OK, I’m long overdue for the Genesis question to be explained. And since tomorrow is the holiday, and Derek and I are going to San Francisco for my cousin’s wedding this weekend, now is my chance.

So, first, what is the main theme of the book of Genesis? My cousin Liz took an IQ test, wherein she was asked this question. She was troubled by it, so she called me and asked how I would answer it. Liz is no Bible dummy, she teaches The Bible as Literature, as well as other English classes, at a high school. And she goes to Sunday School, and reads the Bible on her own time. I’m no teacher, nor a Bible scholar, but I’ve read the thing at least a few times.

But apparently Liz and I had more trouble with the question than most of you did. First of all, I thought it odd that it was even part of this IQ test, with the inherent assumption that the test-taker has read and/or is familiar with Judeo-Christian literature and themes. I wasn’t sure how that relates to a person’s intelligence, since intelligence is a measure of a person’s ability to learn and adapt, and, as NungNung said, “Those things are nowhere near culturally, socially, or economically neutral, so people from certain backgrounds tend to be “smart,” and those less privileged, less fortunate, or less Christian are often left behind.” But apparently there is a “crystallized intelligence” section of the test, which is more about things learned previously, than adaptability.

Sheila’s short answer was “separation.” Adam and Eve were separated from God, and expected to deal with it. Cain and Abel, Noah and his people, the people of Babel, the physical example of the covenant of circumcision, Lot and his city, Hagar and Ishmael, Abraham and Isaac, Jacob, Esau and the birthright, Jacob, Rachel and Leah, Joseph being sold to the Egyptians, and in the end of Genesis, the people of the covenant as slaves in another land, waiting to return to the promised land, all had to work through some sort of separation. Also see Azúcar’s answer, which elaborates the separation theme.

Liz’s short answer was “punishments and rewards.” Each of the above examples shows a clear consequence for some action; being cast out of the garden for eating the fruit, being banished for murder, civilization being destroyed for wickedness. This also fits right in with the separation theme, since the punishment for most of the wrong-doing is separation of some sort; separation from the presence of God, from a society, from a loved one.

Initially, I was going to say “the beginning,” but, . So my answer was “good versus evil.” Adam and Eve were given the option of eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and having chosen to eat it, blessed the rest of humanity with the choice to act on that knowledge. In each of the above examples, there was a good side and an evil side, so it was about taking sides.

The “correct” answer was “The beginning of the world.” Short, simple, and not hard to justify. Or is it? My first thought, upon being asked the question, was to say, “The beginning.” But then I though about it and decided, like Liz and others who responded, that it was too simplistic, since the creation account only takes up the first two chapters, and with the continuing saga of the children of God, there is much more to it than just the creation. The guy who administered the test told Liz that she was over-intellectualizing her answer. They really only wanted a simple answer.

Yet, I can only think that a better wording of the question, if they were looking for “beginning” as an answer, would have been, “What is the first thing you think of when you think about the book of Genesis.” Since a “theme” is “an implicit or recurrent idea: a motif” (American Heritage Dictionary), I think “the beginning” is an element of the book, but not so much a recurrent idea. Then again, I must also be over-intellectualizing it. I guess each of the above examples of separation could be looked at as new beginnings, a few of them more strikingly so than others, namely, the creation of the world, Adam and Eve, Noah, the tower of Babel, and the Abrahamic covenant.

So are you mad at me? I wasn’t trying to trap anyone into giving an answer only to tell you why I thought your answer was wrong, I just wanted to know what other intelligent people thought. Obviously, some people did choose “the beginning” as their answer. But each of the other answers, in my humble genius IQ opinion, was also a “right” answer. Human life after the fall, obedience, love, separation, good versus evil, punishments and rewards, God’s relationship with his people, all these are recurrent themes in the book of Genesis.

I just don’t think this question was appropriate for an IQ test. I welcome disagreement in any form.

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