Re: Something must change

Glenn R. Morton (
Sat, 22 Aug 1998 17:54:42 -0500

At 05:39 PM 8/22/98 -0400, George Murphy wrote:
> I am not automatically ruling it out but saying that it
> makes absolutely no difference to the way in functions in the gospel
> whether or not it is historical.
> Again, your persistence along this line indicates that you
> really would feel better if the Good Samaritan were historical, & that
> the truth conveyed by it is in some way inferior if it isn't.
No, you misread me. My understanding of your original point was that you
were saying that the Samaritan story was nonhistorical. I pointed out that
it doesn't start with 'And Jesus spake a parable" and that it could be
historical. It could also be a parable. The Bible doesn't say. so maybe
we agree where and can drop the samaritan issue.

Of the genealogies I wrote:

>> But if these people are not real, then there is in REALITY NO connection
>> between the Beginning of the world and Abraham or even Christ!
> Well, no. If the story of creation is told in terms other than
> historical narrative, the form of a genealogy could still be used to
> indicate that there is continuity between creation and - say - Abraham.
> I.e., if for the sake of argument Adam is simply a symbol of the first
> human, then the genealogy beginning with him & running to Abraham, or
> Christ, shows that Abraham, or Christ, is a participant in the common
> humanity represented by Adam. The unity of the human race, & Christ's
> solidarity with it, are hardly trivial themes.

We agree that Christ's inclusion and descent from the first adam are not
trivial themes. That makes it all the more important that it be a real (but
not necessarily complete) genealogy. It seems very difficult to me to see
how it helps to have a false pedigree to prove relationship (like the
Japanese emporer tracing his descent from the Sun God).

> It's consistent, but it forces the Bible into your preconceived
> categories. I.e., it's true so it must be history.

These are the categories of propositional truth. Aristotle didn't discover
the laws of logic, he described what was already in existence. Statements
are either true or false and that judgment is made against a backdrop of data.

As I have been thinking about my analogy in other notes with the Lord of
the Rings, would it make a lot of sense for an English teacher to tell his
class that the Lord of the Rings is "True but fictional"? How would a
student evaluate such a statement? To appeal to a Wittgensteinian type of
analysis, the 'true but fictional' phrase is a misuse of language. We
don't use those words in that manner EXCEPT when it comes to the Bible. We
Christians certainly don't use such language in relation to other religious
books, such as the Koran, the Bhagadvagitta, or the book of Mormon. Is the
Bhagadvagitta 'true but non-historical?'

I suggest that we are using such langage to avoid having to admit that we
have a non-verifiable interpretation.

> I note again that you ignore the statement that the _animals_
> "shall be covered with sackcloth, and that they shall cry mightily
> to God." This is a wonderful touch of exaggerated Jewish humor, the
> inclusion of which is as good as a statement, "This is fiction."
> You can certainly be consistent if you want & picture all (or 90% of)
> the Ninevites dressing their cattle & donkeys & sheep in sackcloth if
> you wish. How about it?
> (Because some Christian take themselves so seriously, someone
> is likely to accuse me of making fun of the Bible here. I'm not. I
> think this aspect of the Bible is delightful. But it's a great
> temptation to make fun of some interpretations of the Bible.)

OK, If the Jews were laughing at the idea of a conversion of the Ninevites,
then there is little of value I see there other than as a comedy. Having
God save a man to do a Quixotic quest which is obviously funny to the
reader (funny because fish don't swallow men, funny because the animals are
covered and funny because the Ninevites wouldn't repent anyway) seems a
strange way to view Jonah. Is the theological lesson of Jonah that God
wouldn't or couldn't do anything for those gentiles over there in Ninevah?


Adam, Apes and Anthropology
Foundation, Fall and Flood
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