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Author Topic:   The Problems with Genesis: A Christian Evolutionist's View
Granny Magda
Member (Idle past 67 days)
Posts: 2384
From: UK
Joined: 11-12-2007


Message 91 of 200 (588715)
10-27-2010 5:11 PM
Reply to: Message 75 by granpa
10-27-2010 1:45 PM


The Birds and the Bacteria
Hi Granpa,

bacteria can give light upon the earth. google 'light emitting bacteria'.

Fungi can also emit light.

So can some fish, worms, insects, centipedes, jellyfish, crustaceans, molluscs, squid, echinoderms, numerous micro-organisms... Go ahead; Google it. This is not some special feature of bacteria, it is a fairly common trait. Hey, you know what also gives off light? The Sun!

Bacteria were not discovered until the Seventeenth Century. I kind of doubt that's what the author of Genesis has in mind when he talks about lights set "in the firmament of the heavens". Bacteria tend not to live in sky. Call me crazy, but I'm gonna go out on a limb here and suggest that he meant the Sun, the Moon and the stars.

I must say that after thinking about it some more I really doubt that 'fliers' refers to birds or insects {link}.

Your own link says that owph is used to mean "birds" 49 times, "bird" 18 times but "winged" only 4 times. I think you are over-reaching.

If you look at the overall structure of genesis you get the following.

from darkness light
from light air
from air water
from water earth
from earth life
from life cells
from cells ???
from ??? fish
from fish animals
from animals Adam
from Adam Seth
from Seth Enosh
...


  • There is no mention of air. It mentions the "firmament". One might presume that air would fill the space underneath the firmament, but there is no actual mention of air. No-one understood the modern idea of an atmosphere when Genesis was written.

  • Life in Genesis starts with plants (Gen 1:11). In actual fact, the first known life is all aquatic and plants are far from being first, especially the kind of complex plants that are mentioned in Genesis. So that's wrong.

  • Genesis does not mention cells. You are over-reaching on your "bacteria" translation.

  • There are many life forms that precede fish.

  • Where you put question marks, the Bible has birds. And it is wrong about that. It really is that simple.

  • Terrestrial animals come before birds and even before flying insects. There were land based invertebrates around long before any flying creature turns up in the fossil record. There were myriad land vertebrates around long before birds emerged. Again, the Bible is simply wrong here.

  • Adam was not a real person. If taken literally (a mistake I suspect) the Genesis account is wrong here too.

That's a lot of wrongness. Your attempts to fix these problems are misguided. The order of creation presented in Genesis 1 is simply wrong.

darkness≫bacteria (stars and moon)
light≫eukaryotes (sun)
air≫??? (birds)
sea≫fish
land≫animals
eden≫humans

So ??? should be something that we are descended from and something that came between cells and fish and has some relationship with air.

There is no such critter. The question marks you inserted are only there to help you shoehorn your theory into place. Genesis does not mention bacteria, you simply made that up out of whole cloth. Where you put question marks, my copy of Genesis has birds. It says birds and it means birds. And that's wrong. I can see how this might be a disappointment to many Christians, who would rather that the Bible agreed with scientific knowledge but there's no point trying to force the text to fit into an modern understanding of which its authors were completely unaware. That's what I mean by twisting the text.

the only thing that I can think of is that it refers to some kind of gilled oxygen breathing creature. the 'gills' being as it were 'wings' (extensions).

Read that back to yourself. Go on, read it again. Doesn't it sound like over-reaching to you? It sure sounds like it to me.

Whatever it was it was clearly something that the translators could not be expected to know about.

Nor could the authors have known about it. So instead of simply assuming that when they said "birds", they meant "birds" - birds being something that they would have known about - you suggest that they meant some mysterious creature, which you cannot identify and which they could not possibly have known about.

Are you sure they didn't just mean "birds"?

So it is not surprising that they would render it as 'birds'.

It would be even less surprising if they chose to render "birds" as "birds".

Mutate and Survive

Edited by Granny Magda, : No reason given.

Edited by Granny Magda, : No reason given.

Edited by Granny Magda, : No reason given.


"A curious aspect of the theory of evolution is that everybody thinks he understands it." - Jacques Monod

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 Message 75 by granpa, posted 10-27-2010 1:45 PM granpa has seen this message

  
jar
Member
Posts: 33890
From: Texas!!
Joined: 04-20-2004
Member Rating: 2.8


Message 92 of 200 (588718)
10-27-2010 5:24 PM
Reply to: Message 86 by granpa
10-27-2010 4:41 PM


It's wrong quite often.

That's not a big deal, just an indication of the ignorance of the authors, editors and redactors.

Genesis is not meant to be historically or scientifically accurate.


Anyone so limited that they can only spell a word one way is severely handicapped!

This message is a reply to:
 Message 86 by granpa, posted 10-27-2010 4:41 PM granpa has seen this message

  
Granny Magda
Member (Idle past 67 days)
Posts: 2384
From: UK
Joined: 11-12-2007


Message 93 of 200 (588719)
10-27-2010 5:37 PM
Reply to: Message 83 by granpa
10-27-2010 4:21 PM


Not a Time-Line
Hi again,

While the overall structure of genesis allows us to see the general pattern (separation and evolution)

I see separation, yes (as when God separates the land from the waters) but I do not see evolution, not in any sense of the word. The God of Genesis 1 simply creates by fiat, there is no evolution.

In my opinion, Genesis 1 is not presenting a chronological sequence of events. It is presenting the various orders of created things in the order of their spiritual importance to the authors. They start with inanimate things, then move on to living things (probably including the "lights" which they may well have seen as being anthropomorphic beings), and at the top of this hierarchy sits humanity.

It's not about a time-line, it's about presenting a spiritual hierarchy of God's creations, with man at its pinnacle. It was never meant to be interpreted as accurate natural history. Trying to read it that way will only obscure the authors' intents.

Mutate and Survive


"A curious aspect of the theory of evolution is that everybody thinks he understands it." - Jacques Monod

This message is a reply to:
 Message 83 by granpa, posted 10-27-2010 4:21 PM granpa has seen this message

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damoncasale
Member (Idle past 4058 days)
Posts: 41
From: Seffner, FL, USA
Joined: 12-09-2010


(1)
Message 94 of 200 (595872)
12-10-2010 9:00 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by willietdog
01-07-2008 8:39 PM


I figured I'd chip in, since I plan to be writing a book about this anyway.

First of all, to affirm what several other posters have said, Genesis 1-3 was in no way meant to be literal. On the other hand, in order to understand what it *does* mean, one needs to understand its cultural context.

Comparing other ancient creation literature, like that of Egypt or Sumer (the cultural precursor for Babylon), not one of their stories were intended to be understood literally. So therefore, neither was Genesis 1-3.

Now, the problem that most Christians (and some Jews) of a fundamentalist persuasion will have with this is:

1) This seems to do away with the all-encompassing work of God and relegates him to a minor deity rather than the author of all creation.
2) Doing so gives a legitimate excuse to those who wish to choose another religion.
3) Doing so reduces the absolute boundaries between good and evil to mere "suggestions" rather than commandments.

But rather than make the assumption that challenging the literal interpretation *automatically* results in the above issues, let's first look and see what's there to be seen.

Looking at the first chapter, we see a striking contrast between it and other creation literature. Whereas other creation literature describes the various gods who create the heavens, the stars, plants, animals, etc., Genesis 1 attributes the creation of these things to the Hebrew God. That's no coincidence, because Genesis 1-3 was meant to serve as a polemic against the religious beliefs of other nations.

Furthermore, in order to properly understand Genesis 1-3, we first have to understand that it was written at a time when general literacy was not the norm. The material was thus arranged in such a way that it could be easily memorized, chanted, or even set to music. Major parts of the bible were structured in patterns called chiasm. To give a good example, Genesis 6:22 contains a very simple chiasmus:

A - Thus did Noah
B - According to all that God commanded him
A' - So he did.

As you can see, rather than putting the main subject at the beginning, as we do with a modern paragraph, the bible would often put it in the middle, bracketed by phrases of similar character or subject matter.

The whole of Genesis 1-3 is one big chiasmus, with multiple levels of parallel sections all surrounding the central subject, which is dwelling in union with God on the Sabbath day. You can find an examination of this structure here:

http://www.aishdas.org/toratemet/en_bereshit.html

This structure actually gives us the key to understanding the second part of the text, Genesis 2-3.

First of all, there are only three things that are created "ex nihilo" (Hebrew bara): the heavens, man...and the "great sea creatures" (Gen. 1:21; Hebrew tannin). This word means something elongated, and is translated "whales" in the KJV. In this context, it should more accurately be rendered as "crocodiles". We'll see why in a moment.

The parallel structure to the creation of the animals is the introductory section of Genesis 3, mentioning the serpent. Now, why would these two animals be singled out by the Genesis account in this way?

If, instead of doing as many people who are wont to force modern interpretations on an ancient text (like those who assume the "days" of Genesis 1 represent long periods of geologic history), we look at the symbolism that already exists in the bible, then what can we deduce that these animals might actually represent?

The bible often uses animals to represent people or nations. Thus, in the case of the crocodiles, if we were talking about a nation that had been around for seemingly forever, as long as the heavens had been in existence (hence the use of bara for the creation of both the heavens and these creatures, what nation would we most likely be talking about?

Why Egypt, of course, land of the Nile and the crocodiles that live within it.

But what, then, of the serpent? What nation could this represent? Interestingly, in Sumer, the god Enki, god of knowledge and wisdom, was described as serpent-like, always speaking deceitfully or duplicitously.

So...what we actually have is a symbolic description of an actual place -- the Garden of Eden -- which was simply a rest spot on a major trade route between Egypt and Sumer. Rather than two literal trees in its garden -- the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil -- this was simply a polemic against the moral relativism espoused by the ancient Sumerians. Instead of doing either good or evil, as the mood would suit one, this text explained that one should eat "fruits" -- that is, practice actions, to once again use known biblical symbolism to explain what this means -- which would lead to life.

Now, to go back and address the objections of making Genesis 1-3 non-literal, the only thing left that might still be an issue is #1, making the Hebrew god into a minor deity as opposed to the author of all creation. But what the bible repeatedly shows over and over is that while circumstances in life appear to just happen by random chance, God is in charge, and no other supposed deity can take that away from him. No matter whether the biblical creation story is literal or figurative, that's what the whole of the bible is saying anyway.

The bible isn't intended to explain our place in the universe scientifically. Rather, it's intended to explain our purpose for being here, which is to practice what leads to life. Or in other words, love one's neighbor as oneself.

Damon


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
 Message 95 by arachnophilia, posted 12-14-2010 6:16 PM damoncasale has replied
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arachnophilia
Member (Idle past 576 days)
Posts: 9069
From: god's waiting room
Joined: 05-21-2004


Message 95 of 200 (596405)
12-14-2010 6:16 PM
Reply to: Message 94 by damoncasale
12-10-2010 9:00 PM


Genesis 1-3 was in no way meant to be literal.

on the contrary, anything but literal betrays the meaning. but you have to understand that literal, to the authors, was only one particular level of understand. it shouldn't be ignored or denied, but factual accuracy is generally not the point.

if it had been, genesis 1 and genesis 2 would have been a single account.

Looking at the first chapter, we see a striking contrast between it and other creation literature. Whereas other creation literature describes the various gods who create the heavens, the stars, plants, animals, etc., Genesis 1 attributes the creation of these things to the Hebrew God. That's no coincidence, because Genesis 1-3 was meant to serve as a polemic against the religious beliefs of other nations.

yes, but no. there are many similarities between the hebrew creation myths (both of them) and the creation myths of other cultures. for instance, the cosmology described in genesis 1 is basically standard across the entire ancient near east. the marked difference, as you say, is that it is a single god responsible for creation. but this should not be surprising, as it's in the hebrew bible.

Major parts of the bible were structured in patterns called chiasm. To give a good example, Genesis 6:22 contains a very simple chiasmus:

strictly speaking, biblical hebrew poetry uses parallelism, and prose typically uses those elements in a less strict fashion. chiasmus is a particular kind of parallel structure involving reversal. for instance, matthew 19:30: "the first shall be last, and the last shall be first."

the repetition does aid in memorization, but i see it more as a stylistic factor.

The whole of Genesis 1-3 is one big chiasmus, with multiple levels of parallel sections all surrounding the central subject, which is dwelling in union with God on the Sabbath day. You can find an examination of this structure here:

i do not agree, there. you can, perhaps, draw some parallels, but they are all incredibly strained. genesis 2,3 is twice the length of genesis 1, and has an entirely different focus. it is ultimately about separation of man and god, not unity or rest.

First of all, there are only three things that are created "ex nihilo" (Hebrew bara):

as i've examined earlier in this thread, creatio ex nihilo is an inappropriate reading for bara, since it describes a division or organization of existing elements, and the genesis 1 story explicitly is not creation from nothing. for instance, it mentions in verse 1 about god creating heaven and earth, and goes on to describe how he does that later in the chapter, by separating them from the waters.

the heavens, man...and the "great sea creatures" (Gen. 1:21; Hebrew tannin). This word means something elongated, and is translated "whales" in the KJV. In this context, it should more accurately be rendered as "crocodiles". We'll see why in a moment.

"serpents" is the most literally correct. jewish tradition holds that these are levyatan and his mate. the -tan part of levyatan is serpent as well. interestingly enough, levyatan happens to be the modern hebrew word for "whale". but, as i'm sure you've read job, "whale" is likely inappropriate in biblical contexts.

The parallel structure to the creation of the animals is the introductory section of Genesis 3, mentioning the serpent. Now, why would these two animals be singled out by the Genesis account in this way?

different serpents, different connotations. one is a fearful dragon, the other a common snake.

The bible often uses animals to represent people or nations. Thus, in the case of the crocodiles, if we were talking about a nation that had been around for seemingly forever, as long as the heavens had been in existence (hence the use of bara for the creation of both the heavens and these creatures, what nation would we most likely be talking about?

Why Egypt, of course, land of the Nile and the crocodiles that live within it.

i don't see it. the authors at the time would have been far more occupied thinking about assyria and babylon, than about egypt.

rather, i suggest you look into the secret hebrew creation myth. the one where yahweh fights levyatan's mate, and kills her, and feeds his children with her flesh. it's hinted at in one of the psalms, and is found mostly in tradition. it's heavily borrowed from tiamat, the chaos/ocean dragon of sumerian mythology. her death is part of the sumerian creation myth -- it's her ribs that form the vault of heaven.

dragons are so much cooler than crocodiles...

But what, then, of the serpent? What nation could this represent? Interestingly, in Sumer, the god Enki, god of knowledge and wisdom, was described as serpent-like, always speaking deceitfully or duplicitously.

look more into zoroastrianism.

the focus here, though, is that these great entities from the mythologies of surrounding cultures were just animals, created by yahweh, to the ancient jews.

So...what we actually have is a symbolic description of an actual place -- the Garden of Eden -- which was simply a rest spot on a major trade route between Egypt and Sumer.

eden is given as being between the tigris and euphrates. which puts it firmly in sumer.

Rather than two literal trees in its garden -- the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil -- this was simply a polemic against the moral relativism espoused by the ancient Sumerians. Instead of doing either good or evil, as the mood would suit one, this text explained that one should eat "fruits" -- that is, practice actions, to once again use known biblical symbolism to explain what this means -- which would lead to life.

the problem there is that the tree of knowledge was the one withheld from adam and chavah. you cannot know the difference between good and evil if you don't know what good and evil are. adam and chavah were the ultimate moral relativists before the disobeyed god. knowing good and evil was the action god punished. now, you could argue (as many jewish scholars do) that this was the outcome god intended.

Edited by arachnophilia, : forgot link!


אָרַח

This message is a reply to:
 Message 94 by damoncasale, posted 12-10-2010 9:00 PM damoncasale has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 96 by damoncasale, posted 12-15-2010 9:30 AM arachnophilia has replied

  
damoncasale
Member (Idle past 4058 days)
Posts: 41
From: Seffner, FL, USA
Joined: 12-09-2010


Message 96 of 200 (596503)
12-15-2010 9:30 AM
Reply to: Message 95 by arachnophilia
12-14-2010 6:16 PM


on the contrary, anything but literal betrays the meaning.

Why? To compare with Egyptian literature, did the pharaohs literally believe that, say, once the priest performed the opening-of-the-mouth ceremony on the pharaoh's corpse after he was mummified, that this magically brought him back to life (albeit an inner life in the Duat)?

I think we're splitting hairs, here.

Re the similarities between Genesis 1-3 and other creation literature, yes of course. I was only illustrating the one striking contrast. Perhaps I could've explained that better to begin with.

Re the chiastic structure of Genesis 1-3:

i do not agree, there. you can, perhaps, draw some parallels, but they are all incredibly strained. genesis 2,3 is twice the length of genesis 1, and has an entirely different focus. it is ultimately about separation of man and god, not unity or rest.

Did you read the article at the link I provided?

Regarding creation ex nihilo, I don't think I explained this very well. Just as the Hebrew word "olam" doesn't literally mean "forever" but rather an indeterminately long length of time, "bara" doesn't exactly mean creation from nothing. But the shade of meaning (as I understand it, at least) is a primacy of creation.

"serpents" is the most literally correct. jewish tradition holds that these are levyatan and his mate. the -tan part of levyatan is serpent as well. interestingly enough, levyatan happens to be the modern hebrew word for "whale". but, as i'm sure you've read job, "whale" is likely inappropriate in biblical contexts.

Serpents is a good translation in certain cases, although the kind of watery serpent discussed both here and in Job -- where it's called Leviathan -- has very tough scales and large teeth. Basically, it's a crocodile. (Job naturally embellishes the description a lot, but there is a precedent for this.) Also, in Ezekiel 29:2-3, we have a specific reference to Pharaoh as "the king of Egypt, the great tannin that lies in the midst of his rivers." It's a metaphorical reference to the pharaoh of Egypt as a crocodile. A meaning of serpent really wouldn't make sense in this context.

different serpents, different connotations. one is a fearful dragon, the other a common snake.

My point was that they are in parallel in the chiastic structure of Genesis 1-3.

rather, i suggest you look into the secret hebrew creation myth. the one where yahweh fights levyatan's mate, and kills her, and feeds his children with her flesh. it's hinted at in one of the psalms, and is found mostly in tradition. it's heavily borrowed from tiamat, the chaos/ocean dragon of sumerian mythology. her death is part of the sumerian creation myth -- it's her ribs that form the vault of heaven.

The reason why there are parallels to Egyptian and Sumerian/Babylonian literature in the psalms and elsewhere is because this literature constituted the cultural millieu in which the bible came to be written. But rather than seeing a polytheistic origin that was later "sanitized" into an acceptable monotheistic tradition, I see an ongoing polemic against those other cultures, using their same literary style and language.

eden is given as being between the tigris and euphrates. which puts it firmly in sumer.

There are two other rivers mentioned, the Gihon and the Pishon. The Gihon is simply the Nile, and the Nile is actually called the Gihon in Ethiopia, even today. The rivers all flowing out from one another is another metaphor for the Garden of Eden being where people "flow" to and from. But the land of Eden is simply the land of Israel. Compare Genesis 15:18, which describes the promised land as lying between "the river of Egypt" and the Euphrates.

the problem there is that the tree of knowledge was the one withheld from adam and chavah. you cannot know the difference between good and evil if you don't know what good and evil are. adam and chavah were the ultimate moral relativists before the disobeyed god. knowing good and evil was the action god punished. now, you could argue (as many jewish scholars do) that this was the outcome god intended.

The fruit wasn't simply knowledge, though. It was action. It was specifically called the *fruit* of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 3:3, cf. 2:9 and 16-17). Compare other places in the bible where the symbolic meaning of "fruits" are examined. Sometimes they're offspring -- which doesn't fit in this case, since Adam and Eve's literal offspring are mentioned in this same context. Sometimes they're deeds or actions, though, and that's what fits here.

In any case, in looking at Genesis 1-3, I interpreted it only using symbolism that already exists elsewhere in the bible, with the assumption that those other places would likely have drawn on the creation account for inspiration in their use of that same symbolism.

In fact, if you want to look at an excellent parallel with the tree of life vs. the tree of knowledge, to see how it was understood in biblical times, simply read Isaiah 7:14-16. This promised child will be given a good foundation so that he "may know to refuse the evil and choose the good." Now as I'm sure you know, modern Jews have a Bar-mitzvah ritual that represents a coming of age and a readiness to observe the Mosaic Law. That was simply a reflection of this ancient belief that before a certain age, one was not responsible for rejecting evil and choosing good. That was the simple moral dichotomy between the tree of Life and the tree of the knowledge of good *and* evil -- that is, the tree that represents doing whatever the hell you want, be it good or evil.

If you look at other creation literature, they likewise use symbolism to explain the proper order of things. In the Babylonian creation story, we know that man was created as an afterthought, to serve the gods as slaves. This was probably a metaphor for the temple tax that existed at that time, where the farmers there were basically tenanted sharecroppers who had to pay a 25% tax on their harvest to the local temple.

Damon

Edited by damoncasale, : Elucidation, elaboration, elocution, and other such nonsense.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 95 by arachnophilia, posted 12-14-2010 6:16 PM arachnophilia has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 100 by arachnophilia, posted 12-15-2010 8:06 PM damoncasale has replied

  
Larni
Member
Posts: 4000
From: Liverpool
Joined: 09-16-2005


Message 97 of 200 (596504)
12-15-2010 10:56 AM
Reply to: Message 94 by damoncasale
12-10-2010 9:00 PM


the god Enki, god of knowledge and wisdom, was described as serpent-like, always speaking deceitfully or duplicitously.

Only devious in his lustfull nature. He was a friend to humans, helping many times and interceding with his brothers whishes to drown all of humaninty.

I think deceitful or duplicitous is going a bit far.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 94 by damoncasale, posted 12-10-2010 9:00 PM damoncasale has replied

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 Message 98 by damoncasale, posted 12-15-2010 12:39 PM Larni has replied

  
damoncasale
Member (Idle past 4058 days)
Posts: 41
From: Seffner, FL, USA
Joined: 12-09-2010


Message 98 of 200 (596527)
12-15-2010 12:39 PM
Reply to: Message 97 by Larni
12-15-2010 10:56 AM


Perhaps. The one thing I personally am sure of is that the writer of Genesis 1-3 intended that the serpent represent Sumer. What becomes interesting is that the descendants of the serpent are said to be at enmity with the descendants of Eve. Compare that with Babylon being, as it were, the eternal "cosmic" enemy of Israel and/or the saints, as depicted later on in the bible.

Damon


This message is a reply to:
 Message 97 by Larni, posted 12-15-2010 10:56 AM Larni has replied

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Larni
Member
Posts: 4000
From: Liverpool
Joined: 09-16-2005


Message 99 of 200 (596534)
12-15-2010 1:21 PM
Reply to: Message 98 by damoncasale
12-15-2010 12:39 PM


The one thing I personally am sure of is that the writer of Genesis 1-3 intended that the serpent represent Sumer.

Insofar as Sumer represents knowledge and self direction I can't argue.


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arachnophilia
Member (Idle past 576 days)
Posts: 9069
From: god's waiting room
Joined: 05-21-2004


Message 100 of 200 (596607)
12-15-2010 8:06 PM
Reply to: Message 96 by damoncasale
12-15-2010 9:30 AM


damoncasale writes:

i writes:

on the contrary, anything but literal betrays the meaning.

Why? To compare with Egyptian literature, did the pharaohs literally believe that, say, once the priest performed the opening-of-the-mouth ceremony on the pharaoh's corpse after he was mummified, that this magically brought him back to life (albeit an inner life in the Duat)?

I think we're splitting hairs, here.

perhaps. but i think it is quite important that we do not discard the literal to fudge some details. instead, it should be the foundation of understanding the more allegorical levels of meaning.

Did you read the article at the link I provided?

honestly? no. i will when i find some time, though. bits in the earlier sections sort of put me off. for instance,

quote:
For a myriad of reasons both in the areas of creed and scholarship, we absolutely reject this "Documentary Hypothesis". Our belief is that the entire Torah was given by God to Mosheh (ignoring for a moment the problem of the last 8 verses and the various "Sod haSh'neim Asar" occurrences cited by Ibn Ezra) and that the authorship is not only singular, it is exclusively Divine. These two statements of belief - whether or not they can be reasonably demonstrated (and there is much literature, both medieval and contemporary, coming down on both sides of this question) - are two of the 13 principles enumerated by the Rambam.

while they mention "scholarship", the emphasis is clearly on "creed". stating this so early seems like this is the conclusion they aim to reach -- and they no doubt will. when you're a hammer, everything kind of looks like a nail.

further, as far as i am currently aware, the documentary hypothesis is the prevailing academic model for torah scholarship because there simply is no other model that adequately explains the discrepancies. and a model that only emphasizes overall structure will not either -- especially not when the overall structure is the general responsibility of any redactor of any anthology of texts.

the parallels they go on to draw are... completely unrelated. i'll examine at length if you're interested, but it failed to hook as worthwhile commentary.

Regarding creation ex nihilo, I don't think I explained this very well. Just as the Hebrew word "olam" doesn't literally mean "forever" but rather an indeterminately long length of time, "bara" doesn't exactly mean creation from nothing. But the shade of meaning (as I understand it, at least) is a primacy of creation.

primacy? maybe. but certainly not creation from no raw materials. certainly, the context of genesis 1 excludes that possibility, as verse 2 goes on to describe the initial state of creation. see my thread on the grammatical reason why.

Serpents is a good translation in certain cases, although the kind of watery serpent discussed both here and in Job -- where it's called Leviathan -- has very tough scales and large teeth. Basically, it's a crocodile. (Job naturally embellishes the description a lot, but there is a precedent for this.)

i am forced to disagree. ancient israelites would have been familiar with crocodiles. the point of the description given in job is to elevate this creature to a majestic mythical status. god is ramping up descriptions of powerful things he has made, that are greater than job could even hope to be, let alone be responsible for. levyatan is clearly something much more than a crocodile, and the surrounding lore should confirm this.

further, it just parallels too nicely with the surrounding cultures. why mention crocodiles as a special creation in genesis?

Also, in Ezekiel 29:2-3, we have a specific reference to Pharaoh as "the king of Egypt, the great tannin that lies in the midst of his rivers." It's a metaphorical reference to the pharaoh of Egypt as a crocodile. A meaning of serpent really wouldn't make sense in this context.

perhaps. that sounds a lot more like a crocodile than job. but i still suspect that there is a mythological shade of meaning that this is missing.

The reason why there are parallels to Egyptian and Sumerian/Babylonian literature in the psalms and elsewhere is because this literature constituted the cultural millieu in which the bible came to be written. But rather than seeing a polytheistic origin that was later "sanitized" into an acceptable monotheistic tradition, I see an ongoing polemic against those other cultures, using their same literary style and language.

oh no, i was not disagreeing with that notion. genesis 1 explicitly moreso than genesis 2.

There are two other rivers mentioned, the Gihon and the Pishon. The Gihon is simply the Nile, and the Nile is actually called the Gihon in Ethiopia, even today. The rivers all flowing out from one another is another metaphor for the Garden of Eden being where people "flow" to and from. But the land of Eden is simply the land of Israel. Compare Genesis 15:18, which describes the promised land as lying between "the river of Egypt" and the Euphrates.

and there's a mountain called ararat even today. i'm not sure that's necessarily a good argument that they are the same. i think there's an important tradition about leaving a fertile garden (such as the fertile crescent) and tilling a desert.

The fruit wasn't simply knowledge, though. It was action. It was specifically called the *fruit* of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 3:3, cf. 2:9 and 16-17). Compare other places in the bible where the symbolic meaning of "fruits" are examined. Sometimes they're offspring -- which doesn't fit in this case, since Adam and Eve's literal offspring are mentioned in this same context. Sometimes they're deeds or actions, though, and that's what fits here.

i'm not sure that's appropriate, in that it's an odd coincidence that literal fruit, and the results/consequences of an action happen to be the same word in hebrew. it's not precisely symbolic usage until the new testament authors get ahold of the concept. even still, we use "fruit" in the same way, thanks in large part to the KJV of the bible.

In any case, in looking at Genesis 1-3, I interpreted it only using symbolism that already exists elsewhere in the bible, with the assumption that those other places would likely have drawn on the creation account for inspiration in their use of that same symbolism.

i think it's important to get the order correct. i've often debated with people here that make the fundamental(ist) error that the later work can be examined as if it influenced the earlier work. i call this the pre-hoc propter-hoc fallacy (as opposed to post-hoc...). while it's a reasonable assumption that the christian NT authors were informed and influenced by OT scripture, it is most certainly not reasonable to conclude that the OT authors operated from the same theological standpoint. that said, i am not arguing for a strictly literal reading, here. clearly, there is pretty heavy symbolism going on.

In fact, if you want to look at an excellent parallel with the tree of life vs. the tree of knowledge, to see how it was understood in biblical times, simply read Isaiah 7:14-16. This promised child will be given a good foundation so that he "may know to refuse the evil and choose the good." Now as I'm sure you know, modern Jews have a Bar-mitzvah ritual that represents a coming of age and a readiness to observe the Mosaic Law. That was simply a reflection of this ancient belief that before a certain age, one was not responsible for rejecting evil and choosing good. That was the simple moral dichotomy between the tree of Life and the tree of the knowledge of good *and* evil -- that is, the tree that represents doing whatever the hell you want, be it good or evil.

i like to explain that verse in contexts of a bar/bat mitzvah, but who knows what the ancient rituals were really like?

in any case, yes, that verse is likely a good examination of contemporary thought. however, you must remember that is not ha-etz tov v-ra, but ha-etz ha-da'at tov v-ra. the tree is the tree of knowledge, and that knowledge is of good and evil. and more importantly, the difference between the two. in other words, it is precisely the opposite of what you're driving at. adam and chavah were permitted to do whatever the hell they wanted before they ate from the tree -- there was no torah to tell them otherwise, nor any morality. they did not, and could not have known the difference between right and wrong.

it is precisely the tree that grants them this knowledge -- and thus the responsibility for their actions. which is why they must then be kicked out of the garden. god is no longer responsible. this can be understood on a symbolic level as mankind's coming of age story. just as a boy learns right from wrong, learns the law, and becomes a man -- and must leave his father's house -- so adam learned right from wrong, and was exiled. the rest of genesis goes on to provide stories of mankind's struggle with this new morality, in opposition to each other and to god, prior to the law. it is the reason behind the law.

If you look at other creation literature, they likewise use symbolism to explain the proper order of things. In the Babylonian creation story, we know that man was created as an afterthought, to serve the gods as slaves. This was probably a metaphor for the temple tax that existed at that time, where the farmers there were basically tenanted sharecroppers who had to pay a 25% tax on their harvest to the local temple.

interestingly, mankind is the first thought in both hebrew creation myths. it's just that god goes about his creation in different ways. genesis 1 portrays a god who plans, and knows everything ahead of time. this is a much later text, by P, that does not really fit with the rest of genesis. but genesis 2 does; it portrays a god who struggles with his creation, to satisfy him to the best of his ability. man is made first, and everything else is made by trial and error. mankind, throughout genesis, seems as confusing to god as god is to us. i find that intriguing.

heretical as it may be.


אָרַח

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 Message 96 by damoncasale, posted 12-15-2010 9:30 AM damoncasale has replied

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damoncasale
Member (Idle past 4058 days)
Posts: 41
From: Seffner, FL, USA
Joined: 12-09-2010


Message 101 of 200 (596612)
12-15-2010 9:00 PM
Reply to: Message 100 by arachnophilia
12-15-2010 8:06 PM


perhaps. but i think it is quite important that we do not discard the literal to fudge some details. instead, it should be the foundation of understanding the more allegorical levels of meaning.

Although I would agree with you, the main reason why I'm looking past the literal meaning of Genesis 1-3 is because human existence can be demonstrably pushed back much farther than 6000 years. Normally I'd look to the literal meaning as the interpretation of choice, but when I'm forced to rule that out due to factors like this, I look for pre-existing biblical symbolism to try to explain what a passage *does* mean.

while they mention "scholarship", the emphasis is clearly on "creed". stating this so early seems like this is the conclusion they aim to reach -- and they no doubt will. when you're a hammer, everything kind of looks like a nail.

I agree with you here, but I find it valuable to compare both the "creed" approach -- which I think actually bears some fruit in this instance -- and the more scholarly approach. About a year ago, when they covered the books of 1 and 2 Samuel in Torah study at the local synagogue, it was very insightful to hear the rabbi's commentary on the politics going on behind the scenes, and I'm pretty sure he was getting that from the critical scholarly methods they taught him in his rabbinic studies. (He's Reform, of course.) So I *do* see value in the scholarly approach, but I try to look at both sides with as little bias as possible.

further, as far as i am currently aware, the documentary hypothesis is the prevailing academic model for torah scholarship because there simply is no other model that adequately explains the discrepancies. and a model that only emphasizes overall structure will not either -- especially not when the overall structure is the general responsibility of any redactor of any anthology of texts.

Well, one of the things that the rabbi discussed when covering 1 and 2 Samuel is the organization of the sections of the text. He pointed out that they weren't necessarily in chronological order, and that some of the stories about David were just kind of tossed in at the end, because the compiler wasn't easily able to fit them into a complete narrative but didn't want to leave them out either. So although I do agree with you in principle, what I'm mainly looking at in the case of Genesis 1-3 is:

1) Comparing literature with a similar literary style from other ancient cultures
2) Looking for consistency with the rest of the biblical text. Not because of a need to "prove" a creed, but because as the biblical texts were compiled, texts that reinforced similar themes (such as the theme of having a high standard of ethical behavior) would've likely been chosen to be included over texts that didn't contribute to the overall narrative.
3) In looking at the chiastic structure that I see in Genesis 1-3, it parallels the same literary technique found in many other places in the bible, including one that's not commonly recognized -- even in Judaism, where it should be. See below, concerning the chiastic structure of Deuteronomy 6:1-9. Because this literary technique is commonly recognized in other places in the biblical text, I see every reason to look closely at the possibility that Genesis 1-3 likewise uses this same technique.

Deuteronomy 6:1-9 has the following, simplified structure:

A - These are the LAWS that you must do to live in the LAND.
B - KEEP the commandments, both you and your CHILDREN.
C - Hear and OBEY.
D - Hear O Israel, The Lord our God is "one'.
C' - OBEY from the heart!
B' - TEACH the laws to your CHILDREN.
A' - Various specific things that you must do to live in the LAND.

The chiastic structure here revolves around the central subject, being the "oneness" of God. But notice the flow of the surrounding passages. They go from external commandments to an internal (from the heart) response and observance. What binds these together is actually the marital covenant between God and Israel. The Shema was never about how many gods there were in God, but about God's "oneness" with Israel, his people.

And just like looking at the chiastic structure of the Shema explains more than simply examining the literal flow if the text, in my opinion, you can get the same benefit from looking at Genesis 1-3 with a chiastic structure in mind.

primacy? maybe. but certainly not creation from no raw materials.

Agreed.

perhaps. that sounds a lot more like a crocodile than job. but i still suspect that there is a mythological shade of meaning that this is missing.

I've spent more than ten years attempting to understand that "mythological meaning" and this is what I came up with. Basically, that the prophets took symbolism from the creation account to represent the same concepts for a more modern audience. They weren't writing history, per se, but rather a "cosmic" story of good vs. evil that used symbolism and repeated historical types to get their message across.

and there's a mountain called ararat even today. i'm not sure that's necessarily a good argument that they are the same. i think there's an important tradition about leaving a fertile garden (such as the fertile crescent) and tilling a desert.

Even though that's the case, every single ancient culture has "creation" as a local event which happened in a specific place -- somewhere they consider to be a place of special significance, compared to other places.

Often, it's the capital city where a king rules from. There is a Sumerian term, "Nun-ki" -- literally translated as "water place" but idiomatically meaning a "mighty city" or "that great city." This idiom originated from the Sumerian myth of Enki's origins in the watery apsu or absu, located at Eridu, and from which the long dynasty of Sumerian kings is said to originate. The biblical writers picked up on this idiom and used it in the bible in a number of places to mean a capital city.

Egypt described creation as a mound of earth rising out of the watery, swampy Nun. A bird alighted on the ben-ben stone in the center of this mound, and suddenly there was light. This stone became the foundation stone of a temple. This creation story, or variants of it, were applied to Heliopolis and several other towns in ancient Egypt, over a long period of time. So, when looking for this "place of special significance," we need to consider that the biblical account isn't going to use another culture's version of "Eden." They're going to have their own.

Just from the structure of the text, we can identify the land of Eden as the land of Israel, and the point of this was that this was a place of special significance and primacy compared to the rest of the world.

i think it's important to get the order correct. i've often debated with people here that make the fundamental(ist) error that the later work can be examined as if it influenced the earlier work.

That's if one assumes that Genesis was a later work. Modern scholarship does, but there are reasons to disagree with that assumption, not the least of which is evidence of similar cultural practices to the ones described in the early chapters of Genesis (up to the time of the patriarchs, at least) from ancient times.

I've studied books like Jubilees, which purports to be an ancient document but in reality has a lot of internal textual evidence that it was composed in approximately the first century BC, since common rabbinic interpretations from this time have made their way into the book and have been given an ancient gloss. I'm personally not seeing the same kind of evidence for a later composition for early parts of Genesis.

in any case, yes, that verse is likely a good examination of contemporary thought. however, you must remember that is not ha-etz tov v-ra, but ha-etz ha-da'at tov v-ra. the tree is the tree of knowledge, and that knowledge is of good and evil. and more importantly, the difference between the two. in other words, it is precisely the opposite of what you're driving at. adam and chavah were permitted to do whatever the hell they wanted before they ate from the tree -- there was no torah to tell them otherwise, nor any morality. they did not, and could not have known the difference between right and wrong.

Well, again, I think we're coming at this from different perspectives. I think the metaphorical "commandment" that they were given was to practice what leads to life, as opposed to practicing either good or evil.

I think the reason why the bible uses this symbolism is because at that time, the civilization of Sumer was beginning to spread across the ancient near east. They saw themselves as exploring, for the first time, the fruits of civilization, and they threw themselves into it wholeheartedly. But the way they described these fruits of civilization is probably best summarized by the Mesopotamian tale of Enkidu. Enkidu is a wild man who lives in harmony with nature. Gilgamesh interacts with him and offers to him the fruits of civilization. In order to become initiated into civilized culture, Enkidu must drink beer and have intercourse with a woman (since beer and temple prostitution were seen as the great innovations of society at that time). Upon initiation, Enkidu would have greater *knowledge*. I feel that it is specifically this literature (whether or not this was the actual story that Genesis 1-3 was written in response to, or a similar story) that prompted the ethical response in Genesis 1-3.

In any case, by symbolically mentioning both Egypt and Sumer in the creation account, this places the Garden of Eden along the major trade route between the two powers, and probably one of the many small settlements of the early Ubaid culture. Many people would travel along this trade route and hear the metaphorical story of the tree of live vs. the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It was simply the ancient equivalent of the same kind of proselytizing that Christians do today (whether for better or worse).

interestingly, mankind is the first thought in both hebrew creation myths. it's just that god goes about his creation in different ways. genesis 1 portrays a god who plans, and knows everything ahead of time. this is a much later text, by P, that does not really fit with the rest of genesis. but genesis 2 does; it portrays a god who struggles with his creation, to satisfy him to the best of his ability. man is made first, and everything else is made by trial and error. mankind, throughout genesis, seems as confusing to god as god is to us. i find that intriguing.

What I find interesting is that the creation of man appears in parallel in the chiastic structure of the text. That's just one more reason, to me, that it makes sense. At the very least, it's a legitimate alternative to the documentary hypothesis which should be given equal consideration.

Damon


This message is a reply to:
 Message 100 by arachnophilia, posted 12-15-2010 8:06 PM arachnophilia has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 103 by arachnophilia, posted 12-15-2010 10:42 PM damoncasale has replied

  
damoncasale
Member (Idle past 4058 days)
Posts: 41
From: Seffner, FL, USA
Joined: 12-09-2010


Message 102 of 200 (596615)
12-15-2010 9:25 PM
Reply to: Message 100 by arachnophilia
12-15-2010 8:06 PM


Oops! Double post. Deleted.

Damon

Edited by damoncasale, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 100 by arachnophilia, posted 12-15-2010 8:06 PM arachnophilia has taken no action

  
arachnophilia
Member (Idle past 576 days)
Posts: 9069
From: god's waiting room
Joined: 05-21-2004


Message 103 of 200 (596623)
12-15-2010 10:42 PM
Reply to: Message 101 by damoncasale
12-15-2010 9:00 PM


damoncasale writes:

Although I would agree with you, the main reason why I'm looking past the literal meaning of Genesis 1-3 is because human existence can be demonstrably pushed back much farther than 6000 years. Normally I'd look to the literal meaning as the interpretation of choice, but when I'm forced to rule that out due to factors like this, I look for pre-existing biblical symbolism to try to explain what a passage *does* mean.

ah. you shouldn't let silly things like facts get in the way of a good story. genesis 1, and 2/3, were undoubtedly meant to be read, at least initially, as literal stories. they just happen to be factually wrong. i know this likely doesn't sit well with you, as it doesn't with frankly the majority of christians. but this is very much the case.

this is evidenced, really, by the fact that they do not agree. the redactor saw fit to include both stories, contradictory though they may be, because of some other intrinsic value. they are good stories, and culturally important, and have their place and function in the bible. that function is just something other than being factually accurate.

i find the "let's ignore the literal, it's all metaphor" interpretations generally nonsense and a waste of time. they tend to play entirely too fast and loose with the text, and gloss over many of the more interesting points -- and generally with the goal of fudging the bible and fudging reality just enough so they can be said to agree. i guess this is sort of like sanding down the corners of your square peg, and cutting into your round hole, so that you can jam one into the other. in the end, your compromise has just destroyed both. this is usually an excuse to continue believing in a "literal" (in scare quotes) bible, while trying to satisfy those niggling doubts based on a modern scientific understanding of the world. as you can guess, i'm not big on the anti-literalists in either camp.

I agree with you here, but I find it valuable to compare both the "creed" approach -- which I think actually bears some fruit in this instance -- and the more scholarly approach. About a year ago, when they covered the books of 1 and 2 Samuel in Torah study at the local synagogue, it was very insightful to hear the rabbi's commentary on the politics going on behind the scenes, and I'm pretty sure he was getting that from the critical scholarly methods they taught him in his rabbinic studies. (He's Reform, of course.) So I *do* see value in the scholarly approach, but I try to look at both sides with as little bias as possible

sure. and admittedly, i tend to pay more attention to the rabbinical approaches than i do the christian orthodox or heterdox approaches. but i do not accept every rabbinical interpretation i read. i reject probably the majority of them -- there's some old joke about two rabbis discussing the torah and having three interpretations between them. the talmud, the mishnah, and the many midrashim contain such a plethora and gamut of opinion on the scriptures that it would be impossible to accept any fair portion of them. this is actually what i find most valuable about jewish tradition -- they value thought and argument and debate, over blindly accepting the traditional.

Well, one of the things that the rabbi discussed when covering 1 and 2 Samuel is the organization of the sections of the text. He pointed out that they weren't necessarily in chronological order, and that some of the stories about David were just kind of tossed in at the end, because the compiler wasn't easily able to fit them into a complete narrative but didn't want to leave them out either.

sure. and, as best as i can understand, most books of the tanakh do not suffer the same kind of source confusion the torah does. samuel might, i honestly haven't made an in-depth study of it. i'm pretty positive that kings does. but for instance, we've already discussed isaiah. the sources there are not intermixed. one simply follows the other. same with psalms.

2) Looking for consistency with the rest of the biblical text. Not because of a need to "prove" a creed, but because as the biblical texts were compiled, texts that reinforced similar themes (such as the theme of having a high standard of ethical behavior) would've likely been chosen to be included over texts that didn't contribute to the overall narrative.

granted, but this can only go far. as i've pointed out, there does seem to be an interesting theme to genesis. or, rather, the pre-mosaic portion of the J and E documents. but the P sources seem to have been intertwined to serve as context, and largely do not drive at anything other than establishing the ethnic history of israel. except for genesis 1.

i would also like to again mention that this theme is about not having a high standard ethical behaviour. the patriarchs are routinely portrayed as very unethical. for an interesting read on the subject, i'll suggest dershowitz's "genesis of justice".

3) In looking at the chiastic structure that I see in Genesis 1-3, ...

i just do not see it. i'm sorry. i see two creation myths that rather loosely go in opposite orders, yes. but the stylistic differences are just so great that i cannot see this as the product of some scriptural unity. further, since they are driving at two completely unrelated points, and portray god in two contradictory manners... i don't see anything intentional.

but i'll give you deuteronomy.

I've spent more than ten years attempting to understand that "mythological meaning" and this is what I came up with. Basically, that the prophets took symbolism from the creation account to represent the same concepts for a more modern audience. They weren't writing history, per se, but rather a "cosmic" story of good vs. evil that used symbolism and repeated historical types to get their message across.

sounds fair enough to me. i'm not sure that story is "good vs. evil" exactly (this is an entirely too modern archetype). the specific story about the serpent has a lot more to do with chaos and order. genesis 1 depicts god's creative act as defining order -- he separates things, and sets demarcations, and establishes things. he creates from a sea, which symbolizes chaos. it is likely not a coincidence that these dragons are mentioned: the water dragon in sumerian myth was chaos. but establishing that chaos as simply one of god's creations is in a way a fundamental insult to sumerian mythology.

Even though that's the case, every single ancient culture has "creation" as a local event which happened in a specific place -- somewhere they consider to be a place of special significance, compared to other places.

i would actually argue that the ancient israelites were the exception (as they were the exception to polytheism).

clearly, the eden of genesis 2/3 is a specific place, and yahweh basically a regional god. that old chestnut about where qayin's wife came from? the author of genesis 2/3 seemed largely unconcerned with the idea that there were other people outside of eden. adam and chavah were the special creations of yahweh, but were not the only humans. "heaven" and "earth" are not definite, in genesis 2:4b. this would be fitting with a kind henotheistic notion that seem pervasive in genesis 1.

genesis 1, however, is as you say: a specific polemic against the surrounding nations and their gods. the (here unnamed) god (that is certainly yahweh) is not just the creator of eden, and the ancestors of the jewish people. he is the creator of everything. he is a much more universal and withdrawn god. this is a much later story, and part of a much more evolved tradition.

Often, it's the capital city where a king rules from. There is a Sumerian term, "Nun-ki" -- literally translated as "water place" but idiomatically meaning a "mighty city" or "that great city." This idiom originated from the Sumerian myth of Enki's origins in the watery apsu or absu, located at Eridu, and from which the long dynasty of Sumerian kings is said to originate. The biblical writers picked up on this idiom and used it in the bible in a number of places to mean a capital city.

Egypt described creation as a mound of earth rising out of the watery, swampy Nun. A bird alighted on the ben-ben stone in the center of this mound, and suddenly there was light. This stone became the foundation stone of a temple. This creation story, or variants of it, were applied to Heliopolis and several other towns in ancient Egypt, over a long period of time. So, when looking for this "place of special significance," we need to consider that the biblical account isn't going to use another culture's version of "Eden." They're going to have their own.

i'm sure you notice the commonalities with the general story of genesis 1. the important bit is that genesis 1 makes no mention of any specifics. there is no "eden" in genesis 1. adam there probably means "mankind" (especially considering that it describes adam as "male and female"). it is intentionally riffing off those creation stories, and others. this kind of story was pervasive across the ancient near east. genesis 1 is likely meant, in part, to replace said stories in ancient judah. as the book of kings will tell us, judah wasn't always very faithful to strict monotheistic yahweh worship.

Just from the structure of the text, we can identify the land of Eden as the land of Israel, and the point of this was that this was a place of special significance and primacy compared to the rest of the world.

i do not think this is the case. perhaps this would be an issue for another thread, but i think there's likely a wealth of names and places we can identify that would place them elsewhere shortly after leaving eden. for instance, everyone spreads apart from babel. where is babel, supposedly?

metaphorically, yes, eden does potentially stand in for "the land of milk and honey". but i don't think we can say that it means that literally. literally, its description is quite improbable, and under much debate.

i writes:

i think it's important to get the order correct. i've often debated with people here that make the fundamental(ist) error that the later work can be examined as if it influenced the earlier work.

That's if one assumes that Genesis was a later work.

er, actually, genesis was the earlier work in my statement. sorry for the confusion. genesis 2/3 happens to be fairly old as far as torah sources go. i was saying that it's probably inappropriate to look at books that were written after (and influenced by) the torah in order to determine what the torah means. it's also worth noting that genesis 1 is far newer than genesis 2. it was originated much closer to the time of the major prophets.

I've studied books like Jubilees, which purports to be an ancient document but in reality has a lot of internal textual evidence that it was composed in approximately the first century BC, since common rabbinic interpretations from this time have made their way into the book and have been given an ancient gloss. I'm personally not seeing the same kind of evidence for a later composition for early parts of Genesis.

no, i don't either. i would not go so far as to say "first century BC" for anything in the torah, even the newest parts. the newest bits, i might say as late as immediately upon return from babylonian exile, under the prophet ezra, as part of the canonization effort. this would include genesis 1.

the J and E bits, i'd put to maybe 900 BC? it's kind of rough, since source authorship from oral tradition (or, perhaps other collected sources, in a less rigid manner) does not particularly reflect the actual age of the story. just the most recent revision of the document as a whole. the only source we can definitively date is deuteronomy. unless you believe the business about it being "found" of course.

Well, again, I think we're coming at this from different perspectives. I think the metaphorical "commandment" that they were given was to practice what leads to life, as opposed to practicing either good or evil.

but they weren't given a positive mitzvah, only a commandment to avoid something. it wasn't so much a choice, as it was that "life" (really, physical immortality) was pulled away from them as a result of their actions.

I think the reason why the bible uses this symbolism is because at that time, the civilization of Sumer was beginning to spread across the ancient near east. They saw themselves as exploring, for the first time, the fruits of civilization, and they threw themselves into it wholeheartedly. But the way they described these fruits of civilization is probably best summarized by the Mesopotamian tale of Enkidu. Enkidu is a wild man who lives in harmony with nature. Gilgamesh interacts with him and offers to him the fruits of civilization. In order to become initiated into civilized culture, Enkidu must drink beer and have intercourse with a woman (since beer and temple prostitution were seen as the great innovations of society at that time).

surely they were. ಠ_ಠ

Upon initiation, Enkidu would have greater *knowledge*.

oh no, not the sex thing. i knew it would rear its ugly head sooner or later.

it is a common reading of ha-da'at, yes. there are literally tons of rabbinical commentary on it. i don't especially want to discuss it. i'm not sure i disagree with it, but i can't say i really agree either. the qabalistic reading is interesting, but way too anachronistic. i do like the "stealing creative power" idea, but it just doesn't really fit, imho.

I feel that it is specifically this literature (whether or not this was the actual story that Genesis 1-3 was written in response to, or a similar story) that prompted the ethical response in Genesis 1-3.

did you know that a lot of rabbinic interpretation regards eating from the tree of knowledge as good thing?

What I find interesting is that the creation of man appears in parallel in the chiastic structure of the text. That's just one more reason, to me, that it makes sense. At the very least, it's a legitimate alternative to the documentary hypothesis which should be given equal consideration.

well, like i mention, at best i see that as an interesting coincidence. it's not chiasmus, really, because the two are driving at entirely opposite points. not complimentary converses. opposites.


אָרַח

This message is a reply to:
 Message 101 by damoncasale, posted 12-15-2010 9:00 PM damoncasale has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 104 by damoncasale, posted 12-16-2010 7:49 AM arachnophilia has replied

  
damoncasale
Member (Idle past 4058 days)
Posts: 41
From: Seffner, FL, USA
Joined: 12-09-2010


Message 104 of 200 (596648)
12-16-2010 7:49 AM
Reply to: Message 103 by arachnophilia
12-15-2010 10:42 PM


this is evidenced, really, by the fact that they do not agree. the redactor saw fit to include both stories, contradictory though they may be, because of some other intrinsic value. they are good stories, and culturally important, and have their place and function in the bible. that function is just something other than being factually accurate.

Although there *is* value in taking that position (that contradictory material can be included and not cause a problem for an ancient biblical redactor of the text), I just don't see Genesis 1-3 as one of those texts. But in any case, moving on. We don't need to keep polemicizing at one another after we're both already sure what the other believes.

sure. and admittedly, i tend to pay more attention to the rabbinical approaches than i do the christian orthodox or heterdox approaches. but i do not accept every rabbinical interpretation i read. i reject probably the majority of them

Same here, although growing up with two Christian parents who completely disagreed on matters of religion also made me look into certain major issues of Christian controversy as well. For example, regarding the issue of "church authority" (my dad's a Catholic), what I ended up discovering was that there used to be a council of elders at Jerusalem up until the Bar Kochba revolt in 133 AD (see Acts 15 and 21, for instance), headed by a Desposyni (a relative of Jesus), whose job it was to handle difficult doctrinal issues. They also apparently sent out itinerant prophets to local congregations scattered throughout the ancient world to instruct them on matters of faith, ethics, and things to come. This didn't do away with the succession of Peter, it supplemented it. Just like ancient Israel had a government based on a system of checks and balances -- you had the priesthood, the king, the local judges, and the prophets, all with various responsibilities -- it looks like the early Christian church was meant to function in much the same way. It was only long after the Bar Kochba revolt that the Catholic Church had to invent the doctrine of inerrancy -- because they were now the only game in town.

i would also like to again mention that this theme is about not having a high standard ethical behaviour. the patriarchs are routinely portrayed as very unethical

Agreed, but I think that's for a reason. We're shown that they're human and have human failings. Nevertheless, we still have a goal to aim for. One of the definitions for sin is, after all, missing the mark.

i'm not sure that story is "good vs. evil" exactly (this is an entirely too modern archetype). the specific story about the serpent has a lot more to do with chaos and order. genesis 1 depicts god's creative act as defining order -- he separates things, and sets demarcations, and establishes things. he creates from a sea, which symbolizes chaos. it is likely not a coincidence that these dragons are mentioned: the water dragon in sumerian myth was chaos. but establishing that chaos as simply one of god's creations is in a way a fundamental insult to sumerian mythology.

I agree with establishing chaos as a rebuttal of Sumerian mythology, but as to good vs. evil, I think we both know where we stand on that.

genesis 1, however, is as you say: a specific polemic against the surrounding nations and their gods. the (here unnamed) god (that is certainly yahweh) is not just the creator of eden, and the ancestors of the jewish people. he is the creator of everything. he is a much more universal and withdrawn god. this is a much later story, and part of a much more evolved tradition.

Umm...I would encourage you to compare more of the ancient creation literature. Although there are parallels with the style of Genesis 2-3, there are also parallels with Genesis 1 as well, especially among ancient Sumerian literature. Enki's home in the apsu is described in similarly cosmic terms, but it was never meant to imply that the Sumerians were the only people in existence.

i'm sure you notice the commonalities with the general story of genesis 1. the important bit is that genesis 1 makes no mention of any specifics. there is no "eden" in genesis 1. adam there probably means "mankind" (especially considering that it describes adam as "male and female"). it is intentionally riffing off those creation stories, and others. this kind of story was pervasive across the ancient near east. genesis 1 is likely meant, in part, to replace said stories in ancient judah. as the book of kings will tell us, judah wasn't always very faithful to strict monotheistic yahweh worship.

Although yes, the replacement concept makes sense, I myself go one step beyond that. I believe Genesis 1 and 2-3 were composed at the same time, as a literary unit, because those were the two styles of creation literature extant in the ancient near east. I see them as complementing one another, though. The stories are very highly stylized, but they betray their intention by, for instance, including a throwaway line on trade goods to be found in the local area (Gen. 2:12), indicating that the intent was to locate the Garden of Eden in a specific place and time, and with a specific economy (based on trade). Nevertheless, the intent is to contrast the ethics of this specific place with those of ancient Sumer, whose economy was the result of people beginning to settle together for protection, better access to food, etc. Whereas the Garden of Eden was supposed to avoid falling prey to the politics and compromised ethics of trade, Sumer had an anything-goes approach. Genesis 1, on the other hand, is contrasted with the Sumerian creation story that has man being created as an afterthought, as slaves to serve the gods, by instead positing that the creation was made for man.

er, actually, genesis was the earlier work in my statement. sorry for the confusion. genesis 2/3 happens to be fairly old as far as torah sources go. i was saying that it's probably inappropriate to look at books that were written after (and influenced by) the torah in order to determine what the torah means. it's also worth noting that genesis 1 is far newer than genesis 2. it was originated much closer to the time of the major prophets.

I sincerely doubt that. See above, regarding my opinion of Genesis 1's raison d'etre.

no, i don't either. i would not go so far as to say "first century BC" for anything in the torah, even the newest parts. the newest bits, i might say as late as immediately upon return from babylonian exile, under the prophet ezra, as part of the canonization effort. this would include genesis 1.

Not quite what I meant. I meant, I don't see evidence for Genesis 1 being composed much later than Genesis 2-3. Rather, I see the influence of Genesis 1 on the major prophets, as opposed to the stylistic similarities linking them in time.

the J and E bits, i'd put to maybe 900 BC? it's kind of rough, since source authorship from oral tradition (or, perhaps other collected sources, in a less rigid manner) does not particularly reflect the actual age of the story. just the most recent revision of the document as a whole. the only source we can definitively date is deuteronomy. unless you believe the business about it being "found" of course.

I think a better explanation for how the bible came to be in its present form (and I'm mainly speaking of the Tanakh, here) is found here:

http://www.askelm.com/restoring/res013.htm

Although I agree that the bible has had more editing done than just this, this is an excellent framework upon which to build an examination of those periods of editing. (I didn't know about the sign Hezekiah used to mark "authorized" books of the bible before I read this, for instance.)

oh no, not the sex thing. i knew it would rear its ugly head sooner or later.

I think you mistake where I'm coming from. The writer of Genesis 2-3 wasn't anti-sex. On the contrary, sex in the context of marriage was seen as a good thing -- hence the specific description of marriage in this text, as contrasted with the early Sumerian practice of temple prostitution.

As far as the meaning of the "fruit" of the tree of knowledge, I don't think it was sex, specifically. That was just one aspect of it.

did you know that a lot of rabbinic interpretation regards eating from the tree of knowledge as good thing?

I'm aware of that. On that issue, I think they're smoking crack, but that's beside the point.

Damon

Edited by damoncasale, : More sex?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 103 by arachnophilia, posted 12-15-2010 10:42 PM arachnophilia has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 105 by arachnophilia, posted 12-16-2010 7:04 PM damoncasale has replied

  
arachnophilia
Member (Idle past 576 days)
Posts: 9069
From: god's waiting room
Joined: 05-21-2004


Message 105 of 200 (596756)
12-16-2010 7:04 PM
Reply to: Message 104 by damoncasale
12-16-2010 7:49 AM


damoncasale writes:

Although there *is* value in taking that position (that contradictory material can be included and not cause a problem for an ancient biblical redactor of the text), I just don't see Genesis 1-3 as one of those texts.

on the contrary, genesis 1 vs genesis 2/3 are the texts that best demonstrate this idea. most of the other discrepancies are minor in comparison. while the J and E documents do differ slightly, it is not anywhere near the difference between J and P.

But in any case, moving on. We don't need to keep polemicizing at one another after we're both already sure what the other believes.

you must be new here

Agreed, but I think that's for a reason. We're shown that they're human and have human failings. Nevertheless, we still have a goal to aim for. One of the definitions for sin is, after all, missing the mark.

right, but i think you are missing what i'm saying. the patriarchs are not meant to be goals to aim for. rather, they are an expression of the human condition outside of the law of moshe. the interesting part of this idea is just how anthropomorphic the portrayal of god is, in the early sections of the torah. he seems subject to the same emotions, the same shortcomings, and the same uncertainty. it is only when god defines a contract between himself and his creation that there can be order, civility, or morality. when adam and chavah eat from the tree of knowledge, they really do become like god.

look, for instance, at how the source i suggested above, alan dershowitz, breaks down the stories of genesis:

quote:
  1. God Threatens -- and Backs Down
  2. Cain Murders -- and Walks
  3. God Overreacts -- and Floods the World
  4. Abraham Defends the Guilty -- and Loses
  5. Lot's Daughters Rape Their Father -- and Save the World
  6. Abraham Commits Attempted Murder -- and Is Praised
  7. Jacob Deceives -- and Gets Deceived
  8. Dina Is Raped -- and Her Brothers Take Revenge
  9. Tamar Becomes a Prostitute -- and the Progenitor of David and the Messiah
  10. Joseph Is Framed -- and Then Frames His Brothers

of course, for the actual arguments, you'll have to read the book. that's the table of contents. but i think it adequately sums up the book of genesis: a whole lot of immorality, by everyone.

I agree with establishing chaos as a rebuttal of Sumerian mythology, but as to good vs. evil, I think we both know where we stand on that.

well, like i said, good v. evil is entirely too anachronistic. the earlier texts (genesis 2/3), god is really neither good nor evil. he is portrayed in very human terms, and generally can't be summed up under either heading. in the later texts (genesis 1), god is universal, and good and evil simultaneously. and it's his job to delineate the two -- evil is the realm and authority of god, just as much as good is. this would represent the major prophets, as well. but the idea of any "evil" force out there that could even begin to challenge a "good" god would have been heretical. there is only one god, yahweh, and everything is under his power, except perhaps humanity.

Although yes, the replacement concept makes sense, I myself go one step beyond that. I believe Genesis 1 and 2-3 were composed at the same time, as a literary unit, because those were the two styles of creation literature extant in the ancient near east. I see them as complementing one another, though.

i can't see them as being composed as an intentional unit. and for a very simple reason: one of them includes ha-shem, and the other does not. and not the one that you could conveniently explain, either. only the J document operates from the idea that man knew god's name before moshe came along. E does not -- this is why they're named that way. E only refers to god as elohim or other el-based titles, and does not use the proper name of god until he speaks it to moshe. J uses it from the beginning. J is told from the perspective of a later narrator who knows the name of god (say, moshe), and E is told from the perspective of people in the stories. P operates the same way as E.

the problem is that genesis 1 would have to have been told by a later narrator. there are no people present during the creative act. they don't come about until the end of the chapter. in other words, genesis 1 and genesis 2/3 have entirely different theological points of view. if they were to be a unit, the author of gen 1 would have no problem using ha-shem, as he did in gen 2/3. so, why didn't he?

the best answer, and the one that fits all the other evidence, is that they did not have the same author, and were not written to be an intentional unit. do i think the author of gen 1 had the J document? probably. but he was contrasting that as much as he was contrasting anything else.

I sincerely doubt that. See above, regarding my opinion of Genesis 1's raison d'etre.

yes. however, it was towards the end of the biblical period where judah would have had the most contact with people from that part of the world. the sumerian myths would likely have been relayed while they were in babylon. the sumerian mythology did not particularly constitute a major threat to judaism through trade and other small interactions. but it certainly would have when babylon was trying to integrate jews into their population.

I think a better explanation for how the bible came to be in its present form (and I'm mainly speaking of the Tanakh, here) is found here:

http://www.askelm.com/restoring/res013.htm

Although I agree that the bible has had more editing done than just this, this is an excellent framework upon which to build an examination of those periods of editing. (I didn't know about the sign Hezekiah used to mark "authorized" books of the bible before I read this, for instance.)

oof, that one's about 100 times worse than your last link. the last one i just simply disagree with. this one is largely nonsense. for instance,

quote:
The internal indications certainly claim Moses as the author, and there are many New Testament assurances of this fact.

yeah, what? there are actually no internal indications of who wrote any of the torah. it's simply well-established tradition that moshe wrote it. the text itself certainly does not point to him, and in fact, points away from him in several prominent places. like the bit where he would have had to record his own death. and the bit where moshe describes his ability with words:

quote:
And Moses said unto the LORD: 'Oh Lord, I am not a man of words, neither heretofore, nor since Thou hast spoken unto Thy servant; for I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.' And the LORD said unto him: 'Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh a man dumb, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? is it not I the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt speak.' And he said: 'Oh Lord, send, I pray Thee, by the hand of him whom Thou wilt send.' And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and He said: 'Is there not Aaron thy brother the Levite? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee; and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart. And thou shalt speak unto him, and put the words in his mouth; and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do. And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people; and it shall come to pass, that he shall be to thee a mouth, and thou shalt be to him in God's stead.

Exodus 4:10-16


moshe basically defies god and refuses to be the spokesperson because he's not good with words. and we think this guy wrote the torah? if anything, aharun did. and surely the NT's opinion on the matter shouldn't really have any influence. it was already well established tradition at that -- and it's so much established even today that even academics who operate by the documentary hypothesis will still refer to "the five books of moses".

I think you mistake where I'm coming from. The writer of Genesis 2-3 wasn't anti-sex. On the contrary, sex in the context of marriage was seen as a good thing -- hence the specific description of marriage in this text, as contrasted with the early Sumerian practice of temple prostitution.

As far as the meaning of the "fruit" of the tree of knowledge, I don't think it was sex, specifically. That was just one aspect of it.

no no, not the fruit. the knowledge part. see genesis 4:1

quote:
וְהָאָדָם, יָדַע אֶת-חַוָּה אִשְׁתּוֹ; וַתַּהַר, וַתֵּלֶד אֶת-קַיִן

vs

quote:
עֵץ, הַדַּעַת טוֹב וָרָע

adam yad'a his wife, the tree of ha-da'at. same word -- "knowledge".

I'm aware of that. On that issue, I think they're smoking crack, but that's beside the point.

i don't. it's the bit that brings about the law. and judaism. and christianity. etc.


אָרַח

This message is a reply to:
 Message 104 by damoncasale, posted 12-16-2010 7:49 AM damoncasale has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 106 by damoncasale, posted 12-16-2010 10:23 PM arachnophilia has replied

  
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