Re: St. Basil's 400AD view of the Days of proclamation
Thu, 26 Aug 1999 20:54:41 +0000

At 09:44 AM 08/26/1999 -0400, George Murphy wrote:
> wrote:

>> I absolutely agree with you here. I would ask you, if there was NO Noachic
>> flood, and NO a bunch of Hebrew slaves escaping from Egypt, and there was
>> NO evidence that a Jewish carpenter who
>> was crucified was seen alive after his death, would it still be theological
>> truth? I know you would not believe it was theologically true under those
>> conditions and neither would I.

> However, I do _not_ with your last sentence above. We need not at this
>get back into debates about the historical character of the parable of the
>Samaritan or the Book of Jonah, but I think each of them makes a very
clear theological
>statement whether or not one thinks the events actually happened. & in
fact in the
>latter case the reason the primary theological thrust gets deflected is
because people
>have gotten hung up on the historicity of the big fish which (whether one
thinks the
>events really happened or not) is simply a means for getting the main
character from
>point A to point B.

I must politely protest the bait and switch here. My point was not about
Jonah or the Good Samaritan. My point was about the flood, the exodus and
Jesus. If there was no evidence of these things would it be theologically
true? We aren't discussing the Good Samaritan and Jonah (or at least I am

> I confess myself unsure just how much historicity you require & why that
>particular standard is adopted. I think there was a real prophet Jonah, &
a real
>Nineveh which the Israelites hated a la Nahum, so there is some historical
basis for the
>book. But I know you're not satisfied with that - you want Jonah to have
gone to
>Nineveh, preached there, had lots of people converted &c. OK, I
understand that
>position though I don't agree with it. But in dealing with the flood,
e.g., you say (on
>a parallel thread this a.m.) that you don't care if Noah had 15 pairs of
each animal, &
>insist that your position is not one of simple literalism. OK, I
understand that too &
>am largely in agreement. But I don't see how your 2 arguments cohere?

I am not concerned that minor details might be wrong in a story in the
Bible. But I am concerned that major events might be wrong. Thus I don't
have to deal with every single detail. WE know that there are
transcription errors in the Bible, we know that there are numeralogical
errors, we know lots of other things. But if there is no truth in the
purported major events which are in principle verifiable like the flood and
the Exodus then I see little difference between the Bible and the book of
Mormon which also has events that are historically untrue but purported to
be theologically true. There were no Jews in North America prior to
Columbus. THere were no horses here then either, no stone walled cities in
Northern North America, and no chariots. Yet the Book of Mormon talks about
such things. They also can claim to be theologically true yet historically
false if they want to. What exactly allows you to say that Mormonism is
wrong if it isn't in the lack of historical support for their views. I
would like to see you tell me why Mormonism is wrong without any reference
to history or science.

> The first thing we have to do with a text is try to discern what kind of
>literature it is, & that includes trying to find to what degree it
contains historical
>material & what that material is. We shouldn't just jump right in & start
mining the
>text for doctrinal material. But the theological task has to be
undertaken sooner or

Apply this to the Book of Mormon.

>> I would go back to caution that if there are lots of theologies in the
>> Bible, it is even more crucial that there be an objective basis to those
>> events. If all we have is theology, then which theology is the correct
>> theology? Some of them (like the passages that could be interpreted as
>> indicating polytheism), are contradictory with others (like the passages
>> that indicate monotheism). There is no middle ground in those cases.
> I still think you're making too strong a correlation between historical
>("objective basis") & theology.

I might be. But as I noted yesterday, I have to face the Mormons and
Muslims in my extended family. If I can't use history to help me, what can
I use? Telling them that my view is theologically correct but historically
false doesn't do much for them. And frankly it doesn't do much for me
either. Under those criteria, Mormonism or Islam might be fine and dandy
being theologically true in place of Christianity. The claim that the early
Genesis is theologicallly true but historically false places it
(intentionally or not) in the same category as the Inuit Pea man story.

No Christians have any disagreement about the claim
>that Jesus died on the cross under Pontius Pilate, but there are quite
different ways -
>both in the New Testament & beyond - of speaking theologically about the
significance of
>his death.

YEs, and if all we speak to are Christians then there are no real problems
because we don't challenge our assumptions as others outside our religion do.


Foundation, Fall and Flood
Adam, Apes and Anthropology

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