Re: Indonesian origin stories (was Re: [asa] Re: Reading Genesis theologically NOT historically)

From: Murray Hogg <>
Date: Fri Nov 27 2009 - 14:49:26 EST

Hi Iain,

I meant to get back to you much earlier on the below, but other things

First, very happy to hear that you and yours are safe after the
earthquakes. The entire business has fallen off the radar screen here
and I'm left wondering how the recovery efforts are going in the worst
hid areas?

But on to your remarks about Papuans and the OT...

One of the more interesting books I've ever read is Lynette Oates
"Hidden People" which describes their missionary work amongst the
Binumarien of PNG's Eastern Highlands Province. Amongst other things she
describes the process of translation of the Scriptures into the local

The part that really strikes me - for present purposes - is the
description, in chapter 16, of the translation of Genesis 1ff - in
particular v.27; "Male and female he created them."

To us this seems a pretty innocuous verse, but for the Binumarien? Well,
when Sisia (the local guy assisting with the translation) heard this
verse, he adamently refused to accept it being, as it is, direct attack
upon the Bianumarien's own creation story which enshrines their own
attitude of female inferiority. In their view, God created two men, one
of whom was punished for sinning against God by being turned into a female.

Wisely Des Oatridge - the guy doing the translation work - suggested
they just pass it over and go on. To which Sisia agreed - although not
with incredibly good grace apparently!

Anyway they worked their way down to Genesis 2:25 ("They were both
naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.") at which point Des
asked the question of Sisa: if God created two men "in the beginning"
how is it that they could be naked together and not be ashamed?

Oates goes on to describe Sisia's struggle with this idea - how the
implication MUST be the equality of the sexes. And, despite his cultural
prejudices, he accepted this new piece of teaching from the Scriptures.
Not only that, Oates describes how - a soon a the day's translation work
was completed - Sisia went out to the other villagers and started to
proclaim the equality of men and women to them also.

Needless to say this was not immediately received with much rejoicing -
but it was not only accepted but lead, eventually, to a radical change
in many of the villager's attitudes. In particular, they gave up their
old practice of forcing women to leave the village in order to give
birth. Quite a shocking reversal of tribal tradition.

And the point of all this...

Is that, unlike most Westerners, the Bianumarien understood that the
really important issues in Genesis are not historical, but theological
and they read the text on that level.

Of course, they don't have to process the scientific issue as we in the
West do - so they're at the advantage that they *can* focus on the
theology rather than the history - but I still think that there would be
some advantage for us in remembering that Scripture is always first a
theological document albeit sometimes dressed in "historical" garb. That
might serve to allow us to redirect some of the energy spent arguing
over evolution in more constructive directions.


> Hash: SHA1
> Murray Hogg wrote:
>> Hi Iain,
>> I found the below to be very interesting indeed.
>> Your facebook page (and e-mail!) tells me you're in Indonesia, so I'm
>> wondering (most importantly) did you escape the recent earthquakes
>> unscathed? I hope your family, friends, and colleagues are all okay if,
>> indeed, you're in the quake zone.
> Hi Murray. Thanks, yes, I have been in Indonesia some 24 years now. And
> yes, we are all safe. I have no family in the area affected although we
> did have a strong quake close to home but no damage to us.
>> Other than that, can I ask what people group you're working among? Where
>> in Indon are they? And are the predominantly Christian, Muslim, or
>> other? And, if Christian (or Muslim), do they follow the usual practice
>> of maintaining their origins stories alongside their Biblical/Koranic
>> understanding?
> I am in the "lost" province of papua so we are working mostly with
> Papuans. However, demographics indicate that probably at least 1/2 the
> people we work with in the urban areas are non-Papuans (read: Asians).
> Papua is majority Christian and Animistic but since Indonesia is islamic
> we also have a lot of work with people of the Muslim faith.
> The Papuans who are mostly Christian still maintain very strong links to
> their cultures and beliefs. It is quite fascinating because their is a
> duality going on that would disturb a western socratic logic-process but
> is quite acceptable to them.
> Of course cultural changes and upheavals mean that much will be and is
> being lost.
> What is striking is how often Papuans have told me how they relate so
> much better to the OT (as opposed to the NT) because culturally they see
> many similarities. Also, the interaction of the spirit world on the
> physical world as depicted in the OT is very much in line with their
> beliefs. As a random example, when my father related the story of Jacob
> wrestling with the angel, they responded quite matter of factly because
> they too (apparently) had spirit creatures visit their huts, choose a
> man, and wrestle him till dawn.
>> I see your with the Clinton Foundation - so you're engaged in some sort
>> of social development work?
> Yup, I have been working in the NGO field ever since I left Uni, first
> in the private sector and now in the public. Our work is centred on
> HIV/AIDS treatment, supply chain management etc etc. Very very scary stuff,
>> Feel free to answer off-list if you don't want to air your laundry in
>> public!
> Nice to meet you btw :)
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Received on Fri Nov 27 14:49:43 2009

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