Friday, December 31, 2004

Follow ups

I have a limited amount of time because I'm away from home typing in an internet cafe but I have a few things to add to my previous post about biblical authority. Firstly, I thought of a good analogy for my initial thoughts of what the writer of gen 1-11 was doing when he took the sagas in circulation in the ANE culture of the time and altered them to make them Jewish. It seems to me that he was doing something vaguely similar to what many modern Christians do today when they hear the story of evolution as an explanation of where they come from. They say 'well it seems to make sense but it's missing God' so they add God into the story going round, affirming, like the writer of Gen 1-11, that God was in control and behind it all. This is clearly not all there is to it though as the writer was a lot more creative than that adding in quite large bits (e.g. about humans role in creation) which is a bold thing to do. This leads on to the second point. A friend pointed out to me that these bits could be due to his closeness to God/understanding of him, or even straight forward voice from the sky revelation. A good point, maybe I have uncritically taken on board too much critical (as in the academic type) thinking with regard to the bible. More to think about.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004


Anyone reading I hope will excuse the serious nature of my first ever post. It was just on my mind I'm afraid. A few points. 1. The name of the blog is purposely esoteric, so don't expect to find an explanation for it anywhere.Happy reading. 2. Despite what this post suggests, the purpose of this blog is purely selfish at present, I don't want to feel obliged to polish what I write or to post regularly. 'Cathartic' is almost the right word but not quite. 3. Almost all the posts will be on Christian/theological issues, because that is what I think about the most, and the only thing I think about worth typing up. Happy reading.

My current theological crisis: Biblical authority

A few months ago I thought I had cleared up for myself how biblical authority 'worked'. The problem, it appeared to me, was to decide which meaning, of the many each text has, is God's word. This meaning I believed was the meaning for the original recipients (the fact this involved a good degree of research didn't bother me too much), from this authoritative meaning what God had to say to us was extrapolated understanding our own contexts and theirs noting the similarities and differences. However I have realised a number of problems with this. The less significant in my opinion is the fact that it is almost impossible to pin down the date of some of the OT books (something overlooked by me as my study has focused on the NT recently). Secondly I have remembered the early chapters of Genesis (thanks to Gordon Wenham). In the early chapters of Genesis the writer seems to be adopting sagas bashing around the near east at that time (Gilgamesh etc) and making them monotheist (plus a bit more). I always thought this quite a helpful discovery for preserving the doctrine of inerrancy but on further reflection I'm not so convinced. You have to ask what the author's thought process is here, and what he wishes to communicate to his readers. It all depends on what the Babylonians et al thought of their sagas; whether they believed them or not. If they did then the author of the Genesis 1 must have said to himself there is some obvious truth here but all this 'polytheistic stuff' cannot be right it must have happened like this... However (btw this is great as I seem to be working out my problem by writing it out which is almost the point of this blog) if the author of Gen was doing this it is hard to believe he (and his readers) held that the sagas were meant to be true, especially when he was so creative with the material he had (i.e. not just reducing the number of gods). A problem then arises though because as Wenham points out there are so many literary connections between Gen 1-11 and the Patriarchal narratives that if nobody believed Noah et al were real people then did they really believe in Abraham et al as well? To resolve this I really need to know more about the ancient near east's relationship to their sagas.I believe there is a book called 'Did the Greeks really believe their myths’; the same must be asked about the very different peoples of the ANE. I'll have to do some serious reading and quick because this is quite a serious existential issue for me.