21 st century BCE

Perhaps it will help us to see new meaning in
the familiar stories of the Bible if we look at
them from a different angle.
What if we let go of our 21st century A.D.
perspective on the events in the story --and make our best possible effort to view it
from a 21st century B.C.E. perspective?
What if we flip the map?
Brian McLaren
We Make the Road By
Walking Week 7
Rob Bell
What is the Bible? Part 6
For example, what would a 21st century B.C.E.
listener hear in Genesis 22:1 - 19?
Would they focus on Abraham and the
sacrifice of Isaac? That is the part of the
story that seems to be front and center to us
in the 21st century A.D.! It is horrifying.
What kind of God would ask that of a father?!
But is that what the B.C.E. crowd would focus
on in this story?
What if their map were flipped?
What if they were so accustomed to human
sacrifice that the shocking element was the
Listen to Genesis 22:1-19, and ponder
Chagall’s interpretation of the journey. Try to
listen with 21st century B.C.E. ears.
Marc Chagall, c. 1931,
Abraham and Isaac on the way to the place of sacrifice
Human sacrifice was commonplace in
Abraham’s time and place. Rob Bell says:
“You never knew where you stood with the
gods. And so you’d offer part of your crop.
And you’d offer a goat. Maybe a lamb. Maybe
a cow. Maybe a few cows. Maybe some birds.
The very nature of early religion is that
everything escalated because in your anxiety
to please the gods you kept having to
offer more.
And what’s the most valuable thing you could
offer the gods to show them how serious you
were about earning their favor? A child. Of
course. … It’s where religion took you. To the
place where you’d offer that which was most
valuable to you.”
So a 21st century B.C.E. listener would not be
shocked, as we are, that God asked for a child
to be sacrificed. Nor would they be horrified
that Abraham made preparations to do it. “It’s
where religion took you.”
They were, however, STUNNED when God
Bell, again:
“What kind of God would ask a man to
sacrifice his son?
Now, an answer: Not this one.
The other gods may demand your firstborn,
but not this God.”
McLaren: “God is better than that.”
“At first, this god appears to be like all the
other gods. The story is like the other stories
about gods who are never satisfied. The first
audience for this story would have heard this
before, it would have been familiar. But then
it’s not. The story takes a shocking turn that
comes out of nowhere. This God disrupts the
familiarity of the story by interrupting the
sacrifice. Picture an early audience gasping.
What? This God stopped the sacrifice? Huh?
The gods don’t do that!
Second, the God in this story provides.
Worship and sacrifice was about you giving to
the gods. This story is about this God giving
to Abraham. A God who gives? Who provides?
Third, this isn’t a story about what Abraham
does for God, it’s a story about what God
does for Abraham.
Mind blowing. New. Ground breaking. A story
about a god who doesn’t demand anything
but gives and blesses.
Fourth, Abraham is told that God is just
getting started, and that this God is going to
bless Abraham with such love and favor that
through Abraham everybody on earth is going
to be blessed.
This God isn’t angry or demanding or
unleashing wrath, this God has intentions to
bless everybody.
Abraham is invited to trust. To have faith. To
believe. To live in these promises.
Can you see how many game changing ideas
are in this one story? Can you see why people
told this story? Can you see why it endured?
Can you think of any other stories about a son
who was as good as dead for three days but
then lived in such a way that the story about
him confronted the conventional wisdom of
the day that the gods are angry and
demanding with the insistence that God
blesses and gives and provides and all that’s
left to do is trust that God is really like that?”

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