Board index Noah's Ark & the Flood

Re: In the Flood, God damages his reputation

Postby Regnus Numis » Thu Feb 08, 2018 4:26 pm

Certainly back in the days of Noah, as far as we know writing didn't exist. It was an oral culture, and so the communication is more story-like than an instruction manual. The story is told in a human-like, casual manner than like a technical handbook. People speak in images. > > We just have to interpret accordingly.

Speaking of which, who do you believe wrote Genesis? Would you support the Documentary Hypothesis? And how did the author know which oral creation myth to write down?

Even though ancient cultures orally communicated stories in a casual manner, couldn't God still have intercepted the authors and instructed them to replace figures of speech with clear language? What would have been the disadvantages of using clear language?

> It's not pointless, it's just that we have to use good interpretive skills. We have to interpret it by what the author meant by it. We have to do the same thing with Beowulf, Shakespeare, and Thomas Jefferson. I mean, when we read Lincoln's Gettysburg Address we have to know what he meant by "score," and it wasn't about sports. But you know this.

True, good interpretive skills are important for discerning the meaning behind an author's words. Nevertheless, how would you go about proving the author's intent? We obviously can't travel back in time and read the author's mind, so the next best thing would be examining how early audiences understood the text. Anticipating how your immediate audience would react to your writings naturally factors into every author's intent. An author would never include a figure of speech if he/she didn't expect anybody in the audience to catch on. Hence, we can gauge the author's intent by observing the reaction of early readers. It would greatly improve your case if you could demonstrate that the Hebrews and Early Church Fathers knew they weren't supposed to interpret the biblical texts literally. Since you don't know the answer, let me know if you ever find anybody who's done a thorough study on this.
Regnus Numis
 

Re: In the Flood, God damages his reputation

Postby jimwalton » Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:17 pm

> Speaking of which, who do you believe wrote Genesis?

I believe that Moses was the tradent behind the Pentateuch. Let's look at this realistically. Hebrew, as a language, was not invented (it hadn't evolved as a language) until about 1000 BC, so it's IMPOSSIBLE that Moses, in 1300 BC, wrote the words we read in Genesis. But that is no guarantee that he was not the authority in the words.

For instance, suppose I were to write a book called "The Quotes of Abraham Lincoln," which was a collection of his sayings and writings. Who is the author of the book, Abe or me? Well, technically I wrote it in 2018, but technically it's all Abe's work. He was the writer, I was the collator.

I believe that Moses is the tradent behind Genesis. It is a collation of his life, words, writings, and what God revealed to him. Did Moses write it? No, it was assembled sometime later. But did Moses write it? I believe so. Even as early as Joshua there are references to things Moses wrote (Josh. 1.7, 13; 8.31, et al.). At that point they were probably various shards, maybe papyrus or parchments carvings and who knows what all else. They were collated later and filled in with some narrative. But I believe Moses is the source of Genesis.

So, no, I don't support the Documentary Hypothesis, which, I have read in several places, is coming under great attack from the scholarly community and is found lacking now that we know so much more than we did 150 years ago.

> And how did the author know which oral creation myth to write down?

I don't believe the biblical creation story is a myth. I believe Genesis 1 & 2 are an account of functional creation, not material creation. God is telling us how things work (what their function and role are), not how they came to be. Light and dark function to give us night and day, evening and morning. The firmament functions to give us climate. The earth functions to bring forth vegetation. The heavenly bodies function to give us seasons and markers for time. Humans function to rule the earth and subdue it. Everything has its role to play.

Genesis 1 is not mythological and is vastly different in character from the contemporaneous mythologies. It tells us why we are here, why the universe and the world were created, and what our role and function is. Those are things science can't tell us. Science tells us about matter, energy, and gravity, the "what" and the how—the process and time line. The Bible tells us the why.

> Even though ancient cultures orally communicated stories in a casual manner, couldn't God still have intercepted the authors and instructed them to replace figures of speech with clear language?

There are always many alternatives about what person, in this case God, could have done. We can only deal with the cards that have been dealt, i.e., what God did do.

> Nevertheless, how would you go about proving the author's intent?

We use as much scientific, historical, and archaeological knowledge we can muster to analyze the culture. I think better than examining how early audiences (your examples were centuries later than Moses) might have understood the text, it's wiser to look at the cultural context of an Egyptian/Hebrew population in 1300 BC to find out how their minds worked, what were their cultural markers, and what were the subjects of discussion in their worldview. It's not as helpful to learn how we, in 2018, interpret George Washington's use of slaves as it is to put ourselves back in the 1780s to truly understand the mindset of a late 18th-century patrician landowner in Virginia. While both are useful, the author's intent will be garnered with a study of the 1780s more than a study in 2018.


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