Re: Hyers' Dinosaur Religion (was: HYAR'S...; Hyers' Article - Cods Wallop)

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>
Date: Sat Feb 21 2004 - 22:38:25 EST

On Sat, 21 Feb 2004 21:32:46 +0100 Peter Ruest
<> writes:
> Let me join Dick Fischer by poking into the same hornets' nest!
> I read Hyers' "Dinosaur Religion: On Interpreting and
> Misinterpreting the
> Creation Texts" in 1984, when it appeared in PSCF. And I reread it
> now. Now,
> as then, I was not much impressed with his interpretation, which I
> consider
> artificial and dogmatically one-sided. Nor was I convinced by his
> recent
> book chapter in Perspectives on an Evolving Creation.
> I am now a "theistic evolutionist" or "evolutionary creationist",
> after
> having criticized macroevolutionary and origin-of-life theories
> heavily for
> many years (for lack of scientific evidence), but I never was a
> young earth
> creationist (YEC), or under YEC influence (which I always opposed).
> Therefore, I find it quite disconcerting that in the many recent
> posts
> praising Hyers and condemning Fischer, lots of YEC stuff is thrown
> at Dick
> Fischer, like canopy theory, etc. which have absolutely nothing to
> do with
> his views (or mine or Glenn Morton's). Please be more rational and
> try to
> understand before criticizing!
> What struck me most about Hyers' approach were two things: (1) he
> assumed
> that Genesis 1 was written by a "priestly" writer during or after
> the
> Babylonian captivity of Judah in the 6th century BC, and (2) he
> assumed that
> a theological meaning (or even agenda) in Genesis 1 prevents it from
> having
> any historical-narrative basis, at the same time. Of course, this is
> the
> usual dogma of liberal theology with its destructive source
> criticism
> invented more than 200 years ago in Germany by "Enlightenment"
> "theologians".
> Hyers doesn't call them assumptions, but treats them as if they
> were
> "assured results of scholarship". Similarly, many of the critics of
> Dick's
> (and my and Glenn's) "concordism" (which I prefer to call
> harmonization)
> write as if they had never really read any of this "concordist"
> literature.
> Consequently, most of these criticisms are straw men. What struck me
> most in
> many of these recent posts criticizing Dick's rejection of Hyers'
> views was
> an air of dogmatism. This is only understandable if any kind of
> attempt at
> harmonizing is thrown into the YEC pot. Of course, such
> irrationality is
> inacceptable. Can we be so cock-sure as to what the writer of
> Genesis 1 must
> have meant 2600, or 3400, or even 5200 years ago?!
> The crucial thing to consider, I believe, is the meaning of divine
> inspiration and its implications. Of course, a creation story can
> never be a
> historical report or account, as there could not be any witnesses.
> Yes,
> astronomers have discovered "witnesses" in the form of consequences
> of
> creation, but this is another, modern story which could not be known
> in
> biblical times. A biblical creation story, on the other hand, could
> very
> well be a very much simplified account of what actually happened,
> revealed
> by God to a prophet. An unprejudiced reading could very well
> understand
> Genesis 1-2 as such a revealed account. For simple people (for whom,
> also,
> the Bible was written) this appears to be the most natural approach
> to it,
> no matter in which millenium or culture they live or lived.
> The mode of inspiration, i.e. how it functioned, is not of primary
> concern
> here - it would be silly to equate inspiration with red herrings
> like
> mechanical dictation. What is important is that revelation implies
> the
> communication of things unknown to the recipient (prophet). It may
> refer to
> the present, the future, the past, or all times. In each case, it is
> a
> supernatural "intrusion" into our world, a transmission of new
> "information". Its reception by the prophet and (eventual)
> commission to
> writing, clearly has human aspects, as well. It may or may not have
> been
> error-prone. However, God's purpose in revealing himself clearly
> wasn't
> aimed just at the prophet himself but, as the term "prophet"
> ("teller-forth") shows, a far larger audience in space and time.
> This
> implies that God would certainly care about and watch over the
> written form
> and its possible deficiencies if any, as well as its transmission,
> preservation, and canonization.
> In any case, God wouldn't be limited by what the prophet knew, or by
> what he
> or his audience expected (the culture). Of course, he would adjust
> the form
> of his revelation in such a way that the hearers and readers of that
> time
> and culture could understand the central theological meaning he
> wants to
> convey (and any later time and other culture, as well). But this
> would not
> restrict him to any ancient worldview or "primitive" ethics and the
> like.
> Language is flexible, and the human prophet's mind is flexible, and
> God
> would see the best feasible way of accomplishing his purpose. And
> who is to
> say that such a revelation of what happened in creation must
> necessarily
> contain the then contemporary errors? Why couldn't it be both true
> to
> reality and easily understandable by people of all times and
> cultures? This
> implies, I agree, that we cannot learn any modern science from the
> biblical
> text, and I have never claimed this, just that it may be
> _compatible_ with
> it.
> If we see, e.g. in Genesis 1, a poetically phrased text, framed
> into
> symmetrical structures, even suggesting symbolic meanings, and
> manifestly
> proclaiming a theological message, who are we to dismiss its
> apparently
> narrative form as a misunderstanding? If its ultimate source is God,
> rather
> than humans only, a text may, without problems, have multiple
> dimensions. It
> is not at all obvious that the apparent chronology is wrong - unless
> one
> assumes certain interpretations beforehand, such as a heathen
> pantheon and
> mythology, a solid "firmament", or that the heavenly bodies were
> "created"
> on day 4. It seems to me not only premature, but even presumptuous,
> to _a
> priori_ fix the text's scope to a one-dimensional polemic against
> pagan
> gods. This may indeed have been a by-product, even intended by God,
> but to
> dogmatically insist that this is _the_ meaning, and the only
> possible one,
> clearly goes too far. I would be surprised if God would give us such
> a
> sublime text, in a very prominent position in his revelation, for
> the sole
> purpose of fending off such unimportant "nothings" as idols. The
> creation
> itself is certainly much more important.
> Peter
This, as well as Dick's approach, sounds irenic. However, I have trouble
accepting your views, simply because I have carefully read what Genesis 1
and other passages say. Consider the firmament, _raqia^_.
I find (verses 6f) that there is water above the firmament, so that it
divided upper waters from lower waters. The text specifies _me^al_--_me_,
"from"; _^al_, "above," "over," "upon." This is the same construction as
Ezekiel 1:25 (thanks, Paul). The waters remained there according to
Genesis 7:11; 8:2; Psalm 148:4. So these waters did not disappear during
the Flood, as popular YEC claims. (I don't attribute this to either of
you, so don't bristle. I note it to point out that YEC is biblically as
well as scientifically wrong.) I further find that there were lights
placed in (_be_) the firmament (Genesis 1:14f, 17). The preposition,
according to BDBG, when referring to spatial placement, means "in,"
"among," "within," not "above." And I note that the heavenly bodies are
not seen through the firmament and the waters above it. Finally (verse
20), birds fly "above the earth and in face of firmament of the heavens,"
to translate baldly. Since this declares that birds fly below the
firmament, the firmament cannot be the atmosphere where birds fly.
Plainly, if one takes the language of scripture as it stands, _raqia^_
does not correspond to any contemporary category, thereby excluding any
concordism that tries to fit the original text to modern views. This
includes history. I have been forced to this conclusion, not by reading
liberal commentators, but by taking the explicit language seriously. This
is not where I started. It is not what I wanted. It has caused a rift
with old friends. But I have been compelled.
Received on Sat Feb 21 22:43:57 2004

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