Friday, September 10, 2010

Lie, Cheat, Steal and Be Rewarded

I don't know how anyone could read Genesis 27 and not feel sympathy for Esau who has his birthright taken away by his conniving little brother.
I guess one could say that Esau's claim to the title of elder brother was tenuous at best since he and Jacob were twins and he just happened to come out of the womb first by a few minutes.
Still, it is hard to understand why Rebekah is so intent on pushing one child over the other. I'm not sure what the lesson is that we are supposed to take away from this story if any. But I guess it makes for a good story.
A very strange story, though. What is the deal with these "blessings" and "curses." How are they enforced? Why can Isaac only give out one blessing to his children and why can't he take the blessing back when it became clear that he had been tricked into bestowing it on the wrong person?
Perhaps the only purpose is to explain why the Israelis, who trace their heritage back to Jacob, should be more blessed than the people whose roots go back to Esau.
Surely, it can't be to say that people who lie, cheat and steal will be rewarded by God.


  1. "I'm not sure what the lesson is that we are supposed to take away from this story if any."

    Are you doing this as some sort of experiment in individual interpretation? Why would you disdain the accumulated wisdom of more than 5,000 years of the sharpest human minds trying to figure out these exact questions, in the light of the Holy Spirit?

    Acts 8:30-31
    "Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?" He replied, "How can I, unless someone instructs me?" So he invited Philip to get in and sit with him.

  2. I don't think I'm disdaining anything. I'm simply writing down my reaction to the chapters as I read them from the perspective of a modern Christian.
    Most people today have never read the Bible straight through. And those that do so with the expectation that it contains the clear and exact and infallible "Word of God" are going to find a lot of things that should shock and apall them.
    Clearly, one should read the Bible with their mind engaged, thoughtfully, prayerfully and with the understanding that it is indeed God's word, but filtered through the imperfect perceptions of peoples who lived thousands of years ago.
    Otherwise, they may decide they need to go off on a crusade to find some witches to burn or some homosexuals to persecute.

  3. "Disdain" only in the sense of "disregard", not in the sense that you are actively scoffing or anything. Sorry for the imprecise wording.

    I don't think it is possible (or fruitful) to simply cannot read the Bible solely from the perspective of a modern Christian...unless your sole purpose is to refute fundamentalism or something. That would seem to be a pretty unimportant goal compared to the infinite riches available in reading Sacred Scripture.

    The fact is that the Word of God has dwelt in the hearts of man for thousands of years, and to deny ourselves the accumulated wisdom of those insights, especially those obviously directed by the Holy Spirit, is like reinventing the wheel.

    "it is indeed God's word, but filtered through the imperfect perceptions of peoples"

    No, Sacred Scripture itself is the inspired word of God:

    "all Scripture is divinely inspired and has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man who belongs to God may be efficient and equipped for good work of every kind" (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

    The only imperfect perception involves the fullness of understanding of those Words. That is why it is so important to consult the exegesis of Sacred Scripture that has been expressed before us.

    "relying on the belief of the Apostles (see John 20:31; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-20, 3:15-16), we hold that the books of both the Old and New Testaments in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.(1) In composing the sacred books, God chose men and while employed by Him (2) they made use of their powers and abilities, so that with Him acting in them and through them, (3) they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted."

  4. Here's what J Gresham Machen had to say on this:

    "There are many who believe that the Bible is right at the central point, in its account of the redeeming work of Christ, and yet believe that it contains many errors. Such men are not really liberals, but Christians; because they have accepted as true the message upon which Christianity depends. A great gulf separates them from those who reject the supernatural act of God with which Christianity stands or falls".

    There! One can't accuse the late Professor Machen of being a wishy-washy liberal. Oh... do be careful of the word "fundamentalist"... it's a sloppy and lazy usage of fuzzy and indeterminate meaning. It actually means, "I think this person is an extremist nutter". Literate people shouldn't use it... it's jargonese of the worst sort. After all, Professor Machen was the founder of real Fundamentalism, wasn't he?

    DO be careful.

    Mike... it's good for me to take a break from translating the Russian news and bashing the Tea Party... this was an interesting thread. Keep it up!


  5. I think the term "fundamentalist" has a very specific and important meaning in the context of Biblical interpretation. Granted, the term is often used by the religiously ignorant (media in particular) as a term of derision, but:

    "Fundamentalist interpretation starts from the principle that the Bible, being the word of God, inspired and free from error, should be read and interpreted literally in all its details. But by "literal interpretation" it understands a naively literalist interpretation, one, that is to say, which excludes every effort at understanding the Bible that takes account of its historical origins and development. It is opposed, therefore, to the use of the historical-critical method, as indeed to the use of any other scientific method for the interpretation of Scripture."

  6. Mark...

    Be careful with your quote... for instance, who said it? I referenced my quote as coming from Professor Machen... who was no "fundamentalist" according to your citation... but he WAS the founder of TRUE Fundamentalism (a very rigorous and intellectual approach to the Scriptures).

    Of course, as a Russian Orthodox Christian, I'm no literalist, and I can see the dangers of an extreme Bibliolotry. We would argue that the Church, the Body of Christ, existed before the Book did (there was no approved canon of NT scripture until the fourth century... I believe that Nicaea set out the first accepted canon). In the main, we're not chapter-and-verse quoters... for us, the Faith is a mystical encounter with a Person... or, should I say, an encounter with THE GOD-MAN (we use the term Theanthropos).

    That being said, there are serious lacunae in your chosen citation. Again, who is it from? It's nothing that I recognise. The definition of "fundamentalist" used in it is a caricature and is unfair to serious Fundamentalists such as Prof Machen.

    Be good, and бог благословит (may God bless)...


  7. Vara, the quote is from the Vatican's Pontifical Biblical Commission, their document "The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church".

    The point was merely to define what "fundamentalism" means in terms of Biblical scholarship as opposed to the mainstream media's secular definition.

    You are absolutely right that the Church existed prior to the Bible, in fact the Bible was born from the Church, from oral tradition that gradually came to be written down by human authors with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

    Christians are a people of the Word, not a people of the book. And that Word is the Incarnate Word of God, His Son Jesus Christ. The Bible is not a proof text (as I understand Islam approaches the Koran), but the written transmission of the Truth experienced by the Apostles.

  8. Mark...

    Have you noticed that the most noxious anti-Muslim rhetoric comes from Sectarians who are so "anti-Church" that they are virtually Muslims in their rejection of iconography, Tradition, and sacrament? It led me to rethink C. S. Lewis' formulation that Islam was merely the most successful Christian heresy. When one looks at it that way, one can see its Gnostic and Iconclastic analogues.

    The Sectarians are so stunted... even Low Church Reformation Proddies are better off. As for me, I'm rather rock-ribbed and to the point, "The Word became Flesh and dwelt amongst Men"... what more need be said? I'm no theologian... I go to church to pray, not to analyse or "learn".

    God can be encountered, but he cannot be fathomed. That's the whole thing in a sentence.