The text we are studying for Sunday, September 30 is Genesis 3:8-17 & 22-24, the part of the longer story in chapter 3 about the first human disobedience that details its consequences.
Yes, it would be easier just to say “the story of the first human sin.”
And I generally even agree that the story is a story about sin, but … I’m in a sleep-deprived and grumpy mood about people using the text of Scripture as a Rorschach test and feeling free to just make stuff up that isn’t in the text without even noticing that that’s what’s happening.
It’s one thing to do it. It’s quite another thing not to notice it.
The text is its own discipline in this sense.
There is a difference between the words on the page – and what we know about their lexical significance, their “dictionary definitions” if you will, or their “customary meanings,” – and our assumptions and inferences and extrapolations from those words.
I’m not saying we can possibly read the text without any assumptions or inferences or extrapolations, either! Of course we can’t, we wouldn’t even be able to read if we had to do that.
I’m saying that we need to keep awake.
We bring ourselves and our world and our theology and all that to the text when we read, and I think it is possible to notice that, at least most of the time. And I’m saying that it is a mistake just to say “the text says this [what I believe it says]” or “the text means this [what I automatically assume that means]” without bothering to check that against the text.
And I am saying all this grumpy stuff because I made the mistake of reading our lesson commentary first, before reading the Bible, and because our free and easy curriculum author who has a different hermeneutic than I do and who is fine with making stuff up says “The Bible calls this brokenness ‘sin.’”
And I say to myself, well, not in Genesis 3 it doesn’t.
I am not even saying that sin is not serious. Really, it is deadly serious.
I am not saying I don’t believe in original sin. I do. More than most of the progressive Christians I know. I am very Augustinian and Calvinist, and I don’t apologize for that. But.
There are a lot of words for what the humans did, and the text itself does not use any of them. The text itself does not “call” what the humans have done sin, or rebellion, or revolt, or transgression, or disobedience, or having a serious lapse in judgment, or giving in to temptation, or messing up, or falling, or putting themselves above God, or being prideful, or relying on bad exegesis and falsehood-wielding, lie-mongering, treacherous, self-ordained authority and as a consequence going along with a misrepresentation of God, or any of that.
In fact, in the text itself, God poses the question to the woman (who still doesn’t have a name, just btw, so technically it is not accurate to refer to her by her subsequent name, that she doesn’t have yet) in v13 “What is this that you have done?”
God doesn’t even answer that question!
And we are still trying to come to terms with it. “We” being humanity.
We are not wiser than God.
If we understood that, maybe this kind of reading where we add stuff to the text and then act like that is exactly what the text says would be different. Or maybe not.
Anyhow, I for one am adamantly in favor of not saying “God says” or “the Bible says” when it is … stuff … we says.
Maybe we could call that “taking responsibility for our reading.”