Re: Inconsistency on Shroud vs. Genesis.

George Murphy (
Sun, 08 Aug 1999 13:05:08 -0400 wrote:
> As you noted in your response tonight to Tom Pearson finally prodded me
> into a question. To Tom Pearson you wrote:
> >OTOH, Scripture speaks of God as creator but it
> >says nothing at all about the survival of the burial shroud of Jesus.
> It seems to me that your treatment in the past of Genesis as being less
> than historically true conflicts with your statements and treatment of the
> shroud. We have had many a discussion of this issue. Of the shroud, you
> point out, correectly that it would be a strong historical evidence of the
> reality of Jesus's sacrifice. And you go on to note that the Bible says
> nothing about the shroud but does speak of God as creator. This is true.
> So why are you willing to accept the historicity of the shroud (of which
> the Bible makes no mention) but unwilling to accept the historicity of
> early Genesis (of which the Bible makes much mention). This seems rather
> inconsistent to me.

Several points here:
1) My "OTOH ... OTOH" response to Tom's post, of which you quote half, may have
been a bit confusing. I was simply noting 2 things which seem to point in opposite
directions. Creation is a biblical claim while the shroud as evidence isn't. However,
the shroud would provide some support for the historical character of the complex of
events which the Bible presents as God's fundamental revelation, while the idea
of creation as revelation is more debatable, & things like ID as proof of creation are
even more so.
2) Scripture does mention the burial shroud of Jesus (Jn.20:6-7), though
nothing about its preservation, an image of Jesus on it &c.
3) The shroud could provide strong historical evidence for the death by
crucifixion of Jesus. It's also been argued that one can infer that his body was
somehow disturbed & the shroud removed, for if the corpse had just decayed quietly in
the tomb then presumably the shroud would have decayed with it. Of course this falls
far short of proving the resurrection. It's an overstatement to say that it would
provide "historical evidence for the reality of Jesus' sacrifice", for "sacrifice" is a
theological interpretation of his death.
4) I believe that the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus were historical
events (though also in a sense transcending history). The gospel accounts, while they
are not newsstory-like narratives of these events, contain information about what really
happened - some of Jesus' disciples saw him after his death & burial & his tomb was
empty. A good case can be made on theological, historical, and literary grounds for the
historical veracity of the Easter accounts in this sense. The early chapters of
Genesis, on the other hand, are different kinds of accounts. They are true statements
about God's relationship with the world, but they are true in different ways than
scientific or historical narratives. The Bible contains a number of different types of
literature - history "as it really happened", poetry, fiction, myth, liturgies,
theological arguments, laws, &c. One has to learn to distinguish one from the other,
which isn't always an easy task.
> To document my statement about your views of Genesis I cite the following:
> "But even with this, there is a quite orderly sequence of creation days.
> Plants are created, then sea creatures and birds, land animals and, as the
> climax of creation, humanity. (But it doesn't work very well to try to make
> these days correspond to geological ages or something like that, Again, the
> biblical account is theological proclamation, not a scientist's observation
> notebook.)" ~ George L. Murphy, The Trademark of God, (Wilton, Conn.:
> Morehouse-Barlow, 1986), p. 18
> Which in my book makes it non-historical.

Certainly - it isn't historical reporting of events.

> If God can't create the world,

Of course I never said this.

and have enough power to communicate what he
> did to us in a simple but straightforward manner,

1) What God _can_ do & what God _chooses_ to do & what you or I would _like_
God to do are different things. If God chose to communicate truth about the creation
of the world in liturgy or story or theological polemic then we ought to accept it &
not turn it into something else. That is not a sacrifice of the intellect, for it also
means that we are free to go ahead and investigate the world scientifically without
thinking we have to conform our findings to some "Bible science."
It's clear, quite apart from Gen.1 & 2 that God did use other types of
literature to speak of the creation of the world. In several OT passages God's creative
acts are spoken of using the ancient motif of the _Chaoskampf_, the slaying of
sea-monsters & the victory over the sea - e.g., Ps.74:12-17, Ps.89:8-13, Is.51:9-10, Job
26:12-13. These are true statements about God as creator but no one in their right mind
today would insist that they are accurate historical reports.
I realize, as you've said before, that you feel you need to maintain the
historicity of the Genesis accounts in order to argue for the truth of Christianity
among the people you work with. But the fact that your style of apologetics requires
the Bible to have a certain character doesn't mean that it does.
2) You've seen the T-shirts with
"And God said
divE= rho
divB = 0
curlB = dE/dt + J
curlE = -dB/dt
and there was light."
It's at least a first approximation to something we could call a scientifically accurate
account of creation. How much sense would it have made to a Hebrew shepherd
circa 1000 B.C.?

> then how do we know he
> has the power to raise Jesus from the dead, shroud or no shroud?

The best answer I can give to this part of your question is the paper I gave at
the ASA meeting a week ago. I'll send it to Glenn separately & to anyone else who
requests it.

George L. Murphy