OK, so let's get started. I remember the day in 1986 when I stood up before a fresh class of Friends Academy (Locust Valley, NY) 7th graders and started to teach Quakerism for the first time. And since the early Friends writings that had been so critical to me in returning to Christ were so inaccessible to young readers, I decided to just use the biblical narrative to introduce them to Quakerism. We started talking about the Bible as if it were just another book you would take off the shelf, and I surprised even me when I realized that it is a narrative that starts at the beginning of the creation and ends at the end of that same creation. It presents itself as if it were the complete story. 

Early Friends did not use this kind of language in discussing the Bible. Like others of their time they did not use that kind of language - describing the Bible as a "narrative" - that language is comfortable to me because of the reading I've done in "narrrative theology" and in particular in reading Stanley Hauerwas. But early Friends did seem to see the book as containing truths that needed to be "interiorized." But we'll get to that as we go.

I think the most important books of the Bible to Fox and early Friends were Genesis and the Gospel of John, so going over Genesis will take a while - especially the first several chapters. The Bible I use is the Jerusalem Bible, but I often check multiple translations when the translation is particularly important.

Genesis 1  - There are two accounts of the creation in the first two chapters of Genesis. There is so much in the first chapter, that I will just deal with it today. In the first God creates the universe and the earth through the power of his Word, and the first "thing" created is Light - not the light of the sun or the moon - those lights come later, on day four.  The separation of the waters below the dome of heaven and above it comes on day two, the gathering of the waters beneath the dome and the proliferation of the earth's vegetation comes on day three, the sun and moon and stars - necessary for calculating time and seasons - comes on day four, the teeming forth of life comes on day five, and then on day six, God creates the human species - both male and female - "in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them" (27). They are given the power to "conquer" the creation or "subdue" it, an authority early Friends saw as a power to both use and to care for, be responsible for. God rests after man is created.

For me the most interesting insights I've had on the first creation story are the following:

1. The creator in this story is fundamentally "other" that everything we can see. God is not created, not contingent in any way. But we are created and contingent, and there is no other way of our understanding any part of God's nature without accepting the lines that we are somehow "like" Him - male and female, we share qualities with God. Ludwig Feuerbach and later Karl Marx wrote that God was merely our "projection" of our human nature out onto the universe. The Bible supports this, and it will be for us one of the critical ways we come to understand anything about God or ourselves.

2. When you consider how ancient this literature is, it is amazing to me how profoundly "modern" it is - modern in the simultaneity of the creation of male and female, modern in the closeness to what evolutionary theory says about the order of things in the creation of the universe - not exact but close.

3. It gives us a view of "man" that is not easily charicatured. It claims for man a dignity and goodness that defies all that we know of man in the history that will unfold for him, but it shows us God's divine intention, the impetus and engine of the divine determination to redeem what he has created when it disappoints Him, a determination that we will see played out in the biblical narrative

So that is some of what I see in this chapter. I would love to know what others see that is important to them personally.

What does it mean to you that we are "created in God's image"?

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Comment by James C Schultz on 4th mo. 24, 2011 at 5:36pm
One thing about images.  They don't have substance.  They are not the real thing.  And since God is spirit, Adam and Eve were most likely spirits and might not have had material bodies as we know them until after the fall.  Initially, they probably lived by faith and were "Just" as the "Just shall live by faith".  When they opened their eyes their faith started to fade for we are supposed to walk by faith and not by sight.
Comment by Forrest Curo on 4th mo. 24, 2011 at 8:16pm

Maybe... since the Hebrews were thinking of "image" in contexts like "worshipping an image", we aren't getting the full meaning here. If I make a car engine "in the image of a car engine", ie in that "form", then (provided I've made it out of the right stuff, precisely enough) it ought to be able to move a car. I'm thinking that "image of God" here is more like that, or like "the spitting image of his old man." Which might just mean "looks like," but can also mean "is like."


[One time I visited my father & he showed me the videotape of him addressing his local city council. We were both horrified at how much he resembled me!]


Anyway, I'm saying this because God's spirit in a living being is 'the real thing'; otherwise it wouldn't truly be "living". (It's obviously a limited expression, manifestation etc of that Real Thing, but we're called "children" of God because what lives in us is of the same nature, ultimately.)


I think we ought to have a discussion somewhere of that word "faith"! Not having much of it, people don't necessarily think of it all that accurately... and it's pointing to something really interesting, really important!

Comment by James C Schultz on 4th mo. 25, 2011 at 9:21am

I believe the life in us is from God breathing into the dust.  That is the part of God we have.   We are living souls.

I agree with needing a discussion on Faith.  It's confused with belief a lot of time.

Comment by Janet Nicholson on 8th mo. 10, 2011 at 7:29pm

My understanding is so mixed.  I have heard that there were other creation stories where a different god created each element. So the 7 day creation story is about a people saying our god did it all. Our god is bigger/better/stronger and incorporates/absorbs other religious stories.  It is also a transition from polytheistic to monotheistic.  "In the image of" I have also heard can be translated as "in the shadow of".  How might that translation affect one's understanding?  The second Genesis story is supposedly the older of the two stories. It is the one I have the most trouble teaching.  I wonder about a switch from matriarchal culture to patriarchal culture - the need for males to dominate and a God view that puts them first as namer, co creator, and birther of women.  I have always wondered if the power of birth needed to be taken from women.  So that we get to the point of the male OB/doctor profession delivering babies - in contrast to women giving birth.  A very dominate male power structure has been created by the second story.  I introduce a short piece by Ursula Le Quin, published in The New Yorker called, "She Unnames Them."  What is the power of naming and what might the power be in relinquishing our names and our naming others?  Especially in regards to our relationship with the rest of creation.  Have we traded our deep connection - the "Deep Ecology" understanding of interconnectedness with the all, when we use our language to separate and isolate ourselves from the all?  


Comment by Caroline Whitbeck on 9th mo. 14, 2011 at 1:18pm

Why do you think the most important books of the Bible to Fox and early Friends were Genesis and the Gospel of John?  

What about all the prophets, especially Jeremiah and Isaiah?

I do not intend to be brusque, but my training as an academic was come to the point quickly.

Comment by Irene Lape on 9th mo. 14, 2011 at 4:33pm

I guess I think these two books are pretty key for Fox because of a few things. I don't even know who it was who said that the Book of John was the "Quaker gospel" but I certainly have heard it repeated often enough. I've spent a lot of time in recent months thinking and writing about it, and if you want to read the long form of what I'm going to say here, you can find it on my blog at http://catholicquaker.blogspot.com/. It seems to me the key insights Fox had were that if one was faithful to Christ's Light within, one could return to the original state of innocence and communion with God. Fox says,  that “. . .they that are in Christ are new creatures; and they that are in old Adam are old creatures, are in their old things, old ways, old worships and old religions. [They] have the old garments, the old bottles that hold the old wine and cannot endure the new; and have the old, rusty, moth-eaten treasure.  They that are in Christ, the heavenly and spiritual second Adam, who makes all things new, are new creatures, spiritual men, heavenly minded, are new bottles that hold the new Wine, the new heavenly Treasure, have the new Clothing, the fine linen, the Righteousnsss of Christ and are in the new and living Way, over all the dead ways.” (George Fox, Letters, 369) 


And here's another Fox quote:

“And so, his “sheep know his voice and follow him” (John 10:27) . . .who says to all who are dead in Adam, “I am come. . .that you. . .might have Life” (John 10:10) Christ, the second Adam is come, that the dead in the first Adam might have Life, might be quickened and might be awakened to Righteousness. . And so, he invites all Adam’s posterity to come to him, that all through him might believe, come to the Light . . .to Life, and . . .up into Peace and rest. . .. But in Adam in the Fall is neither rest, nor peace, nor life, but darkness, trouble, sorrow, burdenings and changings. . .Therefore all come out of Adam in the Fall and haste to him that never fell. . .in whom you have all both rest and Peace of Life, that was with the Father before the world began.”

(George Fox, Letters, 96)

It's true that Jeremiah's "New Covenant" promise was also very important, and Christ's identity as the prophet "like unto Moses" was also important; the whole story was important to Fox, but John and Genesis are at the core.

Comment by Caroline Whitbeck on 9th mo. 15, 2011 at 9:36am

Thank you for the Fox citations to the gospel of John.

I, too, have heard that book called  "Quaker gospel", usually with the justification that it is in John that one finds the origin of the term "Friends" John 15:15 which (in the KJV) says

"Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. "

I think that designation  is quite recent, however.

Thank you, too,  for starting a discussion on Bible study, since I have found that knowledge of the Bible is strikingly absent among Quakers today, and so Quakers find it too hard to read original Friends with their dense  references to the Bible (usually the KJV).

I am new to QQ.  Do you know why it is that our exchange appears only at http://www.quakerquaker.org/profiles/blogs/bible-study-for-friends?...  commentId=2360685%3AComment%3A67214&xg_source=msg_com_blogpost  and  not at http://www.quakerquaker.org/profiles/blogs/bible-study-for-friends?... ?

Comment by Irene Lape on 9th mo. 15, 2011 at 10:13am

I wrote to Martin Kelley and asked if he could help make the discussion easier to access. Part of the problem is I was away all summer and didn't post anything. Hopefully we'll get the location thing improved. I also keep a blog up for the Bible Study group we started at Westbury Friends Meeting, and it's farther behind than the one at QQ [http://scripturenarrative.blogspot.com/]. Thank you for showing interest. 


Comment by Tom Smith on 9th mo. 15, 2011 at 10:22am

I guess my take on the "second Adam" is slightly different in some ways. I believe that one of the reasons that George Fox used the Genesis/Adam reference so much was because the church of his day used "The Fall" as "original sin" to concentrate on the fallen nature of humans and thus to perpetuate the concept that only the church, its authority and ritual, could bring salvation. For Fox Christ had come to teach his people himself and the light was in all humans, thus the church's authority and ritual were all "fallen" with Adam. The emphasis was not on the fallen man (Friday) but on the present Christ (First Day).


Comment by Forrest Curo on 9th mo. 15, 2011 at 1:52pm
Paul is very much key. Like many others in 17th Century England, Fox was seeking a way to reanimate the Christian church as it had been 'before the Apostasy' (the meaning of this quite evident in their own recent history of religious strife, purges & executions between Protestant and Catholic regimes, which had led many to believe that all factions had so discredited themselves that meeting in silence to seek God's further instruction was the only way to sort out what form(s) of worship God intended.) Paul was the chief available source of information on the practices of the early Church; so Fox studied him with his usual diligence (& his usual spiritualizing freedom of interpretation.) The "Second Adam" notion goes back to Paul (if not earlier.)


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