Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Slacktivist Has an Interesting Point

Slacktivist has a post on the Genesis “Account.” He writes that it is no such thing:
An account is testimony, witnesses telling what they have seen. The speaker or writer -- the one giving the account -- does not need to be a direct witness herself. She may be a journalist or a historian compiling the testimony of others. But without some basis in such testimony from actual witnesses we haven't got what we can call an account.

When I point this out -- that the story in Genesis 1 is not an "account" -- the creation-ists get upset with me, as though I were attacking the book of Genesis. But I'm not attacking it, I'm defending it. Genesis 1 does not itself claim to be an account. It does not present itself as such and it does not willingly comply with those who would treat it as such. To read the story as it is, in the way that it presents itself, cannot be an attack. It's far more hostile to the text to declare, with no basis from the text itself, that it must be read as something it does not and cannot claim to be.
He also notes that other examples of accounts in the Bible have eye witnesses, especially the acts of Jesus, while the creation story does not. Is this semantic? Perhaps not since it goes to the heart of the “Were you there?” argument of Ken Ham's, who then states that we have God's account. In point of fact, no one was. While I have no doubt that the book of Genesis is what God handed down to Moses, in a sense, we are taking Moses' word for it.

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  1. Great points, although I'd add that we only have later tradition's claim that Genesis comes from Moses, whether directly or indirectly. And so that adds yet another layer of "Were you there?"

  2. You accept evolution but you think there was a Moses? Wow.

  3. WebMonk10:05 AM

    I think it's part of a much larger conflict of views about what the Bible is. Some of it is based on the word "inerrant".

    Inerrant tends to be meant that every last word, letter, and tiniest mark of the Bible (at least as it was originally written) was directly caused by God. At that point, it doesn't matter if someone actually witnessed something or not, because God was precisely causing the specific sentences, phrases, words, and letters to be written down.

  4. WebMonk, Yes, but something can be written down inerrantly and still be misunderstood. Despite the fact that Genesis is what God means for us to have, a literal reading of the text creates all kinds of problems, leading to eisegesis interpretations of the Young Earth Creation crowd regarding the flood and the age of the earth and, perhaps, even interpretations like George Murphy's and Denis Lamoreux' regarding the existence of Adam. Jesus spoke symbolically a good deal of the time, leading his disciples to scratch their heads a good deal of the time. It was inerrant but understandable only in a certain context. One of the great arguments of our age is what that context is.

  5. James, do you know when the Mosaic tradition was established? I have never come across that information.

  6. Ah, James, are you referring to the Documentary Hypothesis?

  7. Not the Documentary Hypothesis per se but certainly the fact that the Book of Genesis as we now have it provides clear evidence that it knows of a later time, when the Canaanites were no longer in the land, and when Edom and Israel were ruled by kings. And so Mosaic authorship is not challenged by any specific scholarly hypothesis but by the evidence of Genesis itself.