Is Genesis all literal, all allegory, or somewhere between?

Discussion in 'Sacred Scripture' started by ZachT, Jun 27, 2021.

  1. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Those are artists' imaginative interpretations of what they think the people back then meant by what they wrote.

    I think it's rather interesting that I never have taken the "windows of heaven" to mean they really believed in literal windows up there (how many homes back then had opening/closing windows? We modern sophisticates forget that the Israelites lived in tents much of the time, and even their permanent dwellings didn't exactly have Andersen double-hung casements!), yet I am sometimes chided on this forum for reading the Bible "too literally." :p Meanwhile the ones who want to allegorize and spiritualize half the Bible also defer to modern artists' renditions as proof of literalness when it suits them! :laugh:
     
  2. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    I too don't think they all seriously thought there were actually windows in heaven. :laugh:
    .
     
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  3. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    What is your evidence for that assertion?

    It’s far easier to believe that these were intended as realistic descriptions - because that’s what the earth and sky actually look like to people who live on it (a flat expanse surrounded by a dome, with the sun, moon, and stars going around the earth) - than that different cultures all independently produced the same metaphors, but actually were (somehow) aware of the modern scientific conception which in turn, curiously, bears no resemblance to the metaphors…:dunno: This cosmology was a normal feature of Ancient Near Eastern cultures (which the ancient Greeks also inherited, described, and refined in classical poetry). It’s not a matter of controversy among specialists. There’s little point in arguing about it.

    What is the source of this staunch resistance to just letting the text say what it actually says and then figuring out what the author’s intent for writing it was? Following the reverse order, as fundamentalists often do, is just eisegesis, and makes the text into the mere plaything of the interpreter. Such a method cannot give us any insight into the original meaning and purpose of a text, and it frankly takes all the fun out of reading and studying it in the first place. Fundamentalist interpreters seem determined to make the subject boring and irrelevant.

    The fact that modern scholars have discovered Genesis 1 belongs to the Priestly genre of writings contained in the Pentateuch is an important clue. What does Gen. 1 have to do with sacrifices? Read apart from its Ancient Near Eastern context, seemingly nothing. Understanding the cultural context - with popular stories of the creation beginning with a dead watery “chaos” (the slain Tiamat/tehom/Leviathian), in need of the wind/breath of a powerful super-god, acting in concert with the whole council of gods - helps explain the liturgical and literary connection between this passage and other more explicitly sacrificial Priestly material in the Pentateuch (e.g., much of the book of Leviticus).
     
  4. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    It is self-evident.
    Hilarious, by that reasoning they saw windows in the sky. Why can't we see them? :dunno: Funny how you left out that part when it didn't fit in your paradigm.
     
  5. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    There's holes in the sky where the rain gets in.
    They're not very big, that's why rain's thin. (Spike Milligan)

    It is impoosible to determine the absolute degree of certainty held by every one of the ancients concerning their cosmological scientific understanding or scepticism. It's pretty clear though that many 'just so' type stories existed which attempted to explain natural phenomenon. Even a cursory reading of the Book of Job reveals that undisputable fact to any observant reader.
    .
     
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  6. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    I have laid in a tent at night and seen the full moon pierce the fabric creating the illusion of stars. The view of the ancients is not unreasonable, and they did not perceive us living on one small dot spinning around a dwarf star in the midst of an expanding universe. They did however perceive their reliance on the sun and the stars, the moon and the seasons, and all that enabled them to hunt, cultivate, and navigate their way from birth to death, from sowing to reaping, and they understood all these things were underpinned by their reliance on God. The Bible never seeks to prove the existence of God, either for such a pursuit was sheer folly, or perhaps more reasonably because the fact of God was indeed self-evident.

    I am inclined to agree, that many of these drawings were indeed representations based on the texts, of what they believed people had believed. That however does not make them incorrect, however, despite not guaranteeing their veracity, they do provide a means of providing a means where we can see something of what they were thinking, as evidenced by the writings that we have.

    The acceptance of the heliocentric understanding of the world in which we live marks one of the most radical changes in thought in the past two millennia, and this only makes the Bible wrong if you need the Bible to be a science textbook. I don't believe that the Bible is a science textbook. I don't have to defend the cosmology of the ancients in order to be Christian.

    Law binds and faith liberates.
     
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  7. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    Absolutely. The first principle of interpreting any text is to assume that it means what it says unless one has a good reason to assume otherwise. In this case, mere modernist prejudice is not a good reason, as we would not expect texts that are 2,500 years old to reflect a modern scientific understanding, when modern science itself has only been around for about the last 500 years.

    This principle applies to physiology as well: the Bible is not being metaphorical when it assigns various emotional states to ‘the heart’ (which the ancients believed was located in the abdomen, and did not know had anything to do with circulation of the blood). The ‘heart’ is not a stand-in for the ‘mind’, in other words. Ancient peoples literally ascribed different mental and emotional states to different physical organs (as well as astronomical objects), and this pattern survives in modern usage (e.g., ‘choleric’, ‘melancholic’, ‘hysterical’, ‘lunatic’, etc.).

    The reason the Church was wrong about Galileo is not because they were stupid or unaware of heliocentric hypotheses. The reason they were wrong is because they believed the Bible had to be interpreted consistently with Aristotelian geocentrism, because that was the accepted science of the day. Their assumption that the book of Joshua’s account of the sun “standing still” had to be ‘scientific’ in the sense that they understood the term led them to misunderstand and misinterpret the biblical text and to reject a scientific hypothesis that turned out to be true, with real world consequences not only for Galileo himself but for anyone who openly supported him, to say nothing of the broader progress of science itself.
     
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2022
  8. CRfromQld

    CRfromQld Moderator Staff Member

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    Invictus, can you reply to my post #350 above where I asked you for a link to the translation of the Enuma Elish that you used and to justify you claim that the number of days of creation is the same.

    I said 7 days which is of course incorrect since Genesis says 6 days of creation and God rested on the 7th.
     
  9. CRfromQld

    CRfromQld Moderator Staff Member

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    It is a fact that "higher" critics have proposed the Documentary Hypothesis but whether this is correct is disputed.

    Apart from anything else it supposes that the writer of Genesis smashed contradictory stories together without either discarding one reconciling them. This implies they were idiots which is simply not true, they were at least as intelligent as people today.

    Actually Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are not contradictory creation accounts but complementary ones. Genesis 2 is an expansion of the creation of people on day 6.

    NIV Gen 2:7 Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

    8 Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, [The Hebrew is a pluperfect, past tense, so the garden was made before man.]

    19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. [pluperfect again, so animals and birds were made before man]


    All of Genesis 2:7-25 on took place on the 6th day.

    Part of the problem is that Genesis was written without chapters and now that chapters have been added we tend to read it using current conventions such that a new chapter indicates a change in subject.
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2022
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  10. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    The basic hypothesis is sound, but it is doubtful that a specific version of it will ever be proven. The idea that the entire book came from a single hand at single place and time, however, is simply untenable.

    It’s dated, but the best outline of the argument I’ve ever seen to this day remains the Introduction to the Pentateuch in the Cambridge Bible for Colleges and Schools.

    Ch. 1 and Ch. 2-3 are clearly separate accounts that were only placed into a larger narrative later, with Ch. 2-3 likely being the older of the two stories. Where things really get interesting is in Ch. 4-5: because they assume that human civilization already existed when Cain was a young man, and that Cain’s descendants - the Kenites (“Cain” and “Kenites” are the same word in Hebrew) - were still around in the author’s time and were the origin of specific practices. So, when that story circulated in pre-Exilic Israel, this means there was no tradition (yet) that a universal Flood had destroyed Cain’s descendants. It’s also possible that Lamech the descendant of Cain and Lamech the descendant of Seth (and father of Noah) were separate traditions concerning the same figure. A universal Flood that was meant to destroy a land filled with near-immortals, violent giants, and half-breed demigods must have been originally conceived as an event that predated Cain, with the watery chaos of Gen. 1.2 perhaps referring to the same watery chaos of Gen. 8:1. It’s speculative, of course, but there are clues that point in that overall direction. In any case, the Genesis text’s assumption that Cain’s descendants survived the Flood is extremely important, for it was in the territory of the Kenites that YHWH’s mountain was located, and Moses’ father-in-law is explicitly identified as a Kenite priest. So (worship of) YHWH wasn’t from Israel originally, but came into Israel from a region to the south. Due to his ultimate contribution to Israelite religion and later rabbinic (and Christian) speculation about him, Cain might be the most important figure in the Genesis narrative until we get to Abraham.

    These stories retain enough internal evidence to make it clear to the careful reader that they earlier had very different relations to each other than those contained in the canonical text. Either the final editor was sloppy (as Spinoza thought), or the book simply isn’t in chronological order, especially once one discounts the numerological genealogies as bridging devices (likely derived from Mesopotamian motifs).
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2022
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  11. Oseas

    Oseas Member

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    Yes, mere hypothesis, and the "higher" critics did spread their cunningly devised fables, which cause foolish disputs by their fantasies, while what is true and is written in the Word of GOD it is replaced by the myths in the discussions.

    In fact "higher" critics were/are makers of lies, they were/are all storytellers of no value.
    As I above said, the devilish storytellers try to replace what is true and was personally revealed by GOD to Moses - GOD is the Truth - , yeah, the devilish storytellers by their demonic hypothesis they spread their cunningly devised fables, that as a devilish argument against the Word of GOD in the discussions around the book of Genesis.
    Genesis was revealed personally by GOD to Moses around 2500 years after Adam, as the book of Revelation was personally revealed by the LORD to John the Apostle in the isle of Patmos. The most important thing in these days is to separate the wheat from the chaff, for the chaff must be burned forever.
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2022
  12. Oseas

    Oseas Member

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    Of course it is doubtful to be proven, it because "the basic hypothesis" was invented by the makers of lies, they were/are all storytellers of no value, which causes foolish disputs by their fantasies, while what is true and is written in the Word of GOD, I mean Genesis, it is replaced in the discussions.by the myths or cunningly devised fables invented by devilish storytellers.
     
  13. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    There is no reason for me or anyone else to take anything you say seriously unless and until you interact with what people are actually saying, and offer evidence to support your position. What is asserted without evidence may also be dismissed without evidence.​
     
  14. CRfromQld

    CRfromQld Moderator Staff Member

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    You have replied to other posts since I posted this so I will take you silence to mean that you can not substantiate your claims.

    There is no reason for me or anyone else to take anything you say seriously unless and until you interact with what people are actually saying, and offer evidence to support your position. What is asserted without evidence may also be dismissed without evidence.
     
  15. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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  16. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    350 was my post, and I was't sure you me to reply.
     
  17. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    I rely primarily on the Dalley (2000) translation published by Oxford.

    I wrote that post in a hurry. What I was trying to say was that there are broad parallels between the different groups of creative actions of Marduk after slaying Tiamat - particularly the motifs of ‘separation’, and the days of creation in Gen. 1.
     
  18. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    It’s not my job to reinvent the wheel. Assyriologists, biblical scholars, and historians of the Ancient Near East have written about the place of Genesis in the broader literary context of the world in which it was produced, for about the last 200 years. I ought to be able to refer to such academic generalizations, among Anglicans especially, in the 21st century, without it being a moral issue. To assert that there are no parallels between these stories is on the same level of patent absurdity as insisting to a student of American history that the U.S. Constitution is a divinely inspired document, and thus that there are no parallels or literary dependences between it and the Magna Carta or the English Bill of Rights, and demanding that the student produce ‘evidence’ of such parallels. Documents can be “inspired” (however we understand that term), and yet be reliant on earlier documents or oral traditions (e.g., Judges, 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, Luke, Acts, etc.).

    I also genuinely love these stories, and enjoy immensely ‘connecting the dots’ between them. Aside from my one carelessly worded statement about ‘seven days’, I provided plenty of examples in my earlier post, that I will continue to stand by:
    I’m also, to be frank, under no obligation to take anyone seriously in the 21st century who casually dismisses the Documentary Hypothesis out of hand while overlooking the numerous inconsistencies, sudden shifts in vocabulary, imagery, etc., in the Gen. 1-11 accounts, which led to the proposal of the Hypothesis in the first place. While it is extremely unlikely that any specific version of the Hypothesis will ever be proven (as this would require finding manuscripts of the hypothesized sources themselves, which, if they ever existed in that form, are probably long gone), the notion that these stories were written as a single continuous narrative by a single author is simply untenable. The example of the role of Cain in the narrative is just one among many. As I already wrote above:
    This isn’t the place to write a full-length doctoral dissertation. We’re just laypeople (for the most part) sharing our observations. I have, however, tried to make clear when I’m presenting something as fact, and when I’m merely putting forth an inference. For example:
    • Cain is depicted as having lived before the Flood, yet his descendants are depicted as having lived after the Flood (Fact);
    • In the days when these narratives were told and passed on orally, the story of Cain might have (a) come after the Flood, or (b) not had any chronological relation to it at all (Inference).
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2022
  19. CRfromQld

    CRfromQld Moderator Staff Member

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    You're quite right. I must have got the number wrong.
     
  20. CRfromQld

    CRfromQld Moderator Staff Member

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    Thanks Tiffy. That might help. If you look up the translation I referenced (here) the passage you quote is missing. This is why I asked Invictus for the translation he was using.
    However it is not obvious to me that #16 refers to six days of creation at all. Rather it is obvious that it does NOT refer to the 6 days of creation. Just reading it I thought it sounded like a reference to the moon and when I searched for "Nannar" I find that indeed "Nannar was the god of the moon in the Mesopotamian religions of Sumer, Akkad, Assyria, Babylonia and Aram."
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2022