Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
May 21st, 2015 by Joel Watts

Breasts and the end of the penis

"Isaac’s Circumcision"

“Isaac’s Circumcision” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my Thursday morning bible study class we are going through Genesis, albeit slowly. Why? Because you miss a lot when you read it fast. You miss the nuance. You miss the way the translations move things around and hide things. You miss the euphemisms. You miss solid discussion about what Scripture meant, what it means, and what it can mean. And you miss ways to read it that may make it more interesting.

For instance, we were previewing Genesis 17 for next week. It is here we are introduced to El Shaddai, often translated as God Almighty (because of the Greek, not the Hebrew). Better, it is God All-Sufficient. I say better because there are different understandings of the Shaddai bit. My Jewish Study Bible says “God from the Mountain” (in the notes). The translation really depends upon where you think the Hebrew loan word came from.

Some suppose it is to be translated as “breasted one.” Only if we demand a gender for God do we start to wonder if God is a male or female. I do not. I think we have ways of describing God that includes mother, breasts, etc… We see this really developed with Sophia and Logos. But, I digress. This is supposed to be a funny post.

We are introduced to El Shaddai in Genesis 17, just a few verses before the covenant of circumcision was given. I don’t mean to cut you short here, but that’s dang near funny. Especially if you read it from the point of a Breasted God giving Abraham the command to take a knife to his 86 year old penis. As some in the class pointed out, I mean.

I would never laugh at such a prospect.

“It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it” – GK Chesterton.

Laughter is an invitation. 

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).

Comments

3 Responses to “Breasts and the end of the penis”
  1. This is hilarious and something that must be pointed out! The Bible is funny! It’s the whole experience, not just the over-serious regulations, heart-wrenching poems, and tragedies – there’s good jokes sophisticated and well… boobs.

    Also, your class helped open my eyes to the more obvious separation from the mother-earth-god to the father-god metaphor and the patriarchy developed. In our minds God is some celibate father, but in many other ancient ideas, gods are female, or at least they have wives. I’m recalling some stone sculptures depicting the wife of YHWH, but can’t recall the context. At any rate, it is indicative of the genius of scripture that the mother-goddess sneaks in from the shadows of meaning to partially castrate the great patriarch. Although snipping is a custom in many tribal cultures to prevent disease of the glans, I believe the reasoning for God to suddenly ask men to do this is completely lost to most Christians. I might argue that the real reason is a compromise of gender that YHWH requires in order for men to become leaders.

    Remember that Eve was the first to interpret scripture and have dialogue with the wisest of God’s creatures about practical theology. After several readings, I am not quite sure that Eve really made a mistake.

    The beyond-gender aspect of God makes much more sense to me when I see this circumcision as a “re-masculating” part of covenant. Removing, in some part, the man’s gender identity (as happened with his rib as well).

    It also begins to shed some light into this mysterious trimming.

    24 At a lodging place on the way, the Lord met Moses[a] and was about to kill him. 25 But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it.[b] “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said. 26 So the Lord let him alone. (At that time she said “bridegroom of blood,” referring to circumcision.)

    What’s up with Zipporah, Joel?

    • Jk, thanks for commenting.

      First, I’m not sure I would use the term “goddess” as it denotes gender. Everybody does God doesn’t have a penis or a vagina. Don’t ask me how. We just do. God, while in some cultures may denote Gender does not originally denote gender.

      The stone pictures/icons of a wife of YHWH comes from the end of the first Temple. Jeremiah expressly mentions this as the “queen of heaven.” I would say that in certain segments of 1st Temple Judaism, the completely pagan kind, of course, God had a wife. We will call her Ms. God.

      As far as Zipporah. That’s just…

  2. Zipporah…
    Ex 4:22 “And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith Jehovah, Israel is my son, my first-born: 23and I have said unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me; and thou hast refused to let him go: behold, I will slay thy son, thy first-born. 24And it came to pass on the way at the lodging-place, that Jehovah met him, and sought to kill him. 25Then Zipporah took a flint, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet; and she said, Surely a bridegroom of blood art thou to me.”

    Clearly sounds like two stories pieced together. J (or P) and E. “My first born Israel”, then the story suddenly switches to Moses real first born, to his foreign-born son Gershom, and Midianite wife, Zipporah (who was different – may have even been black). E likes Moses. J, not so much. J, South, Judah, Aaron priests. E, North, Israel, Shiloh priests.

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