Feast Day of the Parents of the BVM: A Question of Blame

One of the appointed texts for this day comes from Genesis 17. It is that bit of story in which God makes a covenant with Abram promising him that he will be the ancestor of many nations, changing his name from Abram to Abraham, and promising that God will be the God of Abraham and the God of all of Abraham’s offspring throughout the generations. This then, is an everlasting covenant. Many authors have written a great deal about covenants in general and about the Abrahamic covenant in particular. So, I wander off in another direction.

Given that it is the Feast Day of the Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary and given the tendency in our society to hold our parents accountable for all the misery that exists in our own lives, I thought it might be interesting to explore the first words God speaks to Abram in this passage: “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless.”

What does it mean to be blameless?

Merriam-Webster defines blame as “to find fault with” or “to hold responsible.” The English word comes to us from the Greek root blasphEmein1 wherein the similarity to the word blasphemy can be seen. In this reading, we might suggest that God is demanding that Abram not show contempt for God; that is, to remember that God is God.

Of course, the original text is the Hebrew tämîm. While it is translated into English as “blameless” it actually has a more positive connotation – it refers to a state of being sound, wholesome, unimpaired, innocent, or having integrity with regard to God’s way, God’s work, or God’s law.2

So, the passage might read, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and have integrity (be wholesome).” This is a far cry from our modern day associations of blame with guilt and wrong-doing. Perhaps we might bear this in mind next time we feel an urge to blame our parents for something that is wrong in our lives. They may be guilty for wrongdoing, but are they to blame?

1 “Blame,” Merriam-Webster OnLine Dictionary accessed on July 26, 2005.

2 Whitaker’s Revised BDB Hebrew-English Lexicon, Copyright © 1995, Dr. Richard Whitaker accessed using BibleWorks for Windows, Windows 98/2000 Release, Copyright © 2001, Bibleworks, LLC, Version 5.0.038s.