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Author Topic:   The Problems with Genesis: A Christian Evolutionist's View
Member (Idle past 4942 days)
Posts: 41
From: Seffner, FL, USA
Joined: 12-09-2010

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:
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.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by willietdog, posted 01-07-2008 8:39 PM willietdog has not replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 95 by arachnophilia, posted 12-14-2010 6:16 PM damoncasale has replied
 Message 97 by Larni, posted 12-15-2010 10:56 AM damoncasale has replied

Member (Idle past 4942 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.
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

Member (Idle past 4942 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.

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

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 Message 99 by Larni, posted 12-15-2010 1:21 PM damoncasale has not replied

Member (Idle past 4942 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.
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.

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

Member (Idle past 4942 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.
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 not replied

Member (Idle past 4942 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:
Chapter 12: The Old Testament Periods of Canonization
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.
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

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

Member (Idle past 4942 days)
Posts: 41
From: Seffner, FL, USA
Joined: 12-09-2010

Message 106 of 200 (596791)
12-16-2010 10:23 PM
Reply to: Message 105 by arachnophilia
12-16-2010 7:04 PM

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.
Well, after studying the documentary theory for Isaiah and finally arriving at the conclusion that it, too, was composed as a single literary unit, albeit by multiple authors, I don't think we're going to get anywhere on this.
you must be new here
Yes, actually...just joined recently so I could get my questions answered regarding scientific dating methods.
i think you are missing what i'm saying. the patriarchs are not meant to be goals to aim for
Not the patriarchs themselves. The ideal that they are being measured against.
look, for instance, at how the source i suggested above, alan dershowitz, breaks down the stories of genesis:
  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 think probably the best source for examining God's emotional state, as it were, is a book called "The Prophets" by Abraham Heschel. It's absolutely brilliantly written and captures the prophet's relationship with God very, very well. Heschel used the word "pathos" to describe God's emotions, and I think that word really sums it up. God is very intense. He has mood swings, gets angry, despondent, etc. The prophet cannot help but participate in this pathos, just because of the intimate nature of the relationship between God and the prophet.
As far as the issues you raised above, I guess it depends on one's perspective. For instance, with God threatening and backing down in the creation account, it would be illustrative to compare eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge with the Sumerian cultural beliefs. They believed that the fruits of civilization would bring life -- hence the practice of ritual temple prostitution, especially by the king whose responsibility it was to have sex with the priestess of Inanna during an annual festival in order to ensure a productive year, agriculturally speaking. God was merely contrasting that belief by saying that it would bring death, not life. I don't think God meant Adam would literally die, just as the Sumerian practice (or the later Egyptian Sed Festival, normally held at the 30-year anniversary of a pharaoh's ascension to the throne to symbolically renew his life and virility) didn't literally provide new life.
As far as the flood goes, I've never been able to find evidence for a worldwide flood. I'm guessing this MIGHT mean a horribly destructive war -- a "flood" of armies (as in Isaiah 59:19 and Jeremiah 46:7-8), but I'm really not sure. In any case, I think it's instructive to consider the natural consequences of a worldwide spirit of hatred and violence (Gen. 6:11-13). God often acts by warning about the natural consequences of doing something, even though it seems as if he's talking about a punishment. For instance, the "punishment" on Adam, Eve, and the serpent, in the creation account, look more to me like natural consequences than an actual punishment.
As far as the rest, where the patriarchs are shown to often be carnal men (to use a modern, Christian term), I think that's accurate. And I think what we're meant to learn from that is that Israel didn't originate from ideal circumstances, no matter how much God might have favored them. They were human and had their issues. Especially Jacob, where we see him earning the just results of his earlier deception of his brother Esau by what Laban does to him.
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.
I don't really see that as being an issue. I see it as a stylistic difference, as would be explained by having Genesis 1 and 2-3 written by different authors. In fact, if one follows the toledoth theory of Genesis authorship, where the toledoth mark the section breaks between the clay tablets that the early chapters of Genesis were originally composed on, Genesis 1:1-2:4a forms one tablet, with the author being "the heavens and the earth", and Genesis 2:4b-5:1 forms a second tablet, with the author being Adam.
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 don't think that's the case. Israel was always being warned about being influenced by its neighbors, who practiced child sacrifice, cutting themselves and bleeding in the worship of Baal, etc. I see a very good reason why the creation story would've been concerned with Sumerian beliefs and practices -- because the whole purpose of the many Ubaid settlements that sprung up across the Fertile Crescent was to facilitate trade. So the Garden of Eden, being just another Ubaid settlement, would've been directly exposed to Sumerian beliefs and practices.
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:
I think that's splitting hairs. Of course he wouldn't have recorded his own death. I don't think that argument really does anything to prove or disprove the authorship of the Torah. Even if he had people assisting him in compiling it, he could still be said to be the "author", just as books today might have an "editor" who facilitates the compilation of disparate articles by different authors to form a united whole.
adam yad'a his wife, the tree of ha-da'at. same word -- "knowledge".
Yes, I'm aware of that. But rather than the Sumerian context, which has this knowledge as some metaphysical thing which gives new life, Adam "knowing" his wife Eve, in my opinion, simply represents the intimacy of their relationship. Same word, completely different application.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 105 by arachnophilia, posted 12-16-2010 7:04 PM arachnophilia has replied

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 Message 107 by arachnophilia, posted 12-17-2010 12:17 AM damoncasale has replied

Member (Idle past 4942 days)
Posts: 41
From: Seffner, FL, USA
Joined: 12-09-2010

Message 108 of 200 (596830)
12-17-2010 8:53 AM
Reply to: Message 107 by arachnophilia
12-17-2010 12:17 AM

perhaps. but i think perhaps you might want to spend just a bit more time studying the reasoning behind the documentary hypothesis -- and why it rejects the idea of unified composition. remember, the hypothesis was devised to explain the observed lack of unity. it is not the argument, but rather the fact the argument explains.
Well, as I explained before, I *did* spend time considering the opposite position for Isaiah. And it made a LOT of sense...until I happened upon Avraham Gileadi's book and saw how the unity of Isaiah could be defended. As far as Genesis goes, I've known about the toledoth theory and the chiasmus theory for a long time. I can certainly look at the documentary theory as regards Genesis 1-3, but I really don't think that knowing more about J, E, D and P will help me much. (I have a basic familiarity of what they are.)
rather, i debate to convince myself, and sharpen my thoughts on the subject. you will find that my positions have changed slightly, and have grown more informed over the years. partly out of research i have had to do -- almost never because someone has radically changed my opinion.
Well, I'm always learning too. I can't really say I've learned much here, although it does sound like you're *very* informed and well-read. For that I applaud you, even though we disagree on quite a bit. The one thing this discussion *has* done for me is informed me on how I should rewrite certain parts of my book. The main points you've raised, and the answers I gave, are things that really should be in there.
no, it definitely means literal death. at least reading the story literally -- the metaphorical reading of the story may perhaps be different, but we can't interchange them at will. the author makes sure to spell this out, so there is no confusion, literally writing, "you will die a death."
Well, I don't believe Genesis 1-3 was meant to be read literally, just like the creation literature of other cultures wasn't meant to be literal either. I mean, I hear where you're coming from, but my view of Genesis 1-3 has been markedly changed by my exposure to other ancient literature, and seeing how it was meant to be read. I *used* to read it literally too, but I had to let go of that in order to explain the fact that human existence goes back farther than 6000 years. And then I had to come up with a good hypothesis to explain what it *does* mean. I just don't think there's any easy way to falsify either of our hypotheses.
he's very upset with his creation -- not just h'adam and his wife, but mankind all like him. and animals. and everything. symbolically, he is un-creating.
Compare that with Jeremiah 4, especially verses 23-26. Here, God is "uncreating" too, but in this case we see that it's the result of the Babylonian army taking Jerusalem captive and decimating it.
I know God says that *he* is doing this in regards to the Flood, but he also said that in regards to the destruction of Jerusalem. And in that case, we know he used an agent to do so.
err, use and disuse of ha-shem was a major doctrinal issue. this is not a minor stylistic difference. it represents a major shift in theology.
I understand that later Judaism made it out to be, but for me it's not a big deal. Adam, dwelling in the Garden, would've known God intimately. Perhaps that's all that this means. I'm really not interested in speculating, because I'm out of my depth here.
curious that it follows the documentary hypothesis so closely. 1:1-2:4a is P, 2:4b-4:26 is J, all of 5 is P again... as such, i don't see this as a particularly useful rebuttal. the only bit it's adding is the plainly ridiculous notion that the people described in the "tablets" are also the authors, and everyone actually wrote in third person.
Well, unless you expect them to write something clunky like "I, Adam" every time instead of just Adam, it makes sense to me.
i say "plainly ridiculous" because the sword of stylistic analysis cuts both ways. whoever wrote genesis 2-4 also wrote everything else attributed to J. and to think adam would have summed up his 900 year existence on a single tablet containing 3 chapters is just outrageous.
Why? We discussed the tablet literature from Mari, Ebla and Nuzi before. From what I understand, stylistically, it's quite similar. Those writers weren't very verbose either. What would help me is seeing a good sampling of tablet translations of the various kinds of literature discovered at those three sites, tho. I haven't been able to locate a good sampling yet.
this makes the same kind of genre error that fundamentalist christians often make: genesis is not biography, or history. it is fable. they are stories written to convey a particular point, and there is an overall point. denying the unified structure of the individual source is as much of an error as claiming a unified structure across these two particular sources. (J and E had much the same goals, but P did not)
Well, if by fable you mean stories written to convey a particular point, that's what I've been saying all along as regards Genesis 1-3. It's written in a metaphorical style that *does* contain literal elements -- just as there was a literal king Gilgamesh, but he never went on a journey to search for the plant of life. That, too, was a metaphor.
In any case, I *do* see a chiastic structure to Genesis 1-3. I know you think it's strained, but there are other elements that tie that together for me. There is a Jewish legend that before Adam sinned, his skin glowed. When he sinned, the light went out and he could see that he was naked. Although I don't put any stock in that, the way the text describes Adam's garment is interesting: kotnot 'or with an ayin. This is a play on words with kotnot 'ur with an aleph, meaning coats of light. It was referring back to the parallel passage in Genesis 1:3 where God said, "let there be light." This is simply God's spirit causing light, and Adam is figuratively "wearing" God's spirit here.
Compare that with Isaiah 30:1: "Woe to the rebellious children, says the Lord. They take counsel, but not from me, and they cover (themselves) with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they might add sin to sin!"
Basically, what Isaiah is explaining is that the rebellious Jews were claiming that they were righteous, "covering" their sins, but not with God's spirit. In other words, it's the spirit of love that forgives human inadequacy and failing. The Jews weren't sorry, but they were covering their sins anyway. Adam was "wearing" that spirit to symbolize that God had forgiven him, but nevertheless he still had to suffer the natural consequences of his actions. And God could no longer allow him to dwell in his presence.
the difference in age partly comes about based on what we know about jewish history from the bible. it is a common error to think of judah as perpetually and strictly monotheistic. but the book of kings will tell us this isn't so. judah underwent a religious reformation under josiah; he banned all places of worship other than the temple in jerusalem, and drove all idol worship out of judah. it follows that judah had been more accepting of other forms of religion prior to this point.
Only if you follow Finkelstein & etc., who don't believe in an actual Davidic kingdom, an actual entry into the land of Canaan by conquering the existing inhabitants, etc. David Rohl, in "Pharaohs and Kings: A Biblical Quest" does an excellent job of clearing up the Egyptian chronological difficulties in locating the Davidic kingdom in the Levant. And no, influence by their polytheistic neighbors wasn't a real issue for Israel at this point in time.
it also follows that the strict monotheistic stuff was written after, where the more henotheistic stuff was likely written before. that simple difference can be used to date the origin of the sources in the torah, especially genesis. J and E do not display an ill-will towards other gods, until moshe gives his commandments, and joshua leads the armies into the promised lands. a strict, universalist god is completely out of place even here, but moreso before the law is given.
I think that's assuming far, far too much about Israel's history. What most biblical critics are wont to do is to try to come up with a simple formula to deconstruct the bible. They think they've done so by pegging a stricter monotheism as only being instituted post-Josiah. I really don't think that's the case, especially with Moses destroying the golden calf en route to the promised land. (And yes, I'm sure the same biblical critics will say that's unhistorical, too.)
that's really just the most obvious stuff. there's some less obvious stuff, like the anachronisms. for instance,
Of course. Genesis was edited many times, in order to update the place names for a more modern readership. I'm totally in agreement with biblical *editing*.
i'll go one simpler. it's just an idiom; a euphemism
Of course it's an idiom.
PS. Because I'm curious, would you mind sharing how you came to be so well-informed on biblical history, biblical criticism, etc.? I think knowing that might shed some light on our conversation.
Edited by damoncasale, : To satisfy my curiosity

This message is a reply to:
 Message 107 by arachnophilia, posted 12-17-2010 12:17 AM arachnophilia has replied

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 Message 109 by arachnophilia, posted 12-22-2010 1:58 AM damoncasale has replied

Member (Idle past 4942 days)
Posts: 41
From: Seffner, FL, USA
Joined: 12-09-2010

Message 110 of 200 (597513)
12-22-2010 9:25 AM
Reply to: Message 109 by arachnophilia
12-22-2010 1:58 AM

We seem to be running out of polemic that's not simply repeated from earlier. I'll focus on the new stuff, unless you think I'm skipping something important.
admittedly, i am not that well versed in isaiah. however, i have much better grasp on the torah, and i do not see this unity argument as a good defense against something like the documentary hypothesis. it does not seem to address the facts in support of the documentary hypothesis.
I guess what I'm saying, regarding Genesis, is not so much a "unity" argument as it is an "age" argument. The documentary theory argues that at least some of the material is younger than it claims to be, just like parts of Isaiah are younger than they claim to be. I've attempted to look at both sides of the issue with Isaiah and ended up concluding that the "unity" argument makes more sense in its case. As far as Genesis goes, again, I only have a basic familiarity with the JEDP hypothesis, but I don't think knowing more about it is necessarily going to convince me differently than I am now. That being said, I'm not *averse* to studying it. (I've run into enough stubborn people in discussing religious matters that I'm determined not to become one of them. )
but i do not think factual concerns are a good argument against reading a story literally.
IMHO, this is a modern approach at understanding the text, though. I'm trying my level best to look at Genesis 1-3 in exactly the same way other ancient creation literature was written and meant to be understood. I'm not positive I'm succeeding, but I think the approach is good.
We still haven't even discussed the astronomical elements in the ancient myths. I'll do that now, just to show you that there was more to these ancient tales than meets the modern eye. The Gilgamesh epic describes a journey to "the Westland" where paradise is (e.g., NOT in the direction of Bahrain, which would be southeast). There, the giant "Humbaba" dwelt, in a forest of cedar. Along the way, he meets Utnapishtim (designated by the astrological sign for Capricorn, as in the planisphere that was found in the library of Ashurbanipal) was the only one who had been given eternal life.
Now, successive constellations were anciently assigned to arcs of 6 degrees of longitude across the planet's surface, with Egypt being Orion. (Zitman goes into detail on how we know this in his book, Egypt: Image of Heaven.) Capricorn marked the six degrees of longitude roughly to either side of the Greenwich Meridian, crossing the southwestern tip of Niger. "Humbaba" is a very ancient name applied to the minor constellation near Aquarius now called Lepus. It's this area -- southwest Niger, as laid out on the globe -- that the Egyptians and Sumerians originally came from. Thousands of years ago, before the climate shifted around 8300 years ago or so, this area was more verdant and capable of supporting a large population, as opposed to being a wasteland today. Rock art and pottery shards found in neighboring Chad indicates that not only were people living here, but that their religious motifs were comparable to predynastic Egyptian art.
The point I'm making is that unless we learn to read these stories as the ancient writers intended them to be read, we can go around and around about what's literal and what's not. Our conclusions won't be at all accurate, though.
i think you don't quite get what i mean, here. for instance, genesis 4 ends with this phrase:
then began men to call upon the name of the LORD
adam doesn't actually use the name of god in the text, but it's presumable that he knew it. here, seth (his son), and enosh (his grandson) know it, and use it.
Actually, this is another important chiastic structure:
Gen. 4:23 - Then men began to call upon the name of the Lord
Gen. 5 - Genealogy of Seth
Gen. 6:2 - The sons of God married the daughters of men
Basically what this means is that the descendants of Seth were these "sons of God." Has nothing to do with fallen angels, as some later Jewish sources (like Enoch) interpreted this to mean.
but look at exodus 6:3
and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name Yahweh I made Me not known to them.
Why is this a contradiction? It only says Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, not anyone earlier than that. Right?
but, like i said, we can pick apart the styles both ways. not only can we pull J and E apart because of stylistic differences, we can group J together with itself, and E together with itself because of stylistic similarities. it's not really an issue of verbosity, but of how those words are used. for instance, compared the rigidity of any P source (genesis 1, or any genealogy) with anything else in genesis. anything else seems a lot more eloquent, doesn't it? it's not number of words, but how they're used.
the "number of words" bit above was that i would expect someone telling the story of their entire 900 year life to be a bit longer than barely a paragraph. or any of these posts. perhaps if they were leaving a headstone -- or some other kind of stele -- i could see that length. but they don't read like stele either.
Isn't that exactly what tablets are?
In any case, one could say that all of the genealogical tablets in the archive in Ebla were written by the same author, because they're written in the same style. Now, I know you're referring to more specific stylistic indicators, but given that a good case can be made for the unity of Isaiah *despite* its striking stylistic differences between the two halves of the book, I would wager that a similar argument can be made for individual authorship throughout the early chapters of Genesis.
The problem is, we're dealing with a VERY limited section of the text (prior to Genesis 12, that is) and trying to make very important determinations based on picking out stylistic similarities and differences with the rest of the Torah. That's dangerous and can easily lead to all sorts of wrong conclusions, simply because our sample size is way too small. It's better to look at literary comparisons with other ancient cultures to see what we can learn that way, imho.
i would go the reverse route. it's written in a literal style and contains metaphorical elements. (ditto on gilgamesh)
Well, that's why I decided to elucidate on Gilgamesh, to show exactly what it *was* trying to say. And the central meaning of the story was in no way described literally, as I showed above. (Well, Zitman did, but you know what I mean.)
i think it's also inappropriate to draw a parallel between god's spirit, and light.
I'm getting that in part from Exodus 3:2, 13:21-22, and 14:19-20. It seems that a parallel is being drawn between the division of light from darkness in Genesis 1:1-4 and Exodus 14:19-20 especially. Therefore, this pillar of cloud/fire would be equivalent to God's spirit lighting things up.
Also note that later Jewish interpreters drew a parallel between the tree of life and the Menorah in the Temple -- which was lit with oil, representing God's spirit.
and at that time, there was an issue in judah. even the book of kings reports that there was -- until josiah cleans up the mess. this is within, i believe, 60 years of the exile. israel (the northern kingdom, post-division), on the other hand seemed somewhat more accepting of foreign gods, and was damned because of that fact.
What I meant was that acceptance of foreign gods wasn't an issue during the time of the Davidic kingdom, although it was an issue later on, in Josiah's day. So what you mentioned earlier about Josiah "finding" the book of the law in the Temple being more a composition than a finding is, I think, inaccurate.
this was to be expected, of course. the israelites had not heard the commandment to only follow one god. rather, they simply had the god their ancestors worshipped, and were not so concerned with removing other gods. a universal god in this setting would have been anachronistic.
To some degree, I agree with you, but I don't think that proves that Yahweh is anachronistic in the early parts of Genesis.
oof. i don't even know where to begin, there. surely you know that a lot of genesis is etiological in nature? it's the story of how those places got those names. when those are the anachronisms, it kind of moves the whole story up a bit.
I think we're talking past one another here. ;-)
Of course it is. But that doesn't mean editing didn't take place. For example, the name of Raamses in Genesis 47:11, and then again in Exodus 1:11, is anachronistic. That was changed later, when the name of the city changed, in order to keep the book up to date.
i'm honestly not that informed.
Well, you're still more informed than a lot of people I've had occasion to discuss ancient history and comparative religion with in recent years.
Anyway, since roughly 1996, I've been researching ancient history, particularly the origin of civilization. My goal was to understand *why* the early parts of Genesis were written the way they were. Whereas a lot of biblical commentaries will point out the cultural references in later chapters of Genesis, I wanted to explore the same for the early chapters. It's been a difficult road, because the more I've read, the more I've understood that there's a wide diversity of information available. Some of it's reliable, and some of it's playing very fast and loose with facts, occasionally getting them completely wrong.
Another thing I've been picking up on in recent years has been attempting to integrate a holistic understanding of ancient culture as a way of better understanding the cultural origins of Genesis. Part of that has been spent exploring the astronomical references in things like the myth of Gilgamesh's journey, but also just by studying things like the pillars at Nabta Playa. If the ancient myths really are full of astronomical references (and I'd include the bible in that!), that could be as big of a breakthrough as the decipherment of hieroglyphics was for the study of ancient Egypt.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 109 by arachnophilia, posted 12-22-2010 1:58 AM arachnophilia has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 111 by arachnophilia, posted 12-22-2010 5:51 PM damoncasale has replied

Member (Idle past 4942 days)
Posts: 41
From: Seffner, FL, USA
Joined: 12-09-2010

Message 112 of 200 (597690)
12-23-2010 12:10 PM
Reply to: Message 111 by arachnophilia
12-22-2010 5:51 PM

the documentary hypothesis is simply the best explanation for the internal structure that i have seen, and easily explains the discrepancies these other ideas pass over, or stretch to explain.
Well, let me answer your other question regarding why we should make a division at Genesis 12. It's because the composition of the text drastically changes beginning at Genesis 12. Everything before that is universalist in perspective, with several genealogies, and three major -- but very short -- literary interludes: creation, the flood, and the tower of Babel. All three of these appear to be polemics specifically targeting either immorality or, in the case of the Babel story, something which isn't immediately apparent from the text, but which also has to do with immorality. Everything after this is simply the history of Abraham and his descendants. Morality does play a part, but it's no longer the defining characteristic of the literature.
If I understood you correctly, you said earlier that the documentary hypothesis doesn't have an explanation for why there should be a change in the character of the text at this point. I'm positing that one of the reasons for the change (and there are multiple reasons) is because the original medium for recording the text changed at this point. Before, baked clay tablets were used. Afterwards, likely vellum (sheep skin) was used, meaning that more material could be preserved in a much easier fashion. But the documentary hypothesis, as it currently stands, doesn't allow for this, because it posits that the material was interwoven together at a much later date. Right?
Now, I think looking at the stylistic considerations, the use of different names for God (or no name, in the case of Gen. 1:1-2:4), etc., is indeed a valuable exercise. But I think that using just those considerations for purposes of dating the text is extremely unwise. If I remember correctly, early versions of the documentary hypothesis arose out of the fallacious belief that writing didn't exist in roughly 1000 BC, around the time of the Davidic kingdom. The documentary hypothesis has since evolved, but my point in bringing this up is that the hypothesis is mainly an artificial construct which was arrived at purely from one specific angle of analysis.
in any case, bnai elohim is certainly representing a set of divine entities, not human ones.
I'm aware of the editing of Deuteronomy 32:8-9, and even though that may be referring to a council of angels, that doesn't change the correct reading of Genesis 4:23-6:2.
Compare Psalm 82. "God stands in the congregation of the mighty, he judges among the gods (elohim). How long will you judge unjustly, and tolerate wickedness?" This psalm is drawing a deliberate analogy between the heavenly court of angels and the earthly judges of Israel. Just as those earthly judges are referred to by verse 6 -- "I have said, you are gods, and all of you are children of the most high" -- the same can be said of the sons of God in Gen. 6:2.
In fact, what it looks like was really going on in Gen. 6:2 is that the gene pool was being weakened. It looks like there were a very small minority of extremely long-lived humans who then began intermarrying with other people who were living at this time, people whose average lifespans we know from archaeology to be somewhere around 35-40 years. Hence, Gen. 6:3 has man's lifespan being limited to 120 years.
well, poke through genesis some more. abraham does use the name of god. for instance,
Then I would look at Ex. 6:3, not in terms of the historical usage of one name of God vs. another, but as having a metaphorical meaning. It's not a reliable method of dating texts, that's for sure.
i'm not advocating a davidic authorship of deuteronomy, but one contemporary to josiah -- when it would have been needed.
I'm not advocating a Davidic authorship of Deuteronomy either. I'm pointing out the logical fallacy of suggesting that Deuteronomy would only have been written in the context of Josiah's reforms. Why couldn't it have originated with Moses, when the issue of worshipping other gods instead of God was also a problem?
i think discovering significant astrological references in ancient hebrew texts would be particularly interesting.
Well, we do know that the practice of "measuring," especially for architectural purposes, originally derived from astronomical observance. (Compare Zech. 2:1-2 and other places where a measuring line is used.) We know this from studying the building techniques used in ancient Egypt and Babylon, as well as determining that there were ancient standardized units of measurement that were too accurate to have simply been based off of a measuring rod of some random length. If they had been just based off of an existing measuring rod, then "copying" that rod would've introduced a progressive, measurable error margin from the copying process, and we don't see that. So, because we know that any ancient architect had to use astronomical observance in order to calculate his standardized units, we can look through architectural references in the bible with an eye for any non-obvious astronomical references that might pop up.
Also, both architecture and astronomical observance have had religious significance since prehistoric times. So for instance, Job 38:31-33 seems to have an ancient meaning of which we are generally ignorant today.
Edited by damoncasale, : Elaboration on measurements based on astronomical observation.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 111 by arachnophilia, posted 12-22-2010 5:51 PM arachnophilia has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 113 by Percy, posted 12-23-2010 4:45 PM damoncasale has replied
 Message 123 by arachnophilia, posted 12-23-2010 8:29 PM damoncasale has replied

Member (Idle past 4942 days)
Posts: 41
From: Seffner, FL, USA
Joined: 12-09-2010

Message 115 of 200 (597729)
12-23-2010 5:14 PM
Reply to: Message 114 by fletch
12-23-2010 5:02 PM

Re: Not a Time-Line
A few points and questions. If Genesis is not literal as you say, then the account of Jesus' lineage must not be literal either. Which then means that you just "throw out" anything that you don't want to research enough to get a clear answer.
Non sequitur. Just because *parts* of Genesis are non-literal has nothing to do with Jesus' genealogy. In fact, the genealogies of Genesis are markers that indicate that at least parts of the early chapters *are* literal, and must be so.
I think you're trying to wade into a discussion that's over your head, no offense intended.

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Member (Idle past 4942 days)
Posts: 41
From: Seffner, FL, USA
Joined: 12-09-2010

Message 116 of 200 (597730)
12-23-2010 5:22 PM
Reply to: Message 113 by Percy
12-23-2010 4:45 PM

Regarding the context of Job 38:31-33, the whole chapter is steeped in metaphor. The earth doesn't have literal "foundations" (verse 4). The sea doesn't have doors (verse 8). Therefore, the references to constellations in verses 31-33 are likewise intended to be understood metaphorically.
The foundation and cornerstone of the earth is the principle of justice. (Compare Ps. 82, especially verse 5.) In much the same way, "the ordinances of heaven" are intended to be understood as the spiritual principles of heaven as symbolized by these constellations.
We *do* know the meanings associated with the constellations from other cultures. For instance, Orion represents kingship. But that doesn't necessarily mean Job intended them to be interpreted the same way.

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Member (Idle past 4942 days)
Posts: 41
From: Seffner, FL, USA
Joined: 12-09-2010

Message 120 of 200 (597740)
12-23-2010 6:55 PM
Reply to: Message 119 by Granny Magda
12-23-2010 6:33 PM

Re: Assumptions Without Foundation
You seem to be arguing in the form where you assume that any inaccuracy in the text must be explained by an allegorical intent. That is a mistake. You can't just assume that a passage is not literal simply because a literal reading would be factually inaccurate. You are excluding the possibility that the passage was meant literally, but was just plain wrong. You appear to be assuming that the text must always be true, one way or another, but never simply wrong.
Well, I'm coming at Job (moreso Genesis, though) through the lens of other ancient near eastern literature. Creation literature like the Enuma Elish wasn't intended to be understood literally, but rather it had specific metaphorical meanings. It's the same with biblical literature. There are times when it becomes clear that a certain text was not meant to be understood literally, and thus one has to search out what the actual meaning is. Imagery such as the "foundations of the earth" is actually common throughout ancient near eastern literature, so I'm not just choosing to interpret that non-literally without any precedent.

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 Message 119 by Granny Magda, posted 12-23-2010 6:33 PM Granny Magda has replied

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Member (Idle past 4942 days)
Posts: 41
From: Seffner, FL, USA
Joined: 12-09-2010

Message 127 of 200 (597779)
12-23-2010 11:35 PM
Reply to: Message 122 by Granny Magda
12-23-2010 7:32 PM

Re: Assumptions Without Foundation
Sure, but that may very well be because they actually did think the earth rested upon foundations. It's not so silly a belief. It seems pretty solid after all. Ancient Near East cultures did not know that they were dealing with a planet. They had little concept of such things. By their standards, worldly foundations might have made perfect, literal sense. The writer of Job may have thought the same way.
Actually no, ancient peoples knew how to calculate latitude and even longitude, so they definitely had an awareness of the circumference of the earth.
See "Civilization One" by Christopher Knight and Alan Butler. Ignore the Freemasonic bias; their information is accurate. (I have multiple other books which describe basically the same thing.)

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 Message 122 by Granny Magda, posted 12-23-2010 7:32 PM Granny Magda has replied

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Member (Idle past 4942 days)
Posts: 41
From: Seffner, FL, USA
Joined: 12-09-2010

Message 128 of 200 (597780)
12-24-2010 12:25 AM
Reply to: Message 123 by arachnophilia
12-23-2010 8:29 PM

no, that'd have been quite silly. the earliest versions of the documentary hypothesis stem out of questioning the mosaic authorship of the torah, and the early rabbinical observations that part of the text simply couldn't have been written by moses. but it's not so much about showing that moses couldn't have written the text, but about explaining some of those descrepancies -- and the doublets/triplets, the contradictions, etc.
Err...I think you need to do some research into the origins of the documentary hypothesis. Here's a good summary.
Who wrote the 5 books of Moses? (a.k.a. the Pentateuch, the books of the Law, the Torah)
Yes, what you're saying is also true, but it also arose out of the fallacious belief that writing didn't exist in Moses' day.
well, if the "one specific angle" is unbiased academic peer review, then yes. but that's hardly one specific angle. this is something that a lot of people in academia put a lot of study into -- and most if not all of the other angles come from outside the peer review process, and are generally extremely religiously motivated.
Not what I mean. The "one specific angle" involves only textual criticism. It doesn't bring other factors into play, like literary content or cultural context. And I know you say you don't see a big difference between before and after Genesis 12, but I honestly do. For instance, Adam and Eve's expulsion from the Garden of Eden isn't simply their own expulsion, but everyone's. All of the biblical genealogies essentially spring from Adam, therefore his story is a universal story. Genesis 10's genealogy explains the then "modern" countries and peoples in terms of Noah's descendants. Etc.
I'm not still trying to convince you, as I know you have your own opinion, but rather simply explaining what I meant.
again, i think it's completely inappropriate to try and use modern science to analyze the text. we are not told anywhere what anyone else's lifespan is around this time, and everyone we are given an age for lives very, very long. there's probably a textual reason for these ages, and they are probably artificially inflated.
I'm not using modern science to analyze the text. I'm using modern science to supplement what the text itself tells us. Remember, when this text was originally written, the context would've been perfectly clear to anyone reading it. But now, thousands of years later, it's not. We know through science what the average lifespan was back then. We know from what the text tells us that the lifespan of the patriarchs was said to be much longer. The way this passage is written is thus. Just like Jacob/Israel is said to "struggle" with God, this passage describes God's spirit as "striving" with man. But the text puts this in the negative: God's spirit will not continually strive with man. Why? Because he is flesh, and his days will be 120 years. But as you pointed out, it takes several more generations before his lifespan finally does get that short. The alternative -- that there are roughly 120 years until the Flood -- doesn't fit the context of what's being said. Both before this verse and after this verse, the subject is intermarriage. It would make very little sense for this not to be referring to the end result of that intermarriage.
In any case, it looks like Noah waited until he was about 500 years old to marry, likely because there wasn't anyone left who hadn't already intermarried with people not descended from Adam. His sons were the first to die younger than the average at the time, and it kept going down from there.
then why exodus, numbers, and leviticus? clearly, deuteronomy is a re-issuing of the law. i mean, that's basically what we're calling it in english. the reasons for the authorship under josiah have to do, again, with certain anachronisms.
How about the fact that Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers are all given in the context of the 40-year wanderings, and Deuteronomy is supposed to address how they are to live once they're in the promised land?
And what anachronisms? Anything that can't be explained instead by later editing by Josiah? For instance, comparing Deuteronomy 16:1-8 with Exodus 12:1-28, we can see that at first, the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were separate observances. By the time of Josiah, they had merged together and were collectively called the Passover. We know that Deuteronomy 16 wasn't originally referring to the Passover, but to the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because Exodus 12:9 forbids the Passover from being boiled in water, but Deuteronomy 16:7 tells us to boil and eat the "Passover." Josiah had every reason to edit this section of the Pentateuch simply because his national Passover observance necessitated clarifications and updates to the original terminology (compare with 2 Kings 23:21-23 and 2 Chronicles 35:1-19).
i think it's a pretty big jump from astronomical awareness to astrological significance. job is clearly talking about the prowess of god over the cosmos -- but i don't see astrological significance there. and if there is any, it's likely poking a sharp stick at the astrology the neighbours follow, and not actual hebrew astrology itself.
Also compare Job 9:8-9 and Amos 5:8. I find it very interesting that Egyptian mythology connects the seven stars of the Pleiades with the "way of Horus" (represented by the constellation Orion) that leads back to the place where creation occurred. This place was destroyed in some cataclysm, from which a new creation arose from the watery depths, in the place of reeds. It looks to me like both Job and Amos were referring to these myths -- even if only by polemic -- when they used these astrological symbols.

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