I explained in a previous article it is best to understand the Bible as two broad, over-arching stories – the first being the ugly account of humanity filled with murder, lust, adultery, greed, incest, rape, pillage, and loads of violence (all of which is in the Bible) and the second as God’s story of love, forgiveness, acceptance, peace and joy.
To avoid projecting an ugly caricature of humanity as God, one must read the Bible not from beginning to end like other books but through the lens of Christ – with love incarnate. As our Presiding Bishop often says: If it’s not about love, it’s not about God. Christ-centered love is the Life-Giving Way and the Truth for finding the scriptural path to God; and for this we can be profoundly grateful on Thanksgiving.
I will illustrate some of the wonderful revelations in Holy Scripture using the two biblical creation stories. Yes, there are two creation stories. The first spans Genesis 1-2:3 and the second spans Genesis 2:4-25. They are distinct in many ways. The first is the familiar story of God creating in six days and resting on the seventh. Humanity is not created until the last act of the sixth day, after animals, birds, and sea creatures exist. God saw all that he created as good, but then “God created humankind in his image, … male and female he created them” (1:27); and then the created order is described as not just good but “very good.”
The sequence of creation is very different in the second story. Adam is created first, followed by fish, birds, and other beasts. Whereas there is no mention of the physical body’s creation in the first story, in the second Adam is created from the dust of the earth. Further, while God repeatedly says everything is good in the first account, in the second God says, “It’s not good that … man should be alone” (2:18). Instead of being created simultaneously, woman is created from Adam’s rib in the second account.
The people who compiled what we now know as the Bible were not sophisticated. They didn’t have iPhones, iPads, and the like; but they weren’t stupid either. They knew they were laying two different stories side-by-side. One need not (and shouldn’t) read the Bible as a history or science book. Instead, consider the underlying truths conveyed by the stories. All that God creates is good. We – you and me – are good just as we are. Thanks be to God!
Further, humanity is not only the culmination of creation but also created in the image of God – sharing something with God and each other. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Importantly, it is not good for us to be alone. We are made to be in relationship – with God and with each other – in loving relationships; for God is love and we are created in God’s image. Happy Thanksgiving!
Next month – the real St. Nicholas: sailors, prostitutes, and children.
By The Rev. Mark Andrew Jones, BSG
St. Nicholas Episcopal Church