Re: [asa] Re: Reading Genesis theologically NOT historically

From: Merv Bitikofer <>
Date: Sun Oct 04 2009 - 09:09:50 EDT

Pete Enns wrote:
> Allow me to add, too, my general voice of assent to the direction this
> discussion has taken.
> An eminently defensible thesis is that Gen 1-11 is an act of
> self-definition of later Israelites, placing their story in a primeval
> context. It is tangentially about universal issues and primarily about
> Israelite beginnings: "we were there from of old." The presence of
> other humans already in Gen 4 suggests that the "Adam line" is about
> one particular subset of humans, i.e., Israel. The story of the
> "first humans" foreshadows Israel: God's special people who disobey
> and suffer exile, with a little background noise of grace (new clothes
> for Adam and Eve, Cain's mark, Noah's escape). The apparently
> anti-Babylonian polemic (Gen 1 and 11) frames the story and suggests
> an exilic/postexilic final form.
> However one cares to parse the details, What Gen 1-11 is not is an
> "account" of human origins that can be in reasonable conversation with
> modern historical inquiry.
> For what it's worth--and I am not suggesting this is directly relevant
> for us here--contemporary OT scholarship has more or less come to the
> conclusion that the events up to the monarchy are essentially mythic
> (in the case of Gen 1-11) or legendary (Patriarchs, Exodus, Conquest),
> the latter being connected to some viable historical memory but as it
> stands not fundamentally a true historical record (something like King
> Arthur or Robin Hood).
While I can appreciate (& even agree with) the general direction here, I
think we can go too far in our enthusiasm to disavow ourselves of any
literalist tendencies. Care is in order if you want to suggest that
events such as the Exodus are on par with King Arthur or Robin Hood. If
the Exodus didn't actually occur, then there is a problem with God
taking credit repeatedly and thematically throughout Scriptures for
making the event happen. This isn't to suggest that the details of the
written account must all be accurate in the modern historigraphical
sense. But that the main event did literally happen -- denial of that
seems theologically problematic, to say the least. Perhaps I should be
taking greater care to unpack what you mean by the words "mythic" or
"legendary" with any different nuances of meaning those words have. But
in a nutshell, I'm inclined to apply the brakes if one suggests the
Exodus substantially didn't literally happen.


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Received on Sun Oct 4 09:10:38 2009

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