This is a question that will not likely occur to many a layman, and I wanted to ask it here briefly, if that were possible. It’s two questions, really―as the whole thing happens to occur to me at present:
- What kind of narrator have we got in Genesis? And,
- What kind of being is influencing the narrator’s thinking and writing?
It may well be easiest to count Genesis as a meat-and-potatoes account, relaying certain necessary historical/theological/original facts to the cultures of this world, for the record. Something like this, maybe:
- God created everything.
- There was some sort of sin/error/disobedience/rebellion.
- There is at least a hint of promise in the early discourse―that God would have a solution for all this at some point in time.
- Then at length, the history of the world starts to unfold throughout those early generations.
But who’s telling the story, and what kind of person is he? And is he being influenced by some other person?
In other words, what if our narrator (or writer)― (and/or the director/producer behind the narrator/writer) is not a meat-and-potatoes kind of person? What if, behind the way the story is told, there were an unfathomable amount of:
- Literary skill
What if the team behind the book was packed with knowledge and skill in:
- Literary devices/images/figures
What if the narrator/producer team, whatever it’s make-up, were intending to produce a work that would be effective across a great many generations and cultures, and not just to the Hebrew culture of Moses’ day? And what if the intent was for a story that would not lose all of its punch when translated from one language to another? What if, to this end, it designed to learn as much on its imagery and figures and events and patterns as on the actual words?
What if, behind it all, there were a God whose thoughts and ways are considerably higher than human thoughts and habits―beyond mere genius―beyond mere literary brilliance? What if it were produced by someone who knew not only what people tend to be like, but what certain kind of reader he had intended the Bible for―that is, what kind of reader was most likely to really “get it” in the way he had in mind?
What if it were produced by someone who knew how to reach not only adults, but children? What if its stories were intended as an indispensable primer for all humans, young and old, by a storyteller who understood all too well how the human mind works and what it needs in order to get good principles instilled into it from an early age?
And what if the producer had in mind a collection of books that would take more than a lifetime to master? What if he wanted it to be a life-long challenge and pastime and avocation and cultural focus, giving the interested reader more than enough material for consideration, that he could learn from it those great lessons for which this world was intended?
Whoever it was who put the ink to the papyrus, or the stylus to the tablet, what if the God behind the publication of how things would unfold was overflowing with energy in the telling of it? What if he packed it with “Easter eggs”, so to speak―little surprises that the keen reader might pick up on and investigate, leading to other treasures beneath the surface, and leading from story to story? What if he packed it with various “hyperlinks” of a sort, meant to draw our attention to other stories in the later books in the Bible collection? In fact, what if he meant Genesis to be the basis of the well-informed believer’s understanding of the rest of the scriptures?
What if the team behind Genesis were of the sort who ask these questions of students who have just read or heard a story?:
- What do you see?
- What does it remind you of?
- What do you you wonder about as you reflect on it?
That is, what if it was written to be a story that lays things out to be seen, so as to remind them of other things, and that causes them to wonder about things? What if God was wanting humans who see and remember and wonder? And what if this book were perfectly designed for helping people become seeing, remembering, and wondering people?
What if things like these were the intent behind it, and it was never intended to be a just-the-facts, “boilerplate” account of a few early events in the history of humankind? And what if the person behind it just happens to be the most amazing and indescribable being in all of existence, whose personality can be perceived somewhat through a reading of the text that’s open to finding more than just meat and potatoes in it?
What if he were the sort that not only knew what makes a great story, but how to have history itself play out in order to make such a great story in the first place? And what if he were the sort to find (or train) the writers with the skills that are up to the challenge of making those scriptures into amazing works of literary art?
Imagine the Tragedy
Imagine the tragedy if that’s the kind of narrator and producer team there was behind the Bible, but that the vast majority of the world’s Bible readers had been trained to expect only a meat-and-potatoes account of stuff that doesn’t really even start to count until you get to the red letters in the last third of the collection?
I think that Genesis is keener than we think―more packed with promising treasures than we have traditionally been willing even to imagine, and much less to sleuth out of it.
And yes, of course, there’s the risk of going too far―and of imagining things into the texts that God never intended. But how can we go far enough if there’s no danger of going too far? And I think we have certainly demonstrated the dangers of not going far enough.
I don’t know what all to make of Genesis, but the more I reflect on it the more connections I see back and forth between this fascinating book and the rest of scripture.