Thursday, 10 July 2008
The first two human tales in Genesis, that of Adam and Eve and that of Noah, are clearly making points about the virtue of obedience. But the book as a whole then moves from synthesis to antithesis; the stories of Abram, Lot and Abraham and Isaac equally clearly make points about the necessity of disobedience, or more specifically the need to temper obedience with disobedience. Blind obedience is a terrible thing; absolute loyalty is incompatible with free will; authority is to be respected only insofar as it does not become arbitrary tyranny. The moral of the story of Abraham and Isaac is the same moral as the story of Adam and Eve, which is to say, in both cases the protagonists act the wrong way. Just as it was wrong for Adam to blight his descendents by disobeying God, it was—patently—wrong for Abraham to make such a fetish of obedience to a cruel, arbitrary and tyrannous command as that of God in Genesis. To too great a degree, religions descended from this book have learnt the first of these lessons but not the second.