I started a class Monday called, Understanding the Bible. As an agnostic individual I felt this should be an interesting class. I have issue with organized religion, not necessarily spirituality. I take the whole notion of God with a grain of salt as well, but I do believe there is something that shapes the Universe (Omniverse). As I learned in my class I'd be more of a Deist.
As defined at www.deism.com (note: this site is a bit sensationalistic, thus should be read carefully for nuggets of wisdom hidden in the noise);
"Deism says it is rationality and reason that leads to God. To the Deist, the evidence is the creation and the idea of what brought about the evidence is the Creator. There is absolutely nothing known to man that created itself. For example, if someone shows us a computer, and tells us that all the individual parts that make up the computer just came about by chance, that they somehow just formed into a perfectly working computer system all by themselves, we would be foolish to believe that person. Reason, if we use it, won't let us believe a statement like that. Likewise, if someone tells us the ever growing creation and its perfect order "happened" by pure chance, we are under no obligation to believe them. From our own experience we know everything created has a creator. Why then should the creation itself be different?"
As defined by Dictionary.com:
"The belief, based solely on reason, in a God who created the universe and then abandoned it, assuming no control over life, exerting no influence on natural phenomena, and giving no supernatural revelation."
I believe Physics and science will one day shed more light on God, but we'll never fully understand God. To do so would presume to be as God. I don't say that from a spiritual light either. Consider, as many physicists do, that there is an all powerful truth, an equation, that will explain why everything is as it is. To know this truth we would have full control of all the Universe. There would be nothing we could not accomplish because we would know how the world was designed.
In the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, 5 when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung upfor the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; 6 but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground.
This quite simply describes the Earth in its infancy. While written as a tale of the creation of Earth it is not in contention with scientific realities. There was no life on the Earth until there was water. Literalists should be able to live with the scientific creation of the Earth based on these lines.
7 then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.
Remember when these lines were written that humankind was (still is!) very self-centered. There was none before man but God. But as we've learned in the last 500 years or so (especially in the last 100), the Universe doesn't revolve around humankind. We are but speck of dust in the enormity that is the Universe.
The reality is that LIFE on this planet was created at that moment, not MAN.
8 And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 Out of the ground the LORD God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The world began to flourish with life. Plants were some of the first land life forms. When humankind "woke-up" one of the first things we realized is that plants, especially trees, lived a very long time. They provided fruit, fuel, tools and weapons for us. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is not a real tree but a symbol.
These passages simply show where the early Genesis believers and writers lived. Most who know their ancient history know that modern civilization, as we know it, was started between the Tigris and Euphrates. I believe these passages were intended to make the story more believable and to later illustrate that we are cast out of Eden, thus even when we search where the Bible says Eden SHOULD be, we cannot find it.
15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.
15 and 16 are simply plot points I believe, to add emphasis later events. It could be argued that these two verses show that man was meant to be and the world was designed with him in mind. However if you look at from the point I made about 2.7 then all life stemmed from the same point thus everything is naturally similar and "compatible". We can find nourishment from the plants and trees because they contain nutrients that we can digest.
Verse 17 is important however. If you believe in an omnipotent God then God would know that Man would eat of the tree of knowledge. Thus it was placed there on purpose. But God also lies and tells Man he'll die, which he does not, later when he does eat of the "fruit".
This verse suggests Man doesn't know the difference between good and evil. This is true. Good and Evil are constructs of the human mind. Not knowing one from the other in reality cancels them out. Morality is a human creation. Animals don't have moral behavior. They are purely instinctual. For Man not to know the difference makes him no different than an animal. It's only because God has chosen Man to special that he isn't considered a beast.
This falls again to the self-centered view of humankind. Even today with all of our scientific knowledge, people do not want to believe we are only a couple steps removed from animals. They refuse to believe that we could have ever come from apes. But right here in the Bible is the suggestion that we were no different, only blessed (because the writers of Genesis believed they were) by God. We were blessed, but in a predestination sort of way. We were blessed to be the ones who ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We were blessed (or cursed) to become sentient, to understand and comprehend, to learn.
18 Then the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner. 19 So out of the ground the LORD God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner.
Here we find Man's growing control of animals. Early man respected animals, much more than we do today, but did not domesticate any of them until Man discovered agriculture. At this point in the Bible Man has not learned agriculture. Eden "provides" for him.
Verse 20 is not only the into to Eve, but a statement that no animal is even close to Man. Man stands well above all other animals, so much so that he is alone. Although dogs were arguably the first domesticated animal and companion to humankind, dogs are not equal. Nor would the mention of our canine friends be helpful in the telling of the Genesis story. They would be more troublesome regardless of the reality of their role in human history.
21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken. 24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.
Verses 21 and 22 have often been misread/misinterpreted to mean that men have fewer ribs than women. This however is not true. Men are not asymmetrical. Perhaps Adam was, but not Man. It's curious why a rib was used. Frankly I haven't a clue, though I'm sure there has been a great deal of research on the subject.
Verse 23 shows how Man views Woman, "bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh". Woman is Mans equal. Different but Equal. Odd that for so many centuries this fact has been lost or ignored.
Verse 24 is interesting. It suggests that Man leaves the comfort and care of his parents for the comfort and care of his wife. The woman is the nurturer, the care giver. "And they become on flesh." can be interpreted in a couple ways. Sexual union of a husband and wife, but also the union of the two spirits in goal and life. They are to live for each other. One is simply an extension of the other.
Verse 25 can be taken in two different directions. In keeping with the theme of verse 24, 25 can mean that together they are totally open, "naked" to each other. They are not ashamed of each others weaknesses and frailties, but accept them equally with their strengths.
It can also be related to the evolution model. These two, Adam and Eve, represent humankind prior to consciousness. Humans didn't know humility. They were little more than animals whose nakedness meant nothing.
These thoughts are only my own. They may be wrong, they may upset. I apologize to those who don't wish to look beyond their own beliefs. That is what I am expressing. This is simply my quest for understanding. I'm sharing this quest in hopes that it helps others on similar quests or better yet it inspires others to go on their own spiritual/intellectual quests.
Bible is studied heavily for good reasons. You don't have to be a devout believer to take great wisdom from its pages. I've always felt it was a good book to learn from, but never really dug into it. This class will help me do so. I'm sure I'll learn much more from this class than my professor hopes for most of his students. Then again, maybe I'm not so special in this regard. There are a great deal more people asking the questions I am asking today then there were 10-20 years ago. We are not becoming less spiritual. We are just not as willing to blindly believe. I think this is a very good thing.