Tag Archives: Genesis

Christmas & Cosmic Liberation: Mary as Noah 2.0

An Experiment in Allegorical Interpretation

Right around Christmas time, we Protestant Christians like to rush right through the Incarnation, spit on the idea that YHWH arrived here on Earth as a baby, and start talking about Easter. It happens in Protestant pulpits, and you know it! One of the common talking points in all of the Crucifixion talk is the idea that Mary, the mother of Jesus, as Eve 2.0. Now, for people who continue to affirm Original Sin as something that is biologically inherited, this allegorical interpretation of the text fits quite nicely. For others, such as myself, who do not affirm Original Sin as something transmitted through our bodies, this view remains a problem in that women remain the scapegoat for human wickedness on a large scale.

The thing about allegorical interpretation is that it is not absolute, and there can be other paradigms used within reason (I would say measured by the Canon and Tradition). In some forms of Judaism, there are four types of interpretation, and one of the being REMEZ, that uses “patterns and models [that] allude to all experiences […] of the past, and intimate the gamut of possibilities of the future.” (Mihaly, Eugene. The Passover Haggadah as PaRaDiSe. page 18). Many historians have noted that in the Medieval Ages, Scripture (alluding to the image of Ezekiel’s Chariot) was seen as having four senses of interpretation. Among these are the literal sense, the moral sense, the anagogical sense (the hope for the future), and the allegorical sense. I believe that this was the Scriptural project taken up by Gregory the Great (I am going by memory here). Now, there is no mistaken that there are some forms of allegorical interpretation that are harmful (one can look no further than Augustine’s terrible readings of Judges 6 and Romans 8-9). Augustine’s allegorical reading of Judges 6 is an example of why it is important to take the original context of Scripture seriously; interpretation is no light task. The only way that Judges 6 could be used as an anti-Judaic text is if the interpreter himself has a vendetta against Judaism (I.e., Augustine).

Being a fanboy of the Alexandrian school of theology (including it’s High Christology, Mariology, and preference for allegorical interpretation ) in Early Christian history, I am also well aware of some of it’s blind spots. I see no reason why conservative Christians like Joel want to have “Mary as Eve 2.0” be the final interpretation for Mary as Theoktos. No one argues that Joseph is Adam 2.0, I mean, why not? Adam was married to Eve, makes logical sense, yes? There is no allusion of a garden in the Nativity story, no forbidden fruits or trees.

Mary as Noah 2.0

I would suggest that, through the use of the Synoptic Gospels (specifically Luke & Mark), the stories of Mary & Joseph, as well as Elizabeth & Zechariah could be read allegorically as a Noah story 2.0. That is, to clarify, that Mary and Elizabeth inhabit the Noahide prophetic tradition. An typological understanding of Revelation 11:19-12:17, primarily Catholic in origin, understands Mary as the Ark of the Covenant. Like Hannah in 1st Samuel 1 & 2, Mary is living in the midst of religious and political crisis. Just as the story of the prophet Samuel involves the movement of the Ark of the Covenant, so does Mary’s story. Noah’s Ark is an Ark of Covenant (Genesis 6:18), that God covenants with Noah before and after (Genesis 8:20-22). At this point of the narrative, it is obvious that the author of Genesis 6-8 is very familiar with the sacrificial system put in place during the days of Moses (thus the allusion to clean and unclean animals).

Typologically speaking, I would like to suggest that Jesus is the Ark of the Covenant (since Peter does recognize the Ark as an early vision of baptism–1st Peter 3:18-22). Just as the oppressive Philistines forced the Ark of the Covenant into Exile, so does the Roman government in Mary’s day force Joseph and Mary into Exile in Egypt. Noahide imagery appears in Mark’s introduction of John the Immerser and Jesus. Jesus is left in the wilderness with animals (Mark 1:13), while John is clothed with animal skins (Mark 1:6). The Immersion into water of Jesus by John the Immerser is an inversing of the flood; water and animals are being used to save human beings rather than displaying YHWH’s wrath towards their sinfulness. The image of the dove (the idea that the Holy Spirit anoints Christ) has some covenantal significance, for in Genesis 8, Noah sends out a dove to see whether what God has spoken is true (the flood ending after 40 days or so); in Luke, Mary and Joseph are so poor they can only offer a dove or pigeon according to the Law of the Covenant (Leviticus 5 & 12, Luke 2:24).

If this be this case, then I submit that the Virgin Mary and her cousin Elizabeth fit the role of Noah/Hannah, as prophets of righteousness (2nd Peter 2:5), who remind us of God’s magnificence and our limitations in our creatureliness (see the Magnificats: 1st Samuel 2:1-10/Luke 1:46-56).

“The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world.”– 1st Samuel 2:7-9, NRSV

Let Heav’n and Nature Sing!

Against Creation Ex Nihilo

I was reading John Walton’s book, The Lost World of Genesis One today. In it, he makes a rather off-handed observation regarding Genesis one that isn’t central to his thesis, but points to something that I have been thinking about for some time. A few years ago, I heard a Rabbi speak about Genesis one and how there were some of his colleagues that felt that the “create” verb in Genesis one is more properly used as “to fill” rather than “to create.” I was intrigued by this and so when discussions about creation ex-nihilo (the idea that God created the universe out of nothing) come up, I have tried to remain non-dogmatic about my theology there.

The Hebrew verb that is translated “to create” is  ברא  (bara). Walton points out that “bara,” in the almost 50 appearances in the Hebrew Bible, always has the divine as the subject. So this is not a word that is ever used in the sense of “creating” something in the way a human would.

Second, “bara” always has as its subject (that which is “created”) things that are functional, rather than material. To be clear, all of the occurrences are creating something that is either functional (something used for a purpose, like the founding of a company or agreeing on a boundary) rather than material (something that is actually physically brought into being, like a workman creating a chair). There are certainly some that are ambiguous, but no use of “bara” has a clear material meaning. They are all functional subjects, with some ambiguous subjects mingled in.The point being, you cannot make a case for “bara” being used in the material sense if all of the usages you have are either clearly functional or ambiguous.

Ergo, since no materials are ever mentioned in any of the uses of “bara,” and since Genesis one does not mention any unambiguously clear mention of materials being created (as opposed to materials being co-opted, ordered, or filled to serve a purpose), the assertion that God created everything from nothing is simply not supported by the text.

Of course, this does not mean God did not create Ex-Nihilo, and we will certainly not find any place where this is decried in scripture. But I do think it means that we can take a step back out of our dogmatic views of Ex-Nihilo, and allow for pre-existent matter or some alternative to exist. At very least, we can assert that Genesis one refers not to the creation of matter, but to an ordering of the universe that fits God’s purposes. (which is the ultimate point of Walton’s book).

 

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Our Idea, Not God's: Sacrifice

Genesis 4:3-4 – In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.

It strikes me that in the Canonical narrative, the impetus for sacrifices to God came from humanity, not God. Of course, God does give rules for sacrifices later, but that can be seen as setting boundaries for a common practice rather than instituting the practice itself.

Humans come up with all manner of things, and then blame God when they go bad… we’ll see if we can come up with some more…

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