Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Bible, Pt. 13: Genesis, Chapter 39 - 45

This is my reading of the Bible, continuing directly from Pt. 12 (with the entire series available here). All quotes are from the King James version, 1769 revision.

Chapter 39:
1 And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither.

2 And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.

3 And his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand.

4 And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand.

5 And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; and the blessing of the LORD was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field.

The last chapters in Genesis contain the story of Joseph's experiences - indeed, the rest of his life - in Egypt. It's a long, drawn-out story, so I'll see if I can condense it some.

Joseph is sold to the captain of the Pharaoh's guards, but "the LORD was with him," so he was soon made overseer of the household. We could interpret that as meaning that Joseph was just especially capable, but that's not how it's presented here. Instead, God has blessed this Egyptian household simply because Joseph is one of their slaves.

Doesn't that sound weird to anyone else? It sure does to me. But it turns out later that there's a very convoluted plan in all this.
6 And he left all that he had in Joseph's hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured.

7 And it came to pass after these things, that his master's wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me.

8 But he refused,...

...

12 And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out.

13 And it came to pass, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and was fled forth,

14 That she called unto the men of her house, and spake unto them, saying, See, he hath brought in an Hebrew unto us to mock us; he came in unto me to lie with me, and I cried with a loud voice:

His master's wife notices that Joseph is a "well favoured" young man. But when he refuses her advances, she accuses him of attempted rape. (You really have to wonder what garment he left behind in her room, don't you? What could you lose that easily, but still be evidence of sexual attack?)

Again, this woman is doing the Lord's work here, because, as we find out later, this is still all God's plan.
20 And Joseph's master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king's prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison.

21 But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.

22 And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph's hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it.

Luckily, the only thing that happens to Joseph is that he goes from being the guard captain's slave and overseer to being the head trusty of the Pharaoh's prison.

Chapter 40:
1 And it came to pass after these things, that the butler of the king of Egypt and his baker had offended their lord the king of Egypt.

2 And Pharaoh was wroth against two of his officers, against the chief of the butlers, and against the chief of the bakers.

3 And he put them in ward in the house of the captain of the guard, into the prison, the place where Joseph was bound.

...

5 And they dreamed a dream both of them, each man his dream in one night, each man according to the interpretation of his dream, the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt, which were bound in the prison.

Remember how Joseph interpreted his own dreams (one of the things which got him into trouble with his brothers)? Well, now he interprets the prophetic dreams of the Pharaoh's butler and baker.

I won't go into the details of each dream, but Joseph predicts that the butler will be released in three days, while the baker will be killed - hanged on a tree for the birds to peck. Both events come true. But when the butler is restored to his position, he forgets all about Joseph.

Chapter 41:
1 And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river.

2 And, behold, there came up out of the river seven well favoured kine and fatfleshed; and they fed in a meadow.

3 And, behold, seven other kine came up after them out of the river, ill favoured and leanfleshed; and stood by the other kine upon the brink of the river.

4 And the ill favoured and leanfleshed kine did eat up the seven well favoured and fat kine. So Pharaoh awoke.

...

8 And it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled; and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof: and Pharaoh told them his dream; but there was none that could interpret them unto Pharaoh.

9 Then spake the chief butler unto Pharaoh, saying, I do remember my faults this day:

But this time, it's the Pharaoh himself who dreams, and there's no one who can interpret them until the butler remembers his stint in the prison. Joseph, of course, has no trouble predicting the future, based on those dreams:
29 Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt:

30 And there shall arise after them seven years of famine; and all the plenty shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine shall consume the land;

31 And the plenty shall not be known in the land by reason of that famine following; for it shall be very grievous.

The Pharaoh believes him (it is, after all, a time of widespread superstition), so he takes some wise precautions. He orders that part of the harvest from the good years be set aside, and stored, so there will be food during the lean years.

He also puts Joseph in charge of everything.
38 And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?

39 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art:

40 Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou.

...

43 And he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee: and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt.

Not a bad promotion for a prisoner, let alone a slave, huh? Furthermore, the Pharaoh gives Joseph a wife, "Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On," and she bears him two children: Manasseh and Ephraim. (Finally, no insistence on marrying a cousin - or even within his own religion!)

Note that the Pharaoh sees "the Spirit of God" in Joseph, but he doesn't start worshiping that god himself. And Joseph doesn't expect him to, let alone try to convert him. This god, you see, is just the god of the Hebrews. He's not the only god, he's just the one who cares about them (and only about them).

Of course, this is the Bible I'm reading, so this is supposed to be the Christian 'God,' too. But the whole idea that anyone else should worship this god, except one small clan of his favorites, is completely absent here. Funny, isn't it?

Did God just change his mind after this? When he stopped appearing in person in the world, when he stopped performing miracles, did he also decide that he wanted everyone else to start worshiping him, too, instead of just a handful of his favorites? Did he suddenly start caring about everyone else in the world? There's been no indication of that so far in Genesis, has there?

Joseph is thirty when he's raised up to rule directly under the Pharaoh. He'd been sold into slavery at 17, so it's been a few years. But he's still done remarkably well for himself. And sure enough, everything turns out just as he predicted.
55 And when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread: and Pharaoh said unto all the Egyptians, Go unto Joseph; what he saith to you, do.

56 And the famine was over all the face of the earth: And Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians; and the famine waxed sore in the land of Egypt.

57 And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands.

On behalf of the Pharaoh, Joseph takes a fifth of all the grain grown in Egypt during the next seven years of good harvest, and then he sells it back to the Egyptian people during the years of famine. Not just to the Egyptians, either.

Nice racket, huh? For the Pharaoh and for him.

Chapter 42:
1 Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another?

2 And he said, Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: get you down thither, and buy for us from thence; that we may live, and not die.

The famine is everywhere, so in Canaan, Jacob (Israel) sends ten of his remaining sons to Egypt to buy grain. He holds back only Benjamin, Joseph's full brother (Rachel's second child, delivered just before she died), because that's apparently his new favorite now that Joseph is gone.
7 And Joseph saw his brethren, and he knew them, but made himself strange unto them, and spake roughly unto them; and he said unto them, Whence come ye? And they said, From the land of Canaan to buy food.

8 And Joseph knew his brethren, but they knew not him.

They don't recognize Joseph, since he's living as a high Egyptian official, and no doubt dressing like one, too. He speaks to them through an interpreter, pretending not to know their language.

So he decides to screw with them. Of course, from his point of view, they attempted to kill him. On the other hand, they are trying to buy food to keep the whole clan from starving to death. Maybe that explains his contradictory actions.

First, he accuses them of being spies and tells them he's going to throw them in prison. One will be released to go home and return with Benjamin, who supposedly will confirm their story about not being spies. (I'm not sure why he's supposed to believe Benjamin, when he won't believe the other ten brothers. That doesn't make any sense, does it?)

Then he hears them talk among themselves:
21 And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us.

22 And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required.

23 And they knew not that Joseph understood them; for he spake unto them by an interpreter.

Funny, isn't it? Reuben didn't actually say anything like "do not sin against the child." He just suggested they not shed blood, but to throw Joseph into that pit, instead. Note that they removed Joseph's coat before they did it, so they were obviously expecting their brother to die there.

But Joseph gets weepy and relents, deciding to keep only Simeon a prisoner, while sending the rest back loaded with wheat. He also orders that their money be put into the grain sacks, too.
27 And as one of them opened his sack to give his ass provender in the inn, he espied his money; for, behold, it was in his sack's mouth.

28 And he said unto his brethren, My money is restored; and, lo, it is even in my sack: and their heart failed them, and they were afraid, saying one to another, What is this that God hath done unto us?

Yeah, they don't know what the hell is going on! So they return to Jacob (who's still being called Jacob, despite God previously changing his name to "Israel" - twice!) and tell him everything that happened.
36 And Jacob their father said unto them, Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me.

37 And Reuben spake unto his father, saying, Slay my two sons, if I bring him not to thee: deliver him into my hand, and I will bring him to thee again.

Jacob resists. Joseph is already dead (or so he thinks), and Simeon is in an Egyptian prison. He doesn't want to lose his youngest child, Benjamin, too.

But Reuben promises that he'll bring Benjamin back, and that if he doesn't, Jacob can kill his two sons. What a deal, huh?

Chapter 43:
2 And it came to pass, when they had eaten up the corn which they had brought out of Egypt, their father said unto them, Go again, buy us a little food.

3 And Judah spake unto him, saying, The man did solemnly protest unto us, saying, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you.

4 If thou wilt send our brother with us, we will go down and buy thee food:

Clearly, they hadn't gone back to Egypt with Benjamin. Jacob didn't want to let him go, so they just left Simeon rotting in jail. However, the famine was still with them, and eventually - after they'd eaten all of the grain they'd brought back - they needed more food.
11 And their father Israel said unto them, If it must be so now, do this; take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts, and almonds:

12 And take double money in your hand; and the money that was brought again in the mouth of your sacks, carry it again in your hand; peradventure it was an oversight:

13 Take also your brother, and arise, go again unto the man:

They argue about it awhile, rehashing everything that happened previously (there's a lot of that in these chapters), before Jacob relents. This time, they'll take a little gift back with them, plus double the amount of money (they still don't know what to think about the money that was put inside their grain sacks), and... Benjamin.
24 And the man brought the men into Joseph's house, and gave them water, and they washed their feet; and he gave their asses provender.

25 And they made ready the present against Joseph came at noon: for they heard that they should eat bread there.

...

32 And they set on for him by himself, and for them by themselves, and for the Egyptians, which did eat with him, by themselves: because the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews; for that is an abomination unto the Egyptians.

This time, Joseph has them brought to his (no doubt imposing) house, and they have a party. Joseph is still incognito, so he ate by himself. (The Hebrews and the Egyptians each ate separately, because it was an "abomination" to the Egyptians to break bread with Hebrews. And Joseph is still a Hebrew, though that's not evident to his brothers.)

Apparently, though, they can still drink together, because the last line reads, "And they drank, and were merry with him."

Chapter 44:
1 And he commanded the steward of his house, saying, Fill the men's sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put every man's money in his sack's mouth.

2 And put my cup, the silver cup, in the sack's mouth of the youngest, and his corn money. And he did according to the word that Joseph had spoken.

Remember, Joseph's brothers still don't know who he is. This time, he releases all of them, filling their sacks with grain to take home. Again, he puts their money in the sacks, too - but he also has a silver cup put into Benjamin's sack.

And when they've left, Joseph sends his steward to accuse them of theft!
11 Then they speedily took down every man his sack to the ground, and opened every man his sack.

12 And he searched, and began at the eldest, and left at the youngest: and the cup was found in Benjamin's sack.

13 Then they rent their clothes, and laded every man his ass, and returned to the city.

As I noted, Joseph keeps screwing with them. Then he'll go off by himself for a good cry, before coming back and continuing the pretense.
18 Then Judah came near unto him, and said, Oh my lord, let thy servant, I pray thee, speak a word in my lord's ears, and let not thine anger burn against thy servant: for thou art even as Pharaoh.

...

30 Now therefore when I come to thy servant my father, and the lad be not with us; seeing that his life is bound up in the lad's life;

31 It shall come to pass, when he seeth that the lad is not with us, that he will die: and thy servants shall bring down the gray hairs of thy servant our father with sorrow to the grave.

Judah is Jacob's fourth son (his mother was Leah). Note that he was the guy in Chapter 38 who slept with his daughter-in-law, thinking she was a prostitute. He's also the brother who suggested selling Joseph as a slave (after they'd thrown him in the pit), because... why not make a profit on the whole thing?

But here, he seems quite decent. He asks for a private word with Joseph, then explains about their elderly father, how leaving Benjamin behind will kill the old man. He even offers to take Benjamin's place.

Chapter 45:
1 Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by him; and he cried, Cause every man to go out from me. And there stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself known unto his brethren.

Finally, Joseph can't stand it anymore, and he tells his brothers who he really is. However, they needn't be ashamed of their previous actions. What they'd done was all part of God's plan:
5 Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.

6 For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest.

7 And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.

You see, God knew that a famine was coming, so this was his plan to save the Hebrews. (Naturally, he didn't give a crap about the Egyptians.) Joseph had to go to Egypt so God could set him up in a position to preserve the family. Simple, huh? Slave to prisoner to ruler of all Egypt, under the Pharaoh.

Now me, I have to wonder why an omniscient, omnipotent god wouldn't just make it rain in Canaan. Or lessen the famine in some other way. Wouldn't that make a whole lot more sense? Also, note that, contrary to what Joseph says here, they hadn't actually sold him to those Ishmeelites, and Joseph has no way of knowing that they'd even planned to do that.

His brothers threw him into that pit to kill him (without actually shedding his blood themselves), and when they decided later to sell him as a slave instead, Joseph was no longer there. Some passing Midianites had already seen him down there and decided to make a profit on him, themselves. So what Joseph is saying is flat-out wrong.
8 So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.

9 Haste ye, and go up to my father, and say unto him, Thus saith thy son Joseph, God hath made me lord of all Egypt: come down unto me, tarry not:

10 And thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen, and thou shalt be near unto me, thou, and thy children, and thy children's children, and thy flocks, and thy herds, and all that thou hast:

11 And there will I nourish thee; for yet there are five years of famine; lest thou, and thy household, and all that thou hast, come to poverty.

But no, God had Joseph sold into slavery so he could become "a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt," just so he'd be able to keep his family alive during the famine. So Joseph tells them to go back to Jacob, gather up everyone and everything they own, and return to Egypt, where he'll keep them fed.

The Pharaoh is fine with it, too:
17 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Say unto thy brethren, This do ye; lade your beasts, and go, get you unto the land of Canaan;

18 And take your father and your households, and come unto me: and I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and ye shall eat the fat of the land.

19 Now thou art commanded, this do ye; take you wagons out of the land of Egypt for your little ones, and for your wives, and bring your father, and come.

20 Also regard not your stuff; for the good of all the land of Egypt is yours.

This is quite a story, isn't it? I can't say it's well-written, because the details are repeated over and over again. (I'm sorry about the length of this post, but I've condensed things as much as I could.) Yet, as a story told orally - which is undoubtedly how it started - that repetition might have been useful.

But note that God isn't even necessary to the whole thing. Sure, Joseph credits God for all of it, even his being sold into slavery, though that's hardly credible. But as a story, God is hardly necessary at all. I find that interesting.

At any rate, Joseph's brothers return and tell their father:
25 And they went up out of Egypt, and came into the land of Canaan unto Jacob their father,

26 And told him, saying, Joseph is yet alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt. And Jacob's heart fainted, for he believed them not.

27 And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them: and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived:

28 And Israel said, It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die.

We'll finish up Genesis next time.

___
Note: This whole series can be found here.

16 comments:

Chimeradave said...

That's a really interesting point about how the Pharaoh nor anyone else is converted to Judaism. But I think you'll find that conversion is more of a New Testament/Christian idea.

WCG said...

That's my whole point, John. It's supposed to be the same god, right? That's why I'm reading this, because it's in the Bible.

So, did God change his mind? Did God go thousands of years not caring crap about anyone but his favorite family of Jews, and then suddenly decide that the rest of humanity might be worth saving, too?

Of course, there's no 'saving' in the Old Testament anyway, is there? Are all these people roasting in Hell - even the ones he did care about - just because he was mad at their distant ancestors? (Well, not so distant in Genesis, huh?)

There's not even one hint of an afterlife in Genesis either, is there? Well, of course not. That's a Christian invention. So what do Christians think about that? Did these people just die, then? Or did they go to Hell anyway? If so, are all these people still roasting in Hell, or were they given a "Get Out of Jail Free" card when Jesus came along (after only being tortured for centuries)?

Even if that's the idea, it's still just God's favorites - like Noah and Abraham and Lot - isn't it? At most, it's this small clan of Hebrews. But what about the Pharaoh? Isn't he and every other ancient Egyptian still being tortured in Hell (and will be for eternity) for choosing the wrong gods to worship?

If that's the case, why isn't there any interest at all in missionary work back then? Why doesn't the Old Testament God worry about that? Multiple times in Genesis, they've clearly demonstrated to the Pharaoh that their 'God' is real (and he recognizes that, though he accepts that lots of gods are real). But there's not the slightest hint that he was encouraged to worship that god, too.

How do Christians rationalize away things like this? The fact is, Heaven and Hell aren't in the Old Testament because human beings hadn't invented them yet. Joseph has no interest in converting the Pharaoh, because this was just his god. The Pharaoh had his own gods, which were just as real (or just as imaginary, however you want to put it).

This is a patriarchal book because these people were patriarchal. It gets lots of things about the world wrong, because they didn't know any better. Their morality isn't ours, because there isn't a god deciding what's moral and what isn't, but just very fallible people.

This is all easily explained by my atheism, but how in the world can it be explained by believers? It's supposed to be the same god, but how does that make any sense, even in the context of their own holy book?

Chimeradave said...

You're making me think and stuff! :)

Here are some links about Evangelism in the Old Testament. A believer would say that God is consistent and cite scripture. Here are two example of that:

http://www.pathwaysinternational.org/2012/08/evangelism-ot/

http://www.joyinchristendom.org/joy/2010/05/evangelism-in-the-old-testament.html

Definitely seems inconsistent to me but you asked what a believer would say.

Chimeradave said...

Oh and here are links about Jewish thoughts on the afterlife. The short answer is there is no Jewish thought on the afterlife.

the first two articles are pretty dry, textbook style explanations

http://www.myjewishlearning.com/beliefs/Theology/Afterlife_and_Messiah/Life_After_Death/Heaven_and_Hell.shtml

http://judaism.about.com/od/judaismbasics/a/Afterlife-In-Judaism-Jewish-Beliefs.htm

But this third link is a column and I thought it was pretty well written. Here's a quote:

"The other is that Christianity strongly upholds belief in heaven and hell and is strongly identified with it. And most Jews find it anathema to uphold almost any belief that is identified with Christianity. It is probably fair to say that in terms of beliefs, more Jews are interested in being not-Christian than in being Jewish."

Here is the link

http://www.jewishjournal.com/dennis_prager/article/is_there_a_heaven_and_a_hell_20120615

Of course, that's just an opinion piece the reality of it is that Jews don't believe in an afterlife because no one ever wrote it into their holy book.

Maybe it was to differentiate the Torah from the Egyptian "Book of the Dead" as one of the links suggested.

It certainly is interesting.

I mean I'm familiar with the broad strokes of Old Testament, but I have zero idea how Jewish and Christian interpretations differ.

WCG said...

Actually, I knew what a believer would say, John. They'd just rationalize it away, like they do everything else which conflicts with what they want to believe. But thanks for the links.

None of their examples of evangelism come from Genesis, which is the only chapter I've read so far, so I can only say that it's a big book, and you can pick out isolated examples of almost anything.

However, when they claim that Jacob (Israel) teaching his own children his own religion is an example of "evangelism," you know they're really reaching! If that's the kind of example they have to include, given the entire Old Testament, you know they don't have much.

And what's their conclusion from such examples? "So, clearly, it is established that Evangelism was prescribed and practiced in the Old Testament..." Heh, heh. Yeah, right. Clearly.

As I said before, there's absolutely no hint of anything like that in Genesis. And given that these are the Jewish holy books, and that Jews don't practice evangelism at all, I'd say that Christians are just imagining what they really want to believe.

But there's nothing new about that, is there?

Chimeradave said...

That is definitely the sense I got from the links that they were reaching.

WCG said...

Thanks for the links, John. I found the first one particularly interesting. (The third was written by a guy who clearly wants to believe in a heaven and hell, so he has to explain away why most other Jews don't. Obviously, he's going to find reasons.)

Two things fascinate me in that first article. The first is Sheol. What he's describing is basically the ancient Greek and Roman idea of what happens after death. It's Hades, basically.

In general, there is no reward and no punishment, but death isn't something to welcome. You just fade away in a dim underworld - everyone, whoever you were, whatever you were. It's not eternal torture, but it's not a pleasant idea, either.

Well, you can understand why the Christian promise of a paradise after death was so appealing to many Romans, can't you? (Even so, it took force to convert everyone.)

But the other thing is, there apparently was a concept of life after death in Jewish thinking before Christ. It might not have been mainstream, but just the fact that such things were postulated means that Heaven and Hell weren't invented whole cloth.

Dennis Prager, the author of that third article says, "It is impossible to affirm that there is a good God while denying that there is any ultimate reward and punishment." Well, it's clear that good people don't always get rewarded in this life, and bad people aren't always punished as they deserve. So it's understandable that people who want to believe in a 'good God' will want to fix that.

I'm not so sure that the ancient Jews did believe in a good god, not as we'd understand the term. Their god was 'good' in the sense that he was their god, rather than someone else's god, don't you think?

Still, it looks like there was some interest in ideas like this, and Jesus would almost certainly have been aware of such thinking. So Heaven and Hell don't seem to be such a break from Jewish beliefs as I'd always thought. Very interesting!

Afterwards, Jews who especially wanted to believe in that kind of afterlife would be the most likely to convert to Christianity. Those who didn't would be less likely to entertain such ideas, just in order to differentiate themselves from Christians, as Prager suggested.

What he didn't say is that influences work both ways. So some Jews today, like him, are probably more likely to believe in a reward-and-punishment kind of afterlife, just because they've been influenced by the majority culture of Christianity which surrounds them. (Why do Christians get to live forever, but Jews don't?)

It's all very interesting, but none of it goes to the central question here. What happened to all those ancient people when they died, before there was even the concept of an afterlife. Certainly, there's not even a hint in Genesis of that sort of thinking.

Was Hell already in operation back then? It must have been, since Satan had already rebelled, right? What a surprise when all of those people ended up being tortured for eternity, when they didn't have a clue that it was even a possibility, huh?

And according to many Christians, you can't get to Heaven without accepting Jesus as your personal savior, so... what about all those generations before Jesus even existed? Are they still in Hell, still being tortured, or were they released after generations of torture, when Jesus finally showed up?

Christians think that this is the same god as the one they worship. After all, the Old Testament is part of the Bible. But there hasn't been one hint of an afterlife in Genesis. And not only aren't they busy converting the heathen (so those people can avoid Hell), they're not even teaching each other how to avoid it!

Well, Heaven and Hell hadn't been invented yet. This isn't a problem for me, because it fits perfectly with what I believe. But why isn't it a problem for Christians?

Chimeradave said...

http://www.biblequery.org/Doctrine/NeverHeardTheGospel/WhatAboutThoseWhoDiedBeforeHearingTheGospel.htm

Here is a site that tries to answer those questions. Whether it's an answer or just more tap dancing around the problem is up to the reader. :)

WCG said...

So, according to that (and there are as many different Christian beliefs as there are Christians, I think), if you never heard about Christ, no problem, because you'll learn after you die.

And that was the case even before Christ was born, which is kind of funny. (But then, so is all that 'monotheism' stuff, where Jesus is supposed to be his own father.)

But what this means is that the vast majority of human beings - all of us atheists and everyone who believes in the wrong religion, too - would have been far better off if Jesus had never existed in the flesh.

After all, if we'd never heard of him, we would simply have learned about him after we died. And if I learn anything after I'm dead, that will be pretty good evidence that religion isn't just delusion and wishful-thinking, won't it?

We atheists just ask for evidence. But God apparently can't be bothered to supply any, even though he supposedly wants us to believe that he exists. Well, then, just wait until after we're dead.

If I end up in either the Christian Heaven or the Christian Hell, that will be plenty of evidence for me (and for all the other people who were raised to believe in a false religion, too). After I die, if I end up standing on a cloud in front of the Pearly Gates, well, that will convince me. Some ancient myths, poorly documented, do not.

Unfortunately, I don't get to change my mind at that point, right? I finally get evidence, but only after it's too late. Heh, heh. It's really too bad Jesus existed at all, for most of us, because - if this guy is right - most of humanity would have been far better off never hearing one word about him.

PS. Of course, this also misses the whole point. In Genesis, God comes down to talk to people directly. In other cases, he sends angels to Earth or uses dreams. But not once does he even mention an afterlife. He doesn't even hint to his favored people that death isn't the end.

So, if he kept all of those people completely in the dark about the afterlife - including his best-buds, like Noah, Abraham, Lot, etc. - then why change his mind later?

Suddenly, in the New Testament, God wants everyone to know about Heaven and Hell, when before, he didn't. Why? Suddenly, God wants everyone on Earth worshiping him, when before, he only cared about his favorites. Why?

Suddenly, God cares about everyone on the planet, not just a handful of proto-Jews. As I noted, Joseph didn't even bother trying to convert the Pharaoh, or any other Egyptians. Well, why the change of heart later?

God didn't really have a 'son' in the conventional sense, because Jesus is also supposed to be him. I mean, in Christian theology, there's... somehow... supposed to be only one god. So when primitive stories indicate that this god had a son (which is a common myth in many cultures), he can't be a new god, but still must be part of the old one,... somehow.

So Jesus was always supposed to exist, even before he was born. At least, according to that link, the "gospel of Christ" existed before then. (And it's mainstream Christianity that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are one, right?) So that doesn't really explain anything, does it?

Why is the God of the Old Testament so different from the God of the New Testament? Well, Marcion saw the same problem that I do, didn't he? But Marcionism was rooted out of Christianity as heresy. So now Christians remain stuck with the problem.

Of course, I'm not a Marcionite. I don't see a reason to believe any of it. But reading Genesis has given me a new appreciation for just how different that god is from the Christian 'God,' at least from how he's imagined today.

Chimeradave said...

That is pretty crazy that a non-believer is actually better off never hearing about the Gospel. Especially considering how important it is to Christians to "spread the good news."

I think I'm more of a Marcionite than a Christian too bad it didnt catch on.

Chimeradave said...

Are you going to read Exodus or have you had enough?

WCG said...

I don't know, John. There's no more reason to believe the Marcionite version of things than the mainstream Christian version.

And as bad as the Jews were persecuted by Christians in our history, I can't help but think it would have been far worse without that Old Testament connection to their religion. Can you imagine how bad it would have been if they'd been thought to worship an entirely different god?

WCG said...

Oh, I'm definitely continuing, John. I'm really enjoying this, so far.

Right now, I working on my last post about Genesis, but I plan to continue with the next book after that - especially since I have at least one faithful reader of this series. :)

Chimeradave said...

Good point! Of course, technically the Muslims believe in the same God too, though it doesn't seem like it.

Chimeradave said...

A faithful reader, who's that, your brother?..Oh, you mean me. :)

Seriously, I'm glad you're continuing, I'm getting more out of this than any Bible study I've gone to.

WCG said...

John, just recently, I've started listening to The Human Bible podcasts (on my new SanDisk player), and you might be interested this one, because the first 15 minutes or so talks about Marcion.

Actually, I'm finding all of them fascinating. I can go for a walk without even realizing I'm doing something that's good for me. :)