Among its goals, my straight-through reading of the Bible sought to trace a clearer understanding of the evolving definition of the deity itself. We have many ideas about what we expect God to be, many of them contradictory or paradoxical, but just where do these originate in our common thinking? How many can we see as coming down from the Holy One’s own instruction and how many arise in enlightened individuals’ spiritual experiences? How do these teachings shape our own often vaguely shaped expectations of divinity?
For Christians, this can extend through the New Testament when we examine what Jesus says about himself and his relationship to the Father, as well as what his disciples and Paul, especially, say about Jesus and/or Christ. (There are differences.)
Surprisingly little of the Hebrew Bible and the Apocrypha address this matter of definition directly. Far more is focused on matters of living within this faith, from instructions on sacrificial rites to finding favor in combat to ethics of living honestly and justly. And that’s before we get to the books where the Holy One is not even mentioned. As for the histories? I was amazed how political these Scriptures are — how many bumper stickers you could glean for use today.
Sometimes this Holy One is revealed by what it does. Creating the cosmos and walking in the Garden of Eden are two examples.
Sometimes, by what it says directly. Again, in the Garden to Adam and Eve and the Serpent, as well as at Mount Sinai to the people gathered at the foot or to Moses above or later to Job or the prophets.
More often our definitions come through others, with a range of human understanding and misunderstanding.
As I’ll argue, there are reasons we often perceive this Holy One as a bearded male, no matter the counter arguments.