In the first two chapters of Genesis, ideas of kinship of human reproduction are mentioned and explored. In the first chapter, God tells the humans to, “be fruitful and multiply,” (Gn 1:28) and that they will have dominion over all the earth. This command is fulfilled in the ideals of a traditional marriage, including the goal of procreation, which is mentioned in Professor Seeman’s article on reproductive technologies in Israel. In the second chapter of Genesis, God creates a woman from the rib of the man after being unable to find him a suitable partner in the animals already created. The man says, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken” (Gn 2:23). These quotes provide a very interesting idea of kinship, that a man and woman united and marriage become one flesh with an inseparable bond. From this account, affinal kinship (that of a man and woman bonded through marriage) is very highly valued.
The Christian use of the book of Genesis explains the seemingly strict views on procreation that is mentioned above. A Jewish interpretation of the book of Genesis, then, looks more towards a literal and legal translation. Also in Professor Seeman’s article on reproductive technologies in Israel, he states, “Unlike Jewish writers, Catholic and Protestant writers who use the Bible tend to focus on what can be derived from narrative rather than legal portions of the biblical text” (Seeman 348). This is an interesting contrast because as mentioned earlier, the first two chapters of the book of Genesis focus on the affinal relationship between a man and woman. This concept intertwines the legal interpretations customary in Jewish culture in that the man and woman are not related through genetics but are still considered kin, while also relying on the narrative of the creation of man and woman prevalent in Christian values. In my understanding, a Jewish viewing of Genesis focuses on the limiting nature of these chapters, while a Christian interpretation is more open-ended (Seeman 349). Besides varying readings of the book of Genesis, varying life experiences and values may account for different interpretations of the same book.
In an ethnographic approach compared to an approach based on the reading of religious texts, the experience gained from participant observation is highly valued. It is one thing to study the text, but it is another thing to be in the field and to apply these lessons to situations that happen in everyday life. A compromise of this situation would be to plant roots in the text but adapt to real-life experiences that put to test the religious values. Even though there are varying interpretations of the book of Genesis in Christian and Jewish religions, they prove to be important in ethical and moral dilemmas.
Don Seeman, “Ethnography, Exegesis and Jewish Ethical Reflection: The New Reproductive Technologies in Israel.” In Daphna Birenbaum-Carmeli and Yoram S. Carmeli editors, Kin, Gene, Community: Reproductive Technologies Among Jewish Israelis (Berghahn Books, 2010), pp. 340-362.
The Bible. Authorized King James Version, Oxford UP, 1998.