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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Do the Sydney Anglican Heretics successfully wrest the epistemological highground from orthodoxy?

To all concerned, sorry for the delay but I have had to attend to some fairly urgent matters of health recently and this has eaten up my spare time. My mother, very early on, and doctor, most recently warned me about the dangers of reinserting my navel fluff. And now I reap the consequences.

1. I believe the following is a fair representation of Anonymous’ case against me.

a. I offered Kay’s paper as proof and argued that literary devices don’t
negate the claim of a passage to being history.
b. Dickson proposed the inclusion of so many literary devices means
Genesis 1 isn’t history.
c. I overlooked the subtlety of Dickson’s argument.
d. I‘m dumb as it’s not true truth.
e. QED, Dickson’s case is subtle and accurate.
f. Genesis 1 isn’t an historical report because of the large number of
literary devices
g. It is right to say that Kay’s case lacks a strong and sharp disproof to
Dickson’s thesis that Genesis is non-history.


2. To refresh everyone’s memory what Dickson wrote: “Genesis 1…is composed in a style quite different from the ‘historical narrative’ of, say, the Gospels in their accounts of Jesus’ resurrection, for instance…Genesis 1, on the other hand, is not written in the style we normally associate with historical report. It is difficult even to describe the passage as prose. The original Hebrew of this passage is marked by intricate structure, rhythm, parallelism, chiasmus, repetition and the lavish use of number symbolism. These features are not observed together in those parts of the Bible we recognize as historical prose…I will, however, draw attention to the number symbolism present in our passage. [John gives a number of examples of the number 7 and its multiples in the text and then concludes with] The artistry of the chapter is stunning and, to ancient readers, unmistakable. It casts the creation as a work of art, sharing in the perfection of God and deriving from him. My point is obvious: short of including a prescript for the benefit of modern readers the original author could hardly have made it clearer that his message is being conveyed through literary rather than prosaic means.”

So, clearly Dickson is saying from “the lavish use of number[s]” alone that one can conclude Genesis 1 is not historiography. I’ll address this in a moment but, as you stated elsewhere, what’s good for a goose is good for the gander, and so I think it was entirely reasonable for me to argue (as Kay had in his paper) that individually these literary devices do not necessarily convey non-history.

Furthermore, as you have implied, these devices are found in historiographic passages. (Although, Dickson, by not actually exploring this “incidental” detail, seems hell-bent on not providing examples for the reader so they can at least make up their own mind as to the strength of his case. After all, if, for example, a clearly historiographic section of one of the Gospels were to contain several literary devices, I would assume that even the most zealously sycophantic of Dickson’s backers would be less inclined to argue for the soundness of his thesis. Hmmm, maybe not so on second thought, given their hitherto lending of unconditional support for just about any old excuse that maintains their obduracy and love of heresy) I would obviously concur. So the problem for you and Dickson is this: If the inclusion of one device does not in and of itself transform historiography to non-historiography, and the addition of another similarly doesn’t, and another etc etc don’t, why would the inclusion of all 6 suddenly tip the scale? If you reply that this “uniqueness” is the very characteristic that does turn historiography to non-historiography, isn’t that just simply a case of question-begging? Wouldn’t one need to provide several examples from other sources, particularly non-biblical ones, which demonstrate the soundness of this proposition?

Looking at it in a not entirely different way, Dickson has tacitly stated that, all other things being equal,

(i) 1 Literary Device = Historiography,
(ii) LD+LD = Historiography
(iii) LD+LD+LD = Historiography
(iv) LD+LD+LD+LD = Historiography
and
(v) LD+LD+LD+LD+LD = Historiography

yet he contends that

LD+LD+LD+LD+LD+LD ≠ Historiography

I am at a loss how 1,2,3,4, or even 5 pluses add up to a plus but an additional 6th makes it a zero. Along with destroying biblical facts, you guys seem to have the same menacing attitude to maths. This reminds me of Dallas Willard’s comment: “[U]nsound arguments are not to be expected by their collective force to prove a conclusion which none can establish by themselves."

3. So since you’ve admitted that literary devices are utilised by the author in historiography, where does Dickson (and you) draw the cut-off line? It seems that since these devices are everywhere, in historical prose and poetry alike, then the answer must be, “Well, anywhere I damn well please!” This of course demonstrates the arbitrary nature of your argument. That, putatively, these devices only appear in such numbers in Genesis 1 and no where else is not the clincher you imagine it to be. After all, breathing over its neck is a passage of historical narrative that has one less literary device. If none of the ancients were bothered with their inclusion why should we listen to Dickson and a nobody called Anonymous. All this to me seems like something new to tickle those who are easily dissuaded from the plain, straightforward, uncomplicated historical truth of the first page of God’s revelation to us. That the common ploughboy has never seen this wolf-in-sheep’s clothing “truth” you’re presently serving up to the Church only strengthens our resolve to root you heretics out.

4. While we are on the subject, I’d like to point out that neither Dickson nor Anon never actually identify where these literary devices appear in the text. I suppose we’re to just take their word that all 6 actually appear in Genesis.

So, would either of these two heretics (or the Dickson sycophants over in the Sydney Diocese) change their view if just one of the mooted devices didn’t appear in Genesis 1? That is, based on Dickson’s thesis, if the sum total of these devices were 5, would these heretics accept Genesis 1 as history or can nothing falsify Dickson’s proposition?

5. Just on this issue, a few years ago an Israeli Oxford Hebraist academic informed me that sustained rhythm, the type that non-prose should contain if it does have rhythm, is not in Genesis 1. What rhythm there is, is far too brief to be important and is a chance by-product of speech in general. In other words, one would be drawing a really long bow to claim that rhythm is a salient literary device in Genesis 1.

6. But just to fulfil my epistemic obligation, let me provide you with a few passages where there is a preponderance of literary devices. To make it easier for me I’ll be borrowing considerably from Dickson’s paper.

The Flood Narrative

It is well known that in Hebrew thought the number 8 symbolises new beginnings, resurrection or regeneration and 13 betrayal. A well-known example for the former is many baptismal fonts are eight-sided, as is the baptismal cross, while the latter is the number of people at the Last Supper.

In the narrative of Noah, which contains the Flood account, multiples of 8 appear in extraordinary ways. For ancient readers, who were accustomed to taking notice of such things, these multiples of 8 conveyed a powerful message. Its omnipresence in many chapters of the Bible makes an unmistakable point about the ultimate authorship of the Bible itself. Consider the following in this account:

a. The “berit” (covenant) stem appears 8 times
b. The number of people saved on the ark was 8
c. The sign of the covenant, “qeshet” (rainbow) has a numerical value in Hebrew
of 800
d. The Flood was 40 days (i.e. 5 x 8) upon the earth
e. Noah waited another 40 days until he opened the window
f. He then sent out a raven, numerical value 272 (i.e. 8 x 32)
g. Noah’s name is occasionally spelled with a vav and thus his name has a
numerical value of 64 i.e. 8 x 8
h. From Adam to Noah’s Flood there were 1656 (207 x 8) years

And btw,
i. Indeed, Jesus’ very name in Greek numerical values has the value of 888,
which also equals in Hebrew Yeshoth Elohenu i.e. Our God’s Salvation
j. Jesus appeared to Thomas on the 8th day
k. Pistis (faith) has the same numerical value as Kurios (Lord) i.e. 800

As to the number 7,

a. The clean beasts were taken on in lots of seven
b. Assuming 30 days in a lunar month, the fountains of the deep were broken up
on the 2nd month, 17th day of Noah’s 600th year i.e. the 77th day
c. The Ark came to rest in the 7th month
d. The tops of the mountains were seen on the first day of the 10th month i.e. (
10 x 30) +1 = 301 = 43 x 7
e. The seventh occurrence of the name Noah is in Genesis 6:9 and here he is
called ‘perfect’. The Hebrew word here is thammim which has a numerical
value of 490 i.e. 70 x 7
f. The number of times that God spoke to Noah was seven.

Any other literary devices? Sure.

• A play on words: In Hebrew the name ‘Noah’ is an anagram of ‘Grace’. The first appearance of ‘grace’ is in Genesis 6:8: ‘But Noah found grace in the eyes of YHWH’. The numerical value of YHWH is 26. The word ‘grace’ is found in 26 (13 x 2) verses in Torah.

• Parallelism: In Genesis 6:9 "perfect in his generations" acts as a parallel thought to Noah being "a just man."
• Parallelism: In Genesis 7: 6-10, 11-16 this device can be discerned as re-emphasising and enlarging upon the same ideas.
• Chiasmus:
Genesis 7:10 – And after the seven days the floodwaters came on the earth.
Genesis 7:12 - And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.
Genesis 7:24 – The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.
Genesis 8:3 – The water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down,
Genesis 8:6 - After forty days Noah opened the window he had made in the ark
Genesis 8:10 - He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark.

Here’s another:
Introduction (6:9-10)
1. Violence on the earth (6:11-12)
2. First speech: intent to destroy earth (6:13-22)
3. Second speech: go into the ark (7:1-10)
4. The Flood starts (7:11-16)
5. The flood rises (7:17-24)
Climax-God remembers Noah (8:1a)
5a. The Flood recedes (8:1b-5)
4a. Drying off of the earth (8:6-14)
3a. Third speech: leave the ark (8:15-19)
2a. Will not destroy earth again (8:20-22)
1a. Fourth speech: the covenant (9:1-17)
Conclusion (9:18-19)

There is a chiastic structure in the genealogy: Noah's sons are listed in this order: Shem, Ham, and Japheth; then they are discussed in reverse order.

• Repetition
(i) The destruction of life
(ii) Establishment of the covenant
(iii) The types of animals on the ark

What then can we at this blog conclude? All of this definitely will convince the heretics in the Sydney Anglo Fun Park that Noah’s story and the Flood specifically are not historical or historiography.

When I previously pointed out that the Flood account contains all the features Dickson has said tell the reader to think ‘non-history/non-historiography’, Anon’s remark was “ROFL.” In fact, Anon went on to suggest these chapters of Genesis were on the sae level as a fairy tale like Goldilocks and the 3 bears.

I suspect Anon will mock my argument, as he has done previously (he poured scorn on my comment and said I had a weak argument when I offered Jesus’ and Peter’s testimonies as proof that the Bible’s account of the Flood should be taken as history), but this behaviour is what one expects from heretics. As we progress through the Bible more and more chapters start to be transformed from historiography to myth or some other liberal nomenclature.

Abraham

• Numbers

a. There are 613 commandments in Torah. Of these 248 are positive and 365 negative. Abraham, the first Jew, was called righteous before God and is regarded as the paradigm of perfection. His name has the number value of 248 (31x 8), the number of positive commandments.

b. The son of Abraham, Yizhak, has 4 letters to his name each with a numerical value of 10, 90, 8 and 100 respectively. The first refers to the 10 commandments, the second to the age of Sarah when he was born, the third, the age at his circumcision and the last to the age of Abraham when he was born. A miracle performed for a mother and father was for the sake of a child who would be circumcised and enter a covenant.

c. Concerning the number 13, circumcision for Ishmael was carried out when he was 13, the word for covenant, berit, is mentioned 13 times in Genesis 17, the chapter which sets out the circumcision command.

d. In Genesis 14:14 there are 318 men who went out to rescue his relative. Interesting, Eliezer the servant of Abraham, the “heir” of Abraham, has a numerical value for his name of 318.

• Chiasmus:

A Display of faith: Abram leaves his homeland; the first promise 11:31–12:3
B Abram sojourns in Canaan 12:4-9
C The stay in Egypt; Abram passes Sarai off as his sister 12:10-20
D The separation of Abram, who has the promise, from Lot, who does not
have the promise 13:1-18
E The rescue of Lot 14:1-24
F Abram’s fears of infertility are allayed by the promise of a
son; God makes a covenant 15:1-21
G Sarai’s attempt to get a son: Ishmael 16:1-16
H THE COVENANT; Abram’s new name,
etc. 17:1-10
G´ Circumcision; the rejection of Ishmael and the
promise of a son through Sarah 17:9-27
F´ Sarah is told of the promise of a son, despite her fears of
infertility 18:1-15
E´ The rescue of Lot 18:16–19:38
D´ The stay in Gerar; Abraham passes Sarah off as his sister 20:1-18
C´ The birth of Isaac; the separation of Isaac, the child of the promise, from
Ishmael, the child outside the promise 21:1-21
B´ Abraham sojourns among the Philistines 21:22-34
A´ Display of faith: Abraham is willing to sacrifice Isaac; the final promise 22:1-19


And there are chiasms within chiasms. For example, Genesis 12:16 appears as an inventory but has been arranged chiastically. So, if Dickson’s rule is true then Abram’s sheep are not referring to historic sheep but artistic ones.

There are also significant and lavish use of numbers concerning the other patriarchs etc

a. Adam is 130 when he begot Seth and lives another 800 years.
b. Jacob has 1 daughter and 8 sons from his wives and 4 sons from the
shefahot i.e. 13 children.
c. When Jacob’s name is changed to Israel by God, then last time he is called
Jacob is the 130th appearance of Jacob’s name in Torah.
d. Jacob’s age in front of Pharaoh is 130 while Moses was 80
e. The only ages given for Joseph are 17, 30, 110, gaps of 13 and 80
f. Sarah was at her death 127 years old = 100 + 20 + 7. The gaps here are 80
and 13.
g. Circumcision is on the 8th day.

And I am more than sure that if I could be bothered – which I am definitely not – I could find far too many examples of devices which Kay listed in his article, including, parallel plotting with its ostensible appearance of simultaneity, delayed action and outcomes, asymmetrical and ironic juxtapositioning, convergence and retrospective alignment, sequential twists, temporal shifts, the omitting or ambiguating of causal links, temporal gaps and blanks, analogous or repetitive themes and incidents, alternation whereby the narrative sequence zig-zags between objective simultaneities, suspense-driven episodes, deep interlinear polarities of theme, foreclosure or premature curtain-dropping which “jumps ahead” in absolute time in order to synchronize effects, the establishment of contextual hierarchies of importance, shifts in focus, complex word plays, parataxis, and interepisodic suspense.

Matthew’s Gospel

The first 17 verses of the New Testament (The Gospel of Matthew) deals with a single principal subject: the genealogy of Jesus Christ. It contains 72 Greek vocabulary words in these initial 17 versus. The following structures are supposedly found.
• The number of words which are nouns is exactly 56, or 7 x 8. The Greek
word "the" occurs most frequently in the passage: exactly 56 times, or 7 x 8.
• The number of different forms in which the article "the" occurs is exactly 7
• There are two main sections in the passage: verse 1-11 and 12-17. In the
first main section, the number of Greek vocabulary words used is 49, or 7 x 7 Of these 49 words, the number of those beginning with a vowel is 28, or 7 x 4
• The number of words beginning with a consonant is 21, or 7 x 3. The total
number of letters in these 49 words is exactly 266, or 7 x 38-exactly.
• The numbers of vowels among these 266 letters is 140, or 7 x 20. The number
of consonants is 126, or 7 x 18-exactly.
• Of these 49 words, the number of words which occur more than once is 35, or 7 x 5.
• The number of words occurring only once is 14, or 7 x2.
• The number of words which occur in only one form is exactly 42, or 7 x 6.
• The number of words appearing in more than one form is also 7.
• The number of 49 Greek vocabulary words which are nouns is 42, or 7 x 6.
• The number of words which are not nouns is 7.
• Of the nouns, 35 are proper names, or 7 x 5. These 35 nouns are used 63
times, or 7 x 9.
• The number of male names is 28, or 7 x 4. These male names occur 56 times or
7 x 8.
• The number of names which is not male is 7.
• Three women are mentioned-Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth. The number of Greek
letters in these three names is 14, or 7 x 2.
• The number of compound nouns is 7. The number of Greek letters in these 7
nouns is 49, or 7 x 7.
• Only one city is named in this passage, Babylon, which in Greek contains
exactly 7 letters.

Matthew’s sectional use of 14 generations has been mooted to reflect the then current belief of the number of High Priests from Aaron to the establishment of Solomon’s Temple, from the establishment from the Temple until Jaddua, the last High Priest mentioned in Scripture. Others have argued that in his 3x14 division Matthew is reflecting a then already widely-held belief of a universal world-week patterned after the seven days of creation (i.e. 6x7), six “days” followed by a Messianic age i.e. a Sabbath, or a pattern following the formula used in Daniel. Whatever the case may be, it was not accidental.

Matthew begins the Gospel with a chiastic form in 1:1,17 (ABC, genealogy, C'B'A') for the genealogy in vv 2-16. In this case each half of the frame summarises the significance of the enclosed genealogy. There is also a chiastic appearance of Abraham and David in his genealogy i.e.

Jesus 1.1b
David 1.1c
Abraham 1.1d
Abraham1.2
David1.6
Jesus1.16

Breck holds that 3:1-17 and 4:1-17 form a chiasm centred upon John’s claim that Jesus will baptise with the Holy Spirit and fire, enclosed by 2 expressions of “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Fenton and Gaechter have argued that all of Matthew is chiastic, the latter also pointing out the numerical patterns that control the several parts of the whole. Others have stated that Matthew has complicated circles of chiasms within chiasms, and these too have chiasms controlling them.
Furthermore some have argued that there is a typological literary reflection in Matthew’s Gospel which looks something like this:

Matthew OT

1:1: Book of Genesis Gen 2:4; 5:1
(i.e. toledoth and sepher
toledoth)

1:1-17: son of Abraham Gen 12-26

1:18-25: Joseph the dreamer Gen 37

2:1-12: Magi Nations to Egypt for Joseph


2:13-15: Herod kills children Exod 1-2: Pharaoh
kills children


2:14: Jesus rescued, flees Exod 2: Moses rescued,
flees

2:19-23: Jesus returns to Israel Exod 3-4: Moses returns
to Egypt


3:1-12: John announces judgment Exod 5-12: Moses/Aaron
bring judgment

3:13-17: Jesus passes through Exod 14: Parting of the
waters waters of the Red Sea


4:1-11: Temptation in wilderness Exod 17-19: Travel in Sinai


4:18-22: Jesus calls disciples Exod 18: Moses appoints
rulers

chs. 5-7: Sermon on the Mount Ex 19 ff Sinai and the
and various explanations of Law giving of Torah

Matthew also demonstrates a reliance on the number three throughout his Gospel: 3 temptations, 3 illustrations of righteousness, 3 miracles of healing, 3 miracles of power, 3 miracles of restoration, threefold ‘fear not’, threefold answer to the question about fasting, 3 complaints of the Pharisees, 3 ‘is not worthy of me’, 3 parables of sowing, 3 sayings about ‘little ones’, 3 questions, 3 parables of warning, 3 prayers at Gethsemane, 3 denials of Peter, 3 petitions in the Lord’s Prayer, 3 aspirations in the Lord’s Prayer. There is also a triadic structure to the Sermon on the Mount which reflects a well-known triad of Jewish piety preserved in mAb. 1:2 (446).

There are also 7 demons, seven loaves, seven baskets, sevenfold forgiveness, seven brothers and seven woes. As Marshall Johnson wrote, “Considered in the light of this tendency toward numerical structure, the arrangement of the genealogy into 3 x 14 or 3 x 7 x 2 seems entirely congruous. The evangelist draws attention to the form of the genealogy because it is a survey of pre-Messianic history intending to underscore the predetermined character of the coming of Jesus, the Messiah.”

From the list of additional literary device Kaye supplied, in the first few chapters of Matthew one can see the following utilised by the Gospel writer when composing the text: parallel plotting with its ostensible appearance of simultaneity, delayed action and outcomes, convergence and retrospective alignment, sequential twists, temporal shifts, temporal gaps and blanks, analogous or repetitive themes and incidents, alternation whereby the narrative sequence zig-zags between objective simultaneities, suspense-driven episodes, parataxis.

So, what would a Sydney Anglican Evangelical following the much-heralded Dickson rule be forced to conclude? Matthew is neither prose nor historiography. Of course, similar material could be raised with reference to the other Gospels and similar conclusions stated.

As a liberal Dickson looks toward structure and not content (i.e. Don’t confuse me with the facts!). Kaye pointed out that Hebrew prose can be identified by the use of particular grammatical constructs. Anon and Dickson are oblivious to this (maybe they don’t read footnotes?) or choose to ignore it because it would destroy their case. Kaye wrote: “The particles ’et (the sign of the definite direct object), ’ašer (the relative pronoun), and ha- (the definite article) all have been identified as prosaic elements, not common in or suitable to poetry....In general, these particulars occur six to eight times more frequently in prose passages than in poetic ones. Statistically the results are even more important, since they establish beyond cavil that the occurrence of these particles is a valid discriminant, and the difference in distribution reflects an intrinsic distinction between prose and poetry. All these elements are present in Genesis 1.”

7. I believe Anon misunderstood a statement I made or maybe I didn’t explain it clearly enough. I suggested that liberals saw various parts of the Bible as historiographic which were the very sections that contain the literary devices that Anon and Dickson trumpet as being indicative of non-history. My point was not that these liberals BELIEVED these sections to be actual history, but that they saw it had the form of history i.e. historiographic i.e it resembled history writing. What the majority of liberals then do is provide a reason, any reason, to give their liberalism a veneer of credibility. In like manner, Dickson and Anon throw up this specious and contrived link between literary devices and non-history and non-historiography. That both these people state their case in a circular fashion and never once actually give evidence for it is lost in the debate. Anon further arrogantly tries to make us orthodox prove our case, another clear indication of his liberal and heretical view of Scripture. Anon, like Dickson, never actually supply any evidence for their belief.

8. So that clarified, Anon wanted to see some evidence that liberals accept the earliest parts of the Bible as historiography.
(i) Meir Sternberg understood the Bible to “transmute even invention into the stuff of history”
(ii) Robert Alter, the well-known literary theorist, calls Genesis and Exodus “fiction in the guise of history” and “historicized prose fiction.” Elsewhere he writes concerning Judges, “It is perhaps less historicized fiction than fictionalized history – history in which the feeling and the meaning of events are concretely realised through the technical resources of prose fiction.”
(iii) In other words, even an uber-liberal like Alter can see that this writing possesses the appearance of historiography, though, of course, denying its objective factuality. Dickson, however, denies that Genesis 1 even takes the form of historiography because – and let’s take him at his word here – it’s lumbered with too many literary devices. At least Alter is a tad more convincing because he denies it’s true but says it was written to appear like history. This is not all that dissimilar to the High Priest of atheism Richard Dawkins who many years ago, speaking to Phillip Adams, stated something to the effect that he understood from the text that the writers of Genesis 1 believed that what they wrote was literal and had occurred, unlike the dishonest contemporary Christian interpreters who try to make days seem like ages.
(iv) Even Adele Berlin agreed that despite the Bible being fiction and denying the miraculous, the stories were presented in a realistic narrative. Go figure, Anon.

9. Just a comment on a rather confusing point Anon made. He said that I was “incapable…of escaping from the simplistic but entirely spurious disjunction [I]’ve sought to establish between literal history and non-history.”
Now, I may have misunderstood Anon’s point here, but it seems to me that this is exactly the liberal cake-and-eat-it-too doctrine that the Sydney Anglo Heretics are becoming quickly famous for. I believe it was Warwick who first pointed this out on the Blog. They call Genesis 1 truth but not true truth. Anon’s comment seems to be a variation on this.
In any case, this is begging the question that Genesis is not historiography and history, and is another example of the hubris of these heretics who, while denying the traditional Church’s statements concerning the historical truth of Genesis 1, maintain that theirs is the right and only view of Genesis 1. They throw in all the usual red-herrings like the Good Samaritan Parable and pose all the hollow questions like “Was there really a certain man on the road to Jericho?” etc, as though this actually nullifies Genesis 1’s claim to being an accurate record of the Earth’s history.
No, Anon, it’s you and your postmodern, neo-orthodox mates over there in Anglo ga-ga land which have to prove the novel idea that there is no disjunction between literal history and non-history.

10. In summation, it is apparent that people like Anon and Dickson believe that art in writing spells the death of historiography. Or it may be the case that too much art is incommensurate with the writing of history (neither ever flesh their argument out). Now, maybe this is the case in contemporary history writing – I am not sufficiently adept to pass opinion – but, and my case presented here is hardly exhaustive, it would hardly seem that this was true in antiquity. Why, then, would Anon and Dickson make such a song and dance concerning literary devices in Genesis 1 when these, and more, appear throughout Scripture far more abundantly and in exceedingly more complex application? The answer is hardly rocket science. They disingenuously are led by the conclusions of materialistic science, notwithstanding their protestations to the contrary. It’s heresy business as usual with these guys!
I want to finish this thread by quoting the arch-liberal Bultmann. He wrote that “the literary devices with which [the author of John’s Gospel] builds the discussions—the use of ambiguous concepts and statements to elicit misunderstandings—are indicative that he lives within the sphere of Gnostic-dualistic thinking.” These ambiguities and misunderstandings are not “merely formal technical devices. Rather, they are the expression of his underlying dualistic view.”

As we know, Bultmann did not really care for any talk of the Gospels being history, just as Dickson and his zealous supporters truck no argument that Genesis 1 is history. It is indeed one of those queer coincidences of history that both Bultmann and Dickson identify the catalyst for the removal of the historical as the inclusion of literary devices by the authors of the biblical text.

11. Conclusion

Let me borrow heavily from Dickson’s own argument and, mutatis mutandis, present a more likely conclusion:

The chronology of the chapter is stunning and, to ancient readers, unmistakable. It casts the creation as a work of history, sharing in the temporality of God and deriving from him. My point is obvious: the inclusion of a prescript for the benefit of modern readers would be unnecessary because the original author could hardly have made it clearer that his message is historiographic rather than literary and ahistoric.”

Moreover, one can’t but help be reminded of C.S. Lewis’ trenchant censure of these Anglicans who seek to present another Gospel, a Gospel that robs Christ of his nature and office:

“Whatever these men may be as Biblical critics, I distrust them as critics. They seem to me to lack literary judgement, to be imperceptive about the very quality of the texts they are reading…These men ask me to believe they can read between the lines of the old texts; the evidence is their obvious inability to read (in any sense worth discussing) the lines themselves. They claim to see fern-seed and can’t see an elephant ten yards away in broad daylight.”

Finally, a word from Peter, the disciple who was mocked by Anon:

"First of all you must realise that in the last days cynical mockers will undoubtedly come - men whose only guide in life is what they want for themselves - and they will say, "Everything remains as it was since the beginning of creation!" They are deliberately shutting their eyes to the fact that there were heavens in the old days and an earth formed by God's command out of water and by water. It was by water that the world of those days was deluged and destroyed."

9 comments:

Eric said...

John, all I can say is 'phew' lots of work.

It seems to me that one of the basic premises of the 'literary does not permit history' school is reading back into ancient texts a view of literary devices that is modern. Today we identify the ancient literature style as replete with 'devices'; but it's literature; that is, intentional writing, and it must by virtue of this contain literary devices. Even in common speech talking about events we are hard pressed to avoid them; unless we want our speech to be as dry as chips. I think Dickson et al have spotted the obvious and report it as of moment, when it is non-news.

They have to go much further, of course, and say why it cannot be an account of origins; they have committed the mistake of affirming the consequent and denying, aside from my comment above, that a text cannot both have literary devices and be an accurate reflection of events.

Then I look at the owners of the language, and wonder why my invoice from my child's Jewish child care centre gives the date as being 5700 odd (from memory). That seems to accept that Genesis is history right back to dot.

There is also a post-Jewish arrogance that pours scorn on the prophets whose insistence is that God, identified as creator is in historically determined convenant with his people; historical right back to the start. I find it unsubstantiable that the Jews would include non-history at the very beginning of their very concrete historical faith; a faith based on 'faith-acts' by God and themselves (and not Barthian 'faith') in defiant distinction from the mythic fantasy stories that abounded in the nations around them. Israel was set in its ways of history, it had/s a 'history driven' faith. To suggest that they got it wrong, and the worship of God was based on myth merely joins Wellhausen, Gunkel and that crew on their leaky boat and turns its back on the realism of the Bible for 19th century German idealism.

gwen said...

I knew that Anonymous person had not demonstrated his case against you John. I am sorry to hear of your health problems but it is really good to read your incisive comments again.

Gwen

Critias said...

I get it, I get it!

This (the opening few lines) is a highly structured piece of literature...composed as an elegant device of art. It's got it all: a pun on the word CASE (Christians Against Spiritual Enlightenment)

It's got rhythm in 3,4 and 5, its got parallelism, chiasm, the lot: puns, parallelism, chiasm, rhythm, repetition, heavy use of numbers
(i.e. reliance on 7 and multiples where line 1 has 21 words, 35
syllables; 2 = 14 w, 28 s; 3 = 7 w, 14 s; 4 = 7 w, 7s; 5 = 7 w, 14 s; 6
= 14 w, 28 s; and 7 = 21 w, 35 s)

All I can say is that these statements therefore cannot be an historical record of what had transpired earlier this year between John and Anon.

Listen up anon!

BTW John, hope your health improves and gets back on an even keel.

Ktisophilos said...

Excellent scholarship there. The liberals and compromisers merely think they are being scholarly and look down their noses at those who take God at His word. But the above shows how real scholarship strengthens the case for reading Genesis plainly.

sam drucker said...

John, thanks for your helpful contribution. I have read the essay you referred to earlier by Marc Kay. I now intend putting your work and his together to compile a response to the advocates of the Literary Theory infesting the evangelical church.

I encourage others to do likewise.

Sam Drucker

neil moore said...

Heh, Heh, Heh, disappear for a couple of days and on comes John with a refutation of Anonymous' implausible position.

Thanks a lot ,John, a solid effort. Illness hasn't dulled you.

Over to you, Anonymous.


Neil

Critias said...

I stumbled into this piece by E J Young, from one of his articles on Genesis 1 and the framework hypothesis.

The question must be raised, "If a nonchronological view of the days be admitted, what is the purpose of mentioning six days?" For, once we reject the chronological sequence which Genesis gives, we are brought to the point where we can really say very little about the content of Genesis one. It is impossible to hold that there are two trios of days, each paralleling the other. Day four . . . speaks of God's placing the light-bearers in the firmament. The firmament, however, had been made on the second day. If the fourth and the first days are two aspects of the same thing, then the second day also (which speaks of the firmament) must precede days one and four. If this procedure be allowed, with its wholesale disregard of grammar, why may we not be consistent and equate all four of these days with the first verse of Genesis? There is no defense against such a procedure, once we abandon the clear language of the text. In all seriousness it must be asked, Can we believe that the first chapter of Genesis intends to teach that day two preceded days one and four? To ask that question is to answer it (from http://www.gty.org/Resources/Print/articles/2422)

neil moore said...

Once you start altering the clear instruction of the Word of God you set yourself up for foolishness.

Any scheme that takes away from the plain meaning of the Word is the makings of heresy.

Neil

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