by Darcy West
reprinted by permission
Note: Questions related to specific books of the bible are directed to
those who claim and/or believe that the bible is the inspired, inerrant,
and infallible "word of God".
QUESTION 1: Genesis 3:22-24; The Garden of Eden
Then Yahweh said, "See, the man has become like one of us, knowing
good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from
the tree of life, and eat, and live forever"--therefore Yahweh sent him
forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken.
He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed
the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the
tree of life." (NRSV with Yahweh substituted for the "Lord God").
The Garden of Eden. Where is the Garden of Eden today? What ever happened
to it? Does the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life
still exist? Or was the Garden of Eden, complete with its magical trees,
destroyed when Yahweh flooded the world? If all the little people along
with the magical trees were destroyed in Yahweh's flood, then why wasn't
the talking snake destroyed in the flood as well?
Aside from the objective and honest reader's observation that the author
of this section of Genesis was polytheistic (there may be one God, just
like there is only one Sam Jones, but the author of this particular story
obviously believed that there was more than one entity like God.), the
first question this passage brings to mind has to do with God's limited
knowledge and powers. Many Christians have turned God into an omniscient,
omnipresent being, but isn't it quite clear from this passage that this
is not what this particular writer believed about God? If the writer believed
that God was omniscient, why would he portray God as not knowing for sure
whether or not man would reach out and take from the tree of life? And
if the writer believed that God was omnipresent, why does he have God
putting a guard in front of the tree of life? Why would he need a guard
when he would know the very instant that the thought came to anyone's
mind that they wanted to go and eat from the tree of life and he could
then instantly stop them? Now if God is not omniscient and omnipresent,
as this particular writer of the bible asserts, then how can we believe
that he really does have a grand plan for humankind or that he is able
to hear more than one prayer at a time? The author of this story sure
didn't believe that God can be in more than one place at one time, so
why should bible-believing Christians believe it?
The second question this passage brings to mind is why the writer of
Genesis portrayed God as having made a magical tree that had powers beyond
his control. The author of this particular story has God expressing a
concern that man would eat from the tree and therefore have eternal life.
Obviously, God, in this instance, was concerned that if this were to happen,
the person who ate from the Tree of Life would have eternal life whether
God liked it or not. So if we assume that the author of this particular
Genesis tale knew what he was talking about, wouldn't we then have to
assume that people or things that God creates can sometimes be capable
of having powers that are beyond God's control?
Now, if we put all the pieces together, we have a God who 1. Is not omniscient,
2. Is not omnipresent, and 3. Creates people and objects that have powers
beyond his control. With this in mind, wouldn't it be very reasonable
to conclude that one of these objects or persons who was created by God
but who has powers beyond God's control could then create say, a "Tree
of Death". And wouldn't it be reasonable to conclude that this same person
or object, created by God but possessing powers beyond God's control,
could then trick God into eating from the Tree of Death, thus explaining
the lack of evidence that the biblegod exists--simply because it doesn't?
If it is true, as this particular writer of Genesis obviously believed,
that the biblegod sometimes creates objects or people which then have
powers beyond his control, much like the Tree of Life, then why don't
believers and/or Christian apologists spend more time speculating about
what one of these objects or people could have done to cause Jesus to
break his promise to "return with his kingdom" before some of his disciples
saw death or to cause God to become so apparently impotent and/or disinterested
Finally, shouldn't the existence of talking snakes, magical life-giving
trees, and fearful humanistic gods be a not so subtle tip that what we
are reading here is historical-based mythology and haven't we reached
a point in our development as a society where we can admit that the bible
has everything to do with ancient man's hopes, fears, and ideas about
what they thought a God should be and nothing at all to do with what God,
if there is one, really is?
QUESTION 2: Genesis 6:1-4; The Nephilim
When people began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters
were born to them, the sons of God saw that they were fair; and they took
wives for themselves of all that they chose. Then Yahweh said, "My spirit
shall not abide in mortals forever, for they are flesh; their days shall
be one hundred twenty years." The Nephilim were on the earth in those
days--and also afterwards--when the sons of God went in to the daughters
of humans, who bore children to them. These were the heroes that were
of old, warriors of renown (NRSV with Yahweh substituted for the LORD).
Who were the Nephilim? And who were these "Sons of God" that "went into"
the "daughters of humans" to produce these Nephilim? Many bible students
have concluded that the "Nephilim" were giants, so what does all of this
mean? Do fundamentalist Christians really believe that there were giants
at one time or do they simply believe that the author of Genesis was deeply
superstitious and mixed a great deal of mythology in with God's allegedly
"inspired message"? Also, wouldn't the objective reader of this passage
have to be even more convinced than ever that the author of Genesis was
polytheistic since he believed that either sons of gods were having intercourse
with human women or that the Yahweh God himself had sons who were doing
so? Why do Christians insist that that there is only one God when this
is clearly not what the author of Genesis believed?
Fundamentalist Christians will try to say that the phrase "Sons of God"
does not refer to any kind of supernatural being but that it only refers
to men who followed Yahweh. However, if this is true, why did the author
of this section of Genesis take pains to make the obvious distinction
between "the sons of God" and the daughters of humans. Doesn't
it seem clear that when the author refers to the women as "daughters of
humans", he is taking pains to differentiate between the female mortals
and the male gods or the male sons of a god"?
Farell Till in his article, "If
It Walks Like a Duck", (The Skeptical Review: 1991) points out that
the phrase "the sons of God", "beni ha-elohim" in Hebrew, literally meant
"sons of the gods." Mr. Till writes:
"Most versions of the Bible refer to the beings in this passage who took
wives of the daughters of men as "the sons of God," but the expression
(beni ha-elohim) in Hebrew literally meant "sons of the gods" and is so
translated in The Revised English Bible. So a definite hint of mythology
is seen in the very language that was used to tell this fanciful tale
of angels marrying earthly women, because any modern reader encountering
a story that referred to gods and the sons of gods would immediately know
that it was fantasy fiction or mythology, especially if it involved gods
consorting with earthly women."
I don't see how an honest reader of this passage can get around the obvious
meaning of the writer that supernatural beings of some kind had intercourse
with human women and created giants. However, if the reader insists that
this reference "sons of God" is "sons of God (Yahweh)" and not "sons of
the gods" as the Hebrew states, then perhaps the author believed that
Yahweh had many sons at this time and that these sons were quite taken
with their father's new creations. Is it possible that fundamentalist
Christians, desperate to make the bible consistent with their own man-created
doctrines, must change the meaning of "sons of gods" because they can't
believe that the author of Genesis was polytheistic? And is it possible
that these same individuals, if they insist that the correct translation
is "sons of God", can't believe that these were divine entities of some
sort, as the author makes clear, because their doctrines insist that there
is only one God? Isn't it true that fundamentalists can't believe that
these were divine "Sons of God" because they have developed doctrines
stating that there can only be one God and that this God can only have
In my talks with Christians, I have learned a little something about
the "legal" way to change the meaning of a passage to suit your own desires.
For example, Calvinists, when defending their treasured predestination
doctrine, say that when John 3:16 states that, "whosoever believeth in
him shall have everlasting life" the word "whosoever" means "whosoever
God has chosen." And fundamentalists, when defending their treasured doctrine
of an inerrant, inspired, and infallible bible, say that when Jesus said,
"Ask for whatsoever you desire and you shall receive it," what Jesus really
meant was "you shall receive it IF it is God's will to give it to you."
When I have asked certain Christians whether or not they feel they are
putting a spin on these passages to make them say what they wish for them
to say, they reply that in order to understand what a particular passage
is really saying, you can't look just at that passage but you have to
take into consideration all of the other teachings in the bible on that
particular subject. So if Christians feel that this method of bible interpretation
is valid, then shouldn't they be willing to be consistent and allow this
method to be applied to other passages as well? For example, in the case
of this particular passage, wouldn't it be reasonable to use the fundamentalist
method of bible-interpretation to say that when the Holy Bible says that
Jesus is the ONLY son of the Yahweh God, what was really meant was that
Jesus was the ONLY son of Yahweh whom Yahweh actually brought to life
as a mortal and then arranged to have killed? Obviously, Jesus can't be
the only son of Yahweh since Genesis 6 says that Yahweh had many sons
before he ever even thought of Jesus. Or, for Christians who are willing
to admit that the passage actually states that there were "sons of gods",
shouldn't these Christians change their doctrine of "there is only one
God" to say that there are many gods, but we like the Yahweh god best?
QUESTION 3: Genesis 6:3; God's Decision to Limit the Life Span
Then Yahweh said, "My spirit shall not abide in mortals forever, for
they are flesh; their days shall be one hundred twenty years." (NRSV with
Yahweh substituted for the LORD)
Up until now, we have read that the author or authors of the book of
Genesis present humans as living very long lives. Adam was said to have
lived 939 years, Enoch, 905 years, Kenan, 910 years, and so on. So why
does Yahweh suddenly decide that "his spirit shall not abide in mortals
forever" and that they shall live only 120 years? If the biblegod had
a plan from the beginning, as most Christians would have us believe, then
why did he first allow men to live for such long periods of time and why,
on a whim, did he decide to reduce the span of man's life? Why after making
this apparently spontaneous decision to allow man to live for only 120
years does he allow Noah and other men who were born after Noah to live
much longer than 120 years? For example, after this passage, we read in
Genesis 9:29 that Noah lived 950 years. Abraham lived 175 years and Isaac
lived 180 years. If the biblegod is omniscient, why does he appear to
be making these things up as he goes along and why does he seem so completely
incapable of keeping track of his own resolutions?
When Yahweh says that his "spirit shall not abide in mortals forever"
and thus he is going to limit their life span, isn't he implying that
all living creatures have his spirit within them? He reasons aloud to
himself, as he has an odd habit of doing, that the reason he is going
to reduce the life span of men is because they are mortals and his spirit
will not live in them forever. One must wonder why this thought that men
are mortals did not occur to him before now. Nevertheless, at this point
in his development, Yahweh very much seems to have come to the conclusion
that the presence of his spirit within a person is what keeps that person
alive. Many believers claim that only those who become Christians can
have God's spirit within them. and yet, if this is true, how can so many
people be alive and not be Christians?
If Yahweh believed that his spirit existing within a person was what
kept them alive, would he have also believed that illness was caused when
he removed a part of his spirit from a person? If so, are Christians willing
to state that they believe there is a direct correlation between the physical
health of a person and the amount of "filling" by the spirit of God that
person has? After all, the belief that sickness was a "punishment" or
"curse" from God was the belief of many early believers, and examining
this passage alone, one can see why they came to believe such a thing.
So if modern-day Christians are not willing to return to the primitive
and ignorant superstitions of their ancestors, then what are they going
to do with this passage where their God is suddenly struck with the idea
that it is the presence of his spirit within a person that keeps that
person alive? If the biblegod was superstitious and had false beliefs,
shouldn't Christians defend these beliefs? Or do Christians honestly believe
that they are smarter than their God?
QUESTION 4: Genesis 6:5-7; God's Is Sorry for Making Humankind
Genesis 6:5-7 The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great
in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts
was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind
on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, "I will
blot out from the earth the human beings I have created—people together
with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry
that I have made them."
This has always struck me as a very curious passage. First of all, it
brings up once again the question of an omniscient God experiencing regret.
If God is omniscient, he would have known from the moment he planted the
snake in the garden with Adam and Eve that they were going to eat from
the fruit of the tree, that he was going to curse them, and that the people
he created were going to do evil in his sight. In this case, why did the
biblegod put the snake in the garden with Adam and Eve to begin with?
And how can he experience any form of regret since he knew all along what
was going to happen and did it anyway?
If a person does something, knowing full well that the consequences of
that action are going to be disastrous, not only for himself but for all
of humankind, and he does it anyway, we might believe him when he says
he regrets his action. Mainly, we would believe him because we know he
is human and that human beings make mistakes. The biblegod, on
the other hand, is supposedly perfect. He supposedly makes NO mistakes.
And yet, if deliberately doing something one knows is going to
lead to disaster and suffering for others, most especially for human beings
which YOU are responsible for bringing into this world, is not a mistake,
then what is?
If the biblegod wanted his creation to behave in a certain way, then
shouldn't he, like any human parent, any human that gives life to another,
have taken responsibility for teaching man, for disciplining him, training,
nurturing, and loving him? It seems that the biblegod demands that man
take responsibility for his every action and yet he doesn't hold himself
accountable for any of his. What kind of example is this? Why didn't God,
seeing the error of his ways, behave like an adult God, taking responsibility
for his own negligence and creating a new way to deal with his creation,
instead of reacting in a fit of rage and simply blotting them out as if
they were nothing more than playthings? Is this the example God wishes
to set of ultimate goodness? Giving up on people? Hiding your presence
from them and then getting rid of them when they fail to please you? Does
the biblegod really make no differentiation between humans and inanimate
In Romans 9:19-22, Paul confirms that the biblegod does indeed view humans
as objects: "You will say to me then, 'Why then does he still find fault?
For who can resist his will?' But who indeed are you, a human being, to
argue with God? Will what is molded say to the one who molds IT, 'Why
have you made me like this?' Has the potter no right over the clay, to
make out of the same lump one object for special use and another for ordinary
use? What if God, desiring to show his WRATH and to make known his power,
has endured with much patience the OBJECTS of WRATH that are made for
If God views human beings as mere objects, to be used as "objects of
wrath" or human punching bags, is it any wonder that many followers of
this god, who desire to be just like him, treat humans in such an equally
inhumane manner? If one worships a monstrous beast, isn't it only natural
to expect that at some point, such individuals will behave just like just
the monstrous beast they worship?
At one time, African Americans were taught to view themselves as objects.
Some of them believed it about themselves. They bought the lie told to
them that being treated as a slave was what they were created for. After
all, even the scriptures gave the slave-owner instructions for how to
beat his slave. If this wasn't proof that God approved of slavery and
sanctioned the idea that blacks were inferior, then what was?
It is also a known fact that many abused children believe that they deserve
the abuse heaped onto them by their abusive parents. Such children will
defend their abusive parent at all costs, so great is their need to believe
that the parent loves them.
Victims of domestic violence, women who are beaten by their husbands,
often fall prey to this very same phenomenon. They believe that they deserve
the beatings and for years, society seemed to agree with this belief.
Is it possible that many Christians have fallen prey to this same phenomenon?
Could it be that they really so afraid of being tormented forEVER in hell
by their abusive god that they defend his every abusive act, finding a
way to justify their god's perversity in their tormented minds, desperate
to convince themselves and others that this is what they deserve?
Copyright © 1999, 2000 by Darcy West. All Rights