In yesterday’s chapter, as a consequence of humanity’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden, death became a fact of life. Today, we witness the first recorded human death, and not only is it a murder, it’s a fratricide.
I think I was in fourth grade when I first heard Weezer’s “The Sweater Song.” I was at the pool at Queen City Racquet Club, and one of the teenage lifeguards must have been playing The Blue Album, because I also remember hearing “Surf Wax America” and “Buddy Holly” over the snack bar speakers. It would be years before I heard “Buddy Holly” again, recognized it, and finally put a name to the band and songs that I’d heard as a kid at the pool. But Genesis 3 reads like the chorus of “The Sweater Song,” with God’s perfect garden unraveling and leaving the man and woman, the only two beings made in his image, lying naked and ashamed on the floor. The world is coming apart.
Man, writing this entry has been like pulling teeth. It’s been like going to the dentist and finding out you’re the dentist. Is every chapter of Genesis going to be like this? Is it going to be grappling every time with just what the text intends to communicate and how to talk about that to all of you, with your various perspectives on it? Am I going to spend each post on the mat, with uncertainty and self-consciousness putting me in a headlock? Well, so far we’re two for two, so let’s get back into the creation myth.
On the drive to work Monday morning, I put in my old Revenge of the OC Supertones CD, and there’s a stanza from their track “We Shall Overcome” that’s stuck with me for the fourteen years since its release: “There’s a land of the dead called Planet Earth / Where a race called Man walks dead from birth.” I’d be hard-pressed to give a more succinct and potent statement of the human condition than that. But it wasn’t always that way, here on the blue planet. There was a time when there wasn’t any death here, nor any humanity. There was a time when there wasn’t any here. And that’s where the entire Bible starts.
I just realized: John 21 is the post-credits scene.
When I sat down the first time to write this post, I felt like I had nothing new to say about today’s chapter. Peter and John’s foot race to the empty tomb, Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the risen Messiah, Thomas’ insistence on empiricism: for nearly two thousand years, wiser individuals than I have been saying things about these scenes, and what could I add to them? As I’ve been reading and re-reading the chapter here, I don’t even have any fresh insights that I’m noticing for the first time. But how is it that I’ve never before discussed Thomas on Chocolate Book? I, a professed Christian skeptic? And of all the topics I could retread today, none seem more worth recapitulating observations on which you may well have heard before than our friend Doubting Thomas.
I’ve had an up-and-down relationship with the gospel of John. Of all the four gospels, it was the one that most saturated my childhood. I have these random memories: reading it with my mom at a TCBY as part of homeschool lessons, memorizing John 3:16 and thinking about God’s love for the world while swinging on a pull-up bar on the playground. In high school, I became increasingly aware of the scholarly skepticism surrounding it, its alleged late authorship and its authenticity. The sun moved, everyone’s favorite gospel suddenly became shrouded in shadow, and for years afterward reading through it became weird for me.