesting that, asCreation happens, God creates through his Voice. He “speaks” creation as ithappens, then he recognizes what he creates as “good”, and finally he names it.The text initially presents God as existing above the waters. I find the metaphorinteresting. Being God, he would have been everywhere, but in Genesis, he appearsto be a pneuma (the Greek word for “Spirit”, a derivative of the verbpneo=breathe), moving above the water. As breath, God moves. Motion impliesdirection and intention. Breath implies life. Only living things breathe. Therefore, Iread the word “pneuma Theou” (spirit of God) as Life that lies above the Abyss (orChaos). Creation, therefore, begins with Life—life that is above chaos, life thatintends to create order and harmony—and that is God.In the following verses, we are introduced to God’s senses. First, we hear his voice. “Let it be light.” I find the way of creating light—that is by speaking—veryinteresting. I also find interesting that Light was the first thing God created, inorder to bring cosmos to chaos. It seems to me that God needed light in order tosee his creation, as it progressed. In this process, the text presents God asrecognizing what he has created as “good”, and then using it to further his creation.Therefore, in Genesis, what God creates is given its purpose—and place in theuniverse—by God in the next step of creation. God uses the Light he created tocreate Day. By doing so, the pre-existing darkness also acquires a purpose: itbecomes night. Day and night form a complete day. What was formerly chaos andabyss has now become a harmonious whole. (Verses 2-5)Creation appears to be linear, logical, and methodical. The text uses the metaphorof “day” to indicate distinct steps in creation. Each step seems to build on theformer. Verses 6-9 describe the “second day”, during which God creates the sky.The word used in Torah is “___________” (rakia) and in the Greek Old Testament “stereoma”, which means “firmament”. I understand this word not as “sky”, but assomething solid, something upon which you can rely, stand, and build. Or, assomething solid that is above you, which also protects you.Some Old Testament translations present ” _______“ rakia “as “dome”. It isinteresting that the text presents God as being “earth-centered”, in other words,having as point of reference the earth. He cares for the earth to become covered bya “firmament”, a “rakia”, a “stereoma”, before he continues his creative process onearth. For me, this metaphor alludes to the basic human need for shelter andprotection. It invokes imagery of newborn infants looking “up” to adults—and the
surrounding world—for security and stability, as they lie unable to stand or walk,still undifferentiated from the womb in which they lived before they saw the light. Anewborn, recent to the world from mother’s womb, has uttered its first cry, as itsees light for the first time. The next thing is to be clothed—covered, protected,sheltered—from what is above, i.e. the world of adults.So, God “clothes” the earth with a “rakia”__________ and calls that firmament “sky”. The text does not indicate whether the sky is round, dome-like, or flat. Tome, it seems that what is important in creation is that God creates a separationbetween the waters that were on the earth from those that were above the sky bygiving them a certain place and a certain purpose. Differentiation, harmony andpurpose are essential characteristics of creation.Verses 9-11 describe the creation of the dry land and the seas. God first orders thewater to gather in one place and let the dry land appear. The text implies that Godknew what was under the waters. I find it interesting that it does not say that Godcreated the land that was covered with water, but that he let it emerge by orderingthe waters to collect in one place. To me, this is a metaphor bringing forth anothermeaning: Divine creation is not work that produces something “ex nihilo”; rather,God is “seeing” the purpose and utility of things “hidden” in an amorphous worldpreceding the cosmos as he is creating it, and he arranges His world in such a wayso “hidden” aspects become apparent and find their place and purpose. And onceGod sees them in the world He is creating, he recognizes them as “good”.The Greek word for “good” is “kalos” and it has several meanings some or whichare: right, virtuous, beautiful, suitable, competent, as it should be. It denotesinherent moral, physical or spiritual beauty that has a powerful, calming, andtransforming effect on the mind and heart of its beholder. In the Greek context youare not “made” Kalos—you are born with this quality, as though it has been given toyou by God.So, when God recognizes the emerging Light, Sky, and Earth as good, herecognizes a quality in them given by God himself, which is also pleasing to him. “Good” as a quality in every part of Creation is both inherent and purposeful. It isthe first quality God recognizes in everything he creates, immediately after henames it. What formerly was purposeless, shapeless, and had no inherent virtue,now becomes purposeful, beautiful, as it should be. It will serve its purpose, andthat is to please God.
9/16/08---Reflections on my reading the book of Genesis:I read Genesis in one sitting. It was a privilege to read it all at once. I was used toreadings of individual stories, so I did not have a sense of continuity and of the “atmosphere” of the entire book. To say that I enjoyed reading Genesis is anunderstatement. I felt animated, energized, perturbed, and nostalgic. The storiescarry tremendous energy, the energy of a people committed to their survival, whileobeying the will of God.What struck me first was the different style in which the stories are written. In thestories up until the story of Joseph, their style reminded me of magical realism--thegenre in which magical elements or illogical scenarios appear in an otherwiserealistic or even "normal" setting. God interacts with people, he interrupts theirdaily life to give them instructions, admonitions, guidance, advice, protection, hope,and--what I call--faith assignments. The people, on the other hand, respond totheir best of their ability, while always reserving their right to use their own will andhuman judgment in handling the challenges of every day life.The style in which the stories are written expresses the intimate coexistence of tworealms--a divine and a human--both of which need each other in order to fulfill theirpurposes. Humans need God as their conscience and God needs humans as hisbeloved work of art. The intimacy between God and humans expressed in Genesisis touching--really touching. It permeates all stories, finding its crescendo in thestory about Isaac’s sacrifice, where Abraham surrenders to God’s love with a faiththat surpasses his love for his son. And God responds with even greater love, bysparing his son’s life, a moment before Abraham is about to slaughter him. It is amoment of intense love between God and humans, given through the heart-wrenching scene of infanticide. It is paradoxical, extreme, scary, edgy, disturbing,almost disgusting. But nothing in love is pristine, and Genesis is--in my eyes--abook about God’s love affair with people, and that’s a love that knows no limits andmakes no excuses for its temperament, intensity, or unconventional creativity.Another reaction I had was that to the energy that permeates the stories of Genesis, as expressed through the verb and the name. There are three kinds of words that stayed with me, after reading Genesis: God’s name, people’s names,and verbs--verbs of motion, verbs of action, verbs of ongoing movement. There isno reflection in Genesis--there is action and movement. The verbs carry energy,they carry the energy of God and of humans, and that is energy always in motion,expressed through actions--walking, going, coming, falling, ascending, working,listening, hearing, speaking, blessing, cursing, guiding, hiding, saving, speaking,doing, making. Action. Ongoing, endless action. People live their relationships withGod and with each other through action, and through action they sin, repent,forgive and are forgiven, punish and are punished, get closer or farther away fromGod. God also, becomes present through words and actions. In fact, God’s actionsare contained in God’s words. For example, “Let it be light”--- contains the act of creating light. After reading Genesis, I felt a rush of energy that stayed with me forhours. Interesting reaction, indeed. I attributed it to the power of the verbs inGenesis, which carry the power of God.

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