You are hereRegius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford Deems that Kurt Simmons Has Not Done His Homework

Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford Deems that Kurt Simmons Has Not Done His Homework

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By MiddleKnowledge - Posted on 20 March 2006

by Timothy P. Martin
We have examined Kurt Simmons’ latest attempt to negate Beyond Creation Science: How Preterism Refutes a Global Flood and Impacts the Genesis Debate. Only one issue in Simmons’ second response merits our attention. We have examined Kurt Simmons’ latest attempt to negate Beyond Creation Science: How Preterism Refutes a Global Flood and Impacts the Genesis Debate. Only one issue in Simmons’ second response merits our attention. Simmons marshals James Barr, who was professor of Hebrew at Oxford, as his keynote authority on the Hebrew of Genesis 1-11. Indeed, Simmons works the perceived authority of James Barr into his title, “Beyond Sound Hermeneutics, Part II: Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford Deems Regional Flood Theory Frivolous.” Not only is James Barr conscripted in order to give scholarly weight to Simmons’ response in the title, Professor Barr’s comments are the capstone of Simmons’ second rebuttal. Simmons ends his presentation by saying:

The following is an extract from a letter written in 1984 by Professor James Barr, who was at the time Regius Professor of Hebrew at the University of Oxford. Professor Barr said,

"Probably, so far as l know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Gen. 1-11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience (b) the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story (c) Noah's flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguish all human and animal life except for those in the ark. Or, to put it negatively, the apologetic arguments which suppose the 'days' of creation to be long eras of time, the figures of years not to be chronological, and the flood to be a merely local Mesopotamian flood, are not taken seriously by any such professors, as far as I know."

Thus, according to the Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford, Tim is completely deceived in his wish to read Genesis figuratively. Let it be emphasized that according to professor Barr, virtually every professor at a world-class universities believes Gen. 1-11 are intended to convey the six 24 hour day creation and universality of Noah’s flood. And then he adds that those arguing as Tim does are “not even taken seriously!” In court, when a pleading or argument like Tim’s is not taken seriously it is are deemed frivolous. Sorry, Tim, case dismissed; you are out of court.

Simmons is in a hurry to have us thrown out of court. But we take this opportunity to cross-examine the witness. Let the reader determine if Simmons’ use of Professor Barr does not reveal a fatal flaw in Simmons’ response. This example in Simmons’ material raises basic questions of credibility and highlights Simmons’ irresponsible scholarship.

We would like for the reader to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about Professor Barr. We also believe that once the reader knows this truth, they will see how they have been misled by Simmons’ presentation from the title onward. Indeed, if Simmons’ title and capstone argument are fraudulent, how can the rest of his response maintain any credibility?

Simmons makes it appear to the reader that Professor Barr believes what Simmons preaches regarding the plain historical literality of Genesis 1-11. He gives a strategically limited quotation of Barr from a tertiary source to bolster his case. This source also provides a longer quote in order to discredit the quote Simmons used (along with all other young-earth creationists who misuse Barr). We are perplexed why Simmons would use this quote and Professor Barr as an authority given the fact that his own source does not find the statement credible! (See for yourself http://www.geocities.com/ilgwamh/day.html).

Simmons is an author. He should know better than to build a primary argument from a third-hand source. He should also know the importance of reading what any authority actually says in detail before relying on that authority. We submit the entire letter by Professor James Barr for the reader’s examination. (This letter was provided by Answers in Genesis, Australia. It can be located at: http://members.iinet.net.au/~sejones/barrlett.html. )

------------------------------------

THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD

23 April 1984

David C.C. Watson, Esq.,

1300 N. Cross

Wheaton Illinois

Dear Mr Watson,

Thank you for your letter. I have thought about your question,

and would say that probably, so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1-11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience (b) the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story (c) Noah's flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguish all human and animal life except for those in the ark. Or, to put it negatively, the apologetic arguments which suppose the `days' of creation to be long eras of time, the figures of years not to be chronological, and the flood to be a merely local Mesopotamian flood, are not taken seriously by any such professors, as far as I know. The only thing I would say to qualify this is that most professors may avoid much involvement in that sort of argument and so may not say much explicitly about it one way or the other. But I think what I say would represent their position correctly. However, you might find one or two people who would take the contrary point of view and

are competent in the languages, in Assyriology, and so on: it's really

not so much a matter of technical linguistic competence, as of appreciation of the sort of text that Genesis is.

Perhaps I might mention that I have another book coming out soon,

Escaping from Fundamentalism, SCM Press London, which has some discussion of these questions. Westminster Press in Philadelphia are doing the American edition, perhaps with a different title, I don't know. It comes out in this country on 1st June.

Thanks again for your letter and all good wishes,

Yours sincerely

James Barr [signed]

------------------------------------

If Simmons had done even a brief study on the Genesis debate he would have known that this letter has been discussed for years. It has been thoroughly debunked as an argument for young-earth creationism on multiple grounds. Here are some of the reasons Simmons was severely mistaken to recruit Professor James Barr as his keynote authority on the Hebrew in Genesis 1-11:

1) The reader should note that this is a personal letter relating Professor Barr’s informal opinion. It is not a scholarly presentation. Can Simmons do no better than informal discussion in a personal letter to prove his plain-literal interpretation of Genesis 1-11?

2) This letter was a response to a question by young-earth creationist author David Watson. We do not know the question which sets the context of the letter. Why did Watson send a letter to England for such a comment? Would no one in the United States give such a response?

3) Professor Barr makes numerous guarded qualifications such as “so far as I know,” “as far as I know,” “I think what I say,” and “probably.” He goes on to state clearly that most Hebrew scholars “avoid much involvement in that sort of argument and so may not say much explicitly about it one way or the other.” In fact, Professor Barr admits, “you might find one or two people who would take the contrary point of view and are competent in the languages, in Assyriology, and so on.” The full context of the letter demonstrates how the quotation Simmons chose is highly deceptive to the reader who is unaware of the content of the entire letter. This is awful scholarship.

4) The reader should also notice Professor Barr’s comment as to the real issue at debate. He says, “[I]t's really not so much a matter of technical linguistic competence, as of appreciation of the sort of text that Genesis is.” This point alone shows that Professor Barr is in essential agreement with us that the fundamental question is the nature of biblical language in Genesis: it is not a question, as Simmons presents it, of those who believe the Bible (plain-literal interpretation) and those who don’t (any non-literal interpretation). We could conceivably argue that Professor Barr’s comments actually reinforce our position, but we are not naïve enough to accept Professor Barr as an authority for reasons discussed below.

5) Professor Barr rejects Simmons’ views on creation and flood. In fact, it is hard to imagine any Hebrew scholar within the Christian world more categorically opposed to Simmons’ views than Professor Barr! Gleason Archer and Hugh Ross respond to Professor Barr’s letter by saying, “The irony is that Barr’s statement comes from his attempts to discount rather than support, biblical inerrancy…”[1] In other words, the part of the letter which Simmons quoted was intended to marginalize those who take Simmons’ approach to creation and flood. The Creation Science group Answers in Genesis claims, “Barr, consistent with his neo-orthodox views, does not believe Genesis.”[2] Another Creation Science organization, ICR, says this about Professor Barr’s views on creation. “Liberal theologians don't accept it, as a matter of fact. One leading Hebrew scholar is James Barr, Professor of Hebrew Bible at Vanderbilt University and former Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford University in England.”[3]

In light of these multiple sources, which warn against Professor Barr’s views of Genesis, we find it absolutely amazing that Simmons makes Professor Barr his noted authority on Hebrew! Is this the kind of extreme length preterists are willing to go to in order to argue against Beyond Creation Science? This watermark is normally invisible. This article is copyrighted (c) 2006 by Planet Preterist. If this copyright watermark is visible, please email webmaster@planetpreterist.com and report this copyright violation.

6) Even Professor Barr’s quotation that Simmons used can be proven false. Gleason Archer (a renowned conservative Hebrew scholar) and Hugh Ross explain it this way. “But the statement was wrong when made because Gleason Archer and Walter Kaiser, among many other highly reputable Bible scholars, did and do support the long-day interpretation.”[4] In addition to this statement they offer this further explanation in an endnote:

For example, when the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy deliberated on the subject of the duration of the Genesis 1 creation days at their second summit held in Chicago in 1982, none of the Hebrew and Old Testament professors who participated concluded that the Genesis creation accounts mandated six consecutive 24-hour creation days…. The only possible defense for Barr’s statement is that he takes such a biased definition of “world-class university” that only institutions hostile to evangelical Christianity are included.[5]

We reference again such world-class preterist scholars such as F.W. Farrar and Milton Terry. Neither accepted a 24-hour interpretation of the Genesis creation days; Milton Terry, at least, is noted as a hermeneutic authority in both Hebrew and Greek! Simmons’ attempt to rest on Professor Barr’s laurels as a Hebrew authority was preemptively anticipated and negated in our first response! We also mentioned John Wenham, Gleason Archer, and Norman Geisler as noted Hebrew authorities who do not accept 24-hour day interpretation. We could add many more to this list. We disproved Simmons’ argument before he wrote it.

7) Our final observation is that Professor Barr, Simmons’ noted authority on Hebrew and source for his concluding argument, rejects the notion of direct Divine revelation outright. Professor Barr writes, “We do not have any idea of ways in which God might straight-forwardly communicate articulate thoughts or sentences to men; it just doesn’t happen.”[6] Professor Barr also wrote a book titled: Escaping From Fundamentalism. We have only read small snippets from this book and can tell already that Simmons would be appalled at what Professor Barr presents. Yet, Simmons relies upon Professor Barr to make his case against Beyond Creation Science. We will state it again for the reader. Shoddy scholarship and tactics of deception always reflect a weak case.

We believe the evidence proves beyond reasonable doubt that Simmons has not done his homework. Simmons’ reckless scholarship on this issue endangers his otherwise commendable scholarly reputation. Simmons’ response confirms our claim in our first response that “Kurt's extreme dogmatism on this issue is matched by his ignorance flowing from his failure to diligently study all sides of the Genesis debate.” Simmons is in serious need of performing investigative research before he continues to comment on this subject. This will be our last formal response to Simmons’ material until it can be demonstrated that Simmons’ study on the Genesis debate is up to par. We encourage Simmons to continue to study the issue.

In conclusion, Simmons’ own demonstrated failure of scholarly rigor and honesty casts a long shadow of doubt upon the credibility of all his comments regarding Beyond Creation Science. We trust readers will take this issue of credibility into consideration as they evaluate Simmons’ articles.

Blessings,

Tim Martin (aka Middleknowledge)

Jeff Vaughn (aka JL)

[1] Gleason Archer and Hugh Ross, The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation, David G. Hagopian, ed., (Mission Viejo: Crux Press, 2001), p. 70.

[2] http://www.answersingenesis.org/home/area/tools/Quotes/barr.asp

[3] http://www.icr.org/index.php?module=articles&action=view&ID=838

[4] Gleason Archer and Hugh Ross, The Genesis Debate, p. 7O.

[5] Ibid., p. 79.

[6] James Barr, The Bible in the Modern World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 123.

Malachi's picture

Well, our fifth child was born this morning at 7:30, so I have been away and unable to participate in this discussion. (A healthy baby boy, Lochlan Thames, 9.4 lbs, 22 1/2").

It occurred to me after my original post, supra, that Tim's attempt to impeach Barr really is a backfire. Barr rejects the Genesis creation account and flood narrative not because he READs the text or attempts to impose less than universal language on it as Tim does. He reads and interprets the text exactly as young earth/universal flood proponents do and plainly declares that the language of the Hebrew requires such reading and that virtually all professors of Hebrew and Old Testament at world-class universities read it this way. So, we repeat, Barr reads Genesis as young earth/ universal flood proponents. He personally does not believe in the accounts as described because he does not believe in direct inspiration or the inerrancy of the scripture. Like Tim, he abandons the Biblical account because of pressure from modern scientific claims about the age of the universe. Thus, whereas Tim tries to manipulate the text to avoid the universal flood and six days of creation, Barr admits Genesis teaches these things, but simply rejects the authority of scripture. So who is worse? Tim who rewrites scripture or Barr who honors the language, but rejects its accuracy?

In any event, Barr and his fellow professors still come down on the side of young earth/universal flood proponents in terms of the hermeneutical approach to Genesis. Tim is still out of court, his arguments are not even taken seriously by world-class professors because they deviate so far from the language of the text and universally recognized rules of hermeneutics.

JL's picture

Our 5th was also healthy baby boy. So was Tim's 5th. Welcome to the club.

JL

Blessings,

JL Vaughn
Beyond Creation Science

Virgil's picture

Kurt...congratulations man!! Now go take care of your wife...don't make me block your account here :)

Paige's picture

It seems to me that you have not taken another consideration into account. Perhaps Barr asserts that the text must be read YEC/universal flood because when done so, it makes rejection easy?

I mean if I was intent on rejecting something outright, I'd certainly want to erect my strawman in a way that would make it easier to knock down, wouldn't you?

Paige

yeoldbook's picture

Glad for you and your family.

Eirik

Ransom's picture

This is the issue for me. I cannot agree with Tim that the language was meant to convey anything but literal days and a universal flood. But I cannot agree with Kurt that the accounts were intended as historical narratives. What we have in the creation accounts and the flood story are mythological narratives meant to convey spiritual observations and truths.

FireByNite's picture

There is evidence for cataclysmic events all over the world -- including gigantic floods within the time of human history. Bob Ballard did a lot of research on the Deluge and has found geological and archealogical proof that there was a titanic innundation that could very well have been called The Great Flood.

There have been Great Floods all over the world, though:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/megaflood/scab-nf.html

Steve Smith

Virgil's picture

Steve, there is also evidence that our universe is billions of years old, yet most Universal Flood folks choose to outright reject it. Why is it that you pick and choose which evidence is accepted and which is not?

FireByNite's picture

I'm not sure what you mean by picking and choosing. Research is research. One makes decisions based on new information.

No, the universe is not billions of years old, it is infinite. The big bang is an obsolete concept.

yeoldbook's picture

Virgil,

I don't know how accurate this is, as I have not yet further investigated it, perhaps JL can shed some light or give some references to read, I read that we can only measure starlight out to 300 light years and anything after that is speculation? Like I said I don't know how accurate this is. I only recall it was stated by someone who claimed to be a scientist.

Eirik

JL's picture

Eirik,

It's in reference to direct triangulation. Consider a triangle. The short side is 186 million miles across. How long can the long sides be and still measure the triangle?

Basically, any distance longer than 2*S*D/wvl can not be measured by direct triangulation, where S = 186 million miles = 0.000032 light years, D is the telescope diameter, wvl is the wavelength of light.

For a large optical telescope like Gemini, D is 8 meters and wvl is about 1 micron. State of the art is now about 500 light-years.

However, there are numerous ways to measure distances indirectly. They are not mere speculation. They are thoroughly tested, the error bounds on the techniques are well known, and there are several unrelated techniques that serve as cross-checks on each other.

Consider this. At a pro golf tournament, some guy in a television booth can measure how far a golfer drove the ball and how far it is from the hole to within an inch. The technology is available to measure to less than the depth of a dimple on the ball. Direct triangulation is not that good. These other indirect means that golf announcers and astronomers use are far more accurate and work to much greater ranges. It is certainly not speculation.

JL

Blessings,

JL Vaughn
Beyond Creation Science

valensname's picture

JL,

Thanks for the information. So if I follow you, the 500 light years is referring to just ground based optical telescopes that can measure objects only far out? But there are other methods that you mentioned.

Eirik

JL's picture

Glenn, Eirik, whoever you are.

That one ground based telescope and it's soon to be completed twin can measure that far out by direct triangulation. All objects beyond 500 light-years away look like they are at infinity, when measured by direct triangulation.

I work with telescopes. I forgot about interferometers. The Keck Interferometer should get about 4000 light years.

There's also triagulation with the baseline in space. Remember the 1987 supernova in the Large Magellenic Cloud. Before this supernova, we had several measurements of the distance of about 160,000 to 170,000 light-years. These techniques have been refined to 168,000 +/- 1000 light-years.

It's now been 19 years since this supernova. As the radiation from the supernova expanded, it ionized all the dust around it. We can see radiation coming from that dust.

That ball of lit-up dust is now 38 light-years in diameter. It now appears to be about 3/4 of an arc-second in diameter. By triangulation with this known baseline in space, we get about 168,000 light-years. This is a confirmation of the other techniques.

JL

Blessings,

JL Vaughn
Beyond Creation Science

yeoldbook's picture

JL,

Please forgive an old country boy (70's) I should have noticed I wasn't on Internet Explorer but on a different browser. We are family and I've been down visiting.

I have followed somewhat of what you have said. Thanks for the information. I have been fascinated by space exploration especially since the Mercury program but admit I'm not up on all the tech stuff. Maybe I've believed in a young Earth and universal flood for too many years to see it another way. It took Glenn about 10 years to convince me of covenant eschatology. So maybe in 10 years :-).

Eirik

FireByNite's picture

Eirik,

I "believed" in a universal deluge and dispensationalism for 25 years. I don't "believe" in anything, anymore, which is the key to growth in knowledge.

One must investigate concepts before a decision can be made. "Believing" in things has been the bane of human civilization since the beginning (whenever that was). It has created innumerable gods -- some of whom demanded your heart be cut from your chest, or that you place your children in firey ovens.

Faith without reason is superstition.

Come let us reason together says the Lord...

Today, that same kind of unreasoning "faith" has created religious conflicts throughout the world.

Steve

yeoldbook's picture

Jesus said we would know the truth and the truth would set us free. Which means to me that one can understand the Bible. Thus to have a "moderate" or "on the fence" mentality does not seem correct for those who are no longer babes in Christ but should be in the meat.

Eirik

JL's picture

An old country boy, then you know my mom's cousins Tennessee Ernie Ford and Ronnie Milsap. My grandfather used to say, "Is a good thang Ernie sings purty 'cuz he'd starve otherwise." Ronnie was a bit more distant. My mom's family only knew Ronnie's father.

The distances are real. And they are astronomical.

JL

Blessings,

JL Vaughn
Beyond Creation Science

FireByNite's picture

However, there are numerous ways to measure distances indirectly. They are not mere speculation. They are thoroughly tested, the error bounds on the techniques are well known, and there are several unrelated techniques that serve as cross-checks on each other

Have you looked at redshift difficulties? I refer to Halton Arps's work on "intrinsic redshift" and how it is a property of matter, rather than evidence of velocity.

JL's picture

Steve,

Andromeda Galaxy is 2 million light-years away. Red-shift is irrelevant ro measuring that distance. 2 million light-years is far enough to cause problems for Eirik's young-earth creationism.

Second, my understanding of Arp's work is that it primarily applies to quasars and not to other objects. So it doesn't really qualify as a redshift difficulty but as a difficulty in determining the nature of quasars.

Third, Arp denies relativistic gravity. About twenty years ago, a professor of mine was doing some work on GPS for a small start-up named Magellan. He tried Flandern's hypothesis because it was much simpler than General Relativity and he'd need about 1/4 the computer power. It took about an hour's data to falsify Flandern's hypothesis. After 20 years, GR still works perfectly.

Atheists want to deny a creation event because it points to God. YEC's want to force an artificially close creation event because they believe evolution works and want to deny it time. This is a beautiful example of C. S. Lewis' dictum that errors come in opposite pairs.

Take care.

JL

Blessings,

JL Vaughn
Beyond Creation Science

FireByNite's picture

You may be interested in this:

http://www.arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0603265

JL's picture

Thanks, I forgot about Interferometers

Blessings,

JL Vaughn
Beyond Creation Science

FireByNite's picture
FireByNite's picture

Arp showed that distant objects, whose redshifts differ by several orders of magnitude, are connected by filaments of matter.

http://www.haltonarp.com/

Just as Newtonian mechanics can describe the solar system and not the universe, General Relativity uses outdated concepts. Curved spacetime, for one. When spacetime does not curve, then gravity does not pull.

Please explain how your engineer frined falsified Tom van Flander's hypothesis. I am always interested in alternative viewpoints, especially if they are rigorous.

I don't care whether anyone believes in gods or not. I also don't care if anyone belives in evolution. Both are meaningless to me.

SS

JL's picture

Steve,

Arp showed that those objects had that property. It's perfectly reasonable to me that quasars might be ejected black holes. I'm not prepared to dispute that and doubt I'll ever be. But there are a lot of objects that are in no such way connected to "nearby" galaxies that are just as severely red-shifted. Arp's work does not explain them.

He's not an engineer. He's a mathematical physicist. He wrote the algorithms that Magellan used in it's GPS units. The algorithms were coded and tested and tried. Newton's theory, van Flandern's theory, and a few other theories were tried as well as Einstein's GR. Newton and van Flandern failed to make appropriate corrections over more than a few minutes. The other algorithms lasted at least a day or two. GR is still working.

Only GR can describe a satellite orbiting earth. Pure empiricism led to the rejection of everything else.

JL

Blessings,

JL Vaughn
Beyond Creation Science

FireByNite's picture

JL,

Arp does explain them, as the abstracts in his website point out.

Variable mass is the only pertinent explanation for observational evidence. My message to Virgil regarding the 30 Big Bang Problems contains some of that information from van Flandern.

This has been interesting, but I must depart, once again. I'll be around sometime in the future. Perhaps we can continue a more indepth conversation, then.

Science is failing to self-correct. We must understand why in order to fix it. Halton Arp

S

JL's picture

Yep,

Science is failing to "correct" to Arp and Flandern's religious agenda for the same reason it is failing to "correct" to Morris and Ham's religious agenda. They are both false religions and false science.

JL

Blessings,

JL Vaughn
Beyond Creation Science

Virgil's picture

300 light years? That doesn't sound right at all.

In 2001, NASA launched a space probe called the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe. The purpose of this probe was to measure variations in background microwave radiation and consequently determine the age of the universe. The measurements determined that the universe is 13.7 billion years old (minus or plus a few hundred thousand years).

You can read more about this probe and research here:

http://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/

You can see a time-chart of the research here:

http://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/m_ig/060915/CMB_Timeline150.jpg

FireByNite's picture

Problems with the Big Bang:

http://www.metaresearch.org/cosmology/BB-top-30.asp

You seem like a science-minded guy, Virgil and you also look into things that people write, so you'll have a lot to think about here.

yeoldbook's picture

Thanks for the link. Looks like it will be an interesting program.

yeoldbook's picture

How to you coincide "mythological narratives" with passages such as the genelogies in Genesis and the Gospels; Exodus 20:11; 1 Cor 15:45-47; Jesus referencing Noah; Chapter 11 of Hebrews; Peter's references in his epistles to Noah?? Where does myth begin and where does real history begin? How do you decide which is which in your interpretation method?

Eirik

Ransom's picture

It's not as difficult to decide as you may think. Students of genre such as preterists should be able to understand the methodology of looking at features in the phraseology and other literary (originally oral) motifs with little trouble. Besides that, reading ANE mythology contemporary and antecedent to the material in Genesis 1-11 and taking into account the fact that historiography was not a concern in the ANE until after Hellenistic influence, it's frankly more difficult to believe this is history.

As for the passages you mentioned, Exodus 20:11 consulted the framework that had already been presented as a means of understanding the sacred value of the workweek.

The genealogies are exactly the type of thing that we see parallels to elsewhere in ANE literature and are meant to show the worthiness of the descendants based on their association with famous historical figures. Often, there is a remembrance of ancestry to a certain point, but beyond that, they had to consult whatever records were available.

As for Adam referenced in Paul, there is no requirement that the first Adam be historical. If I said that, "Just as through one box (Pandora's), sin and evil entered the world, so through one box (Jesus' tomb) life entered," my point is made in the same sense that Paul's was in Romans, although my example does not have the added weight that comes from Adam's place as a divinely ordained anti-type of Christ. I'm not saying that Paul thought Adam was not historical, but that whether he did or not does nothing to weaken the analogy, or God's providence in choosing the mythology. The 1 Cor. passage again illustrates that one of the purposes and functions of the Genesis myth was to set up the need for Christ: Adam being "of the earth" (and being named for it!) was typological of humanity, showing our sinfulness and need for One "of heaven".

Hebrews 11's reference to the early Genesis characters is just as successful whether they were historical figures or not. Orpheus is no less an example of the consequences of looking back than is Lot's wife. We often assume omniscience on the part of the Scripture writers, but a healthy view of God's sovereignty and wisdom informs us that God may have chosen to convey these truths whether or not the writers knew the historical status of the people they were talking of.

Jesus' mention of Noah is similar in purpose to Paul's, although presumably he knew of Noah's historical status.

FireByNite's picture

Adam being "of the earth" (and being named for it!) was typological of humanity, showing our sinfulness and need for One "of heaven".

ADAMAH means, "red dirt" referring to blood being spilled thereon. Adam was a representation of the first inhabitants of the Land. Indeed, the Promised Land was where ADAMAH lived, where NOAH returned, what Abraham was promised and where the Egyptian captives went after their servitude was ended.

"Humanity" is not in view in Genesis 1-11, only the People of the Covenants.

yeoldbook's picture

What????

If I understood some of what you said, it would seem that anything in the Bible could be real or myth. I don't see how anyone could be a historical person, including Jesus.

I will say I don't agree at all with the Bible being compiled by oral traditions etc...I believe it is a word for word letter for letter smallest mark to smallest mark inspired of God. Again I see your type of interpretation as being based on ones view of Scripture itself.

Eirik

Ransom's picture

Yes, it's based on one's view of Scripture. I view the Bible not as God in paper format or as a paper pope but more as the testimony by men of God given to us by God's inspiration.

You've got to have good reasons for discounting historicity, and because the spread of Hellenism throughout the world by the time of the New Testament, historiographic techniques were normative and there's no reason to believe that the actions and people acting throughout the New Testament were anything but historical, and recorded as history.

Of the subject, but I presume by your name that you are Scandinavian (Icelandic or Norwegian?). Have you signed up on the Frappr map?

yeoldbook's picture

Where does real history begin then in your view of the OT? Why does it start there?

Yes family is of Norweigian descent but American and parents just wanted me to have a different spelling instead of plain Eric or Erik.

Ransom's picture

There is no history as we think of it in the Old Testament. Now, before you freak out let me explain that that's not to say there isn't a lot of real historical events recorded in the Old Testament. It's just that ancient peoples did not see the need to develop the methods for writing mechanically objective, dispassionate, empirical history as we think of it. Sure, almost everything recorded in the so-called "historical books" of the OT as well as in most of the prophetic books ended up being accurate historically, but not because the writers had the same ideals that originated in Greece centuries later and weren't even developed there for centuries more.

For instance, the writers of Chronicles and Kings didn't see a problem with approximating or guestimating numerical figures, or even creating figures that gave an accurate impression ("maybe not quite 50,000 but it might as well have been"), much like our "rounding off" taken liberally. It was culturally the norm and good form, and not perceived as "lying" by any means. Another of the notable things the ancients did with their early versions of history was not even bothering to disguise their intent (bias). Thus the book of Judges is not history qua history, but the author's attempt to convey the consequences of the Israelites doing what was right in their own eyes, using the stories from their past. The unevenness of the accounts in Kings, where it stops to give detailed moments from some kings' reigns while leaving others untouched, are part of the work's sculpture that in any scholarly circles today would be attacked as "propoganda" - but it was what people wanted at the time, not encylopedic coverage. They wanted stories that gave them meaning, not history for history's sake. There's definitely something to be said for that, and particularly for coming to the table with all our prejudices and biases stated outright rather than pretending we can be objective about things. Modern historiography isn't what it's cracked up to be because full empiricism is impossible.

As for the patriarchs, they read much more like the Icelandic sagas, family history meant to give meaning to and highlight the importance of their heritage. These give evidence of having been composed from oral tradition, such as the patriarch's wife being passed off as a sister not once or twice but three times - and with two different patriarchs! The story was floating about among the people in a few different versions, and Moses (or whoever) put them all in for good measure. This once again showcases the fact that at the time, the point of the stories wasn't history, but as a cultural remembrance. God took these stories about and by His people and consecrated them to His purpose, inspiring their clay creations with the breath of life as He did Adam, imbuing them with power and ensuring that they be "profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness", but not for "history" or science.

yeoldbook's picture

Okay? I guess we will just have to part ways then in this discussion.

Can you explain your view of inspiration? Just curious do you view Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Daniel, Enoch - any of them real people? I guess I'm confused with what you might consider to be real historical figures/events or myth/stories?

Ransom's picture

Let me tell you what C.S. Lewis said:

“If every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of lights then all true and edifying writings, whether in Scripture or not, must be in some sense inspired.”

“When a series of such retelling turns a creation story of almost no religious significance into a story which achieves the idea of a transcendent Creator (as Genesis does), then nothing will make me believe that some of the re-tellers, or some one of them, has not been guided by God.”

“...something originally merely natural ... will have been raised by God above itself, qualified by Him and compelled by Him to serve purposes which of itself it would not have served.”

That about sums it up. Abraham, Moses, David, and Daniel not only existed but existed much in the same mode as what we see in the Bible - at roughly the same time as they are presented, doing roughly the same things they are presented as doing.

That an Enoch existed in much the same mode (a devout man who walked with God - perhaps he was even "raptured" as the story goes) is very likely. The same shouldn't be said of his positions in time and in the genealogy.

There was probably someone of pre-eminent status in the Hebrews' memories by the name of Noah, but I believe the position of ark-builder and survivor of the regional flood was most likely imputed to him later, because of the fact that it's a Hebrew name and the flood was far back enough to antedate Hebrew as a language distinct from proto-Semitic, and the fact that the Sumerian analogue has him named Utnapishtim.

yeoldbook's picture

Since you use terms such as "very likely," "probably," "some sense insprired" it appears you question the supernatural events in the Bible? Creation, Talking serpent, Tree of Life, Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, Cain's mark, Flood, Ark, Burning bush, plagues in Egypt, translation of Enoch and Elijah, Balaam's donkey, events recorded in Daniel etc...

What about NT events? Miracles in the Gospels, miracles performed by the apostles, etc...

What do you do with the Bible claiming to be truth? It seems like you are picking and choosing which parts you believe are truth and what you view as stories.

Ransom's picture

Why does everyone go for the "picking and choosing" charge? Don't skim over my explanations of the methodology and fail to appreciate the fluidity of the approach I'm referring to and then conclude that everything's arbitrary.

I said nothing about questioning supernatural events as any sort of principle. I question the historicity of some events; coincidentally some of those events referenec supernatural events. There are dozens of supernatural events from the OT that I don't question, and none from the NT, since as I explained before the NT was written by people with a developed sense of historicity.

My tendency to use qualifiers like "very likely" and "probably" comes from 1) a recognition of my limited knowledge and understanding 2) the nature of my bibliology, which is much different than the school of thought that must have everything neatly wrapped up in a theologically airtight compartment.

yeoldbook's picture

The picking and choosing charge....well because it just seems that you "as I explained before the NT was written by people with a developed sense of historicity." That you are saying the the Bible was written by people just like any book instead of by the Holy Spirit.

I could easily be misunderstanding you but that is what I hear you saying.

Ransom's picture

It was written by people who knew God and who were sovereignly commissioned to write it. God authorized the Bible; He didn't author it. God functioned much like King James I. How much did King James contribute personally to his translation? Was King James's intent fulfilled? Perfectly.

The analogy is imperfect: God actually did contribute many more or less verbatim messages in the Bible, particularly the prophetic passages, in which "holy men of old spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21) and what Jesus said. But you get the gist.

yeoldbook's picture

Thank you for the exchange.

I'd say we differ completely on our view of and approach to Scripture.

Eirik

Ransom's picture

Yes, we seem to. Thanks for talking with me about it. I should have liked to know more of your reasons for discounting my viewpoint. :)

yeoldbook's picture

From my understanding of your writings, we differ in our view towards direct inspiration and the inerrancy of the Scripture.

cinper's picture

Ransom said: imbuing them with power and ensuring that they be "profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness", but not for "history" or science.

Thanks, Ransom. This is where I have arrived in my studies, and it is a tall, brick wall to get over when trying to convey this to Evangelicals and Fundamentalists.

Out of fear, or pride perhaps, our brethren want to label us "unbelievers" or "heretics" or "liberals" when they hear this. Maybe it justifies their position to themselves, as they are unwilling to hear and discuss a different position with an open mind.

I just told a friend that I thought the Bible was open to criticism. Now, I meant "criticism" in the sense of looking for meaning, extracting what is implied as well as explicit, holding it up to the light and drawing a conclusion. I pointed out that critics often like what they see. Film critics like certain films, and food critics recommend certain restuarants. We are attuned to think of "critical" as a negative word. Well, she drew the conclusion that I had practically lost my faith because I said the writers of the Bible were open to criticism.

If our faith is worth anything, then we should not fear close examination of our beliefs and traditions, nor fear changing our positions from time to time. Otherwise, we are no different than Mormons whom we like to label "cultists."

Let us keep searching, learning, and realizing that we know a lot less than we think we do.

Perry

yeoldbook's picture

Perry,

I agree about examining one's beliefs but I'm confused on your view of Scripture? It seems you are advocating that the Bible or the OT is a collection of stories and not really inerrant truth.

Speaking of the Mormons, your two views sound much like how the Mormons view the Bible as compared to the book or Morman, Pearl of Great Price, D&C etc...They hold their book in higher regard than the Bible.

cinper's picture

Inerrant truth...as it pertains to man's relationship to God, yes. Inerrant historical or scientific truth...not always. For example, Luther used the book of Joshua in his defense that the Sun rotated about the Earth, not vice-versa. This was during the time Polish astronomer Copernicus (predating Galileo) postulated that the solar system was heliocentric. Luther thought this was balderdash, and used the Bible to make his point. Luther essentially said "the Book of Joshua says the Sun stopped in its tracks, so the Sun revolves around the earth." This is the result of a literal reading without the benefit of extra historical or scientific knowledge, which Luther did not have at the time. The Catholic Church, as is well known, agreed with Luther in his assessment.

I don't have to say who was eventually vindicated.

We can make the same mistake today by elevating the literalness of Scripture above known scientific observation. Young Earth/Old Earth comes to mind. Dinosaurs were here at some point, even if the Bible does not specifically talk about them. And it's not likely they coexisted with Man.

So, we have to be careful when using the words "inerrant" or "infallible." It all depends on the context, and in many cases, we will never know.

Perry

psychohmike's picture

I second this motion. Good show Perry. It's no wonder so many people have such a hard time understanding or accepting the Bible for what it is. Working down at the port yesterday I met a guy that was more than willing to let me know why he had a problem with christianity. He was a very intelligent man that can't swallow the funny-mentalist idea of a wooden-literal 6 day creation and well, quite frankly just about everything else dispy's believe. Fortunately I had enough time to spend with him explaining my Biblical and worldview from a preterist perspective that actually left him feeling refreshed. I don't remember the exact words that he used but it was something along the lines of, "Now that sounds like something reasonable."

The funny-mentalist message just isn't reaching people anymore. Technology is bringing us new discoveries every day and in many cases it does and will continue to disagree with a wooden literal interpretation of scripture. Rather than just throwing these discoveries out we need to step back and re-examine our understanding of things.

We live in an exciting time archeologically and scientifically. And quite frankly these two fields are going to turn the "funny-mentalists" on their ear.

8) Mike

vento's picture

Mike,

I really don't get it when folks say things like:

"He was a very intelligent man that can't swallow the funny-mentalist idea of a wooden-literal 6 day creation and well, quite frankly just about everything else dispy's believe."

Why would a guy that couldn't believe in a literal six-day creation, not have a problem swallowing the "funny-mentalist" idea of a man born of a virgin, then rises from the dead? That doesn't sound very "reasonable" either, from a humanist worldview.

Thanks, buddy.

Scott

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