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Genesis 1-2 & 4G

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  • Joseph Codsi
    I had a problem with my computer. I was unable to post in a timely fashion the following reading of Genesis 3. Please excuse the delay. THE STORY OF THE FALL
    Message 1 of 10 , Aug 10, 2004
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      I had a problem with my computer. I was unable to post in a timely fashion
      the following reading of Genesis 3. Please excuse the delay.

      THE STORY OF THE FALL (Genesis 3)

      In this story, there are two couples: GOD-MAN and SERPENT-WOMAN. The serpent
      is the counterpart of God, and the woman the counterpart of man. Morally
      speaking, the first couple is good and the second couple is bad. But this is
      only one side of the story. The other side goes usually unnoticed. It
      recognizes to the second couple some merits. They do not abide by the law,
      because they dare question it. And the story shows that they were correct,
      at least in one respect. Let me explain this point.

      First of all, the serpent is introduced as follows: “The serpent was more
      crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made” (3:1). This
      means that we are not dealing with an idiot. As we shall see, he is smart
      enough to expose the divine precept as being the expression of pure
      authority, whose allegation is false or at least partially true.
      In his conversation with the woman, he brings her to state the divine
      precept: “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle
      of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die” (3:3 parallel to
      2:17).
      Thereupon the serpent attacks the truth of this statement. “You will not
      die”, he says. The truth is that “when you eat of it your eyes will be
      opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
      This is an initiation scene, in which the initiation genie, the serpent,
      challenges the woman to stop thinking and behaving as a child, and to become
      an adult. The difference between the child and the adult is that the latter
      is mature enough to think independently. He no longer relies on the precept
      to know what is good and evil. He can now use his own judgment and decide
      what is good and evil. This is all the more fundamental that many things are
      forbidden to the child that are perfectly moral for the adult. Sexual
      relations are here a good example. Besides, the moral sense evolves with the
      evolution of cultures and civilizations. There is a time when somebody must
      take the initiative of change. And this takes the form of debunking the
      authority.
      The myth exposes here the dark side of authority, divine and human. Those
      who govern rely on the law to control the people. But their authority should
      not go unchallenged. It is sometimes necessary to desecrate what is
      considered sacred.
      The woman listens to the serpent and forms her own mind. She reconsiders the
      facts. She realizes that the forbidden fruit is good. She no longer
      considers it as bad. She associates it with the gift of wisdom. Her
      initiation is now complete. She transgresses the precept and eats the fruit.
      In a second step, she initiates the man into the world of human and
      spiritual maturity.
      Maturity and freedom are always a risky business. One has to die in order to
      be born again transformed and wiser. The adult must bare the consequences of
      his acts. The choices he has to make are never easy ones. All this is part
      of the human condition as the myth is telling it.
      It is true that the serpent, the woman and the man are punished. But the
      punishment takes the form of entering the real world as we know it, with all
      its contingencies. God acts as a ruler who resents seeing his authority
      challenged and being treated as a liar. In this respect, the serpent is
      proven correct in his assessment of the situation. The forbidden fruit does
      not cause the death of those who eat it, as God had said. On the contrary it
      opens their eyes, so they can become more mature and wiser.
      The couple GOD-MAN represents the law and its arbitrary authority. The
      couple SERPENT-WOMAN represents the spirit of discernment, which is
      associated with wisdom. The human condition as we know it is defined by
      those two components. Nothing is clear and simple. Everything is complex.
      Ambivalence and ambiguity are the elements in which we exist. Life and death
      are the inseparable terms of our existence. If salvation consists in
      breaking the vicious circle of life and death, the biblical myth does not
      see any salvation. The Christian myth, which sees salvation in Jesus Christ,
      is the exact counterpart of 2C2. Its great weakness is that the human
      condition remains unchanged in spite of all its claims. The final
      transformation it promises is as remote and unreal as the mythical life of
      the first couple in paradise. There is no way we can overcome the
      contradictions of our existence other than in our dreams. This is wisdom
      speaking. To be wise is to act within the limitations of our existence.

      If we now turn to the feminist concern, we must recognize that 2C is imbued
      with a patriarchal culture, which subordinates the female to the male. In
      this respect, we must criticize it today. At the same time, however, let us
      be fair and recognize that it maintains the vital complementariness between
      the sexes. The need for the other sex is paramount. This is expressed in the
      rejoicing of man when he first meets the woman. He recognizes that she is
      exactly what he needs. We should keep this in mind when we read what is said
      about the woman: “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule
      over you” (3:16). Things are far from being simple in this old myth. If the
      man is the biological father of the woman, because she is taken out of him,
      she is his spiritual mother, because she initiates him into adulthood.
      One final remark. The text speaks of enmity between the serpent and the
      woman, not between man and the woman. Sometimes I get the impression that
      certain feminists put an enmity between men and women. I find this very
      regrettable.

      Joseph
      ===========
      Joseph Codsi
      joseph5@...
      PO Box 116-2088
      Beirut, Lebanon
    • Q Bee
      ... (snip) Dear Joseph, Your assessment of 2C is in line with many mainstream religions in some respects. It points out: 1. The male is paired with God while
      Message 2 of 10 , Aug 10, 2004
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        On 8/10/04 7:37 AM, "Joseph Codsi" <joseph5@...> wrote:

        > I had a problem with my computer. I was unable to post in a timely fashion
        > the following reading of Genesis 3. Please excuse the delay.
        >
        > THE STORY OF THE FALL (Genesis 3)
        >
        > In this story, there are two couples: GOD-MAN and SERPENT-WOMAN.

        (snip)

        Dear Joseph,

        Your assessment of 2C is in line with many mainstream religions in some
        respects.

        It points out:

        1. The male is paired with God while the female is paired with craftiness.
        2. The male considers himself to be a father figure over the female even
        when they are supposedly partners in some respects.
        3. There is some 'truth' in the female, but it is not reliable.

        (snip)

        > The couple GOD-MAN represents the law and its arbitrary authority. The
        > couple SERPENT-WOMAN represents the spirit of discernment, which is
        > associated with wisdom. The human condition as we know it is defined by
        > those two components. Nothing is clear and simple. Everything is complex.
        > Ambivalence and ambiguity are the elements in which we exist. Life and death
        > are the inseparable terms of our existence. If salvation consists in
        > breaking the vicious circle of life and death, the biblical myth does not
        > see any salvation. The Christian myth, which sees salvation in Jesus Christ,
        > is the exact counterpart of 2C2.

        OK.

        > Its great weakness is that the human
        > condition remains unchanged in spite of all its claims. The final
        > transformation it promises is as remote and unreal as the mythical life of
        > the first couple in paradise. There is no way we can overcome the
        > contradictions of our existence other than in our dreams. This is wisdom
        > speaking. To be wise is to act within the limitations of our existence.
        >
        Here's where I find a great problem. It is a rather 'Deist' view of the
        effects, or rather non-effects, of the 'Christian myth'. If one remains in
        a position of reliance upon an end times scenario and instead, sits back and
        entertains Sophistry rather than developing the inner spiritual life of
        mysticism the result would certainly be as you are claiming in your
        statement above. For the person who chooses to intellectualize the
        'Christian myth' the result is that the only evidence of the possibility
        would be occasional reminders of its existence in dreams.

        > If we now turn to the feminist concern, we must recognize that 2C is imbued
        > with a patriarchal culture, which subordinates the female to the male. In
        > this respect, we must criticize it today. At the same time, however, let us
        > be fair and recognize that it maintains the vital complementariness between
        > the sexes. The need for the other sex is paramount. This is expressed in the
        > rejoicing of man when he first meets the woman. He recognizes that she is
        > exactly what he needs.

        Very astute! She's just what he need - she's an object that satisfies his
        ego, not an equal.

        > We should keep this in mind when we read what is said
        > about the woman: ³Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule
        > over you² (3:16). Things are far from being simple in this old myth. If the
        > man is the biological father of the woman, because she is taken out of him,
        > she is his spiritual mother, because she initiates him into adulthood.
        > One final remark. The text speaks of enmity between the serpent and the
        > woman, not between man and the woman. Sometimes I get the impression that
        > certain feminists put an enmity between men and women. I find this very
        > regrettable.
        >
        I think you should read more widely on what feminism actually is. It is
        egalitarian in most of the forms that I have encountered. Quite often men
        are convinced by their lack of information, i.e., that women seek to reverse
        the situation and take power in place of men. What the majority of women
        seek, as far as I can ascertain, is a shared equality. This is in line with
        Jesus' teaching. An egalitarian society is the real goal and aligned to
        true Christianity.

        Women do not need a father after they are grown. Their original father is
        enough to get them through to adulthood just as it is enough for a man.
        And, by the way, the idea of one's partner being a father figure smacks of
        incest. :-)

        Peace,

        Elaine

        > Joseph
        > ===========
        > Joseph Codsi
        > joseph5@...
        > PO Box 116-2088
        > Beirut, Lebanon
        >
        >
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      • Joseph Codsi
        ... From: Q Bee To: Sent: Tuesday, August 10, 2004 8:09 PM Subject: Re: [John_Lit] Genesis 1-2 &
        Message 3 of 10 , Aug 12, 2004
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          ----- Original Message -----
          From: Q Bee <artforms@...>
          To: <johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com>
          Sent: Tuesday, August 10, 2004 8:09 PM
          Subject: Re: [John_Lit] Genesis 1-2 & 4G

          Dear Elaine,
          I will begin with a clarification. Towards the end of your post you wrote
          the following paragraph:

          "I think you should read more widely on what feminism actually is. It is
          egalitarian in most of the forms that I have encountered. Quite often men
          are convinced by their lack of information, i.e., that women seek to reverse
          the situation and take power in place of men. What the majority of women
          seek, as far as I can ascertain, is a shared equality. This is in line with
          Jesus' teaching. An egalitarian society is the real goal and aligned to
          true Christianity."

          You wrote this in relation to my following statement:
          "Sometimes I get the impression that certain feminists put an enmity between
          men and women. I find this very regrettable."

          I am speaking here of the leftist wing of the feminist movement. I have
          carefully worded my statement so as not to include in it all the feminists.
          My daughter Renée is a feminist. My reproach is not addressed to her. It is
          not addressed to you either.
          You speak of "shared equality" as opposed to the enmity I was talking about.
          I like that. I appreciate, on the other hand, your need to bring
          Christianity in line with this goal. I share with you the desire to
          introduce important changes in our world and in the Christian world in
          particular. Your search for greater authenticity is welcome. But I have a
          problem with the way you read ancient texts and myths. I do not think it is
          fair to judge them from our modern point of view. Let me rephrase this. I
          think it is legitimate to do this, but only as a second step. The first step
          must be for the scholar to espouse the views of the ancient world and so to
          speak to become one of its inhabitants. Our modern concern with equality (a
          slogan of the French revolution) was foreign to them. Let me say, if you
          will, that all this was premature at that time. Their main concern was with
          the inequalities among people, not only among men and women.
          Ancient China can be here a very good example. The Chinese conception of the
          family emphasizes the differences between the members of the same family.
          There are first the differences between parents and children. But there are
          also noticeable differences between siblings. Thus the oldest son ranked
          before his younger brother and was considered superior to him. Speaking of
          the parents, their respective roles were seen as different. The ancient
          Chinese would not try to eliminate those differences, which were seen as
          part of the human condition. Their interest was to establish a certain
          harmony within the family, so that each member had his or her distinctive
          place and role in the household. An ancient Chinese would be appalled by our
          modern insistence on equality. In his eyes, this would contribute to the
          creation of an inarticulate society.
          Speaking of the difference between man and woman, the ancient world, from
          Mesopotamia to India and to China, to speak only of the cultures I have some
          knowledge of, ranked man and woman on opposite sides in their list of
          opposites, such as positive and negative. They assigned to the male the
          positive role and to the female the negative role. It is on the basis of
          this classification that I have paired the couples God-Man and
          Serpent-woman. They conceived of the male as active and of the female as
          passive. This is how they perceived the sexual act. The male penetrates the
          female and inseminates her, as the plough penetrates the earth in
          preparation for its insemination. The earth is passive and the plough is
          active. By analogy, the male is active and the female passive.
          I was reading, one day, an art book. One of those richly illustrated books
          that are published nowadays. The picture of an Indian statue caught my
          attention. It was male on one side and female on the other side. In the
          caption, the explanation specified that on the right site was the female
          part and on the left side the male part. This statement struck me as highly
          heretical, for, in ancient cultures, the male was associated with the right
          side considered as positive and the female with the left side, considered as
          negative. A closer look at the picture proved me right. So I called my
          daughter Renée (she was at that time seven or so) and told her to look
          carefully at the picture and to tell me what was peculiar about it. After
          she noticed the presence of boobs on one side and their absence on the other
          side, I asked to tell me if the boobs were on the right or left side of the
          statue. She turned her back to the picture and looked at it over her
          shoulder and said, "the left side". The commentator had failed to look
          carefully at the picture. Besides, if he had any familiarity with Indian
          culture, he would not have made such an absurd statement.
          I think we should try to reconcile our modern need for the creation of an
          egalitarian society with the ancient understanding of the human condition,
          which is based on the recognition of all the differences among us. Those
          differences are based on sex, age, function within the family and society.
          An egalitarian society is OK provided it does not make abstraction of the
          hierarchical structures that are inherent to any well-organized society.
          The notion of equality among people is a philosophical abstraction. It can
          be retained as a legal notion, based on the rejection of any discrimination
          among people for sex, racial, ethnic, religious or cultural reasons. Here,
          it is not enough to change the laws. It is just as important to change our
          prejudices and the way we are conditioned to think.
          Elaine, you speak of "true Christianity". I suppose you are speaking here of
          Christianity as you understand it and as you wish to see it one day. This is
          a perfectly legitimate desire. The Christian world is in permanent change.
          Forces from within and from without make certain changes necessary. But as
          long as the mythical nature of the Easter faith has not been recognized, the
          confusion will remain between dream and reality. Our understanding of
          Christianity will remain naïve. You propose to take refuge in mysticism. In
          this respect you follow the path of the Muslim theologian Al-Gazaly
          (1058-1111). But the path of atheism is not the only other alternative. A
          greater spiritual and human maturity can lead to a critical and deeper
          understanding of the Christian phenomenon, understood as a human phenomenon.
          Peace
          Joseph
          ==========
          Joseph Codsi
          PO Box 116-2088
          Beirut, Lebanon
          Telephone (961) 1-423-145
          Email: joseph5@...





          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Jack Kilmon
          ... From: Joseph Codsi To: Sent: Friday, August 13, 2004 1:13 AM Subject: [John_Lit] Genesis 1-2
          Message 4 of 10 , Aug 13, 2004
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            ----- Original Message -----
            From: "Joseph Codsi" <joseph5@...>
            To: <johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com>
            Sent: Friday, August 13, 2004 1:13 AM
            Subject: [John_Lit] Genesis 1-2 & 4G


            >
            > ----- Original Message -----
            > From: Q Bee <artforms@...>
            > To: <johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com>
            > Sent: Tuesday, August 10, 2004 8:09 PM
            > Subject: Re: [John_Lit] Genesis 1-2 & 4G


            I have not approved the latest lengthy post in this thread since the thread
            is now totally off topic. Let us return to discussions of Johannine
            literature.

            Jack Kilmon
            Moderator
          • Q Bee
            On 8/12/04 11:13 PM, Joseph Codsi wrote: Dear Joseph, If we look at the sequence of events after Jesus began to gather disciples around
            Message 5 of 10 , Aug 13, 2004
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              On 8/12/04 11:13 PM, "Joseph Codsi" <joseph5@...> wrote:

              Dear Joseph,

              If we look at the sequence of events after Jesus began to gather disciples
              around him we have a good idea of how he was perceived to have a radical
              ministry by his contemporaries. The disciples who are named in the first
              chapter of John are all men. This is normal course of the written material
              of the time. Men are named and women are nameless. It is likely that there
              were just as many women as men from the very start. Indeed, it is mentioned
              later that there were women who had followed him throughout his mission
              since Galilee.

              In John 2 the first major miracle takes place at a wedding. This first
              miracle is prompted through dialog with his mother and shows that the way
              things had been in the past are no longer in play. He listens to her and
              acts to provide the wine of gladness. Societal norms are being demolished.

              He goes on to cleanse the Temple, preparing the way for establishing that
              the 'Temple is within'. And this is followed by the first great story of
              evangelism which is carried out by a Samaritan woman who has been formerly
              marginalized both by being female and outside of the strict sense of
              Judaism.

              It is obvious right from the start of Jesus' mission that he is leveling the
              playing field. One could easily say that right from the beginning, Jesus is
              a feminist.

              You speak of ancient cultures, mentioning the Chinese, and the emphasis on
              differences within the family. These 'differences' are largely superficial,
              having been assigned rank and status by groups of men who did not allow
              women to participate in the dialog in order to have any say in the structure
              that would be imposed upon them. This is the course of events in warring
              societies where physical strength rules over intelligence. It is the
              primitive beginnings of societies where only men are educated or have a
              voice. We continue to see this in play from all quarters. The current
              missives from Rome, for example, that continue to hammer on the 'role of
              women' are all created by men in isolation who have not dialoged with a
              single woman in formulating the opinions they propound as 'the way it is'.
              These missives inevitably resort to placing women in the context of 'child
              bearers and nurturer', denying any other possibility, while it is so
              obvious that - if women's primary role is child bearing and nurturing then
              men's primary role must also be generative; for one half of humanity cannot
              be assigned a primary role without a reciprocal assignment to the other.
              This stance would then preclude a celibate priesthood.

              In John 8 there is another example of Jesus leveling the playing field. A
              woman is caught in adultery. Where is her partner? The accusers are the
              men of the village. They stand accusing her while her partner is not even
              charged. Jesus says, "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first
              to throw a stone at her." He has corrected the imbalance by directing the
              men's attention to their own culpability. If she stands alone to bear the
              punishment it is not right to judge her.

              In John 11 it is the women, Martha and Mary, who call forth Jesus'
              compassion and tears by their declaration of faith in him as the messiah.

              In John 12 it is a woman who anoints him.

              In John 19 it is women who stand at the foot of the cross while not a single
              man is mentioned except for soldiers.

              In John 20 it is a woman who is first to see the risen Christ and it is a
              woman who is first as bearer of the Good News.

              These examples stand in stark contrast to the men who deny and betray.

              Your post made a point of showing male and female in ancient traditions as
              opposites. One should take a strong, hard look at this language of
              opposites and understand that it is opposed to the 1st Creation Story. 'In
              the divine image he created them, male and female he created them.' so,
              they are not opposites, but reciprocal, necessary parts of a cohesive whole
              with neither being more of less - partners in every respect.

              The business of 'left and right' in the Indian imagery you offered is also
              an Eastern understanding of lesser and more in the mindset of a culture with
              one side representing light and the other darkness. The notion in the
              middle east of a punishment for theft is a good example: The right hand of
              the thief is cut off so that he cannot receive food and will starve since
              the left hand is used for toilet purposes and cannot receive food. Even
              today, we have the expression 'right hand man'. What would be the impact of
              calling someone the 'left hand man'? It would be a grave insult.

              John Noble's post today has made a good case for 'mysticism' wherein he
              speaks of the term 'we saw his glory'. Perhaps your culture or studies have
              assigned a negative connotation to the term 'mysticism' by placing it in the
              context of something other than what it actually is. For you, it may have
              some connotation of Zoroastrianism or some occult practices. It is hard to
              tell. But, mysticism is the path which every believer must take in order to
              return to the Source. It is a relationship with the Beloved, not strictly
              intellectual knowledge of the precepts of faith, but living in it so that
              all that the believer does is done relationally to the Divine. This did not
              originate in the 12th century or in any particular sect, but is within all
              religions from ancient times to the present. A true faith is not
              compartmentalized as one of the things humanity does. A true faith
              permeates every aspect of that life. It is evidenced in Moses' direct
              conversation with God, in the dreams of the prophets, in the lives of the
              great saints of all major religions. Certainly John of the Cross and many
              other examples can be cited.

              Peace,

              Elaine
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