Re: Gen 1-11 as history
Sun, 15 Aug 1999 11:11:55 +0000

At 08:26 PM 08/14/1999 -0400, George Murphy wrote:
> Try telling your average Jew that the land of Canaan is peripheral to the
>Jewish people.

George, Now you are beating a strawman. If God had told Abraham to go to
Mongolia, then the Caananites would have been replaced by Mongols. The
land could have been any land. It didn't have to be Caanan. God could have
chosen Indiana if he had wanted to. The geography of theland is not
central to the story, it is background. ANY LAND WOULD HAVE DONE.

> No, I've given criteria (e.g., the fact that Gen.1:1-2:3 & 2:4-25 are
>not compatible if both are read as chronicle-like historical narrative +
the >external evidence which indicates that they aren't such narratives) &
you >either don't like those criteria or ignore them.

This is not the type of criteria I keep asking for. I am asking for a list
of traits that define Hebrew poetry as opposed to Hebrew history. Examples
would be verse written in iambic pentameter, every other line rhyming, or
even following chinese poetry, the criteria that each word in a line of
poetry must relate according to certain rules with the word in the line
immediately above it. These are objective criteria which you don't seem to
have or use in your claim that Genesis 1-11 is poetry. Your claim that
Genesis 1-11 is poetry appears to be a subjective judgement that lacks
rules or reasons.

This would be like defining an electron by its characteristics, negative
charge of so and so, mass of this much. By this objective definition we
can say 'that is an electron' and that thing over there isn't.'

If you don't have rules for detecting poetry that are objective like these,
then we are merely discussing each other's opinions. And in that case, my
opinion is as good as yours and maybe more likely since throughout history
people have viewed early genesis as history. If you have a set of objective
criteria by which you can clearly show that Genesis 1-11 is in the form of
Psalms, then I will concede that you are correct. But to date, I haven't
seen anything like this from you.

Now as to your claim that Genesis 1:1-2:3 is incompatible with Genesis
2:4-25 does not seem to take into account the possibility that I am
advocating, namely the days of proclamation view. The two accounts are
entirely compatible if Genesis 1 is viewed as actual proclamations made by
God prior to the origin of the universe (reported to us by the human
writer) and Genesis 2 is the actualization of the creation of man. The
events are separated by several billion years and thus describe TWO
DIFFERENT EVENTS. In this case the two accounts are entirely compatible

The problem is made more
>difficult by the fact that you think historicity is an all or nothing
affair, >which it isn't. I wouldn't say, e.g. (to take an example I
mentioned >previously) that Chronicles is simply "not historical" even
though in many places its not as close to history _wie es eigentlich
>gewesen ist_ as Samuel-Kings. But in any case that wasn't what I was
talking about this
>time around.

THis seems to play a semantic game with the term history. NO history book
is entirely historical. The authors always have points of view, political
agendas etc. To rule out an account as history because it has a point of
view is to rule out ALL history books completely! Yet we seem to get along
just fine with those biased history books.

>> Noah lived you say, then what difference does it make that he didn't say
>> anything? None that I can see. And if Noah lived then what of the events
>> are they true or false? Where did the flood occur? When did it occur? How
>> did it occur. If it isn't history we can ignore this. If it is, we can't.
>> But all you do is simply say some is history and some isn't. THat is so
>> nebulous as to be unassailable.
> Of course historicity is important & I've never denied that. But to say
>we can ignore anything which isn't history is simply nonsense.

I never said that, (that I recall and I stand ready to be corrected). What
I have said is that Genesis 1-11 is meant to be history. It acts like
history, smells like history, quacks like history. And I see nothing in the
form of a definition that allows you to say that Genesis 1-11 isn't history
(albeit with a viewpoint but as I said above, so what?)

You said that your view does not disprove Noah's existence. Is Noah a real
person--yes or no?

If yes, please answer the following questions which are logical outgrowths
of Noah being a real individual.
Did he build an ark?
Did he collect animals and put them on the ark?
Was there a flood?
If yes, then where was the flood? When was the flood? How did it occur?

The questions I ask, and have asked throughout my apologetical career is
simply the logical outgrowth of acknowledging that Noah exists, as you have
now. Are you not the least bit curious about the answers to those questions?

>> I do leave room for that kind of literature and it is in psalms, proverbes
>> and the parables.
> By the very fact that you cite these as examples you show that you don't
>room for the type of thing I'm speaking of. You've simply added a category
>"non-historical but edifying." The example of Chronicles which I noted
would not fit.

I don't think you have proven your case that Genesis 1-11 falls into the
genre you claim. Seely doesn't think the genre of Genesis 1-11 is much
different than Genesis 12-50. All I have seen is an assertion with no
textural backup for that assertion, no objective criteria by which all
accepting those critieria would be forced to the same conclusion.

> I don't see the same type of style in Genesis. Thus I
>> want to know how you decide that Genesis is some sort of parable other than
>> by your personal choice which seems to lack objective criteria.
>> Give some hermeneutical principles that distinguish something for petes
> One basic principle is that you don't decide what kind of literature you're
>dealing with before you read it.

Thank you, but I have read it. I assume that this insulting, nonresponse
means that you have no hermeneutical principles to give which backs up your

With this I will end this thread. You have the last word.


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