The Dark Side's picture

The Dark Side (part III): Yahweh son of El

There are different Gods in the Old Testament.

When God asks Abram to leave Ur he goes by an unusual name. El. I say unusual; that name might be strange to us, but to anyone living in the Ancient Near East he was as well-known as any deity could be. El was the original god of the Canaanites - perhaps the most famous in all the Levant. But the El of Genesis is not part of any pantheon. He is - through the careful editing of the book - synonymous with Yahweh. And Yahweh does not tolerate others.

Monkey's picture

The MonkeyBar Challenge Week 3

Hi everyone, hope you're enjoying the readings as much as I am!
Here's the readings for Week #3.

15 Jan: Gen 31:1 – 31:55; Psalm 9:13 – 20; Matt 12:1 – 12:21
16 Jan: Gen 32:1 – 33:20; Proverbs 2:1 – 11; Matt 12:22 – 12:45
17 Jan: Gen 34:1 – 35:29; Psalm 10:1 – 11; Matt 12:46 – 13:17
18 Jan: Gen 36:1 – 37:36; Psalm 10:12 – 18; Matt 13:18 – 13:35
19 Jan: Gen 38:1 – 39:23; Psalm 11:1 – 7; Matt 13:36 – 13:58
20 Jan: Gen 30:1 – 41:40; Proverbs 2:12 – 22; Matt 14:1 – 14:21
21 Jan: Gen 41:41 – 42:38; Psalm 12:1 – 8; Matt 14:22 – 15:9

If you're starting to flag cos you realised its a bit difficult and you've still got most of the year to go, don't lose heart!

YOU CAN DO IT!! We can all do it together.

Happy reading.

Community of Readers's picture

Community of Readers video blog: Episode #2

The story of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is full of deep contradictions. There's courageous faith on the one hand, and a disaster-case of dysfunction on the other. Yet this motley crew are the ones upon whom God relentlessly heaps both blessing and responsibility. So what might this hotch-potch family say to us about their God?

The Dark Side's picture

The Dark Side (part II): The Stories of God

If I had to bet on it, I'd say that God was born some time around 1650 BC.

For a good two thousand years the pantheons of the Egyptians and the Mesopotamians had each been hammering out the fortunes of humanity through their own internal squabbling. There were gods for this and gods for that. There were chief gods and minor gods, half-gods and renegade gods. But somewhere in the Fertile Crescent at some point in the 2nd millenia BC, someone looked to the heavens and imagined just one.

A God.

Monkey's picture

The MonkeyBar Challenge Week 2

Hi everyone! Here are the readings for Week 2:

8 Jan: Gen 17:1 – 18:33; Proverbs 1:8 – 19; Matt 6:25 – 7:23
9 Jan: Gen 19:1 – 20:18; Psalm 7:1 – 9; Matt 7:24 – 8:22
10 Jan: Gen 21:1 – 23:20; Psalm 7:10 – 17; Matt 8:23 – 9:13
11 Jan: Gen 24:1 – 24:67; Psalm 8:1 – 9; Matt 9:14 – 9:38
12 Jan: Gen 25:1 – 26:35; Proverbs 1:20 – 33; Matt 10:1 – 10:31
13 Jan: Gen 27:1 – 28:22; Psalm 9:1 – 6; Matt 10:32 – 11:15
14 Jan: Gen 29:1 – 30:43; Psalm 9:7 – 12; Matt 11:16 – 11:30

Happy reading!

Community of Readers's picture

Community of Readers video blog: Episode #1

Creation, Garden of Eden, Noah's Ark, Babel. Heard it all before right? But what if we could transport ourselves to another world? The kind where tales of floods and legends of creation are told by firelight. There we might discover something that would transform our world forever.

The Dark Side's picture

The Dark Side

It’s one of the hardest questions we face when reading the Bible: how do we interpret God, when he is loving on the one hand, and a violent murderer on the other? The Egyptian firstborns, the Israelite rebels, the Canaanite inhabitants – women, children and animals – all suffer gruesome death at the hand of the ‘friend to those who fear him’ and the champion of the weak.

There’s a standard answer to this conundrum. It goes along the lines that God has different aspects to his character. He is loving, but he is also holy. He is forgiving, but he is also a judge. To deny any of the biblical images of God is to reduce him; to cut chunks out of a masterpiece so that the image is destroyed and our theology torn down to tatters.

But it’s exactly this ‘image’ of God that’s the problem for me. Because just as in Genesis humankind is made in the likeness of the divine, so we continue to remake ourselves in the image of whoever we believe God to be. In other words, we become what we worship.

If we just start making God in our image, we’ll lose any of the wonder that comes from understanding the scriptures as a revelation, a self-disclosure by God. But if we take the Bible entirely at its own word, we’ll be plunged into an abyss of contradictions too complex to fathom. We’ll be forced to resign ourselves to non-theology; an understanding of the divine so broad and all-inclusive that it means nothing.

Over the next few months I’ll be blogging on this question, hopefully giving some ideas as to how we can steer through the maze. It’s my belief that the ‘dark side’ gives us a helpful metaphor for thinking about theology. This isn’t about yin and yang; it’s about a space for something new.

So stay tuned, and gimme your comments.

Monkey's picture

The MonkeyBar Challenge Week 1

Hi everyone! The readings for Week 1 are:

1 Jan: Gen 1:1 – 2:17; Psalm 1:1 – 6; Matt 1:1 – 1:25
2 Jan: Gen 2:18 – 4:16; Psalm 2:1 – 12; Matt 2:1 – 2:18
3 Jan: Gen 4:17 – 6:22; Psalm 3:1 – 8; Matt 2:19 – 3:17
4 Jan: Gen 7:1 – 9:17; Proverbs 1:1 – 7; Matt 4:1 – 4:22
5 Jan: Gen 9:18 – 11:9; Psalm 4:1 – 8; Matt 4:23 – 5:20
6 Jan: Gen 11:10 – 13:18; Psalm 5:1 – 12; Matt 5:21 – 5:42
7 Jan: Gen 14:1 – 16:16; Psalm 6:1 – 10; Matt 5:43 – 6:24

Hope you enjoy!

Matt Valler's picture

Chapter #52 Neh 1-13: The future we build

There are few stories told in human history more treasured than this one we now end. Somehow the Old Testament captures the experiences of humanity, our relationship to the divine and to our world, our needs, our failings, our hope; a glory always beyond us but never extinguished. It’s a mass of literature – that has taken a whole year to read – but through its pages whisper the voices of God, gentle and subtle, deafening and profound.

It is December, the end of a year, and we’ve just celebrated the sublime festival of Christmas. As the start of the next instalment, the birth of Jesus opens the New Testament in a feat of breathtaking normality. A story of world-shattering power, the focus is a small family and God’s personal and intimate participation in their lives. We finish the Old Testament in similar normality; after all that has come before, Nehemiah brings us down to earth, and the genuine struggle of one man against the odds.

Matt Valler's picture

Chapter #51 Ezra 1-10: Paranoid religion

Ezra is the penultimate book of our reading year and it is here that we finally find our way back to the narrative path that began steadily wending its way in Genesis, but was interrupted in July. The last six months have taken us in all kinds of directions, as we’ve had to face the implications of first Israel’s and then Judah’s conquest and exile. It is here, after months of prophets, poems and politics, that we finally have in explicit Priestly detail the account of the Return to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the city.

Ezra is a powerful voice in the newly reconstituted community in Judea. And his uncompromising perspective on Israel’s religious identity is one that would influence Jewish society right into the time of Jesus.