Re: Date of genesis 1

From: bivalve (
Date: Mon Feb 25 2002 - 17:43:19 EST

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    As a counter to the perception that acceptance of evolution implies a rejection of conservative views on the Bible (a view I have not seen on this list but have seen elsewhere), it may be worth noting that I do not see particular reason not to consider the Pentateuch as essentially Mosaic. Certainly some later phrases have come in, e.g. From Dan to Beersheba, and the occasional notes about to this day, the account of Moses' death, etc. point to later editorial comments and final compilation. However, arguments for the lateness of doctrine or laws seem to require assumptions about the development of ideas, when ideas can develop at various rates and in various ways. Such arguments also may assume a limit on God's expression of foresight through premptive legislation.

    On the specific issue of worshiping the sun, moon, and stars, their general popularity for worship and the need for a categorical statement ruling out all worship of creation would both have been known to an author at the time of the exodus. "Did YHWH create heavenly objects or just earthly ones?" seems like an obvious question that needed answering. My perspective is colored by an Old Testament course in which the professor claimed that regulations about grain offerings must postdate the exodus because they could not have grown grain while wandering.

    Although fertility gods seem to have been the most popular objects of idolatry in Israel (how many people would choose getting up before dawn to bow to the sun over a chance for sexual debauchery?), Amos 5:26 accused the Israelites of following astrological deities during the exodus and of continuing similar disobedience to his day. Assyrian astrological deities were a problem in Isaiah's day due to Ahaz and Manassah, and Jeremiah and Ezekiel condemn worship of astrological deities in the immediate pre-exilic period.

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    ---------- Original Message ----------------------------------
    From: Jonathan Clarke <>
    Date: Sun, 24 Feb 2002 15:24:01 +1100

    >Catching up with some much delayed email....
    >Thanks for your response. My thoughts.
    >george murphy wrote:
    >> > 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
    >> "contrived."
    >I said "contrived" in the sense I already specified because it fits a previous assumption
    >about the way that the OT came together, and driven by a particular model of the history
    >of religion.
    >> 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.
    >That motive would have existed earlier for the reasons I said, so I am not convinced. Why
    >could not an existing scripture played a role in keeping the remnant faithful in
    >captivity? Supposition of course, but no more supposition than than saying it is a late
    >> & 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
    >> suggestive.
    >I can't really see this.
    >> 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
    >> leeway.
    >The separation of the samaritans was a staged affair, the establishment of the northern
    >Kingdom in the 11th century, their exclusion by Ezra in the 5th century, and the
    >destruction of the Mt. Gerizim temple in the 2nd century BC. Which was the deciding one
    >regarding the OT canon? As the samaritans only accepted the Pentateuch I would say that
    >argues for the earlier date. A fifth century spilt surely would have seen some of the
    >other OT books, especially the historical ones.
    >> > 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."
    >Fair enough.
    >> 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.
    >How much does there have to be before it starts getting incorporated?
    >My point is that we really have to be agnostic about most questions of dating the writing
    >of the OPT books. Not that you would know it from many commentaries, which take quite
    >dogmatic positions on near zero evidence and much supposition. of course a dead sea
    >scrolls find from the 5th century (or even earlier) would be wonderful.

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