Re: analysis & synthesis (Was Hyers' Dinosaur Religion ...)

From: Peter Ruest <>
Date: Wed Feb 25 2004 - 00:49:56 EST

George Murphy wrote (22 Feb 2004):
<< Peter Ruest wrote:
> 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"..................
        I want to comment here on just 1 aspect of Peter's post, the phrase
"destructive source criticism" - which he has used before. "Destructive" is
a bad-sounding form of another term which we often use in math & science,
"analytic." It means literally taking things apart... >>

George, I appreciated this essay of yours, and I agree with much of what you
say in it. Even before I saw any of the various posts of others expressing
their approval and admiration, I sent a copy of your email to a series of
(German-speaking) friends of mine, asking for their comments. Most of them
are non-YEC theologians, and for the majority of them, I expect that they
would probably agree more with your interpretation of Gen.1 than with mime.
If and when I shall receive any (non-trivial) replies, I shall forward them
to the list.

Thus, for the moment, I want to restrict myself to just a few short
quotations from earlier posts of mine written in 2002, which should make it
clearer what I meant by my short and evidently all-too-cryptic remark
"destructive source criticism". Your "analytic source criticism" is
certainly not what I meant with "destructive", each of the few times I have
used it. William Hamilton wrote: "... Too bad the theologians who have
gotten the most publicity have stopped with the disassembly and neglected
the synthesis..." This is closer.

In a post of 28 Sep 2002 under the subject "Genesis in cuneiform on
tablets", I discussed Percy J. Wiseman's "New Discoveries in Babylonia about
Genesis" (1936). From that post, I quote two paragraphs:

<<< 8. The completely different picture given by Source Criticism (or
"Higher Criticism") was developed at a time when virtually nothing was known
about the archeological findings which demonstrate what the ancient
Mesopotamian cultures really were like. Now it is known that many of the
source-critical starting assumptions, like writing unknown, polytheism
before monotheism, not more than one divine name per author, late origins of
the Pentateuch texts, etc., were simply mistaken. Unfortunately, this entire
source-critical construction survived, with only minor modifications, being
adopted even by many evangelical scholars.
9. One of the problems the source-critical scholars had, was of course the
use made of Torah texts by Jesus and his apostles. This led Semler to
formulate his theory of accommodation, saying that Jesus knew that these
texts were not written by Moses, but didn't say so, accommodating himself to
the erroneous beliefs of his time. Wellhausen then even claimed that Jesus
didn't know it himself (kenosis, Jesus having "emptied himself", Phil.2:7).
Semler called Jesus' trustworthiness into question, Wellhausen his knowledge
of reality. Yet Jesus never hesitated to challenge the mistaken views of his
contemporaries, particularly the bible scholars. Why did he never introduce
them to source criticism? Jesus and the apostles took the reports of Genesis
to be historical. From the beginning, biblical theology was based on
history. >>>

On 14 Oct 2002, on the same thread, I commented about the source criticism
of the Pentateuch, the JEPD (Jahweh - Elohim - Priestly - Deuteronomy) view
of 4 separate sources:

<<< The implications of the JEPD view are very serious. Belief in the
reliability of the bible in general (not only historically, but also
theologically), and in its divine inspiration in particular, is virtually
made impossible. In fact, Wellhausen confessed having destroyed his own
faith by his work, becoming a rationalist, and he certainly was not the only
one. I know that there are many evangelical scholars who accept JEPD in
principle, but not wholesale, and with many modifications, e.g. suggesting
much earlier cores for some of the 4 sources. They insist that many
incongruencies of the text cannot be rationalized in any other way. But
other evangelical scholars are of the conviction that JEPD must be rejected
as a whole, even though there may remain various problems and difficulties
with the text. >>>

In a post of 25 Nov 2002 with the subject "The Pentateuch dissected and
revised", I discussed Alexander Rofe's "Introduction to the Composition of
the Pentateuch" (Sheffield Academic Press, 1999, ISBN 1-85075-992-8), who
presents a modern view of the "Documentary Hypothesis", and concluded with
the following, including my ominous "destructive":

<<< Therefore, I feel at ease to treat the Documentary Hypothesis as one
hypothesis among others, rather than "the assured result of scientific
investigation, with which all competent scholars agree". I don't think we
have sufficient evidence to discard all alternative hypotheses out of hand.
Furthermore, we must not forget the destructive effects this
historical-critical method - or at least the way it was applied - has had.
It has destroyed virtually all of Israel's history until the Babylonian
exile, together with much of the divine instructions and commandments in the
Pentateuch, not to mention all of the promises and prophecies contained
therein. Since both the OT and the NT faiths are squarely history-based, it
will never do to sort out (valid) theology from (possibly or presumably)
erroneous history. As for the early chapters of Genesis, which form the
theological basis of the OT and NT revelations, their mythologization has
handed over to man the job of deciding what represents divine revelation and
what does not, resulting in many different "theologies". I don't think this
is a sound way of doing theology.
In various respects I don't agree with Luther, but I fully sympathize with
his exclamation, "Das Wort sie sollen lassen stahn, und kein' Dank dazu
haben!" ("They must not tamper with the Word, and shall not earn any praise
for that!" is my feeble attempt at translating it - maybe you'd better look
it up in an official translation, or ask George). >>>


Dr. Peter Ruest, CH-3148 Lanzenhaeusern, Switzerland
<> - Biochemistry - Creation and evolution
"..the work which God created to evolve it" (Genesis 2:3)
Received on Wed Feb 25 00:46:59 2004

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