Re: [asa] Does ASA believe in Adam and Eve?

From: <>
Date: Sat Mar 31 2007 - 21:06:50 EDT

I want to bow out of this discussion of II Peter, too, but I never did state my main belief on the larger topic. So here it is:
Several years ago I went through the entire OT and looked for all uses of "universal" language, such as was used in the Flood. This includes terms like "entire earth," and "under all the heavens." It was a very useful study, and I highly recommend it. It can be done in about an hour by skimming the text quickly.
What you will find is that these ancient peoples used these kinds of terms very loosely and that they did not at all take them literally. For example, the king of Persia would boast how he was lord over all the earth, everywhere under the heavens, etc., even though everyone knew that the Greeks were not under his rule, nor the steppe nomads nor Indus valley people nor Carthaginians (for a few examples). He was not laughed out of his palace for making those kinds of boasts, since apparently it was just normal bravado for a monarch and/or idiomatic language.
With the famine at the time of Joseph, the text says that all the nations from the entire earth were coming to Egypt for bread. Surely the Hebrews knew, no matter how early or late we understand the text to have been finalized, that this was not literally true.
There are quite a few such examples. (I don't have my list any more because my harddrive crashed and I haven't recovered the data, yet.)
The term "entire earth" was probably loosly meant for "the whole wide region around us, much farther than I'd like to walk" or something to that effect.
So my conclusion about the Flood and about the NT's treatment of it is that it very well may have been written using hyperbolic language in order to add emphasis to the theological message. That message was simply that God judged the entire culture where Noah lived, with devastating effect and inescapable extent, but rescued Noah because he was godly. The symbolism of the animals is (IMO) a clear typological message about Christ saving peoples from all nations, and so it is a **prophetic** account and relevant for more than just the ancient people. But considering the linguistic norms with hyperbolic, universalizing speech that we see in those ancient cultures, I would not try to draw any conclusions about the scope of the flood relative to modern standards, neither from the original text nor from what the NT writers had to say about it. I think that the descriptors of the scope were very culturally conditioned and were a part of the "style" that God's breathing into the
 text did not erase. (I think it possible that the author of II Peter may also have been accustomed to hyperbolic speech, too, although I did not want to admit that in our prior discussion since that would have muddied the other arguments. For example, note in Acts 17:6 the hyperbolic use of the term kosmos, where it refers only to Macedonia, Asia Minor and the Levant. Not much of a kosmos, hunh?) So I am happy as an inerrantist and as a conservative evangelical that we should not take such descriptors literally in many instances.
I hope that as we become increasingly aware of the literary sophistication of ancient peoples then we will gain a much higher view of the biblical text. But this process involves primarily a recognition of the **literary** features of the text, so that we don't take things too literally where we shouldn't. The text is no more literal than the author meant it to be (nor any less). With Dick, I would agree that a program of reversing the excesses of higher criticism would involve the kind of historical work that he is doing, since that corroborates the real history. But I would tend to agree with George that primarily we need to be sensitive to the literary features because the authors were writing in a different era than ours and they were communicating primarily theology. So for what it's worth (probably not much) I see my own view of the Scriptures as being somewhere between George and Dick -- its relationship to Mesopotamian accounts is neither entirely literary nor en
 tirely historical. I think that sort of view will in the end justify my belief in inerrancy. My program in studying the Bible as literature is to work on that hypothesis.
God bless!
-----Original Message-----
Sent: Sat, 31 Mar 2007 2:44 PM
Subject: Re: [asa] Does ASA believe in Adam and Eve?

Just one other quick note: I had a chance to browse the Word and Abingdon commentaries on 2 Peter on the Amazon website. Word's is by Richard Bauckham. I ordered both. According to these sources, the author -- and apparently it is not clear that Peter actually was the author -- borowed heavily from contemporary Jewish eschatology, reflected in sources like Enoch and Josephus -- that had transmorgified the Bible's account of the flood as an event affecting only the earth into an event affecting the entire universe. Thus, the author would have concieved of the history of the universe in three stages -- created / completely destroyed / and re-created, with another eschatological complete destruction and re-creation coming. These commentaries seem to suggest that the teaching we're intended to glean from this letter isn't the specific underlying cosmology, but the fact that God has judged in the past and will surely return to judge as Christ promised, despite the perplexing
  delay in his return. Very interesting and tricky hermeneutical issues raised by all of this.

On 3/31/07, David Opderbeck <> wrote:
Phil -- I think you and I are on the same page. I still think, though, that George is understanding your position a little differently. As I understood George's characterization of your position, it would be that the scoffers had a particular view of nature qua nature, similar to scientific materialists today -- that nature is characterized by uniform laws that cannot be interrupted by "miracles" of any sort -- sort of a proto-Humean view of miracles.
What I hear you saying, or at least what I would agree with, is that the focus of the scoffers is on the continuity of human society. Given the broader cultural context in which Peter wrote, the scoffers probably believed there might be a God or gods who could disrupt the regularity of nature; or at least, if they had given up believing in God or the gods, their unbelief was not expressed in any self-conscious understanding of the regularity of natural laws. They scoffed, however, at the idea that God or the gods would every do anything to put an end to human society -- "eating, drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage," as Jesus put it. Either God or the gods were too distant to care, or too arbitrary to follow through on a promise of final judgment, or simply didn't really exist -- but in any event, the Christian community's warning that "The End is Near" was to be laughed away. What they had forgotten, Peter says, is that God already put an end to human society once
 at the flood. The flood proves that God is not arbitrary or passive; He will follow through on His threats of judgment. Phil, your view is that, whether the human society destroyed by the flood was a local one, a microcosm of the final judgment, or not, isn't necessarily in view.
Phil, George, have I summarized the state of your discussion right?
One interesting thing none of us has focused on is in verse 5 of chapter 2: "the earth was formed out of water and by water". Here Peter seems to be echoing Gen. 1:2, and he could be read to be making a "scientific" statement about the mechanism by which God made the earth. Of course, we know today that the earth was not literally formed "out of water and by water" -- it would be more accurate to say that the earth was formed "by rocks and dust in a protoplanetary disk out of rocks and dust in a protoplanetary disk." So it seems that, whatever hermeneutic we want to apply to Peter's discussion of the flood, it has to be flexible enough to absorb Peter's reference to the formation of the earth. My preference, of course, is to focus on the intent of the passage: Peter isn't intending to offer any authoritative teaching specifically about how the earth was formed, although his choice of reference may reflect a background belief about this; the intent of the reference is si
 mply that God created all the elements and commands them all towards his sovereign purposes, including judgment.
But is there a tension here with whether the hermeneutical assumptions an apostolic writer brings to the Old Testament are themselves to be taken as enscripturated or authoritative?
Thoughts on that?

On 3/31/07, <> wrote:
George said: What you seem to to be suggesting is that the scoffers in question are arguing for the uniformity of nature & against miraculous interventions...I would have to ask why the author has chosen the flood as a counterexample instead of many of the other miraculous interventions that could be gathered from the OT.
David said: The scoffing isn't about God's ability to destroy the earth, or generally about God's ability to do miracles in contrast to the uniformity of nature, it's about the belief in a personal God incarnate who will come to the world specifically to judge.
I see this as two aspects of the same situation. There was the general worldview of the scoffers, and then there was the specific teaching of the Christians that conflicted with that worldview. The scoffers' worldview probably assumed uniformity of life or nature in that a supernatural being would not significantly intervene. The occaision of their scoffing in this case was the Christian teaching about the parousia and judgement, which they naturally disbelieved because of their worldview.
One example of an anti-supernatural worldview during that era was Epicureanism. It developed during the Hellenistic era and flourished throughout the time of the early church. Wikipedia says, "Epicurus was an atomic materialist, following in the steps of Democritus. His materialism led him to a general attack on superstition and divine intervention...The Epicureans believed in the existence of gods... It was thought that the gods were too far away from the earth to have any interest in what man was doing; so it did not do any good to pray or to sacrifice to them. The gods, they believed, did not create the universe, nor did they inflict punishment or bestow blessings on anyone..."
I wouldn't assume that the author of II Peter had the Epicureans or any other particular group in mind -- we don't know what kind of scoffers lived in his neighborhood -- but I think it is highly likely that he had these words of Jesus in mind:
"For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be." (Matt 24: 37-39, NASB)
This passage explains why he connects the Flood to the Parousia. The scoffers he mentions in II Peter were echoing the attitude that Jesus described in this passage, in that civilization would continue its course without fear of divine intervene, characterized by their "eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage" and that "...they did not understand until..."
I think Jesus teaches the same idea later in that same passage when he says,
"But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, 'My master is staying away a long time,' and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of." (Matt.24:48-50, NASB)
The idea behind "saying away a long time" is that nature and civilization will continue its course without fear of intervention for the foreseeable future. In both of these examples, the people have a worldview that does not expect intervention, while the specific intervention that Jesus has in mind is the parousia and judgement.

-----Original Message-----

Sent: Fri, 30 Mar 2007 9:26 PM
Subject: Re: [asa] Does ASA believe in Adam and Eve?

Just another thought I wanted to add -- the flood is a type concerning scoffers and the second coming because people would have likely scoffed at Noah when he was building the ark. "When is this 'flood' going to happen? God isn't going to judge us, if there is a God." There is also perhaps an echo of the serpent's lie in the scoffer's attitude: "you won't surely die." People live in denial about the surety of God's judgment, but he will surely return to judge.

On 3/30/07, David Opderbeck < > wrote:
George said: What you seem to to be suggesting is that the scoffers in question are arguing for the uniformity of nature & against miraculous interventions.
Phil -- is that what you were suggesting? I didn't take it that way.
It seems to me that the scoffers are deriding the idea of a God who personally returns to judge. The scoffing isn't about God's ability to destroy the earth, or generally about God's ability to do miracles in contrast to the uniformity of nature, it's about the belief in a personal God incarnate who will come to the world specifically to judge.
If the scoffers are Greeks, it seems to me that their scoffing would be in line with the sort of scoffing that evidently occurred against Christians about the notion of the resurrection of the body. Their view of God or the gods was that of detached, distant, arbitrary force, not of a God whose character is consistent and judgment is sure. They could not conceive of a God who would become man, die, rise again bodily, and keep a promise to return to raise his followers and judge those who reject him: "the gods cannot be trusted to keep their word. Forget the gods. Give up this foolishness and take your luck as it comes like everyone else."
Or, if the scoffers are Jews, their scoffing would be in line with the rejection of Jesus as Messiah. They could not conceive of a messiah who would first suffer and die and then rise again to return later. If Jesus died, he was dead, and not the messiah. They scoffed at the Christian community's eschatological hope: "your messiah is dead -- where is this coming you speak of? Why hasn't it happened? It hasn't happened because he's rotting in the grave."
Whether they believed in some notion of the uniformity of nature isn't the point -- and as you suggest, they probably didn't.
The reason Peter chooses the flood is that it is the typological example of God's judgment from the Jewish perspective. Peter's discussion of the flood in chapter 2 in fact echoes almost precisely Jesus' use of the flood as a type in Matthew 24 and Luke 17.
Or Phil, did I miss your point?

On 3/30/07, George Murphy <> wrote:
> Phil et al -
> I think your argument is the best has been presented here against my position. What you seem to to be suggesting is that the scoffers in question are arguing for the uniformity of nature & against miraculous interventions. I'll leave it to the historians to decide how likely that is ~ A.D. 100. I would have to ask why the author has chosen the flood as a counterexample instead of many of the other miraculous interventions that could be gathered from the OT. Why the flood, which is at least in some ways comparable to the destruction of the world that he's arguing for, instead of some other disruption of the regularity of natural process such as ( e.g.) Elisha's floating ax head.?
> On your following post: It's worth noting Herodotus' qualification when he reports the circumnavigation of Africa: "which I do not myself believe."
> Shalom
> George



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