Sorry I'm a bit rushed as it's Thanksgiving. But please don't mistake my curtness for rudeness. I'm just in a hurry.
I should also state at the outset that I see you've responded to Gene. But I've unfortunately not (yet) read your response to him. So, if you've already answered questions I raise here in your response to Gene, please let me know.
I think Wise is forgetting some of the major “terms of the text”; We have a “tree of knowledge of good and evil”. We have a “tree of life”. Both are *cosmic* in their scope and supernatural powers, which is unusual for an historical account of a tree.
1. I'm not sure what you mean by "cosmic in their scope and supernatural powers." Do you mean that by eating the tree of the knowledge of good and evil Adam and Eve "died" and/or that "death" entered into the creation (cf. Gen. 2:17; Rom. 8:21)? Or do you have something greater in mind?
2. Yes, the tree is obviously unusual -- historically or in any other way -- since the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is not exactly your typical tree. Which the Genesis account duly affirms.
But this isn't a denial of the historicity of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or the tree of life. Or an argument that it should be taken allegorically rather than literally.
It still fits perfectly in line with a reading of Gen. 1-3 as historical narrative.
And of course, we have a talking snake. In Numbers 22 we also have a talking animal, Balaam’s ass. But by verse 31 we have the angel of the LORD standing over Balaam, with sword in hand, and Balaam trembling, prostrate before him. Clearly to Balaam, and to us by the text, this was a miraculous intervention in animating the ass to rebuke Balaam. In the Genesis 3 account, Eve gives no indication of surprise to find herself being addressed by a snake. She is not laid prostrate by the angel of the LORD, we do not see a historical resolution testifying to extraordinary nature of the snake that talked.
1. I don't understand why you draw parallels between the Balaam-donkey passage and the Eve-serpent passage. Why can't both be historical in their own right?
2. More specifically, it appears as though you're working with the premise that the Balaam-donkey story is historical. That's fine and I would agree.
But then you use the Balaam-donkey story as a contrast for the Eve-serpent story. And you indicate that the Eve-serpent story is not historical because it doesn't have certain elements which would mark themselves as historical narrative present in the Balaam-donkey story (e.g. there is a miraculous intervention in the Balaam-donkey story; Balaam is surprised whereas Eve is not; Balaam is laid prostrate whereas Eve is not).
Although I'm not sure why these particular elements would somehow indicate historicity in the one while not the other, in point of fact you've done no more than to describe the accounts as the Bible relates them. There's no argument for reading the texts as allegory or for not reading the texts as historical narrative (among other literary forms).
3. I'm also not sure what you mean by "we do not see a historical resolution testifying to extraordinary nature of the snake that talked." What kind of historical resolution are you looking for? Why would it not be historical to simply say the serpent spoke just as it is apparently historical to say that Balaam's donkey spoke?
4. The way in which you write about Adam and Eve, the serpent, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the tree of life appear to be more symbolic than allegorical.
On the other hand, it seems as though you take Balaam and his donkey literally.
Why the discrepancy?
At any rate, as far as I can tell, apart from drawing parallels between the Eve-serpent and Balaam-donkey stories (which are simply descriptive of the stories themselves and nothing more), there's no argument for why the Eve-serpent story should not be taken as historical narrative. Again, this is perhaps more problematic when it seems you believe the Balaam-donkey story should be read historically.
Way at the other end of the Bible, we find the red dragon speaking blaspheming the name of God (Rev 12). This is a dragon with seven heads and ten horns. I think it’s the rare exegete that considers Revelation historical narrative, so here again is another symbolic utilization of an animal speaking. Is it a historical account? Not in the sense Wise is using it, I suggest. Is it perfectly *true*? I believe it is. These are mythic elements, the talking serpent, the trees with supernatural capabilities. They are perfectly true in that convey a real history – the fall of man from the commission of sin. But the device used is figurative, and symbolic.
1. That's because Revelation is primarily considered apocalyptic or prophetic in genre. And yes, it does make use of symbols.
2. In the original quote I cited, Dr. Wise confined his argument to reading Genesis primarily as historical narrative. He made no mention of reading Revelation as historical narrative. So I'm not sure why you refer to Wise doing so, viz. "Not in the sense Wise is using it."
Unless you're disputing Wise's definition of "historical narrative" itself?
3. Speaking of which, you originally argued for treating Gen. 1-3 as allegory. But I should point out allegory is different than symbolism.
4. The mere fact that the Bible describes speaking animals (e.g. serpents, donkeys, dragons) in and of itself does nothing to argue for or against allegorizing certain portions of Scripture like Gen. 1-3 or Gen. 1-11.
5. Of course, I have no problem reading certain parts of the Bible as allegory or seeing symbolic motifs or larger themes run throughout Scripture should the text warrant such a reading. For example, we see the story of redemption unfold through the Scriptures until its culmination and fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus Christ Himself. Thus there is a redemptive-historical theme in Scripture itself. E.g. Luke 24:25-27: "And he said to them, 'O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?' And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself."
6. As far as this question is concerned, what we need to ask ourselves is, where's the symbolic thread and how do we establish it? What's the basis for such and such a running theme? Does Scripture itself warrant it -- exegetically?
7. If you're allegorizing Gen. 1-3, and if you're claiming a theistic evolutionary worldview, what then would you make of a verse like Gen. 3:15: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel"?
On the one hand, I can read it as a historical event. God is actually and literally speaking to the serpent. Yet He is also making a specific promise that there will be enmity between the offspring or seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman.
Which leads me to likewise read it symbolically. Other portions of Scripture talk about the symbol of the seed of the woman.
What's more, we see it play out as a theme, for instance, in God's promise to Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and Rachel and Leah. One commonality is that all these patriarchs and matriarchs were unable to bear children of their own accord. But God promised them offspring or seed. And thus they each gave birth to "children of promise" as it were. We see the final fulfillment of this in the virgin birth of Jesus Christ Himself.
That said, however, what I can't read Gen. 1-3 as is allegory, because if I did, then there would be no basis for a literal historical fulfillment. An allegorization of Gen. 1-3 let alone Gen. 1-11 would undercut the historical reality of the prophecy and its final fulfillment in Christ Jesus.
8. Again, I'm not disputing your argument that there are symbols in the Bible. Rather I'm disputing your reading of Gen. 1-3 or Gen. 1-11 primarily as allegory and that history properly begins in Gen. 4 or possibly Gen. 12. Therefore I should remind you (as well as myself) the original argument centered on these first few chapters of Genesis.
If you were to pick up a text that you were told was "true", but contained the account of trees with supernatural, cosmic powers, and a talking serpent along with a pair of humans, would you suppose that the truth was *scientific* in its telling, or moral/figurative?
1. I don't know why we have to limit ourselves to these two options.
2. But it would depend on the text.
3. As for the Bible, I'd primarily classify it as God's sole revelation or communication to mankind. In my view it's primary purpose is to reveal to us the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is to teach us His redemptive plan. It is moral and it is figurative in parts and it is much more.
Also, Genesis is the “bootstrapping book”, the book that kicks of the written tradition, distilling what were previously oral narratives. While we can identify a lot of concrete history within it, but it’s manifestly *unlike* in its structure. If one is determined, fixed in a post-enlightenment reductionist frame, that Genesis must be completely historical-scientific, then one will simply see it all thus; There *is* no allegorical language that cannot be viewed as an historical account reified by an omnipotent God, if that is what is one is determined to do. All allegory capitulates to the powers of an omnipotent God. Could the red dragon be a red dragon in Rev 12? Could be, God could certainly ordain it thus. Is that the natural way to read Rev. 12? I don’t think so.
I don't hold to any of the positions you allege, viz. "a post-enlightenment reductionist frame, that Genesis must be completely historical-scientific...There *is* no allegorical language that cannot be viewed as an historical account reified by an omnipotent God."
Some parts of Genesis are decidedly historical. No doubt about it. I think this only represents a problem if one presumes that Genesis cannot and does not have historical and allegorical vectors. Does Wise identify Genesis as similar in form to other, competing cosmogonies of that time? Would he find similarities for the book of Nehemiah in Babylonian mythology as exist between Genesis and Enuma Elish, or the Gilgamesh epic? Those are manifestly mythic texts, and I can’t see that Wise would be unfamiliar with those comparisons. Would he characterize Gilgamesh as an historical account in form, if false in its actual historicity? I’m not setting up either the Enuma Elish or Gilgamesh as truths or peers to Genesis theologically, but one must purposely ignore them to omit them from comparisons to the literary style of Genesis.
Wise simply argues that Genesis should primarily be read as historical narrative. Nothing less, nothing more. He thus makes no mention let alone gives an opinion on other works like The Epic of Gilgamesh. So I don't think it's legitimate to impute to Wise anything else outside the scope of his argument.
"The historical texts in Genesis contrast with non-historical narrative. For the most part, seamless connections join the various Genesis accounts, including those widely accepted as historical. But the short, non-historical passages within the Genesis account -- for example, Adam's response at seeing Eve (Gen. 2:23) and the song of Lamech (Gen. 4:23-24) -- as well as poetic renditions of Genesis passages found in other places in Scripture (such as in Ps. 104) contrast sharply with the historical flavor of the Genesis text, including the creation account." [-- Dr. Kurt Wise]
This is Wise identifying for himself the historical flavor of Genesis text, “including the creation account”. This assumes its own conclusion. If everything else has a historical flavor but the parts he wants to except, well then it’s just historical by the definition of Kurt Wise.
On my reading, Wise is simply arguing that most of Genesis seems to primarily read as a continuous historical account. As such, the few sections of Genesis which do not flow in this continuum (e.g. the poetic sections) stand in stark contrast to the rest which do. If one reads the verses Wise does cite, it is evident they are poetic or at least not a historical account.
But he’s conspicuously omitting that the language of days is used in Gen. 1 prior to the creation of the earth – the object that anchors the idea of a ‘day’ (sunrise, sunset). Does that have a “historical flavor”? If one interprets the two creation accounts literally, they disagree in detail and sequence. Does Wise find this to be also demonstrative of historical flavor? These problems and more confound the man bent on rigid historical scientific readings of Genesis, but give way if they are simply regarded as perfectly true but *cosmogonic* in expression. The narrative has a strong compelling logic, but one that is cosmological and theological, not chronological or geological. So if Wise can read this as having “historical” flavor (Gen 1-3), I’d simply wonder how many historical complications he would have to identify before he might suppose he was approaching the text in a way it was never intended to be approached. An ancient Israelite learning the Pentateuch doesn’t have to be a scientific genius to understand the idea of days as sunrise/sunset cycles. When he reads that on the “first day”, with no earth or sun yet in the picture, the very things that came to define what a “day” was, there’s no need to appeal to some scientific knowledge base to understand that it doesn’t make sense in the literal reading. It was simply not an issue for him, he didn’t bring the burden of a commitment to identification of scientific mechanisms and chronologies that Wise apparently does here. Wise is projecting an anachronistic “worldview” onto the ancients, a perspective they would be mystified by. And probably amused by as well, I’d wager.
1. I don't have the time to go into detail about how best to intepret Gen. 1.
2. Also, I don't have the time to try and explain the apparent discrepancies between the two creation accounts.
3. But suffice it to say that Wise never argues that it should merely be looked at chronologically or geologically. Or rigidly historical and scientific. Or even that it should not be looked at cosmologically and theologically. Certainly not in the quote to which you responded. My point is that you should stick closely to his actual argument rather than to assume he argues for things which he may or may not argue based on a preconceived or perhaps stereotypical notion of what a YEC may or may not argue.
4. In this vein, no one said that we are not to view Gen. 1-3 as an ancient Israelite or Hebrew (or, actually, as someone in the time of Moses if we believe Moses mainly transcribed the Torah) viewed it. I'm not sure why you believe otherwise.
5. I think by historical flavor you mean something which is far more restrictive than what Wise means. As I read him, Wise merely means an account of literal, historical events. But as I understand you, it seems as though you're creating false dichotomies. Why read Genesis as solely "cosmological and theological"? That is, I don't see why we cannot read Gen. 1-3, say, as a literal, historical account of events as well as receive theological instruction from it? There doesn't need to be a dichotomy between the two.
"Scripture itself refers to Genesis as historical. The remainder of Scripture (Exod. 20:11; Neh. 9:6; Acts 17:22-29) and Jesus Himself (Matt. 19:4-6) speak of Genesis -- including the creation account -- as if it were to be taken as history. Likewise, most of the Jews and Christians through time have understood the Genesis account to be historical. Since the Genesis account is historical narrative and reliable, its clear claim of a six-day creation should be taken seriously." [-- Dr. Kurt Wise]
It *is* historical in a very real sense. God *create* the heavens and the earth. The allegorical elements in Genesis don’t change the fact that God did in fact create all there is, that Adam sinned and caused the Fall. There is no clear claim of six solar days in Genesis 1 – anyone aware of ‘day-age’ exegesis is familiar with that treatment. And it’s not something invented by Darwinists. Does Wise suppose Augustine and Origen were trying to serve the evolutionary agenda in their exegeses? I’m happy to respond to items you request, but it’s a telling sign when I see Wise beg the question like this --- the clear claim of six day creation. If Wise isn’t aware of day-age exegeses.
1. It seems that you have a proclivity for putting words into the mouths of others or attributing to them positions they have never clearly defined themselves.
2. How do you know Wise is not aware of day-age exegesis? Is it something you suppose Wise is unaware of simply because he is a YEC?
3. In his quote, Wise certainly didn't argue that we should only see "six solar days" in Gen. 1. I would presume he holds to a similar or related position, but he doesn't make that evident here.
4. Nevertheless, looking at it from the perspective of the ancient Hebrew, what do you suppose he would think of when he reads, "And there was evening and there was morning, the first day...And there was evening and there was morning, the second day..."? And so on.
At a minimum, he would understand the passage of time defined in terms such as "evening," "morning," and "day." He would understand that "evening and morning" somehow equal "one day." This "one day" may not be an exact 24-hour day as we understand it, but the ancients understood when, for example, it was evening and when it was no longer evening, and when it was morning and when it was no longer morning.
Moreover, since we believe Moses wrote the Torah, he would've been speaking from the perspective of a Jew educated in the arts and sciences of Egypt. The Egyptians had sophisticated ways to keep track of time. They understood what a day was even if by our modern standards their measurements of time don't quite compare.
So did the Jews. The Jews had a detailed lunar calendar for their festivals, which they still celebrate today. In fact, up until the modern era, the Jews had always maintained a way to track the Sabbath on Friday evening. If I recall, one way was simply to look for the first star in the sky to appear Friday evening to commence the Sabbath.
The ancients were not unfamiliar with the concept of a day, or at least the passage of an evening and a morning equating to a day, even if they did not have atomic clocks by which to measure time.
OK, those are my “engagements” of Wise. Another YEC who assumes his consequent.
Again, it'd be more helpful if you didn't assume what the other side argues based on some preconceived notion you might have of their position.
Or better yet, it'd be helpful if you could likewise make a consistent case for why Gen. 1-3 or Gen. 1-11 should not primarily be read as historical narrative and why it should primarily be read as allegory rather than falling back on long diatribes against imaginary opponents.