Re: NTSE Report #1 (fwd)

Murphy (
Thu, 27 Feb 1997 09:13:50 -0500

Glenn Morton wrote:

> I don't see the real issue as being Genesis 1. Having barely escaped my last
> english class with a C for an inability to produce Freudian analyses of the
> characters in Faulkner's Light in August (demanded by a "English for
> non-English majors" class) I have not fallen in love with literature.
> I think you might be able to get away with saying that Genesis 1 does not
> fit such a formula.

I am no literary scholar myself, though I gather I have more
interest in the area than you. But the point is that careful study of
literary genres etc is, among other things, necessary with something
like the early chapters of Genesis. It won't work to just say "It's
history", "It's myth", or whatever.

> But Genesis 1 is not the account that bothers me most. But it is the one
> most assume is the bothersome passage. It is Genesis 4-12. In these
> chapters, it appears written much like Kings or Chronicles in which you get
> who: Noah, Cain, Terah,etc...
> what: built boat, killed brother, moved to Haran etc...
> when: his 600th year, after a sacrifice, after his 70th year etc....
> where: on the land, in the field, in Syria etc...
> why: God told him to, his sacrifice was rejected, God told Abram etc...
> how: boat made of gopher wood, unknown unknown, etc...

> My point is that if most of these accounts were in Kings, you would have no
> reason to doubt the account.These parts of the account have all the aspects
> of journalistic history.
> How would I interpret each of the lives described in Genesis 4-12 in a
> "Captain,My Captain" manner? I don't think it can be done. The accounts in
> Kings provide the same level of detail and are considered attempts at
> conveying actual history.

The non-journalistic character of "O Captain!" is obvious -
since we know how & where Lincoln died. But if we didn't, if all we had
were Whitman's poem or a piece thereof, embedded in some other text
(perhaps a bit like the fragment Gen.4:23-24), what could we say?
Not to belabor Walt, but there is another much longer poem of
his on the same theme. It has fragments of "what really happened" -
"Coffin that passes through lanes and streets,
Through day and night with the great cloud darkening the land,
With the pomp on the inloo'd flags with the cities draped in
But it isn't historical narrative.

>Thus my belief that if we don't provide an account for this passage which
> makes it fit observational data, we have lost the battle. The YECs are
> telling lots of people what they want to hear, that the Biblical account of
> Genesis 4-12 is historical but their account can't fit data.

I think Gen.4-11 contains allusions to historical people &
events, but it isn't at all the same type of thing as the succession
narrative of II Sam - I Kg. A lot of the material is fragmentary, like
the Song of Lamech noted above: What is he singing about? There are
parallel accounts woven together - the names in Chs.4 & 5 and the
different aspects of the flood story. Noah is a rather odd character in
an historical narrative - he never says a word (until later, after the
Ham episode). & the "Broken Myth" of 6:1-4 raises some questions.
That isn't an adequate literary study of the text, but just an
indication that such study is needed. It;s far from obvious that these
chapters have a journalistic character.
But perhaps an equally pressing question: Why do people, as you
say, "Want to hear" that Methuselah was a real human being who lived 969
years &c? Is the problem perhaps that no one has called their attention
to the fact - obvious once it is pointed out - that there are different
ways of being true besides being chronicle-like narrative?