Saturday, June 16, 2007

Biblical Cosmologies, Part 4: Pentateuchal Portraits – Genesis 1c


The opening verses of Genesis 1 parallel Enuma Elish in the following points: the existence of primordial waters (viz., no creation ex nihilio), the association of the primordial waters with chaos, the creation of order out of the aqueous chaos, and the bounding of the waters by the firmament-rakia. At this point it is evident that the composer of Genesis 1 completed this narrative against the backdrop of cosmogonies akin to Enuma Elish.

Genesis 1:14:17 reads:


יד וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים, יְהִי מְאֹרֹת בִּרְקִיעַ הַשָּׁמַיִם,
לְהַבְדִּיל, בֵּין הַיּוֹם וּבֵין הַלָּיְלָה; וְהָיוּ לְאֹתֹת וּלְמוֹעֲדִים,
וּלְיָמִים וְשָׁנִים.
טו וְהָיוּ לִמְאוֹרֹת בִּרְקִיעַ
הַשָּׁמַיִם, לְהָאִיר עַל-הָאָרֶץ; וַיְהִי-כֵן.
טז וַיַּעַשׂ
אֱלֹהִים, אֶת-שְׁנֵי הַמְּאֹרֹת הַגְּדֹלִים: אֶת-הַמָּאוֹר הַגָּדֹל,
לְמֶמְשֶׁלֶת הַיּוֹם, וְאֶת-הַמָּאוֹר הַקָּטֹן לְמֶמְשֶׁלֶת הַלַּיְלָה, וְאֵת
הַכּוֹכָבִים.
יז וַיִּתֵּן אֹתָם אֱלֹהִים, בִּרְקִיעַ הַשָּׁמָיִם,
לְהָאִיר, עַל-הָאָרֶץ.


14 And spoke Elohim, let there be lights in the firmament-rakia of the heavens to divide between the day and between the night. And let them be for signs, for seasons, for days, and for years. 15 And let them be for lights in the firmament-rakia of the heavens to light upon the earth—and it was so. 16 And made Elohim the two great lights—the great light to rule the day; the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 And gave to them Elohim, in the firmament-rakia of the heavens, to light upon the earth.

Further evidence of the ontologically polemical objective of this narrative is the nomenclature used to designate the sun and the moon. Instead of using the common Semitic and biblical terms “shemesh” (sun) and “yareakh” (moon), the author uses the generic germs “greater light” and “lesser light.” The more common designations were in vogue as appellations for pagan deities. This circumlocution establishes an obvious referent for the modern-day reader. This referent is the context of Israelite monolatry and ancient near-Eastern cosmology. Thus the reader will understand that the text speaks to ancient (most likely post-6th century exilic) exigencies and not to questions that the modern-reader burdens the text with (e.g., the “Prank medium”, vapor canopies, white holes, creationism, etc.).

It has been suggested that vaulted-heavens model of the firmament-rakia creates an internal contradiction in Genesis 1. The argument poses that the “mobility” (apparent or otherwise) of the sun, moon, and stars in the “firmament of the heavens” necessitates that the firmament-rakia is a non-solid or gaseous substance (or lack of substance). If the text posits a solid vault, then, the reasoning goes, the heavenly bodies would not be able to orbit.

The text above states that the “lights” are placed “in the firmament-rakia.” The preposition “in” is a judicious translation of the Hebrew preposition. It would have been obvious to the ancient reader that the heavenly lights were placed in as in “on the face of” or “inside” the firmament-rakia. The ancient reader would not have perceived a contradiction in this passage; rather, she would have envisioned (as the ancients did) a solid vault into which the heavenly bodies were fixed.

The modern reader may envision an internal contradiction in this passage only because she is reading the text with her biases present. She is aware that there is not a solid vault over the Earth and that the sun, moon, and stars are suspended in the fabric of gravitational relationships. When reading this passage against an appropriate context (sitz im leben) the reader understands that the heavenly lights are fixed into the solid firmament-rakia. In the ancient cosmologies, the firmament-rakia itself orbits the earth.

22 comments:

Tandi said...

Hello Peter,

Well, we may disagree, but we are still “twins.” We both posted at virtually the same time. (I proofread a little longer as usual.) It is uncanny. See my post at Part 3 comments.

If you would, please define Ockham’s Edge.

Best definition I could find.....

“The universe is far too efficient to waste anything on unnecessary redundancy or multiplication.”

The article went on with this unintelligible (to me) remark.

If Ockham was right, there are only two fundamental entities in terms of mass, or "body". Were dimension an entity, should it be counted as a single entity, or as an infinite sum of various gressions of mere points in time and space? Is force an entity, or merely the simple cause of universal motion we animate with some spectre of anthropomorphic conflict. Indeed, what should be the simplest explanation to best describe basic, primal reality?

What I did get out of the article was the fact that Ockham’s Edge is a theory.....IF Ockham was right...

So far, your arguments on all of your posts cannot be proven. It comes down to where we place our faith: Science (falsely so called), Intellect (the giftedness of God for His purposes, yet often subverted by Satan for his purposes), the Mire of Mythology (Enuma Elish), or.......... YHWH Elohim, according to His Self-Revelation (Bible/Yeshua).

PeterS said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PeterS said...

Hello Tandi,

Ockham's edge was a creative way of saying Ockham's razor. Ockham's razor is a philosophical commitment to a pragmatic economy of assumptions. Ockham's razor is used to evaluate ideas on the basis of an economy of assumptions. The more assumptions are used to justify an idea, the less likely the idea is seen to be. Geocentricity fails the test of Ockham's razor because it is too liberal with regard to assumptions. Egocentricity fails the same test.

Daniel said...

Peter,
I have some comments on your most recent post:

"The opening verses of Genesis 1 parallel Enuma Elish in the following points: the existence of primordial waters (viz., no creation ex nihilio), the association of the primordial waters with chaos, the creation of order out of the aqueous chaos, and the bounding of the waters by the firmament-rakia. At this point it is evident that the composer of Genesis 1 completed this narrative against the backdrop of cosmogonies akin to Enuma Elish."

You are repeating the same assumptions. (1) assumed priority of other sources, (2) that formless and empty means "chaos".

"Further evidence of the ontologically polemical objective of this narrative is the nomenclature used to designate the sun and the moon. Instead of using the common Semitic and biblical terms “shemesh” (sun) and “yareakh” (moon), the author uses the generic germs “greater light” and “lesser light.”"

That polemic making was the motivation of the text is an assumption. "Polemic" carries the connotation of unfair rhetoric. It is merely a value judgment you put on the text from your relative point of view.

"The more common designations were in vogue as appellations for pagan deities."

No doubt, in that case it isn't polemic that sometimes favors other words, but mere piety.

"This circumlocution establishes an obvious referent for the modern-day reader. This referent is the context of Israelite monolatry and ancient near-Eastern cosmology."

Again you choose connotative words to make your point, which is an assumption. E.g. "Monolatry". Why did you choose this word? Could it be because it sounds like "idolatry." This is not argumentation. It is name calling, pure and simple.

"Thus the reader will understand that the text speaks to ancient (most likely post-6th century exilic) exigencies and not to questions that the modern-reader burdens the text with (e.g., the “Prank medium”, vapor canopies, white holes, creationism, etc.)."

This is more assumptions without proof, plus an insult "prank medium" even though it does have a solid basis in super-sting theory.

"It has been suggested that vaulted-heavens model of the firmament-rakia creates an internal contradiction in Genesis 1."

Any relativist can suggest anything.

"The argument poses that the “mobility” (apparent or otherwise) of the sun, moon, and stars in the “firmament of the heavens” necessitates that the firmament-rakia is a non-solid or gaseous substance (or lack of substance). If the text posits a solid vault, then, the reasoning goes, the heavenly bodies would not be able to orbit."

This goes back to the question you never answered about the metaphorical use of language. Your evolutionary buddies came up with string theory. Are you going to insist that it has to do with literal strings?

"The text above states that the “lights” are placed “in the firmament-rakia.” The preposition “in” is a judicious translation of the Hebrew preposition. It would have been obvious to the ancient reader that the heavenly lights were placed in as in “on the face of” or “inside” the firmament-rakia. The ancient reader would not have perceived a contradiction in this passage; rather, she would have envisioned (as the ancients did) a solid vault into which the heavenly bodies were fixed."

God is the scientist who uses the word "rakia" for the heavens. It is up to us to discover the deeper scientific reality that the word refers to, realizing that with mysteries language has to go beyond the norm of the dirt farmer. The text prevents your definition of a "shell" behind the heavenly bodies because the scriptural definition of "heaven" includes the space which the bodies move through. All metaphors and the end of the day must be constrained by literal language. The literal definition of "heavens" constrains the meaning of "raqia".

"The modern reader may envision an internal contradiction in this passage only because she is reading the text with her biases present."

No, the modern reader will perceive no contradiction at all if they read carefully God definition of "raqia" as "heavens" and then proceed to understand "heavens" as it is used in the rest of Scripture. The claim of contradictions is mostly propaganda and very infrequently actual misunderstanding of the text.

"She is aware that there is not a solid vault over the Earth and that the sun, moon, and stars are suspended in the fabric of gravitational relationships."

Now you are showing yet more rejection of the bible by using "She". Your thinking pattern is being formed by the culture around you. But if you really want to purge English of "he" you will have to do away with "She" also because there is a "he" in "she". But superstring theorists explain gravity with strings, so the modern reader isn’t aware of that either.

"When reading this passage against an appropriate context (sitz im leben) the reader understands that the heavenly lights are fixed into the solid firmament-rakia. In the ancient cosmologies, the firmament-rakia itself orbits the earth."

Your leaving God as the scientist who has a right to use language metaphorically out of the picture. He is the sitz im leben. You are applying a double standard. While your evolutionary buddy physicists are allowed to describe the particle nature of the universe with waves, strings, flavors, shells, fields, orbits, vacancies, and are allowed to used the mythology of the zodiac for their star maps, you will disallow God from being an accurate and truthful scientist because he uses similar words that the general reader may not understand? Give me a break!
Like, I said at the very beginning, you have taken on a world view that has no basis for moral judgments, yet you keep setting up standards that you cannot abide by. That's because no one can exist without moral judgements. It only a question of whether you can be consistently logical in the application of moral judgments, and the biblical framework of Creation is the starting point for that. Everything else will end up being a double standard. Your own double standards are going to bear witness against the justice of your position.

Daniel said...

Peter,
Regarding Ockham's Razor:

"Ockham's edge was a creative way of saying Ockham's razor. Ockham's razor is a philosophical commitment to a pragmatic economy of assumptions. Ockham's razor is used to evaluate ideas on the basis of an economy of assumptions. The more assumptions are used to justify an idea, the less likely the idea is seen to be."

Agreeable definition.

"Geocentricity fails the test of Ockham's razor because it is too liberal with regard to assumptions. Egocentricity fails the same test."

In relativity, one can assume any frame of reference he wishes. In this case a rotating frame for the Universe with the center at a fixed earth. This is a single assumption.
In the Big Bang Universe, there is no center – contrary to popular assumptions, the modern cosmologist rejects the idea of unique points in the Universe. To be fair, we will call this a single assumption. It is technically called the "cosmological principle".
Ockham's razor is to be applied as the evidence flows in as to which universe is correct. If an additional assumption is added to explain the evidence, then Ockham's razor is failed. If the theory passes without an additional assumption, then it is passed.
(1) Quantized Red-Shifts imply we are at the center of the universe. Therefore, cosmologists dismiss Halton Arp as a nut case and persecute his work. The assumption that Halton Arp is a nut case fails Ockham's razor.
(2) Since the Evolutionary Cosmologists do not believe in a center, one can define a center with relativity without fear of contradiction. Yet, they assume that the universe with an absolute center is a contradiction. So, once again, to win the argument they have added an assumption that fails Ockham's razor.
(3) That's two assumptions that have to be made that the biblical model does not have to make.
(4) Isn't it amazing how relativistic cosmologists have tied their own hands in applying Ockham's razor? They have to assume the Universe is the same everywhere – another unproven assumption. One more point down on the Ockham monitor, yet the biblical model can accommodate that assumption and the possibility that the Universe actually has an edge and a center. The biblical model is happy with either on pure theoretical grounds, allowing the earth to be at the center either by mere definition, or by physical fact.
(5) If you ever find a fact that proves that the earth is not the center, you will have also proved that modern Cosmology is wrong. Because when you do that you will have disproved Cosmological Principle.

PeterS said...

Hello Daniel,
The tendency of the text to address issues that are definitively defined in mythical sources places the burden of first reference in favor of antecedent pagan cosmogonies.

“Polemic” need not carry negative connotations. Our dialogue is polemical on more than one level. The polemical direction of our dialogue does not denigrate (nor should it) the quality denomination of our deliveries. Identifying a polemical exigency behind Genesis 1 need not denigrate the text; rather, it should only buttress our attempts to contextualize and understand the language of meanings carried in its language of words.

In your posts you are asking for the reader to allow God to be the scientist or referent of Genesis 1. In so doing I find that you are removing the real-world anchor, the hermeneutical key, which is context. I see three primary points of reference in Genesis 1: the modern reader, the historical reader, and the ancient reader. The modern reader is any contemporary reader that carries her biases to the text—we all do this. The historical reader no longer exists, but through reading her reflections on Genesis 1, we are given a glimpse into her interpretative thinking about the text. The ancient reader is the reader that received the Genesis 1 narrative in context. Our goal is to read the text as the ancient reader. To posit that God is the referent is actually to camouflage the arrogant assertion that one stands in for God to only now uncover meanings that are relevant to the modern, individual egoistic reader (your or me).

Yes, the modern reader will never exhaust the possible meanings and contexts that the ancient reader had at her disposal. This is unfortunate, but it is the reality that every exegete faces with *every* text—ancient or not. I do not assert that I have exhausted the hermeneutical means that were available for the ancient reader, but I am trying to arrive at such a reading. Thus far the reading that I am presenting does a much better job addressing historical exigencies than the “God-referent” reading that you propose. Your reading addresses modern-day exigencies. My reading grounds Genesis 1 in history and deals with ancient exigencies.

“Monolatry” was not chosen for its assonance with “idolatry.” This world is not one of my creations, if that is what you are asserting. I chose this word for its definition vis-à-vis “monotheism.” I believe that the ancient Hebrews practiced monolatry well before monotheism became the status quo.

I refer to an apparent internal contradiction in the text in my post. This contradiction is the solidity of the firmament in Genesis 1 vis-à-vis the movement of planets, stars, the moon, and the sun through the “heavens.” In an earlier post, you insisted that I was making Genesis 1 contradict itself because of the tension between the solid firmament-rakia and the textual identification of the structure as “heavens.” However, it is you that is creating this contradiction, and this is why I addressed it. In your recent response you give the impression that it is me (or my “evolutionist buddies”) creating the contradiction, yet is was you who posited the predicament to begin.

I do not believe that there is an internal contradiction between the solidity of the firmament-rakia and the “movement” of the heavenly bodies. When one reads the modern concepts of “heavens” and “space” into Genesis 1, then there is an apparent need for a viscous medium for the planets to traverse through. However, my point is that the ancients considered the heavenly bodies to be suspended or framed in the firmament-rakia—solidly fixed—while the firmament-rakia itself orbited around the Earth.

The text requires the idea of “shell” for firmament-rakia. Such is the simplest, most-parsimonious reading of the text. An inability to accept this is most likely cognitive dissonance or ignorance. I do not mean to insult, but I know too much about this topic to accept passive “explain-away” approaches to this Genesis-1 concept. Genesis 1 cosmology is based on mythological concepts of the cosmos and not on physical realities (macrocosmic materiality); hence, Genesis 1 is empirically faulty.

You mention the use of metaphorical language. What specifically in Genesis 1 do you consider to be metaphorical? Do you believe that the firmament-rakia is figurative? If so, then you must agree that the literal reading of the firmament-rakia is the shell or vault model that I am presenting. If this reading is correct (which it is), then does not the burden of proof rest with you to demonstrate that the text (for textual reasons) is figurative or metaphorical? Remember, the text must speak *for itself* before brining physical realities to bear on its meaning.

Tandi said...

Hello Peter,

I thought this was interesting......

I quote from Frederick A. Filby, professor of Chemistry and author of Creation Revealed.

The sciences which probe most deeply into the ultimate facts of matter and life are probably astro- and modern physics and biochemistry. But these sciences are written, not so much in language as in symbols. It takes many pages of symbols to discuss the nature of a single atom of hydrogen. It has been estimated that to give a complete account of the position of the group and bonds in a single virus of molecular weight 300 million would take a 200 page book. If the scientific description of a single hydrogen atom, or of a virus too small to be seen without a microscope, takes a book, what hope is there of ever giving a scientific account of the creation of man and the universe?

Yet Genesis 1...uses only 76 different root words. If Genesis 1 were written in absolute scientific language to give an account of creation, there is no man alive, nor ever has there been, who could understand it. If it were written in any kind of scientific language, only the favored few could understand it. It would have to be rewritten every generation to conform to the new views and terms of science. It could not be written in our mid-twentieth century scientific language, for no earlier generations could have grasped its meaning, and to our children it would be out of date. The scientific description of the 'how' of the universe is beyond the understanding of any human brain, but Genesis 1 was written for all readers, not for none....

What then would be the best method for the Creator to use for (1) making a beginning to His book and (2) establishing that the God of the Bible is also the God of creation -- in language simple enough for all men in all time?

"The answer is...Genesis 1...the most amazing composition in all the world's literature, using only 76 different word forms fundamental to all mankind, arranged in a wonderful poetical pattern, yet free from any highly colored figures of speech.

It provides the perfect opening to God's book and establishes all that men really need to know of the facts of creation. No man could have invented it: it is as great a marvel as a planet or a bird. It is God's handiwork, sufficient for Hebrew children or Greek thinkers, or Latin Christians; for medieval knights or modern scientists or little children; for cottage dwellers or cattle ranchers or deep sea fishermen; for Laplanders or Ethiopians, East or West, rich or poor, old or young, simple or learned...sufficient for all! Only God could write such a chapter...and He did!

PeterS said...

Hello Maureen,

Thank you for sharing this excerpt or article. Though I disagree with its hermeneutical presuppositions, it is itself a good example of what I consider the poor hermeneutical practices of creation scientists.

It is worthy of note that there are no prominent creation propagandists who are also trained in biblical exegesis. Rather, most of these individuals are professional scientists (generally trained in the physical sciences) who read Genesis eisegetically. That is, they are not practicing sound exegesis while they attempt to find concord between modern science and Genesis. Though lay-level exegesis is not inherently flawed (I am myself a lay student), untrained and unschooled practice of any discipline is likely to exhibit systematic and fundamentally myopic measures.

A parallel comes to mind in modern-day puritanical Islam. Puritanical Islam (improperly called "fundamentalist Islam") has rewritten Islamic history, jurisprudence, and theology. Oddly, there are few classically-trained jurists or clerics in modern-day puritanical Islam. Most of the leaders in this multivalent movement are business professionals, engineers, doctors, investors, and wealthy religionists. However untrained they are in disciplined tsafir (Arabic for "exegesis"), they hold great sway with the populace. As a result, they tout an unanchored, unbridled, unrestrained form of religion in the name of a few pet passages wrested out of historical context. I am not arguing that removal of such "clerics" would itself reduce the presence of suppressionistic Islam, but I am drawing a parallel between two popular-level movements founded on a similar, detached view of a holy book: creationism and puritanical Islam. Strange bedfellows only to the insider.

The author of your article brings out an important insight. Different readers read different answers or questions into Genesis 1. An Ethiopian will likely find different meanings than a Laplander; a fisherman than a farmer; a white collar than a blue collar, etc. This is important. When the individual reader asserts that her biases allow her to construct the "God-approved" reading of the Bible, this is bigotry....leading to such abuses of the Bible as creationism. The *only* referent or point of reference that the reader can use is that nestled in context: the sitz im leben. The process of contextualizing is recreating the mind and interpretative framework that the original reader would have relied on.

In this regard, special creationism as a scientific construct, fails at the very foundation of its inception: the Bible. If the Bible contains the records of numinous encounters, then the Author of the Bible is not a creationist. In other words: God is not a creationist. If God is not a creationist, then the entire creationist endeavor is simply intellectual backwaters, social backlash, and repressive brainwashing. I think that creationism is all of the above. It fails on the level of biblical interpretation. Need anything else be said?

I do not mean to chide you for sharing. I am replying to the article that you posted. I am critiquing in. I am grateful that you posted this article. It provides me a multi-modal venue to reapply what it is that I have been stressing about exegesis.

Daniel said...

Hello Peter,
"The tendency of the text to address issues that are definitively defined in mythical …"
We don't even agree on your assumption here. What tendency? First prove there is a tendency to address issues. Define what issue is being addressed. How can you presume to know the motivation of the author or state an issue is being addressed if the author does not state it?
"Identifying a polemical exigency behind Genesis 1 need not denigrate the text"
Coming from the evolutionist side it does "denigrate". It's like only blacks can call themselves the N word and not be racist.

"In your posts you are asking for the reader to allow God to be the scientist or referent of Genesis 1. In so doing I find that you are removing the real-world anchor, the hermeneutical key, which is context."
Are you now assuming that God is not a real world entity that must be reckoned with on the basis of his position. Remember God is M.A., M.S., Ph.d., cum laud, with all the copyrights and patents in the Created Universe to his name.
"To posit that God is the referent is actually to camouflage the arrogant assertion that one stands in for God to only now uncover meanings that are relevant to the modern, individual egoistic reader (your or me)."
Sounds more like an accusation than an argument.

"Thus far the reading that I am presenting does a much better job addressing historical exigencies than the “God-referent” reading that you propose. Your reading addresses modern-day exigencies. My reading grounds Genesis 1 in history and deals with ancient exigencies."
Actually, your reading mostly rejects the idea of a Creator God a priori, so it cannot appreciate the consequences of this assumption on its attempts to reinterpret the text from a purely human point of view.

"“Monolatry” was not chosen for its assonance with “idolatry.” This world is not one of my creations, if that is what you are asserting. I chose this word for its definition vis-à-vis “monotheism.” I believe that the ancient Hebrews practiced monolatry well before monotheism became the status quo."
So now we know what you believe. I don't agree with the basis.

"I do not believe that there is an internal contradiction between the solidity of the firmament-rakia and the “movement” of the heavenly bodies. When one reads the modern concepts of “heavens” and “space” into Genesis 1, then there is an apparent need for a viscous medium for the planets to traverse through."
As I recall, the majority of cosmologists were calling for a lumineferous ether quite recently, and quite a number of models have seen the return of this concept, and string theory is in fact a variation on it. It would be arrogant to conclude that modern science has arrived at the truth about space, or that modern science has concluded that space is in face empty from all points of view.
"However, my point is that the ancients considered the heavenly bodies to be suspended or framed in the firmament-rakia—solidly fixed—while the firmament-rakia itself orbited around the Earth."
The ancients were quite aware that the heavenly bodies moved relative to each other. So your claim that they were solidly fixed in a rotating celestial sphere is incorrect.

"The text requires the idea of “shell” for firmament-rakia."
Not when it gives the self definition "Raqia" = "heavens". Let's discuss the biblical meaning of heavens in its contexts. Any scientist has the right to define his metaphor, and it is his definition that we go by. You won't get far with string theorists if you insist on a literal string.

"You mention the use of metaphorical language. What specifically in Genesis 1 do you consider to be metaphorical?"
E.g. metaphor. "John is bull headed". Does John really have a bull head? No. All we expect is that some aspect of the bull head characterizes John, namely un undiplomatic approach to others, because we know that in physical reality John is a person and not really a bull.
" Remember, the text must speak *for itself* before brining physical realities to bear on its meaning."
Language is usually interpreted with its literary context AND physical context in mind. It is in fact incongruity with physical reality that enables us to recognize a metaphor and to see that a comparison of appearances is meant. You are just trying to rule the physical context out of the context when you try to define a rule 'speak *for itself*', and this with the goal of demonstrating an incongruity with your restrictive version of modern science.
Once again, Peter since you have so easily lost the argument, one can only conclude that your decision to leave the faith was willful, and that your attempts to justify it are merely to assuage your protesting conscience. The only way to get relief is to return to the faith which tells the truth about reality.
And the truth about science is that the ability to appreciate scientific reality and make great discoveries has been the provenance of Jews and Christians basing their world view on the bible. This is because the ability to appreciate the logic of divine revelation also gives the ability to figure out the puzzle of the Universe.

Daniel said...

Peter

"It is worthy of note that there are no prominent creation propagandists who are also trained in biblical exegesis."

Neither are you. Neither are most of the evolutionary propagandists.

"A parallel comes to mind in modern-day puritanical Islam. Puritanical Islam (improperly called "fundamentalist Islam") has rewritten Islamic history, jurisprudence, and theology."

This is 180 degrees from the truth.

"but I am drawing a parallel between two popular-level movements founded on a similar, detached view of a holy book: creationism and puritanical Islam. Strange bedfellows only to the insider."

Truth is the difference.

"The author of your article brings out an important insight. Different readers read different answers or questions into Genesis 1. An Ethiopian will likely find different meanings than a Laplander; a fisherman than a farmer; a white collar than a blue collar, etc. This is important. When the individual reader asserts that ;;; biases allow ;;; to construct the "God-approved" reading of the Bible, this is bigotry....leading to such abuses of the Bible as creationism."

The real bigotry is the evolutionist who reads Genesis one and insists it be interpreted so as to contradict science. That's willful abuse.

"The *only* referent or point of reference that the reader can use is that nestled in context: the sitz im leben. The process of contextualizing is recreating the mind and interpretative framework that the original reader would have relied on."
Actually, this is not logical as it leaves the author of the text out, and forgets that His intended audience greater than the first readers.

"In this regard, special creationism as a scientific construct, fails at the very foundation of its inception: the Bible."

I think we have clearly refuted your assumption that the biblical account contradicts true science.

"If the Bible contains the records of numinous [supernatural] encounters, then the Author of the Bible is not a creationist."

So you would say since the bible gives an account of God manifesting himself in human form that God did not create the world? I don't think anyone can really fathom how you deduce that!

"In other words: God is not a creationist. If God is not a creationist, then the entire creationist endeavor is simply intellectual backwaters, social backlash, and repressive brainwashing. I think that creationism is all of the above. It fails on the level of biblical interpretation. Need anything else be said?"

Yes, I think something need be said. Due to the lack of reason here, I think you are just having an emotional outburst.

"I do not mean to chide you for sharing. I am replying to the article that you posted. I am critiquing in."

I think the article critiqued you and made an excellent point about scientific language.

"I am grateful that you posted this article. It provides me a multi-modal venue to reapply what it is that I have been stressing about exegesis."

I think you've kept trying to defend this one issue for so long because it allows you to keep stating your well worn assumptions in a multitude of ways, and I think that for you this is a way of emotionally venting your feelings about God, at God. Due to the lack of logic it appears to be the intellectual equivalent of swearing. You are in good company with your fellow evolutionists here because they spend an inordinate amount of time doing this in their dialogue with Christians.

If you want to continue this dialogue in a constructive way. I suggest that you start with assertions that we can all agree on. In other words, Peter, put yourself in our shoes, and ask if you think we will agree that your assumptions are true at all before writing them. No one likes to wade through page after page of obviously disagreeable assumptions (actually lies). Maureen is getting tired of it, and I'm bored of it. It's like watching too many R rated movies. A human being can handle only so many falsehoods.

I'll give you a good example of what isn't good dialogue. You know very well already that we disagree with you about the origin of radical islam. We think that radical islam was the original islam. Yet, you go off assuming that it is a rewriting of the Koran and then compare it with modern Creationists supposedly rewriting the bible.
So why don't you find out what FACTS we can agree on before trying to apply logic to it. You lost us with your anti-FACTS.
It is not healthy to expose oneself to so many anti-FACTS. You should limit yourself to mutually agreeable facts, otherwise, we will be unhappy with the cuss words (i.e. the gazillion anti-facts) and just leave. Is that what you want?

PeterS said...

Hello Daniel,

The key question to our dialogue is that of referent or point of reference. There are three possible points of reference categories: modern, historical, and ancient. It is critical to note that one's point of reference dramatically changes how one reads the text. Each reference category, when applied, will carry its unique set of biases, assumptions, and vocabulary of meanings.

The assertion that God is the point of reference is actually to make one point of reference sacrosanct. That is, it is to equate one referent with God. Two examples of this will be given:

Martin Luther believed in a flat earth with a vaulted heavens (this is historically documented). Let's assume that I am Martin Luther, and that I am making myself the point of reference as the modern reader. I write a commentary on Genesis in which I describe the solid nature of the firmament-rakia. The fact that I believe that my reading is correct makes it "God's reading"--the sanctified or sacrosanct reading--in my thinking.

Now, let's assume that the modern reader is alive today. Let's use Hugh Ross's view of the firmament-rakia. Ross does not allow for the unique existence of a firmament-rakia. He tries to explain the firmament-rakia as the atmospheric "expanse" above the earth that separates solid earth from space. He reads this into Genesis and so demonstrates the divergence of his biases and thinking from Luther. Ross believes that his view is correct; hence, he asserts that it is God's reading.

Both readers of Genesis 1 believe that they are upholding "God's reading" with a God referent. They both are actually disguising their biases and scientific worldviews behind a screen of egoistic extension. The *only* way to break through this mold of personal-as-God reference rut is to apply the accepted norms of hermeneutics. In so doing, the reader seeks to understand the text as the ancient interpretive community would have understood it.

Seeking to frame the worldview, mindset, presuppositions, biases, etc. of an ancient interpretive community is an impossible endeavor, yet, it is through such an effort that we refine our understanding of a text and test interpretations for reasonableness. Efforts to make Genesis 1 timeless fall into the sacrosanct-referent trap illustrated above. Science, modern thinking, and modern biases direct readings away from the historically-plausible readings available. The modern reader is guilty of this by default as she brings modern questions, issues, conundrums, and exigencies to the text--seeking answers that are not the goal of the text.

Creationism is one such "modern reading." It is eisegetical by nature as it seeks to maintain a dynamic concordance between scientific findings and biblical readings. The text proposes a cosmos that is structurally mythological, but creationists fail to see this because of their inherent biases.

Daniel, you appear to fear the sitz im leben of the text. You insist on applying a modern matrix. I challenge you to run Genesis 1 through the matrix of ancient near eastern concepts of the cosmos. You will find that it fits structurally minus the cosmogony of the gods.

(more response as time permits...)

Daniel said...

Hi Peter,

So far I have been mostly in response mode. That's understandable since you are the one who changed, and you already know my position on a great number of subjects. It is difficult to grasp your new mode of thinking sometimes, and the things you emphasized. I have also learned a few things about the personal thinking of the other side here that I would not have learned had I not had a concern or interest in involvement in the discussion.

"The key question to our dialogue is that of referent or point of reference. There are three possible points of reference categories: modern, historical, and ancient."

I would simplify this and simply say that reasoning together must start from a common set of beliefs. You may end up at a different conclusion, and we can critique each others reasoning process. What gets in the way of dialogue, however, is your repeated stating of your conclusions multiple times. You must understand, that from my point of view there are those who are willfully intellectually dishonest, and those who are ignorantly errant. In my world view, one of the evidences of the former – and I have drawn this conclusion rather recently by reading some agnostic/evolutionist literature – is what amounts to repeating dogmatic conclusions in a propagandizing way without reasoning from common facts and stating the conclusion at the end. As I would call it, "high class intellectual swearing at God" by repeated stating contradictions of His Word. Whatever your state, I would hope that you would reason from a common set of facts that we can agree on, and then state your conclusion once at the end.

"The assertion that God is the point of reference is actually to make one point of reference sacrosanct."

I would agree with qualification. God's point of view involves an element of mystery since we do not fully share God's perspective on the Universe. You mention Martin Luther. I would make an analogy and say Martin Luther's understanding of the RAQIA is like a small child in a string physics class who is naïve on the use of metaphors in science. Genesis 1 necessarily uses the metaphor because there is no way it can speak in scientific terms – it would be too long for the normal reader (cf. article posted by Maureen).
I would say that this puts some aspects of what God is trying to say beyond examination at the present time. This is in fact the partial nature of biblical prophecy.
In your second example, you mention Hugh Ross. Ross' understanding of RAQIA is actually more biblical than Luther's because Ross is clearly paying attention to the self definition of the text, "RAQIA" = "Heavens", and an examination of the usage of "heavens" will show that it does encompass the domain that Ross says it does. Clearly Luther's scientific ignorance was greater than Hugh Ross. And often science has helped clear up a difference in interpretation of the text – usually a previously obscure text begins to make a more obvious sense after the science behind it is understood.
You seem to be hung up on the possible equation of man's reading of the text with God's intended meaning and the fact that various readers assert mutually contradictory understandings and claim it is God's meaning. I think that God was as clear as he wanted to be, but evidence of creatures squabbling over what the creator meant is not evidence of a defect in the creator's message. It is just evidence of the creatures not paying attention to the text or the physical world.
You seem to be disturbed that assertions of what Genesis 1 says take place in a context of religious dogmatism. I will make two points here. First, there is a war with the other side going on. Second, the other side is just as crushingly "religiously" dogmatic about their pronouncements. I mean the temple of evolutionary dogmatism that falls to treat creation scientists as descent ordinary human beings. Evolutionists dogmatically assert the point of view of their god, "time and chance" also.
"Egoistic extension" as you characterize Ross and Luther is a moral judgment on the motivation for their dogmatism. This isn't evidence either way of the validity of their points of view. Nor is it equivalent to what I said when I said we must take God into account in the context. What I meant is that God's reference point is partly mysterious to us. Therefore, we must not presume to force everything he says into the readers "experience" of physical reality.
My position is in fact a non-dogmatic one, and inclusive one. Unwarranted dogmatism arises when the reader superimposes too much of his own experience (or political reality) onto the text and fails to take into account the possibility that God's point of view might be somewhat unknown to him.

"Both readers of Genesis 1 believe that they are upholding "God's reading" with a God referent."

The claim to understand God's point of view is dependent on the truth of the readers experience. If they have been deceived or ill taught, then they will make outlandish claims for God. So the validity of the claim is dependent on the truth being claimed for God. But my point is actually a negative point: we cannot assume that God's communication can all be understood from our point of view. That's what you are assuming when you exclude God from "sitz im leben". God has left mysteries, both prophetic and scientific in the scripture so that he can explain them dynamically as history unfolds. In other words, God has made Scripture a dynamic book with history. It is not a one time presentation of truth, but a progressively unfolding of understanding to those who are willing to put their faith in the God who is there.

"They both are actually disguising their biases and scientific worldviews behind a screen of. The *only* way to break through this mold of personal-as-God reference rut is to apply the accepted norms of hermeneutics."
It is an accepted norm of hermeneutics for God to say things that may not be fully understood. This hermeneutic is in fact one of the keys for the revelation of Messiah in the Tenach, and though I think that mystical Judaism takes it too far, because the mystical point of view speculates the solution before God gives the solution --- I think too that this well illustrates the norm of this hermeneutic.
The hermeneutic is based on the existence of a God who communicates somewhat from his point of view that is beyond the experience of man. It is in fact one of God's ways of showing that he is indeed God, and not merely human. The hermeneutic really follows logically from a personal God who communicates. So, I would say that the only way to get rid of the logical conclusion of the hermeneutic is to get rid of God altogether. If you want, we can go into the evidence for the existence of God, both biblical and scientific, but just remember that finding some statements that appear to be from the divine point of view in Scripture is both evidence for God and for the hermeneutic. It would, however, be improper to assume a godless mode of communication in the Scripture without first proving that God does not in fact exist. Your argument for the non-existence of God, if you want to make it, should be made on common facts that we can agree on. Clearly, I am not going to allow you to use the a priori assumption that God does not exist to force me into a mode of interpretation that restricts the text to human experience. That would just be circular reasoning to prove your argument.

"Efforts to make Genesis 1 timeless fall into the sacrosanct-referent trap illustrated above."

This is a perfect example of your circular reasoning here. Your hermeneutic is predicated on an unstated assumption of yours of the non-existence, or non-involvement of the eternal God (if you wish to be agnostic or believe in a detached god). Genesis 1 is for all time because it involves God's point of view. That's because the bible is predicated on the existence of a personal God who communicates to man things that must be divinely revealed. That IS the point of view of the intended audience as well. And as I pointed out before, this same audience traditionally allows God to say things that cannot be fully understood.

"Science, modern thinking, and modern biases direct readings away from the historically-plausible readings available."

Actually, science has been continually revealing things in the scripture that were not heretofore understood. Case and point. Reasons for kosher laws, and cleanliness laws. Also, mankind, will soon have to reconsider the wisdom in the sabbatical and Jubilee system as well when their experiment in fiat currency fails. And with 20/20 hindsight, people have freely admitted that they misunderstood the text when the "scientific" truth was revealed and have justly blamed it on their own human point of view or their egotistical human nature (sin nature) propensity to read the scripture with too little humility toward God's otherworldly point of view.

"Creationism is one such "modern reading." It is eisegetical by nature as it seeks to maintain a dynamic concordance between scientific findings and biblical readings. The text proposes a cosmos that is structurally mythological, but creationists fail to see this because of their inherent biases."

I think I have sufficiently proven that God is allowed to use a metaphor form his own point of view with RAQIA (= heavens) that may not be fully understood from the experience of Adam. This idea follows the norms of hermaneutics based on the existence of the God who is there and who personally communicates from his point of view toward our point of view.

"Daniel, you appear to fear the sitz im leben of the text. You insist on applying a modern matrix. I challenge you to run Genesis 1 through the matrix of ancient near eastern concepts of the cosmos. You will find that it fits structurally minus the cosmogony of the gods."

Appearances can be deceiving. You appear to be too resistant to the idea that RAQIA is a metaphor (taken with reference to it's etymology) that is given a clear self definition in the text "Heavens", and you have minimized the involvement of a God who communicates mysteries.
I think you will see my point of view a little better now, that those ancient cosmologies were merely deliberate attempts to confuse what science really is and what the correct understanding of Genesis 1 is. Those cosmologies are merely ancient propaganda just like the modern evolutionary mythological big bang cosmology. Their "gods" in "chaos" are the equivalent of the evolution myth of eternal time and chance. I would not put it beyond that age to have mischaracterized the creation account on purpose, nor would I rule out that many Israelites were not tempted by it.
I think that if you had departed from the biblical account in those days that you would have adopted the Babylonian Account. Any real scientific or biblical correspondence between the Babylonian Account and the Biblical account is because their structure of the Universe IS closer to the truth in the Babylonian account. No doubt there are scientific mistakes in the Babylonian account, because it is pagan, but much less than the mistakes in the evolution myth, which is a greater deception.
The Babylonian account is closer to the creation account because it is closer in time to the truth (Genesis 1). However, whatever is truly unscientific in the Babylonian account is upon final analysis not present in Genesis 1. Those mistakes in the Babylonian account can be blamed on a humanizing of the point of view. God becomes the "gods" because humans are continually limiting the construction of creation to the human point of view, and not allowing the true God to know things and mysteries beyond human comprehension.

PeterS said...

The ancient polytheistic combat cosmogonies antedate Genesis 1. This can be established on several grounds. I do not have the time to demonstrate this extensively, but I will state the reasons for which I believe that Genesis 1 is based on pre-existing mythological cosmogonies of which Enuma Elish is one possible example. These reasons are the assumed pre-existence of water and chaos, the lacking adjective "good" applied to the original condition, the re-occurring combat myth in the Bible, and the time of Genesis 1:1-2:3's composition.

Genesis 1 does not address the etiology of water and primordial chaos. Both are assumed to exist before the initial acts of Elohim to win dominion over chaos. The modern reader often assumes that the creation of water and chaos is embodied in Genesis 1:1 --- "In the beginning God created..." -- or she might assume a "gap" between the first two verses of the narrative. Such readings augment the text, that is, they read into the text more than is stated albeit on theological grounds (in favor of creation ex nihilio). Hence, the text assumes a perspicacity on the part of the reader. It is assumed that the reader is familiar with the combat cosmogonies in which water and chaos exist as foes to be defeated by the hero-creator.

The text does not apply the predicate adjective "good" to the primordial chaos (Hebrew "tehom"). The adjective "good" is the opposite of what is primordial; it is appropriate to describe the creative works of Elohim but in apposition to the abomination of primordial "tehom." As with the pre-existence of water and chaos, the text assumes that the chaos-tehom is undesirable, and the reader is assumed to understand the reason for this wanting appellative.

A continuum of reference to dragon combat myth exists in the Bible. These myths draw from common mythological traditions and are reworked in hymn to God, as illustrations of God's might (in creation or acts of historical redemption), or as analogies for eschatological victory. The frequency of these allusions attests to the early provenance and scope of the mythological sources. Furthermore, the wanting perspicuity of these allusions assumes that the original interpretive communities comprehended the mythological stories without need for elaboration. Nowhere in the Bible is the myth systematically laid out. It is presumed to be both known and accepted by the people. Interestingly, the absence of the plenary myth in the canonical sources suggests that we only posses a fragment of the ancient religious literature of ancient Israel.

Sample texts which allude to dragon(s) combat myth are as follows: Isaiah 51:9f; Psalm 89:10-14; Job 26:12; Job 9:23; Psalm 40:5; Isaiah 30:7; Psalm 74:12-19; Isaiah 27:1f; Job 40:25-41:26; Job 3:8. Some of these texts will be explored in more depth later as they relate to biblical cosmologies.

The provenance of Genesis 1:1-2:3 itself is most likely later than that of Genesis 2:4ff. I do not accept the conventional P designation for the redactive reception of Genesis 1, but I see sufficient grounds on which to assume that it heralds from a later time in Israel's religious history than the Genesis 2:4 creation narrative. Not wanting to direct dialogue to the documentary development of the Pentateuch, I will not elaborate further on this.

I have already stated that I would not enter into a discussion about evolution at this time. Your statements are enticing and they scream for satisfaction. I, of course, disagree with your comparison between the evolution of life and pagan mythologies. I find it odd that you deem the Babylonian creation account(s) to be superior to modern evolutionary explanations. But, I will have to leave this for another dialogue.

I am mulling over your comments about hermeneutics. I appreciate the time that you have put into this, and I would like to address your points fairly. Please allow me a few days to accomplish this.

Daniel said...

Hi Peter,

Once again you are building in assumptions that we cannot agree as actual facts. You are assuming reasons for things Genesis 1 does not say that are mere assumptions. It is also an assumption to assume what the reader knows.

"Sample texts which allude to dragon(s) combat myth are as follows: Isaiah 51:9f; Psalm 89:10-14; Job 26:12; Job 9:23; Psalm 40:5; Isaiah 30:7; Psalm 74:12-19; Isaiah 27:1f; Job 40:25-41:26; Job 3:8. Some of these texts will be explored in more depth later as they relate to biblical cosmologies."

There are too many assumptions here to have a meaningful dialogue. You you want a dialogue then you have to establish facts that we can agree on without first piling your sweeping conclusions into the dialogue. You have to realize that my starting assumption for anything you say, is assume it is a lie until proven otherwise. You have to reason from facts we can agree on. You can arrive at a different conclusion, but your conclusion is meaninless to me if it is based on any assumptions that we cannot agree on.

"The provenance of Genesis 1:1-2:3 itself is most likely later than that of Genesis 2:4ff. I do not accept the conventional P designation for the redactive reception of Genesis 1, but I see sufficient grounds on which to assume that it heralds from a later time in Israel's religious history than the Genesis 2:4 creation narrative. Not wanting to direct dialogue to the documentary development of the Pentateuch, I will not elaborate further on this."

Peter, the consistent chronology that I demonstrated of the Scripture is sufficient evidence to reject the hypothesis of multiple authorship. The chronology is online at www.torahtimes.org.

PeterS said...

Hello Daniel,

RE: Antecedent Cosmologies

Yes, I am making improvable assertions about the interpretive milieu of Genesis 1’s original reading community. However, these assertions are fortified by their ability to account for the textual features that I have pointed out and by their congruence with existing polytheistic creation myths. Ultimately, it will always be impossible to “prove” any given reading as “the true” reading. Until we have the opportunity to become part of the ancient reading community (an impossibility), we have to settle for “the best” reading.

If you would, please account for the textual features that I have highlighted using a young-earth creationist matrix. How do you account for primordial water and chaos and the continuum of dragon combat myth allusions? The model proposed by liberal scholarship accounts very well for these features.

The occurrence of a consistent chronology does not immediately argue against conglomeration of components. Claims of legitimacy were staked on purity of pedigree and past periodicity for both the priest and the proletariat. Hence, a great deal of pressure was placed on publishing propagandistic precisions of progeniture against a patterned purlieu of progeny. From such an environment there would be an expected diversity claims and materials yet we find an extremely congruent genealogy and chronology. No doubt pedigree pressure ensured the precision of existing canonical records. The final congruence is likely the work of the pious scribes who sought to unify the records.

Tandi said...

I am sending you a private email today, Peter, rather than post my thoughts here. Please acknowledge receipt if you would.

Your grieving friend,

Maureen

Daniel said...

Peter,
You ask how I account for the "water" in Genesis 1:2. The text says it was there. I don't know why this is a problem. I don't see why it is a problem if the legends also have water. A legend always has to have a basis in the truth.
Your final paragraph is another onslaught of assumptions that truly apply to the evolutionary propadanda.
But your dismissal of the chronology as a conspiracy to make it work by 6th century B.C. priests is quite improbable. Consider the fact that they did not have the knowledge then to forcast lunar positions very far. How then do you suppose that they conspired to construct the chronology correctly to agree with the findings of modern astronomical retrocalculation for the year of the Exodus?
And your conspiracy theory fails to reckon with the fact that Daniel 9 predicts exactly how many sabbatical periods there were to the death and resurrection of Messiah. Will you come up with an unparsimonious theory to explain that also?

PeterS said...

Hello Tandi,

Email received...thank you for it and for the venue of its delivery. I will reply shortly.

Hello Daniel,

I am sorry for venturing into the chronology. I need to focus on just one issue despite the multiple tangents that are present. At some point I would like to address your chronology, but to do so at this time would take away from my focus on biblical cosmologies.

I do not see how your model explains the existence of primordial water and chaos and the allusions to the dragon combat myths throughout the Bible. There are several portraits of creation in the Hebrew Bible. Most of these portraits are couched in the language of God vs. dragon (Rahab, etc.). The presence of these allusions demonsrates the early provenance and scope of the myth(s).

Andrew T. said...

Peter,

There was indeed that tone of language, but the fact that none of the major figures of Bablylonian-Assyrian creation cosmology are given mention explicitly in the Hebrew Bible, only demonstrates that the authors of the Tana"kh were one with their times, not that they held counter-logical beliefs pitting ha-Sheim vs. a mythical dragon.

Andrew,

humbletorahobservations.wordpress.com

PeterS said...

Hello Andrew,

I appreciate your willingness to humanize the Scriptures. You are willing to accept that the authors wrote within the context of historical humanity rather than as penmen writing down verbatim a dictated revelation in a vacuum. I know that I am overly simplifying the other extreme with this statement, but that is how the other viewpoint looks from my perspective. Thank you, though, for accepting the humanity of the text.

Did ancient Hebrews actually believe that God encountered a mythical dragon? The answer appears to be affirmative due to the frequency of allusion to this encounter. You are correct that the Tanakh refrains from explicit reference to the characters of Enuma Elish. What an important observation! Where in the past it was thought that the flow of myth was from Sumeria to the Levant so that the Hebrews received creation myths, etc. from Sumeria it is now thought that the flow of myth was from the Levant (from the Canaanites) into Sumeria first. Hence, the combat myth originated in the Levant and then radiated elsewhere.

If this is the case, and I believe that it is, then the names of the combatants change. The Canaanite combatants were different than those in Enuma Elish and in the Tanakh. They were characters such as Baal and El. It could be that the Hebrews created the names of their own combatants in their version of combat creationism, or, more likely, there is another source for these names that has yet to be uncovered. Regardless, combat creationism is the dominant creation motif in the biblical creation narratives. Most of the creation narratives in the bible are couched in the language of combat: God versus the dragon (Rahab or Leviathan). Allusions to this combat are also placed against the backdrop of eschatological emancipation or vindication.

The fact that combat creationism is used metaphorically to describe kingdoms or kings, suggests that the Hebrew authors considered the history behind the combat to be valid. The metaphor is not doubled; the combat as history is used to metaphorically describe kingdoms who create chaos and whom God must combat.

Daniel said...

Peter, can you explain why you consider the water in Gen. 1:2 a problem for the creationist? I don't understand why I have to "explain" its existence, other than to say that the Genesis revelation states it was there on the first day of creation.
I think it rather unfair that you would rule out the chronology from discussion. You keep picking on points which you consider weak points in the creation revelation, which are clearly not the strongest arguments for creation, but neither can they be regarded as faults. To have a fair discussion, you can't avoid the strong arguments for Creation and the Bible.

PeterS said...

Hello Daniel:

You are right: a topic like biblical chronology is relevant to a discussion about the authority and inspiration of the Bible. I agree with you about this. Yet, whether or not you plan to stick around for my posts on biblical cosmologies, this topic alone will require another seven to ten posts. Hence, I plan to complete this subject before allowing myself to deal with other relevant topics like chronology, redactive history, evolution, sex and gender in the Bible vis-a-vis the Qur'an, etc.

Genesis 1:2 presents a significant challenge to the doctrine of creation ex nihilio. Water and tohuwabohu (chaos) are presented as primordial, uncreated realities. The text lacks specific exposition on their presence; they are presumed primordial constants. Relying on the absence of explicit creation of these original constituents is not an argument from silence. The modern reader assumes their creation in the first verse, yet this assumption is eisegetical as the reader assumes such an important dogma as creation ex nihilio will be found in Genesis 1.

The want of explicit creation events for water and chaos can be explained well against the backdrop of an ancient near-eastern context. The mythological creation narratives begin with the presence of water in a state of chaos. This is what we find in Genesis 1. The ancient reader would have recognized this motif without the need for scholarly commentary. Likewise, such a pre-existence would have been the logical assumption for the Mesopotamian reader: order comes out of water. The annual flooding of the Tigris and Euphrates disrupts the defined boarders of the rivers; the water brings chaos. Yet, with the departure of the floods silt is deposited--changing the landscape and bringing in new layers of fertile soil. Hence, to the ancient Mesopotamian, water is the chaotic progenitor of order: chaos proceeds oder and water proceeds land.

In the above statements, assumptions are made about the thought schemas of the original readership. However, these assumptions are made based on the most relevant sitz im leben that can be reconstructed. And this is my point: this reading addresses exigencies relevant to an ancient reader in Mesopotamia or the Levant; hence, it is possesses greater exegetical integrity than a reading that seeks to answer contemporary questions from the same pericope. I stress the humanity, the historicity, the realities of the text. The creationist readings construct the text apart from its humanity, its history, and its realities.

In so many ways the creationist reading of Genesis 1 parallels the heresy of docetism with its gnostically-inspired denial of the humanity, the history, and the physical reality of Jesus. Jesus as the logos in flesh was denied humanity due to his divinity. Likewise, Genesis 1 (along with any given text) is denied its humanity vis-a-vis its divinity. Creationism burdens Genesis 1 with questions germane to contemporary science and woefully neglects critical, scholarly enamoration with Genesis 1--studies relevant to its humanity, history, and time-anchored realities.

The gnosticism of creationism reaches beyond eisegetical endeavors by seeking also to project its view of reality as the sieve through which to understand physical realities (e.g., biology, geology, cosmology, etc.). In so doing, it pejoratively penalizes physicality to the level of second-rate reality. Whatever is uncovered by science is hence deemed true only if it first agrees with eisegetically engineered elucidations of Genesis 1. Physicality, inferior to spirituality, is epitomized in the demon of science--especially evolution. Spirituality, the only reliable source of knowledge (gnosis), is epitomized in revelation--especially as obtained in specific readings of the Bible.