Re: Something must change

Glenn R. Morton (
Fri, 21 Aug 1998 20:09:28 -0500

At 08:10 AM 8/21/98 -0400, George Murphy wrote:
>> No, what I am meaning about the Good Samaritan is that the writer didn't
>> preface it with 'And jesus spoke in a parable." Thus, I don't know if it
>> was or wasn't real. My presumption would be that it probably was a real
>> 'current event' that was known to his listeners.
> Again, I think your default setting is significant. The
> point isn't that the Good Samaritan _couldn't_ have happened
> but that its historicisty has nothing to do with its truth
> in the way Jesus uses it.

But, that is irrelevant as I see it. When I jumped into this thread, I
used the example of Clinton having difficulty coming up with a scenario
that fit the facts of the witnesses which at the same time kept him out of
trouble. As long as I give enough background for you to understand my
point it really doesn't matter whether or not there is a Clinton in the way
I used the example. So, for the purpose of my point, Clinton's existence or
lack there of is of no relevance.
> Again, I'm not just speaking of your flood scenario but of
> the general idea that all biblical accounts must be accurate
> history to be true.

I see that Ryan already addressed this point and he probably addressed it
better than I could. But I would simply re-iterate, I have never said nor
do I believe that every biblical event must be historical. But Genesis 11
and Genesis 5 consists largely of genealogies. What possible
'metaphorical' message could be conveyed by such a list of names. The
relationships listed are either historically true or they are historically
false. And I can see little of theological significance in a list of names.

> ........................................
> ...................................
>> Theological themes are in the eye of the beholder. I have collected
>> something like 23 different and mutually exclusive theological themes which
>> have been suggested for the Garden of Eden story. Some say it is a story
>> of the change from hunting to farming. Others an overthrow of a king by the
>> proletariat. No one can really prove WHICH theological meaning the story
>> actually was intended to convey. But I can tell whether or not it is
>> historical.
> In fact none of these interpretations you mention are
> theological at all.

Well, those that advocate them would take exception with your
characterization. They think the theological 'message' being delivered is
the nonsense they advocate! And it is precisely because of the lack of an
objective definition for these passages that we get into this trouble.

Take a recent article
(John C. Munday, Jr., "Eden's Geography Erodes Flood Geology," Westminster
Theological Journal, 58(1996), pp. 123-154). Munday, in getting to his major
point, the inconsistency of local, mesopotamian geology with the YEC
discusses the interpretation of Eden's story. What his analysis revealed to
was the absolute lack of agreement among those who interpret the Bible by a
non-historical methodology on what the meaning of the story really is.

In this article he talks about the various meanings (read "truths") gleaned
from the Eden story. The various interpretations he cites are:

* a picture of paradisal beatitude.

* a recollection of the conflict between Neolithic farmers and Paleolithic

* an allusion to the gardener-kings of Sumer/Akkad

* a political allegory describing the conflict between the economic elite
the peasants

* A sexual allegory

* A polemic against the Caananite religion

* A a parable of the deportation of a king to Babylon

* A story to tell us that we are human not gods

* an old story of a Garden-Dwelling-God

To this I might add the possibility that the Eden story means:

* an explanation of the source of all troubles, rebellion against God

* an example of God dealing with Adam and Eve in actual, historical
space-time; like God dealt with 1st century society in actual, historical
space-time in the form of Jesus.

Consulting Bernard Anderson's _Understanding the Old Testament_ Prentice
1966, p. 173). Anderson writes of the origin stories:

"These stories are 'historical' only in the sense that, as used by the
Yahwist, they communicate the *meaning* of history."

Might I ask, "Which meaning?"

These "truths" that the various authors cited by Munday saw in the Eden
are mutually contradictory. Thus all these "truths" can not be TRUE at the
same time. This is a logical contradiction. To believe all these "truths"
impossible. To quote Carroll:

"There's no use trying," she said: " One can't believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen, "When I was your
age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why sometimes I've believed as
many as six impossible things before breakfast."-Lewis Carroll, _Through
theLooking-Glass_ Chapter 5, cited in Bartlett's Familar Quatations, (Little
Brown and Co., 1990), in Microsoft Bookshelf, 1993, CDROM Reference Library,
(Seattle: Microsoft Corp. 1993).)

So the question is: Without objective evidence, how does one tell the true
"truths" from the false "truths"?

>> Yes, but if they CAN be read as accurate history why would you prefer the
>> other, more nebulous version?
> _Proving_ negative results is difficult. What
> sort of proof could there be that all the inhabitants of
> Nineveh _weren't_ converted through Jonah's five word
> message? Historians can point out that there is no
> trace of evidence of such repentance & conversion of the
> capital of Assyria at that point in its history, but your
> response would seem to be that we can just keep looking
> until we find a cuneiform tablet at Nineveh that says
> "Jonah was not here."
> Part of the problem is that you refuse to look
> at internal evidence - the nature of the text itself.

I would suggest that part of the problem is that you are raising a straw
man. I have not discussed Jonah as it is not within my area of expertise.
Although I would point out that Jonah 3:5 says, "So the people of Nineveh
believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the
greatest of them even to the least of them." It does not say 'all the
people of Ninevah' either in the English or the Hebrew. Where you get the
idea that I or the Scripture says "all people" I don't know.

> & calling what I'm speaking of "the more nebulous
> version" is false. The Good Samaritan is not "more nebulous"
> if it's fictional, & neither is Jonah.

And Jonah doesn't say what you implied it said anyway. And I certainly
don't believe that Jonah says what you say it does.

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