by Paul Poulton
I recently went to Greenwich Observatory in London, through which the famous Greenwich Meridian Line runs - all longitude is calculated both east and west from this meridian line. It was an interesting place to be. They had a video there that told us how the universe began, it started by saying something like, "Imagine nothing, no space no time, then suddenly energy bursts out of the nothingness and the universe begins." I couldn't help thinking, "But from where did all this energy come?" The part the Greenwich Observatory video leaves blank is the place where the Bible begins: In the beginning, God made the universe.
How long the universe was around before God began to make creatures to inhabit one of the planets he had made has been debated often, so we won't debate it here. But make creatures he did; he made them directly from the ground, which is where we get the saying, dust to dust. One creature was kind of special and wasn't made directly from the earth, the creature was called woman and was made from the rib of a creature that had already been made named man. Man was special too because God did something to man that we don't read he did to the other creatures, God breathed into his nostrils, the man suddenly had something inside him that was immaterial. Beasts (who are all matter) below him and Angels (who are all spirit) above him. He was now half animal, half spirit.
Animals live by their instinct, God makes decisions, and men had both instinct and reason. That's why we don't have courtrooms for animals; when a man gets bitten by a crocodile, we blame the man not the crocodile. He should know not to get too close to the waters where the crocodiles live. The crocodile was only doing what came naturally to him.
Man and woman used their reason to disobey the one thing God told them not to do. Man fell out with God. Sometimes people say, "Why is there so much trouble in the world?" That's the answer, the Fall.
The man and woman had two sons, Cain and Abel. Cain was jealous of his brother and killed him. This is important in the Bible because Cain became a restless wanderer on the earth, saying, "It's more than I can stand." Abel was a good brother and a good man, Cain now had no brother. We need each other. Loneliness is powerful; the Beatles covered the subject so beautifully in their song "Eleanor Rigby". Loneliness can make us do things we later regret. It can make us get in with the wrong crowd and some men further the business of easy cash for loose women because of loneliness, as Simon & Garfunkel sang, "There were times when I was so lonesome I took some comfort there." God gave Cain a brother and friend, Cain killed him; it's the human condition, the first two important commandments are love the Lord your God and the second is love your neighbour. Adam rejected God, Cain rejected man.
The human race had gone awry, things got bad, there were cheats, liars and unfaithfulness everywhere with all the accompanying diseases that go with that kind of society. God decided to wash the earth clean. He made a boat, anyone could get on it, the animals got on it, Noah and his close family got on it. Everything else was lost in a flood.
The boat landed, men got out and Noah's three children repopulated the earth. Japheth went north to populate Europe and Asia, Ham went south to Africa and Shem populated the Middle East. So that's the first bit of the Bible.
God decided to choose one man and his family to teach us his ways, this man's name was Abraham; and that's what the rest of the Bible is about. God isn't happy that we have fallen out with him because he wants a relationship with us. So he taught Abraham's family how to be fair with each other and told them not to be hemmed in by superstition - which is stupid; and don't steal things either, don't bribe each other and give your workers a day off. Most importantly God told them to love him, because that's what he really wanted. God also gave them a few extra tips, like how important it was to wash and wipe up after them, before anyone knew about bacteria. He taught them how to behave sexually, so that their offspring wouldn't have any of the congenital flaws of interbreeding. God was particularly interested in this part because when the time was right he himself became part of this family.
And that's what the Bible is about. So next time someone asks you, "What's the Bible all about anyway?" you can tell them.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
View all articles by Paul Poulton