Cris Putnam, the force behind the Logos Apologia website, has recently blogged about how the creation stories of Genesis 1-2 target ancient Egyptian creation myths. The impetus behind Cris’ efforts is a recent book entitled, In the Beginning… We Misunderstood: Interpreting Genesis 1 in Its Original Context. The authors are both Dallas Seminary grads. Their thesis is well known to scholars (and readers of this blog), though little known to the people in the pew: the biblical creation story isn’t at all about science, but about dissing other gods and the myths written about them. I haven’t read the book yet, but I’ve ordered it. I don’t expect to learn much, since this is familiar turf to Hebrew Bible specialists, but I’m very interested in how the material is presented.
As readers here know, this “not about science” approach has long been my position on Genesis and the Bible in general. What’s happening in Genesis 1-2 is very obvious to anyone who works in the original text (beyond simplistic word studies) and (important) is familiar with ancient Near Eastern creation stories. The beliefs of ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, and Canaanites all have shots taken at them. The biblical authors are clever and fearless in putting forth their fundamental theological claim: the world all of us humans experience is the product of the creative power of the God of Israel and no other god, period. They skillfully backhand other gods with textual eye-poking that anyone living in the ancient world would have readily discerned — and that is our fundamental disconnect. We process Genesis in light of our own age and intellectual battles. The result is a flawed presentation of the Genesis creation is both rebutting undesirable science (Darwin) and affirming science outside Darwinism’s immediate purview. Genesis 1 isn’t about any of that, save that it affirms an external creator God. The claim of the biblical writers is a supernaturalist one, not a scientific one.
Putnam’s post is focused on the polemic directed at the gods of Egypt. He links his readers to a short online article on this topic. Readers can do better, though. Gordon Johnston, an Old Testament professor at Dallas Theological Seminary (and no doubt the original impetus to the authors of the aforementioned book) published an article in Dallas Seminary’s journal on the subject in 2008: “Genesis 1 and Ancient Egyptian Creation Myths,” Bibliotheca Sacra 165 (April-June 2008): 178-194.
J. Richard Middleton’s book, The Liberating Image, has been informative and helpful to me, as a non-specialist, to better understand the context of Genesis 1-2. He contextualizes the Imago Dei and presents a polemical dimension to that as well. The book has overlap with the way Dr. Heiser understands the Imago Dei, and could also be worth people’s time if they’re interested in the polemical nature of Genesis 1-2. I’ve learned a lot. http://www.amazon.com/Liberating-Image-Imago-Dei-Genesis-ebook/dp/B00EO3OXRA/
Stan Tenen 30 years ago explained issue.
The guy who thinks Hebrew letter shapes reveal the secrets of the cosmos? (i.e., Kabbalah)
Stan Tenen only proof that genesis 1 in original form is just kabbala/tarot.
Kabbala proper understanded descibe how step by step everything is create and die/how cosmos work from mikro to makro scale. System is one. Different are only form of descriptons.
Problem is with religious crazies, which without understanding other language murdered people.
Armenian occultist Georgij Gurgjieff in his “Belzebub’s Tales” explain that in 6 century B.C. decided hide science about holographic universe in metaphors. One of them is torah. Cause was fact that in times of revolutions first people which has been murdered was wise men. In this form knowledge could be preserved without them.
ps. sorry for grammatical errors. I’m from slovanic group of language.
What Tenen says is nonsense for many reasons, not the least of which is that the letters of the Hebrew alphabet were not shaped as they currently are (the shapes he uses). Those letters and their shapes are also not original to the Hebrews. Tenen’s ideas are just mysticism made to sound sciencey.
Several years ago, I had been fully indoctrinated to believe that the only viable interpretation of Genesis 1 was YEC. The framework of thinking was, if you reject YEC, then you automatically reject Jesus, and accept godless Darwinism (which leads to abortion and communism!). Years ago, I even took a youth group to the Creation museum near Cincinnati!
When we started attending our current church, for the first time, I heard from the pulpit Genesis 1 explained as Moses’ attempt to reprogram the thinking of the newly freed Hebrews. I initially thought that was outrageous, and felt a sinking feeling in my heart: they don’t believe in YEC! But… it seemed so reasonable! It made sense! It’s not like they ‘threw out’ anything in scripture: they just reframed my understanding. No doubt YEC’s attend there, but the focus is on faith in Jesus, not on faith in the word ‘yom.’
In fact, over the last few years, I’ve come to believe that correctly interpreting scripture in its own context (rather than ours) enhances the supernatural aspects of the biblical narrative in a realistic way, better explains our current world, and brings home in a more realistic way the conflict between God and the rebellious members of the divine council that make up the “domain of darkness.”
One of the preaching pastors even has a Ph.D. in quantum physics (the church is in a university town). It’s frankly a relief to not have to be embarrassed or to have to worry about trying to explain Gen 1 in a YEC perspective when other scientists and intellectuals show up, when all they want to do is meet Jesus, without having to check their brains at the door and embrace a myth that isn’t true.
Christianity is intellectually satisfying as well as spiritually and emotionally satisfying because it’s based on Truth. We don’t have to conform the biblical authors’ thinking to fit our view: we should conform our thinking to fit the biblical authors’ view.
Thanks for this; well said.
What is YEC?
YEC = Young Earth Creationist/Creationism
>The claim of the biblical writers is a supernaturalist one, not a scientific one.
But to ancient man there was no distinction between supernatural vs. scientific. The question was (and still is) “How does the world work?” So if you were to ask an ancient Israelite HOW it happened, he would tell you what Genesis says. So in a sense, Genesis IS science, but an ancient one.
It’s true that they would have made no distinction – precisely because they didn’t have science as a method and lacked the tools for exploring certain areas of science. Genesis isn’t science (or it isn’t real or coherent science, if you like). If that’s science, then so is reading sheep livers to determine the future. But I understand what you’re saying. My point here is that the statement isn’t used to legitimize Genesis as actual science (i.e., something that would correspond to reality under testing for validity). Rather, what you’re describing is a “perception” or “belief” of the ancients. They had experiential knowledge and skills (e.g., engineering technology, following the movement of stars through naked eye astronomy, etc.), they didn’t have science as a method or the ability to move past naked eye / personal tactile / etc. experience.
Given all this, what is really the reason for the double creation story? And that it really is a contradiction – so to speak- of the first? What in your opinion was the reason – if this is more for polemics – to have two stories, back to back, but contradicting each other.
If Kikawada (and others with similar views) is correct, the material of the “second creation story” is a deliberate part of a much larger literary structure – a huge chiasm from chs. 1-11 (Before Abraham Was: The Unity of Genesis 1-11). Here’s a summary: http://www.podles.org/Before-Abraham-was.htm
On deliberate literary structuring within the Pentateuch and elsewhere in the Tanakh (following the Pentateuch), see Christenson, “The Pentateuchal Principle within the Canonical Process” – available here: http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/39/39-4/39-4-pp537-548_JETS.pdf
Source critics of course say they come from different sources. Literary critics (like Kikawada and, more recently, Rendsburg) either approach JEDP/source criticism a bit skeptically or say it should be scrapped as an explanation for Genesis (that’s Rendsburg).
That etsjets.org link was over my head. Definitely couldn’t understand it 🙂
yeah, that happens.
Thanks for posting the link to the article on Genesis 1 and Ancient Egyptian Creation Myths. It makes sense to me.
Letting the Bible just be what it is usually has that effect! Thanks.
I’m curious how you deal with what’s always the first objection to this: the regress problem. If Genesis 1 isn’t history how do we know the resurrection wasn’t? That kinda thing. I don’t buy it but that’s where it always goes.
What I want from people reading science into Genesis 1 is for them to account for the obvious parallels/polemics. That’s never touched. Or the grammar and syntax stuff. Other than when it’s perceived to be convenient (yom; yom with a number, etc).
I just don’t see the point of God bothering teaching science. Theology, sure. That’s the point of inspiration. But why here and only here would God bother to give science. Why wouldn’t, in the middle of the purity laws, God tell them about more useful science like germ theory. The list could go on.
No one said creation (a divine act of creation) wasn’t history. The point isn’t that divine acts aren’t history. Gen 1-2 as polemic means that the biblical writers are saying creation WAS real and crediting it to Yahweh instead of Egyptian (or other) gods. It’s a distinction between a truth claim and how the claim is made or described. The latter is interpreted literally in YEC thinking – they assume it’s a “written movie in real time.” The polemic view doesn’t presume that. It argues that the wording / description is tailored to (merely) reinforce the theological point (in this case: the God of Israel created heaven and earth) while making other theological points (your gods didn’t create heaven and earth).
Yeah you have to love the cheek of the writers, they correct the pagan theology and degrade their gods.
“how dare they make fun of somebody’s religion”.
wonder how many special interest groups they would have knocking on their door, if they were around today. ” you cant say that !”
Thanks that was helpful. The part about the difference between a truth claim and how the claim is described is the crux.
I Recently read a few books on Revelation in it’s ancient context. It’s sad really that there’s so much poor thinking about the bookends of the Christian bible.
What an understatement!
So the resurrection wasn’t ‘history’?
No, that isn’t the point at all.
I can’t see at all how you’d go from Egyptian cosmology being Gen 1-2 to the resurrection. You’ll have to explain that to me/us.
Because. He is one of those guys who says it “must all be ‘literal’ every word inspired” leading to YEC and pointless complicated timelines of the synoptic gospels.
I used to be this way myself. Then I started reading you, others, looking at the bible again.
Then I realised that the teaching in most evangelical churches were in fact control mechanisms. Just like all the churches that evangelicals claim they are not like. What I can’t figure out is why anyone with serious theological training would want their “disciples” to drink that kool-aide.
I think one way to answer the regress question is to emphasize the stylistic nuances of Genesis verses the Gospel accounts. Genesis 1-11 was written in a polemical style combatting the false theology of the day by taking the conventional/prevailing understanding of the Creation of the cosmos (a real event), the Creation of Man (a real event – we are all here aren’t we, living and breathing in real life), the Fall of Man (we are all really in sin, just look at the corruption of man in the world) the Flood story (most assuredly a real local event), the Tower of Babel (etc) and couching all of those in their proper theological light. The mechanics of all of that is not the important part for Genesis, for the reality is that it is treating each of those major, huge, incredible events with relatively few words – using them all as a whole to make some greater theological point.
The Gospel accounts have a completely different nuance. These are written as eyewitness accounts and spend an incredible amount of time on the details, Luke for example wanting to make it very clear to you where in time and space this all happened – who was in power, when were they in power, in what year of a certain leader’s power (the 15th Year of Tiberius Caesar) was Christ baptized, etc. Because the style is clearly in the form of eyewitness accounts set in a historical narrative – representing 4 separate accounts no less (not just two witnesses, but double that) – this type of literature is then completely different from that represented by the book of Genesis, especially the first 11 chapters. As such, that places the Resurrection on completely different footing than whether Adam (whose name just means “Man” and maybe that should be a tip-off) was a real man or just a representative of Man as a whole. The Adam issue can go either way and that is fine with me. The Resurrection issue cannot because it is presented as historical fact on the basis of eyewitness accounts.
No one was there to see the Creation of the world or that of mankind, so when the author of Genesis (under inspiration) wants to speak of that Creation for the greater purpose of demonstrating the nature of the true Creator, God has no problem letting that author express it in non-scientific terms that are relatable to the readers of his day. But, when an author under inspiration is claiming to represent testimony of direct eyewitness accounts of the events he deems important, then I think God is very interested in getting those details presented with the same level of accuracy that we would expect of anyone else giving testimony in a court of law, for example.
It’s a good read. I enjoyed it a lot. One of the most important books I’ve ever read in fact.
I’d say that about Walton’s book on Genesis 1 as well.
I just wanted to add, as a YEC, I appreciated the article as well. Personally, I don’t see that it is necessary, when acknowledging the polemical intent of the Genesis narrative, to deny the real ramifications that the narrative has for the nature of creation.
The article was quite enlightening and very interesting. Thank you for your continuous work at bringing understanding to the Biblical text in context.
We would not have this debate on Genesis if not for Lyell and Darwin. Except for Church Fathers like Origen and Augustine, no one felt the need to propose such creative interpretations. Personally, it’s not the vast periods of times proposed by modern scientists that bothers me, nor that Genesis might not be a literal description of the beginning of the universe. I’m just not able to see how a benevolent God who called his creation “very good” could use a process that requires predation, pain, suffering and repeated mass extinctions to achieve his ends. Such a cruel and wasteful crator would be, to my opinion, more akin to the gnostic demiurge. Respectfully.
“Very good” doesn’t mean perfect. Few Bible teachers out there (really, only OT scholars) understand that there is chaos imagery in the creation account in Gen 1 – uncertainty / unpredictability is built into creation. All the earth was NOT Eden, yet somehow many people presume that. (I speak here of terms like tehom / primeval waters, whether or not Psalm 74 and the defeat of Leviathan is a creation text or not). There is no reason that death cannot have been part of the original creation – in fact, it’s really essential, since Eden is designed to be the ultimate contrast – it is the lone place on the planet where there is only life, not death, because that is where God is.
More succinctly, Christians have long assumed that Eden = earth when it clearly is not. Eden (Gen 2) had specific geography, so by definition, it cannot be the earth. That means your objection isn’t coherent.
Thank you for your time. With all due respect, this sounds like a more sophisticated version of the “gap theory”. You say that my objection is not coherent but I feel you simply side stepped it. Forgive me if I don’t understand, but if very “good does” not mean perfect, what are we to expect in the coming eschaton? The difference between the judeo-christian worldview a(as far as I understand it)and most others, is that matter is considered good since God Created it. If pain and suffering (and waste and cruelty) is built into matter and matter cannot exist without them, how can we expect death and suffering to be done away. If matter CAN exist without it, why didn’t God create the world this way to start with? Was there a previous fall prior Eden (thus my reference to a gap theory)? By dissasociating Adam and Eve from the rest of the world, that the consequences of the fall (death) only applied to them and their descendants, the world being as it always was, it turns mankind into some alien race that doesn’t seem to belong in a material universe. You say there was only life in the garden of Eden. Do you mean by that, that animals didn’t die or prey on each others as well. Which brings me to my original problem: why the difference between the garden and the rest of the world?
It’s not the gap theory. I don’t buy the gap theory. It’s recognizing Eden wasn’t the world – and so what Eden was, the rest of the world wasn’t. The text quite clearly distinguishes them.
If “very good” was supposed to mean “perfect” (two different words in the Hebrew, per my understanding) then why was Adam told to “subdue” the earth before sin? If the earth was “perfect” what was there to “subdue” or bring under control?
Was the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics working before sin? It must have been, b/c Adam was told to tend the Garden. You don’t have to keep something up/attend to it if it isn’t decaying and falling apart. So, clearly it was subject to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics – entropy and decay. But if it is decaying and falling apart, then it isn’t perfect. So, Adam was told to keep an imperfect Garden in shape and subdue an imperfect world. Which is why the text doesn’t call it perfect, but “good”.
When we are in our resurrected bodies, we will be perfected and by definition will not ever be subject to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics again and therefore never die. We will also be UNABLE so sin when we are perfected. Was Adam/Man in a perfected resurrected body at his creation? No, he/we wasn’t/weren’t. He was us in every way. Christ was him in every way (the Last Adam), minus the Fall of course. That is why we are “in Adam” at birth, when outside of Christ. We are him in every way and if we were in his shoes, we would have eventually fallen into sin just like him. A perfect being cannot sin, thus, Adam could not have been perfect, therefore he wasn’t in a resurrected/immortal body that was by nature perfected/immortal (look up any talk of “perfection” in Paul’s writings, it all has to do with the resurrection). He was in in a regular body. You might cite Christ here – but this is why we have a Trinity. The Father in his perfection cannot sin and cannot even be tempted. The Son when rendered incarnate had to earn perfection and then be glorified and lifted up by the Father. So, he was like us in every way. He could be tempted and feel that temptation hot on his neck. He theoretically could have sinned, but just didn’t (b/c He is God too, cannot forget that). He then aged and decayed as he lived his life on earth because he was Adam – yes, not in sin, but still living in a chaotic world, the same one Adam lived in even before he sinned. Jesus didn’t have access to that Tree of Life. The Garden was long gone. So, Jesus grew up and aged accordingly. Jesus didn’t sin but yet still physically died. But hat wasn’t right or Just, b/c a spiritual being should not be allowed to die if he earned perfection. So, God the Father, b/c of Justice, raised Him up according to the merit of Jesus’ deeds – Jesus earned it. Now his earning of that righteousness is imputed to us, by faith in Him – it still being “works” that save us, but rather His works and not ours. Thus, we receive grace (unmerited favor). So, this business about Adam’s nature, this business about whether the pre-Fall world was perfect or not is a big deal theologically and we have to get it right. Unfortunately, most evangelicals are getting it horribly wrong.
So, Adam’s pre-Fall body did the same things our does. He is us. I am a physician and can tell you – in order for you to eat and digest, cells have to die. Cells from the inside lining of your mouth rub off as you eat, quickly replacing themselves of course, but some of those cells die. You chew up the cells of the fruit you are eating, killing them. Living cells slough off of the walls of your intestine as you digest the nutrients and create waste. You eventually excrete them in the stool. Is this process a sign of perfection? I hope not…
Bacteria in your gut multiply and die and replace themselves and die again, over and over, as part of a process that supports the lining of the gut and aids in digestion an immunity.
Did Adam eat prior to sin? Yes, of course, Genesis says he did. Did he chew and digest the food? Isn’t that the point? Did cells die in the process – his own, bacterial, etc? Certainly.
Was Adam kept from getting cancer? Yes. By something having to do with his own special body processes that he had but we don’t, that he lost in the Fall? No. By the exogenous Tree of Life? Yes. So, his body was doing what it normally does, simply augmented by the fruit of that Tree.
So, that means that he had bone marrow, right. Do you think he had bone marrow? Yes? I think so too, b/c I think he had to have blood, because Jesus was the 2nd Adam and Jesus had blood. In fact, blood is a big deal there, theologically. So, bone marrow implies blood, which implies an immune system (b/c that is a major part of blood – if you lack that then you have something other than blood floating around in your arteries and veins; so, if we are talking about blood, then we are talking about an immune system). But, why need an immune system if he was perfect? Must not have been perfect then. There must have been bad viruses and bacteria out there lurking about, even prior to sin, out there in that chaotic earth that required subjugation. If he had an immune system, then he had T cells called T Killer Cells that were doing their job – killing his own cells that were overgrowing here and there where they weren’t supposed to (your own T Killer cells are doing that every day, keeping you from getting cancer – which is why HIV patients, who T cells aren’t working right, get all kinds of cancers when untreated).
I could go on and on…but, there was death prior to sin. Just not spiritual death. The Tree of Life made sure of that (which just represents God’s provision for Adam as long as he remained in obedience to Him) for Adam and Eve…an only Adam and Eve. But, not for animals or even plants. Were they eating from the Tree of Life? No? Then they were dying.
Animals, plants, other non-human life…they are not spiritual and therefore could die, their deaths being a neutral thing. They are certainly “soulish” having the “breath of life”, but they weren’t specifically breathed into by God Himself. Only Man was, thus Man was spiritual and animals were not. Thus, animals could die prior to sin/the Fall. Their death is neither here nor there. Yes, not a perfect world. But, yet still a good, workable world for the present task at hand. The perfect is still yet to come, in the New Creation. That was always the plan. There was always going to be two Creations.
Why do we have an appendix? I just answered it. B/c that’s just the way it ended up in a good world, not a perfect one. Little imperfections therefore are not that big of a deal.
To read parallels between the Egyptian accounts and Biblical text is no longer a point of concern for me. In fact, it’s practically unavoidable since there must be some truth to said accounts or people would not have followed at all.
Wouldn’t it make sense that the ancient Egyptians had certain knowledge of the true “Creation Event” and intentionally tailored their accounts in order to continue worshipping their chosen false god(s)? Isn’t this the primary purpose of the adversary and his followers; to be subtle in deception in order to capture as many of God’s people as possible?
It seems only logical that similarities are apparent and that the Biblical text is most certainly a polemic for the purpose of establishing the WHOLE truth regarding the “Creation Event”, and; that there is ONLY the Preexistent God of Israel who truthfully claims 100% credit and responsibility for said event.
Every writer has a purpose. No one writes something for no reason at all. And when you’re dealing with theological assertions, you’re going to take shots so your audience knows what your position is and is not.
I do not disagree with what you said, but there is a more fundamental point which makes it correct. The Holy Spirit has been teaching me a new way to view material such as Genesis 1 and 2, and Revelation, based on this fundamental point.
Let me begin by explaining “The Holy Spirit… teaching me”, because Genesis was inspired by the same “teaching”. The HS is the spirit of truth, so all things true are taught by the HS, and to follow Kant, it begins with the aprioris, time and space. Aprioris are not “seen” but they are proven aposteriori. Therefore Genesis, like all visions of creation “begins” in the space and time we shall verify aposteriori with light being seperated from darkness, like space seperated from time but one step further, because the light is the epiphany whereby the seer sees truth.
Now picture “Genesis” as a lesson in ORDER that is our natural psychology apriori, by which all aposteriori observations must adhere to be coherent, consistent, and TRUE.
The poke in the eye to the other ancient religions,and to Darwinism,or any systematic exposition of origins, is that Jesus has an order and if it’s violated the system is false.
Kurt Goedel proved in his incompleteness theorem all logical systems are incomplete in themselves and rely on presuppositions outside the system. Therefore the presupposition must be correct for the system to be true. Genesis presuppositions are apriori “I AM” who created, aposteriori “man in his image”, therefore nothing in the created order can be understood as true if it is placed above human consciousness of truth except Yahweh himself. Therefore all other Gods must be False which are not apriori in themselves “necessary beings”. This evident and proven to me by my own consciousness, “i” am necessary to my self to know anything! I can only legitimately order creation in a way that explains its order of use to me in my worship of YahWeh, therefore I first need light to “see”, waters for life to exist in, land for sacrifices to be placed on, plants for offerings and wood for fire, heavenly lights to tell me when, blood for atonement, and man to do the worship.
Genesis should be read like an australian aboriginal “dreamtime”,and Moses as a Navi, seer/shaman, (not scientist)revealing psychological insight that will be precise enough apriori to expose error and vague enough to include all things aposteriori that lead to the truth.
That “Holy Spirit” is teaching me thing has got a lot of people into trouble. If I read my Bible and interperet it my way, what makes that a less valid teaching of the Holy Spirit than any one else’s?
See, we are sitting at Plato’s feet pretending that perception is reality. In fact reality is reality and we can’t even see it.
Allow me to be Diogenes for a minute. I am just looking for an honest man. Let me ask you; what would make the dreamquest of Moses the Shaman any more useful than reading Mark Twain? Just like I can’t configure a router with the wrong protocol and expect it to PING, what am I supposed to take away from Moses that we can both use? You be my guide…
I don’t really know what it is you’re asking. I also think you mis-worded the first paragraph (did you mean “more valid”?)
Your second paragraph sounds like you affirm the correspondence view of truth (“truth is that which corresponds to reality”). I do as well, though I see a role for the “congruence” view, too.
But I can’t really tell what it is you’re asking.
I see what Jessinoregon is asking in reference to my comment. I realized I AM, by Rene Descartes method. Resolve to doubt everything, even reality, and what is the first undoubtable obvious truth? “I think therefore I exist”,and to paraphrase that, “every time I think I am, I obviously am”, Descartes then continues, but I am imperfect because I doubt, therefore a perfect I AM must exist who has no doubts in himself(i.e. a necessary being)upon which I am (and all of reality) contingent. I relate this to “dreamtime” because it is a reality “known” apriori and requires ONLY self consciouness to realize it,and is true regardless of how one “percieves” reality. The egyptian gods were contingent to the chaos, “arising” with a beginning in spacetime aposteriori(am I correct Dr. Heiser?), therefore imperfect and false (the perfect does not come from the imperfect, but the imperfect must be contingent upon some necessary perfection. That is to quote Descartes again, and similar to Platonic reality, and in my opinion the base for “Logos”.
Thought is sequential,one “yom” at a time, or one thought at a “yom”. Now work backward from man “little I am”. I can doubt animals are real, that celestial bodies are real, that plants are real,that earth is real, that water is real, that light is real (it must be separated from darkness)and all I have left brooding over this chaos of doubt is the spirit that makes me realize the perfect I AM upon which heaven and earth are contingent.
Dr. Heiser, if this outline of “how we realize” is the core of the Genesis vision it would explain why Genesis is not proven scientifically incorrect, even though it’s not about the science of the material world, rather it’s the “science of how we see the material world the way we do”. It would be a polemic against any system which places the contingent above the necessary (I AM),or that reflects humans as less than “i am” in the great I AM’s image. If it is not then a “simple” polemic, what genre would it be, more like apocalyptic?
(I would rather have what I’ve said evaluated on it’s own merit, but if you want to know why I think this way, it’s because of an NDE, my testimony is on P.M.H. Atwaters site:
No, you aren’t correct about how you’re parsing (1) the polemic issue, (2) Johnston’s article, and (3) my own thinking. You’ve basically accrued other items onto that issue, presuming some relationship (deliberately or in confusion) and then offered that agglomeration for discussion.
Well, I was really addressing “Renegade Gospel” not you DR. MSH.
My question more coherent “I hope” and more succinct “by necessity” is:
What does ‘Renegade Gospel’s’ Holy Spirit driven dream quest entitle him to, knowledge or opinion that is any more useful than just me reading the text and interpreting it with my own filter? Isn’t he just doing the same thing? Somewhere along the line, there ought to be a protocol for this kind of stuff.
my bad – I think they replied in replying to me (you’ll have to judge).
I see what you mean about the agglomeration. My issue is the rational behind the polemic, is Moses or YahWeh merely saying I’m right and your (egyptians and canaanites)wrong, or is there a logical flow and evident presuppositions that make the truth obvious? We could go outside the story and say the Israelites, egyptians, and canaanites knew the events of the exodus (and genesis was revealed after that fact)and could merely accept the text as God-given no matter what it said, however if genesis relies on exodus, the egyptians and canaanites could argue that their system appeared logical to them and god simply punished their ignorance because they were worshiping in spirit and truth as they thought it to be, not in obvious rebellion. So for the polemic to be fair should presuppose that the genesis account should have been obvious before the exodus and the false religions intentionally twisted it. My supposition is that in the ancient middle east because of their shamanic rather than “scientific” paradigm it would have been obvious and they would have known they were in rebellion like nimrod. Paul says Yah’s eternal power and Godhead are evident in nature, and men are without excuse, that is not possible unless genesis has an order that can be “seen” outside the torah. Am I wrong about that?
Or are you saying that isn’t relevant because the discussion is centered on how genesis is polemic, not why it is polemic and it’s not relevant whether it’s true or false (nothing wrong with that approach and that may be where I am confused)?
As for Jessinoregon’s question about the holy spirit driven dream quest, as opposed to some other filter (you might paraphrase HS as filter of truth), it seems central to the question of genre when reading literally (as literature)as was discussed in comparing genesis to the resurrection accounts. I would compare genesis with apocalytic except it’s focus is on origins rather than ends. In which genesis and revelation are literally true in their genre the way parable and fable are true in their genre (they truly teach a moral. This relates to the holy spirit as the revealer of truth, it is revealed that genesis is polemic and all scripture is God-breathed for correction etc, so the man of God is fully equipped for every good work(2 Timothy 3:16,17 and Paul points in the general area of the polemic in question at the beginning of the chapter, men resisting truth just as Jannes and Jambres the egyptian priests did). So how does the genre of genesis equip me if it is only polemic or only scientific? I agree completely that it may not be a purely scholastic concern, it was simply important to me in how I would apply genesis as polemic in my spiritual life. I respect your opinion Dr. Heiser because the Holy Spirit has revealed many things to me through you, it was a break through when you said in your discussion of eschatology that which system we choose is based on our presuppositions about the kingdom, the HS then revealed that perhaps presuppositions about genesis exist that determine which system we use to interpret it also. I found my presuppostion in that issue to be how I understood what it means to be in I AM’s image or whether I presupposed the purpose of the genesis revelation was focused elsewhere. What presuppostion does a YEC have? What supposition does on OEC have? or a “literalist”, etc.?
I think Paul’s thoughts in Romans 1 would correlate with your first paragraph, presuming I understand it correctly. I see the polemic working in concert with theological truth propositions.
I’ll let Jessinoregon address the rest. Basically, all the familiar positions take some things literally, other things not, since they need both at times to defend their view. (That’s one of the reasons I asked, a long time ago, when blogging about the pre-scientific cosmology of the Bible< "who's the literalist now?")
One further question, where did Moses get his “presupposition” for genesis? I am taking it to be his first encounter with YahWeh in Exodus 3,and I could use your insight into the hebrew in the dialogue.
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
Then he said, “I am the God of your father
I am concerned about their suffering.
I am sending you to Pharaoh
But Moses said to God, “Who am I
And God said, “I will be with you
God said to Moses, “I am who I am.[c] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord
“This is my name forever,
the name you shall call me
from generation to generation.
and in exodus 4 He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him.
Moses ponders “who am I” and God says “I AM that I AM”, He ponders who am I to Pharoah and YahWeh says you will be as God, and God is I AM that I AM, so his “dreamtime” as Navi is focused on, who am I in relation to I AM, I am in His Image, the image of I AM. If the original text supports this, it seems that the logical flow of genesis follows (and the revelation can be independent of a burning bush, as Rene Descartes describes in his Method and Meditations,therefore it could have been obvious to the whole ancient world IF they wanted the truth instead of making themselves god like Pharoah). Would you agree?
I don’t believe Moses wrote Gen 1-11, so I’m not sure how to answer. These chapters are very Mesopotamian / Babylonian in flavor (and certain of the Egyptians connections are very late – like the Memphite Theology’s idea of Ptah speaking the creation into existence – same time period as the Babylonian exile). For Gen 1-11, an exilic context [in Babylon], when all this material would have been accessible in a center of ancient scholarship like Babylon, makes the most sense to me. I don’t have a problem *in principle* with Mosaic authorship of other parts of the Torah, but most of it isn’t written from the first person perspective as one would expect. It’s “the law of Moses” whether he wrote it or not, because the time covered by four of the books (Exod through Deut) has him as the central character. I’ve blogged on this before here. See: https://drmsh.com//?s=jedp&x=0&y=0 (a search string for the blog).
>These chapters are very Mesopotamian / Babylonian in flavor.
Isn’t that what the link you supplied arguing against? That in fact it fits more Egyptian than Babylonian? If your link is correct, why would Israelites need an Egyptian polemical work if they are in Babel?
Read more carefully – I never said it’s ONLY this or that. Gen 1-11 is very Babylonian – but the spoken word polemic is Egyptian (among other things). There are also Canaanite targets in Genesis. I never said it was only one.
How do JEPD proponents deal with this? Do they say there were two different traditions in dealing with polemics? Or, since they believe in J, the assume some of it is pre exile polemic but some of it post-exilic polemic?
It wouldn’t bother them at all. They argue that the authorship of Gen 1-11 is the “priestly” source (P) which is exilic (and so, the Babylonian context). The rest of the Torah is unaffected by the Genesis polemic. I buy the Gen 1-11 Babylonian context, but so much of JEDP is based on circular reasoning, I don’t see it as necessary. I’m still a supplementarian who sees no inherent reason Moses couldn’t have actually written parts of the Torah.
I agree with the supplementary position ( I read your other posts). This also agrees with what I know of talmudic sources. I do have questions.
The JEPD even moderately supposed gives me one problem.
If you didn’t sign your own works, at a later date would they attributed to different authors because of genre? Could the collected works of MH be given SNB designation and assigned 3 authors because you were a scholastic, novelist, and blogger? It would also seem to be compounded by “who was the editor for each”.
Another theory supposes “colodon=toledoth” and Gen 1-11 existed in some form on clay cylinders (see http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2005/12/26/From-What-Did-Moses-Compose-Genesis.aspx )Possibly why Rashi says Genesis was given before Moses went up on the mount? And Nachmanedes says that Moses is referring to Gen 1-11 in deuteronomy 32 by splitting the calendar into Days of old and years of the many generations, referring to Gen 1 as the days of old, and then the generations from adam (or the 7 day creation and the colophon=toledath). As for the exile authorship, could this have been editing for that generation? A prophet like Moses was promised, and just as Jesus said John Baptist was Elijah, any Generations prophet could have been called Moses, or in the spirit of Moses. I did something similar when writing a modern version of Descartes Method, all of his content there but in a modern context.
No one signed literary works in BC era (you get occasional names on letters, receipts – which need them), so that’s imposing a foreign context and thus creating a problem where none exists.
Isn’t it interesting that the “clay cylinders” link is a Babylonian context? Hmmm.
The cylinders link also gives reason to believe that because Abraham came from Ur that at that time they could have been babylonian polemic, so lacking your expertise I can’t say it must from the exilic period. Abrahm would also have had the egyptian and canaanite contact. Can you say for certain that because what we have of the Ptah material comes from a later period that Abraham or Moses could not have been responding to material which did exist in their day?
My position of the writings based on shamanic visions in all these cultures, where God reveals commonly through “jungian” types of “archetypes” allows for anticipated rebuttals to how polemics can be objected to. How is the Tiamat myth accepted if it doesn’t come from a shaman/priest? And how is a “book of moses” introduced to real prophets like Daniel in the exile so that he is convinced to accept it as a “book of moses”he had always known and accepted? Or to any of the true prophets at any later date without their objection?
It would seem any emendations which claimed to be what had always been believed and accepted would have few occasions to be introduced, unless we believe the bible was written in secret and the foisted as a fraud on the prophets and public of Israel.
The only time periods which seem even likely candidates would be the time of the judges (as tradition says), or of Josiah’s reform when lost books were found. But this was at the time of Jeremiah when the exile was prophesied. (see Charles Leslies “A Quick and Easy Method With The Deists” https://archive.org/stream/shorteasymetho00lesl/shorteasymetho00lesl_djvu.txt
for the strongest defense I’ve ever seen of Mosaic authorship, although I would see editing as possible).
I don’t think Abraham came from southern Ur (just a heads up).
Someone who was dead before the Ptah material was written wouldn’t have been responding to it.
Another note, when I rewrote Descartes I was not allowed to copyright it as my work even though the majority of text had changed because the book was orignally Descartes. If editors didn’t claim Moses they would have been Plagerizing?
I’m more or less from the Hugh Ross school of creationism, though I’ve occasionally thought that he’s over-reached on the Biblical data. Nevertheless, I agree that in the “plain sense” of the text, Moses wasn’t addressing the issue of creation from a modern scientific standpoint. On the other hand, for a polemical attack on one position (the births, marriages, wars, and deaths of the gods are what created the world) and support of a different position (there is one Eternal Creator who made the world) is to be effective, doesn’t it have to base itself on facts?
And if so, and if the account of Genesis is truly “God-breathed,” wouldn’t that same Eternal Creator anticipate the future shift in the argument from personified nature (the gods) to impersonal nature, and create an account that would address our concerns as well. That’s not to say that I expect that Genesis to have a “scientific” account, but rather that I believe that it could have an account very much concerned with the beliefs at the time it was written that is nevertheless inspired by the Spirit to give a true, if extremely sparse, order of events that we would recognize later.
I hope that makes sense. Shalom.
no – a polemic targets beliefs. If I were living in 1000 BC and used modern science to target something someone believed that was completely disconnected from modern science, the only way it would be effective would be for the person whose belief’s I’m targeting to understand modern science – so he’d see the power of my arguments.
And that makes no sense, not to mention God would have to mind-dump modern science into the writer, for which there is no textual reason to draw that conclusion.
God-breathed = an idiom for God being the ultimate source. (God didn’t walk around breathing on people before they wrote something). Humans were the immediate source, providentially prepared by God for the job he knew they’d have to do. He is the ultimate source. God left it up to the people he chose to do the task *as humans* (because that’s what they were).
We agree on the meaning of “God-breathed,” and I don’t think an OEC approach necesarily requires God to hook a USB to the brains of the Biblical writers. I just believe that the Spirit is capable of subtlely influencing word choices and literary structure to provide details that are only recognized much later.
Isn’t that pretty much what we all believe about many of the Messianic prophecies anyway? It’s unlikely that Isaiah had a virgin birth in mind when he wrote that the almah would give birth to a son. Based on chapter 8, we would almost have to believe that Isaiah was referring to his own son–and yet, by never using almah of a non-virgin in the OT, the Spirit set up a prophecy that Matthew woulc pick up on centuries after Ahaz (the original object of the prophecy) was dust. Or take any of the Psalms quoted as prophecies–David wrote all of those about himself and his own situation.
I’m just saying that I agree with you about the primary meaning and intent of the creation narrative, but that I also see a consistancy with the OEC view that I consider to be remarkable. To me, this is evidence that the True One backed up His counter-claims to the pagan creation stories with factual details that we would be able to recognize millennia later.
I wouldn’t say Isaiah didn’t have a virgin birth in mind, though that isn’t necessary. I don’t see how you can make biblical terms speak to precise science.
The “Follow these topics: Adam, Genesis, Genesis 1:1-3, Hebrew Bible, _NakedBible”, links are broken.
The “follow these topics” link is to a feed to be informed of any future posts given that topic identifier. To see what other posts that might (probably) have something to do with those topics, use the search engine on the site.
Would you be willing to post a brief response on how the material is presented in In The Beginning…We Misunderstood? I enjoyed the book and I am interested to know your take, and what you would present or emphasize differently.
When I get it, I’ll post about it.
One problem with this is that many of the same parallels discerned between the biblical story and Near Eastern stories are also found in creation stories far outside the Near East, from China to ancient Mesoamerica. A better explanation is that the creation story which we now know as Genesis 1 was known to Adam, Noah, and the patriarchs. It was transmitted through Noah to all human cultures, who corrupted it to various degrees. Those cultures which retained their primitive monotheistic faith (see Wilhelm Schmidt’s work on original monotheism) retained a purer form of the story, while those cultures which descended into polytheistic animism corrupted it to a greater degree.
But traces are there in all of them.
The same is true of other ostensibly Near Eastern themes, such as the divine council, which is present in traditional African religion, complete with the concept of a council headed by the Creator-God.
This isn’t the better answer. It reflects a misunderstanding of the parallels.
Every culture has a creation story because no original culture was Darwinian!
every culture has some sort of divine council, because of the sensible presumption that the unseen world has ORDER and HIERARCHY (it isn’t keystone cops or utter randomness).
There are explicit literary, textual, and even grammatical parallels between the Hebrew creation story (Semitic language) and ANE creation stories. The problem with Meso-American stories was sketched in my earlier comment — they have come to us through Europeans, or it’s nigh unto impossible to know if there hasn’t been European flavoring — because those stories originated in a pre-literate context. Beyond the superficial comparisons (there were gods who created everything) in Chinese material, you aren’t going to find the specific literary, textual, and grammatical parallels to the biblical story when comparing it to Chinese stories.
Hi Dr. Heiser,
Thanks for your reply. Some of the Mesoamerican traditions are precolumbian, since there were a few codexes preserved. Many of the parallels are the same ones cited between Genesis 1 and Enuma Elish- the order of creation being one example. If the Mesoamericans were deeply influenced by missionary traditions, one would expect them to absorb the point of the mission (i.e. one God revealed in Jesus Christ) rather than the superficial elements such as the order of creation.
There are Chinese creation stories with very particular convergences (more than simply God/the gods having created at some point in time), as has been argued in works like “God in Ancient China” (a work with some flaws, but still some good info) and Winfried Corduan’s book on original monotheism, which summarizes the exhaustive work of Wilhelm Schmidt.
All of this is probably best illustrated in Flood stories, where you have extremely detailed convergences (such as a raven and a dove being sent out at the end of the Flood to find land) in broadly independent cultures, even in written form. The Old World Indian story was written in 700 BC and includes features such as this. The same is true of Amerindian stories. Analyzing the Amerindian stories requires more detailed work to rule out missionary influence, but it can be done. Charles Martin’s “Flood Stories” is probably the best example of this. For a broad sampling of strange convergences among all human mythology, “Parallel Myths” is a good (and secular) work. The parallels almost always correlate with elements there in Genesis 1-11. Of course, grammatical parallels will tend to only exist within stories written in the same language family.
All this to say that you don’t have to be a dull-witted fundamentalist numbskull to continue to accept the historicity of Genesis 1-11. Near Eastern parallels are very helpful in that the people of the ancient Near East (and the ancient world more broadly) lived in a world of symbolic thought that the Bible lives in, and it can help alert us to things which we have missed.
Anyway, I love most of your work on Scripture, and the idea of the heavenly council has been very important for me as one of the canonical keys which opens up the big story of the Bible.
(This is my last word, since I’m not looking to cause a huge fuss on the thread. Thanks for your work.)
Can you send me the Chinese material you speak of? “Order of creation” is pretty vague, and I wouldn’t list that as a match with Enuma Elish anyway (if it’s what I’m thinking, but it’s so vague I’m not sure what it means).
Your reference to Miller and Soden’s book – did you ever write a review of this book? I can’t find another reference to the book here on this blog. I am interested in getting your thoughts on the book (I’m assuming you’ve read it by now, and hopefully reviewed it somewhere online). Thanks, Tim.
I haven’t reviewed it or written anything about it. You can of course find interviews and blog reviews (of sorts) online, but a search of the ATLA Religion database just now yields no reviews for it.