Saturday, October 25, 2008

Eden... TIMSHEL (warning, long and sudo-religious, lol; but awesome)

So i was responding to a friend of mine about faith and god and all that and i was reminded about East of Eden, by John Steinbeck. Anyways, i read the book over the summer and though i didn't talk about it too much, i really liked it and it totally stretched my thinking, i was kinda reminded of a really cool passage from it where Lee, the chinese servant of the house, is talking to his boss Adam about Gen 4:1-16, and especially verse 7. Now if you ever wanna read this book this is one of the best moments in the book, sooooo.... don't say i didn't warn you in case reading it was on your list of things to do. Anyways, in this verse God has just asked Cain why he is angry (god looks disfavorably on cain's offering but favorably on his brother abel's, and abel is angry about this). 

This is an excerpt of the book:

The King James version says this—it is when Jehovah has asked Cain why he is angry. Jehovah says, ‘If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.’ It was the ‘thou shalt’ that struck me, because it was a promise that Cain would conquer sin...”

...Lee sipped his coffee. “Then I got a copy of the American Standard Bible. It was very new then. And it was different in this passage. It says, ‘Do thou rule over him.’ Now this is very different. This is not a promise, it is an order. And I began to stew about it. I wondered what the original word of the original writer had been that these very different translations could be made....”

Now this is sooo important, is he saying to Cain (who is a great analogy of us as humans, as we are according the judeo-christian religion all sinners; and therefore the words spoken to Cain, we can take as spoken to us) "thou shalt" (conquer sin) or "do thou". Is he commanding him, or is he giving a promise that he shall? Lee, the character in the book thought about this for years and eventually went to the original hebrew to see if he could find the answer. and what they finally found was that the word  was thou mayest.. his explanation to adam could change anyone's life...

Lee’s hand shook as he filled the delicate cups. He drank his down in one gulp. “Don’t you see?” he cried. “The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in ‘Thou shalt,’ meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.’ Don’t you see?”...

...“Now, there are many millions in their sects and churches who feel the order, ‘Do thou,’ and throw their weight into obedience. And there are millions more who feel predestination in ‘Thou shalt.’ Nothing they may do can interfere with what will be. But ‘
Thou mayest’! Why, that makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win.” Lee’s voice was a chant of triumph.

Adam said, “Do you believe that, Lee?”

“Yes, I do. Yes, I do. It is easy out of laziness, out of weakness, to throw oneself into the lap of deity, saying, ‘I couldn’t help it; the way was set.’ But think of the glory of the choice! That makes a man a man. A cat has no choice, a bee must make honey. There’s no godliness there."


BeccaBuns said...

okay mek here goes..... i read your blog..... and understand the confusion in this passage but i think there is a fundamental error in the interpretation of the last portion. I don't think that unto thee shall be his desire or and you shall rule over him is talking about sin at all. I think it is talking about the birth right between cain and abel (gen. 3:16 note the way shall be is used). if the interpretation of this passage is off then i don't even know how to approach the points you raised except more from a predestination vs. non predestination side of the argument. but i don't necessarily think that this passage is referring to that particular topic... now ephesians... there is a tricky and confusing book, not that the entire bible isn’t but that book deals a lot with the whole predestination thing. So back to genesis…. So as I read that part you were talking about, you were right when thinking about it that way it didn’t make sense at all. Some scholars though interpret that word sin (they do in the new testament) as sin offering…. So then it would say if you don’t doest haha doest( old king james so funny) well then sin lieth at your door. Now put in sin offering for sin…. So if you don’t doest well a sin offering can be made for your sin. But anywho just thought I would take it from another perspective cause if you just read the passage straight up without john steinbecks perspective it doesn't make sense as referring to sin as him.....let me know what you think

BeccaBuns said...

well just read through what i wrote and even with john steinbecks perspective it still doesn't make sense as referring to sin as him....