Lesson: Genesis 3:8-15
8 They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.”
14 The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”
Genesis is the first book of the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). The Torah also called the Pentateuch (five books) in Greek. Genesis covers the period from Creation to the deaths of Jacob and his 11th son, Joseph, in about 1,650 BCE, if the accounts are historical.
The Book of Genesis (like the Torah as a whole) is an amalgam of religious traditions, some of which are dated by scholars to about 950 BCE and some of which were developed as late as 450 BCE. Since the late 19th Century, Biblical scholars have recognized four major “strands” or sources in the Torah, and these sources are identified (among other ways) by their different theological emphases, names for God, names for the holy mountain, and portrayals of God’s characteristics.
Today’s reading is part of the Second Account of Creation that begins in Gen. 2:4. The Second Account is attributed to the “Jahwistic” Source and is generally dated to about 950 BCE. This Source presents God’s name as YHWH (translated as LORD or LORD God) and gives God many anthropomorphic qualities such as speaking with humans.
The reading today continues the story of the Disobedience Event. The man and the woman ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and they realized they were naked (v.7). God then confronted them in the Garden.
The negative consequences of the disobedience by the man and the woman include their sense of separation from YHWH (they hid themselves from the “presence” of the LORD God in v. 8), vulnerability (sense of their nakedness in v.10) and failing to accept responsibility for one’s actions (the man blamed the woman, and the woman blamed the serpent in verses 13 and 14).
The “curse” upon the serpent (v.15) likely had its roots in the archetypal fear and hostility most humans have toward snakes. Some Christians, however, interpret the enmity between the serpent and the woman as a prefiguring of the serpent’s relationship with Mary whose offspring (Jesus) would strike the head of the serpent. The so-called “Miraculous Medal” worn by some Christians shows Mary standing on the body of a serpent.
Epistle: 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
13 Just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—“I believed, and so I spoke” —we also believe, and so we speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will bring us with you into his presence. 15 Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
16 So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure 18 because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.
5:1 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
Corinth, a large port city in Greece, was among the early Jesus Follower communities that Paul founded. Its culture was diverse and Hellenistic, and Corinthians emphasized reason and secular wisdom. In addition to Paul, other Jesus Followers also taught in Corinth, sometimes in ways inconsistent with Paul’s understandings of what it means to be a Jesus Follower. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians was written in the 50’s (CE) (likely while Paul was in Ephesus) and presented his views on several issues.
Paul’s controversies with the Corinthians continued, and he wrote at least four letters to them. The Second Letter is a composite of fragments from these letters. In the Second Letter, Paul countered some Jewish Jesus Followers who were disagreeing with Paul and undermining his authority.
In today’s reading, Paul used dualistic language that would have been characteristic of Hellenistic thought to reflect the tension between present afflictions and inner renewal (vv.16-18). The “temporary” and the “eternal” are not presented as opposed but are seen as overlapping. Paul emphasized that we will also be raised (v.14) just as Jesus was raised and will be with God in an eternal “house” (5:1).
Gospel: Mark 3:20-35
20 The crowd came together again, so that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat. 21 When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” 23 And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.
28 “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”
31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” 33 And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
The Gospel According to Mark was the first Gospel that was written and is generally dated to the time around the Destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. Mark’s Gospel is the shortest gospel and forms the core for the Gospels According to Matthew and Luke (both of which were written around 85 CE). Over 50% of the material in those two Gospels is based on Mark. Because these three Gospels follow similar chronologies of Jesus’ life and death, they are called “Synoptic Gospels” for the Greek words meaning “Same Look/View.”
Today’s reading followed the appointing of the 12 apostles and Jesus’ return to “home” (v.19b). In the Synoptic Gospels, the family of Jesus was sometimes portrayed as being concerned for his safety and his sanity (v.21).
The term “Beelzebul” was derived from name of the Canaanite fertility god, Baal, later demonized into the chief power of evil, or Satan.
In Mark’s Gospel, those who opposed Jesus were the scribes from Jerusalem, not the Pharisees (as in Matthew and Luke) or “the Jews” (meaning the Temple Authorities and the Pharisees) as in the Fourth Gospel.
In this gospel and in Matthew’s Gospel, blasphemies against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven (v.29). There are many commentaries online about what this might mean.
If we understand that God is Love, we might see the “Holy Spirit” as the “Force” behind all the manifestations of Love in the universe. “Blasphemy” against the Holy Spirit then would be the intentional denial that (a) Love, Goodness and Compassion exist, (b) persons perform acts of love, goodness and compassion, and (c) there are forces, urgings and impulses that move persons towards acts of love, goodness and compassion.