Scripture is witness to God's revelation to Israel which culminates in
Christ, & for brevity one may just say that Scripture is God's revelation. It
contains differenr types of literature, and even the parts which are not historical
narrative may have accurate historical, geographical &c information. Genesis 1-11
has such material - real rivers in Gen.2, a real city of Babylon &c. But it is
revelatoty even when it doesn't have such information. You're "fighting" for the
position that it must be historical narrative in order to be true in any sense. I
am not "fighting" against all possibility of historical information in those chapters.
But I do resist both the notion that Scripture _must_ have that character & against
what seem to me implausible or purely "it might have been" historical scenarios which
claim to reconcile Genesis & history or science in concordist fashion.
Whether mine is successful or not
> is not the issue here. Just the concept. Let's say Joe Camel comes up with
> a fantastic synthesis between what the Bible says and modern science. Is it
> right to reject Joe's synthesis because we don't believe that the creaton
> is a revelation? How do we know that the creation does not witness to
> God's creative act in the past? Afterall, nature is a witness for much of
> what modern science believes happened in the past.
I think the idea that we are to know God in the same way we come to understand
the world is a serious mistake.
> > 1st, this statement is incorrect. Jerome said that the creation story is
> >"after the manner of a popular poet", & there was extensive use in the
> early church
> >of allegorical interpretation (which I am NOT recommending) of Genesis as
> well as
> >other texts. It was particularly with the Reformation that the emphasis
> was placed on a
> >single "literal" meaning - usually understood to be historical narrative -
> of the
> >biblical text.
> > But I think we also have to say that, with all the errors and excesses of
> >biblical criticism, we've learned some things about the historical
> character of
> >Scripture, the relationships of biblical texts to other cultures, literary
> types, & of
> >course scientific understanding of history and the world, which the
> theologians of the
> >early & medieval church or the Reformation didn't have. We really have
> learned some
> Genesis 1-11 doesn't have the similies [sp?], allegories and other poetic
> devices found in the Psalms, which all agree is ancient Hebrew poetry. I
> don't see statements in early Genesis like:
> The Lord is my shepherd.
> he shall be like a tree planted by the streams of water
> Let them be as chaff before the wind,
> Many psalms are like prayers, not at all in the style of Genesis:
> Unto thee, O Jehovah, will I call
> Draw me not away with the wicked,
> Looking at the literary style I see in Psalms I don't see it in early
> Genesis. Where are the similies?
1st, you miss the point of my reply. Your claim was that Christian attempts
to interpret Genesis other than as historical narratives are modern innovations. The
examples I cited shows that they aren't. Whether or not patristic or
medieval allegorizing is valid is another question.
2d, the point (& in large part weakness) of allegory is that one can interpret
a text that looks like straight history as something else - either in addition to or
in place of the historical reading. The account of Abram, Sarai, & Hagar reads on the
surface as an historical account, but they are, according to St. Paul, "an allegory"
speaking of something not at all evident on the surface (Gal.4:21-31).
3d, there's a lot of Hebrew poetry in the OT that doesn't come across as poetry
in most English version.
> > Say for (over) simplicity that Gen.1-11 contains stories. _Details
> matter in
> Why stories? I think the only reason moderns believe that Genesis has no
> bearing on creation as it actually happened is because they have been
> unable to present a scenario that matches the Biblical account. Thus we
> call it stories, or poetry, anything so long as we don't have to deal with
> it as any form of history--which is what the ancients thought it was.
Again you miss the point. You argued that details are only important if one
is presenting a set of historically or scientifically accurate propositions. That is
> >> I know you never said this. What you are saying is that God can create the
> >> world, but doesn't have the ability to communicate how he did it to a bunch
> >> of primitive tribesman of 4000 years ago.
> > No, I didn't say that either. God didn't communicate as you'd like him
> Here I disagree. The effect of what you are saying is that God doesn't seem
> to be able to effectively communicate anything about the truth of what
> actually happened in the creation. Why, I ask, is God so impotent on this
> point? As I keep pointing out, I can communicate simple truths about
> creation to peasants that don't understand science. Am I more capable or
> caring than God? Of course not. Examples, (again)
You keep misrepresenting my position as saying that God "can't" or "isn't able
to" &c do certain things. & the idea that if God really loved us he'd reveal scientific
truths to us I find strange.
> The universe came from a hot fire.
> The earth formed from a big cloud.
> Life sprang forth from the waters.
> Man was created when a creature that lived in the trees was changed.
> There is absolutely nothing in the above 4 sentences that contradicts
> science and that a 5000 BC farmer couldn't have understood. Is it
> exhaustive? NO. Is it understandable? Yes. Does it conflict with science?
> NO! The implications of your view for God's communicative abilities is
> bad. Couldn't God think of doing this? Of course He should have been able
> to do it. But then since He didn't, we prefer to say He spoke gibberish
> that only a theologian can understand and interpret. That is troubling.
In fact, what God was willing to condescend to do was to use the scientific
ideas of the world held by Israel & its neighbors ~3000 years ago (flat earth, dome of
the sky, waters above the heavens &c), adapting them freely where necessary to make
theological points (e.g., the treatment of the heavenly bodies on the 4th day).
> > & I don't think it's necessary or profitable to try to "harmonize" all the
> >Easter accounts as a single historical narrative. There is good
> >evidence for the women finding the tomb empty & appearances of Jesus to
> some of his
> >followers. That doesn't mean that all the details of the accounts - how
> many women
> >there were &c - can be harmonized historically.
> If there is absolutely no way to harmonize all the details then someone is
> telling a whopper. Just like in the Clinton/Lewinsky affair, there was no
> way to harmonize all the accounts ("I didn't have sex with that woman,
> Lewinsky" and "I was alone with him and performed...."). When accounts
> don't harmonize, often someone is mistaken or lying. So while you might
> not find it profitable to harmonize such things, I find it crucial.
The (usually tacit) assumption in a legal setting is that people are supposed
to testify to "history as it really happens." Even in such a setting truth is not an
all or nothing affair. Whittaker Chambers remembered some things wrongly in his
testimony in the Hiss case (as he himself notes in _Witness_), but that doesn't
invalidate the totality of his testimony which showed that Hiss had been a Communist & a
As I said, I think one can make a good case from the totality of the
materials which we have that Jesus' tomb was found empty and that he appeared to his
disciples after his death. In order to say that one does not have to insist that all
the gospel statements about arrangements at the tomb, number of women, whether Jesus
first appeared in Galilee or Jerusalem &c can be put into a single consistent historical
> >Where is that stated in the Bible?
> > Where is it stated that everything in Scripture is accurate historical
> Exodus treated the 6 days as history:
> Exodus 20:16 "In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth"
> Is Exodus 20:16 false? That is NOT a poetic statement, unless we now want
> to include anything that discusses the creation as being poetry.
> >> What you advocate is that we are free to ignore the Bible.
> > As far as doing science is concerned, yes. If it weren't so, S. Weinberg &
> >other atheists wouldn't get anywhere in science. Of course this doesn't
> mean should
> >ignore the Bible _period_.
> That means that the Bible has NOTHING useful to say about creation; not
> even anything to say about who made it.
Nonsense. It says that the God who brought Israel out of Egypt & raised Jesus
from the dead is the creator of the universe - a highly non-trivial claim.
> If I claim to have made the
> universe but give you no reason to believe that I knew how the universe was
> created, then you would have a perfect right, no a duty, to doubt that I
> created the universe. The very fact that I don't know enough high energy
> physics to be able to discuss particle creation would be cited as proof
> that I was an imposture. Why does such reasoning not apply to God?
In other words, you have a list of conditions God has to meet before you'll
accept him as God?
> > & Isaiah & Job.
> >> There is no problem with the psalms being
> >> poetry. They are clearly poetry. But Genesis 1-11 are not entirely
> >> poetry.
> > I didn't say they were. The point is that there is a way of speaking about
> >creation which runs through the OT which is inspired, authoritative, true
> & which
> >no one with any sense reads as historical narrative.
> OK, which parts are not poetry? Lay it out.
Again you miss the point. Identification of "poetry" in the strict sense
is a matter of looking carefully at the structure of the Hebrew. Deciding whether or
not to read words as metaphors &c is more difficult: The grammatical structure of
"My heart is broken" is the same as that of "My pencil is broken."
But the point (& I quite understand why you want to avoid it) is that what
I've already said twice: The motif of the struggle with the sea, the sea monsters &c
runs through the OT as a way of speaking about creation & no one wants to interpret
it as an account of events which really happened.
(A horrible thought creeps upon me: It it possible that Glenn will argue
that it _could have_ happened that way, that maybe God "really did" "slay Rahab of
the Deep with a deadly wound"? May it not be!)
> >Name the Psalm that is a genealogical list as is Genesis 5 and 11.
> >> Name the psalm that gives the kind of detail seen in Genesis 1-4. I don't
> >> find one in my bible.
> > Of course there are different literary types in Gen.1-11.
> OK, so are the genealogies supposed to represent historical figures?
They undoubdtedly have some historical information. That doesn't mean that they
have the kind of genealogical accuracy that the DAR would ask for.)
> > No, you demonstrated that God could have given a smidgen of a hint of the
> >of biological evolution. But you are misrepresenting my position & to
> state it
> >accurately will have to stop refrring to what God "can" or "can't" do.
> It's a question
> >of what God chose to do.
> Now, here we come to an interesting issue. Are you claiming to know what
> God chose to do? I certainly don't know the mind of God that clearly. But
> I can figure out what it is possible for God to do. And given that, along
> with the premise that God tells no lies, points me in the direction of
> trying to find a scenario that will match both science and the Scripture.
As far as being able to read the text, yes, I can tell know the literature which
witnesses to God's revelation. I'm not insisting that God communicate information in
a specific way before I'll pay attention to it. It seems to me that you are.
> > God apparently chose to bring about life through processes of evolution.
> >doing so (as in other ways) God VOLUNTARILY limited the ways in which he
> would act in
> >the world.
> But that does not explain why God voluntarily limited his communicative
> abilities! I agree that God created life via evolution. But that doesn't
> explain why God went to such lengths to hide this from the ancient shepherds.
> (This is the basic idea of a kenotic theology of divine action - see my
> >paper in last summer's Zygon - or the old distinction between God's
> "absolute" & God's
> >"ordinate" power.) Given this, it's hardly surprising that at the stage
> when God wanted
> >to begin the revelation of himself & his relation with the world to an
> >species which had evolved, they weren't ready to understand general
> relativity, quantum
> >field theory, stellar evolution, DNA, population genetics &c.
> For the 18th time, God didn't have to teach them quantum. He could have
> used the 4 sentences I mentioned earlier. Why do you think that if God
> didn't teach them quantum he couldn't tell them anything true about the
> creation? That is a nonsequitor.
God did tell us about creation - i.e., what it means for the world to be
his creation. & I'd add that adding some a few elementary scientific metaphors
to the text would as likely have hindered the eventual progress of science as helped
it. We've already have enough problems with goofy attempts to fit the waters above the
heavens into modern cosmologies.
George L. Murphy