Sacred Text: Do the first few lines tell the whole story?

Sacred Text: Do the first few lines tell the whole story?

Torah scroll, sacred text of Judaism, photo by Anita FonsecaA sacred text begins carefully. Powerfully. Precisely.

As it should — because the opening lines introduce a spiritual tradition.

Just how much is revealed in the opening lines of Torah, New Testament and Quran — even to the casual reader? Let’s see!

Beginning of Torah: Sacred Text of Judaism

In the beginning of God’s creating the heavens and the earth – when the earth was astonishingly empty, with darkness upon the surface of the deep, and the Divine Presence hovered upon the surface of the waters – God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and God separated between the light and the darkness. God called to the light: “Day,” and to the darkness He called: “Night.” And there was evening and there was morning, one day. (Genesis 1:1-5, Artscroll Stone Edition)

What Torah’s Beginning Tells Us About Judaism

Here, God is simply active. With no origin story, fixed traits, or logical boundaries. God just is — without beginning. Unlike heaven and earth; God creates them as a blank canvas. Earth is astonishingly empty. Then, God hovers over the canvas, as a mother bird hovers over her babies, ready to feed them. To this mother bird, everything will be alive. Starting with Light, mother’s first creation. God doesn’t just name Light; God calls to it. We have been introduced to some basics of Jewish theology. God was-is-will be, existing beyond time. Heaven and earth, existing in time, are infused with Divine Presence. Welcome to Judaism, worship of the infinite, ineffable One.

Beginning of New Testament: Sacred Text of Christianity

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.

After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, Abiud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Eliud, Eliud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.

Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah. (Matthew  1, TNIV Translation )

What New Testament’s Beginning Tells Us About Christianity

Meet Jesus: Messiah, King, Jew. His story? A logical consequence of Jewish history. A fulfillment of the Divine word. Remember God’s promise to Abraham? Your offspring will be as numerous as the stars. And God’s promise to Israel?  A Messiah from the royal house of David. Both are fulfilled: 28 generations of Abraham’s children bring Jesus into being. See how concretely God appears in history! In sacred cycles of seven! Welcome to Christianity, next sacred cycle of the people Israel, with God more visible than ever before.

Click here to read more about Matthew’s use of Jewish motifs.

Beginning of Quran: Sacred Text of Islam

The Opening

In the name of God, Merciful to all, Compassionate to each!

Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds: Merciful to all, Compassionate to each!

Lord of the Day of Judgment. It is You we worship, and upon You we call for help.

Guide us to the straight path, The path of those upon whom Your grace abounds, Not those upon whom anger falls, Nor those who are lost.

(Sura 1, trans. Tarif Khalidi)

What Quran’s Beginning Tells Us About Islam

God exists; choice abounds; life is hard. But compassionate guidance is near. God, Lord of all worlds, is also concerned for each. For humans, God has prepared a straight path. Follow it and achieve grace. Lose it and find anger. Confused? Call to God for help. For God judges truly. As Lord of the Day of Judgment, God knows when and by what standards each of us will be judged. Welcome to Islam, a path of spiritual formation through alignment with God’s will.

This is Just a Beginning: How You Can Learn More

Each sacred text immerses you in its worldview right away. Introduces you to its type of spiritual perception. Summarizes the basics of a highly elaborated tradition. Perhaps you would like to learn more about those traditions. Click here to study sacred text through VST’s Inter-Religious Studies Program. We would welcome you!

Photo credit: Anita Fonseca

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