Exclusive sneak peek at Ch. 19 from The Book of Genesis Illustrated, by R. Crumb

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The publisher of R. Crumb's The Book of Genesis Illustrated kindly gave permission to share Chapter 19 with our readers. Click on the thumbnails for an enlargement. Enjoy!

I understand the book will start shipping as soon as September 23rd.

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From Genesis: Translation and Commentary, translated by Robert Alter. Copyright © 1996 by Robert Alter. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. Copyright © 2009 by Robert Crumb

56

  1. That chapter always creeped me out. “Dude, you can’t hurt these strangers I just met, we’re having dinner! Here, gang-rape my virgin daughters instead.”

  2. Me too, Brainspore. That Lot was a scumbag by our standards. But of course, by the women-are-property standards of the time, he was virtuously giving up his most prized possessions to save the actual people, that is the men.

    Why do we listen to ANYTHING such people (the ones who thought Lot was virtuous) had to say? It really seems like a good reason for rejecting their whole book.

    Anon. 5: Yeah, except these are drawn by an actual artist.

  3. The Sodomites’ faces, p.2 panel 4. Simply fantastic.

    I’m also really digging Crumb’s renderings of ancient Semitic architecture and fashion.

  4. I so love Crumb. Is this a re-release? It sure looks familiar. R.Crumb put out an album many moons ago too, anybody know where to get a copy? Artist, musician, anything else?

  5. Lots of interesting stuff about the old testement can be found in the “Blogging the Bible” series in Slate magazine, where the author decided to actually read through it and describe what’s there. Surprising amounts of violence and depravity to be found throughout.

  6. #14, I think it’s pretty obvious that he has married daughters (who live with their husbands), and unmarried daughters who live with him.

  7. Why don’t I ever get a welcoming committee of hot Chaldean dudes when I blow into some dusty village? My life sucks.

  8. #19-Obdan-
    It means God does not condone consensual sex between same-sex partners, but he DOES consent to the rape of women/children, AND he approves of incest.
    …so glad to be under his protection…

  9. Eti, I was wondering if anyone would notice that!!!

    Seriously, though, the art in Jack Chick tracts is as crappy as the theology.

  10. It has never occurred to me before, as I’d always applied my modern perspective to Lot offering his daughters, thus abhorring that offer, but reading the graphic version, I wondered if Lot knew the Sodomites would refuse his daughters, as they only wanted to know other males. Tying this to the “women as property POV” mentioned in a comment above, you could paint Sodomites as zealots: they only wanted to know “People”, aka men, and not “Property”. Of course, the description of Sodom tends to suggest that they weren’t exactly holier-than-thou, shooting that idea to pieces, but it was an amusing thought for the milliseconds it occupied my mind.

  11. Lots wife turns to a pillar of salt a little further in the story. A recurring theme in the Torah/Bible is the treatment of guests. They should be treated well and protected. Lot offers his daughters as a means of protecting his guests. Sure, that’s WAY over the top, but let’s not forget that the two guests he was protecting were angels or some kind of divine messengers from God. How often do you have company like that in your home? It could be argued that offered them because it was better that his own daughters were raped than to have guests in his house be dishonored.

    I’m no theologian. I’m agnostic. But I don’t think the big religious books were meant to be cut and dry or always literal. I think we’re SUPPOSED to struggle with, debate, and discuss the content stories like these.

  12. The phrase “to come under my roof beam” signifies special protection, and is still a huge deal in areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. A guest is considered to be a responsibility from God, and you will feed and shelter him, and protect him at the expense of going hungry, without sleep, or even risking your own life. Not that long ago here was an American Special Ops guy who was saved by a local Afghani by “coming under his roof.”

    from http://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/196502/manners.in.the.middle.east.htm
    “Among the famous incidents in Arab folklore is that of a man who took refuge, unwittingly, in the tent of a shaikh whose son he had just killed. Even under these circumstances the sacred law of protection was observed.”

    I read it as Lot, under stress with no time to think, doing what he thought he should in a bad situation. The text doesn’t say the Lord told him to offer his daughters. The messengers took matters into their own hands before it came to that.

    All these snarky comments are clever, but they say more about the typical western ignorance of the commenters than the deficiencies of the culture described. You cannot read ancient texts without getting into the mindset of that culture and hope to make sense of it.

  13. Yeah, I could be mistaken, but I don’t recall any point in the Bible where Lot is held up as a model of good conduct. Sure, he was saved from the destruction because he didn’t practice the SPECIFIC offense that the rest of the town was torched for, but I think the Bible is pretty neutral, reportorial in describing him otherwise.

    Actually, he was earlier shown to be a bit of a jerk when he started arguing with Abraham over where he could water his sheep. Abe (the older brother) had to be the big man and give in in order to keep the peace.

    So to say that “God…DOES consent to the rape of women/children, AND he approves of incest.” might be a bit far fetched.

  14. C’mon, Xopher, don’t be so hard on ol’ Jack Chick. His creepy style had one thing going for it if nothing else – by making mainstream protestant beliefs look like an apocalyptic cult, it probably innoculated as many people as it persuaded…

  15. Anon 30: You cannot read ancient texts without getting into the mindset of that culture and hope to make sense of it.

    Two things about that: One, it’s pretty clear that the sin of Sodom was their violation of the law of hospitality in their intended abuse of the foreign visitors, something present-day anti-Immigration activists should consider—the dirty Sodomites!

    Two, the mindset of that ancient culture, friend Anon, is so repellent to me that if I fail to understand it I regard that as a virtue. I do understand that at that time his behavior was considered proper; that, to me, means that the standards of that time are not relevant to our ethics today, and should in no way be used to justify any modern judgement.

    Shelby 31: I don’t recall any point in the Bible where Lot is held up as a model of good conduct.

    Well, he’s clearly judged “righteous” by God, in a town where there weren’t nine others who had that distinction. And this isn’t a culture that does such things by degrees; you can’t be “mostly righteous.” That means all his conduct was condoned because the book never says “and God turned His face from him” or anything else to indicate that Lot has left the path of righteousness.

    Eustace 32, Jack Chick was in no way representative of mainstream protestant beliefs. Yes, a lot of people believe that anyone who doesn’t “accept Christ” is going to Hell, but only the most extreme wacko-Christianists believe that Roman Catholic monks and nuns are having Satanic orgies in the tunnels that connect the monasteries and convents, which tunnels are filled with the bones of murdered babies. I saw that in a Jack Chick pamphlet in the 70s. Jack Chick is a total wacko and an evil, evil person; I don’t think it’s possible to be too hard on him.

  16. @xopher

    I get that. It is a foreign concept to people who are more than 1000 years away from the need of such a custom.

    I’m certainly not arguing in favor of establishing old testament values as a norm for modern day life. In that day, when your clan was the only social security you had and outsiders could not be trusted to behave, the law of hospitality was necessary to maintain any kind of trade activity. It was a crucial cog in the machinery of advancing civilization. I would also find such behavior objectionable in today’s society. Fundamentalists end up tying themselves in knots about what laws they deem “in force” and those which have been surpassed.

    I get bugged when I see this kind of temporal arrogance displayed, that because people were born before us they were somehow dumb or ignorant. What we enjoy as a modern society is the result of generations building upon the understanding of those who preceded them, and in spite of the many backward tendencies of conservative Christians, much of what we enjoy as a society derives from the values transmitted through the scriptures (specifically the value of women apart from their role as daughters or wives or the concept of the individual). I understand that they don’t float everyone’s boat, but to simply mock them because we don’t agree with them strikes me as supremely ignorant—like mocking the floor we stand on.

    all the best,
    “anon 30”

  17. Xopher wrote: Well, [Lot was] clearly judged “righteous” by God,

    Not at all. Escaping the destruction had nothing to do with being righteous. Surely you don’t suggest that Lot just happened to be married to, and the father of, the other three righteous people in Sodom? And what about his sons-in-law, who were also offered the chance to leave Sodom? Were they righteous? They were destroyed.

    I think it’s clear that Lot’s family survived because of their association with him. The text doesn’t call any of them righteous and apart from Lot’s gesture of hospitality we don’t see any of them behaving in an especially righteous way. The bit where Lot gets drunk and sleeps with his daughters is a huge neon sign indicating that they were not role models. So why were they saved? I think it’s just an example of the family thing: Lot was Abraham’s nephew, so he got a pass; Lot’s relatives got passes as well. Later on in the Bible the Israelites are told not to attack the tribe of Moab. Why? Because they’re descendants of Lot. In other words, they’re family.

  18. @anon 30

    Being repelled by the behavior of ancient cultures is hardly the same as saying they were dumb. That they were ignorant I think we can take on faith, if you’ll pardon the expression, as they were absent the intervening years of accumulated knowledge.

    Some of the practices of our ancestors we keep, like hospitality to strangers. We see them as positive and celebrate them, even if we don’t always practice them.

    Others, not so much.

    Mocking something that is abhorrent seems a pretty mild reaction, even if it is in the dirt we stand on. Offering up your daughters for rape may well have been seen as a noble sacrifice back in the day, as were other cultural practices considered holy by our ancestors, like child sacrifice in Carthage or human sacrifice in Mesoamerica. Mocking such practices seems the least we can do.

    I’m sorry if that bugs you.

  19. Read Harold Bloom. “The Book of J.” Interesting and thought-provoking, a good read, and containing new translations of Genesis along with copious amounts of interpretation. Bloom is not a whacko and has a very interesting take on the Hebrew Bible, his other books are also excellent (“Jesus and Yahweh” is a favorite of mine).

  20. @danlanlan

    I’m enough of a curmudgeon to be fine with being bugged. Heck, sometimes I enjoy it! You make valid points. IMHO, a better response would be gratitude for what we enjoy. I don’t object to calling the practices you mention barbaric and horrible. My objection is to the presumed superiority I often see expressed by people too ignorant of history to appreciate how we got here. Failure to understand the architecture of our civilization can lead to a failure in maintaining it.

    Do you feel that it is okay to mock abhorrent practices by existing cultures? (like female circumcision) Multiculturalists tell us that no culture is inherently better than another. Personally, I think they are full of crap. How would you keep the dignity of another human and confront destructive customs?

    regards,
    anon30

  21. Lot was judged righteous by his faith, not by his acts. He nominally associated himself with Abraham’s God, which was enough for God to send his angels to rescue him from destruction. Obviously, his acts are abhorrent.

    The story of the Bible is that everybody is full of sin and needs salvation, and that God goes out of his way to save even the worst sinners. It’s not a practical guide to moral living, as anybody who has read Christ’s commands from the Sermon on the Mount should know: “Be Perfect.”

  22. You cannot read ancient texts without getting into the mindset of that culture and hope to make sense of it.

    Shit, most people won’t do that for a hundred years ago; or even fifty.

    In a whiny voice: I wanna read something I can relate to.

  23. Thank you, Anon 42, that is what I wanted to say but didn’t because I didn’t think I could be that concise!

  24. @anon 30

    Do you feel that it is okay to mock abhorrent practices by existing cultures? (like female circumcision) Multiculturalists tell us that no culture is inherently better than another. Personally, I think they are full of crap. How would you keep the dignity of another human and confront destructive customs?

    LOL

    Sure you don’t want to know something simpler, like how life began?

    That is a BIG question, isn’t it? Like a book topic rather than a chat topic. But I’ll give it a go.

    First, we need to make sure we are talking about the same thing. There are a number of definitions of culture around, so I’m going to give a working definition: (please don’t beat me up if you disagree with this, I’m just trying to give us some common ground)
    Human Culture is everything about human beings that is not innate. This includes, but is not limited to religions, morals, dress, food, entertainment, language, tools and lifeways. Culture has a kind of meta-existence in that while culture would disappear if humanity did, it exists independently of any individual or sub-group within the culture.

    I would argue that in the modern world there is only one worldwide culture with a very large number of sub-cultures (with the possible exception of completely isolated groups in places like the Amazon or New Guinea). I say this because the advent of modern communications has given us knowledge of what would have been in the past independent and isolated cultures, and has given them knowledge of us. That means that what people in Kenya or Myanmar or Nebraska or anyplace that we are in communication with do has an effect on the zeitgeist that informs the culture of each individual elsewhere. And it works in all directions simultaneously.

    In this sense it is meaningless to talk about one culture being superior to another. But it does not mean that we are all about to go out and sing kumbaya together, either. We are all part of a very large, really dysfunctional family. Literally. Like in a family we can poke fun at each other, but we have to be tolerant of each others weirdness or there will be fights. And there often are.

    If Uncle Fred wants to wear Mu-mus and shave his children bald, we may think it odd, but it is hardly our place to tell him he cannot do that, even if it makes us giggle. But if Uncle Fred decides he needs to flay his children for some perceived offense, we have a certain obligation to the children to stop this from happening.
    Uncle Fred’s relationship to his wife and adult associates is a bit different. Any arrangement that all enter into voluntarily we really cannot say much about, even if we think that it isn’t a good arrangement. But if Uncle Fred starts keeping slaves, the rest of us are under no obligation to let him do that.

    To try to answer your question, I would say that first of all, other sub-cultures are not alien cultures, and the prime directive does not apply. That in general we should let people live as they choose, but that basic human rights, like life and liberty, attach to the individual regardless of what local authority figures would say, and that if one person violates the basic human rights of another we have some obligation to try to remedy that situation. Merely mocking practices that violate basic human rights isn’t enough, IMO.

    Clearly, the realities of the world often limit our ability to act in situations where in an ideal world we could. But then again in an ideal world we wouldn’t need to act.

    Does this answer your question?

  25. Clearly, the realities of the world often limit our ability to act in situations where in an ideal world we could.

    I hope you got a good price for it dan.

  26. Can we at least agree the book of genesis and subsequent chapters in this book should NOT be read or taught as a TEXTBOOK?? (I refer to the “Answers in Genesis” lunacy).

  27. Human Culture is everything about human beings that is not innate. This includes, but is not limited to religions, morals, dress, food, entertainment, language, tools and lifeways. Culture has a kind of meta-existence in that while culture would disappear if humanity did, it exists independently of any individual or sub-group within the culture.

    This is really good. I might argue that language ability is innate, but it would be to no disquisitional purpose and would not affect your definition.

  28. @BUDDY66

    This is really good. I might argue that language ability is innate, but it would be to no disquisitional purpose and would not affect your definition.

    Language ability absolutely is innate, I was refering to the specific iteration of language spoken/written.

  29. all i can wonder at this is, why? i’ve had all the bible i want and way too much in my life. i have no interest in subjecting myself to more of it.

  30. I think the visceral repulsion that many express toward this story is not just a judgment of the mores of a society that existed thousands of years ago.

    It’s also a warning against the all-too-common idea in our society that the Bible is an unblemished compendium of positive moral guidance for today’s world.

    Pointing out the ugliness of Lot’s behavior is a way of challenging the idolatry of Biblical fundamentalists.

    There’s a great deal to like in the Bible, but also a lot (no pun intended) to dislike. Read this anthology of ancient texts with discernment, not blind obedience.

  31. I have a copy (I work for a book distributor, we got some advance copies). I haven’t read it completely through yet… but it is astonishing.

    And I think atheists will love it. Yes, it emphasizes biblical accuracy — Crumb is a non-believer, but he says he wanted to respect the book’s historical and cultural importance, so he treated it as a straight, word-for-word illustration job. But that doesn’t make it a Christian tract book. Quite the opposite. It brings the Bible’s violence and the nightmarish horror — and its deep weirdness — front and center, in vivid, unignorable detail.

    Many formerly- Christian atheists say that one of the most important steps on their journey to atheism was actually reading the Bible, and seeing that (a) it’s a horror show, and (b) it makes no sense. And we’re always asking believers to actually read the sacred texts of their beliefs, to find out if they actually believe all that stuff. A word- for- word graphic depiction of the Bible story should be right up our alley.

    For a sneak-peak/review I recommend: Link

  32. The Angels didn’t have beards – dammit! And how come one of the townspeople in Panel 3, Top Left, looks remarkably like Martin Landau?

    Looks good – I was planning to buy this book but wanted to make certain that all the women don’t have huge booties.

  33. I liked your mini-essay on culture, Dan. But it sounded a little like it was written from a dominant culture perspective. The notion of “basic civil rights” is culturally-constructed, just as clothing fashions are. Of course you know that, but there was that interesting bit where you spoke of stepping in to protect children from being flayed. But that’s only relevant when you have the right sort of force at your disposal.

    Pluralism is good policy not because there is no one true set of values (although there indeed isn’t), but rather because war is hell, and to stamp out other cultures that displease us requires war.

    Free speech, for instance, has been shaved back a bit, in the west, because some muslims go crazy at the idea of the Prophet depicted in cartoon form. It’s just less trouble to let them flay our rights a little.

  34. Wow, thanks for the sneak peek of the chapter.

    This post inspired me to buy the book. It’s a stunningly honest and daring illustration – a body of work really – that shows the good and bad within the story of Genesis.

    Full disclosure, I work for a Crumb licensee, Keep On Truckin’ Apparel – R. Crumb t-shirts printed on demand.

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