[asa] Re: Eccliesiastes and other Biblical books on chance and necessity (was Re: [asa] historical versus experimental sciences)

From: Merv Bitikofer <mrb22667@kansas.net>
Date: Sun Aug 23 2009 - 18:00:40 EDT

I agree that proof-texting to find support for our favorite pre-accepted
notions is a dangerous habit, but I think you over-react here. Nobody
was claiming this as representative of some over-arching thematic
summary of Scriptures --neither Karl, as I read him below, nor myself
when I brought the same passage up earlier. But it does serve to inform
us that we moderns are not observing anything new that ancients hadn't
already observed and wrestled with. Whether or not you accept that
Solomon was the author or whether it was added to what we call the O.T.
much later, either way it comes from an ancient source ---and one with
wisdom that anticipates questions we would still be asking three
millenia later at that!

Even though I earlier expressed my own sympathies with the notion that
the end of Job was "tacked on", nevertheless I do accept Scripture as
being ultimately Divinely directed both to them now and to us today both
in content and in the whole messy process of what got canonized at all
the various points. So despite my own complaints, I do accept that in
the end, the book of Job is what it is in its entirety. I think the
content of Ecclesiastes also speaks for itself as a deeply profound book
in the Bible --partly for its difference (as you so noted) from all the
other books. That book alone is a lofty answer to any of us would-be
proof-texters who want straightforward short answers found in one or two
verses. One look at such a phrase as this: "everything is futility" or
"vanity" should make anyone realize that this isn't even attempting to
match any larger Biblical themes. But even within this book, the author
doesn't let his conclusions rest there. His final words, are much more
blended with the entire Biblical theme. I'm glad this book is there
since it matches so many questions that still get asked today. The fact
that we can see that they wondered also, that alone makes this a
uniquely valuable contribution.

As for Proverbs, granted some of them are culturally quaint and fun to
read. Did you know that also stuck in the middle of them you find gems
like 16:7 or 24:17 (regarding enemies)
or even best of all: 25:21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to
eat; If he is thirsty, give him water to drink:

So apparently a couple of key figures we could all name from the N.T.
must have paid attention to what was in the Proverbs as well. Not
everything in Jesus' time was so revolutionary that it had never been
suggested before. What was revolutionary was to have somebody actually
live it and challenge us to do likewise.


Cameron Wybrow wrote:
> Nice try, Karl, but you'll have to do better than that.
> Ecclesiastes is not representative of "the biblical writers". In
> fact, Ecclesiastes was not only a very late writing, but a very late
> entry (possibly the last) into the Hebrew Bible, and there was a major
> debate among the rabbis (about the first century A.D., when the Jewish
> canon was in the process of closure), over whether or not it should be
> admitted into Hebrew scriptures (George Foot Moore, *Judaism*, Vol. 1,
> p. 86). There was serious doubt that its teaching was compatible with
> the general teaching of the other Biblical books. As for the
> Proverbs, they vary greatly in age, ethical and religious depth, and
> consistency of teaching, and I don't put much more stock in most of
> them than I put in the sayings I find in fortune cookies.
> Your examples are from the two most secular books of the Bible (with
> the possible exception of Esther).
> Far more common than "chance plus necessity" explanations in the
> Hebrew Bible are explanations involving either a "hands-on",
> intervening God, or a predetermined outcome, dictated long in advance
> by God's will. Such explanations are predominant in the Law and the
> Prophets.
> One must always be on guard against the temptation to engage in
> "proof-texting". One can always find isolated passages in the Bible
> which teach or appear to teach just about anything. If one looks hard
> enough, one can find one or two obscure O.T. passages which are not
> 100% clear about the non-existence of other Gods, but few readers
> doubt that the main thrust of Biblical teaching is an exclusive
> monotheism. I don't think it can be plausibly maintained that the
> Hebrew scriptures teach that the major events in the human world (such
> as the establishment of Israel, the Babylonian exile, etc.) or in the
> natural world (such as its creation) have happened to a large extent
> by "chance plus necessity".
> Of course, one can attempt, as many TEs do, to read the Bible in the
> light of modern understandings of nature, in such a way as to allow
> "chance and necessity" as a parallel, "scientific" analysis of what
> happens in the world, alongside the God-driven, "theological"
> interpretation. But whether this attempt proves successful or not,
> I would contend that it is historically inaccurate to say that the
> Biblical authors *teach* that everything happens through "chance and
> necessity". They taught no such thing, and they believed no such thing.
> Cameron.
> ----- Original Message -----
> *From:* cmekve@aol.com <mailto:cmekve@aol.com>
> *To:* asa@calvin.edu <mailto:asa@calvin.edu>
> *Sent:* Friday, August 21, 2009 6:24 PM
> *Subject:* Re: [asa] historical versus experimental sciences
> Your comment on "chance and necessity" does indicate the sticking
> point for ID and many evangelicals (as well as the late 19th
> century Princeton Sem. crowd). Curiously it didn't seem to bother
> the biblical writers. Qoheleth's statement in Ecclesiastes 9:11
> could be used as a motto for Darwinian evolution (even as Cameron
> wants to define it): "The race is not to the swift or the battle
> to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the
> brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to
> them all." Similar thoughts are expressed in Proverbs.
> Karl
> *******************
> Karl V. Evans (asa member)
> cmekve@aol.com <mailto:cmekve@aol.com>

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Received on Sun Aug 23 18:01:21 2009

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