LESSON 1: THE BIBLE WITH ANCIENT EYES

September 11, 2019



As you begin to read Genesis 1, you may feel a little disoriented with how the creation of the world is being described. In the beginning you find dark waters rather than the void of space, light is being created before the sun, there is a vault holding back the waters above the sky, and the sun and moon are somehow ruling? The way this text is speaking doesn't neatly fall into the categories we already have for how the world is and how it came to be. But Genesis 1 makes much more sense when we understand how ancient people conceived of the world.


The Biblical authors do not think how modern people do. We need to step into their shoes to understand their point of view. So much more of what the Bible says will make sense when see through their eyes.


1. Ancient Israelite Cosmology Explained



The ancient authors believed in a flat earth structured as three-tiered universe: Heaven, Earth, and Underworld. This is reflected all over the Scriptures. But we know the earth is a globe flying through space and circling a giant ball of gas that gives off light and heat. Does the Biblical authors' ancient worldview pose a threat to their credibility and relevance for us today? Watch the next video for one answer.



2. Does the Bible Teach Science?



God communicated through imperfect messengers who had pre-modern-scientific beliefs. God's aim was not to teach science, but to tell everyone who God was and what their relationship with him was. God does not endorse unscientific beliefs, but he used people who held them. Scripture has always intended to communicate realities about God that transcend even the next thousand years of scientific progress. 



3. The Bible as Jewish Meditation Literature


Not only did the Biblical authors hold ancient understandings of the world, they also wrote literature in a way that is pretty unfamiliar to modern westerners. Learning how they wrote will help us to see just how brilliant they were in the way they crafted these stories together.



Sometimes, the lack of detail in these stories will leave you with a bunch of unanswered questions. But as you read further into the story, more of these puzzle pieces are unlocked. The more times you read and re-read these stories, the more you will discover their intricate and powerful truths and how they affect your life.



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The video on "The Bible as Jewish Meditation Literature" has pointed to one core biblical theme that begins here in Genesis 1 and makes waves all throughout Genesis and the rest of the Bible: Offspring.


Theme: Offspring

  • Look for a repetition of the word and concept of "offspring" throughout the Bible.
  • Hebrew: zera. Often translated as "offspring," "descendants," and "seed."
  • Genesis 1: God creates a world full of life that is meant to multiply and thrive. 
  • Plants bearing seed (fruit) as an abundant source of food (1:11-12, 29).
  • Humans commissioned to be "fruitful": to multiply and fill the earth (1:28).
  • Genesis 3: The way of death breaks the abundance of life. 
  • Plants will not yield their food easily any longer (3:17-19).
  • Human multiplying has been frustrated with pain to childbirth (3:16).
  • But a future "seed/offspring" of the woman will crush the one who brought death (3:15), but is still struck in the process.
  • Genealogies of the Offspring: Adam to Noah to Abraham to David to Jesus.
  • In the middle of these family lines, there is conflict about the promised offspring that is to come.
  • Difficulty bearing children, brothers trying to kill each other, temptation of child sacrifice from evil gods, etc.
  • Eventually, the promised offspring, Jesus, is born, and begins the restoration of the world back to the way of abundant life as he crushes the head of the evil that brought death.
  • Sacrificial Seed: We begin to see the theme of this "seed/offspring" that is to give its life so that others may live.
  • The stricken offspring of the woman in Genesis 3:15.
  • The suffering servant who is the seed of Jesse in Isaiah 11, 53.
  • The vision of the woman and her offspring (Jesus and his followers) who gives their lives to defeat the dragon in Revelation 12.
  • And in between, tons of the offspring who are unjustly persecuted and end up bringing life to others (think about the story of Joseph).
  • (There is also a major perpetual conflict and conversation about food/fruit, but it's more of a side conversation to the human offspring).



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You can see how complex and wonderfully intricate the Biblical story is when you see with the eyes of the authors. Begin reading Genesis and read it multiple times throughout our series. You will begin to see with their eyes as well.