Hyers' Article - Cods Wallop!

From: Dick Fischer <dickfischer@earthlink.net>
Date: Fri Feb 20 2004 - 11:32:44 EST

>>My friend, Bob Dehaan wrote:
>>I would appreciate hearing about any other reactions to Hyars' article.
>>Do you mean something besides just saying it's wrongheaded and leaving it
>>at that?

>Of course. But if that's all you got to say then leave it at that.

Perhaps just saying it's "wrongheaded" is too brief. When I was
researching my book, I read Hyers', The Meaning of Creation: Genesis and
Modern Science. I thought it was a load of cods wallop then, I think it's
cods wallop now. And the article in JASA is simply abbreviated cods
wallop. Still, he writes well.

The mistake Hyers makes is simply this: He thinks Genesis One fails to line
up with a fairly commonly accepted scientific sequence of events that lead
from the formation of the earth up until mankind appears in the form of
Adam. Since it doesn't line up, primarily because day three and day four
appear to be out of sequence, it couldn't have been intended as a
chronology of events. So, the type of literature we have always thought it
to be must be challenged. We thought it was history, turns out to be
poetry. And where we might have thought it was a chronology of events -
it's really a polemic against false gods.

The setup that is supposed to take us from historical literature to sheer
poetry is the example of the parables of Christ. Christ used parables that
were not intended to be accurate depictions of real events. As Hyers states:

         In a parable, religious truth is not being made
         to conform to historical and biographical reporting.
         Rather, the reverse is the case: characters and
         situations are being used as vehicles of religious truth.

Fair enough. But the parables of Christ were called exactly that! Christ
himself called them "parables" so we would make no mistake. The second
sentence begins the setup where Hyers applies his rationale to try to make
a paradigm shift in the genre of Genesis One literature.

Does the writer (Moses?) give us any similar clues to avoid our making the
mistake of thinking that Genesis One is history? No. He left it for Hyers
to figure out. And if day three was four and day four was three in
Genesis, Hyers never would have figured it out because that's the only clue
he has. Take away that seeming mistake, and he's got nothing. The hymnic
element, common in Hebrew poetry, is absent in Genesis 1-11.

The biggest problem theistic evolutionists such as Hyers face is what to do
with Scripture. Typically, they proclaim the Bible to be "true" as an
inspired piece of literature, but the truth stops short of being
historically accurate. Instead of Genesis 1 being a chronological sequence
of events, the order of presentation becomes in Hyers' words, a
"cosmogonic" order.

If a "cosmogonic" order had been intended for the first chapter of Genesis
we might wonder where else in the Bible did the authors use this
technique? Even though the sequence of books compiled in the Bible is not
necessarily in the order in which they were written, every book of the
Bible, and indeed the rest of Genesis too, presents its information in
chronological order, although father-son genealogies are grouped for
obvious purposes.

Why call for some kind of sequence other than chronological for the first
chapter of Genesis when it would be out of character for every other Old
Testament sequencing of events from Genesis 2 on?

In his book, Hyers divides the Genesis One account into three "movements"
or categories, each containing three elements. He labels these categories
problem, preparation, and population. He places "darkness" in the problem
category, "creation of light" (day) in the preparation category and
"creation of sun" in the population category. The "watery abyss" problem
is prepared by the "creation of the firmament" and populated by the
"creation of birds," and so on.

Devices such as these may work to some extent, but is that what the author
had in mind? If the author of Genesis had been such a dunderhead that fish
came before water, or cattle before grass, then a hermeneutical helping
hand might be useful. But there is nothing wrong with the order of the
creation events when allowances are made for the archaic language and
Hebrew syntax.

The stages of God's creation are revealed in sequence. The first day began
when the sun ignited and the first dazzling light struck the primitive
planet Earth. On the second day, the Lord divided the waters; vapor or
mist was in the air, and liquid covered the surface. Dry land and
vegetation came about on the third day. The sun, moon, and stars were
designated time keepers on the fourth day. Day five was devoted to
creating the world's fish and fowl (sometimes translated flying
creatures). Land animals came on the scene, and man made his appearance on
day six. The Lord rested on the seventh day. The "days" are God's timing,
not man's timing. (See my
<http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/1990/PSCF3-90Fischer.html>article in PSCF,
"Days of Creation: Hours or Eons").

The rub is the fourth day. So let's look at the "out of order"
sequence. How can "grass" or vegetation, deshe' in Hebrew, grow before God
creates the sun? Simply, it can't. In the first place, the word for
"create," bara in Hebrew, is absent in Genesis 1:14-19. Gleason Archer, a
Bible scholar of the first rank, comments:

         Genesis 1:14-19 reveals that in the fourth creative stage
         God parted the cloud cover enough for direct sunlight to
         fall on the earth and for accurate observation of the movements
         of the sun, moon, and stars to take place. Verse 16 should
         not be understood as indicating the creation of the heavenly
         bodies for the first time on the fourth creative day; rather it
         informs us that the sun, moon, and stars created on Day One
         as the source of light had been placed in their appointed places
         by God with a view to their eventually functioning as indicators
         of time ('signs, seasons, days, years') to terrestrial observers.
         The Hebrew verb 'wayya 'as' in v. 16 should better be rendered
         Now [God] had made the two great luminaries, etc.,' rather than
         as simple past tense, [God] made.

Instead of the word "create" in the passage cited by Archer, a different
verb was used meaning "made" or "had made." This makes good sense. The
Lord created heaven and earth, including sun, moon, and stars on day one,
but on day four the celestial bodies were available for earthly observers
to use as measures of time.

So, since Hyers has decided that Genesis One can't be a chronology of
events, it has to be something else. What is it?

         Hyers: "The critical question in the creation account of
         Genesis 1 was polytheism versus monotheism."

And so Genesis One is a polemic against false gods, unnamed by the way.

         Hyers: "Each day of creation takes on two principal categories
         of divinity in the pantheons of the day, and declares that
         these are not gods at all, but creatures-creations of the
         one true God who is the only one, without a second or third.
         Each day dismisses an additional cluster of deities, arranged
         in a cosmological and symmetrical order."

What is a "cosmological and symmetrical order"?

         Hyers: "On the first day the gods of light and darkness are
         dismissed. On the second day, the gods of sky and sea. On
         the third day, earth gods and gods of vegetation. On the fourth
         day, sun, moon and star gods. The fifth and sixth days take away
         any associations with divinity from the animal kingdom. And finally
         human existence, too, is emptied of any intrinsic divinity-while at
         the same time all human beings ..."

So God dispels the "gods" of light and darkness? Who were they? And which
set of gods were applicable? Sumerian? Egyptian?
Greek? Babylonian? Although there were sun gods and moon gods, I don't
know any "god of light" lest it be Hyperion, down the list of
Titans. Ereshkigal, sister of Inanna, was the Sumerian "goddess of
darkness, gloom, and death." Are those the gods that were dismissed on the
first day of creation?

"Sky" and "sea" gods get the axe on the second day. Ah, the Egyptian
"Nut," god of the sky, but they didn't have any "sea god." Okay, how about
the Sumerian Enlil, "god of the air, breath, or spirit"? He stands high on
the list, at least number two or three. And
Nammu is the goddess of the watery abyss, the primeval sea. She may be the
earliest of deities within Sumerian cosmology as she gave birth to heaven
and earth (Kramer 1961 p. 39). She is elsewhere described both as the
mother of all the gods and as the wife of An - and you don't get any bigger
than An! Now we have some important gods and goddesses - but not until day

And so it goes. All those references to light and dark, sky and land, etc.
have a priority of sequence if they are the entities they appear to be. As
gods and goddesses they are all over the map.

In summary, the order of Genesis One doesn't need any "cosmogonic"
rearranging. It's fine like it is keeping in mind that the writer wanted
to hit highlights that were important in a limited amount of verbiage

In essence, Hyers is a victim of his own preamble : "It is always of
critical importance to know exactly with what type of linguistic usage one
is dealing, and to apply the appropriate canons of interpretation," says
Hyers. Which is exactly where he falls flat.

Dick Fischer - Genesis Proclaimed Association
Finding Harmony in Bible, Science, and History
Received on Fri Feb 20 11:34:22 2004

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