Sejal Waghray

The first two chapters of Genesis focus a great deal on human reproduction and kinship. Foremost, the first chapter of Genesis emphasizes the idea than humankind was created from “His image” (1:27). Thus, all human reproduction is the replication of what God imagined it to be at the time of all creation. Moreover, God expects that humans be “fruitful”. They should reproduce and “have dominion” over all other forms of life (1:28). Through reproduction, it is expected the human population has a certain degree of dominance that will allow them to achieve legitimate leadership over other forms of life such as, but not limited to, fish and birds. With the use of the word ‘fruitful’, it is also implied that God believes humans would be beneficial, or helpful to society, if they reproduce. In other words, God focuses on human reproduction as a responsibility to the betterment of society. From the specific use of male and female throughout both chapters, I inferred that God imagined all people are born as either male or female. There are no other genders or sexualities that are reproduced. Additionally, I found it conflicting that chapter one implies male and female were created simultaneously as it states, “…male and female he created them” (1:27). On the other hand, chapter two implies that female came from male as the chapter cites, “…this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken” (2:23). Overall, while God emphasizes the value of reproduction, his view conflicts when considering the specifics of reproduction such as gender. In relation to kinship, chapter two specifically cites the relationship between both male and female: “And therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh” (2:24). I found this surprising in a cultural context because in most societies it is viewed that the wife is leaving her family to join her husband’s family. The idea that God inferred the opposite was an idea that I specifically noticed when reading the chapter.

The relationship between Jewish and Christian interpretations of the Genesis chapters is explained dominantly through the understanding of reproduction. As Dr. Seeman explained in his work, “Ethnography, Exegesis and Jewish Ethical Reflection: The New Reproductive Technologies in Israel”, a central idea of Genesis is emphasizing the need to “bring forth children from childlessness by almost any means” (Seeman 1998). That drive to no longer be childless for a man and a woman is one that is interpreted differently in Jewish and Christian cultures. In Judaism, the Genesis content is considered a command. By remaining childless, a couple is breaking the religious law. The interpretation of a command came from the fact that Hebrew has command forms for verbs. Because the original text was written in command form, it is interpreted that Jews must bear children. As a result, they must also get married as marriage is a prerequisite to children. On the contrary, the Catholic Church interprets the Genesis as describing children as a blessing. God allows people to enjoy blessings when he chooses to give them. But it is not mandatory in the eyes of Christianity; it is merely a suggestion. One of the most fundamental examples of this controversial interpretation of the same text is that religious folk, who identify as Jewish, tend to be married with multiple children while religious leaders, who identify as Christian, tend to remain unmarried and celibate.

While the translation of Genesis language most definitely plays a key role in differences between Jewish and Christian practices, it is also likely that cultural practices have enforced these differences. Ranging from kosher meals to church practices and international dominance of both cultures, it is important to understand that there are several variables at play. Regions of the world like Israel vary significantly from regions like Western Europe. The lifestyle of both nations is extremely different. As Dr. Seeman had explained in a prior lecture, in one trip to Israel he thought the family he was speaking to was referring to a blood-related brother but they were actually speaking of a non-relative. Who one identifies as family and how one chooses to interact with others is just one example of a cultural difference that influences religious differences. On a fundamental level, Jews and Christians view God differently. Jews see God as a commander and someone to abide by while Christians view God as a mentor and someone to take suggestions from. Ultimately, this difference in perspective explains the differences between both religions and how they are practiced.

The aforementioned incident that Dr. Seeman experienced is the perfect example of the value of ethnography. Understanding cultural contexts, that vary in each society and are not limited to just one religion, indicates the value of interpretation that ethnography-based experiences allow for. The implementation of each religious text in someones everyday life cannot be interpreted from just reading the text. Furthermore, modern-day application of all religious texts would be significantly different from the traditionally understood methods. As a whole, involvement and understanding of the meaning of religious texts can only come through ‘hands-on’ experience.

2 Replies to “Sejal Waghray”

  1. Hi Sejal! Your blog post is a very comprehensive review of Genesis! I agree that there are some verses that seem to contradict one another, and I believe this is how different religions are open to interpret the text to their wishes. Your point on matriarchal family lines was also very interesting – I did not notice that 2:24 states the male would leave his family for his wife, and this is vastly different from what is expected in a traditional Christian marriage. However, I did read that in Jewish culture, the family line is passed down through the female. I also agree that your example of religious leaders being married or single is a great exemplification of how children are viewed as blessings in the Christian faith and obligations in the Jewish faith. I really enjoyed reading your reflection!

  2. Dear Sejal,

    This is a well-written and thoughtful blog, so thanks. You can increase the number of sources you reference and go into some more depth about them, but overall this was well done.

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