Friday, October 08, 2010

The Jesse Tree


“Depends on what you mean by "face value." I do not think that the ancients had a highly detailed and absolutely consistent view of cosmic geography with every word and phrase and item neatly in place, lacking in all ambiguities, poetry or broader usages of words and terms. To that, the answer would be "no." These were pre-scientific people. On the other hand, it certainly does appear based on what they wrote, and based on iconographic images of the cosmos in Egypt, and the Babylonian world map, and Sargon's geography, that the ancients viewed the world as flat and held firmly in place, with the heavens also held firmly in place, with the land of the gods in the sky overhead and relatively nearby (not light-years away), and in many cases creation is depicted as arising out of primeval waters that also had to be held firmly back by god(s), with a land of the dead lying beneath the earth. From what you've written it almost appears that you are saying that UNLESS I can provide you with ancient schematics or architectural diagrams of how the Hebrews viewed the cosmos, that you are going to choose to reduce every word to mere metaphor.“

You still don’t get it, do you? It wouldn’t matter if you could furnish ancient schematics or architectural diagrams, since that, of itself, fails to tell us the cultural function of those depictions.

To take a comparison, consider the Jesse Tree in Medieval art. It’s not as if this represents a literal attempt to depict heredity

“In other words you appear to be demanding more literalism and consistency and "scientific" descriptions from the texts than I am, before you will even admit that the ancients held ideas concerning cosmic geography.”

I never denied that ancient people may have held ideas concerning cosmic geography.

“But think about this. Every human culture comes up with ideas of cosmic geography. Today the geography of the earth and heavens is observed and measured more deeply than ever before via telescopes. But astronomers and physicists have not ceased to also come up with hypotheses of what may lay beyond the limits of what is presently observed. Same with the medieval world and its geocentric astronomy. [See, Edward Grant, Planets, Stars, and Orbs: The Medieval Cosmos, 1200–1687, first paperback ed. (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press), 1996, and “Journey Through the Spheres: The Cosmos in the Middle Ages,” online] All I am saying is that humans come up with ideas about the shape and structure of the cosmos all the time, they always have, including the ancients.”

Actually, the Hebrews don’t show the same astronomical interest as the Babylonians, much less the theoretical interest of the Greeks. So it’s quite culturally variable.

“But the ancients did not have the means we do today to test out such ideas. They couldn't see what lay beyond the clouds or beyond "the waters" which they believed lay "above the highest heavens." Neither could they "search out the earth below." (See the verses I cited on such matters in my chapter.)”

Yes, you keep referring to your precious chapter, as if I hadn’t written a critique of your precious chapter. But as I demonstrated on many occasions now, the ancients had the means to know that a flat-earth/triple-decker cosmography was infeasible.

When I do that, your rote response is to ignore the inconvenient counterevidence and repeat your original discredited claim.

“But neither could they prevent their minds from coming up with what may lie there and how the cosmos was shaped and structured. To them, the earth appeared firm and flat…”

Does the earth look flat? I’ve cited counterexamples, which you invariably ignore.

By the way, I am talking about pre-600 B.C. ideas of cosmic geography, not Augustine nor Basil.”

By the way, the pagan critics whom Basil and Augustine were responding to were also “prescientific people.” Yet they had the means to assess the feasibility of a triple-decker universe. 1C AD people are just as prescientific as 7C BC people by modern scientific standards.

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