Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Who was Seth's Wife?

Conservative theologians believe Moses wrote the Pentateuch, or at least someone wrote his words down in these first five books of the Bible. This means Genesis had the same author as Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Therefore, whatever is written in these books came from the same human being, Moses, who was inspired by the Holy Spirit (see I Timothy 3:16).

This means Moses wrote both about the sons of Adam and Eve, and also about the law contained in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. What was written? Specifically, “Cain knew his wife…” (Genesis 4:17), and “Seth…fathered Enosh… (Genesis 5:6). Cain and Seth were the sons of Adam and Eve. Who were the women they married if Adam and Eve were the first and only human beings created? I was taught these men each married one of their sisters, respectively.

Yet, Moses also wrote the following about marrying one’s sister:
Leviticus 18:9 – 11 “You shall not uncover the nakedness of your sister, your father's daughter or your mother's daughter, whether brought up in the family or in another home. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your son's daughter or of your daughter's daughter, for their nakedness is your own nakedness. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's wife's daughter, brought up in your father's family, since she is your sister.”
Leviticus 20:17 “If a man takes his sister, a daughter of his father or a daughter of his mother, and sees her nakedness, and she sees his nakedness, it is a disgrace, and they shall be cut off in the sight of the children of their people. He has uncovered his sister's nakedness, and he shall bear his iniquity.
And finally,
Deuteronomy 27:22 “‘Cursed be anyone who lies with his sister, whether the daughter of his father or the daughter of his mother.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’”

Now, I was taught that brothers and sisters marrying was ok until human DNA was corrupted, and then it was prohibited. Notice, however, that the same author who wrote about Cain and Seth being married did not indicate that each man married his sister. This is adding something to scripture that is not implied. Rather, the same author made it clear sexual relations between a brother and sister was prohibited. Likewise, nothing is mentioned about a brother’s and sister’s offspring bearing the iniquity. Review the above scriptures and you will see that the man who commits this act bears the iniquity. Nothing is mentioned about the children being cursed.

Also, nothing is mentioned in these passages that while men at one time could marry their respective sisters, now God is prohibiting such practices. Indeed, Leviticus chapter 18:1-6 begins as follows:
“And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, I am the LORD your God. You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.
“None of you shall approach any one of his close relatives to uncover nakedness. I am the LORD.”

From this passage we see that marriage between brothers and sisters had been ongoing in the lands around Israel. From the sense of these passages, God always prohibited this act.

So, who was the woman Seth married? She cannot be Seth’s sister because Moses, the author of Genesis, noted in Leviticus and Deuteronomy that this was prohibited. We do know that God created her. Likewise, I do not conclude that Genesis contradicts Leviticus and Deuteronomy, as is implied by some theologians and clergy.

Rather, these must have been other people created by God, as were Adam and Eve, for Moses wrote,
“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
“So God created man in his own image,    
in the image of God he created him;    
male and female he created them.”
- Genesis 1:26-27

God creating “them” may have a plural meaning going beyond one man and one woman. Clearly, to claim that God later changed his mind about brothers and sisters marrying goes against the clear intent of scripture, and is reading into scripture words and meaning that are not there. Clearly, Adam and Eve are real people, as were Seth and his wife. Clearly, God is the Creator.

Much more could be written, but that is enough to think about for now. May the Holy Spirit guide our understanding of scripture.

(Scripture passages, above, are quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition).

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Police are NOT the Authority in the Bible.

As an Evangelical Christian, I am very concerned with a trend I see among politically conservative Christians in the United States. I see many such Christians supporting right-wing authoritarian policies, and claiming the Bible supports such policies. This can be seen in their various responses to several shootings of African-American men by police officers recently.

Today, many of us saw a video of an ugly scene where a police officer shot an African-American man, Walter Scott, as he ran away. As noted in a CNN article:

"Regardless of why Walter Scott ran, "running from an officer doesn't result in the death penalty," family attorney Chris Stewart said." Well said!

Over the past year, I have read many comments by politically conservative Christians supporting the police in other cases where the police have shot African-Americans. Such politically conservative Christians give unqualified support for the police, and they base this upon the idea the police are the authority and must be obeyed. Yet, the Bible does not teach that police officers are the authority.

Rather, the ultimate authority the police must answer to is God (See Romans 13:1). After than, they are under the authority of the US Constitution, the legal sovereign of the United States of America. In civil societies, the rule of law is practiced. Police are NOT the ultimate authority as many conservative Christians claim.

This idea that police are not the authority is seen in the Gospel of Luke. There, we read of a Roman centurion who sent word to Jesus requesting He heal his servant. When Jesus went to the centurion, he sent his friends to Jesus with a message saying he was unworthy to receive Jesus. However, he had faith that Jesus could heal his servant. The centurion said:

"For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me...." (Luke 7:8 ESV).

Note, he did not claim to be the authority, but a man "set under authority." So it is with our military personnel and with our police. They are set under the authority of our sovereign, the US Constitution, and ultimately under the authority of God. This means they must act within the bounds of the law.

Indeed, I truly support honest police and sympathize with the pressures they must face day to day. It is a most difficult, and needed profession in a civil society. Therefore, when an officer goes beyond the law in his actions, he is no longer acting under the authority of the US Constitution or God.

Now, think of a few consequences of the police officer shooting Walter Scott:
- the family of Walter Scott grieves over his death. He cannot be replaced.
- respect and support for the law diminishes in such communities.
- honest police officers are viewed through the lens of this action by many citizens. Corrupt police officers stain the reputations of honest police officers and make it harder for them to enforce the law.

When I lived in Los Angeles, California, I read of cases where men were routinely beat up and women routinely raped by corrupt police officers in an anti-gang unit. So, I ask my conservative brothers and sisters in Christ to think of your son or daughter in such a situation. Would you support the police? Would you tell your sons and daughters to submit to beatings and rape?

Again, think of your sons in the situation Walter Scott was in: would you support the police shooting your son if he ran away?

It is time Christians stand up for justice instead of trusting human power. Psalm 20:7 says, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God" (ESV). Christians giving unqualified support to corrupt police officers show that they trust force rather than justice and the rule of law.