Tag Archives: Biblical studies

New Things

As some of you may have seen on Facebook, I’ve been trying to figure out for a little while what to do with this blog. I haven’t been keeping up very well with posting, and part of the reason for that is that I didn’t want to be investing in a blog that ultimately I was going to reinvent (I should save new posts for the new blog instead, right?). I also wanted to have some sort of complete thought worth sharing before posting.

One of my ideas was to become more active (er, active at all…) on Walking Towards Jerusalem, a blog my husband Jeremiah started last year. He intended this to be a “biblioblog”—a blog focused on biblical studies—and told me I could join. I initially was enthusiastic because there aren’t many female bibliobloggers, but my interest has waned. It’s not that I don’t like blogging about the Bible—I just don’t like to feel constrained. He said I could blog about other things, as well, but I have never known if that blog was a good fit.

I also have considered helping this blog become more focused in order to attract a real audience. Ever since I stopped posting (i.e., when I started dating Jeremiah last March), my visits have virtually disappeared. I used to have a fairly active, though small, readership, but when you’re inconsistent for a while, even that small readership tends to fade. I thought that maybe if I came up with one thing to talk about, I could “market” this blog and make it “cool.” However, this is much easier said than done. Most of the time, I’ve felt void of ideas and like I was trying too hard.

In the end, I think I’ve decided two things. First, I’m working on an experimental blog, which is not yet up and running, aimed at smart teenagers who want to learn more about theology, etc. I have no idea if it will catch on, but this is my attempt to write about something that interests me that I feel the Internet actually needs. Hopefully there will be at least five high schoolers that agree that it is needed and will visit my little corner of the web. I’m interested in seeing what middle and high schoolers, as well as young college students, are interested in discussing from a more intellectual/academic perspective (or a more holistic perspective that at least begins to look at this angle of Christianity) and what needs might not be met by youth groups. Obviously, it’s only a sliver of the general population that really wants to learn more about theology, but I know I had various curiosities and interests in high school and am sure there are others like me out there. I don’t know many places offering the opportunity for teens to get an introduction to anything I’ve learned about in seminary (except for an interesting program at Duke Divinity School), so I’m interested just to see if there is a felt need for something like this—I hope to learn a lot in the process. If it is a total flop, the worst thing that has happened is I lost $15 on a domain name.

The second decision I’ve made is to try to stress a bit less about making this blog interesting or cool. I’m not going to try harder to think of a topical focus or to recruit an audience. I think that really, I may be better off acknowledging that many of my friends live far away and would be more interested in seeing what I’m doing and thinking about than my poor attempts at polished pieces of writing. (Not that many of my past posts have been particularly polished…)

I have tried to avoid a “personal blog,” because it feels too much like a twelve-year-old’s online diary, but the fact is, I don’t write for beliefnet or some other place that’s going to get me lots of traffic and turn me into a respectable guru on one of my passions. Instead, I’m just Ashleigh, a grad student who is thinking about various things and enjoying my life. Hopefully photo posts, incomplete thoughts, and similar goodies will be just as exciting to my five readers—maybe I can even entice my best friend to start reading again. ;o)

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Jews write goods stories

Monday I begin my class on the Torah, and the professor is keeping up her can’t-half-ass-my-class reputation by assigning reading (65 pages or so?) for the first day.  I’m not thrilled about the workload, but I not-so-secretly am delighting in diving into my books.

One of the three chapters I’m reading is about Chapters 1-11 of Genesis, and I’ve paused on page 117 (of Boadt’s Reading the Old Testament) to share with you a compelling comparison of Genesis 1 to the Babylonian creation myth (circa 1700 B.C.) Enuma Elish.

Enuma Elisa tells the story of Apsu (male) and Tiamat (female), the gods of fresh and salt water.  They have water-god sex (whatever that entails) and give birth to all the other gods, but subsequently decide to kill all of their children.  One of the new gods, Eu, finds out about the plot and kills Apsu, causing Tiamat to declare war against the other gods.  At that point, Marduk, a warrior god, is declared king of the gods as he kills his mother Tiamat, making the heavens and earth out of two halves of her body.  Finally, humanity is created at Marduk’s command by Eu (from another god they killed, no less), humans apparently thought to be “savage” and “charged with the service of the gods that they might be at ease!”  Then Marduk celebrates his kingship with a banquet.  Huzzah!  (Story summarized from pg 116.)

Now the contrast (pg 117):

While the Priestly authors [of Genesis 1] obviously knew the Babylonian story, or one similar, and used its outline, they did not accept its theology.  P makes no mention of a battle between Yahweh and the forces of chaos represented by the water: nor does it say human beings are made up of the flesh of a god; nor does it claim that we have no purpose but to be slaves of the gods; nor is Yahweh portrayed as one among many competing, bickering and openly jealous divinities.  Rather, in direct opposition [author’s emphasis] to all that the Babylonians held about the origins of the universe, and in particular about the claims of their city god Marduk to be lord over all other gods, P solemnly affirmed the basic insights of Israel’s faith:

(1) there is one God, without sexual gender, alone from the start,

(2) who created from his goodness and wise plan a world of order,

(3) in which matter is good and not the result of whim or magic,

(4) but God’s word decrees what it is to be and establishes limits;

(5) he gave humans a place of honor, made in his own image

(6) they were to have responsibility over what was created,

(7) and share divine gifts of pro-creating life, sharing his sabbath rest and knowing God personally, [sic–don’t know why this ends in a comma]

One might ask many questions about this text:
* Is the JDPE theory accurate about its origins or was it written by Moses or something else?
* Does it identify the correct creator god?
* What caused the Jewish God to be so different from others of the Near East?  Do any ancient religious groups stand in contrast to the surrounding groups in a similar way?

Etc.

However, with or without these answers one thing is clear:

I don’t know anyone that would want to worship Marduk.  But a lot of people that would want to worship YHWH.

The Jewish story, apart from questions of its truth, is simply a much more compelling story.  First of all, I would much rather be a human in the Priestly account.  I like a gender-neutral God, I like being created out of love, I like being given power, responsibility, and privilege.  Secondly, the Babylonians created a god that, at least given my personality and cultural bias, I find quite unappealing.  Interesting, but unappealing.  Creation was the result of chaos and violence, and Marduk looks like a selfish pig.  The Jews, on the other hand, created a hero.

You may or may not buy the story and think this YHWH thing is for real, but you have to admit Jewish storytellers have a knack for getting at the core of our hopes and dreams for ourselves and our world.

Does this sound fun to teach to kids in Sunday School?

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Filed under Hebrew Bible, Theology & Ministry