Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
February 25th, 2015 by Joel Watts

The 6th day and Noah’s Rainbow Covenant

Landscape with Noah's Thank Offering (painting...

Landscape with Noah’s Thank Offering (painting circa 1803 by Joseph Anton Koch) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Genesis 1 contains a mystery.

1.26 reads, “Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.'”

Who is this “we”?

The answer(s) is simple, right?

For Christians, it is the Trinity. God is speaking to the Son and the Holy Spirit, although we never see this replicated, even in the New Testament.

For some, this is simply the so-called Royal We used by people like Queen Victoria.

The ArtScroll edition of the Tanak I have makes it into a question of Moses’s recognition of monotheism.

Academics point to this, mirror it with Babylonian usages and certain passages from Psalms to suggest Elohim is speaking to the divine court (sons of God, angels, etc…). I am inclined to agree with this.

But, one Rabbinical interpretation has it that God is speaking to the animals. After all, on the fifth day the first living creatures were brought forth. These living creatures populated the waters and the air (fish and fowl). On the beginning of the sixth day, God brings forth, again, living creatures but this time, on land.

And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.’ And it was so. (Genesis 1.24)

If Adam is a living soul (Genesis 2), then perhaps God is speaking to the living creatures — which makes the scene in the Garden (before Eve) look worse than it did before. After all, if “helper” is better translated as “correspondent” and after Adam could not correspond with any animal, God had to make an almost-man… well, you get my drift.

Anyway, fast forward to the flood, or rather, after the flood. There is a covenant made between God and Noah and Noah’s sons. Yet, that is not all. The covenant is not merely between Noan and all of his descendents, but…:

‘As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you,  and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. (Genesis 9.9–10)

The covenant between God and Noah is not merely with God and Noah, but included all animals. The language is similar to the original Creation accounts (Genesis 1 and Genesis 2–3).

By the way, the Noah story is actually another creation account.

So, maybe God is speaking to the animals when He says “let us…” (which, again, expands the scene in Genesis 2, doesn’t it?)

How closely are we connected to the animals (or, perhaps, the environment?)

Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).


5 Responses to “The 6th day and Noah’s Rainbow Covenant”
  1. Know More Than I Should says

    An equally interesting question: Do all religions have a common origin?

    • i would yes and no. No to the conspiratorial nature of common origin myths. I.e., no alien overlords that were once gods and somehow we lost that.

      Yes to the idea that religion is inherent in the human condition and is part of the evolutionary make-up of the species. Several good studies have posited that religion is what formed society and led to the formation of language.

      • Know More Than I Should says

        I was thinking less of imposition than of evolution. Given the explosion of belief systems these days, one might call it the big bang theory of religion. After all, there does seem to be a positive correlation between the number of religions and the number of people on earth.

        Another theory is that the desire for a constant supply of the fruits of fermentation let to the formation of cities, trade, and civilization. Religion was merely one of a number of byproducts resulting therefrom.

  2. Know More Than I Should says

    While I do not claim to know the origins of religion, I would suggest that organized religion was created to control the masses. Were this not so, it is unlikely that the concept of church and state would have arisen.

    Quite often, conformity to the dominate religion is synonymous with obedience to authority and authority figures.

    This goes a long way toward explaining why those with vested interests in preserving the status quo are so intent on shoving Christianity down the throats of the American public. It also offers some insight into jailhouse conversions.

    Recognizing the evil inherent in a church and state tandem, those responsible for The Constitution of the United States inserted both a prohibition of using one’s religion as a qualification for public office as well as allowing the public freedom of conscience in religion.

    One of my favorite encounters with a Jesus-nazi began with his claiming Christianity was not a religion. When I suggested that meant his brand of brainwashing wasn’t protected by the First Amendment, it took him a few moments before realizing the limb on which some nincompoop preacher had positioned him had just been sawed off!

    It was a classic example of the fact that programmed pew monkeys have a great deal of difficulty thinking for themselves. For some, it even appears to be physically painful.

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