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

From: Peter Ruest <>
Date: Wed Feb 25 2004 - 00:50:07 EST

Ted Davis wrote:
<< ... Peter concluded as follows:
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. >>

<< Ted replies:
... Actually, Peter, I don't think that the Hebrews viewed idolatry as much
ado about nothing. It was for them the fundamental sin, the violation of
the first two commandments that God gave them and the ultimate sin in Romans
chapter One. To respond to a host of polytheistic cultures surrounding the
Hebrews, God gave them this splendid story ... That makes perfect sense, to
me at least. Surely it is highly significant to preach monotheism at the
start of the canon? Surely this is why we have such a splendid story at
that point? >>

... and Don Winterstein wrote:
<< Ted Davis wrote:
"Actually, Peter, I don't think that the Hebrews viewed idolatry as much ado
about nothing." I strongly second this thought. Even though some of the
prophets (e.g., Isaiah) ridiculed idols as "nothings," the people themselves
emphatically disagreed. >>

<< In fact, most of OT history can be correctly seen as a tense marital
drama where the wife (Israel, Judah) develops and acts on insatiable
cravings for other lovers (foreign gods) while the husband (God) vainly
attempts to restrain her. The drama reaches its climax in the divorce of
Israel (Jeremiah 3:8) and the subsequent bondage (captivity) of Judah. The
captivity "worked" in the sense that Jews ever since successfully resisted
idolatry and became the only nation in Roman times that was not
idolatrous... it was apparently necessary for God to purge this attraction
to foreign gods before Christ could come. >>

<< Important? It's the dominant dynamic of the OT! ... >>

Evidently, I have again written some shorthand, rather than precisely
describe what I mean. I agree with both of you, Ted and Don, that idolatry
was the fundamental sin of Israel between their captivities in Egypt and in
Babylon. I certainly didn't intend to play that down.

However, there is much less of this to be found from Abraham to Joseph,
although Abraham came from a Mesopotamia with its idolatrous cultures and
lived among idolaters in Canaan, and Joseph lived in Egypt with its
idolatry. Now, if we try to go even further back than Abraham, there is not
very much idolatry to be seen in the few texts we have before Genesis 12. At
least the biblical texts we have do not tell us much about the Israelites
and their forefathers being much seduced by idolatry before Aaron's golden

If we look at God creating humans in his image as the beginning of humanity,
the most natural impression is that first there was monotheism, and
polytheism represented a later degeneration. Now, Genesis 1 squarely belongs
into this first period of monotheism, no matter when the story, previously
transmitted orally, was finally written down, and no matter when this first
period of monotheism petered out into a later period having a predominance
of polytheism. This is why I doubt that polytheism is a major concern of the
creation story (although, as I hinted at, God, who certainly foresaw the
degeneration, may already have included some provision for those later
times). I prefer to see the earliest divine revelations to humans as
positively directing their thinking (1) to himself as their Creator, and (2)
to all else that surrounded them as his creation. If this would stick, there
would be no need of making much ado about the "nothings".


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 00:47:43 2004

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