Wednesday, March 28, 2018


I was asked to comment on this essay:

for the most part I find the questions posed by both YEC and OEC advocates to be somewhat puzzling, because both positions appear, to me at least, to be asking thoroughly modern questions of a completely ancient text. I simply cannot understand how anyone believes that the author of Genesis had the hydrologic cycle of the early earth in mind when writing about the separation of the waters above and the waters  below in the 2nd millennia BCE.2

the best understanding of Genesis 1 is not as a scientific account of creation (a la YEC or OEC), nor is it a kind of demythologized and wholly non-historical plagiarism of other Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) creation myths (a la Delitzsche, Gunkel, or Enns); but rather, it is a purposeful, literary, and polemical taunting of the religious and cultural foes of the early Israelites as they were about to enter the land of Canaan in order to steer them toward religious fidelity to YHWH alone.

That's a strawman. Sure, Gen 1 is not a scientific description of cosmic and biological origins. It uses prescientific language. But that's beside the point. The point, rather, is whether this is a factual description of cosmic and biological origins. A scientific interpretation is a second-order exercise. 

Proponents of FM [the Framework Model] will often point to some of the contradictions that arise from a strictly historicist chronological approach to the days, as well as other theological problems. For example, what sort of ethical problems arise if God created the earth, not just with the appearance of maturity, but with the illusion of having a history that it did not in fact have?25

While some will have problems with the appearance of maturity, anyone who believes that Adam could be created as mature should have no problem. The dilemma arises not in the appearance of maturity, but in the illusion of a false history. If the Earth did not exist for as long as science shows us that it does, then that would mean that God created the earth with craters from meteor impacts that never happened. It would be like creating Adam not only mature but with scars on his body with cuts that he never endured. That kind of pointless deception seems to provide a real ethical dilemma.

i) But that's not an exegetical objection. What's the evidence that the narrator or the original audience would regard that as posing a "real ethical dilemma"?

ii) I don't see this as any more of an ethical dilemma than "the illusion of a false history" in a period stage set or period CGI. A historical movie about ancient Rome or the Wild West breaks in at a fairly arbitrary point within the ongoing history of the world. But that's when the plot begins. To be accurate, it has a setting and artifacts that antedate the plot, which fall outside the timeframe of the plot. It's like the world begins at that moment, with the opening scene of the movie. 

In addition, how can there be three literal 24 hour earth days (one complete rotation in reference to the sun) when God does not create the sun and moon until day 4, expressly with the purpose of marking out days and “to separate day from night” (1:14)?26

I think that's a stronger objection to the YEC reading.

The first thing that Kline et al. would like to draw our attention to is the genre of Genesis 1. If Genesis 1 is a straightforward account of history (we will argue shortly that it is not), then it may be placed alongside the hard sciences and ask the question of how the cosmos materially came into  being. That is, Genesis 1 would be, on this view, the kind of literature that asks the same questions as the astronomy or geology text books. However, if Genesis 1 is not strictly historical narrative, then it would be placed within the social sciences, because its primary concern would be with who was involved. 

Same strawman I noted before. 

We can now see why Kline and Waltke describe the structure as following this sort of pattern, where an sphere is made to be inhabitable, and then it becomes inhabited...Kline and Waltke both show us the relationships between the parallel triads of days. The first three days show the creation and preparation of kingdoms/spheres as a kind of environment, and in the following three days, populating those environments with the proper inhabitants of those environments. This means that days 1-3 are dealing directly with forming what was formless in 14 1:1–no longer is the cosmos formless but now it has distinct form and structure. God has now made an orderly cosmos, fit for populations of living beings to live in, which also means that days 4-6 are meant to show that the heavens and earth are no longer void– they are no longer empty,  but rather are inhabited. Days 1-6 show that YHWH has acted to make creation habitable and to  populate the created order with creatures according to their spheres.

i) There's a grain of truth to that, but that's consistent with a YEC reading, where it's natural to create the sky before birds, bodies of water before fish, dry land before land animals. 

ii) There there's the problem with his matching scheme. According to his own representation, the sky ("waters above") on day 2 has fish and fowl on day 5 as its counterpart while seas on day 3 parallel has man and animals on day 6 as its counterpart. But how are they parallel? flying fish? Likewise, man and land animals don't correspond to marine life. 

This means that FM advocates, like myself, will often just sit on the sidelines of YEC, OEC, and evolutionary debates baffled as to what is unfolding in front of us. 

That's pretty simplistic. There's far more to the creation/evolution debate than whether Gen 1 is chronological. 

The strongest example is seen in the connection between Genesis 1 and the Memphis Shabaka Stone. This Memphite text was most likely produced during the New Kingdom period (16th–11th C. BCE.) and would have been likely prior, but possibly concurrent with the composition of Genesis. 36 The similarities can be catalogued as follows...This chart shows us that while there are some slight modifications to the overall order, there was plainly a strong familiarity of the Shabaka Stone, or at least with the mythology it presented, that was present during the time of the composition of Genesis 1.

i) He has a diagram of alleged parallels arranged in two columns, side-by-side. However, I'm dubious about that comparison. To begin with, the text of that stele is damaged. 

ii) In addition, although I'm no Egyptologist, it's my impression that a hieroglyphic text, consisting of pictograms, is far more equivocal and open-textured than a verbal text, consisting of linguistic propositions. Gen 1 is already verbalized whereas a hieroglyphic text but first be translated into a verbal text. So there's a prior interpretive step. A reader of a hieroglyphic text must turn that into words before comparison is possible. For instance: 

Hieroglyphics is an ancient Egyptian script and a premier example of a medium that combines word and image to convey meaning. Hieroglyphic script constantly switches between icon and symbol to complicate the word/image relationship.  At times, characters function as icons that represent the objects they depict.  At other times, characters function as arbitrary signs, requiring the reader to assign phonetic value. The amalgamation of word and image not only makes the translation of hieroglyphics difficult...

Logograms can represent not only the exact object they depict, but also extensions of that image.  For example, the logogram of a sun may represent the actual object of the sun, or the concept of day.  The drawbacks of a pictorial writing system quickly become apparent as iconic signs fail to represent complex concepts. Logograms are sometimes used as arbitrary characters with no correlation to the object they depict. Called phonograms, these arbitrary signs convey meaning phonetically.  For example, you can convert the visual images of “bee” and “leaf” into their phonetic value to create a final visual image of the word “belief.”  Hieroglyphics combine phonograms and logograms to complicate the word/image relationship.  In addition, hieroglyphic script uses determinatives to assist in translation.  Located at the end of words, determinatives help to clarify remnants of ambiguity.  For example, an icon of a male or female may be used to disambiguate names.  Hieroglyphic script is a collage of logograms, phonograms and determinatives that operate under complex grammatical principles.  Its unique combination of word and image has deterred translation for over a thousand years and has contributed to a mysterious veil that continues to cover this medium.

Egyptian hieroglyphs were pictograms, illustrative of objects and ideas, rather than abstract symbols. These pictograms could be further classified as phonograms, representing consonantal phonemes [20], or ideograms (also called logograms) in which the pictogram depicted a concept [21].  Additionally, there were also a number of signs (determinatives) used to clarify the meaning of words composed partially or primarily of phonograms [22].  Many hieroglyphs could serve more than one of these functions [23], although in practice, only a few were regularly employed in all capacities [24].  Even the fraction of hieroglyphic script that is phonemically based is not comparable to alphabetic systems in which each letter roughly corresponds to one phoneme. In Egyptian hieroglyphs, a single phonogram could represent one, two, or three consonants [25].  Since vowels were not represented in writing, the same phonogram could be used to represent words (or parts of words) that contained different vowels; this is comparable to using a single sign to represent the English words “mess”, “miss”, “moss” and “mice”. Because of this ambiguity, the ideographic use of hieroglyphs was maintained throughout Egyptian history

Back to the essay: 

Another thematic connection is the role of supernatural light in the comparative narratives. In the Hermopolis tradition, after a long period of nearly infinite darkness, the god Atum emerged out of primordial waters (Nun) and, being a sun deity, manifested himself as pure light–before the creation of the sun.42 This fueled the Egyptian myth that the supernatural light from these primordial gods is what dispelled the infinite darkness. 43 This abnormality in the existence of light  prior to the creation of the sun likely explains the long debated nature of the light in the first few days of creation prior to the creation of the luminaries on day four in the Genesis account. However, the author of Genesis is careful not to attribute the light to the creation of a deity as in the Egyptian myths, but rather that it was created by divine fiat, that is, by a divine command, “Let there be light.”

This meant that the author was keen to show that, unlike Rê-Atum, YHWH was not brought into existence, and did not result in an act of self-creation, but was himself preexistent and was responsible for bring into being even the first light, and that light itself not divine. Johnston notes that this “is a case of the Hebrew author indulging in a bit of one-upmanship. YHWH is superior to Rê/Rê-Atum, Egypt’s god of light.”44 That “one-upmanship” just is the polemical intent described throughout this present paper.

But doesn't the Framework Model, if correct, already explain that "abnormality"? On that view, the paired days are not two separate days. So the "Hermopolis tradition", if correct, presents an alternative explanation for the same phenomenon. Either one or the other is redundant. 

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