Re: Apologetics and Genesis

George Murphy (
Fri, 13 Nov 1998 20:59:23 -0500

Dick Fischer wrote:
> George Murphy wrote: ....................
> > I think this limitation to the Jews is quite wrong. Gen.1-3 speak about
> the
> > creation of the universe & humanity & a problem of sin which pervades the
> > human race.
> Well, that's what makes horse races. I don't think the Jews knew much
> about humanity outside their immediate surroundings and cared less. The
> only mention of any outside the Adamic line were the Nephilim (giants) in
> Genesis 6:4. Unless you count Cain's wife.

If you postulate that Adam is the father only of the Jews then seems to make
sense, but that postulate is wrong. E.g., Gen.Gen.10 obviously shows a knowledge of &
interest in other nations. So does the rest of Genesis - God's promise to Abraham that
all nations will be blessed in him & Egypt being saved from famine through Jospeh being
prominent examples.

> > There is no picking out of any "chosen people" until Abraham.
> Abraham was the first to venture out of Southern Mesopotamia. But
> certainly Noah was chosen. Oh, I forgot, you don't believe in
> historical Noah.

Yeah, I spoke a bit inaccurately: Noah is "chosen" but since represents
the whole of humanity (which is, e.g., why the prohibition in the Noachic covenant of
"blood" is considered binding on Gentiles as in Acts 15:20). So it's a somewhat
different type of election.
BTW, I have said several times that I think the biblical flood story is based on
traditions of real Mesopotamian floods. So I wouldn't agree entirely that I don't
believe in an historical Noah.

> > Trying to get a match between the early chapters of Genesis &
> > historical & archaeological results by limiting those chapters to
> > the people of Israel is an example of throwing out theological
> > meaning for the sake of a supposedly literal interpretation.
> On the other hand, discounting the historical underpinnings of
> the Genesis narrative, which certainly is of some importance to the
> Jewish people as well as to Christians, is to throw out a perfectly
> good literal interpretation for the sake of theological pandering.

Try to restrain your pejorative language a little. Calling a concern that God's
revelation in Scripture have to do with all people "theological pandering" is hardly
& I don't agree that your "literal interpretation" is "perfectly good." It
seems to depend at critical places on serious non sequiturs.

> If Genesis is presented as history, yet isn't history, how do I know
> it has any valid theological significance? What's the theological
> significance of the Odyssey?

1) I've never said Genesis in its entirety, or the first 11 chapters in their
entirety, are totally non-historical in the sense that they make no reference to real
people, places, or events.
2) Genesis has theological significance because it is part of the canon of
Scripture which witnesses to Christ. The Odyssey isn't.

> > Of course Genesis uses mid-eastern rivers & not the Mississippi
> > or Yangtze - the writers were from the mid-east.
> More specifically, they were Mesopotamian rivers.

The 3d & 4th are. The other 2 are uncertain. But I have no argument with the
fact that a great deal of the material in 1-11 comes from Mesopotamia.

> Where's the Jordan?
> How about the Nile? Also the cities are all Mesopotamian or Assyrian in
> Genesis 1-11. Also some of the biblical phraseology is similar and some
> is identical to writings from that region and that period of time.

> > The waters above the heavens are a part of biblical cosmology &
> > according to Ps.148:4 were still there in the psalmist's time. Maybe
> > Seth wrote Ps.148.
> You mean a historical Seth, Adam's third son, wrote one of the Psalms?
> George, you're pulling my leg here. Right?

Right! My alternate suggestion is the serious one.
> >> Others have maintained that this is when God
> >> created rain. But the Septuagint version of Genesis doesn't use the word
> >> "mist." It uses the word "fountain." There is a whopping difference
> >> between a fountain and mist. What this verse refers to is irrigation.
> > NRSV has "stream." But your final sentence is bare assertion.
> No, the word "fountain" used in both Accadian and Sumerian writings
> refers to irrigation. In the Genesis flood narrative the phrase, "fountains
> of the deep" comes right out of Atrahasis.

Sorry, my Septuagint is down at church so I can't check details now. But one
has to be careful about relying on it for details like this. The fact that it renders
the Hebrew 'edd (which the admittedly old pocket lexicon I've got here gives simply as
"mist, vapor") by Greek for fountain hardly proves that the correct Accadian rendering
would be the word for fountain referring to irrigation. & 'edh isn't the word used for
the "fountains of the deep" in 7:11 - that is ma`yan.

> >> Adam, the one "created in the image of God," was the first
> >> of the Jewish race, not the first of the human race, as we have
> >> commonly misunderstood.
> > This makes hash of the Christ-Adam imagery of Paul.
> Quite the contrary. Just as Christ was not the last human being,
> Adam was not the first. And just as Adam was the first of the old
> covenant, Christ ended the old covenant.

Christ is the "end" in the sense of being the one in whom "all things"
are to be united with God - Eph.1:10. To make Christ simply a figure in the middle of
history instead of the one in whom history will be consumated (which is of course what
all the imagery of the Son of man coming on the clouds &c is about) is quite wrong.
This is the kind of thing one gets into by rejecting theology as "theological

George L. Murphy