First, a response to brother El Borak's comments on Genesis, the Bible as a whole, and BS4A.
OK, here goes...
I'll start by repeating a point I've made elsewhere:
With the growing meme about putting the Bible into school curricula as “literature,” my "modern eyes" approach strikes me as eminently reasonable.
IMHO, if literature can’t stand on its own two feet, it becomes a mere historical artifact. It’s fine if you have to look up a word or forty in a superannuated text. I don’t mind having to look up “thane” to understand the Scottish play, because it remains a timeless, powerful narrative, rich with cautionary life lessons.
True Believers don't generally say to read the Bible and then just reflect on human foibles and potential; they say to trust that this book -- and not historical commentary about it -- is the inerrant guide to life.
Unlike Caesar's Gallic Wars, it is presented as much more than an artifact, but rather that it's God's instruction manual to the people he created.
I don't knock the urge to do scholarly research, and I invite those who have the time and inclination to do so to post comments about any important background they feel I've left out. However, I think reading the text as the text is a perfectly legitimate way to read it, especially given the rather exalted reviews its author(s) have received.
The Gideons don't leave Bible interpretations in hotel-room drawers, and the BS4A has, for better or worse, chosen that approach as well. Unlike some folks and organizations, I'm not saying my approach is for everybody.
The hourglass metaphor is intriguing, and -- despite your friend Huckleberry's comments to the contrary -- I know too little of what the pages ahead hold to pass judgment on the book overall. It won't unravel my world in the least if it turns out that there are wonderful inspirational stories in this book. It's extremely unlikely to make me believe in a divine superpower or to admire organized religion, but to me those are wholly separable affairs from the narrative and fabulous (in the fable sense) successes or failures of this tome. Honestly, it would be most reassuring if I find a lot to like here, which would make me feel I have more in common with my church-going neighbors.
As for God as a great teacher, I'm from Missouri on that (or at least in the Godless parts of Massachusetts).
Taking it out on all mankind — and especially all womankind — when People 1.0 dare seek moral knowledge or simply break a promise about a piece of fruit doesn't sound like a God in whose image I hope I was made. Killing nearly everybody and everything with the flood? Ditto. Full-scale slaughter in Sodom and Gomorrah? Ditto. Convincing Abraham to tie his son on the sacrificial altar? Ditto. Whacking Onan for, well...? Ditto. To my mind, YHWH has some 'splaining to do. Fortunately, he has nearly 1200 more chapters in which to bring me around.
Those broad-brush comments aside, I truly appreciate hearing your thoughtful commentary and would love to hear more from you.
As I'm just one-book-deep into the Bible, there's no way for me to reply meaningfully about your overall sense of its broad themes and messages. The good lord willin', we'll be around a few years to keep at this dialogue, if you care to.