Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Remember the former things of old (Revisiting Genesis 1)

It's fascinating to me to find that in thetime that I have been working on this, there has been so much change in the text of the SAB. In going back and cleaning up old entries, I've found that a few things I attempted to refute appear to have been accepted by Steve Wells (although not necessarily solely on my say-so, of course) and edited out.

At the same time, I note that there are new things added that were not there before. Both his project and mine are obviously ever-changing, as repeated readings of the Bible reveal more and more things, both for and against Christian belief.

Anyway, since it was there, I thought I'd go back and take a look at what seem to be new points in Genesis 1.

The SAB has incorporated a page on Gap Theory, which wasn't there when I was covering that chapter, although I mentioned it as a matter of academic interest. It might be fun to read some of those links and learn more about this odd theory; anyone who read my post before and wanted to know more would probably learn a lot from those links, since I really gave all of what little knowlege I had, and I know the theory is far more fleshed out by some others. There is also a reference page for the firmament.

I don't recall the SAB referring to the idea that childbearing is sinful. It's easy enough to address, though; the answer is no. The verse given to suggest otherwise is misrepresented, in my opinion. Yes, the mother had to bring an offering, but that does not necessarily imply that childbearing was a sin; it's just part of a ceremonial cleansing.

I'm sure the question about marijuana wasn't there before, I think I would have remembered. I think that's an interesting interpretation of this verse that falls apart under further scrutiny. Think of all the poisonous plants that exist; surely God did not intend that we eat poison ivy (toxicodendron radicans), right? (Actually, the SAB also discusses that elsewhere.) One possibility here is that at the time of creation, before the fall, every plant was edible, but some became poisonous or otherwise dangerous. Another possibility is the one most people get out of that verse: that humans were originally designed to be vegetarians, and it was not meant that all plants were to be eaten, but that all they were to eat was plants. Now that being said, I will go on the record as saying that all the plants mentioned there (if you didn't click the link, there's more than marijuana in the question) have potential medicinal value, and as such, they are good. I think it's foolish to miss that there is a difference between drug use and drug abuse. I myself have been known to be an abuser of the plant coffea arabica, another plant that naturally produces a drug. The right and wrong of drug use is only partly related to the legality of the matter, I really ought to avoid excessive use, and have done so for quite some time. (Reading up on the matter, it turns out that caffeine is a natural pesticide. Interesting, no?)

Anyway, that was a fun break from discussing Mosaic Law, which hopefully I'll get back to in sooner than a month's time.

And all the people brought every man his ox with him that night, and slew them there. (Exod. 21:28ff; animal rights and responsibilities)

The SAB finds the idea of capital punishment for animals absurd, apparently, and I suppose it sounds that way when you put it like that. Really, though, it makes a lot of sense to me that if an animal is dangerous, then it would be best to put it down. (If you're an animal rights activist, you'd more likely consider this cruel than ridiculous.) Furthermore, as verse 29 says, if a person who owns a dangerous animal knew it was dangerous and didn't do anything to control it, then they bear the responsibility of that animal's actions. While I doubt that people are given the death penalty for that today, I do believe it is the case that people are held responsible for the actions of their pets/livestock.

Now, this is probably not exhaustive, but my thought in coming across this verse was that in addition to answering commenting on the issue of punishments for animals, I might point out a number of things that the Mosaic Law says about animals. It's fascinating to me that while the Bible clearly considers humanity as being of a higher order than the other animals, the other animals are nonetheless not left out of the picture on numerous issues.

Sabbath? Animals get it as well. On Saturdays, there's no riding horses, plowing fields, and so on. I'm not sure whether this also covers milking goats and whatnot, as it is my understanding that dairy-producing livestock tends to need milking on a daily basis.

Deuteronomy 22 has a lot to say about animals (among other things). If you see a stray animal, you should take it back to its home if you know whose it is, and if you don't, then you take it home and take care of it until someone comes looking for it. If you see an animal in trouble, you're required to help it out. The SAB says these are good things, and I agree, however later in that chapter, verse 10 is labeled as absurd. While I think there are certainly more than a few things that are truly odd about the Mosaic Law, I think this likely has a practical purpose behind it. I'm only guessing, since I've never plowed a field myself, but if you were to yoke together two different kinds of animals to do the same job, I imagine you'd run the risk of injuring one of them.

The last thing I'll discuss here (although I know of at least one more specific law about animals that I'll address elsewhere) is how God provides welfare for animals, too. Deut 25:4 says not to "muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn." As the SAB rightly notes, this means essentially that when an animal helps in the production of food, they ought to get a fair share as well, specifically that they may eat while they work.