Monday, July 10, 2006

Liberal schizophrenia

According to the Documentary Hypothesis, Gen 1 goes back to the Priestly source (P). And why is Gen 1 assigned to P?

One reason is the Sabbatarian numerology. A liberal critics is assuming that the redactor of Gen 1 modeled the chronology of creation on the religious calendar of Israel.

In a way, a conservative can agree—only he’d reason in reverse, trading the premise for the conclusion and vice versa.

He’d reason that the religious calendar of Israel was modeled on the chronology of creation, recorded by Moses.

Now, I’ve quoted or cited a number of scholars who argue that the Bible uses certain architectural metaphors for the world to depict the world as a cosmic temple, along the lines of the tabernacle and the Solomonic Temple. The tabernacle or temple is a microcosm of the macrocosm. To take another example of this argument:


There has been a great deal of scholarly attention paid to the correspondences between the creation accounts in Gen 1-4 and the tabernacle construction account in Exodus. With regard to Gen 1:1-2:3 the pattern of sevens is most significant (see Balentine, 138-41; Levenson, 78-90, and other literature cited there).

Finally, based on the above intertextual literary patterns within the Pentateuch and comparisons with cosmologies and temple-building texts of the ANE, J. Levenson has argued persuasively that to build a sanctuary was to create a “microcosm” a small, properly ordered world within the larger “cosmos” (Levenson, 53-127). A sanctuary is the cosmos in miniature, and the cosmos is a sanctuary, depending on which way you look at it…the cosmos and the Tabernacle were reflective of each other as the literary and thematic parallels between creation and the build of the tabernacle show.

T. Alexander & D. Baker, eds. Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch (IVP 2003), 816-17.


There’s no inherent reason a liberal would disagree with this analysis. Indeed, he could fit that into the preexisting slot of the P.

That would afford a consistently liberal interpretation of the cosmic imagery.

Likewise, this is not a problem for the conservative. He’d just say that the temple and tabernacle, as well as the other architectural metaphors, exemplify the principle of sacred space as well as sacred time.

So why don’t infidels like Loftus interpret the architectural imagery employed in Biblical cosmology consistent with the Documentary Hypothesis?

Several reasons suggest themselves:

i) Ignorance of contemporary scholarship.

ii) Dependence on a preexisting polemical strategy. Because it’s a stock feature of atheology write to attribute a flat-earth or three-decker cosmology to the Bible writers, infidels like Loftus thoughtlessly inherit this antiquated polemical tradition.

iii) Finally, and most importantly, a consistently liberal interpretation would at this juncture fail to undercut the record of Scripture.

What an unbeliever needs to show is that its architectural imagery was literal and prescientific rather than literary and cultic.

If you treat either the spatial or temporal markers as metaphorical, then you can’t make a scientific case against the Bible.

Not only does Loftus disregard conservative scholarship. He abandons liberal scholarship whenever it fails to deliver a liberal defeater for Scripture.


  1. This was interesting. If true, then the ancient Hebrews built their temple to reflect their view of the universe. Why is this so hard to understand? Again, the temple would be a reflection of their view of the universe.

  2. Possibly, laddie, because the idea of a flat earth is absurd.