Blog 1: Isac Simkin

The first 2 chapters of Genesis depict the procedure that G-d used to create the world, they describe what happened in each day of the 7 days of creation. The concept of creation and production of the ‘own kind’ is introduced in the 3rd day, where it describes “plants each yielding its own kind of seed, and trees each producing its own kind of seed-bearing fruit”. Furthermore, in verse 22 of the 1st chapter, it talks about the reproduction of animals “Be fruitful, multiply and fill the water of the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” However, it does not mention the reproduction of humankind until verse 28 in the first chapter where it commands to “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth…”. The first 2 chapters of Genesis do not yet speak about reproduction as an act of love or affection but merely as a purposeful act, to reproduce and fill the earth. In contrast to humankind’s mission, it describes that animals should fill the water of the seas and birds should multiply on earth, but it does not mention that they should “fill the earth”.
In terms of kinship, I found 2 examples that represent the relationship among the living animals or plants with humankind as well as humankind within itself. First, towards the end of the first chapter, it is mentioned that the humankind should “Rule over the fish in the sea, the birds in the air and every living creature that crawls on the earth.”. When I apply today’s definitions and types of kinship it is evident that this relationship is in no way consanguineal nor affinal, but fictive. I determined this is fictive kinship simply because it does not fit into the other 2 groups, in the first 2 chapters of Genesis there is ‘creation’ out of what appears to be nothing, there is no blood relationship between the living things and the is no affinity or situation in which there is a social process to attribute the relationship between all living things. This initial relationship was imposed by G-d and not agreed upon the living creations. However, in the 18th verse of the second chapter, it says that it is not good for the person to be alone, it needs a “companion”, so it created a “woman-person” and brought it to the man. In comparison with the previous kinship example, this can be considered consanguineal relation. It mentions that the “woman-person” was created from the man’s rib, in fact, in the 22nd verse of the second chapter it says that the woman-person is “…flesh from my flesh.”, in relation to the man-person.
The Jewish and the Cristian Genesis is essentially the same. Both faiths believe in one G-d (Genesis 1:1), hold marriage (companionship) as defined by G-d in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 1:27) and have a basis for logic, knowledge, and the truth since we are made in the in the image of a logical, truthful G-d (Genesis 1:26). The differences start showing up when analyzing the uses of the beforementioned text, in Christianity the narrative in the Old Testament is used to describe the text is used to ultimately, in the New Testament, introduce the figure of the ‘son of G-d’ by the name of Jesus (Jesus Christ) as the biggest spiritual representation on earth and expand on all of his teachings and the first-century Christianity. In contrast, in Judaism, Genesis is used as the narrative to explain the creation of the world and everything that came with it, such as animals, plants and then humans as well as to introduce the story of the Jewish people rather than a single personality.
Moreover, the differences are also based on the interpretation of the texts rather than a formal normative dispute. This difference can be evaluated when disputing reproductive systems and considering both perspectives. The ‘Donum Vitae’, considered to be the single most famous Christian statement on reproductive technologies. This text explicitly states the prohibition of any use of reproductive technologies with the seldom exception of homologous artificial insemination (IVF) using only the husband’s sperm. The explanation for the restriction is mostly based upon the reading of Genesis verse 24 in chapter 1 where it says, “in one flesh”, this is interpreted as if any of the reproductive techniques were meant to rupture the traditional or the meant-to-be way of reproducing.
When analyzing the role of reproductive models, there are varied perspectives to be considered. In one side, the Catholic perspective considers the differentiation between the model described in the earlier chapters of Genesis in comparison to the model described when touching upon the biblical families of Abraham and Jacob, the first one described as true. On the other hand, the Jewish perspective is that the reproduction model used by the patriarchs and matriarchs is to be similarly implemented, most times Jewish writers refer to the commandment of “be fruitful and multiply”. Regardless of the method, even if it is homologous or heterologous IVF the person has fulfilled the requirement to reproduce, it is not concerned about the reproductive method used.
In a more general sense, perspectives on Genesis can be developed using 2 interpretations. The first one is the “literally” interpretation which is intended to pursue a straightforward meaning of a verse of a phrase. The second one is the “allegorically” interpretation which is intended to pursue a more thought-out perspective on a verse or a phrase in the Bible. For example, we can evidence this difference in perspectives when looking at the reference to the length of the creation in the first 2 chapters of the Bible. It is said that the world was created in 6 days and then there was an extra day for rest. In a literal interpretation we would not consider the meaning of the words themselves but the world, “should be constituted in accordance with a perfect number, namely six”. However, in an allegorical interpretation, we would consider the meaning of the words in the verse. With this type of interpretation, the meaning of “days” is put into question the metaphysical meaning of what a day is and how it is used in that context. In the Jewish “Understanding of Genesis 1 to 3” by Justin Martin, it says that the term “days” is symbolic rather than literal.
In the same way that the concepts of ‘literal’ and ‘allegorical’ interpretations are applied to the explanation of the Bible, they can be applied to kinship and its respective analysis. In the ‘Donum Vitae,’ there is a vast reference to the concept of family and most times, alongside it, there is a reference to marriage. Its definition is based on the initial framework stated in the “Charter of the Rights of the Family” made only 4 years before the “Donum Vitae”. Without going deep into the charter, in the preamble, the 2nd phrase reads “the family is based on marriage… between a man and a woman…” and then the 3rd phrase reads “marriage is the natural institution to which the mission of transmitting life is exclusively entrusted”. Going back to what Genesis says “be fruitful and multiply” but since it is established ‘literally’ in the charter, the only way of reproducing and transmitting life is marriage and it naturally leads to forming a family. Christianity establishes a very simple and seemingly unobstructed to creating life, leaving out the most form of reproductive systems which are not within marriage. On the opposite hand, in the Jewish perspective, there are 2 different words that are used to symbolize family. The first one is the literal translation of the word ‘family’ to Hebrew (mishpachah) with it is used to describe the larger patriarchal clan including those persons related by blood, marriage, slave ship, and even animals (Exodus 20:10). The second word is referred to in various parts of the Bible, “bayith” or household is also used to refer to kinship in different ways. For example, it represents the clan of descendants or property and people of a determined place or residence on which and on whom one depended. Moreover, in Genesis 7:1 Noah and his household enter the ark, but the concept of household is not limited to just the people that live with him in his physical house, but a larger concept that encompasses the larger clan, the tribe and the nation which, in this case, were descendants of Abraham. In the Jewish interpretation of the concept of family is not a predetermined concept but more of an allegory that can be explained or symbolized in a unique way.
Different faiths are based on beliefs and ideas that satisfy and sometimes take advantage of a population’s lack of understanding of the variety of phenomenon that has occurred and will occur through history. They try to make sense of what seems to be nonsensical or attempt to provide guidelines to live a life that’s ‘good’ or ‘purposeful’. The interpretative differences between Judaism and Christianity are noticeable when analyzing the language and by the way, the messages are conveyed. Both faiths provide guidelines for life, however, the difference arises when these guidelines are interpreted, and their message is preached. Most times, Judaism encourages different interpretations and understandings of the same writings, every year scholarly people of the Tanach go over and study the sacred scripts from top to bottom. This allows a reset of the mind and further compilation of knowledge that can be used to connect the dots in a way that may have never been done before. However, in Christianity, there is no such procedure to further develop understanding. The main method of knowledge impartment is through preaching and persuasion, most times actions are attributed to G-d or Jesus if there is a lack of explanation and the explanations are left to a side. Meanwhile, in Judaism, there might be similar allegations, often there are one or more possible explanations attached to the outcome of a situation. Regardless of their differences, it important to remember that they both come from the same basis. The book of Genesis explains how both of the stories came upon and the narrative changes due to human reasoning and interpretation.

One Reply to “Blog 1: Isac Simkin”

  1. Dear Isac,

    Thank you for this thorough consideration of Genesis 1-2. It is clear that you put some time into it. However, you did not really reference any of the class readings, brought in interpretive materials from outside the class that might be interesting in and of themselves but are of questionable relevance to the questions that were posed for this assignment. What do you mean that there is “no formal dispute” between Jews and Christians as to the meaning of Genesis? What would a formal dispute look like? I was unsure what you were getting at.

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