You make the basic assumption that in the past there was no privileged
knowledge. That is, the existing knowledge of a given writer must invariably
indicate the level of knowledge of his culture. What are we to make of the
term reveled truths? Is it meaningless? Can it be that someone right now
knows something that surpasses all the knowledge that we have in our
From: Howard J. Van Till <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Vandergraaf, Chuck <email@example.com>; ASA Listserve
Date: Thursday, February 11, 1999 7:54 PM
Subject: RE: Grapenuts, anyone?
"I can live with part of your "provocative" argument....
"However, when we read a detailed description of what appears to us
that the early readers of / listeners to Genesis should have been able to
grasp, we run into problems."
Perhaps the key is your use of "appears to US." What preparation do WE
bring to the reading of something like the early chapters of Genesis? If we
bring the expectation that the account is something like a chronicle of
events and/or processes, then one interpretation will "appear to us" to be
what the writer intended to convey.
On the other hand, if we invested the effort to immerse ourselves in the
Ancient Near Eastern culture and literature that the first readers/hearers
took for granted, then I think something entirely dfferent would "appear to
us" to be the obvious meaning. Perhaps you have already done this, but if
not, I would encourage you and others on this list to invest a substantial
amount of effort in becoming familiar with the cultures of the world to
which the Scriptures were first addressed. Get to know their conceptual
vocabularies (different from ours). Get to know their agendas (different
from ours). It is a rewarding experience.
You went on to say:
"Let's just take the creation of Eve "from Adam's rib." Assuming for the
moment that "Adam" and "Eve"can be identified as individuals and "rib" is a
piece of bone that protects the upper innards of a human body, and "deep
sleep" is what we call it today, what are we to make out of this? Is this
the best the author could come up with to convey a historic event to the
reader/listener? Is there something wrong with the translation? Is it
allegorical? Are we missing the point? What is the point? Why was it even
Excellent questions. Go to the literature of Old Testament biblical
scholarship and of Ancient Near Eastern cultural history to see what the
answers might be. Without doing that homework, I'm sure that the typical
member of modern Western culture will indeed miss the point by at least a
Howard Van Till