“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”
Welcome back to another episode of Made You Think! In this episode, Neil and Adil discuss the next book on their Great Books Project: the book of Genesis. The book begins with the story of creation and wraps up with the lives of Jacob and Joseph, with numerous stories, lessons, and genealogies in between the 50 chapters.
We cover a wide range of topics including:
0:28 We continue the Great Book Series with the book of Genesis from the Old Testament.
3:30 Adil and Neil talk about their familiarity with Genesis before they read it for the show. The book was passed down through the oral tradition, and wasn’t written down until hundreds of years after it was spoken. It has also been translated into over 700 languages. It poses the question, who wrote down the story, and how much of it has changed being passed down orally?
7:11 Adil talks about books he has read previous to Genesis by Karen Armstrong. One thing he notes is that the Bible was not meant to be read literally. Of course, there are parts that can be taken literally, but many of the stories are allegorical and symbolic in meaning.
12:45 Jacob’s story: Jacob wrestles with someone who is unnamed, though interpreted as God. At one point, they touch hips and he walks away injured, but he has that injury for the rest of his life. This story, if not taken literally, can allude to the internal scars that you have battling and wrestling with your inner demons.
14:01 The structure of Genesis. First comes the story of creation, followed by the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. The term Toledot meaning “generations” or “descendants”. The last section of Genesis is dedicated to Jacob, which sets up for the following book in the Bible, Exodus.
15:27 The story of Joseph and Jacob. This story resonates on a moral level with people because it serves as a reminder that the journey is just as important as the destination. Your journey may not always go as planned. Even if you have everything you want, you may still have regrets about how you got there.
19:00 Neil makes a connection to the Bhagavad Gita. One of the morals of this story is very similar. In the end, the good guys got what they wanted and won the war, but lost everything in the process. Was it worth it? It’s a similar message that Jacob’s life represents in Genesis.
20:05 The redeeming arc for Jacob came through his brother Esau and how he forgave Jacob for his wrongdoings. When they met, it may appear that Esau was upset and Jacob was ready to meet his fate, yet he ended up being forgiven. Through that forgiveness, Jacob was transformed.
23:21 We’re all on our own path to learning, both spiritually and religiously. Growing up, you tend to adopt the beliefs of your family and other surroundings. We often believe that when something isn’t completely certain, that it must be wrong.
27:16 Evolution, the beginning of time, and extraterrestrial life. When you think about how everything has been formed in a way that led to life here on earth, it’s astonishing. If the universe is indeed infinite, then it’s very possible that it lines up for other life forms to exist elsewhere, and they could exist under completely different conditions than on Earth.
31:23 Adil makes a connection to the book Vehicles. The knowledge we have isn’t always solid and requires faith to believe in.
34:10 Organized religion has tended to go with a more literal meaning, for example modern Christianity in America. One common belief is that if you’re scientific, you can’t also be religious and it’s made into a dichotomy. It’s possible that they can be completely aligned with each other. Both can be viewed as tools for understanding the world better, and they don’t have to necessarily be viewed as opponents.
36:03 Why do subjective experience exists? If the goal of life is just to produce offspring and continue the circle of life, why do we have this personal experience of life, and how is it beneficial? There isn’t much of a scientific explanation for it.
38:55 A lot of the early scientific research in Europe was done by religious people to prove God was real, and that aspects of religion that can be backed by science. The two stories diverged and this led to religious texts being interpreted more literally. However in other religions, Islam for example, it’s typically believed that science and religion work together.
41:34 Adam and Eve story, and the significance of the serpent if you take the Bible symbolically. The snake has a unique hold in human psychology. Neil and Adil talk about different animals and how they’re perceived in different communities and religions.
46:15 Eve’s name means “living” in Hebrew, but it comes from a root that can also mean “snake”. There are a lot of unanswered questions that came up, and as we continue to Exodus, we may learn some of these answers to these questions.
51:20 The curses in the book of Genesis are all tied to the knowledge of self awareness and the future. Childbirth was the curse passed on to women, and even early on, women have a knowledge of the pain of it. Men have the curse of labor and work. While the benefits of knowledge and self awareness are received, this also comes with these curses.
53:00 Two main ways that God both gifted and punished His people were through fertility and land. Neil and Adil discuss the story of Abraham, Issac, and Ishmael.
1:01:33 “In the sweat of your face shall you eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you shall return.”
In Abrahamic religions (including Christianity, Islam, and Judaism), they bury their dead. In other religions, there is no burial.
1:06:33 Depictions of God in different religions. In some religions they feel a depiction of their god it’s a good way to connect, but in others it can feel alienating.
1:07:13 With each theory about how the universe was created, you can keep asking the question, “What came before that?” The infinite universe as constantly expanding and contracting. The idea of biocentrism, and how it’s the observer that makes something a reality.
1:14:36 Thanks for listening! Stay tuned for our next episode on the book of Exodus, and be sure to keep following along as we work through our Great Books List.
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Thanks for listening. See you next time!