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

From: Ted Davis <>
Date: Wed Feb 25 2004 - 08:41:54 EST

>>> 02/25/04 12:50AM >>>writes:

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
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
very much idolatry to be seen in the few texts we have before Genesis 12.
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

Ted responds:
Glad to see we agree about the importance of monotheism to the Hebrews.
Your comments on the early biblical period are very interesting, let me
gloss them with some recent archeaological information (coming from Bill
Dever, perhaps the leading American scholar of the relevant cultural
period). In fact, idolatry was widely practiced among the Hebrews for much
of the monarchial period, during which Genesis was written down in its
present form. The biblical clues are the tip of the iceberg, since they
represent Temple Judaism with its (correct) denial of idolatry. In the
countryside, however, God was often seen as having a female consort, a type
of fertility goddess, both of whom were worshipped. Household idols of the
consort are turning up in excavations all over the place. So, it would make
sense that idolatry was very much in people's minds when Genesis was put
into its present form.

Peter writes:

If we look at God creating humans in his image as the beginning of
the most natural impression is that first there was monotheism, and
polytheism represented a later degeneration. Now, Genesis 1 squarely
into this first period of monotheism, no matter when the story, previously
transmitted orally, was finally written down, and no matter when this
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
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
to all else that surrounded them as his creation. If this would stick,
would be no need of making much ado about the "nothings".

Ted responds:
Very interesting. This was Isaac Newton's view--that there was a
primitive, true religion of monotheism, related to heliocentrism (something
pretty close to the Neoplatonic view that the sun and its light represent
the divine presence in the world), and that in the days of Noah idolators
arose and they lost their correct cosmological understanding together with
their monotheism. Of course, monotheism for Newton was exactly that,
monotheism in the very Jewish sense; God exists but only as the Father, not
as the Son and Holy Spirit.

No way do I attribute this view to you, Peter, it moves in a very different
direction. But I'm seeing this part of the Bible perhaps now more clearly
as leading Newton to think this.

Received on Wed Feb 25 08:45:06 2004

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