B’reishit — in the beginning of the Torah, and the beginning of the world — there was God, a very queer God. Unlike other deities described in Iron Age texts, this God didn’t have a form or face or identifiable role in the natural world. In other Iron Age creation stories, deities are action heroes, creating order out of chaos by slaying monsters, other deities, and occasionally their parents. In Genesis, God brings order out of chaos simply by speaking. No blood, no pantheon, no rivals, no triumphs to portray on temple walls, nothing to visualize or imagine. God says, “Be, light.” And light is.

It may seem anachronistic or heretical to call the God we encounter in the Torah “queer.” But when I call God queer, I’m in part drawing on an older understanding of the word, which has been used for centuries...

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