Re: Something must change

George Murphy (
Thu, 20 Aug 1998 14:43:42 -0400

Glenn R. Morton wrote:
> At 09:58 PM 8/19/98 -0400, George Murphy wrote:
> >Glenn R. Morton wrote:
> >> The writer of Genesis, unlike the Gospel writers, didn't preface the Flood
> >> account with 'And he spake a parable unto them," Luke 6:39.
> >
> > & often the gospels don't - e.g., there is no statement in Lk.10:29-37
> that the
> >account of the Good Samaritan is a parable. But that isn't the point
> anyway.
> And it very well might have been a real event. I would imagine that there
> were some very nice Samaritans who would help out a person in trouble.
> Truth can
> >be conveyed via fiction. What would you think of the man who wanted to
> "justify
> >himself" if, after Jesus told this story, he said "Duh, you still haven't
> told me who my
> >neighbor is"? Why did the scribes and chief priests want to arrest Jesus
> for telling
> >the parable of the vineyard & wicked tenants (Lk.20:9-19)? It was just a
> story, wasn't
> >it?
> > Note that this doesn't at all answer the question of whether or not any
> >given account is historically accurate, fictional, or some combination of
> the two. My
> >only pont here is that truth can be conveyed by other means than accurate
> historical
> >narrative, sometimes by accounts which look superficially like historical
> narrative, &
> >that the Bible does in fact use such techniques.
> I don't disagree that truth can be conveyed via fiction.

Don't you? Then why the above caveat that the Good Samaritan "might have been a
real event"? This suggests that you still think that the truth of what Jesus is
communicating with the parable would be somehow greater if it really happened - whereas
in fact that is utterly irrelevant to the function of the story in conveying truth.

> But that doesn't
> mean anything about a particular passage.

Agreed. I just said that.

> Genesis 6-9 appears historical to
> me.

It appears historical to you IF you can change its place & time radically from
what everybody else who has thought it historical has imagined. That ought at least to
raise some questions. Your procedure reminds me of someone arguing that the Arthurian
battles in Nennius' _History of the Britains_ really happened - but in the 6th century
_before_ Christ, rather than after, and in North Africa, rather than Britain.

> Why is it that when we have some difficulty with science, we quickly
> retreat to a position which can not be falsified at all? to me that is a
> cop out.

I agree, but there also comes a time when a retreat from a position which we
have come to see is untenable is the better part of valor rather than being massacred at
a theological Alamo.

> > Again, I have no problem saying that there are historical elements behind
> the
> >biblical flood story. But that is not the same as saying that the whole
> thing is
> >accurate historical narrative.
> But you appear to have a problem that would reject any and every scenario
> that might match the details of the account.

There's a big part of the problem - "match the details". Suppose that a
biblical writer uses some genuine historical tradition, editing it in such a way as to
incorporate theological commentary _without_ feeling our modern western need to cleanly
separate off "what really happened" from theological interpretation. In that case some
of the "details" will not be things that really happened, & a search for corresponding
historical events will take you off on a wild goose chase.
Again, Kings-Chronicles provides a good example. Comparison will show that the
Chronicler pretty much ignores the northern kingdom, idealizes the descedants of David,
& greatly exagerates things like sizes of armies & amounts of money to gloify Judah.
That makes sense if we see his Judah not _just_ as the historical Judah but as a symbol
of God's eschatological kingdom on earth. If you start searching for evidence for the
Chronicler's million-man armies, e.g., you'll either waste your time or fool yourself.
The biblical flood story is an account of God's judgment upon an entite sinful
world. The writers use traditions of catastrophic Mesopotamian floods to construct that
picture of _cosmic_ judgment. God lets the forces of chaos which have threatened
creation from the beginning overwhelm the world - almost. "The world of that time (_ho
tote kosmos_)... perished" (II Pet.3:6)." By making the flood big but not _really_
worldwide you fail to convey this theological theme.

If we can find a scenario
> that matches both the details and the science, why must we automatically
> say it is false. Tell me what detail my view violates. You may not like
> the timing of it,

I don't.

and there isn't verification of certain aspects of my
> thesis, but there is no falsification that I am aware of.


> We agree on this. You have proven my point that you also use science and
> history to verify the Bible.

Yes & no. Knowledge of science and history are relevant to our understanding of
the Bible - as is understanding of literary genres, linguistic usage, &c. But you can
only see this as a matter of verifying the historical character of biblical accounts,
while I am open to scientific and historical information HELPING us to see that SOME
biblical accounts are to be read in ways other than as accurate historical narrative.
N.B. Once for all, please note the words I have capitalized. I am NOT saying
that all biblical accounts are simply at the mercy of external evidence for their
interpretation, nor am I denying that there is a great deal of accurate history in the

> But you seem to want to limit how much
> verification we should have--only so much verification but not too much. I
> want as much verification as I can get. I don't understand your reluctance
> to search for more verification.

See my comment above.

>If it is good that the Bible matches Near
> Eastern history, why wouldn't it be better if it matched geological history
> also? Why wouldn't it be better if we could find Abraham's house in Ur? Or
> Noah's ark (which I do not think will ever be found, but if it were, I
> would welcome it) Why do you only want partial verification from science
> and history rather than verifying more details?

Because some of the details _didn't_ happen. How much _lack_ of evidence do you
need before deciding that Solomon didn't have the vast amounts of money the Chronicler
ascribes to him or that all the animals in Nineveh didn't repent? There can be "only so
much verification" of historical details because some of the things you want to read as
historical details aren't.

George L. Murphy