We have just begun to study the Imitate Their Faith book in the congregation Bible Study which is part of our midweek meeting. I admit I haven’t read it, but my wife has and says it makes for a nice, easy read. It takes the form of Bible stories rather than a Bible commentary. The problem, she says, is that there is a good deal of speculation and supposition in the book. This brings to mind something from years ago when I used to watch Wimbledon tennis matches. The American announcers would often ask what the player was thinking during a tense moment in the match.
Announcer 1: “What do you think is going through McEnroe’s mind right now?”
Announcer 2 (usually an ex-player): “Well, he’s gotta be thinking about that last error. He’s probably kicking himself for missing such an easy volley.”
Who knows what McEnroe had on his mind right then? Maybe he was thinking, “I really shouldn’t have eaten that second burrito for lunch.”
The fact is, it’s annoying enough in something as trivial as a tennis match, but when we try to think what a Bible character was thinking, and then drawing conclusions from that which we are supposed to use to learn life lessons, we are getting into dangerous territory. This is especially the case when dealing with a naïve and credulous flock who thinks nothing of taking the most casual assumption and turning it into life altering Bible doctrine.
Here’s a case in point from last week’s study.
7 Exiled to life outside the garden, Adam and Eve found their existence hard. Yet, when their first child was born, they named him Cain, or “Something Produced,” and Eve proclaimed: “I have produced a man with the aid of Jehovah.” Her words suggest that she may have had in mind the promise Jehovah made in the garden, foretelling that a certain woman would produce a “seed,” or offspring, who would one day destroy the wicked one who had led Adam and Eve astray. (Gen. 3:15; 4:1) Did Eve imagine that she was the woman in the prophecy and that Cain was the promised “seed”?
8 If so, she was sadly mistaken. What is more, if she and Adam fed Cain such ideas as he grew up, they surely did his imperfect human pride no good. In time, Eve bore a second son, but we find no such high-flown statements about him. They named him Abel, which may mean “Exhalation,” or “Vanity.” (Gen. 4:2) Did that choice of a name reflect lower expectations, as if they put less hope in Abel than in Cain? We can only guess.
9 Parents today can learn much from those first parents. By your words and actions, will you feed your children’s pride, ambition, and selfish tendencies? Or will you teach them to love Jehovah God and to seek friendship with him? Sadly, the first parents failed in their responsibility. Yet, there was hope for their offspring. [Italics added]
(ia chap. 1 pp. 10-11 pars. 7-9)
My apologies for all the italics but there is just so much speculation and guessing in these three paragraphs that it’s unavoidable.
The point of this is to show that we are being instructed by the Governing Body with the so-called “food at the proper time” based on outright conjecture and (by their own admission) guesswork. We can all agree that it is not good to feed a child’s pride, ambition, and selfish tendencies; but to try to make an object lesson out of a single phrase uttered by Eve at childbirth is laughable. This leads us to presume that she and Adam fed Cain’s pride and ambition, while denigrating Abel. Cain becomes the spoilt favorite child while Abel is ignored and marginalized.
All Eve said was, “I have produced a man with the aid of Jehovah.” Any one of us can come up with several plausible scenarios that would justify such an utterance. The fact is we have no way of knowing exactly what she meant. We also have no way of knowing if she thought she was the woman of Genesis 3:15. We also have no way of proving that she wasn’t. Did she feel enmity to the creature who had deceived her and ruined her life, reducing her to misery and hard labor? In all likelihood, she did. Did the promised seed come from her womb? He sure did. The Bible doesn’t say that the woman would be around when the seed came into existence and fought with Satan.
Nevertheless, given the book’s frank admission that this is all guesswork, you have only to attend a Kingdom hall and listen to the comments to know that the brothers and sisters eat this food up, assuming it is from the Lord and part of the “framework of truth” that is our belief system.
How sad, given the richness and depth of the inspired word of God and the many areas we have never explored as Witnesses, that we spend a half hour every week studying a what is little more than a novel.