Today, I am thinking about jealousy.
I had an interesting experience. During a lighthearted banter with someone, her final retort was, “the Lord your God is a jealous God.” It was a signal the conversation was over.
But it really caught my attention. So I did some digging.
There’s lots of talk in research about how the ‘jealous’ God is like a faithful and passionate bridegroom that watches over his betrothed. So if he is jealous – it’s a ‘good’ and righteous jealousy.
Other writings concentrate on differentiating jealousy from envy and how jealousy is usually good but envy is almost always bad.
Others spoke of the Hebrew word having been mistranslated into English - it really means zealous.
Still others emphasized the importance of taking into account the culture and context of the time when the words were originally written:
“God’s attributes… tell us something about the feelings, yearnings, and customs of the people during whose lifetime they are ascribed to him. The texts, which in the Old and the New Testament were culled from a doubtless much greater number of extant texts, belong to societies that disappeared long ago….”
Hildegard Baumgart “Jealousy – Experiences and Solutions”, 1985
So ‘jealous God’ could be interpreted in different ways.
All I know for certain is that in our post-post-modern world, although I often hear people quoting from the Bible to emphasize their points, it is the ‘literal’ meaning of the text that is most often used. Curious, because paradoxically, our current western intelligentsia is adamantly anti-‘literal.’
Fundamentalism, accompanied by a literal interpretation and understanding of ancient scriptures, is the second greatest fear of our age (the greatest fear being ‘aging’ itself).
The majority of Western literature we are asking today’s students to learn about is grounded in a culture of Christian thought. But we do not teach about Christian thought in our public schools. And religious studies courses are optional courses in our universities. So how are those who study, or more importantly, those who teach, to interpret the text beyond a ‘literal’ understanding?
As it stands, all we expect people to know at present is that a “jealous God” is a bad God.
After all, everyone knows that ‘jealous’ is bad.
The best colour for today is Sap Green.