Posts Tagged ‘Of’

The Two (Thousand) Faced God

July 17, 2012 Leave a comment


I came across this image the other day while I was browsing r/atheism, and I thought to myself “… Huh.” I immediately launched into a write up, which was fraught with error, improperly formatted, and frankly just totally scatterbrained. Naturally, it got 120 points and a bunch of posts from people commending me, so that was cool. It made me feel better about myself. So here I am, lazy, and instead of writing entirely new material, I’m going to clean up what I wrote on r/atheism and call it its own thing.

So the argument in the image is that John and 1 John say nobody’s seen God’s face, and Jacob sees God face to face in Genesis? Seems straightforward enough, but let’s have a look at The Many Faces of God.

Unfff... Ungh... Errrrggh...

Okay, there’s a fairly complex bit of theology and narrative tradition here, but before we even get to the verses in question I think we’ll just jump right in at Genesis 16.7-13.

The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, ‘Hagar, slave-girl of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?’ She said, ‘I am running away from my mistress Sarai.’ The angel of the Lord said to her, ‘Return to your mistress, and submit to her.’ The angel of the Lord also said to her, ‘I will so greatly multiply your offspring that they cannot be counted for multitude.’ And the angel of the Lord said to her,

‘Now you have conceived and shall bear a son;
you shall call him Ishmael,
for the Lord has given heed to your affliction.
He shall be a wild ass of a man,
with his hand against everyone,
and everyone’s hand against him;
and he shall live at odds with all his kin.’

So she named the Lord who spoke to her, ‘You are El-roi’; for she said, ‘Have I really seen God and remained alive after seeing him?’ (Genesis 16.7-13) 

In the story, an angel of the LORD appears to Sarai’s slave-girl, Hagar. The angel convinces Hagar to return home, and informs her that she will bear a son. Despite the benevolent character having been referred to as an angel, it is clearly identified as the LORD in 16.13, where she declares that she will call Him ‘El-roi,’ meaning “The God Who Sees,” or “The God of Seeing.” It is not just an angel, but the LORD Himself, and He’s making Himself visible in the form of an angel. This introduces the notion that God can make Himself known without appearing in his “true form,” as we’ll call it. A good reference point for this is Dragonball Z. Many people see Frieza, but you’ve gotta be a real bad-arse to witness his true form and survive. God works kind of the same way or something.

With that out of the way, I think we’re ready to take on Jacob seeing God face to face.

The same night [Jacob] got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 

Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day is breaking.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go, unless you bless me.’ So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ Then the man said, ‘You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.’ Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.’ 

The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the hip socket, because he struck Jacob on the hip socket at the thigh muscle. (Genesis 33.22-32)

The first thing you might notice about this passage is that it’s really fucking weird. I think we’ll go a little deeper.

What might not be immediately obvious to someone reading the text in English is the complex wordplay at work in the story. For instance, Jacob’s name in Hebrew is Ya’aqob (יַעֲקֹב), the name of the river Jabbok is Yabboq (יַבֹּק), and the Hebrew word for “wrestled” is Wayye’abeq ( וַיֵּאָבֵק). While this looks like nothing to most of us, these words have highly similar pronunciations, and form an important—and intricate—pattern within the story. Through this combination of words, both the setting and the event are drawn around Jacob’s name, and so we can determine that the structure has been carefully chosen to fit with the theme of the story. Jacob’s wrestling match with the LORD leads to a conclusion wherein the LORD renames him Israel, or “The One Who Strives with God.” “God Strives” is another acceptable translation. This replaces the name Jacob, which is a play on words from his birth narrative, meaning “He Supplants,” something Jacob had a bad habit of doing (see Genesis 27).

The Hebrew people, as descendants of Jacob, are portrayed as strong and worthy, because Jacob was the man who wrestled with God. As they saw it, they were still wrestling, and so the narrative only helps to show that this struggle was ingrained directly within their lineage. It was something they had always done, and would always do.

Jacob names the place where he wrestled with the LORD Peniel, meaning “The Face of God,” standing as a reminder that he, who had previously been afraid to so much as face his brother Esau (v. 20) had now wrestled with a deity and survived, something that is tubular by its very nature. As is a common theme in the Bible, the LORD helps Jacob to uncover and utilize his inner strength. This is portrayed best by Jacob’s hip being put out of socket by the LORD, something which does not stop him, alluding to the fact that Jacob’s strength comes from within. Of course, he needs the LORD to unleash that inner potential, but potential it most assuredly is.

All of this meshes with 16.13 quite nicely. Jacob did not wrestle with God in His true form, but with a representation of the deity. The story is a representation of man’s every day struggles with God, and how God helps us to find our inner strengths. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the story is entirely metaphorical either. There’s no doubt it was meant to be taken as at least somewhat literal history. Take, for instance, the etiological conclusion that Jacob’s battle is the reason for the prohibition against eating the thigh muscle.  However, the legitimacy of the story is entirely secondary to the theological conclusion, which must involve only a representation of a deity. The veracity of the account lends to the authority of the theology, but the theology is the most important aspect of the narrative.

We can then use Exodus 33.11a as further indication that “face to face” does not literally mean seeing God, but rather talking with Him personally, rather than within dreams or visions.

Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. (Exodus 33.11a)

Moses is said to talk with God face to face despite the fact that in 33.20-23 God tells Moses that he cannot see the actual face of God. Thus, the LORD shows Moses his backside.

But’, he said, ‘you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.’ And the Lord continued, ‘See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.’ (Exodus 33.20-23)

The common assumption of the period was that the LORD spoke to people through dreams and visions, and anyone who was on a physical speaking basis with the LORD was seriously blessed, and probably awesome. To even hear the voice of the LORD would be to speak with Him face to face.

So let’s finally get into the New Testament, where our Johannine friend makes claims about who has seen God.

No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known. (John 1.18)

"Guess I'd better crank this shit out."

Oh, it’s fucking nobody. Nobody has seen God.

The writer here claims that “No one has ever seen God,” not actually mentioning His face. This claim is repeated in 1 John 4.12, which states that No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.”  On a physical level, the Johannine philosophy is that God resides within, and that the many manifestations of God that we see (the poor, the sick, the needy, Jesus Christ) are forms of God, but again, not His truest physical state. They are merely aspects of His being. However, I’d be doing a total disservice to both of these passages if I just left it at that.

The word we translate here as seen is actually ἑώρακεν, which is literally rendered as “seen,” but  more accurately means “to understand.” Seeing is understanding. In that case, we can do a very quick switch up, which leaves us with the closer translation: “No one has ever understood God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.” That makes more sense. Okay, good. Phew. It’s all explained.

Oh wait, no it’s not. Just to fart out a few more, 1 Timothy 6.16 states that It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honour and eternal dominion. Amen.” Again, the word here for seen is ἰδεῖν, which totally means “know” as well as “see.” John 6.46 states “Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.”  The word is ἰδεῖν once more, just as it was seen in 1 Timothy. There are multiple occasions in the Tanakh where the LORD appears to people as well, and I won’t go through every one of them, but suffice to say, one should not jump to the conclusion that “the LORD appearing” literally means He appeared and was just chilling with Abraham and Isaac, especially given that the LORD often appeared as a booming voice, and not as a physical presence. Similarly, we should be careful not to assume that the metaphors of the Psalms, or the visions of Isaiah, are referencing the actual physical appearance of the LORD. I suppose those verses could very well be the subject of another essay entirely, but I’ll leave it there for now, cause I am tired.

By looking at the texts critically, we come to a better understanding of what they’re actually trying to tell us. Genesis and John were written by very, very different authors (or sets of authors) who had different vocabularies, different theologies, and different languages. The conventions they used to name concepts were different, and so when two words converge in the English language, they don’t necessarily carry the same meaning. We end here with the two texts agreeing that no one has ever literally seen the face of God, but on a deeper level, they could hardly be talking about two more different subjects.

To cap off, I think that people often forget that we don’t really know what God wants, even if we think we do. We can grapple with it and come to personal conclusions, or we can take all our answers out of a book (bad idea) but there’s no way for us to, in actuality, know what’s up. Too often I see people—myself included—speaking for God. God hates fags, God wants needs my money, and God demands marriage. God loves some people, God loves all people, and God hates black people. The Johannine school was onto something really cool with what they wrote in 1 John. If we love one another, God’s love is perfected within us. Fuck obscure passages, fuck trying to figure out what each and every prohibition means. What is the God in front of you saying? He’s saying love me, feed me, clothe me, help me. He’s saying “Do what’s right,” and He’s not telling us every detail of what that entails. For all the complex theology, the wordplay, the moral lessons and the do’s and do not’s, what’s most important is not to be a selfish dick.

Prayer Palass

And that’s why I still hate the Prayer Palace. The end.


Down the bullet of a barrel.

I’ve gone cross-eyed–been put into a blind rage looking down the barrel of a gun. The way I see it, the chamber is uneven. A single outstretched arm attached to some dipshit has pointed a weapon in my face. A trickle of sweat runs down from their temple, but I can’t see it. I take in my surroundings, but I’m too mad to look with my eyes. I see objects like words; dictated actions like splits in the open air telling me what to do, in what order, but not necessarily why. Your eyes see, your brains process, and your mind erupts. Some ass-fuck said “I am justified in being evil, because from my perspective you are the evil one,” and they pointed a gun at my brain. They‘re blind to the world, and with hot steel on point, I‘m completely blind to myself. I figure out what I’m doing before, and then again later on. In between, there’s nothing. I’ve just gotta trust the words. I have to read the blood of the Earth and do as it tells me to do. Fuck the blood of the Earth! I am my own man! No, I am the man who becomes the man, and who controls the man, but I am not the man.

Struggling to take the gun from his hand, break his wrist–plant a bullet in his heart–I can’t help but feel it might not be so bad if I ate metal death. I wonder if I could hear metal scraping against metal beneath the bang of the pistol, or if I could see past the flash of fire and into that open space. And it’s not that I want to do this because I want to die, but just because it’d be worth it to make a point. I died for something. Look out! I can’t be scared of dying, because a bullet can’t kill me. Death for me comes when I can rest, and there’s no fucking way I can take a seat until this is all over with. Take a rest? I can barely take a breath. My chest is to tight; my vessels so constricted. I have tunnel vision. Afraid of death or not, I don’t seem to be. The scariest thing in the world is the idea that you’re the only person who’s frightened. Part of me wants them cowering on the ground pissing their pants while I kick and break every one of their ribs. I want to stand over them and break bats off their heads, break heads off cement, and cement my ugly fucking face into the scared pussing yolks of their eyes. The other part of me just wants them to die. I wonder what those kids would want, so fucking broken the only concept of death they have is what they are now when put up next to what they were before. Before, when they had families. Before, when they had friends. Before, when they knew what it was like to wake up without the strings of addiction pulling them towards the weak men and women who stand over them with their cocks out. Yeah, the women too.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the bullshit; the storm at the end of your muzzle. Miserable fucks named Blue Wunder hurt, maim, and kill, but it’s so easy to forget that we’re fighting for somebody, not against somebody. It’s the children who matter, not them. It’s the parents who matter, not them. These people have had their priveleges revoked. We will be the parents, and they will be the kids, and as God has told us to do, we will drown our fucking children. It’s not that hard to begin to value values over human life, and that’s when you realize the reality of empathy is misery, and that you’re more obsessed with proving you’re right than doing what’s right. I, and you, and your friends who are now your blood–we should be focused on fixing what’s broken, not just breaking the hammer of injustice. It makes me so happy to see an explosion of panic before an explosion of bones stuck with blood, but that’s not what matters. It gets me through my day; it’s fast and easy. Child-like porcelain skin, cracked and broken in a thousand places… but they don’t crack a smile. Murder is our drug to become their anti-drug to forge hope for their flesh and blood. If we never achieve a natural high, we’re nothing but a bunch of fucking addicts. The only difference is that we shiver with an excited hope that soon our supply will run out.

I will die for you, and not from them. If I take a bullet to the face for any good reason, it’s because you deserve it, not because you deserve me.

Categories: Fiction, House of Clark Tags: , , ,

Are you drinking? I bet you love drinking.

Fuck you and your shitty liquor. It goes down smooth, like her skin. It goes down warm, like her breath. It’s a lot like her. The girl’s name is Danielle, and she thinks her name is pretty. So does her neighbour, Mr. Yaris, whom she trusted. He’s giving her liquor, too, and she’s drinking it all up. It burns her throat, but it makes her feel strange. She feels so totally alien. Fuckin’ alien, man. At the moment, she’d give anything not to be in her own skin. Mr. Yaris thinks the opposite. Danielle is thinking about her sister’s name. Her sister’s name is Mena. She wishes her sister was here right now. Mr. Yaris does too. Mr. Yaris is taking off Danielle’s panties as we speak, and he’s looking her in the eyes. She sees him with six fucking eyes. He’s like a spider over top of her. She pukes. He hits her and she pukes again. He can’t fit his erection inside her, so she just rubs it against her. She cries a little. She can barely move. She feels like she’s swimming. He cums on her chest, gets it on her dress. Her dress was white anyways, which wouldn’t have mattered, but Mr. Yaris’s semen is yellow. It’s fucking yellow. Scummy, dirty yellow.

He burns the dress and hits her across the face. He breaks two of her fingers because it makes him feel good. She PUKED on him. What the fuck was she thinking? She’s a kid, so how could he know. Kids think lots of dumb shit. That’s why you need to beat it out of them. He’s not normally like this. He’s usually kind of nice, and it’s not just some fake personality. He’s genuinely a nice guy, but he fucks, kills, and buries little girls. Oh sorry, did I spoil the ending for you? You don’t need to do nice things to be a nice person. You just need to think nicely. Nice is weird like that. You can fuck and kill little girls and be nice so long as you think you’re justified. Nice is about doing the right thing, and the right thing is dependent on the person. The person is dependent on the upbringing. The upbring is halted if the person is murdered. He doesn’t want to be like this and later he’ll feel bad but right now he can’t. He wanted to fuck her and he couldn’t. All he got was puked on, so he breaks a few more fingers and hits her across the face. Danielle thinks about Mena, and Mena wonders where Danielle is. Danielle wonders the same, but for an entirely different reason. Her sister’s really awesome. Like a hero. Mena’s six years older, and she knows everything. She doesn’t know about Mr. Yaris though. Suddenly the world seems so much bigger, but at the same time it’s closing in on her. She can hardly breathe.

She can’t stop coughing blood. It tastes metallic, like the metal file he uses to grind her fucking teeth. Why is he doing that? He collects the filings. He likes them. He works in an office; he’s not a fucking dentist. Why does he want her teeth filings? He files all day in the goddamn office. This is different. He doesn’t even associate the words. He’s seeing red, not just because he’s mad, but because her teeth are all bloody. She’s still kind of lurching about. She’s fucking dead now, and he didn’t even have to try. She just gave up. She just died, and you’re sitting here drinking cheap shitty liquor. Fuck you, stupid.

Categories: Fiction, House of Clark Tags: , , , , ,