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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    Yes. God 'spoke' to them in what might be described as 'thought pictures' or images, with the foreknowledge of precisely what images would evoke (in that writer) the concept He wanted to convey and the words that writer would choose. God's intelligence and capability is far beyond the greatest supercomputer man might conceive of, and He is able to know in advance more than a billion billion permutations and the ramifications of each; thus He is able to tailor His communication precisely to make best use of the linguistic capability and writing style of the individual writer whom He has chosen (again with foreknowledge of which person will listen and perceive correctly what the Lord is communicating to him). The result is that the person writes using his own vocabulary, style, and temporal frame of mind, but the manuscript reflects the impeccable inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

    When the Holy Spirit speaks to you, do you perceive 'words' or 'speech'? Or do you perceive concepts, to which your own mind supplies words that reflect the concept? For me it is the latter. When God told me to move 1,000 miles to another city halfway across the country (with no idea what sort of work I'd find to pay the bills once we'd arrived) I did not hear the actual words, "Move to Tulsa." Instead I saw in my mind the image of what He was asking us to do. (I thought my wife would flip out when I told her this, but later that same morning before I could even utter a word to her about it, she turned to me suddenly and said, "I think the Lord wants us to move to Tulsa!" )

    Now, that was a bit imprecise right then, because in truth we learned shortly afterward that He intended for us to move into a suburb of the Tulsa metro. But in the case of the writers He chooses to pen the inspired word of God, He certainly is capable of conveying perfect exactitude in the inspirations He gives to them.
     
  2. Ananias

    Ananias Well-Known Member Anglican

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    No, and again, no.

    In Christian theology, it is by the action of the Holy Spirit that God inspired the Apostles to write his Holy Word (or by means of a divine prophetic vision, in the Revelation given to St. John).

    When God "speaks" to believers, he does so in one of four ways: direct revelation (as with Moses through the burning bush, or as with Saul meeting the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus); through dreams and visions; through prophecy; and through the action of the Holy Spirit (the third person of the Trinity). Only the first mode can be considered "dictation", as the speech comes from God himself to the hearer, who is bound to write them down just as God spoke them. The other modes leave the personality and volition of the subject intact. Human beings are not possessed by the Holy Spirit in the way that some are possessed by demons (who steal both agency and volition from their victims); the Holy Spirit is more like a divine Proctor, looking over their shoulders as they write and making sure they're stating the matter properly. The bible was written down by men, but it was authored by God himself.

    The tradition in all manifestations of the Christian church throughout two millennia is this: the New Testament carries Apostolic authority. That is, it is carried to us by messengers (the human Apostles who wrote the books) who carry the authority of Christ Jesus himself in transmitting the Word of God. Their authority is absolute and unassailable -- Jesus Christ himself granted them this status.* Paul does not preach as Paul; he preachers the Word of the Lord Jesus Christ. Peter likewise; John likewise; and so on. The Holy Spirit has also guided the apostles and the church fathers in discerning what is true Gospel and what isn't (the deuterocanon, the "Gnostic gospels", etc.).

    The Bible is a supernatural document, not the work of men. It was given by, and is preserved by, God himself. To deny this fact is a terrible error.

    In fact, God has written parts of scripture with his own mighty hand (Ex. 32:16; Dan 5:5)! Shall we take that as "Islamic" revelation? Or do you consider that a mere fable as well?

    *You can argue about Luke since he was not one of the Twelve, I suppose, but he carries the imprimatur of the other apostles, so his apostolic authority has never really been questioned. Paul is the apostle that liberals really dislike, but his apostolic authority is really beyond doubt or question.
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2021
  3. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    What I do see is that every word of Scripture is sacred, and was caused for writing by the holy ghost, through human authors. The truths, the poetry, the allegory. Even the errors and counterfactuals within it were inspired and are perfect, as it were. This is literally the theory of the church fathers, and of the Hebrew culture, as well as taught in the New Testament. This is my North Star; I’m not interested in how close or far it is to the teachings of non-Christians, and I won’t swerve from this view out of fear of comparison with them. They literally do not exist, to me.

    Now, this golden oracle, the holy Scriptures, because it went through human authors, it needs human interpretation; human errors need correction. But that process of correction isn’t merely human-generated, but is also Inspired. (Inspiration isn’t a one-time thing, but an on-going work on God’s part to deliver to us his written Word.)

    This last step is what you would call Biblical Criticism.
     
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  4. Ananias

    Ananias Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I know it's bad form to quote myself, but I wanted to add something to this.

    Paul rarely wrote his letters himself; like many in his time, he used an amanuensis while he dictated. Sosthenes, for example, is identified by name in 1 Corinthians 1:1. Likewise Timothy is identified in 2 Corinthians. Sometimes Paul takes over as in Gal. 6:11 ("See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand") to prove that the letter is really his and not a forgery. Yet we still attribute the works to Paul and not to the amanuensis. And because Paul breathes in the words breathed out by God (theopneustos) through the Holy Spirit, we say that God wrote those books.

    No books written after the Apostolic age passed can be Scripture -- that is, carry Apostolic authority -- because Jesus Christ gave that power only to his Apostles, and to those the Apostles chose themselves.
     
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  5. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    The problem is that the definition of inspiration keeps shifting, depending on the perceived opponent. There could not be a better, more succinct statement of the Dictation view than the above quote. And yet the denials of adherence to a Dictation Theory of inspiration keep on coming. One normally doesn’t see this kind of refusal to be pinned down outside of Eastern Orthodoxy. :laugh:
     
  6. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Can you state your problem with his definition, without comparing him to a Muslim?
     
  7. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    I didn’t mention Islam in my last comment. It’s still not at all clear to me why that’s a touchy subject. Dictation Theory is what it is, no matter who may happen to profess it. My issue with Dictation Theory is not that Muslims happen to profess it. It is that the Theory itself is plainly at variance with the evidence and thus raises more questions than it answers.

    My problem with where the discussion has gone since then is that I have simply given up trying to figure out what where we’re disagreeing about. Some of you check off all the boxes for Dictation Theory but then deny that that’s what you’re defending. There’s not a whole lot I can do with that.

    There are many kinds of inspiration (pretty much all of which are represented in the Bible at some point), and while there are circumstances where words were literally dictated, there are others where this isn’t what happened at all. It would seem that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all theory that would explain what “inspiration” means in each and every instance. The historic Confessions were content to say that Scripture is “the Word of God” and that it contains “all things necessary to salvation”. It is enough to affirm that and then let good solid exegesis do its work.
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2021
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  8. Ananias

    Ananias Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I had assumed that you were familiar with the concepts behind Sola Scriptura, but maybe I'm mistaken.

    Do we both agree, as Anglicans, that Article VI of the 39 Articles is authoritative regarding the authority of Scripture in our Church? If not, what is the authoritative source of doctrine regarding Biblical authority? If so, how is this authority conveyed? Is this authority plenary and permanent? If not, why not? Is there any work of humankind, written or otherwise, outside of the 66 books of the Bible that carries equal or greater authority? If so, how and by whom is that authority granted?

    Do you affirm the triune nature of the Christian Godhead? Do you believe that the Holy Spirit is a Person of the Holy Trinity, fully God and sharing in all the attributes of God? Do you believe that the work of the Holy Spirit is to indwell, guide, and direct people towards God; to convict them of their transgressions; and to operate in the world in furtherance of God's plan? How is this work of the Holy Spirit accomplished? Do you believe that the Holy Spirit caused the virgin Mary to conceive with our Lord Jesus Christ? If the Holy Spirit can so affect the material world as to beget our Lord Jesus Christ of a virgin, can he not equally affect the Apostles to write down God's holy word? If not, why not? Does this action of the Holy Spirit remove the personality, volition, or agency of the people so affected?

    We cannot resolve your "inspiration" confusion until we clarify your basic theology.
     
  9. ZachT

    ZachT Active Member

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    Citation needed.

    That line of thinking opens a whole host of problems with the biblical authority of the latter Pauline epistles, and possibly the epistles of John and Revelation.

    And that's assuming the Apostles even "chose" people like Jude, James and Luke. What does that even mean? Chose like they chose Paul? I've never read any verse in the bible that could be interpreted this way.
     
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  10. Ananias

    Ananias Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Try Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:8.

    Edit: Also, Christ chose Paul on the road to Damascus. Paul became an apostle of Christ by divine election, not through association with the other apostles in Jerusalem.
     
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  11. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. So then, please go ahead and explain, what are its divergences from the evidence; and what questions it raises more than answers. Calling it “dictation theory” is insulting, so let’s call our theory Divine Authorship (“written by man, authored by God”).

    I ask because divine authorship is THE model of Scripture used by the Church Fathers and Anglican divines. So you’re going against pretty much everybody. But, I’m looking forward to seeing its divergences from the evidence.
     
  12. ZachT

    ZachT Active Member

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    That cannot indicate anything of the sort. Acts 1.8:
    But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’
    Nowhere does it say the Apostles can choose someone else to confer this power to. So, if read that this "power" is the power to write scripture, then it was conferred to neither Luke, nor Paul who were not present at that time. And both Luke and Paul wrote Acts, which is the verse you're quoting from. You're functionally arguing that Acts delegitimises Acts.

    Scripture is Scripture because of Discovery, not because the Apostles have magic powers.
     
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  13. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    There is no confusion. I’ve affirmed all of this repeatedly. Frankly I’m running out of ways to say it. :wicked:
     
  14. Ananias

    Ananias Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Really now. Did not Peter raise Tabitha and Eutychus from the dead, not by magic but through the power given him by the Lord Jesus Christ? Did not Peter and John heal the lame beggar in Acts 3:1-10? Did not the apostles do "signs and wonders" (Acts 5:12-16). Did not Peter heal Aeneas in Acts 9:32-35? Did not Paul heal a lame man in Lystra (Acts 14:8-10)?

    How did the apostles do these things, if not by the grant of power through our Lord Jesus Christ and the action of the Holy Spirit?
     
  15. Ananias

    Ananias Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Well, you say you do, but then go on to prove that you really don't affirm it at all (at least not in any meaningful sense of the word "affirm").
     
  16. ZachT

    ZachT Active Member

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    What? I said the 'power' is not the power to write Scripture. Acts 1.8 is about the apostles having the capacity to perform miracles like you detail above, not about who has the authority to write scripture.
     
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  17. Invictus

    Invictus Well-Known Member

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    You said above that you were not endorsing Dictation Theory…so now I’m puzzled why you’re asking me to somehow disprove it… The burden of proof falls to the one making the assertion.

    Regarding some of the remarks made by one or two others, just to cover all the bases… I pointed out some basic problems with Dictation Theory above (I’m not going to keep repeating them here), but you guys keep citing passages in support of whatever your position is at that moment, that in no way, shape, or form, say what you’re claiming they do. I’ve seen 2 Peter 1 and Acts 1 quoted, for example: neither has a thing to say about biblical inspiration. That’s just bad exegesis. And somehow despite the fact that the historic Creeds and Confessions don’t define “inspiration” at all, my orthodoxy gets called into question because I adhere to what is pretty much a mainstream view of inspiration within Anglicanism. Pardon my frustration, but I’m used to exchanges of views that occur on a higher level than the Spanish Inquisition, and this is a waste of my time at this point. I expected better and I’m disappointed.
     
  18. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    The problem with defining what Paul understood 'God Breathed' to mean in connection with 'scripture' is we don't exactly know what Paul meant by 'inspired' and are uncertain about the extent of what he understood to be 'scripture'.

    'Inspired' is almost certainly in Paul's mind indicative of 'living'. Just as Adam was 'inspired' by God, from which Adam gained life. 2 Cor.3:3, Heb.4:12. We, the readers and speakers of scripture, indirectly gain life. (Rev.1:3). Not that there is any evidence that Paul wrote Hebrews, but the author of Hebrews has a profound respect for the inspiration of scripture and it seems to hinge on his assertion that it is not just dead letters on a page but a living message from the God who made the universe. Inspiration, when applied to scripture is more about what scripture can do for us, (as God's breath, in the story, did for Adam. It gave him life), than it is about what God has done for the scriptures. The scriptures are inerrant but those who read and misunderstand them are not all so clever.

    'Scripture', when St Paul dictated these words, was the Septuagint, (LXX), which included what we now call the Apocrapha. When did Rexlion, Ananias or Stalwart last read apocraphal books and consider them 'God Breathed', 'inspired', 'useful'?

    Sirach 33:25-33. Fodder and a stick and burdens for a donkey;
    bread and discipline and work for a slave.
    Set your slave to work, and you will find rest;
    leave his hands idle, and he will seek liberty.
    Yoke and thong will bow the neck,
    and for a wicked slave there are racks and tortures.
    Put him to work, in order that he may not be idle,
    for idleness teaches much evil.
    Set him to work, as is fitting for him,
    and if he does not obey, make his fetters heavy.
    Do not be overbearing toward anyone,
    and do nothing unjust.
    If you have but one slave, treat him like yourself,
    because you have bought him with blood.
    If you have but one slave, treat him like a brother,
    for you will need him as you need your life.
    If you ill-treat him, and he leaves you and runs away,
    which way will you go to seek him?


    How 'Inspired' did the church Fathers think this was? Paul obviously did. "ALL scripture is God breathed" according to St Paul's quote.

    Judith 1:1-6. It was the twelfth year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, who ruled over the Assyrians in the great city of Nineveh. In those days Arphaxad ruled over the Medes in Ecbatana. He built walls around Ecbatana with hewn stones three cubits thick and six cubits long; he made the walls seventy cubits high and fifty cubits wide. At its gates he raised towers one hundred cubits high and sixty cubits wide at the foundations. He made its gates seventy cubits high and forty cubits wide to allow his armies to march out in force and his infantry to form their ranks. Then King Nebuchadnezzar made war against King Arphaxad in the great plain that is on the borders of Ragau. There rallied to him all the people of the hill country and all those who lived along the Euphrates, the Tigris, and the Hydaspes, and, on the plain, Arioch, king of the Elymeans. Thus, many nations joined the forces of the Chaldeans.

    To Paul these passages constituted 'scripture' and to Roman Catholics they still do. But when was the last time any of you read them and regarded them as "Inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness". I bet you don't, so even you do not follow St Paul's advice, and neither does the Protestant church. Someone obviously didn't agree with St Paul that these books were 'inspired' and 'useful for doctrine'.

    These "Other Books" (as Hierome saith), the church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doeth it not apply them to establish any doctrine.

    And quite right too, even though St Paul said they were 'inspired' and 'useful'. I don't think very many believing Christians would want to put Sirach 33:25-30 back in their Bible. Though perhaps no doubt the American slave owning, Founding Fathers managed to convince themselves that they were "not being overbearing toward anyone [of note], and [self congratulatingly], doing nothing unjust to their unpaid and exploited slaves, inspite of all their talk about freedom.
    .
     
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  19. Ananias

    Ananias Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Why would one preclude the other? Raising the dead seems a much more significant feat of divine will. Empowering an apostle to write down God's Word would seem a fairly minor effort in comparison, wouldn't you say?
     
  20. ZachT

    ZachT Active Member

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    Yes, but then that would mean that Luke does not have the authority required to write Scripture, and Luke wrote Acts. So therefore it cannot be true.
     
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