Tuesday, November 14, 2006

James Alison

An Atonement Update. A chapter from James Alison's upcoming book, Undergoing God: dispatches from the scene of a break in.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Creation and Atonement - Darkness

In Genesis 1:2 what is this "darkness" that is spread over the abyss. Margaret Barker says, "The holy of holies was the place of the pre-created light of Day One, but in the temple this was in fact the darkness of the divine presence in the holy of holies. Texts which describe what happened before the world was created, or what happened in eternity, are describing rituals in the holy of holies..."

Psalm 18:11
He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him— the dark rain clouds of the sky.
Psalm 97:2
Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Darkness was a characteristic of theophanies, God appeared in darkness. Margaret Barker says, "That the Davidic monarchs had indeed become ‘God and King’ in the holy of holies, and that this had not been forgotten, is confirmed by Philo’s extraordinary statement about Moses: he became god and king when he entered the darkness where God was..."

Darkness is thick clouds, like the clouds of incense in the holy of holies. Is darkness created matter that God is shrouded in, like the veil which represents created matter? Is this "Darkness" Yahweh? Then when Yahweh comes out of the Holy of Holies He is declared light?

In the Gospels, at the Crucifixion, we have darkness covering the earth. Is this the same "Darkness" of Genesis 1:2?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Creation and Atonement - Waters and the Flood

"The LORD sits enthroned over the flood", Psalm 29:10.

Psalm 93
1The LORD reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is established, that it cannot be moved. 2Thy throne is established of old: thou art from everlasting. 3The floods have lifted up, O LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their waves. 4The LORD on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea.

Psalm 18:4
4The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.

Psalm 24
1The earth is the LORD's, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. 2For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.

Isaiah 51
10Art thou not it which hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?

Margaret Barker says "Jerusalem and its temple, the centre of the whole creation, had been established as dry land in the midst of the watery chaos."

At creation the Lord subdued and bound the waters. The Waters and the Flood are very important in Biblical imagery. What do they represent?

Psalm 69 - Straightforwardly says the Waters and Flood are the people. The deep waters are the persecutors.

Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul. 2I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me...4They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty: then I restored that which I took not away...14Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink: let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters. 15Let not the waterflood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me.

From the Girardian Lectionary, the flood is collective violence. It's a deluge of collective violence against a single victim. The story of Noah is like the story of the Gerasene Demoniac, it's a reversal, not the single victim but the community that is engulfed in the Flood. The Lord lifts up the single victim.

Psalm 65
5By terrible things in righteousness wilt thou answer us, O God of our salvation; who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of them that are afar off upon the sea: 6Which by his strength setteth fast the mountains; being girded with power: 7Which stilleth the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people.

Revelation 17:15
is quite explicit.
15And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.

The Waters in Genesis refer to peoples and multitudes.

Psalm 124

2If it had not been the LORD who was on our side, when men rose up against us: 3Then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us: 4Then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul: 5Then the proud waters had gone over our soul. 6Blessed be the LORD, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth. 7Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped. 8Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

The Waters are hostile forces or enemies, see Isaiah 8:7, the King of Assyria is described as Waters. Daniel 9:26 describes the Prince coming to destroy the city as a flood.

From James Alison and the Girardian Lectionary:
The story of Noah is less obviously a story of origins than either that of Adam and Eve or Cain and Abel, yet since it, too, is subjected to a christological re-reading in the apostolic witness, I beg indulgence for a quick glimpse at this story too. In the first letter of Peter it is pointed out that in the days of Noah "a few, that is eight persons, were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you" (1 Pet 3:20-21). That is to say, the water of Baptism corresponds to the water of the flood. Yet Baptism, we know from Paul, is being immersed in the death of Christ, so as to be able to share in his resurrection, and that it is he, and after him, the Church, which the Ark prefigured. This implies a rather particular christological re-reading of the Noah story: the implication is that the Ark actually went under the flood rather than escaping it miraculously! In this re-reading, we would have all the violence abounding on the face of the earth, and, at a time of particular mimetic crisis of indifferentiation, symbolized by the Flood, the collective putting to death of someone (Noah) or a group (Noah and his family). It was this putting to death which brought about peace, permitting the re-establishment of order, the categorization of animals, and the setting up of a new, peaceful tribal system. There are of course many myths of this sort whereby a more or less hidden collective expulsion or murder is seen as producing a new social order, where fruit, or animals, or foodstuffs, start to abound as the result of a mysterious visitation in which it can either be the collectivity which perishes at the hand of a god, or a god which perishes at the hand of a collectivity, and as a prize, leaves behind the basis for the new culture. The Noah story as we have it could very well be a Jewish demythologization of just such a story in the light of their experience of salvation from out of Egypt leading to the setting up of the Covenant. Here, Noah is saved from out of the flood, and God makes a covenant with him never more to destroy all flesh.
Again from the Girardian Lectionary, Paul Nuechterlein writes,
Another way of conceiving sinking down into the water is to become caught up in the swirling of scandal around the scapegoat, to get caught up in the flood of violence. Peter and all the disciples will get caught up in this flood that kills Jesus. Jesus will die because of the flood, but he alone is not swept up in it. This is the image of Noah and the great flood. All people on earth get swept up in a flood of violence except Noah and his family. Jesus dies during a flood of such violence; but, in another sense, he his kept free of its ultimate effects by not returning violence for violence. Instead, held in the ark of the tomb, he rises on the third day as forgiveness, not vengeance. In this sense, he has willingly succumbed to the violence but not gotten swept up in it as a perpetrator of it.
Is Peter sinking down in the water a reference to Psalm 69 and Genesis 1:2. Moreover, Jesus walking on the water and calming the stormy sea also a reference to Genesis 1:2. The waters of Baptism also refers to Genesis 1:2.

Genesis 1:2 - Invisibility

To state again, I believe Genesis 1 is referring to the Atonement ritual. In the Bible Atonement and creation are the same things.

Genesis 1:2, in the Hebrew, says that the earth had become chaos and vacant. The prophet Jeremiah, in Jeremiah 4:23, also saw the earth become chaos and vacant. He offers a clue about what is going on in Genesis. In Jeremiah 4:22, he says that what has brought about the chaos and waste is the people's foolishness and lack of understanding and wisdom. The people have not known God. They know how to do evil, but they don't know how to do good. Isaiah 34:11 also notes chaos and vacancy. Isaiah notes that this chaos and vacancy has been caused by bloodshed.

Chaos and vacant in Hebrew are "tohu and bohu". These words are pretty much synonymous and can be translated as "chaos", "desolation", "wasteland", "emptiness", "empty/unreal/a place of idols", "vanity/vain", "futile", "void", with an implicit understanding of evil.

Interestingly the Septuagint says that the earth was "invisible and unformed". Hebrews 11:1-3 says that "
what is seen was not made out of what was visible."

2 Enoch states:
Before anything existed at all, from the very beginning, whatever is I created from non-being, and from the invisible things into the visible.Before any visible things had come into existence, and the light had not yet opened up, I, in the midst of the light, moved around in the invisible things, like one of them, as the sun moves around from east to west and from west to east. But the sun has rest; yet I did not find rest, because everything was not yet created. And I thought up the idea of establishing a foundation, to create a visible creation (Charlesworth, 1983, 143)
The "invisible" is the Kingdom of Heaven.

New hypothesis...Genesis 1:1-2 should be translated like this, "With Wisdom God created the Heavens and Earth, and the Earth was invisible and darkness was on the Abyss and the Spirit of God fluttered/hovered on the Waters." I'm, of course, not going for a direct translation from anything, I'm trying to understand how Jesus and the first Christians understood this text.

In Genesis 1:2 the creation is still unseen and invisible. Is the temple the Earth? The Temple in Jewish mythology was understood to be/represent the Earth. It was buried in chaos, waste, void, waters, the deep, the Abyss, human violence and the Flood, but it will emerge, even though it is still unseen. What is being described in Genesis 1 is not a geologic or biological creation. It has nothing to do with evolution or the big bang. If I am understanding this all correctly I should be able to find a lot of New Testament support.