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Evolution and Creation. Where did we come from? How did we get here? What is life all about?

Genesis 1 is mythological, not factual

Postby Penny Lane » Thu Jan 04, 2018 4:27 pm

thesis: Gen 1 is mythological.

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Genesis 1 contains many "facts" that are clearly false.

"God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds." Gen 1:24

Humans tamed livestock and thus created them. They are the product of folk genetics.

"Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food." Gen 1:29

Many seed-bearing plants are poisonous and thus not food.

"So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good." Gen 1:20

Did the bible god create the Guinea Worm?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dracunculus_medinensis

The Guinea Worm is a horrible, life-hobbling parasite that people who use Reddit don't have to worry about. The poor people who have these parasites are slowly pulling these worms out of their skin because they dared to drink water, and your god saw that it was "good".

Instead of insisting that this is true, and we have to "interpret" it to make it fit, I claim that it is mythological, and we shouldn't take it seriously. The bible god didn't magically create these things all for the benefit of humanity (either over six days or six "figurative days"). It is a story, and that's all.
Penny Lane
 

Re: Genesis 1 is mythological, not factual

Postby jimwalton » Thu Jan 04, 2018 4:49 pm

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.

Therefore your theory is out the window, and Genesis 1 is not mythological. We should take it seriously. 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 Bible tells us the why.
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Re: Genesis 1 is mythological, not factual

Postby Penny Lane » Sun Jan 07, 2018 3:40 pm

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.

Deluxe levels of wrong.

"God created" tells us how: they came about through the force of his will and the fact that he uttered the magic words, in a matter of six days. You are free to read "function" in as you will, and it does not change what the bible says.

> Therefore your theory is out the window

No it is not, because you have not refuted it. You are merely saying "it's allegorical" and playing another version of "that's what it says but that's not what it means". Fine, I will claim that "Jesus" is allegorical, and so are all of your boy Paul's epistles.

> Those are things science can't tell us. Science tells us about matter, energy, and gravity—the "what" and the how. The Bible tells us the why.

The Bible is completely unnecessary. What does scripture say about felony home invasion?
Penny Lane
 

Re: Genesis 1 is mythological, not factual

Postby jimwalton » Sun Jan 07, 2018 4:01 pm

> "God created" tells us how: they came about through the force of his will and the fact that he uttered the magic words, in a matter of six days.

The word "created" in Genesis 1 is בָּרָא (bara’). If you trace through the rest of the OT, the objects of *bara'* are unusual things, in the categories of abstractions (purity, righteousness), people groups (the nations, Jerusalem). It is never talking about manufacturing or making a thing. It doesn't refer to materials, but something more abstract, as in English we might say, "I created a masterpiece," or "I created havoc." The thrust of the verb is not that God manufactured something out of something or out of nothing, but that God assigned roles and functions. Chronology has no place here. The setting is unlocalized and general. It expresses *that* God created, not *how*.

You can read "material" all you want, but that's not what the Bible is talking about. Even in the ancient cosmologies, their concerns were with role and function, not with material creation. Sumerian cosmology is stories about the gods giving organization to the earth. Ancient Egyptian creation stories are about the gods determining the function of the cosmos. This document was written in an ancient context with an ancient mindset. The text is claiming that God made everything just right and set it up to function properly within his purposes.

> You are merely saying "it's allegorical"

I never said it was allegorical; it is certainly not. It's not an allegory at all. It's about function and role. I've already walked you through the days of Genesis 1 to substantiate my point. But I'll add to it. Look at Genesis 1.2. If Genesis 1 were about material manufacture, we would expect the text to begin with nothing; if it were about order the universe by assigning function, that is, by brining order to chaos, we would expect the text to begin with the cosmos in a chaotic state, and that's just what it does. Genesis is interested in an organized world, as against a chaotic world, and not in the metaphysical question of something against nothing.

In the ancient Near East, the existence of chaos was a central concern. Within the cosmos, the raging sea and darkness are the forces of chaos. Within human existence, the most common representatives are death and warfare. In the mythology of the ancient Near East, the gods demonstrate their power by defeating or holding at bay the forces of chaos. Sometimes this motif accompanies creation narratives, as in the Babylonian Enuma Elish. Other times it simply displays the emerging status of the deity being featured, as in the Myth of Anzu or the Ugaritic Baal Epic. The book of Psalms often portrays Yahweh as defeating or neutralizing the forces of chaos (e.g., 74:13-17; 89:9-10; 104:7-9). Genesis does not portray any battle, nor does it indicate chaotic forces being held back, but there is a clear establishment of order from disorder. That disorder is described in verse 2 starting with the Hebrew terms *tohu* and *bohu* (NIV: "formless and empty").

No one suggests that Genesis 1.2 indicates that matter had not been shaped or that the cosmos described in v. 2 is empty of matter. By logic alone the words can be seen to concern functionality, and analysis of the Hebrew confirms the conclusion that these terms indicate that the cosmos was empty of purpose, meaning and function—a place that had no order or intelligibility.

> The Bible is completely unnecessary.

I beg to differ. The Bible is explaining the role and function of the cosmos: to glorify God, and to be a suitable temple for his presence to dwell. No human-made structure suited his grandeur and majesty, so God created his own "temple"—the cosmos. It's like Solomon's Temple: the temple, the holy place, and the holy of holies. The cosmos is his temple, the earth is the holy place, and the Garden of Eden was the holy of holies, where God would meet with his priests and priestesses, Adam & Eve. So in one sense, the world was made for us, but in another, God made the world for himself. Ancient mythology said that humans were created to be the slaves of the gods. The Bible argues very differently: We were created noble to care for sacred space. These are things science can't tell us. Science can tell us how old the cosmos is, how old the earth is, and how it came about, but the Bible tells us what it is for—its role and function.
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Re: Genesis 1 is mythological, not factual

Postby Penny Lane » Mon Jan 15, 2018 4:18 pm

> You can read "material" all you want, but that's not what the Bible is talking about.

My point of view is that the Bible means what is says and that it says what it means. If you believe that it means something other than what it says, then please justify your basis for changing its meaning.

> If Genesis 1 were about material manufacture, we would expect the text to begin with nothing; if it were about order the universe by assigning function, that is, by brining order to chaos, we would expect the text to begin with the cosmos in a chaotic state, and that's just what it does. Genesis is interested in an organized world, as against a chaotic world, and not in the metaphysical question of something against nothing.

I agree with you: you can assign those meanings to scripture and I think it's fair and justified.

It's also about the "material", as you put it. (I've been noticing recently that there are many Christians on this subreddit talking about "materialism".) It's about both. You haven't discounted my point, you've only added one that I agree with and does not contradict mine.

> I beg to differ. The Bible is explaining the role and function of the cosmos: to glorify God, and to be a suitable temple for his presence to dwell. No human-made structure suited his grandeur and majesty, so God created his own "temple"—the cosmos.

This is all assuming the point in dispute: that your god is real. Your god is an imaginary god, and thus he is also a "human-made structure", though he is more of a thought exercise than he is a structure. As such, there are many things that compare with him, namely, other imaginary gods. But the study of these myths is not strictly necessary in life. The only utility it serves me, for instance, is to attack the faith of Christians who want to do me in. (I say "strictly necessary" because if you want to have a job in the Christian religion, then knowing it is, in fact, necessary if you want to actually make money.)
Penny Lane
 

Re: Genesis 1 is mythological, not factual

Postby jimwalton » Mon Jan 15, 2018 4:35 pm

> My point of view is that the Bible means what is says and that it says what it means.

EXACTLY. That's my point of view also. Let's just take the first day of creation. In Genesis 1.5, God called the light "day" and the darkness he called "night." if the Bible means what it says and says what it means, then God would have called the light "light" and the darkness "darkness." But since in v. 5 he called the light "day" (and, by the way, the Hebrews have a word for light and a separate one for day), what the verse is clearly and literally talking about is a PERIOD of light (day) and a PERIOD of darkness (night). And then the text says exactly that: "There was evening and there was morning." So he's not talking about what the physicists of our era call light (photons and all that), but a period of light called day and a period of darkness called night. In other words, what the author is talking about is the function of light (to give us day) and the function of darkness (a period of time we call night). In that case, since the Bible means what it says and says what it means, then Day 1 is about the function of light—the role that light plays, not a material called light (which they knew nothing about anyway). So I have not changed the meaning. I'm reading the Bible for what it says.

Look at day 4. The author talks specifically and definitely about the function of the lights in the expanse of the sky: To "serve as signs to mark the seasons and days and years," and "to give light on the earth."

Look at the creation of humans. We read about their function, if the Bible says what it means and means what it says. "Let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air... Fill the earth and subdue it." This is how humankind is supposed to function. The text says it right out, very clearly.

> It's also about the "material", as you put it. (I've been noticing recently that there are many Christians talking about "materialism".) It's about both.

It can be bout both, but neither one can be a default—each would have to be proven. If you start into Genesis 1 and look for how you can prove that it is material, you run into significant troubles. It is not until day 6 that one of the days deals with the material creation of something the Israelites would have considered material (this is important—it doesn't matter that we know the sun, moon and stars are material; the Israelites did not know that so they are not thinking of the text as dealing with material origins). Another factor is that people automatically assume that 'asa ("made") specifies something material. Broad study of the word however is not so conclusive. So also with the word "created" (bara'). It's about abstract items, as I mentioned, not about material things.

> This is all assuming the point in dispute: that your god is real.

This is a completely different conversation. If you want to talk about Genesis 1 being mythological and not factual, that is the conversation we are having. If you want to talk about the existence of God, we can, but that's a different subject altogether. We can either continue that conversation here or you can start a new thread. What I'm showing you is that Genesis 1 is only mythological if you misunderstand the intent and meaning of the text.

> Your god is an imaginary god, and thus he is also a "human-made structure"

As you might guess, I disagree strongly with both of these statements. If you want to talk about them, say so, or start a new thread so others will jump into the conversation.

> As such, there are many things that compare with him, namely, other imaginary gods.

Actually, they don't. The God of the Bible is radically different from His mythological "counterparts". We can talk about this, as you wish. This also is a different conversation than the one you have begun. Even Genesis 1 is radically different from its cultural peers, the Atrahasis Epic and the Enuma Elish.
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Re: Genesis 1 is mythological, not factual

Postby Penny Lane » Mon Jan 15, 2018 5:29 pm

> If the Bible means what it says and says what it means, then God would have called the light "light" and the darkness "darkness." But since in v. 5 he called the light "day" (and, by the way, the Hebrews have a word for light and a separate one for day), what the verse is clearly and literally talking about is a PERIOD of light (day) and a PERIOD of darkness (night).

You inserted the word "period". The Bible does not use this word in verse 5.

And this is crucial because "period (of time)" is indefinite where as "day" is definite. If you are going to change "day" (meaning, the time from sun up to sun down, or a 24-period of time, depending on context, and in this context it means the former because it's contrasted with "night") to "period of time" you are making it more indefinite and changing the meaning.

In terms of talking about the function of time, I agree with you. The scripture supports your argument. It also supports my argument that the world was created in six days.

> Look at day 4. The author talks specifically and definitely about the function of the lights in the expanse of the sky: To "serve as signs to mark the seasons and days and years," and "to give light on the earth."

I agree!

>Look at the creation of humans. We read about their function, if the Bible says what it means and means what it says. "Let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air... Fill the earth and subdue it." This is how humankind is supposed to function. The text says it right out, very clearly.

I agree, well almost. The scripture is about god telling humans what to do, not how to do it.

> It's about abstract items, as I mentioned, not about material things.

It is about material things because scripture lists many material things that he created. It says what he created, and also what it was for.

Can you explain to me why that is incorrect? So far, I am agreeing with many of your arguments, and they also do not disqualify mine.
Penny Lane
 

Re: Genesis 1 is mythological, not factual

Postby jimwalton » Mon Jan 15, 2018 5:41 pm

> You inserted the word "period". The Bible does not use this word in verse 5.

You're right that it doesn't. But a "day" is a period of time, by definition (as you said yourself, "meaning, the time from sun up to sun down, or a 24-period of time...") So I'm not changing the meaning. You agree that "day" means a period of time.

> The scripture is about god telling humans what to do, not how to do it.

Right. The Scripture is talking about function (what we are to do). I wasn't claiming it told us how to do it.

> Can you explain to me why that is incorrect?

I already did. "It can be about both, but neither one can be a default—each would have to be proven. If you start into Genesis 1 and look for how you can prove that it is material, you run into significant troubles. It is not until day 6 that one of the days deals with the material creation of something the Israelites would have considered material (this is important—it doesn't matter that we know the sun, moon and stars are material; the Israelites did not know that so they are not thinking of the text as dealing with material origins).

The concerns of the ancient world were function, not structure. It was their cultural question. All of the cultures of the ancient Near East agreed that God or the gods made the material world. That was not a discussion. To use an analogy, we don't have to discuss in our culture if a ball is used in football. Of course it is.

The conversation in the ancient Near East was what creation was FOR, what humanity was FOR, and how it was all to function. The answer to these queries was different from culture to culture. The Bible is presenting its answers. To use the same analogy as before, we all agree that they use a ball in football; the difference between the teams is what they do with it.

That's why we have to pick one. If we choose that it's about material origins, the evidence is lacking: (1) that was not a conversation in the ancient world, (2) we run into all kinds of problems with the text as we go verse to verse, and (3) it doesn't coordinate with the rest of the message of Scripture easily. If we choose that it's about function, the evidence is substantial: (1) it makes more sense of the text, (2) it was the conversation of the ancient world, and (3) it dovetails excellently with the rest of Scripture. If the text were about material creation, it would start with nothing. If it were about functionality, it would start with disorder, which is exactly what we see in Gen. 1.2. We know that Day 1 is talking about how the light and dark function, not how light and dark came to be. The ancients knew nothing of physics, photons, or that light was actually material (with characteristics both of a particle and a wave). The author is talking about how light and dark function: to give us day and night, evening and morning.
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Re: Genesis 1 is mythological, not factual

Postby Penny Lane » Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:51 pm

> That's why we have to pick one. If we choose that it's about material origins, the evidence is lacking: (1) that was not a conversation in the ancient world, (2) we run into all kinds of problems with the text as we go verse to verse, and (3) it doesn't coordinate with the rest of the message of Scripture easily.

We don't "have to pick one" -- this is your claim that it "must" be one or the other, and it can't be both, and I don't see why it can't be both (and it is about both).

But you do make a case here why it isn't "about the material", and your points aren't very compelling.

So what if it "wasn't a conversation" in the ancient world? It doesn't change the fact that their creation stories detailed exactly what and when their god created the material world.

I agree: this is why it's clearly not the perfect word of a divine being; instead, it's the creation of tribal humans.
"The rest of the message of Scripture" is a long way of saying what I call the Christian Narrative, and what many Christians often incorrectly call "the context". The fact that the Bible does not coordinate with the Christian Narrative is your problem, not mine.
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Re: Genesis 1 is mythological, not factual

Postby jimwalton » Tue Jan 16, 2018 10:15 pm

Well, I certainly didn't give you the whole case. The whole case fills a book (https://www.amazon.com/Lost-World-Genesis-One-Cosmology/dp/0830837043/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1516153972&sr=8-1&keywords=the+lost+world+of+genesis+one+by+john+walton). It's tough to summarize it in 100 words or less, but it demands genuine consideration and study. Some of the more salient points are:

    Genesis 1 is ancient cosmology
    Ancient Cosmology is function-oriented, not material-oriented
    The Hebrew term "create" (bara') is about function, not structure
    The beginning state in Genesis 1 is non-functional, not non-existent
    Days 1-3 establish functions in the cosmos
    Days 4-6 speak of the installation of the functionaries and their functions in the grand scheme of things
    Divine "rest" in the ancient world is dwelling in a temple
    The cosmos is designed as a temple of YHWH. Genesis 1 is a temple text
    The seven days of Genesis 1 relate to the cosmic temple inauguration
    Therefore the 7 days of Genesis 1 do not concern material origins
    The see Genesis 1 as the description of a functional cosmic temple offers face-value exegesis
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