Noah 2.0

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Imagine with me, it is the year 2412…archaeologist have discovered an ancient manuscript that proves the existence of both an ancient people and the history of their gods and a cataclysmic ultimate destruction…

An ancient myth is brought fresh perspective, a story about the destruction of an entire tribe of people living on an island of modified elements no longer available, and angels/super-men made to breath fire and wear fire as the destruction rained down upon the pinnacles of arrogance and human trafficking…the gods of these ancient people predicted a judgement and toppled the trading floors of corruption and human slavery where everyone was forced to do the most menial and useless things to keep the gods appeased.

For 14 days the people sat in the ashes as the gods of war broke forth upon the unjust and then the gods like some ancient monster turned their weapons against the children of the plains, the mothers and daughters of innocence watched as bogeymen were unleashed and entire villages and families were destroyed over-night…

As you read the documents you are amazed at how violent the gods of these ancient peoples were, parts describing the whole world being destroyed and all people great and small being enslaved by the N’sa, freedoms and basic identity stripped away by powerful cosmic beings who knew where you came from and where you were going at all times…and your own geography knows without any shadow of a doubt that NO island existed where the documents claimed it did…even historical documents predating the manuscript agree on this.

Sitting in your comfort and the absence of war as an idea for over 350 years you would read incredulously, disbelieving that such was the way of the world at one time…there have been no wars, no diseases of significance in over 300 years…the planet is peaceful, people would never even consider hurting individuals, let alone entire tribes, you would find the stories fantastical and would attribute the entire narrative to myth and ignorance, human nature and bogeymen of war do not co-exist, there was never creatures that enslaved and humiliated people or cosmic beings such as the N’sa…you would assume the people who wrote this were backwards, uneducated and mis-infomed about human nature and basic geography.

But if you were reading internet activity as history and the emotional content combined from the year 2001 Sept. 11…and added that with personal perspectives from Iraq or security checkpoints through the National Security Administration at airports…the myth takes on a new paradigm…

You could easily read of brave “angels” and “firemen” and in another context the fact that many breathed smoke and went into the fire to save lives might make them seem super human…certainly our eulogies describe them as angels…

If you were to intercept the communications of fighter pilots as they released “bogeys” upon Iraq, outside of a context of our wars it would seem ridiculous…NSA (N’sa) knowing everywhere you have been and are going is no longer some myth, and the selling of ourselves to pay off debts and work meaningless jobs to fight back creditors at some point has got to look like human slavery, and Wall Street could be seen as a trading floor,a market place of human slavery in that context…the island of New York is not so much an island as a metaphor, but we still use it…inaccurate as it may seem,

When I read other ancient documents that predate, or come alongside the bible, it is fairly clear that Sarah and Abraham followed the Code of Hammurabi…Abraham paying tithes to Melchizedek is a perfect example as well as Sarah offering her handmaiden to produce offspring…these laws are fairly well documented historically…

Pharaohs war tent is exactly the same size, shape, and layout as Moses’ temple of the wilderness but it predates it by almost 100 years…the children of Israel in the desert would have definitely recognized exactly what God was saying in the construction of such a building…it would be the equivalent of God giving your pastor the size and dimensions of the Pentagon and a word to “build it exactly according to the plan”…we often attribute divine initiative to the peoples giving of personal items to build the Tabernacle, but never notice how easily people of other faiths have given just as generously to build Mosques or Temples…we fall short of claiming their generosity is divinely inspired as we use the examples to raise money for our new Sunday School wing.

Here’s my first point, when we read the Bible it should be fairly obvious that the first audience it was written to trumps all other audiences for meaning…the Book of Joshua was not written primarily to me a Evangelical living in the 21st century, it was first written to an emerging tribal community in a hostile nomadic culture nearly 4-5 thousand years ago…it is AFTER they have finished with the book do I get to read and make application…and the same holds true of all of the bible…even the last few chapters and books.

The writers also figure into the equation and we often forget that Paul claimed to be sent to the gentiles but Peter, James, and John wrote primarily towards the “circumcision”…a particular “grace” was given for each contribution, we are unwilling to take on the Jewish laws since they are Old Covenant, but still apply the Apostles to the circumcisions words as to gentiles, as if there was no difference…when in fact there may be.

So when we read the Bible we must take into account that the culture that handed us the bible has an impact upon the words we read, then these words get washed into different languages and hung out to dry in our native tongue and we like to pick and choose them from the clothes line of history failing to notice the dye colors our translators have used, or the soaps that take away the cultural smell and soil stains that gave us the scripture.

When I read the sanitized version in my native language where Jesus tells Saul “It is hard for you to kick against the pricks” I upgrade that to the newer version that says it’s hard to kick against the stones…and I miss the point that Jesus has basically told Saul “You’re beating a dead horse by fighting the Way”…the impact and impart of what He said gets lost in translation…(and this is why I completely approve of paraphrases such as The Mirror Word or the Message, they have their place in imparting emotional content and fumes that have been washed out academically).

But Mark…if I read the bible as a narrative or as ancient myths have I not diminished the power of the word in my life? Don’t we need it to be infallible, or perhaps living as it claims, how can I truly honor the word of God if I don’t believe it is literal?

Well these are great and honest questions, but they are a bit misleading…the Word of God as a person, living and eternal, and the word of God as a book might be two different things…John the Apostle in his gospel starts it out by clearing up the confusion and he states that the Word which is eternal came and dwelt among us…in other words the literal life of the book came and put on flesh…

I cannot discount even a little the importance of the scriptures…it is they that tell me that God looks like Jesus…it is scripture that demonstrates to me that God is love and gives me my theology…from the scriptures I get a portrait of the One, the Son and his nature is delivered to me in narrative form…so I will never diminish the importance or value of them…

But there are parts of the scriptures that belong less to me than to others…Pauls admonition to Timothy to bring the cloak he left in Troas is not something I can base my devotions on.

My main point is this, context remains an very important metric when reading the bible, it is not everything, but it should not be ignored…

To close let me give an example…in the final chapters of the book it speaks of “The wrath of the lamb”…or the “blood of the lamb”

When I read that from an American cowboy right-is-might perspective I want to cheer for the good guys…

But when I read it in context…it takes on a different approach…the word for lamb is not my american run of the mill “get me some wool” husbandry creature…it is a specific word that means “little lamb”…and John places this little lamb into a political context, the 24 elders around the throne when translated to my paradigm would probably be closer to “The Senate, the House and The President before the Supreme Court”…

So the wrath of a little lamb…(or I overcome by the blood of a little lamb)…it defines the terms for me…it is no longer my American shoot-em up context especially considering what the church was encountering when it was written…

Rather than be a statement of some intense anger from heaven, I see that power and anger has been emptied out…the “wrath” of God might be more like the compassion of fireman running into a burning tower to save lives than some war-eagle idea I default to.

“I saw both houses and the Supreme court as well as the presidential seal bowing before the wrath of a little lamb”…context…it means something.

As usual your mileage may vary.