10. From the Garden of Eden to Canaan via Harry Potter

According to both fundamentalist and critical scholars, God was such an idiot that first he called Abraham from Ur of Chaldea to Canaan because he wanted to replace the evil Canaanites with the descendants of Abraham who could only be saints, then brought a great famine over the world just to force Joseph’s brothers to bow down to his feet so that all the descendants of Abraham ended up slaves in Egypt, and God did all that in order to prove his mighty power by bringing the Israelites out of Egypt. Of course, the Israelites could have ended up being the upper class in Egypt just as they are in most countries today, but then what opportunity would God have had to use his mighty power? Since God has nothing to do with so much power, why not enslave your favorites to create some opportunities to use your power just to have some fun and not die of boredom? Since according to this view it would be so boring for God not to do anything with that mighty power, he decided that the Egyptians should turn the Israelites into slaves as an appreciation for the fact that Joseph saved them from starvation by depriving them of everything they had and turned them into slaves in order to use his mighty power to prove that he can bring the Israelites out of Egypt:

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them (Exod 1:8‑14).

Who says that this biblical God does not know how to bless his favorites? Now God is back to square one and has to come up with another Abraham to take his descendants from another Garden of Eden back to Canaan.

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9.The Fights of the Lord and the Fights of the Ladies

Since Lot chose the wrong lot and Abraham chose the right one, God promised not only that Abraham’s descendants would enjoy that good lot that he chose, but the whole world would be blessed with the same lot so that today we should not see any more of Lot’s choice in the world but only Abrahams and the people like him, right? After so many thousands of years, is it not about time for God to fulfill his promise to Abraham? The obvious question that an ancient reader would have asked at this point is: How come that Lot’s descendants are seen everywhere and Abrahams are nowhere to be found and those who claim to be descendants of Abraham are perfect clones of Lot and have no resemblance to Abraham at all? Yes, Lot’s descendants may have changed their clubs into nuclear bombs and the greatest killers claim Abraham as their ancestor and his faith as their belief, but except the magnitude of the killing, nothing has changed. That Abraham failed in his dream to establish a different kind of world so that the world is just as full of evil as it has been since Cain killed his brother was a fact that no intelligent reader would fail to recognize and the author of Genesis, who was writing for intelligent readers, wanted to explain why the world has always been the way it is no matter when and where you happen to live in it. That Abraham failed to create descendants in his own image is what any intelligent reader would have wanted the author of Genesis to explain and in what follows everything must revolve around the answer to this question. True, Abraham may have been an unique individual in dealing with Lot, by befriending the Amorites and by his mediation for Sodom, but does it mean that he was such an ideal individual in everything he did and particularly in making sure that he not only would have many descendants, but his descendants would be copycats of him? Do the following stories try to prove how Abraham was consistently an outstanding individual who lived in stark contrast with his contemporaries – and particularly his modern civilized descendants – or did he fail in his whole enterprise and how that failure is explained? This is what an ancient reader would have expected the author of Genesis to explain in what follows and this is what we ourselves should look for when reading these stories. As any reader would expect, the ending of Lot’s story is followed by the continuation of Abraham’s story…

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8. The Lot of Abraham and the Lot of Lot

Probably no reasonable person would question not only that the world is full of evil, but that the greatest perpetrators of evil are precisely the most civilized, and especially the Christians, whose central belief is to save the world from evil and dream of living in an evil-free world. The pervasiveness of evil is even more disturbing as the advances in technology not only has not diminished the suffering, but is actually the very source of the greatest human tragedies. What is even more disturbing is that the ones who cause the greatest sufferings are the very ones who claim to be the wisest and the greatest champions of fighting evil. For evil to be able to function on such a large scale, any person with a modicum of common sense would conclude that evil must be mightily organized on a universal scale by some Great Architect of Evil who is able to control the world by fooling people into believing that by their participation in such a demonic scheme they would elevate themselves above ordinary people simply by claiming to have received some light that no one else can see. Although to suppose that such a conspiracy of evil has always been able to exist in history and particularly today when the world seems to be so full of knowledge may be hard to imagine by those who like to think that human societies are just free and people are allowed to do what they just believe is right, the reality of the pervasiveness of evil – that no one can deny can only be explained if evil is organized as the story about the Tower of Babel describes and was explained in the previous article. If one cannot avoid the conclusion that evil must be organized as that story describes, then the obvious question that a reader of Genesis would expect to find explained next after reading the story about the Tower of Babel is: What is God’s answer to the problem?

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7. The Tower of Evil

Probably no ancient reader would have questioned that it would be irrational for God to use the scenario of a universal flood and destroy all vegetation and animals just to eliminate the bad people, but some would have argued that such a scenario, no matter how irrational, at least would have solved the problem of evil and established an evil-free society forever. Although the writer has included in the story plenty of reality blockers to make clear that such a scenario is impossible to imagine in the real world, has to take the challenge seriously and show that even if God miraculously did find one single individual who was blameless and used his power to obliterate everything and everyone else through a cataclysm, that would not guarantee an evil-free world because evil can be introduced again in the world even by people who had lived for 600 years and had never done anything wrong. After the flood was over, the repopulation of the world is prefaced with the following introduction: “Noah, a man of the soil [hfmfdA)fh $yi)ax, ha’îš hā’ădāmâ], was the first to plant a vineyard” (Gen 9:20). An ancient reader would have seen this description of Noah as a glaring reference to Adam, who was not only made of soil/ădāmâ ‑ and that was the reason he was called Adam ‑ but was the one who started to cultivate the fields for the first time to obtain his own food after having been expelled from the Garden of Eden when God told him: “You shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread” (Gen 3:18‑19). What is new about Noah as the new Adam is not that he started to cultivate grapes as food taking into account that grapes are rich in both nutrients and fluid that are in the juice ‑ both ingredients vital for the human body ‑ but that he used the grapes not as food, but to produce alcohol. What is unique about alcohol is not only that it has no nutritional value, but is perceived by the body as a toxin and therefore the body tries to eliminate it as quickly as possible and that is the reason people who drink alcohol feel the need to urinate abundantly because the body tries to eliminate as much fluids from the body in order to flush the toxin. The most important impact of using alcohol is not, however, on the human body, but on the human mind because it deprives humans of the very rationality that they attained by eating from the tree of knowledge, and this is suggested though a behavior of Noah that no one familiar with Genesis would have missed: “He drank some of the wine and became drunk, and he lay uncovered in his tent” (Gen 9:21). We have here a blatant reversal: While Eve and Adam had lived naked without feeling any shame, after eating from the tree of knowledge they decided that it was wrong for them to have their private parts exposed and developed shame; now Noah, used another fruit, but instead of eating it, he turned it into something that he could drink, and the new product, instead of opening his mind as the fruit of knowledge had done for Eve, it closed the mind completely so that Noah was no longer aware of what he was doing. The tent was the place where the whole family lived and where no member of the family was expected to be naked not only during the day, but even at night, therefore what happened next should come as no surprise: “And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside” (Gen 9:22). We do not know why Ham came into the tent but since Noah had not put a sign at the entrance that he was naked inside, whether Ham came into the tent to take a nap or for some other reason, was shocked to see his father naked and no doubt told his older and younger brothers about the condition of their father to warn them not to go into the tent and see what he had seen. And at this point both fundamentalists and scholars start to roll their eyes that what the text says is that Ham was evil because he not only did not refuse to look at his father naked, but actually enjoyed seeing him, and enjoyed it so much that he even went to tell his brothers how much he liked to see his father in that condition instead of doing what his brothers did, that is, they took a garment and going backwards to avoid seeing Noah naked, covered him, and that proves that Shem and Japheth were good while Ham was evil. As we have seen too often, both fundamentalists and critical scholars show complete lack of common sense when reading the Bible: Shem and Japheth were able to go into the tent backwards and use a garment to cover their father in order to avoid seeing him naked after they had been warned – and one may wonder how did they know where in the tent their father was without looking at him unless Ham had told them ‑ but how could Ham have done the same since he had no idea what was in the tent when he entered? And that he enjoyed seeing his father naked and that he told his brothers laughing is just pure fantasy because there is no hint in the text about that. Critical scholars, however, go beyond fundamentalists who imagine that Ham just enjoyed seeing his father naked, and they claim that Ham actually took advantage of his father and had homosexual sex with him. What both fundamentalists and scholars forget when they read the Bible is that regardless whether the people enjoy pornography or engage in illicit sexual behaviors, they never brag about what they do privately. If Ham did tell his brothers what he had seen, the only reason could have been to warn them not to enter the tent unaware of what they might see as he had done, and the fact that the other brothers decided to cover their father as they did proves that that is the way they understood the reason Ham had told them about what he had discovered. That there was anything evil or criminal in what Ham did only minds completely deprived of any common sense can imagine. Therefore, while there is nothing irrational or evil about what Ham did, what is irrational is what happened next: “When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, ‘Cursed be Canaan; lowest of slaves shall he be to his brothers.’ He also said, ‘Blessed by the LORD my God be Shem; and let Canaan be his slave. May God make space for Japheth, and let him live in the tents of Shem; and let Canaan be his slave’” (Gen 9:24‑27). If Noah learned what Ham “had done to him,” it could only have been because Shem and Japheth told him, and although we do not know why they told Noah about the incident, there is no reason to suppose evil intentions on their part either but rather that they wanted to alert their father about his irrational behavior as a result of drinking alcohol so that he should not do it again in the future. Although apparently Noah was no longer drunk when he was told about what had happened and one would have expected him to regain his rationality by taking responsibility for his behavior, to blame himself, and decide not to do it again in the future, he decides to blame Ham’s son, Canaan, and curse him, although there is no evidence that Ham had even told his son about the incident, or that Canaan was even aware of what had happened. Can anyone imagine anything more outrageous?

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6. Demythologizing Mythology

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The prevailing understanding among critical scholars is that Genesis is made up of stories that are parochial versions of popular mythological stories and what they consider to be the unquestionable proof is the story about Noah and the flood that supposedly was copied from the ancient story about Gilgamesh. Moreover, scholars claim that what characterizes all these ancient stories is that they were written by people who had mythical minds and what they wrote had no relationship to the world as we know it. The article analyses these ancient stories and finds out that the reason modern scholars cannot make any sense of these stories is because they are handicapped by the concept of objective reality so that they interpret all the images used by ancient authors as descriptions of a world that they imagined and had no relationship to the world in which they lived. Scholars claim that the reason ancient writers were unable to provide descriptions of the world in which they lived that made sense is because they had a different kind of mind than that of modern people, mind that they call mythical and is radically different from their own that they call scientific. As a result of this study, those supposed mythical minds that ancient people had turns out to be a myth in itself, but one created by the scholars themselves due to their inability to read ancient texts, and debunking this myth is meant by demythologizing mythology. Therefore, ancient stories not only were not written by idiots who were unable to describe the world in which they lived, but were masterpieces that not only accurately described the problems that ancient societies faced, but those problems are to a greater extent present today. Although traditional understandings of mythological stories are fascinated with great heroes such as Herakles/Hercules, Achilles, Odysseus/Ulises, Hector, Paris, Aeneas, Gilgamesh, and so on, when read with the proper concepts and methodology developed for these studies, they make clear that violence has always led to the collapse of all ancient societies and civilizations and they do not see or offer any solution to the problem of violence and evil. As the story about Gilgamesh and about Noah prove, the biblical writers not only were aware of the mythological stories that were popular at their time, but unlike those stories that only accurately described the problems that human societies from all times faced without offering any solution, the Bible is the only book that offers a radical and revolutionary solution to the problem of evil.

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5. Reasoned Reality of Good And Reasoned Reality of Power

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Once evil entered the world through the murder of Abel by his brother Cain, humanity developed in two directions: one in which relationships among humans were based on power and violence and another one in which humans used the rationality that was the image of God in humans in order to choose good and reject evil. The two developments are presented by Genesis through the concept of genealogy through which the reasoned reality used by each model of society is passed down by parents to their children and in this way the reasoned reality is perpetuated. As a result, we have on the one hand the genealogy initiated by Cain in which his descendants adopted his violent mentality building cities and developing metallurgy in order to manufacture weapons, a genealogy that lasts only three or four generations in which a descendant of Cain, Lamech, kills his ancestor and then makes the prediction that he himself is going to be killed so that after him the genealogy no longer lists any descendant of Cain. On the other hand, we have another genealogy established by another son of Adam and Eve, Seth, about whom we are told that he was born in the image of his father about whom we know that God had created in his own image implying that he used the rationality with which God had endowed humans to distinguish between good and evil in order to choose what is good and reject what id evil. What characterizes the individuals in this genealogy is extremely long lives and not only that none of them dies young as a result of a violent death, but about Enoch we are told that he walked with God and even was claimed by God implying that this genealogy represents the kind of society and of human relationships that God intended for humans to follow at all times. What is surprising, is that Seth’s genealogy ends with a descendant whose name is also Lamech, a name that can only mean “towards downfall.” Consequently, the world ends up being full of violence and evil, and this surprising development is explained by the fact that men who were descendants of Seth who is described as being the son of God as a result of the fact that the was the son of Adam who had been created in the image of God, married women who were descendants of Cain and were available because the males were decimated as a result of the spiral of violence through killing and revenge. Since children were brought up and educated by their mothers and not by their fathers, they themselves became obsessed with killing and developing great physical strength so that they became the great heroes and killers that humanity has always been fascinated with. Once an explanation is provided why the world is full of violence and evil, since the world had been created by God, the expectation is not only that it is God’s responsibility to purge the world of all evil, but since he created the natural world, he must use a natural calamity such as a flood to eliminate all evil and create an evil-free world from scratch. Since God has always been blamed for tolerating evil by not purging it through natural disasters, God accepts the challenge in order to provide a rational solution to the problem of evil.

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4. The Irrationality of Sin

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Contrary to traditional interpretations according to which eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil was some “original” sin that brought all kinds of evils in the world, Genesis is quite explicit that the very first sin was not committed by Adam and Eve but by their first son, Cain, when he killed his own brother Abel for no reason. Although God made clear that he intended humans to multiply and populate the whole earth when he had planned their creation in the first chapter of Genesis, Adam and Eve had their first children only after they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil and were expelled from the garden of Eden. While all languages use euphemisms for sexual intercourse, what is interesting – and probably unique – about the Bible is that it uses the word “to know,” implying that sexual intercourse with the purpose and the awareness of having children is also the result of eating from the tree of knowledge. As a result of knowledge, humans not only have children, but the children develop skills so that Cain learns how to cultivate fields and Abel learns how to raise animals so that humans no longer depend for their food on what grows naturally as all other animals do, but are able to provide their own needs. Humans not only are able to provide their own needs, but they can provide way beyond their needs, and this ability is powerfully conveyed through a practice that humans adopted and is without any parallel in the animal world, that is, to offer sacrifices to a deity by which they basically destroy through fire some of the best that they produce. While in paganism gods always demand sacrifices and never reject any, what is again unique about the Bible is that God rejects Cain’s sacrifice. Although no reason is provided as to why God was displeased with Cain’s sacrifice, taking into account that sacrifices in the Bible are family meals in which the firstborn acts as an officiant, it would have been reasonable for Cain to conclude that God expected the two brothers not only to bring sacrifices together, but also to share what they produced since an abundant diet for humans includes both vegetable as well as dairy products. That is precisely the purpose of reasoned reality, that is, to enable humans to cooperate and therefore to vastly improve their productivity and enrich their lives. Instead of using his rationality to understand what God tried to teach him, Cain decides to kill his brother. In order to prevent the murder, God confronted Cain and explained to him that murder is a sin that for the first time would enter the word, and after Cain still went ahead and killed his brother and God confronted him again about what he had done, Cain could not provide any rational justification for this first sin, implying that sin is whatever humans do and cannot be justified rationally. Therefore, Cain and his descendants are credited with creating the violent societies that humanity has always known, with weapons, city walls for defenses, and violence that have no rational justification in human societies.

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3. Reasoned Reality in the Garden of Eden

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After humans were created in the second chapter of Genesis, the next chapter describes life in what is known as the garden of Eden. Contrary to traditional interpretations of this story, life in the garden of Eden is not viewed as an ideal that humans lost as a result of upsetting the deity, but rather a life that is very similar to that of any animal that lives on the resources that are naturally available without the ability to use the environment to create their own needs and to supply them. The reason animals cannot develop means to supply their own needs is because they are not endowed with the creativity that is the image of God, ability that only humans are endowed with. In spite of the fact that humans are created with the ability to think and create what is not naturally available in their environment, the exercise of the thinking and of that creativity has to be a self-initiated activity and not a natural function such as breathing, eating, and so on. The moment when humans exercised for the first time their ability to think is described through the story about eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Although humans are informed by God about the presence of such a tree in the garden and the risks that they would take if they decided to eat from it, God does not inform them about what is the purpose of that tree and they never wondered or asked questions. The first human who obviously wondered what was the purpose of that tree was the woman who came to examine that tree when a serpent informed her that the purpose of the tree was to enable humans to understand the difference between good and evil and therefore become like God from this point of view. Since any thinking process involves choosing between alternatives, Eve had to decide whether risking to die was a price worth paying for the privilege of knowing the difference between good and evil, and she decided that the price was worth paying so that she unhesitatingly not only ate from the tree, but even offered a fruit to her husband. As a result of exercising the ability to think that is key to any creative activity, humans decided to create something that God had not done and there was no objective need for it, that is, to create aprons made from sewn fig leaves to cover their private parts. Therefore, the Bible uses shame and covering the private parts as the first example of what I called reasoned reality. As a result of acquiring the ability to distinguish between good an evil, Adam and Eve have to be expelled from the garden of Eden because such places are ruled by power and the fear of death for which serpents have always been universal symbols and where developing knowledge and making discoveries have always been the most serious crimes. It is for this reason that Jesus uses the eating from the tree in the garden of Eden as a setting for the communion meal before being taken himself from the garden of Gethsemane to be crucified. The reason Jesus had to be killed was because the garden of Eden represents societies in which the reasoned reality is based on power and the fear of death that cannot tolerate what is good while Jesus advocated a society in which the reasoned reality is based on service that promotes what is good for everyone. Since religion and temples have been the means by which reasoned reality is established, Jesus explicitly claimed that he rejected the traditional reasoned reality and advocated a different one by asking for the temple to be destroyed so that he would build a new one.

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2. Reality Blockers, Sexual Language, and Reasoned Reality

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In order to show that the concepts developed in the previous section are not just products of imagination, the ancient biblical story about Sodom as well as modern uses of sexual language are analyzed. According to traditional understanding, when some foreigners came to visit Lot and all the inhabitants of Sodom gathered and demanded that the foreigners be brought out so that they may “know” them, since the word “to know” is frequently used in the Bible as a euphemism for sexual intercourse, the request of the Sodomites is taken as proof not only of their sexual interests, but also as proof of their sexual orientation. This understanding is surprising taking into account that sexual language is used in all languages and cultures to suggest violence and not sexual interests, but what is even more surprising is that the story about Sodom includes details that act as powerful reality blockers that makes it impossible to understand that the inhabitants of the city contemplated actual homosexual intercourse with those foreigners, such as the fact that not only the males were present on this occasion, but also al the residents, from the youngest to the oldest, which would include women who could not have had homosexual intercourse with some foreigners who are presented as men. Therefore, the story is not about the supposed universal homosexuality of the residents of Sodom, but rather about the xenophobia that has characterized all civilizations including those of modern Americans and Europeans. Although the use of sexual language to express violence in this biblical story is surprisingly misunderstood even by scholars in spite of their expert training in interpreting texts, when similar language is used in swear words  is never misunderstood even by ordinary people as expressing violence although no explicit reality blocker is present. The reason sexual language can be used to express violence without presenting a reality blocker is because sexual activity is private while violence is regularly public and therefore, when sexual language is used in public, since it cannot express sexual interests, it can only mean violence, particularly when it happens during a match on a soccer field in front of tens of thousands of spectators. While the use of sexual language to express violence is read to mean homosexuality in the story about Sodom, interpreting any description that refers to sex as violence against women in the Bible has become a universal methodological procedure by what is called feminist scholarship. As an example, the story about the ritual used to cure the jealousy of a husband who suspects his wife of having been unfaithful is presented. This confusion between the double function of sexual language to refer both to the objective reality of sex as well as the reasoned reality of violence is at the root of the confusion between sex and gender. Because ancient people understood reality as being of two kinds, that is, both natural or objective as well as created by humans or reasoned, taking into account that Genesis wants to provide an account of how the world as we know it came into existence, in the first chapter presents how God created the natural world, and in the second chapter God creates human beings equipped with the same ability to create by having the image of God that consists in the ability to create things using the same rationality that God used when he himself created the natural world. As a result, we are living in a double world: on the one hand, we live in a natural world that God created and no one can tell that there is anything wrong with it, and on the other, in a reasoned world created by humans where humans suffer the consequences of many things that they create for the wrong reasons because they do not follow consistently the pattern that God presented as a model in the first chapter when created the natural world.

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1. Reality, Language, and Reality Blockers

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According to traditional belief, there is a direct relationship between language and reality understood as objective reality so that language must describe objective reality so that all words must be traced back to objective reality in order to be properly understood. Using the value of real estate as an example, the article shows that there are entities in the world that are as real as anything else, entities that belong to the objective reality but are not objective in the sense that they are independent of the decisions of human subjects. Since there is no concept to describe such reality, the author introduces the concept of reasoned reality in order to point out that while such entities are as real as anything that belongs to objective reality, their existence is decided and shaped by human subjects based on some reasons that they choose. Once the concept of reality is expanded, texts can no longer be viewed as describing only objective reality, but reasoned reality as well so that readers, in order to properly understand a text, they have to pay attention to the details in the text not only to decide whether objective or reasoned reality are intended, but also to understand how reasoned reality is construed by the text. Since ancient writers understood that language can describe both realities, in order to help readers not confuse objective reality with reasoned reality when reasoned reality is intended, they developed a literary device that the article labels reality blocker and is defined as details in the story that make it impossible for the reader to imagine that what is described can happen in objective reality, and in order to illustrate the concept, the article uses two stories, the sacrifice of Isaac from Genesis, and the riding of a donkey by Jesus as he entered Jerusalem on his final week before he was crucified. In analyzing the Genesis story, the article points out details in the story that clearly depart from how things regularly happened at the time so that the reality described by the text departs from the objective or historical reality and is called reality within the text. Another interesting detail in the Genesis story regularly overlooked by both lay reads as well as scholars is that at the end of the story Abraham retrieves his slaves on his way back home but leaves the donkey behind, another departure of the reality within the story from how things regularly happened in the objective reality. The detail about the abandoned donkey in the Abraham story becomes significant as the story about Jesus’ final entrance in Jerusalem – known as The Passions Narrative – begins with the detail of Jesus finding a donkey that he rode as he came to the place where he would be crucified. That the donkey is not mentioned in order to describe how Jesus objectively travelled at that time is suggested by the fact that all gospel writers include a detail that would have made it impossible for Jesus to physically ride donkeys, such as that the donkey was young and untrained for riding or that it was even accompanied by its mother and Jesus actually rode both donkeys at the same time. Such details in the story are called reality blockers because they are intended to alert the reader that what is described in the story is not an objective event – such as riding a donkey for traveling – but rather a reference to another story that describes a similar event, that is, the intended sacrifice by Abraham that was eventually aborted but was carried out to its fulfillment by Jesus when he was crucified.

The concept of reality blocker is not found only in ancient stories, but even in modern day languages, although such reality blockers are implied rather than explicit, and the article uses as an example the sexual language used in all cultures to express violence. The inability of modern readers and even scholars to distinguish between objective reality and reasoned reality has led to the notorious confusion between sex and gender.

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