Re: [asa] A question on Genesis

From: George Murphy <GMURPHY10@neo.rr.com>
Date: Mon Mar 23 2009 - 18:22:35 EDT

I don't think my first statement below is particularly speculative. It's
clear that it's written from a temporal standpoint after the various
descendants of Noah's sons were supposed to have spread over the known
world. If you want to harmonize Chapters 10 and 11 the simplest thing to do
is to say that 10 follows 9 because it takes up the distribution of Noah's
sons who are mentioned in 9, but that chronologically 11 comes before 10.
No appeal to source criticism is needed for this.

I agree that some care is needed with source criticism and that some of the
analyses of the Pentateuch into different "documents" over-reached
themselves. Many critical OT scholars today would agree. In the present
case the breakdown I gave in my 2d paragraph may not be terribly convincing
& I gave it just "for what it's worth." But in some cases it is glaringly
obvious that material from different sources has been combined. For all the
skepticism one may have about source criticism, we also should have some
skepticism about the far-fetched ideas that are sometimes brought in to
"harmonize" and "concordize" passages.

I would not accept your suggestion that "you are giving the elaborate
inference (source assignments) more weight than the primary evidence (the
text)." As I said, in this case the source analysis may not be terribly
convincing. But in some cases a difference in sources leaps out at an
unbiased reader who has been tipped off to the possibility precisely from
the text, and it is only an "elaborate inference" - some theory about
unitary authorship or historical accuracy - that suggests something else.

To modern western readers having two accounts that describe the same
phenomenon or event in different ways side by side can be very
discomforting. "Which one of these is really true" we're tempted to ask,
and in the case of the Bible, when we want to say that both are true, our
tendency may be to try to fit them together into one coherent historical
account. But why do we think that the ancient Israelites had to think that
way. The ways the Bible is structured - e.g., with the creation account of
Gen.2 immediately after the rather different account of Gen.1 - suggests
that they were able to see things differently & perhaps weren't bother by
the tensions we feel.

This is not to say that no harmonizations of such texts are appropriate.
But it should be theological harmonization rather than historical.

Shalom
George
http://home.roadrunner.com/~scitheologyglm

----- Original Message -----
From: "Preston Garrison" <pngarrison@att.net>
To: "George Murphy" <GMURPHY10@neo.rr.com>; "ASA list" <asa@calvin.edu>
Sent: Monday, March 23, 2009 5:54 PM
Subject: Re: [asa] A question on Genesis

> >Preston -
>>
>>1st, I don't think there's any reason to expect strict temporal order
>>here. Gen.10 is a summary (or summaries - see later) of what Israel later
>>knew of the distribution of various peoples in their known world, "the
>>table of nations." It's clearly written from a standpoint later than the
>>events spoken of in Ch.11. Note the language of v.5 - the "coastland
>>peoples" had already "spread."
>>
>>2d, critical scholars have assigned different parts of chapters 10 & 11 to
>>different sources. In Ch.10 vv.1a, 2-7, 20, 22-23, 31-32 are supposed to
>>be from the P source & 1b, 8-19, 21 & 24-30 from J. 11:1-9, the story of
>>the tower of Babel, is from J. (For this breakdown see, e.g., von Rad's
>>_Genesis_. So the verse you mention and the Babel story are from
>>different sources & it wouldn't be surprising if they speak of things
>>somewhat differently.
>>
>>Shalom
>>George
>>http://home.roadrunner.com/~scitheologyglm
>
> George and all,
>
> I'm no expert, but it seems to me you are giving the elaborate inference
> (source assignments) more weight than the primary evidence (the text). I
> guess I've been pretty heavily influenced by C.S. Lewis's skepticism about
> the likely accuracy of guessing how a text came to be what it is, millenia
> after the fact.
>
> My initial interest is not to support any kind of literalism or even
> historical similitude - I'm just interested in what the author or
> assemblers were trying to say. Surely they weren't just throwing sources
> together. Surely they were trying to tell a story, or a series of
> interlocking stories, with a spiritual and moral point, and, if so, surely
> they would try to make it coherent.
>
> It doesn't seem coherent to say that the descendents of one of Noah's sons
> had multiple languages, and then turn around and say that multiple
> languages arose for the first time in a single event involving a
> descendent of one of Noah's other sons.
>
> I strongly suspect that whoever put it together knew exactly what they
> were doing in the story-telling department, even if we have lost the
> thread for millenia.
>
> Preston
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Received on Mon Mar 23 18:22:59 2009

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