Date: Mon, 09 Nov 1998 08:57:05 +1100
From: Jonathan Clarke <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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To: "Glenn R. Morton" <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Genesis and Predictions
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Glenn R. Morton wrote:
> Hi Jonathan
> I also agree that both passages are narrative. But the prodigal son is a
> red herring as far as I am concerned. It is clearly within a sermon made
> by a guy who used parables regularly. This is not the case with Genesis 11.
Why is it a red herring? When were the first chapters of Genesis written? At
the time of Abraham (~1800 BC)? During the Exodus (1400 BC)? During the early
Monarchy 1000 BC)? After the exile (500 BC)? Which ever of these date you
prefer, they predate the historical sciences and the earlier dates antedate
history and science as we would understand them. Therefore they must be written
as something other and science and history. This would have been immediately
evident to the first readers (if not to us). None of the church fathers took
Genesis 1-3 as history. I understand that the 1st century rabbis did not either,
certainly Philo of Alexandria did not. Anyone out there know something about
rabbinical exegesis of Genesis 1-3 between say 200 BC and 400 AD?
> I stole that line from Milford Wolpoff, an anthropologist. Someone told him
> that he should let the data speak for itself. He replied that he had been
> in rooms full of data and had heard no voices. The point is, data doesn't
> speak for itself anymore than does the scripture. YECs claim to take the
> most 'straight forward' reading of the Scripture. To me this means that
> they take the reading they agree with. They try to cover their
> interpretation by making this 'straightforward' claim. I feel similarly
> about letting the Bible speak for itself. It can't, it must be interpreted
> by someone.
I agree completely. The problem is that sometimes we assume that is written by
people from our era and even our culture when it is not. I think that is what we
are doing if we expect scientific answers from Genesis 1-3. As I mentioned
above, the structure and character of Genesis 1 and 2-3 argues against them being
historical narrative. I think "proto-historical" or "saga" describes them well.
So we should not (to use the speaking metaphor) think they are talking to us in
the language of science or history.
> But notice one thing about what I have written. I have not used the word
> 'literal' I have used the word historical. There is a big difference.
I agree (once again) with you here, I was making a more general point (or trying
to), than directing it at you.