Thursday, September 23, 2004

Okay, I already ranted about this over on Dark Window (which is a cool blog you should know about if you don't already but I'm going to rant some more, since, you know, it's my blog and I can do that.

What set me off is this Christian teeshirt which shows Jacob wrestling with an angel, graphics all sappy, with a text below saying, "For I have seen God face to face and my life is preserved."

Well, this once again leads me to apoplexy. Because why don't these fundies read their own text? Have they actually ever read the story of Jacob wrestling the angel? Do they know what it's about?

First off, according to the mostly likely reading of the text, it's not an angel Jacob wrestles with: it's God. (Hence the whole "I have seen God face to face" bit of their own damn quotation!)

Second off, the whole point of the story is that God can't beat Jacob. Jacob doesn't win, but then neither does God. It's one of the most interesting bits of the Torah, and I'm thinking these fundies wouldn't be putting it on a shirt if they knew what it actually meant: which is this: that God has put us on this planet in order to contend with him. Our job is to argue with God and to keep him from screwing up. Because, you know, he will, if we don't talk back and point out problems with his decisions.

Kind of like our job with the President, when you think about it.

Genesis 32.24. Go have a look.


Pete M. said...

Hey...I was hoping you'd start a blog one day! I can't wait to see where you go with it.

As far as your Jacob rant...It never ceases to amaze me how the right wing fundamentalists will take passages of amazing beauty and complexity (and often with dark, mysterious, haunting undercurrents) and try to turn them into trite little stories to back up something they have nothing to do with. It's like they want to take all the magic and mystery out of their book and replace it with self-help platitudes.

Pete M. said...

By the way, could you send me an e-mail? I tried mailing you but the message got returned.

zelda1 said...

It's kind of like the book of Job. Do they really understand that up in heaven God and Satan are having this little poker game and they make a great big bet on who is going to win over this old non-Jewish good man. They essentially play with him and see how much they can take from him and who is going to be the owner of his soul. And now, preachers talk about the patience of Job and how God restored him with all this and that but wait! Who took it from the get go?

delagar said...

Zelda -- My Arkie students had the worst trouble with Job. Took me a week to figure out why. Turns out they couldn't get past the idea of God betting. Betting's a sin among the Pentacostals in Arkansas -- and God wouldn't be sinnin!

mcboops said...

I like the idea of God betting myself. Makes Her much more approachable. In fact, I wouldn't mind having her along the next time I go play the slot machines!

elenscher said...

Those Christian T-Shirt blogs are some of my favorites over at the Dark Window. There just so poorly produced and executed, but then they don't seem to have that demanding of a consumer base now do they.

One question for you Professor, I am a bit confused about proper interpretation of 'God's Word.' Is the Torah actually dictation from God, the writing of divinely inspired humans, or just the made up justification for an acceptable social framework.

Where does the truth in the scripture lie? You state that the interpretation for the text involving Jacob is "most likely" interpreted your way. Is that what constitutes truth? A majority vote? Or is there a seperate truth, one uninfluenced by the whims of man?

Matters of God's intetion and will trouble me for this very reason. I trust God, it is man I fear, and all representations of God not directly experienced are filtered through views of another man.

Which I guess is why I find these shirts laughable and not frightening. Maybe these shirts as poorly produced as they are mean something to the people that buy them. If they do who are we to judge?

delagar said...

"Where does the truth in the scripture lie? You state that the interpretation for the text involving Jacob is "most likely" interpreted your way. Is that what constitutes truth?"

By "most likely" I meant "what the text actually seems to mean."

At Genesis 32.25-30, the Hebrew text says first that "a man" wrestles with Jacob; later, this being tells Jacob, "Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and have prevailed," indicating that it is God he is wrestling with. And "Israel" means (according to some readings of the word) "One who wrestles with God." Then Jacob names the place Peniel, which the text says means "I have seen God face to face and have survived."

All this supports my reading of the text: Jacob wrestles with God, it's a draw, and Jacob is given a significant name: Israel. This name, Those Who Wrestle with God, then becomes the name for the Jews: The Ones Who Contend with God.

Thus, then, as I said, according to this story, it is our job to content with God.

Is that the only truth? Eh. Truth is manifold. That's a truth I see this story telling.