The first two chapters of Genesis tell us of an origin story in which God speaks the world, facets of the world and humanity into existence. The Jewish and Christian uses of Genesis differ in that the Christian view found the most appropriate, holy, ideal form in celibacy, while the Jewish would encourage even their most celebrated Rabbi to ultimately marry and have children as was his calling. The Jewish took the instruction to procreate as obligatory – a man must marry and have children. To not pursue a family is a sin, to turn his back on a blessing. They felt to be fruitful was a conquest that must be pursued (albeit non-obligatory for women – a command for men explicitly written) and that it is “not good to be alone”, as written in chapter II. Christians feel that family is something to be pursued but, again, the most desired form would be found in a position in which one serves his holiness and is celibate, therefore placing less value on the family there (which should only be obtained through homologous relations). The Jewish use Genesis, expressly the commands to “Be fruitful and increase in number [and to] fill the earth and subdue it” to encourage and defend their understanding that all men are to not only marry (in classical times, men could even be forced to marry – this obligation to marry and have children could even transcend the marriage itself; a man would be, if no children were to be seen or made, obliged to leave the marriage and seek out a new, potentially fruitful union) but certainly produce children, namely ones who could also reproduce sometime, and also to encourage and press the need for a family. Christians took this more lightly in that they use it to back up the declaration of kinship as a wonderful gift which can sometimes be enjoyed (if either party is sterile, that sucks as far as church-approved methods of conceiving go) rather than a commandment to spawn (though if nothing should interfere with conception, sex would in theory result in a child that would by no means not be delivered) and also as a declaration of woman necessary as a helper, even subservient to man based on the party in question and the translation they are “acting” on. Likewise, Jewish interpretation and following of this command would not look to limit possibilities through which babies may be achieved, and this can be seen in Jewish leniency with alternative modes of conception – to be childless is not something one must live with in a world with solutions and technologies so readily available. The importance of family can be seen, too in, in the deeming of all children as legitimate regardless of alternative conception methods and reproductive technologies among several Jewish groups. As people and all parties do, using specific parts of whatever translation of the text to push the desired agenda is a reason other than literal different readings of the text that can account for differences in both perpetuating of the supposed word and following of it amidst certain populations. Regardless, it seems to be affirmed that Genesis declares of God his sovereignty, the goodness of creation and brings to note the honored status of humankind as his image bearers. In both Christian and Jewish views, children are to be born in his image and the family is a stressed (albeit differently and to differing degrees) unit from and within which children are received, man is given company and into which his being is funneled after leaving the family unit in which he is a child – man and wife “become one flesh” and embark together. An ethnographic approach adds the acknowledgement and welcoming of other interpretations as equally plausible rather than basing interpretations as anything other than such and designating them right/wrong – if one simply takes an initial read or the version they have sought as the original intent, they are failing to realize the true nature of the text, which is in and of itself a translation/interpretation of a translation/interpretation of a translation/interpretation, so on it goes. Interpreters make decisions, always, and these decisions can influence the flesh of a text.
I have noticed other posts reflect less specifically on Genesis and more on the other sources, but I am going to submit this initial blog post and will update it after 1) finishing Reproducing Jews (now) and 2) class to clarify. Thanks!