Re: Genesis One that Fits, #3

From: george murphy (
Date: Sun Feb 17 2002 - 19:14:59 EST

  • Next message: Jim Eisele: "Genesis One and Concordism (was a lot of other things previously)"

    Jonathan Clarke wrote:

    > Hi George
    > I have always found this sort of argument about the dating of Genesis 1 rather
    > contrived and based on some untestable assumptions about how the Bible came
    > together. But perhaps that is my ignorance speaking. So some questions. How does
    > a 6th century date for Genesis 1 (henceforth refered to as the late date) be
    > justified with respect to the following:

            The argument may be wrong but it seems to me rather straightforward & hardly

            Your first two points below are legitimate. But the Babylonian religion that
    the patriarchs experienced centuries in the past and the gods of Egypt were not a live
    threat to the faith of Israel in the way that the worship of Marduk & Ishtar et al
    would have been to the Jews in exile in Babylon.
    The biblical writers don't spend a lot of time in detailed criticism of "the gods of
    the nations" as a theological abstraction. But for the exiles the religion of Babylon
    would have been very attractive in contrast to a faith which - by commonsense
    standards - had been proven false when its deity had been unable to protect his land &
    people. A lot of the exiles probably did assimilate. So there would have been a very
    strong motive for a Jew in that situation to set out the faith of Israel in strong
    contrast with Babylonian religion.
            & in fact that's just what we see in Isaiah 40-55. Of course the dating of
    that may be debated, but I think the argument for dating it ~540 is very strong,
    stronger than that for Gen.1. It is clearly addressed to the situation of the late
    exile with its references to Babylon & its gods & to Cyrus that would have made little
    sense to Judeans a century and a half earlier. The similarity of the theology of II
    Isaiah & Gen.1 isn't compelling evidence for contemporaneity but it is certainly
            Canaanite religion was indeed a threat to the faith of Israel. But the aspect
    of it that apparently had the greatest appeal & that the prophets attack is the
    fertility cult aspects.

    > 1. The exile was not the first exposure to the Israelites to Babylonian religion
    > as the patriarchs also came from that background (or do those who argue for a late
    > date believe there is no historical basis for the patriarchial story)?

    > 2. Canaanite religion was similar to Babylonain religion in is veneration of the

    > stars (although to a lesser degree). The Egyptians also worshipped the sun and
    > moon. Could the down playing of astronomical bodies might as much be related to
    > these religions as the Bablyonian?

    > 3. The Samartian Pentetuch includes Genesis 1. Given the increasingly bitter

    > relationship between Jews and Samaritans when some Jews returned from exile is it
    > likely that the Samaritans would have adopted anything compiled by the Jews?

            A good point. But we don't know for sure when the final breach between
    Judeans & Samaritans too place. It must have been earlier than the destruction of the
    Samaritan temple on Mt. Gerizim in 129 B.C. but that still leavs a good deal of

    > 4. Do not some Psalms ascribed to David contain references to Genesis 1 (the
    > waters above in Ps 96, for example)?

            One needs to be careful about the ascription of psalms to David: The psalm
    headings are not part of the canonical text. In fact, the Hebrew text of Ps 96 has no
    heading. The heading in the Septuagint is "When the house was built after the
    Captivity, a Song by David."
            But sure, some elements of the Genesis account are found in the Psalms. That
    doesn't mean that the psalmists used Genesis. It's just as likely to have been the
    other way around. Saying that Genesis 1 in its present form is post-exilic doesn't
    have to mean that the whole thing was composed at that time with no precedents in
    earlier Israelite liturgy or reflection.



    George L. Murphy
    "The Science-Theology Interface"

    > Jon
    > george murphy wrote:
    > > Lucien S Carroll wrote:
    > >
    > > > > Genesis 1 is a theological and (perhaps) liturgical text that proclaims
    > > > the God of Israel as the creator of the world and of humanity. It uses
    > > > ideas about the physical world current ~2600 years ago
    > > >
    > > > This is the second time that i've seen you give ~600 BC as the date of the
    > > > writing of genesis, and i guess it surprises me. This certainly isn't my
    > > > specialty, but 600 BC seems pretty incongruent. The level of detail in
    > > > Joseph's story for example, or the correlation between the structure of
    > > > deuteronomy and akkadian-era (if i remember correctly) fealty covenants,
    > > > or the finding of the "book of the law" in the time of josiah, all seem to
    > > > indicate that the pentateuch was atleast primarily written in the time of
    > > > moses or so. To clarify on josiah's find, either it was written then and
    > > > passed off as ancient (which would be devastating to any claims of even
    > > > theological authority) or there really was a lost book (deuteronomy
    > > > (?)) found.
    > > >
    > > > I do think there is a high possibility of later elements slipping
    > > > into the text, but to attibute it all to that late seems a bit of
    > > > stretch. I'd like to know on what basis you date it that late, or atleast
    > > > point me to a critic whose opinion you trust.
    > >
    > > My reference to ~2600 years ago had to do with the first creation
    > > account of Genesis, not the whole book of Genesis. If that's correct then the
    > > composition of the whole book in its present form would be no earlier than
    > > that, but it could include a good deal of older material.
    > > Many biblical scholars today date the 1st Genesis account to sometime
    > > around ~550-450 B.C. and the 2d account a few centuries earlier, 900-1000
    > > B.C. A resource on this is Conrad Hyers, _The Meaning of Creation_ (John
    > > Knox, 1984). Modern commentaries on Genesis (Von Rad, Westermann,
    > > Brueggemann, &c) can also be consulted.
    > > One reason for dating Genesis 1 shortly after the Babylonian exile is
    > > that its theology seems intended to counter Babylonian polytheism. The world
    > > is not made from the body of a defeated chaos monster but is created by God's
    > > command and is good. The heavenly bodies are not deities that control the
    > > world but are created in the middle of the creation week for specific
    > > purposes. Human beings are not made as slaves to do the dirty work of gods and
    > > goddesses but are given dominion over the earth.
    > > Genesis 1 has a mature theology in which Yahweh is the only God of the
    > > whole universe, not just the only God to be worshipped by Israel. In that
    > > regard it has connections with Isaiah 40-55, which are now often dated ~540
    > > B.C.
    > >
    > > Shalom,
    > >
    > > George
    > >
    > > George L. Murphy
    > >
    > > "The Science-Theology Interface"

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