Re: Fable telling

John_R_Zimmer@rush.edu
Sat, 6 Nov 1999 14:40:52 -0600

Glenn said on 11/03/99:

>I am going to give you some examples of actual legends which are known to
be associated with known geologic events which occurred prior to writing
and prior to history. I will show that your conception of how legends were
treated by the ancients is not what the actual case is.

Glenn then gave some examples of legends which contained details that
corresponded to aspects of events that had occurred long ago.

My comment:

At the other end of the spectrum of course, are legends like the legend
of King Arthur. Here, the details of the legend do not correspond to
the aspects of events. Why? Because the story has been changed through
transmission.

Thus I think that this statement is acceptable: The actual event
cannot be fully reconstructed by examination of the legend
and the archaeology of the event. The archaeology anchors
the event as an occurrence in prehistory. The legend provides
details that may or may not correspond to details of the event.

For example, in the Australian tale, we are provided with details
of Ngurunderi that the archaeological record cannot corroborate. We
can only say that the details of the story do not conflict (or
rather, agree) with the geological record.

At the same time, by associating Ngurunderi with geological
data, we increase our depth of appreciation of the
stories. Geological events are being remembered through
these legends. Thus, we are inspired to examine
the archaeology of those periods more closedly for cultural
changes that might correspond to the Ngurunderi legend.

So the 'details in legends' correspond to 'details in actual events'
to different degrees. For the story of Noah, the degree
depends on whether you look at the Flood story as more like King
Arthur's or more like Ngurunderi's legend. That, in turn, depends
on what event in prehistory that you associate the legend with.

Mallowan claimed that the Biblical and the Sumerian flood stories
pertain to the same local flood in prehistory. As seen in the stories,
this flood was catastrophic in terms of the perception of the people
who experienced it. In terms of archaeology, the flood brought a
period of civilization to a close. To me, Mallowan's perspective seems
perfectly legitimate, especially given the spectrum of 'detail
correspondence' exhibited by various legends.

So let me comment on each of the four claims Glenn made:

1 > It is a fact that not all perspectives are as good as others. I prefer
the historic viewpoint just as ethnology has found that events
long ago are remembered in fairly good detail.

As far as I can see, there are only two perspectives for the concordist
view of the story of Noah's flood:

One perspective is to find an event where the details recorded in the
legend most precisely correspond. That is Glenn's approach.

The other perspective is Mallowan's approach (which is also, most likely,
similar to the approach of the authors that Glenn cited). Note that
Mallowan also adhered to the idea that events of long ago are remembered.

2 >My point in all this is that legends usually were based upon real events
and their memory can be traced quite some distance in time.

However, legends vary in the accuracy with which details correspond
to real events. There is a spectrum of correspondence.

3 >Logic of legends can pick the ones they find easiest to correlate and
ignore the rest

This is true in both perspectives. Glenn picks some details and ignores
the rest (in particular, the very details that Mallowan uses in his
correpsondence). Mallowan does the same with the details that Glenn
found important.

4 >The historical view must deal with all the details.

Yet, Noah's Flood occurred in prehistory. Glenn and I differ in what
we mean by the word 'historicity' within the framework of concordism.
I desire to associate a Genesis story with an event in the evolutionary
or archaeological record. The key is not to deal with all the details,
but to match the 'gestalt' - or the entirety - and then see what comes
from the match.

I want the 'historical view' - or the concordist match - to cause the
modern or postmodern listener to 're-experience' the stories. At the
moment, the evolutionary record stands in contrast to the Biblical
origin story. Can the art of concordism find them in complement?

Thus I return to ask, in the context of your concordist vision,
how do the Genesis stories and the evolutionary record complement each
other in answering the four questions that philosopher Leslie Stevenson
says underly every world view:

Where did nature come from?

Where did humans come from?

What went wrong?

What is the cure?

The Biblical Genesis stories and the life of Jesus answer these questions. How
does your concordist 'match' allow us to see that their answer complements
what we know about the evolutionary record - and visa versa? Where is the
insight your match provides?

Ray