From: Peter Ruest (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Mon Jun 23 2003 - 00:45:02 EDT
thank you for your comments! At a few points, you still don't seem to
have understood our (A.Held & PR) intentions - lack of clearness on my
part (combined with the length restrictions on the PSCF papers) may be
to blame. Let me try and deal with these questions:
"Don Winterstein" <email@example.com> wrote (DW):
DW: First, I hadn't fully realized from your paper, Genesis
Reconsidered, that your age-days were intended just to give an
origin-sequence of categories of things, such as plants of any kind
coming before animals of any kind. This would mean, of course, that
many of the age-days would have huge overlaps. Your scheme thereby gets
close in some respects to the one proposed by Glenn Morton on his
website. But this kind of interpretation seems unnatural to me in view
of the simple linearity of the simple Genesis narrative.
PR: A key point of our paper was the distinction between "creating" and
"making", the latter implying the further development (evolution) by God
of the entities he created much earlier. And we argued the view that
even for the first readers, such an interpretation would not have been
too difficult to understand, as genealogical trees (at least within the
human domain) were perfectly familiar to them [toledot]. On this basis,
it would have been quite natural for them to view a continuation of each
day's novelties to continue later (such as (1) light, (2) atmosphere and
water cycle, (3) firm land and plants, (4) visible celestial bodies, (5)
"soulish" animals, (6) land animals and humans). If they understood the
days as long periods of time (which looks likely from the details of
what is reported), they certainly would not have insisted on all
different kinds of plants to have been produced (by the land!) at the
same time, and similarly for animals etc. So, in this sense, overlaps:
yes, but still a simple linearity of the main novelties characterizing
the different days/epochs - both creations and new developments. There
is a clear order that not only fits today's knowledge, but also
represents an inherently logical sequence, which could therefore be
understood by the ancients, as well.
DW: I still think your assignment of /oph/ to insects is at the very
least inconsistent: Previously you'd said the text failed to mention
invertebrates because they weren't "living souls;" so why would God
suddenly assign winged insects, which are mostly "unclean" invertebrates
and presumably also not living souls, such importance?
PR: We wrote: "In the waters of the oceans, the second act of creation
produced 'living souls' [nephesh ghayah]. This designation apparently
implies sensation, instincts, and deliber-ately con-trolled movements.
The soul represents a fundamentally novel dimension, the psychological
domain. Accord-ing to biblical un-der-standing, such animals are the
first genu-inely living beings; plants are never called 'living'. Noah
and Israel were forbid-den to eat blood, because 'the soul is in the
blood', which is 'given for atone-ment'.(1) Ap-parently, only what we
loosely call 'higher' animals, with a blood circulation and with a brain
serving more than minimal sen-sory functions, are 'living souls', unlike
most invertebrates. Although some sensory functions directing movements
are found in all lower organisms, the integrated set of sentient
capacities characterizing 'living souls' originated perhaps with rapidly
swimming cartilaginous fish, about 385 Ma ago.(2)
(1) Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 17:11-14.
(2) Carroll, R.L. (1988), Vertebrate Paleontology and Evolution
(Freeman, New York), 16-61; Margulis, L. & Schwartz, K.V. (1988), Five
Kingdoms (Freeman, New York); Cappetta, H. et al. (1993),
'Chondrichthyes', in: The Fossil Record 2, note 25, 593-609."
We didn't exclude the insects from the "living souls", only "most
invertebrates" (as most species on earth are insects, we probably should
have said, "many"). We characterized the "living souls" as having
"sensation, instincts, and deliber-ately con-trolled movements... a
blood [or hemolymph] circulation and... a brain serving more than
minimal sen-sory functions". That "'living souls' originated perhaps
with rapidly swimming cartilaginous fish" was not meant to exclude all
invertebrates, but only to indicate an approximate time-point. Referring
to the Precambrian animals (and implicitely to many later "primitive"
animals), we wrote, "all these lower animals are not explicitely
mentioned in Gene-sis, not being 'living souls'", but again we didn't
exclude insects from being "living souls".
DW: You wrote: "God did not shape Adam as a potter forms the clay, but
formed him in his mother's womb and then called him as an adult and
filled him with his spirit for a specific assignment among the
preadamites." But aren't you doing considerable violence to the clear
meaning of the text? What justifies rejecting a literal meaning here
when you're taking such pains to be literal elsewhere?
PR: What is the "clear meaning of a text" and what does "violence" to it
is often a question of judgment. And the argument is certainly not very
impressive when we are dealing with translations, because these can be
misleading or even plain wrong. What is a "literal meaning"?
"Literality" is not an either-or, black-or-white proposition. The actual
words and expressions used in the original are important for finding the
meaning of a text. In this sense, the "literal" is very important. But
we clearly need to determine what is the best interpretation overall,
and this often requires a lot of work. Each word or expression has an
extended and fuzzy field of related meanings, depending on the context
and even farther environment. In this sense, "literal" may be
meaningless, and different readers often disagree about it. Such
considerations don't contradict each other. My sentence you quote above
represents a condensed statement of a lot of discussion in our paper, as
well as further considerations. In order to deal with it, we would have
to go into more details.
DW: You wrote: "If Adam hadn't sinned, what would God have done? I
think this is an inappropriate and useless question; the bible never
considers it." Yes, but if one wants to take the text literally, one
must take the Tree of Life literally and its potential consequences. So
while I agree that the question is theologically useless, it's not
inappropriate. The question is appropriate for making the point that
the text is not to be taken literally, and that myth is a good
PR: I'm not sure what you mean by taking the Tree of Life literally and
its potential consequences. Are you talking about the belief that all
humans must biologically descend from Adam to "inherit" "original sin"?
I believe nothing in the bible implies this. It just is a fact that Adam
sinned, as well as all humans (defined as in God's image) before, in,
and after Adam's time. There certainly is a biological tree of life, and
Adam is somewhere in it. But this doesn't imply sin "evolved" or is
natural, because it is intimately linked to the creation of (biblically)
pre-humans into humans (in the image of God) at a very precise moment
perhaps 100,000 years ago (I don't insist on this figure, only on the
fact of Adam being much more recent). This doesn't imply that sin is
"the Creator's fault", but its possibility is inseparably linked to free
will, personality, and responsability.
DW: You wrote: "The great problem I see with considering them [Genesis
creation accounts] modified myths is how to distinguish gold from straw.
What is inspired, what is not?" It's all inspired, but "inspired" in
this case means true to what God wanted people to get out of the story
at that time, and not true in perhaps any other way. Like it or not, we
all must continuously decide as we read in what sense the biblical words
are to be understood. Furthermore, those myths probably weren't pagan.
They could have originated with Abraham, as he certainly did not
subscribe to the local polytheistic myths as he received them.
PR: I'm glad you accept it all as inspired, and I would also agree that
"inspired" means true to what God wanted people to get out of the story.
But I wouldn't restrict it to "that time", but consider it to be for all
times and cultures. I also agree that we must continuously decide in
what sense the words are to be understood. The Babylonian myths we do
know (and with which the Genesis stories of creation and of the flood
are routinely compared) are definitely pagan, polytheistic, and of a
very corrupted character. They are the most unlikely sources for
Genesis, but some Genesis stories may very well have been one of the
sources for them. I don't know of any indication that Abraham made up
his own myths. In this case we would expect to find some indications,
perhaps indirect, in the stories we do have about him and his time.
DW: You wrote: "The OT does sometimes picture God as husband (or
father) to Israel, but in the NT, it's Jesus who is the bridegroom to
the Church as his bride, whereas God is consistently referred to as our
Father." Granted; in NT times God was the Father and Christ was the
husband. That was a perspective constrained by the historical proximity
of God the Son.
It's now 2000 years later, a lot has happened, but one thing that has
not happened is the second coming of Christ. This means God had
objectives other than just a quick consummation of history in Christ.
It is then quite natural for God to have reassumed his OT role as
husband of more than one earthly wife, the wives in this case being
something like the various branches of Christianity. The future bride
of Christ will be the unified organism comprising the individual humans
that make up the various wives of God. The various branches of
Christianity these days are far from united and thus are more
realistically seen on Earth as several distinct organisms than as a
single bride of Christ.
PR: Here, I have to disagree. Some early Christians apparently expected
a quick consummation (probably even Paul at an early time, cf. 1 Thes.
4:17). But we also have explicit statements by Jesus that (1) nobody
knows the time of Christ's return (Mat. 24:36), and (2) before that, the
gospel must be preached to every nation (Mat. 24:14), and by Peter that
(3) God does not want that any should perish (2 Pet. 3:9). I don't
believe that God would have second thoughts about his plans and return
to some pre-Christ economy, even if it were only temporarily. He is
capable to pursue his aims, but keeps respecting the willful
personalities of his human creatures.
The separation of Israel from Judah under Rehoboam and Jeroboam I was
against God's will, but permitted as a judgment. It was the occasion for
the later image of God having, in Judah and Israel, two wives. But
that's not a normal situation after God's heart. He gave the blessing of
marriage between one man and one woman, who are to become "one flesh".
And this is to be permanent until one partner dies. He wants neither
polygamy nor divorce.
Now, in the christian economy, the bride of Christ includes all
believers and no one else. Nonbelievers don't belong to it, even if they
are members of some church. A local church or institutionally defined
church as such does not belong to the bride of Christ. Most of them
consist of a "mixed multitude" (Ex. 12:38), which is not according to
God's aim for his Church. None of them can be a "wife of God". He is not
going to bless this situation of conflicting and contradicting
denominations by a (polygamous!) spiritual marriage. And how could God
"marry" parts of the Church (adulterated by a mixed multitude) while it
is the bride of Christ being prepared to be the "wife of the Lamb" (Rev.
21:9)? Mixing with nonbelievers is good as a means of drawing them to
Christ, but not for pretending that they are all christians - when they
are not. In God's sight, members of different church organizations - as
far as these individuals are believers - even now belong to the same,
one, inseparable, universal (spiritually defined) Church which is the
bride of Christ. This means that the ecumenical quest of uniting church
institutions is entirely beside the point. Any "success" they might have
in this quest is spiritually irrelevant at best, corrupting at worst.
DW: This idea in combination with the natural fit to scientific
interpretations of the world makes God as husband truly a compelling
theological thesis. The fit to science is good because, if God seeks a
wife, he would want her to come into existence as independently from
himself as possible--hence the lengthy and apparently unguided processes
PR: That's exactly why it takes so long to reach the consummation. But
there is only one wife being prepared - and that for Christ. And God is
not going to consummate such a marriage early and partially and with a
DW: The problem of evil also disappears because God's priority is to
create a "person" independent of any obvious attempts to shape
her--hence her need to be subject to the laws of the world, which
include natural catastrophes. As a rule the creation of an independent
wife has higher priority for God than the physical welfare of any
individual or group.
PR: Here I agree with you.
DW: After living many decades with these ideas I find them so
compatible with God, history, science and general observations of the
world that I feel they'll eventually become widely accepted, the more so
as the time until Christ's second coming grows.
PR: Fortunately, the time to the consummation doesn't grow, but decrease
with every day!
Grace and peace,
-- Dr. Peter Ruest, CH-3148 Lanzenhaeusern, Switzerland <firstname.lastname@example.org> - Biochemistry - Creation and evolution "..the work which God created to evolve it" (Genesis 2:3)
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