Genesis 1:1-2 — Not a Creation ex nihilo!

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Despite strong traditional and often authoritative interpretative claims that were formed centuries after this ancient text was written and devoid of knowledge about its historical and literary context, the opening of Genesis 1 does not depict a creatio ex nihilo, that is a creation out of nothing. The Hebrew text is clear on this point and recognized by all biblical scholars. Rather, what the text of Genesis 1:2 informs us is that when God began to create, earth in some manner of speaking already existed as a desolate, formless, empty waste—tohû wabohû in Hebrew, literally “desolation and waste”—in the midst of a dark surging watery abyss (tehôm). This is the initial primordial state of creation that the creator deity inherits so to speak, and it is a prominent cultural feature in other ancient Near Eastern creation myths, from Egypt to Mesopotamia.

Both creation accounts in the book of Genesis not only belong to the larger historical world of the ancient Near East that produced them, but they are also part and parcel to a specific literary genre that was widely disseminated throughout this ancient landscape. In other words, the creation accounts of Genesis 1:1-2:3 and 2:4b-3:24 display the influences of older Near Eastern literary traditions, beliefs, and perspectives about the origins of the sky, earth, and mankind. This knowledge was revealed to us in part through the archaeological discoveries of the late 19th century.

In the latter half of the 19th century, archaeologists digging around the ancient site of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian empire found the literary remains of Ashurbanipal’s library. The Assyrian king, who reigned from 669 to 627 BCE, was somewhat of an antiquarian; he had his scribes collect and copy all existing texts that could be found. The tablets discovered at Nineveh in the later half of the 19th century were the remains of Ashurbanipal’s library and contained copies of much earlier Babylonian texts, going as far back as 2000 BCE! What startled linguists working on these cuneiform tablets in the 1870s was the mention of a great flood, a creation, and other similar themes and stories that were present in the narratives of Genesis 1-11. For the first time, scholars and theologians alike realized that stories such as the flood, creation, an original mythic paradise with a primordial pair and a tree of life were not unique to the Bible, but were in fact part and parcel to a larger literary and cultural matrix, from which the biblical authors freely drew.1

Up until this discovery, in other words, it was commonplace among theologians to regard the creation account(s) of Genesis as unique, divinely inspired, and in more fundamentalist circles even historical. With the discovery of other creation myths, however, informed readers were now able to see that the creation accounts in the book of Genesis belonged to a larger literary matrix, whose ideas and perspectives about the nature of the world and its origins were shared throughout the ancient Mediterranean world.

The old Babylonian creation account, the Enuma Elish, for example, which predates the Genesis accounts by at least a millennium, exhibits many parallels, both structurally and thematically, with the younger creation account of Genesis 1:1-2:3. Even noting its highly mythological content and polytheistic nature, the Babylonian Enuma Elish narrates the creation of the sky, earth, and mankind in similar terms to those of Genesis 1:1-2:3 and in the same order. For example, in the older Babylonian creation account the creator deity initially subdues and conquers an original state of watery chaos personified as the goddess Tiamat, and then proceeds to divide her in two, that is separate the primordial waters into the waters above and the waters below. These waters are then kept apart by the creation of a firmament or the sky, effectively separating the waters above from the waters below. Next, the abode of the gods are attributed to the heavens together with the creation of the luminaries, stars, sun, and moon, to divide the years into months and days—indeed to create our 7-day week! The creation of the earth, that is dry habitable land, from the waters below then occurs, and finally mankind is created. Lastly, like the ending of Genesis 1:1-2:3, the Enuma Elish also ends by assigning rest for the god(s), and both speak of a divine counsel of some sort (Gen 1:26).

Biblical scholars now realize that this older mythic narrative must have served as a template for the author of Genesis 1:1-2:3, the Priestly writer. In other words, Genesis 1:1-2:3 was not a free composition of its author. This author obviously had literary precursors, one of which was the old Babylonian creation account the Enuma Elish, which the Israelites would have come into direct contact with during their captivity in Babylon in the 6th century BCE.

It needs to be stressed that it was less the direct influence of an older text that shaped the ideas and beliefs of the creation account in Genesis 1:1-2:3, and more so the worlview and beliefs of a shared cultural heritage that extended throughout the larger Mediterranean basin. In other words, the similarities between the Enuma Elish and Genesis 1:1-2:3 represent shared cultural perspectives and beliefs about the nature of the world and its origins. The Israelite scribes inherited these cultural perspectives and beliefs, adopted them, and freely modified them to suit their own purposes and monotheistic religious convictions. Many of the ideas and beliefs about the origins of the world expressed above in the Enuma Elish, and, as we shall see, similarly in the creation account of Genesis 1:1-2:3, were also present in other creation myths from the ancient Near East. Nearly every surviving creation account from Egypt, for example, presents an original preexisting state of darkness, watery chaos, and a yet unformed landmass prior to creation. This is especially so in the case of the Egyptian cosmogony from Hermopolis, whose primordial state prior to creation is near identical to that presented in Genesis 1:2. Personified as preexisting gods, this particular cosmogony speaks of a primeval darkness, a primordial formless earth mass or hill, and the primordial surging waters, through whose separation the earth and heavens were formed and named.

Thus, one of the ideas that the author of Genesis 1:1-2:3 inherited from his larger cultural and literary world about the nature of his world and its origin was that the creation of the earth and the skies, of ordered life in general, was the result of separating light from primordial darkness (1:4), of separating a primordial surging water mass (tehôm) into the waters above and the waters below (1:6-7) to form a space in its midst (1:6), wherein the heavens were named (1:8) and the luminaries by which the cosmos progressed in an orderly fashion were created (1:14), and finally by forming habitable land from a primordial formless and empty (tohû wabohû) earth mass and separating it out from the waters below and naming it “earth” (1:9).

In general terms, then, the authors and cultures of these ancient Near Eastern creation myths, Genesis 1:1-2:3 included, did not conceive of creation as an act of creating matter, but an act of creating order, form, purpose, a habitable land with tamed and separated waters out of an initial primeval state of surging untamed waters, darkness, and a yet to be named and formed life-supporting earth. Whether speaking of the Babylonian Enuma Elish, Egyptian cosmogonies, or Genesis 1:1-2:3, the emphasis is placed on presenting the creation of an habitable ordered world from an initial state of formlessness, darkness, and untamed waters, through the creator deity’s act of separating the initial primordial matter, assigning functions or setting boundaries to the separated elements, and naming or calling into existence each component of the world, as it was perceived by the peoples and cultures of the ancient Near East. The idea of the creation of matter out of nothing was simply not a perspective adopted by the cultures of the ancient Near East, the Israelites included. The closest thing we have to the idea of creation out of nothing are a couple of Egyptian creation myths that pose a single creator deity as the origin of life, and from whose body, sky, earth, water, etc. emerge. In other words, the idea that the world commenced through the creation of matter from nothing simply did not exist. Moreover, such an idea would not only have been inconceivable to the peoples and cultures of this ancient landscape, but inferior to the views they did hold about the creation of the habitable world.

That is to say, our ancient Near Eastern forerunners, the biblical scribes included, deemed that the creation of an orderly world, of a habitable land with tamed and separated waters and a heaven that provided light, order, and signs for the measurement of days, months, years, and even holy festivals from an initial state of darkness, untamed waters, and unformed earth was a more powerful statement to make about the creator deity and the habitable, ordered world in which they lived. More significantly, the act of creating order from disorder, light from darkness, form from formlessness answered the specific concerns ancient peoples of the Near East had living in, as they perceived it, a hostile world with forces that regularly needed to be controlled. So presenting a creator deity who could, and did in fact, tame the forces of nature, subdue darkness, control the seas, create life from bareness, form from formlessness—in short, an habitable life-bearing land from an earth that was or had become desolate, was a direct result of how the ancients perceived the world they lived in and the forces that acted upon it. This was the message behind such creation stories. The creator deity had full control over the destructive forces that continually threatened life, order, and the goodness of the earth. Most significantly, as we will see below, the ability of Yahweh to subdue chaos, form light from darkness, create a fertile and habitable earth from formless inhabitable desolate land also had a very significant and immediate meaning to the historical audience for which Genesis 1:1-2:3 was composed.

But besides these cultural beliefs, worldview, and the literary heritage that the author of Genesis 1:1-2:3 inherited, there are sound textual data that support the idea that our biblical scribe did not compose a creation account depicting the creator deity creating the earth and the skies out of nothing. For the text itself clearly makes the opposite claim.

First, as many modern Hebraists have noted, Genesis 1:1 opens with a temporal clause. The precise meaning of its first word, bere’shît, is literally “in the beginning of.” This is a complex grammatical topic, but simplified, the way in which the first word has come to be vocalized, indeed the first letter, bet, implies that grammatically the word is in the construct state, that is a noun which is followed by another noun. A literal translation is “in the beginning of.” And this is exactly what we find as the proper understanding of bere’shît when this same word appears elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible. So, for example, the Hebrew of Jeremiah 27:1, bere’shît mamelekhet yihôyaqim, is properly rendered: “In the beginning of the kingdom of Jehoiakim.” But the grammatical problem in Genesis 1:1 is that bere’shît is not followed by a noun but rather a verb-subject pair: bere’shît bara’ ’elohîm. Thus a literal rendering of the first three words of Genesis 1:1 is impossible: “In the beginning of God created.” Thus many modern translations have sought to capture the temporal aspect in the opening word of the book of Genesis by rendering the Hebrew: “In the beginning of God’s creating…” or “In the beginning when God created…” or even “When God began to create…”

The idea that creation narratives commenced with a temporal clause that indicated when the creator deity began his creative act is also attested in other ancient Near Eastern creation myths. The Enuma Elish opens with a temporal clause which doubles as the text’s title: “When on high the heavens had not been named, nor earth below pronounced by name…” As does the beginning of Genesis 2:4b: “In the day when god Yahweh made earth and skies…”

Another interesting parallel between the Enuma Elish’s opening statement and that of Genesis 1:1 is the reference to an earth that has not yet been named, that is not yet been created. How do you name the primordial material of an earth that has not yet been created? Although using the word “earth,” the Enuma Elish responds by referencing the primordial matter that will become earth: “when earth was not yet named.” Genesis 1:1 employs the same idea in its preliminary reference to earth as tohû wabohû, without form and void. What is implied might be rendered: “In the beginning when God created the earth and the skies, that which would become earth existed without form and was void.” And indeed this reading is supported by the text itself, when in verses 9-10 dry habitable land is created and named “earth” for the first time! What existed prior to earth’s being separated out from the primeval untamed waters, called into existence, and named in verse 10 is apparently a formless, nameless mass of desolate “earth” for lack of a better word. This is the proper message conveyed in Genesis 1:2, and once again it depicts the creator deity in his most powerful and omnipotent role—creating form, life-bearing earth with tamed and separated seas by subduing, separating, and setting life-supporting boundaries to an initial and primordial formless chaotic mass of desolate “earth” and water. This is how the ancient Israelites perceived their world and its origins, not out of nothing—a statement that would have been vacuous to them—but rather through the subduing of the forces of the seas, of destruction, of chaos, etc. And like the Enuma Elish, Genesis 1:1 must also be seen as a temporal clause doubling as the text’s title: “In the beginning when God created the skies and the earth, and the [yet to be created and named] earth was formless and desolate…”

Thus not only is the idea of preexistent matter part and parcel to the mind set and worldview of the ancient Near East, but the syntax and grammar of Genesis’ opening sentence, like other creation myths of the ancient Near East, strongly support the fact that the Israelites too depicted the creator deity in a role of subduing, separating, and creating the very components of the world from a preexistent state of formless, desolate matter.

Second, the precise meaning of the verb bara’ also highlights the creative act as one of separating. There are several verbs used in the two creation accounts of Genesis: roughly, bara’ “to create,” ‘asah, “to make,” and yatsar “to form.” The verb bara’ connotes the act of creating by means of separating out, or distinguishing. The skies and the earth, in other words, only come into existence by separating them out from the preexistent primordial matter, by setting their boundaries, and by naming them. Thus, it is not until verse 9 that the earth, that is dry land—“earth” never refers to the planet, but to the land—is only created at the moment when it is separated out and distinguished from the waters below, and named: “And God called the land “earth” (1:10). Likewise, the skies (shamayim), that is the waters above, only come into existence through an act of separating, subduing, and partitioning them off from the waters below, both of which were originally part of the primordial deep (tehôm). What is therefore implied in Genesis’ opening statement is that the skies and the earth came into existence through a creative act of separating them—exactly how many Egyptian cosmogonies also begin.

Third and most significantly is the fact that the text itself explicitly asserts that neither the skies nor the earth were created ex nihilo! For the text, and more so the message of its author, clearly depicts the creation of the earth from a formless, desolate, and void (tohû wabohû) and the skies from an original watery chaos (tehôm). In other words, both the creation of the skies (shamayim) in verses 6-8 and the creation of the earth (eretz) in verses 9-10 do not occur from nothing!

Per our text, earth proper is “dry land,” the material substance earth, that does not get created until verses 9-10, when the creator deity himself calls it into existence through an act of separating, defining, and naming it. And it is not created out of nothing. For again, per our text, this earth which only comes into existence in verses 9-10 was created from an initial formless, undefined, desolate, and unnamed “earth” that was originally submerged in the surging deep (1:2). Why this author explicitly presents the creation of earth from this initial state of tohû wabohû is addressed below. In any case, the text is quite clear: earth was not created ex nihilo!

Much of the confusion, or plain inaccuracy, behind modern claims of the earth’s creation out of nothing not only arise from a misunderstanding of Genesis 1:2 and a lack of knowledge about its author’s culturally conditioned beliefs and worldview, but also in thinking that the Hebrew word for earth, eretz, means the planet Earth. The text and its cultural context no where support this modern assumption. Rather, what is created is dry life-bearing land, the earth below one’s feet, formed from desolate, undefined, primordial yet to be named “earth.” So to be honest about our ancient text and the message of its author, there is no creation of the planet earth imagined here!

Likewise, neither the text nor its author presents the creation of the skies out of nothing. For what is to become the skies or the heavens (shamayim) is the expanse, the raqî‘a, which God creates in order to separate the initial primordial teeming waters into the waters above and the waters below. I suppose one could argue that the text does present the creator deity making this raqî‘a out of nothing (1:7), but not in the sense that there was nothing preexistent prior to its creation. For again the text clearly states that this raqî‘a, which was conceptualized by the ancient Israelites as a solid transparent barrier holding back the waters above, was created as a tool for the deity to separate and keep separate these initial primordial untamed waters, half of which are now above this barrier. It is this barrier or raqî‘a that gets named “the skies,” and its primary function was to keep back these waters above.

Finally, a grave theological problem is unavoidably created when one wrongly imposes later theological claims of creatio ex nihilo onto the text of Genesis 1:1-10—a text, as we have seen, which clearly and explicitly states otherwise. Since the creation of earth in verses 9-10 happens through the shaping and naming of an initial formless preexisting “earth” and the creation of the skies in verses 6-8 happens as a direct result of subduing and dividing the primordial untamed waters, then in imposing an erroneous and later theological assertion of creatio ex nihilo one is forced to conclude, since the text does not present the creation of shamayim out of nothing nor the creation of eretz out of nothing, that the creator deity was unable to do it! This is absurd; yet unavoidable if we follow this line of erroneous thinking to its end. For, if it was the deity’s original intention to create the skies and the earth out of nothing—or let’s put this more accurately—if it was the original intention of the biblical scribe to present his god creating the skies and the earth out of nothing, then why did he not do this? In other words, in imposing an erroneous theological assertion of creation from nothing onto this ancient text what you end up with as the creator deity’s supposed first act of creating matter out of nothing is the creation of a formless, meaningless, lifeless, and desolate “earth” covered by a surging watery abyss surrounded in bleak darkness—all of which then needed to be re-created! According to this reading, the creator deity could not do what he intended to do on his first go. This translates to presenting a creator deity that textually didn’t, and theologically couldn’t, create the earth and the skies ex nihilo! An absurd conclusion drawn by imposing erroneous modern-day assertions onto an ancient text whose real message is ignored, neglected, and interpreted away.

Last but certainly not least, as mentioned earlier, the composition of a creation account displaying a deity that could force a formless and desolate state (tohû wabohû) into habitable life-bearing land had a direct significance for the audience of Genesis 1:1-2:3. It’s time we took a look at this.

Before God commences the act of creating the habitable world, the author of Genesis 1:1-2:3 informs us that the earth, or what was to become the earth, existed in a state of formlessness and desolation—a tohû wabohû in Hebrew. This image was not only shaped by the ideas and beliefs shared throughout the ancient Mediterranean landscape, but it was equally influenced by the specific historical circumstance of the author and his audience—at least how they perceived it. The rare Hebrew expression tohû wabohû or tohû alone and the image it invoked were unique to the literature of the 6th century BCE. That is we find the same image in other texts from the 6th century BCE and specifically to depict the historical crisis so often referred to in these texts. Paying attention to these textual details allows us to see more clearly what the author of Genesis 1:1-2:3 hoped to convey through his creation account, and more importantly to whom!

So, foreseeing the imminent doom of Judah by the Babylonians in the earlier 6th century BCE and the coming desolation of the land and the turning of fruitful fields into wildernesses, Jeremiah professes:

I looked on the earth and behold, it was formless and desolate (tohû wabohû), and to the heavens, and they had no light (Jer 4:23).

The image conveyed here is remarkably similar, if not exact, to that of Genesis 1:2: the earth is in a condition of formlessness and desolation—the exact same condition as depicted in Genesis, tohû wabohû—and darkness prevails. Is this a vision of the primordial state of creation as depicted in Genesis 1:2? Not quite. But the prophet does borrow the image to depict the harsh realities and outcome of the Babylonian destruction of the land of Judah and its people in 587 BCE. In other words, the language and image that Jeremiah and other exilic writers of the 6th century used to portray the utter annihilation of the land of Judah at the hands of the Babylonians, who decimated its land, burnt Jerusalem and Yahweh’s temple down to the ground, and left the land barren and covered in ashes, was the same language and image used to describe the preexistent state of creation—tohû wabohû.2

In fact, references to Judah specifically, and the earth in general, as a tohû wabohû, a wasteland, a barren, sterile, and desolate wilderness, were typical exilic and post-exilic descriptions of the aftermath of the Babylonian destruction as they laid siege to the land and utterly destroyed and burnt everything they encountered, from cities to fields. Thus in another text from the prophetic tradition of the late 6th century BCE, the author of deutero-Isaiah, attempting to console the exilic community and/or the returnees, has Yahweh utter these words:

For thus saith Yahweh, he who created (bara’) the heavens, the very god who formed (yatsar) the earth and made (‘asah) it, who himself established it—”He did not create (bara’) it a desolation (tohû), but formed (yatsar) it to be habitable” (Is 45:18).

The allusion to (re)creation is more apparent here than in Jeremiah’s text. At core it is a message of hope to the exilic community that Yahweh will turn Judah from a tohû wabohû—i.e., the wasteland left after the Babylonian destruction— back into habitable life-bearing earth.

The point I’m trying to make is that this specific vocabulary and imagery is unique to the exilic literature of the 6th century BCE and reflects these authors’ reality, or at least how they perceived their reality—as a desolation, a wasteland. Thus similar to these passages in Jeremiah and deutero-Isaiah, the author of Genesis 1:1-2:3 is also expressing the same idea in his creation account, and to the same audience and for the same purpose! In this case, the tohû wabohû of Genesis 1:2 serves two purposes: on the cosmic level it describes the primordial desolate and formless “earth” which the creator deity eventually forms into a habitable life-bearing land; and on the historic plane it describes the state of desolation and waste wrought by the Babylonian aftermath of 587 BCE. If this is so, then the Priestly creation account, like the Isaiah passage above, is a message of hope to the exilic community. It is an expression of the very hopes and reality of an exilic community and how this community perceived its own condition. It is an affirmative message: that as God had created an habitable earth from a preexistent formless waste (tohû wabohû), so too he can, and will, reestablish the land of Judah as habitable from its current condition of desolation and barrenness: “He did not create it a desolation (tohû), but formed it to be habitable.” The message and image reaffirms to this exilic community, the goodness and holiness in the created order of the world despite their current plight living in tohu! This is why creation from nothing meant nothing. What the Israelites sought to portray was a deity powerful enough to make, to convert, a desolate, formless, barren wasteland into a fertile, habitable, ordered, and blessed land. Both Genesis 1:1-10 and these passages from the prophetic tradition accomplishes this, and I might add marvelously well.

My central goal here was not to argue that Genesis 1:1-2 does not portray a creation out of nothing, which is certainly the case, but rather to demonstrate that the biblical scribe’s presentation of the origins of creation from a primordial watery chaos with unformed, desolate earth was shaped by the ideas and beliefs shared throughout the ancient world, and that the description of creation in Genesis is a subjective and biased account drawn from the perspectives, beliefs, and ideas about the world shared throughout the ancient Mediterranean world.

Thus modern readers who are ignorant of the literary and historical contexts of these ancient texts, a literary context that the biblical scribes themselves were well aware of and consciously drew from, but nonetheless feel qualified to pontificate on the meaning of these ancient documents are just being dishonest and disingenuous to these texts and the beliefs and views of their authors. Not only that, but this type of practice—pontificating meaning on an ancient text while willfully being ignorant of the cultural and literary contexts, beliefs, and worldviews advocated in the texts themselves—has the adverse effect of merely fueling more ignorance, and in turn generating staunch hypocritical views, since one now believes, out of ignorance, something about the text which the text in fact does not claim! Our goal is to be honest to the texts themselves on their own terms and to the beliefs of their authors—not ours.

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Footnotes    

  1. There are a number of good anthologies. For example: Alexander Heidel, The Babylonian Genesis: The Story of Creation (University of Chicago: Chicago, 1951); James Pritchard, ed., The Ancient Near East: Volume I. An Anthology of Texts and Pictures (Princeton University: Princeton, 1958); S. H. Hooke, Middle Eastern Mythology: From the Assyrians to the Hebrews (Penguin: London, 1963); S. Brandon, Creation Legends of the Ancient Near East. London (Hodder & Stoughton, 1963); Michael Coogan, Stories from Ancient Canaan (Westminister: Louisville, 1978); and Victor Matthews and Don Benjamin, Old Testament Parallels: Laws and Stories from the Ancient Near East (Paulist Press: New York, 2006).
  2. Mark Smith, The Priestly Vision of Genesis 1 (2010), 57-59.

58 thoughts on “Genesis 1:1-2 — Not a Creation ex nihilo!

  1. qimba, I actually do recall noticing that Dr. DiMattei has not answered some of your fact-oriented questions that you’ve made in the past on various posts. I think this is not intentional on his part, as you tend to obscure your own good points with a lot of surrounding rhetoric and sermonizing. Most of your comments are so hyperbolic and polarized that a secular reader will start to dismiss anything with your name attached, thus failing to notice when you actually make a good counterpoint. That’s your own doing. You shot your own self in the foot. The tone of almost all “pro-contradiction” commenters has been neutral, or very restrained in emotion, since the beginning of this site. You are the only one shouting in a room full of calm people.

    The best thing you could do for your “side” (since you insist on making this a polarized situation) is to re-state your substantive questions under the related posts so that Dr. DiMattei has another chance to notice them (but not over and over again; your better comments from the past still remain for future readers, after all, even if they are never answered and never repeated).

  2. One more thing. This place is full of apparent contradictions. Most of them are totally bogus, energized by the faulty presumptions and outright bias of the ‘rigidly unbeliever’, whoever insists that Genesis 1:1 doesn’t exist, at least the first 11 chapters of Genesis are a myth, a set of legends and the rest of the OT is nothing more that 4 mindsets with a redactor as an exponential factor that reveals it is all politics and power grabs; that became the “bible” long after the OT section was history…in exile or soon after the return, beginning 5 to 6 centuries before the Christian era.

    And therefore the explicit implication that the HOLY BIBLE is a fraud and those who associate themselves with it are “doofus”.

    Go back and check EVERYTHING I have posted. It all is done with the perspective I have. Namely, like I said, everything is “apparent”. What I cover always ends with my assurance that, “as it concerns this topic, once again, the facts prove otherwise. This is no contradiction…”

  3. John, your “In 1973 I had already been to college and was serving in the military overseas. Don’t try to pull the age card here…” originally floored me. ‘Does he think I am addressing him personally?’ That was a very emotional response you made as if I was trying to offend you and going after you by design.

    “an argument that was based on logic and facts instead of emotion and insults”

    You explicitly imply that I lie and have no grasp of reality. If “reality” is only what comports with the definitions of how to read the Bible as dictated by Steve, you’re wrong. That is my point in going back to when I first was exposed to this “reality”. Been there, seen that, done it.

    I’m sorry, but I do not lie. I have background as a free lance journalist. I don’t tell you anything that I can’t attribute. Steve doesn’t attribute anything. He demands that everything he says must be taken exactly the way he dishes it out. Dissent not allowed. At least not without getting SOR.

    So tell me where I am lying. I have the same right to my opinions as the next person. And facts are facts. Do I need to remind you of my honest question to Steve? This website is an hypothesis. Open to discussion. It is a premise; I’m sorry but the facts are not all in…

  4. All I can say is if you, Qimba/Sabba, ever made an argument that was based on logic and facts instead of emotion and insults, I don’t remember seeing it. It makes me wonder whether you understand the difference.

  5. By the way, I’m not pulling the “age card” either. I’m almost 64. I was less than 24, barely in my twenties when I was exposed to this religion (in my “Comparative Religions” course).

  6. Dear John,
    please excuse me! I thought I was talking to the author of this website…I would have served too, but not by choice. Did you enlist? My draft number enabled me to stay home. Somebody had to go though. Thanks for being there in my place and helping protect our country

  7. No, Qimba/Sabba/Ken, you did not get it, you’re still not getting it, and it appears you never will get it, son. (In 1973 I had already been to college and was serving in the military overseas. Don’t try to pull the age card here. It doesn’t work and is irrelevant.)

  8. Ask a specific question about a glaringly facetious claim, just one of a plethora of similar contradictions, and the answer is always the same: the good ole standard SOR “Steve’s Operating Response”. Normally SOR is three or four times longer than most posts on this site as judged by the length of most of the readers’ comments. My SOR was short and to the point and the upper case indicated the proper pronunciation for SOR is the word “sore”.

    In fact the terse, succinct method used here in “response” to the long text I quoted, indicates that the real answer was:”Tough! The ends (JEPD—Documentary Hypothesis—Wellhausen’s critical “biblical scholarship”, etc.) justifies the means (in this case, prevarication)!”

    As to whether or why I don’t “get it”, let me remind you once again. I “got” all this back before you were a gleam in your daddy’s eye. I thought I was going to learn about Mormons or Mayans or maybe Druid Monks when I signed up for “Comparative Religions” during college registration in 1973. Instead the class was, well, this blog is a clone of what I experienced. I will say that this site is much more sophisticated (more sophistry) than that class which taught the basics. They hardly had any contradictions cooked up. You by comparison have put the meat and bones to the framework. But the approach was the same. Christians need not apply (their thoughts in the discussion). I read the books, went to class and passed the tests.

    This is not rocket science. It is censorship though, when critical discussion is preventd. At least to the extent that the 19th century German “higher” critical method of attenuated inductive reasoning is deemed the only acceptable criterion for “bible scholarship”.

  9. Meh, he/she most likely never will. It is beyond their comprehension to understand that a writing that is said to be “of God” can have errors contained within it. If it is a book of a God, it has to be understood that humans have been involved in it preservation and transference.

  10. “… this site has nothing to do with Wellhausen…The emergence of biblical scholarship in the 18th century was in part a redirection, a focusing on the texts themselves in their cultural contexts and a movement away from being told what these texts are and what they say by long-standing authoritative traditional claims and/or interpretive traditions…”

    Well, if that was the case, Steve, then why did you say the following back in 2012 on a post you made 12/24/12?

    I quote you verbatim:

    ” …All of these discoveries were still leading up to the work of the most influential biblical scholar of the nineteenth century, Julius Wellhausen.

    The German scholar and professor Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918) was primarily interested in what the Pentateuchal sources told us about the history of Israelite religion.7 Wellhausen’s task of reconstructing the historical development of Israel’s religious ideas and institutions was accomplished by arranging the biblical sources in chronological order. Following on the work of de Wette, Hupfeld, and Graf, Wellhausen claimed that the Mosaic ritual and legal institutions stood not at the beginning of Israel’s historical development in some remote archaic past, but at its end, that is in the exilic and post-exilic periods. To a large extent this was merely a rearticulation of the observations made by his predecessors. However, Wellhausen pushed further. Since Deuteronomy (D) and the Priestly source (P) were already claimed to be products of the late monarchal and exilic periods respectively—based on the textual evidence that the ritual, ethical, and cultic laws and practices proclaimed in P, and secondarily in D, were not present in the pre-monarchal and monarchal periods per our biblical sources, the books Joshua to 2 Kings—Wellhausen further concluded on thematic and theological grounds that the Priestly source was composed after Deuteronomy. This he based on the observations that D (Deuteronomy) displays no familiarity with the ritual system of P (Leviticus), and secondly, while P assumes that centralization of the cult of Yahweh at Jerusalem is a given, D has to argue for such centralization. Thus Deuteronomy’s argument that the cult of Yahweh must only be practiced at Jerusalem predates P’s ritual law code which already acknowledged the cult’s centralization at Jerusalem. This, along with the fact that neither Joshua through 2 Kings nor the pre-exilic prophets display any knowledge of the laws of P (the book of Leviticus), led Wellhausen to argue for a late date of composition for P, most probably of a post-exilic origin. In other words, the ritual law and the cult surrounding the tabernacle which the biblical narrative presents as part of the wilderness experience in the books of Exodus and Leviticus is actually a later post-exilic composition that reflected the cultic and ritual concerns of the community of exiles who, returning from their Babylonian captivity, resettled in Palestine in the Persian period and rebuilt Yahweh’s temple and cult. Accordingly, Wellhausen hypothesized that the sources that now make up the Pentateuch were composed in a series of successive stages and redacted together at a later date. From oldest to youngest the sources run: J-E-D-P.8

    The Documentary Hypothesis: J, E, D, P

    Wellhausen’s hypothesis came to be known as the Documentary Hypothesis and quickly established itself as the orthodoxy in critical scholarship. All introductions to the Old Testament published throughout the twentieth century contained in some form or another the Documentary Hypothesis, which in short, stated that the Pentateuch was a composite of (at least) four sources that could be identified and arranged in chronological order according to their theological, linguistic, and historical emphases, and whose final form came about through a series of redactional stages that dovetailed these sources together. J was dated to the Solomonic era (9th c. BC), or a century afterwards, and seems to have been a product of the Judean scribes of the southern kingdom. E was seen as a literary product of the northern kingdom and therefore must have been composed prior to its fall in 722 BC. J and E were redacted together probably not much later than the fall of Israel. To the composite JE text, D was combined, which most probably occurred sometime in the 5th century BC. A further redactional process probably occurring in the 5th or early 4th century BC added the post-exilic composition P to this JED document.

    It must be borne in mind that the Documentary Hypothesis is just that, a hypothesis. And as such there is a scientific rigor to it. As one critic writes: “A hypothesis is a conceptual structure which serves to organize and render intelligible a mass of otherwise disparate and disordered observations.”9 Like the model of an atom, which also is a hypothesis constructed out of what is observable from data collected from photon accelerators, so too the Documentary Hypothesis. It is still the best and most reconfirmed hypothesis that explains the textual data observed in the Hebrew text: duplicate stories, competing theologies and ritual systems, contradictions, differences in style and vocabulary, etc. More than a century after Wellhausen no alternative model explains the observable textual data as well as the Documentary Hypothesis. Certainly the Documentary Hypothesis as Wellhausen conceived is reproduced with considerable variation, and has had, and continues to have, its critics. It would be beneficial to quickly look at how the Documentary Hypothesis has been re-envisioned by successive generations, and additionally what have been its challenges.

    Now you’re ready to learn about the specific features of the Yahwist, the Elohist, the Deuteronomist, and the Priestly Writer and what distinguishes these textual sources from each other…”

    THAT APPEARS TO BE A CONTRADICTION TO ME! Just because you wrote it at the beginning of your work here on this website that is rife with contradictions like this, IMHO, doesn’t mean you can claim, “this site has nothing to do with Wellhausen”.

    The exact opposite is true.

    SO WHY DO YOU MAKE SUCH A STATEMENT THAT APPEARS TO BE A BRAZEN, BALD-FACED LIE?

    1. BECAUSE IT’S ABOUT THE TEXTS! WHAT THE TEXTS THEMSELVES REVEAL ABOUT THEIR OWN COMPOSITIONAL NATURE AND THE COMPETING BELIEFS, WORLDVIEWS, IDEOLOGIES, AND THEOLOGICAL EMPHASES OF THEIR AUTHORS. YOU’RE JUST NOT GETTING IT!

  11. OK, think of what follows as a Public Service Announcement , Disclaimer, Informed Consent Clause, “Full Disclosure”— and that this would not even be possible except my old desk top recently crashed. Via my email I was/am still receiving notices telling me of comments that were being posted on this website that pertained to the various blogs I commented on, the same stuff all of you get, I bet. But of course, beginning sometime around May or June or so, I couldn’t comment because I had been barred from commenting. We all know why. Afterwards, one reason I didn’t even try to comment was a lack of interest. Most if not all of the posts that came in my email concerned the Moses, Hobab, Jethro matter…yaaaaaunn! It wouldn’t have mattered anyway. I had been “kicked off”.

    But when the latest matter came up, I just used one of my other handles and emails to go with the new lap top.

    As anyone who has been around this site during 2015 (those who posted today—you 3 are the only ones) can attest, I am challenged when it comes to doing much more that just typing. I don’t know how to use basic tools as I express myself (hence the over use of the upper case/lower case contrast to emphasize). I got some advice once from KW on how to come up with a “search engine” since this site doesn’t have that capability. By way of example; it is just a fact.

    And as a result, even if I wanted to, I could never come up with the material John Kesler posted on me, for instance. And simple courtesy would keep me from publicly exposing anyone here with otherwise private information of the nature that he managed to dig up. If I wanted to go public like he did, it would all ready be posted on my facebook page. But for the sake of my grandchildren, I have attempted to remain anonymous. I found out when I was a prescient chairman and election judge in my youth, that while people who disagreed with me could not touch me, they did not hesitate to go after my wife and children. That was over a quarter of a century in the past. Now the potential for similar attacks/threats have escalated exponentially. And people like me are being extinguished, liquidated like Jews in the Holocaust for simply living in the same general area of the biblical subject matter everyone comments on here. Or how do you spell: ‘ISIS’? The only difference is that the Nazis have morphed into Islamofacists and about the only place where this genocide hasn’t happened used to be in our country. Now that is in doubt…

  12. I too thought Qimba might be Sabba Abushy as his comment did remind me of him but I wasn’t sure though as there was an absence of full sentences in caps. Thanks for letting us know that Qimba, Sabba and Ken Anderson are all the same person. Now I know I don’t have to bother to read his comments as he never directly addresses the issues discussed in Dr. DiMattei’s post and merely says the same things over and over again.

  13. Thanks for that info, John. Although qimba’s comments reminded me of Sabba, I didn’t really think it was him because the lengthy sermonizing, smilies, and flowery language were absent from these new comments. I don’t think I would have spent the time responding if I’d known his identity, but perhaps this latest discussion will at least be useful to future readers.

  14. Steven wrote: qimba—or Sabba (?)…

    Qimba/Sabba AbuShy/Ken Anderson are the same person:

    http://thebarkingfox.com/2014/08/04/the-lie-of-sennacheribttp/
    while my “handle” here is qimba, over there it is Sabba AbuShy, the same as my Facebook page.
    Shalom chaver and “la-he-tra-ote! (;~))

    http://www.kltv.com/story/27898889/rep-louie-gohmert-responds-to-2015-state-of-the-union-address
    On another note of needed accountability: I sent you an email yesterday or the day before highlighting the fact that Islamic Jihadist camps are being set up and indeed have existed in our midst for some time now. Texas has one down south somewhere around Houston. Why wait until the next jihadist atrocity? Need I say more? If so, call me: (my mother called me Ken Anderson)(;~))
    903 392-8431 land OR 649-1655 cell

    http://thebarkingfox.com/2015/10/15/reverse-replacement-theology/comment-page-1/
    Let me reference your previous post earlier last week which spoke of a “mini-congress of etz bnei Yoseph” coming up in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area in early December of 2015. This is one of the “future scenarios” my wife and I (Ken {aka: ‘qimba’} and Beth Anderson) plan to be a part of. That and the Feast that is planned for 2016 in Jerusalem (re: Zechariah 14). Please keep us posted and how to “register” and so on.

  15. qimba, it seems that you’re simply angry that anyone would dare question the Bible. If you weren’t so emotional, you would actually make a substantive reply to some of the points being made on the web site. Dr. DiMattei has always allowed commenters to argue with his position as long as they are actually engaging with the discussion instead of throwing around insults. His viewpoint is no more “insisted upon”, therefore, than a creationist viewpoint is insisted upon on various other sites.

    Anyway, the only point of substance in your last comment was that 1:1 is a unique statement in the history of creation tales, and I already replied to that assertion in my last comment’s point #4. But let me re-state my point.

    One possible translation of 1:1-1:3 would be, “In the beginning of God’s creating the sky and the land, the earth was formless and void, and darkness on the face of the deep, and the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, and God said, Let there be light, and there was light.”

    In other words, ‘When God started to create the world as we know it, it was without form and dark, and so he first created light.’ He then goes on to separate sky from land. There is no clear statement that “everything” was created in 1:1, or anything at all. This does not “disprove” creationism in any way; it simply tells us that we do not see the creation of the astronomical universe — all of space/time — in 1:1. I’m sure plenty of Christians could accept this without feeling that their faith is being threatened and shouting, “Paganism!”

  16. Histrionic? Your comments and that of Steve are defensive and thin-skinned, especially on a blog with this title. Especially on a blog that insists that only the 18th century German Wellhausen approach of criticizing the Bible, or at least Steve’s up-dated version of it (circa 2012) such as depicting the Bible as nothing but “contradictions” (re: comments above made on March 14)— will be the only perspective permitted here.

    So don’t be so easily offended if I have only pointed out the obvious. I waited a long time to post that comment. I first spent days and weeks and waded through this “contra” website to understand the premises and thought processes expounded on and “debated” (to the extent that is actually permitted) before making my observation. And nobody who has taken the time as I have to read and carefully study everything on this particular topic/blog, would accuse either of you of being, as you put it KW, “lovers of the Bible”. One of your testimonies, KW, is that you escaped the cult of Jehovah Witness, a so-called “fundamentalist” group in your opinion. Then you saw the light! It wasn’t what people like Craig (no JW by any stretch of your imagination) or your parents tried to force you to believe.

    Steve, let me just say, “Thanks for the laugh”. Your attempt to make yourself a “defender of the faith” (“…you’re implying that the Bible is paganism, to which I would have to hostilely object!”) is puerile and double minded as seen by your very next sentence:”Furthermore, Yahweh was not distinct from all other pagan gods of the ancient Near East”. That is your opinion, that the Bible is no different from the pagan cultures around it. In fact, it is steeped in the culture of the ancient world. And “bible” is a word and the concept behind it is something which you adamantly oppose, especially the Holy Bible and all those who treat it as such. At the top of this comment page you go into a rant to your good friend KW as you express your frustration with all the ignoramuses of the mindset that KW used to be a part of. As you put it, “Honestly, I have no experience, nor idea of what it must have been like being raised in a fundamentalist environment.” See comments on May4, 2014. As I have intimated, that doesn’t stop you from bludgeoning and using ad hominem you condemn and accuse others of doing. Only if it is used on those who do understand what you do not, by your own confession, have any “experience nor idea of” It is the whole premise for this website.

    Both of you and all those who are attracted to and agree with this site are in stark contrast to people with a perspective like Craig’s. After all, both of you take the time in the comments above (re: especially March of 2015) and on all the other topics of contradiction this site is dedicated to expose, to separate yourselves from people like Craig. And this particular site, “Genesis 1:1-2— Not a Creation ex nililo” is but one of 300 some odd conjectures in which this point of view is preached and this theology is insisted upon. And enforced rather dictatorially, I might add, no matter how objective and “compassionate” you insist you are to those who comment in a way that does not stay in the confines of your Documentary Hypothesis.

    mounir wrote: Any comment on William Lane Craig’s defense?
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/defenders-1-podcast/transcript/s16-02.

    To your credit, you took the time to look up and comment on the points made on that URL.

    But Craig is not commenting on this particular post or even contesting this site’s theology. He is simply making an observation that is not permitted to be seriously considered, and, by definition (around here) is determined on this site to be “irrational”.

    To quote from mounir’s URL— Craig points out, “…Verse 1 has no parallel in the other creation stories.When you look at ancient creation myths from the pagan religions around Israel you find nothing parallel to Genesis 1:1…”

    Or do I have to remind you that the concept of creation out of nothing was what was the issue here and the dividing point? The ancient pagans and those of today believe that any “creation” started with the material found in the next verse. That this was the starting point, and the pagan position, not that of the author of Genesis who said Elohim started from “nihilo”. Craig is contrasting this with what he calls, “non-biblical perspectives on the world”. Or as he put it, “God made the world – God is the cause of the world – but he did not use any sort of material stuff to make the world. He brought the universe into being without any kind of material substratum or substance.”

    He also pointed out, in contrast to the pointed perspective replete on this particular contradictory website that, “You cannot presuppose in advance that the author doesn’t have any idea of creation out of nothing and try to impose your theology on it.”

    That is what is done here. Paganism on steroids being insisted upon and trying to hide and justify it by calling it “biblical scholarship”.

    1. qimba—or Sabba (?), I have a 4,932 word post on the topic that is textually and culturally based and substantiated, and whose sole aim is none other than to acknowledge, understand, and reproduce as objectively as possible this author’s beliefs and views as evidenced in a culturally-contextualized reading of his composition, and which additionally builds on other similarly obtained knowledge about this text in its ancient Near Eastern context over the past century made by experts in the field, and your claiming my comments on the matter are “thinned-skinned.” Far from it. I’m not going to reproduce my textually-focused post or the text itself in a comment for those who have failed to read and engage them.

      More perplexing and notable is how you have actually accomplished leaving two comments now and have failed to engage in any substantive way in the textual and/or culturally-contextualized reading put forward in this post, or the biblical text itself on its own terms, or its culturally-influenced underpinnings. And it is the texts that are the focus, premise, and aims of this site.

      Second, this site has nothing to do with Wellhausen; rather, it is devoted to the biblical texts! I have said this dozens of times now, but you have failed to understand that, and partly because you’re not reading the posts, but rather glibly commenting to this site’s title and/or the titles of its posts. The emergence of biblical scholarship in the 18th century was in part a redirection, a focusing on the texts themselves in their cultural contexts and a movement away from being told what these texts are and what they say by long-standing authoritative traditional claims and/or interpretive traditions, which I might remind you were forged centuries after these texts were written and devoid of any knowledge about these texts. This shift in focus was also prompted by discoveries of other ancient Near Eastern literature, and specifically literary parallels to the stories now codified as part of what has become the book of Genesis. So in continuation of this scholarly tradition, the starting point are the texts themselves and what they reveal about their own compositional natures and the competing beliefs, views, theologies, ideologies, etc. of their authors.

      So, in another of you misunderstandings, or here misquoting of myself, I defend the texts—not (your) faith! Never claimed such a thing. That’s the apologist’s agenda (Also alluded to in my recent Being Honest to the Texts and Their Authors). Rather, what I defend are the beliefs, messages, worldviews, competing ideologies and theologies, etc. of these texts, and often it would seem against readers such as yourself who refuse to allow these ancient documents to speak the mind of their authors and their beliefs and messages. For it is the texts and their authors who express varying theological view points, contradictory ideologies, competing ways in which similar stories were told in the ancient world, contradictory beliefs, messages, and even law codes, etc. The Bible as a later canonization of 60 some ancient texts bears witness to this. This is what biblical scholarship is doing—listening to the texts on their terms and from within their historical and literary contexts—not blindly or theologically following the prescribed “reading” of these ancient documents through the theological prism of a later interpretive label.

      So if—to reference 1 example out of the 300 here—the author of Leviticus has Yahweh proclaim that only Aaronid Levites are to minister as his priests, while the author of Deuteronomy has at the same point in the narrative (5 months later!) Yahweh claim that all Levites can minister as priests (see #299), then I’m not going to try to eliminate these authors’ competing views by imposing my beliefs about these texts onto their compositions. Rather, my aim is to understand why THEY believed what they did, and following the literary conventions of the ancient Near East, how they substantiated their beliefs through the use of said literary conventions. This is being honest to the texts, and the beliefs of their authors. This is what this site is dedicated to. But you still can’t seem to get beyond your own interpretive prejudices about these texts now conceived as a text in the singular, with a singular message. For how can you honestly acknowledge the biblical texts on their terms, and with an aim of acknowledging each author’s message and beliefs as expressed through their compositions when your interpretive and theological approach dictates that these texts are now your Book and expresses your beliefs and messages! If your premise were the texts first, then we’d be having a more lucrative discussion.

      So returning to the text at hand, textually speaking the text of Genesis 1 does not express a creation from nothing, as demonstrated in the textually and culturally sensitive analysis above. And to reiterate, the methodological approach in the post starts with the text on its terms and from within its cultural context. Well, in fact the layout starts with the cultural context, the second half is the textual analysis, at the end of which there is a theological argument advanced, but from the perspective of the author of this text—his theological convictions—not yours or those of later readers—and the third is a literary contextual analysis bringing into the discussion other literature from the biblical canon that employed the same terms and or images, and not surprisingly also from the 6th c. BCE. And as KW has also pointed out, all of this is really a mute point because you can’t even engage with this author on his terms in relation to what ’eretz and shamayim meant to him! You’re just in no position to be saying anything about the text and the views and beliefs of its author.

      Finally, I have been kind enough to print a section of the Introduction of my forthcoming book in my most recent post which outlines this methodological approach to being honest to the texts, their authors, and their beliefs. By all means, take me up on the issues presented there if you’d rather talk methodology and methodological assumptions. But as a preliminary I might implore you to please read what I’ve written. Whether you see it or not, I am sincere in my aims of acknowledging, understanding, and reproducing the beliefs, messages, theologies, etc. of these authors as expressed through their compositions—and not, conversely, the beliefs, message, and theological premises inherit in, and created by, this collection of literature’s title, “the Holy Bible.”

  17. Though I’m not sure that qimba knows what “pagan” means, his histrionic comment did prompt me to read Dr. Craig’s statements carefully, and Craig raises some interesting points, some of which can actually be seen as support for verses 1-3 being a single sentence. However, the numbered points that he gives when repeating Westermann’s argument for [i]creatio ex nihilo[/i] have some issues:

    1a. He points to Isaiah 46:10 as another example of “bereshith” to mean an absolute beginning. This is, as far as I’m concerned, an apples-to-oranges comparison because the writer of this passage is completely different from the writer of Gen. 1:1.

    1b. He states that the earliest translations of 1:1, and the vowel pointing, support the traditional rendering of 1:1. I don’t know if this assertion is correct — I’d have to look into his claim about the vowel pointing — but the MT manuscripts come from the 7th to 10th centuries AD, which leaves a vast span of time which Jewish thinkers had to work out their own distinct ideas about what the original author was saying.

    2. Craig then makes the startling assertion that pointing to Hosea 1:2 as a similar example of the subordinate clause that some people see in Gen. 1:1 is not a valid comparison because we can’t interpret the writing of one author in light of another. This is exactly what I said in point #1a above, and conflicts his prior statement that Isaiah 46:10 can be used as a comparison.

    3. I agree with this point; naturally everyone wants to think that they are performing exegesis, so we can all agree that exegesis is desirable and eisegesis is bad. But sometimes you need to look at culturally similar passages in order to understand what an author might have intended. That’s not eisegesis; it’s simply comparing texts in order to determine context, in order to then translate something accurately.

    4. This point is only valid if 1:1 is in fact a separate sentence, which is the entire issue being contested here. Otherwise, if 1:2 is part of the same statement, then as Westermann himself points out, Genesis does in fact begin with a statement that resembles the “pagan” creation myth where a god starts with a situation that is lacking something (in this case, order) and then brings that element into the situation.

    5. I can’t argue against the assertion that the author would never have intended verses 1-3 to be read as one sentence, but I’m inclined to disagree. It’s been pointed out by Bible lovers that this first chapter is very poetic. Verses 1-3 may seem rambling if translated literally into English, but that doesn’t mean it was poor Hebrew. I’m sure that the author made a precise choice in words and letters when he decided on the phrasing of these opening statements, and that it sounded beautiful when read aloud, or possibly sung.

    Finally, to come back to the second point in my prior comment, Craig simply hand-waves the fact that 1:1 says “sky” and “land” by pointing out that there wasn’t a word for “universe”, so this is the only way the author could express the concept of the universe. This doesn’t mean that we [u]should[/u] interpret these words as meaning “universe”; but because Craig wants to see “universe” here, that is the translation he gives at various points. This is why he prefers to see a “dramatic narrowing of the focus to the earth” taking place between verses 1 and 2 rather than believe that they are simply discussing the same subject.

  18. KW, you’re speaking out of your inbred, pagan assumptions which not only you express but come up all the time on this site which is paganism on steroids. Craig clearly said that 1:1 stood alone and was a very Hebraic minded theological statement in it’s original. Yahweh Elohim was distinct from all the pagans “gods” that all the surrounding nations thought they were worshipping. All of whom (to this day—you and your ilk and the author of this pagan blog are proof) had one thing in common: the view that everything started in verse 2. They were all as ignorant as you are that it started, b’resheet……..

    1. qimba, This is a completely inappropriate, inaccurate, and ignorant response—not to mention unsubstantiated. KW, and myself, are genuinely, objectively, and contextually interested in acknowledging and understanding the biblical texts and the views and beliefs of their authors. Your use of “paganism” is merely rhetorical and pejorative and has noting to do with the agendas of KW, myself, nor this site—unless you’re implying that the Bible is paganism, to which I would have to hostilely object.

      Furthermore, Yahweh was not distinct from all other pagan gods of the ancient Near East as your beliefs dictate! And unlike yourself, this is not a subjective claim I am making. I’m not interested in such things. Rather this is an objective claim that our object of study—the biblical texts—reveal when one reads these ancient documents on the terms of their authors with an aim of understanding their beliefs, their culturally-formed perceptions, ideologies, etc. I am not going to cite biblical text after biblical text here, that is your job to know this. But I will mention one of dozens of good scholarly texts that address the hows and whys behind the similarities that some of the biblical writers saw between Yahweh and particularly Baal and El, where said writers consciously borrowed the images, functions, and epithets of these “pagan” deities in their own portrayal and understanding of Yahweh. See Mark Smith’s The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel.

      To cite just one biblical example, the Priestly writer of the 6th century BCE, in an attempt to harmonize earlier Canaanite/Israelite practices of worshiping El with those of Yahweh (to which the older Yahwist material in Genesis bears witness) basically informs his readers that those of old who worshiped El were unknowingly worshiping Yahweh! (in this case, the Canaanite El is Yahweh). You might do better acknowledging the beliefs and views of our various biblical authors, rather than erroneously attacking their views as those of myself or my readers.

      Again, our goal here is to acknowledge and to understand these writers’ beliefs, perceptions, culturally-formed perspectives, and even theological mindsets as evidenced through their compositions—not to impose our beliefs onto their texts which you certainly present yourself as guilty of doing.

      Finally, least of all is Craig—a trained theologian—in a position of authority on the Hebrew. You might want to expand your reading; for (nearly) all Hebraists are in agreement here about the sentence that extends from verse 1 to 3. And KW has accurately re-produced these experts’ consensus on the matter. Genesis’ first word—a preposition (be-) plus a noun (re’shit) places the word in the construct state, that is a noun which is followed by another noun in an “of relationship.” (See Smith, The Priestly Vision of Genesis 1, or read my post in support of the text!). Thus a literal translation of Genesis’ first word, bere’shit, is properly “in the beginning of.” This is why many modern translations acknowledge this construct state by understanding a temporal element in Genesis’ first opening word. Smith—a trained Hebraist—even suggests “When at first God created . . .” as a proper understanding of this sentence that finds its proper end in verse 3!

      Remember the task is to understand this author’s beliefs about the nature and origin of the world, and even of Yahweh—as he himself understood, and perceived it—not to impose our beliefs onto his text! In this regard check out my recent post where I make a plea to be honest to these ancient texts, their authors, and their beliefs—not ours about them!

  19. Plus, the most important thing I’ve personally learned from this site about Genesis 1 is that 1:1 is not relating any specific actions by God at all, but rather should be translated as, “In the beginning of God’s preparing the heavens and the earth –” (Young’s Literal). It’s simply the beginning of a sentence that continues in 1:2. The combination of the traditional translation of 1:1 that ends with a period plus the modern-day verse divisions, made in the 16th century AD, easily mislead the modern reader into thinking that 1:1 definitely has to be its own sentence, when it’s actually just the first half of a preamble sentence before things actually begin happening in 1:3.

    Even if one contests the grammatical interpretation above, the fact remains that the words used in 1:1 that are translated “heavens” and “earth” only literally refer to “sky” and “land”. So as soon as someone like Craig takes it as a given that 1:1 refers to the creation of the universe, they’ve shown that they are reading the Bible with modern assumptions in place, an eisegesis that they are not even aware of.

  20. mounir wrote: Any comment on William Lane Craig’s defense?
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/defenders-1-podcast/transcript/s16-02

    Here is an example of Craig’s inconsistency. He says of old-Earth creationist Hugh Ross, with my emphasis: “Some of you attend Reasons to Believe with Hugh Ross – I think this is one of Hugh’s weak points. Hugh tends to read science back into the text rather than allowing the text to speak to us first. My conclusions aren’t driven by what would be apologetically useful here, but rather, what does the text say?” Yet later, Craig says: “In fact, here is an interesting suggestion for those of you who are six-day creationists who want to interpret Genesis 1:1 as describing six literal days – this exegesis would allow that there was a huge time gap between the Big Bang and the planet earth and then in six literal 24-hour days God made the earth into a habitable place for humanity. So you could actually combine six-day creationism with Big Bang cosmology in that way. I don’t know anybody who does that, but you could do it if you want to have a gap in between verses 1 and 2.” Even if Craig doesn’t subscribe to this view, how can he call reading “Big Bang cosmology” into the text “exegesis”?

    Additionally, as Steven points out above, Isaiah 45:18 says that, ”He did not create (bara’) it a desolation (tohû), but formed (yatsar) it to be habitable.” Creation ex nihilio contradicts this, because Genesis 1:2 says that the earth was tohû. Trying to reconcile creation ex nihilio with Isaiah 45:18 leads to ad hoc assertions, such as a gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 in which the created-from-nothing-Earth became a chaotic.

    1. Mounir, Thanks. No, I am not familiar with his defense. . . of a theological position NOT of the biblical text nor, we might remind him, the position of its author! Upon publication of my forthcoming book, Genesis 1 and the Creationism Debate, wherein this section plays a part, I’d like to set up a debate with Craig. . .

  21. rambo2015, sorry, I don’t have any contact info for her. Apparently she decided to take a break from the forum in order to claim back some time in her life for other pursuits, or maybe her interest in JW subjects simply waned.

  22. “Although these posts come from a doctorate in linguistics, they aren’t in a peer-reviewed journal, but I think the linguistic evidence they draw on is indisputable and her conclusions are in line with general scholarship on the related scriptures.”

    kw, does leolai have a blog or contact email address? it seems that she no longer contributes to the jwd forum

  23. I would definitely agree with you on your concluding statement. But I don’t have the classic “infallibility” of Scripture as my litmus test. Almost all (quotation enclosed scripture) such as (“Thus he declared all foods clean”) in Mark 7:19 and similar “quotation marked” passages, of which Mark 7 has about 2 or 3 more, tell you that these were inserted somewhere later on in history. Scripture is infallible in that it has exactly what it was intended to have in it for us living today. We of all people at this time in earth’s history, with all the technological tools at our finger tips can definitely see the whole panorama of the 66 books. It helps if you’re at least somewhat steeped in history as well.

    I have the benefit of knowing first hand, experientially, personally as if I can (and I do, each day as I read it as I do so that in a year I have once again read all the way through it and ) hear from God, YHVH Himself through, among other things, just simply reading the Bible. Guiding me, directing me, giving me purpose and a certain hope that is more than just an “I hope so” wisdom and understanding and knowledge. That comes from obeying what it says and knowing how it applies to me personally.

    Daily you can know Him and experience with 100% assurance that you are in His will for your life. As per the Bible.

    As far as the “The goal is to debunk theology” statement, that was a direct quote from the Brit. I didn’t come up with the idea. Just an honest observation. But I don’t take that tack. I don’t give up the assumption that the God of the Bible can speak with a person and any person, for that matter, through His Word. Nor do I, to quote you, “would probably know less”. I don’t know more or less. If I do, I will tell you clearly. The rest of the time I am telling you what I know. I tell you only what I can prove, or document if I have to. My background as a free-lance journalist taught me that. Nothing worse that losing credibility for dishonesty or compromise.

    But again, It is not an “us vs them” with me. I have enjoyed our little back and forth. I like talking to intelligent people and find it is like my days growing up as an athlete. If I got to play against a better than myself, say in tennis, that experience made me much better than always playing people I beat without trying.

    And that is sort of what goes on here. I’ll let you guess what that refers to exactly, but I better shut my mouth about now! “In the multitude of words there is no lack of sin!”

  24. “It simply means I do not agree with the foundational premise that the Bible is a contradiction. ”

    It’s not really a premise so much as an observation; do not many Bible accounts seem to disagree with each other? You haven’t really been addressing the specific points that are being made on this blog. Instead you approach the subject from a big-picture standpoint, jumping to what you perceive as the endpoint of this approach to the Bible, but meanwhile you haven’t addressed the textual evidence.

    “So please don’t tell me that because this site is sensitive to people from my perspective […] that now, because I have come on this site and therefore I have to convert to your [historiographic] view of the Bible.”

    What Dr. DiMattei asks is that we keep the discussion limited to the texts themselves and what we know about the circumstances in which they were written, long before they were compiled by the early Church into the Bible canon. If you want to discuss the Bible as some sort of interconnected unitary message, then I’m afraid this isn’t really the place. At one time I would have welcomed this debate in another setting, but these days I simply don’t have the time. I can barely find the time to write these replies, unfortunately. I do want to respond to a couple specific points you made, though:

    “After clicking on the URL, the first thing that comes up are the reader’s comments. […] ‘Try reading the story of Abraham and Isaac on this assumption’ […] This URL I clicked on is loaded with pure “D” speculation.”

    Yes, the post about YHWH vs. Elohim in the story of Isaac’s “sacrifice” is indeed very speculative, and I don’t support that particular theory. But the goal of that post was not to discredit the Bible, but to engage in the act of reading the text as it stands and trying to understand why different words are used for God. Sometimes it does seem to be significant that the OT uses “YHWH” or “Elohim” for God, as in Genesis 1/2, so what’s happening in that post is that someone learned about this distinction and got over-zealous in reading into the word usage. I believe Dr. DiMattei’s blog is more careful about drawing conclusions from the use of those words.

    “The goal is to debunk theology.”

    I think you’re taking an “us vs. them” stance here again. Scholars write about the Bible because they think it’s interesting, not because they want to tear anything down. After all, it’s the most influential book in history. While it’s true that many Christians who learn about the history of the Bible and honestly reflect on its issues end up falling back from a literalist position, they’re not losing their faith or religion — just acknowledging the evidence that the accounts were written by mere humans. They still go to church, pray to God, etc. It’s not necessary for you to take an all-or-nothing stance, as if we have to choose between the fundamentalist way of reading the Bible or atheism.

    As far as the citations of Isaiah from the NT, you have to keep in mind that at least some centuries had passed since the book of Isaiah was penned. Once you let go of the assumption that the writers were inspired, you realize that Jews living in the first century, especially “expatriates” like “Matthew”, would probably know less about the history of the writing of the OT then an Englishman today knows about the writing of Shakespeare’s plays 400 years ago.

    Again, it’s probably impossible to see eye-to-eye on this issue simply because you are assuming the writings are inspired and reading them with that mindset, and I no longer make that assumption. It feels like I have taken off glasses that someone placed on my face which contained a prescription I didn’t need; I can see clearly now why, for instance, the gospels are so contradictory with each other. It’s amazing I didn’t see it sooner. I know that when Dr. DiMattei gets to the NT he is going to have his hands full documenting the seams between those four books.

    Anyway, because we today are able to approach these writings without the pre-existing assumption that they are infallible, and because we have access to more variations of these texts than the ancient writers did, and because of various archaeological finds in Israel, it is not surprising if we can see more clearly into the past and the writing of the OT than the writers of the NT could.

  25. KW

    Please notice that when the New Testament writers quote from both of the so-called “sections” of Isaiah (i.e. chapters 1-39 and 40-66), as the book is divided by the “histioronics”, that they, the Apostles and their disciples, such as Mark and Luke, all ascribe the writing to Isaiah, and not to some great unknown prophet of the exile period. Isaiah is quoted by name in the New Testament about twenty times, which I think is more than all of the remaining writing prophets combined.

    Oswalt T. Allis states this argument very concisely in the following paragraph:

    “Furthermore, in those books where he is so quoted most frequently, citations are made from both parts of the book. Matthew quotes Isaiah by name six times, three times from the first part and three times from the second. Paul in Romans quotes Isaiah five times by name, and from both parts of the book. John, while quoting less frequently, cites 53:1 and 6:10 in consecutive verses as ‘Isaiah’ (John 12:38 ff.) . . . Such evidences indicate with sufficient clearness that none of the New Testament writers ‘dreamt’ that the name of Isaiah was of doubtful or ambiguous meaning.” The Unity of Isaiah, pp. 42, 43.

    KW, I think from your background growing up that you may be more (maybe uniquely, around this site?) qualified to see the logical implications of these New Testament passages. That I have noticed many others are unwilling or even somehow unable to admit to. It is like they are willingly ignorant of or have a built in “blinder” that prevents them to see that this is just another proof that not only the Isaiah 1, 2, or 3 is a construct of their false premise, but the same nonsense applies to the way the Torah is purposefully and mentally mishandled as well.

    As I have testified before, I was alerted to this mindset back in my youth. Therefore it would not be surprising to hear someone say, about what I just presented that “none of these New Testament citations are made by Jesus Himself”. Or, “that none of them is given in answer to the question, ‘Did Isaiah write chapters 40-66 of the book called by his name?'” As if since they can’t find anyone in the New Testament who didn’t expressly address such a doctrine of faith for the “histrionics” crowd, they will crow about how right this historiographic approach must therefore be truth. Since the Isaiah 1, 2, and or 3 issue of “just who is the real author?” is not even an argument, (even though it is destroyed by the simple but compelling “internal evidences” of the NT) making the New Testament as invalid as the Book of Genesis. These arguments simply show how hard pressed the critics are, IMO and the extremes to which they are willing to go in an effort to justify their positions.

    By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, would not the statements of the apostles Paul and John be just as authoritative as one actually written by Christ Himself? If Isaiah was not the author of the entire book, then the Holy Spirit approved of a misrepresentation in the Bible, for He ascribed the writing of the entire book of Isaiah to Isaiah the prophet. The New Testament writers also very emphatically state that, without addressing the issue as if it was even an issue (because until the 19th century in Germany):

    ” IT WAS NOT EVEN ON ANYONE’S RADAR!”

    Everyone knew, and 98.6% of those that take the time to read the Bible still know that Isaiah wrote the entire book!

    So again, the logical consequent of the radical critic’s of Isaiah and through him and the attacks on Moses (and I am not even going to the Jesus Problem here YET!) is the complete denial of all prophecy. This is the chief conclusion of the mindset I find here because of this commitment to the religious doctrine of material atheism: that the Biblical doctrine of inspiration is irrational. If you can not see it or touch it, not just physically, but mentally, morally, spiritually—“religiously”—then, for this subset of their mindset, it is not real.

    And why? Why go “hammer and tongs” on Isaiah? Because this book also is accepted by real Biblical “scholars” and anyone that seriously and honestly just plain takes the time to read the book, and including the whole Bible of course to keep things in the context—that Isaiah 53, as well as and in conjunction with many other prophetic utterances from the other 15 OT biblical Prophets (Jeremiah through Malachi), that Isaiah chapter 53 is one of the most pointed and clear reference to Jesus, written down 800 years before He would show up on the pages of world history as the Messiah of Israel and the Jews and the Gentiles (those of the so-called “lost 10 tribes”).

    THAT THIS CHAPTER 53 HAS TO REFER to the Messiah. To Jesus.

    And this, in the world of (pick your philosophy): Atheism, Agnosticism, Animism, Polytheism, Dualism, Monotheism, Deism, Theism, Existentialism, Humanism, Rationalism, Materialism, Mysticism, Monism, Pantheism, and don’t forget Communism, Socialism etc. etc. ad infinitum ad nauseam

    JUST WOULDN’T AND COULDN’T AND SHOULDN’T FLY! This type of thinking about ANYTHING JESUS will not be permitted!

    How? By this doctrine that is convinced or maybe I should say, they are not convinced that “the prophets predict anything of the future, except what they could know and anticipate because they already knew what had actually happened because it was history that had happened in the past. And without special ‘divine revelation’.”

    And that is what this all really boils down to: one must choose his side. While the argument for Christ’s divinity is built upon his fulfillment of prophecy, and not just this one or all the ones found in Isaiah, but throughout the Bible beginning in Genesis and going throughout the other 65 books that end with Revelation. The so-called rational, modernist denies that this is even possible.

    So this mindset and concept of the book of Isaiah, IMHO is of recent development, is unfounded, and not only unfounded but is refuted by historical evidences, by the internal evidences of the book itself, and finally conclusively repudiated by the New Testament.

    And as I have said, the destruction in the unity of Isaiah as a fundamental element God’s Word, is, ultimately directed at God himself; toward faith in YHVH Eloheem.

  26. KW

    but there is more to this matter of the “internal evidences” that go along with the “external” or extra-biblical ones like Josephus or the Dead Sea Scrolls which also confirm the viewpoint that the Bible can be read and understood by anyone. And indeed,this has been the experience of humanity that had access to it down through the pages of human history—and just as it is today.

    As we all know, and are schooled here on this site, The critic’s division and dating of the book make the arguments of the prophet for the divinity of God appear very foolish. To show the argument of Isaiah for the divinity of God more clearly we quote from Isaiah 41:22, 24; 42:9; and 44:7, 8, and in that order:

    “Let them bring them forth, and declare unto us what shall happen: declare ye the former things, what they are, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or show us things to come. Declare the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods: yea, do good, or do evil, that we may be dismayed, and behold it together.”

    “Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.”

    “And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I established the ancient people? And the things that are coming, and that shall come to pass, let them declare. Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have I not declared unto thee of old, and showed it? and ye are my witnesses. Is there a God besides me? yea, there is no Rock; I know not any.”

    In these passages God, through the prophet, repelled those who worshiped idols by challenging them to have their gods foretell the future. But suppose, as the critics allege, that the statements God presented as prophecy were actually only history, what would then be the weight of His challenge to the idols? It would have no force at all. It requires no miracle to write history (fallibly). If a God should demonstrate His power by prophecy, but, we are told and led to believe YHVH did not prophecy, (which He could not have done if His so-called prophecies were history instead), then the conclusion would be that YHVH was not God, but only a god. This is one of the main if not the ONLY PREMISE OF THIS SITE. Via all the inconsistencies and outright lies that this “he is only one of many gods who are his equal—and he is a hypocrite at that!” that is the basis for Contradictionsinthebible.com.

    As I have said in a more caustic way that lands me in the “ad hominem” complaint category, One stands on precarious foundations who so obliterates the arguments for the divinity of JHVH by his modernistic theories…that don’t hold water, IMHO.

    You can reference my comments to John Kesler yesterday that are dealing with the same issue, more or less, in Isaiah 48.

    Then I will go to the evidences found in the New Testament…

  27. KW
    more to the point of your last post. After clicking on the URL, the first thing that comes up are the reader’s comments. Things like, “Bethel was also the name of an Aramaean god, probably syncretized to El. Or: I guess who ever selected the name was in the on the joke all that time ago. Or this one with even greater insight: Try reading the story of Abraham and Isaac on this assumption. What seems to emerge is a story in which Yahweh (Jehovah) promises a son to Abraham and Sarah and then another god, Elohim, demands that they boy be sacrificed. Then Yahweh steps in and prevents the sacrifice. That seems to me to make much more sense of the story – but it makes nonsense of a lot of theologising!

    Rob Crompton http://storytellersbible.blogspot.co.uk/

    This form of histiographics may seem light hearted (and ill-informed and easy to mock for what I perceive as ignorant) but the last phrase says it all. The goal is to debunk theology. Look through the comments from this Contradictions site we’re on. They are littered with personal testimonies of folks who were disillusioned with their previous encounters with “religion”. Find me someone who hasn’t been! In our hearts we all want to know the answer to the question “what is reality”? The problem with the Contradictions “insight”and its wrecking ball approach to “religion” that doesn’t replace it with anything after trying to just tear it down is that it then attempts to replace it with even less savory fare than the former. This URL I clicked on is loaded with pure “D” speculation. So is the histiographics that have come in the last 200 years or so. As I have pointed out, after the Protestant Reformation and the “new technology of the printing press, it was like the impact of the internet of today. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, within certain prescribed limits…

    One of the limits that histiographics insists on is being able to make blanket statements like, “… The pair of Heaven and the Deep occurs in another archaic text (Deuteronomy 33:13) …” which I found farther down from the “4QDeut” place you mentioned to check out. As it turns out, (and I personally was involved in just such an endeavor as one who came to work the oil fields back in 1986-87) Israel has found commercially sized oilfields in the land allotted to Joseph using this passage and others as the “treasure map” in the archaic or antiquated method that considers the very words that were attributed to Moses as having a valid, inspired aspect to them that has value for today. The oil, in the form of high grade oil shale, confirms that this approach to the Bible actually is dependable.

    That is my own personal testimony. I have retired since 2004 because I have been observing and and obeying the simple dictates to stand with Israel and be blessed. I didn’t stand with that nation and people for financial gain. It was just one of the “perks” that came with it, as if I ever needed financial gain to keep on “keeping on”. I don’t. Mine is more than just the financial aspect to retire @ 52 and then start a couple of family businesses. I have personally found the answer to the question “where is reality?” In fact, I know HIM personally even though when I was growing up I was mis-informed that HE was religion and could be found by being religious. HE is a relationship, and an intimate love relationship, that, as I said earlier, the greatest love relationship in the world is but a shadow of this wonderful reality I have been chosen to live and testify to everyday.

  28. Some reasons that many scholars believe that Isaiah was written by two (or three) authors:
    1) Isaiah of Jerusalem lived in the eighth century BCE, yet he allegedly predicted that the Jews would be liberated by Cyrus of Persia in the sixth century BCE. “Isaiah” even refers to Cyrus as “Yahweh’s anointed” (messiah) in Isaiah 45:1-4.
    2) Isaiah 40:1-2 mentions the destruction of Jerusalem as if it were a past event.
    3) Isaiah 48:20 seems to allude to the captivity in Babylon as a current situation.

  29. My understanding of Isaiah is that scholars believe it has multiple authors not because it would be impossible for the historical Isaiah to know the name of Cyrus centuries in advance, but because the focus of the text shifts from Assyria to Babylon midway through the book. And it’s not like the author says something like “there will come a time when all of Judah will be in exile in Babylon” — he starts talking about the exile as if his readers know what it is. Given that, it is reasonable to ask if there is any reason to believe the text has a single author. It is certainly possible that one book accidentally got appended to another before the Hebrew canon was established, and as far as I can tell the question has nothing to do with whether either text or both texts are divinely inspired.

    It would be like reading an early 19th century American text that abruptly stops talking about England and France and starts talking about Germany and the Soviet Union, with no explanation about why the reader should consider those nations (that didn’t exist in the early 19th century) to be important.

  30. KW, just because I have refuted the claims being made here on this site of contradictions, does not mean I am failing to use logic, or attacking anyone’s character or motives. It simply means I do not agree with the foundational premise that the Bible is a contradiction. That it is uninspired, there is nothing supernatural about it, and prophecy is just lies. That Isaiah, son of Amoz really didn’t write what he claimed he did. That it is falsely attributed to him. I don’t believe therefore that the Bible is based on deception, written after the fact and then falsely presented as something “As if it saw things in advance”. Neither have I appealed to prejudice and emotion. Nor have I been unreasonable.

    I appeal to reason. One of my comments to Dr Steve was the fact that my perspective was practical, while his is merely intellectual and pseudo at that. That is not ad hominem or vitrio. Just my opinion. My perspective. And my perspective is informed by having come from first hand experience to know the modern languages and people of the land of Israel and their culture and them personally. From every aspect as far as the different people groups and religions and their diversity could offer me. As one who, with my own “dime” paid for the education that learned about the history and language and the Book and actually lived and traveled extensively throughout the area, from the tip of the Sinai peninsula, wading out into the Red Sea where it makes a “y”, to half way up the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon and everywhere south of there, aka, Israel…Sitting in on religious forums of the Druze and Orthodox Jews while becoming friends with fellow journalists (I was a card-carrying member of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency) and politicians like Benjamin Netanyahu, who claimed he would some day, after meeting me “and hearing me out”, establish a ‘Christian Zionist kibbutz system’ for people like you, for the lost 10 tribes to come home at last and then really find out what it is like “to live among these Arabs”. That is one of many “missions” of a missionary.

    ***As a side note, it is the job of politicians to keep their promises. If Netanyahu is “unelected”, what can I say except, “Bibi baby, you failed to live up to your promises!” ****

    So please don’t tell me that because this site is sensitive to people from my perspective as a “born-again, Spirit filled, evangelical, HYPOcharisMANIC, JudeoChristianZionist, bible-thumpin’ Jesus Freak from the 1970s (with an Episcopalian religious background) and a practicing, non-Jewish Messianic and a member of the formerly “lost 10 tribes” and actually FROM both 1/2 tribes of Menasseh…that now, because I have come on this site and therefore I have to convert to your “histiographic view of the Bible. In other words, so that you can keep me in your locked box of what and how to think and properly view the Bible. Give me a break (;~))

    If you’re wondering where this all came from, just remember that it is not ad hominem. Neither is refutation of a person’s argument which is the last thing you said. It is also hopefully a non-threatening self-exposure of who I am. I have not been, “yelling back at you” in this that I have just put down on this page for you to see. Think of it as some kind of disclaimer or “full disclosure” contract. If knowing what you know now, and you are still willing to read what I have to say about anything, then you have to be held responcible. Not me (;~))

    The wife says I have to get off. I must go to try and “save” another part of the world where she lives and as per her rules…

  31. Abba, I’m sorry for any confusion caused by the name of the domain that contained the threads I linked to. I thought after posting that perhaps I should have made it clear that the jehovahs-witness.com forum is occupied by 99% former JWs, not believing JWs. Anything written in those two threads is essentially 180° from what JWs believe. Witness beliefs are quasi-fundamentalist/quasi-Jewish in nature, and they would have an apoplexy if they read what is written on that forum, if they weren’t discouraged from reading “apostate material” in the first place.

    Anyway, you’re correct that the material is built on the same modern critical basis as the material on this blog. It was only after reading a lot of this type of material that I eventually came around to their way of thinking, as I had a lot of childhood programming I had to fight against. Honestly, I know those two posts I linked to are very long and it’s not exactly like you have a good reason to want to spend the amount of time necessary to absorb it all, whereas in my case I was driven to read everything I could in order to arrive at something I could consider “truth”, after discovering how much I had been lied to my whole life.

    I also acknowledge that the whole subject of modern Bible criticism is a bit like the Gordian knot — where does one even start trying to understand the basis for this approach to reading the Bible? At first, it all seems like a lot of pronouncements being made as “arguments from authority” based on a foregone conclusion that the writer is trying to reach, doesn’t it? You have people claiming that the Israelites were polytheistic like the pagan nations, then claiming evidence for that in the text. It takes a lot of reading before one realizes that the conclusions were derived *from* the evidence in the texts as well as from archaeological finds which provide evidence of polytheism.

    For instance, you objected to the rendering of Deut. 32:8, which tells me that you are not familiar with the alternate versions of that text. So it might have been better if I started off showing you that information instead. Fortunately it is covered by the post I linked to, partway down. But to give you the Cliff’s Notes version, most Bibles translate the OT books from the Masoretic Text (I’m sure you already know this). However, the Dead Sea Scrolls’ version of Deut. 32:8, and the Septuagint’s translation of it from an unknown Hebrew text, show that redactions were made along the way. Please go back to that post at http://www.jehovahs-witness.com/topic/225309/bethel-house-canaanite-god-el?page=1 and search for “4QDeut” to see an explanation of the textual evidence for which variation is older and what it tells us about evolving Israelite beliefs. In short, the passage used to refer to “sons of El”, with El Elyon being the head god of the Canaanite pantheon, and YHWH being one of those sons (the one who received Israel as his “inheritance”). Canaanite writings tell us that there were 70 of these sons.

    Secondly, I want to address your opening remark about how this kind of material is adding to the scriptures, which seems to contradict my point about not adding any claims to what the text itself says. This material is based on well-documented knowledge of ancient languages and on the writings from cultures that were contemporary with ancient Israel. There is a difference between reading a text with an awareness of that history, which Dr. DiMattei argues is absolutely required, and reading the text by itself and then adding in one’s own suppositions in order to patch over any holes in the text from a modern perspective.

    So, for instance, reading a verse that says that God is beginning to make the sky and ground, and turning that into a statement about God creating the universe from nothing — that’s adding to the text. Reading that verse while understanding that ancient creation myths were about taming a chaotic world and placing boundaries on the water in order to bring forth dry land, and seeing the same wording in Genesis 1 and elsewhere in the Bible — that’s not adding to the text, it’s just understanding the real message of the text, as it was understood by a contemporary audience.

    When a fundamentalist reads Genesis 1:1, he adds words into the text on the basis of two assumptions: (1) that God must have created the whole universe, not just planet Earth (because modern science tells us that Earth is part of a vast system of stars and galaxies), and (2) that the Bible is inspired, therefore it couldn’t have been written from the standpoint of a primitive human who was totally ignorant of astronomy. So he takes those assumptions with him as he reads Genesis 1:1 and he injects them into the verse, changing “sky” to “universe” and “land” to “planet Earth”, two concepts which ancient man had no inkling of.

    If a modern, mainstream Biblical scholar can be accused of any similar bias, it’s only that he does not assume that the Bible is the product of special knowledge conveyed from God to man, but rather he proceeds on the assumption that it is the work of various men over the course of time, as are all the other ancient writings we’ve discovered. But this assumption itself is derived from all the contradictions found in the text, as well as the ways that the texts fall short, scientifically and ethically, for a modern reader.

    This blog is devoted to noting the contradictions, not the shortfalls, so I don’t want to use Dr. DiMattei’s bandwidth for a general criticism of the Bible, but the shortfalls are a necessary part of the picture if you are going to understand why people today are moving away from accepting the Bible at face value as God’s word (which in fact the book itself does not claim to be).

    For instance, my earlier comment about condoning rape was in reference to all the times the Israelite soldiers were allowed to claim virgins from the enemy forces they defeated, and the requirement that a man marry (purchase) the woman he raped if she was a virgin, or be put to death if she was already married (owned by another man). An interesting passage on slavery, on the other hand, is in Ex. 21:20, 21, where a master will not be punished for beating his slave to death as long as the slave takes a couple days to die.

    As I said, this is all part of a bigger picture. The bigger picture is that in the last few centuries, coming out from under the tyranny of “theocracy” by organized religion, men have felt freer to look critically at the Bible. The evidence has led many of them to the school of thought which is espoused by the blog. It’s not necessarily on the basis of wanting to reject religion, and then looking for reasons to do so; but even if that is what some of them are doing, we should weigh the evidence they provide rather than reject it on the basis of their motivation. After all, even if we could really know someone’s motive, rejecting their argument on that basis would be an “appeal to motive”, which is not a refutation of a person’s argument but rather an ad hominem attack.

  32. KW,

    I checked out the source material on Leviathan from the Jehovah Witness perspective. Thank you for bringing this “…further claimed knowledge besides what the text tells us.” doctorate material. Remember this— and the fact that this is good stuff. But I digress….

    Let me get back to this source material you suggested. The following is as clear as I can bring it to you, “live” description of what is going on as I now follow your advice and I now click on the first URL about Leviathan…

    I have always found that you have to check out their stuff like a murder detective (ever see the British Inspector Morse murder mysteries?). Let me give you a couple two-three examples of what I mean when I “DO JEHOVAH WITNESS”.

    1) Their translation issues: “When Elyon (an epithet of El) apportioned the nations, when he divided mankind, he fixed the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the sons of El. Yahweh’s portion was with his people, Jacob his share of inheritance.” (Deuteronomy 32:8-9) This is found in the second paragraph of the piece, “The Skinny on Leviathan and Rahab monsters”.

    “according to the number of the sons of El” is their translation for what is clearly in Hebrew, “L’mees-par b’nay yees-ra-yel” — ‘according to the number of the sons of/children of Israel’. NOT SONS OF EL!

    When I first ran into them back home in Colorado in the early 1970s while going to school in the place of my birth, Colorado State University (where I became aware in my Comparative Religions class of the late 18th century-19th century German higher criticism which I mentioned earlier and which I will deal with again here in a minute or so) the Jehovah Witnesses folks I ran into on the campus had their own translation of the Bible that put the name Jehovah in the place of Jesus or whenever God’s name turned up, or even when it was appropriate, when YHVH (Lord) was the appellation. They weren’t evangelical. Works oriented. Cult.

    So I’m quickly perusing your source material: ‘ah-bee-dah-bah-dah-bee-dah-bah-dah-bee’ (i.e. speed reading out loud to myselfD~)) and sure enough, first scripture passage doesn’t check out. Why do they put El in the place of Israel? Israel means a “prince with El” literally. Anyway, I go on noticing (as well) their little parenthetical statement:

    “When Elyon (an epithet of El)…” ‘So, ok, now the Bible has a God who is a byword for the Canaanite mythological god called El who begets 70 sons and therefore is given authority over Elyon of Deuteronomy 32…’

    ‘ah-bee-dah-bah-dah-bee…’ I come across the phrase, “When Judaism became monotheistic” in paragraph four. ‘So’, thinkest I, ‘they figure it once was polytheistic pagan’ and as I read on, it reads like this Contradictions in the Bible site we’re on right now.

    I also notice (and I am giving this to you verbatim—I don’t think we’ll be taking up too much “intellectual band width” here on this topic since it parallels Dr Steve’s stuff)—

    **** (Deuteronomy 32:8-9)

    That is why there are seventy nations listed in Genesis 10, one nation for each god. When Judaism became monotheistic, this notion was adjusted so that each nation had their own guardian angel (cf. Daniel 10:13, 20, 21; 12:1; Sirach 17:17). Thus we read in the Targum Ps.-Jonathan that “when he [i.e. God] divided alphabets and tongues to the sons of men [at the Tower of Babel], he cast lots with 70 angels, the princes of the nations, who established the borders of the peoples.” In this later tradition, Michael became the patron angel for Judah (and eschatological Israel), and this fact is of vital importance for understanding the conflict myth in Revelation. But for the time being, let us consider the conflict between Yahweh and Chemosh, which was realized in the earthly conflict between the Israelites and the Moabites. The old polytheistic notion of the different gods establishing the borders between the nations can be found in Judges 11:23-24 where Jephthah says:

    “Now since Yahweh, the god of Israel, has driven the Amorites out before his people Israel, what right have you to take it over? Will you not take what your god Chemosh gives you? Likewise, whatever Yahweh our God has given us, we will possess.” (Judges 11:23-24)

    Thus when Moab is defeated in war, the Israelites say that “Chemosh goes into exile” (Jeremiah 48:7), while the Moabites viewed their own political fortunes as dictated by their god Chemosh as well: “Omri was the king of Israel, and he oppressed Moab for many days, for Chemosh was angry with his own land…. And Chemosh said to me, ‘Go take Nebo from Israel!’ And I went in the night and fought against it from break of dawn until noon, and I took it, and I killed its whole population … and from there I took the vessels of Yahweh and hauled them before the face of Chemosh” (King Mesha Stele, COS 2.23, lines 5-6, 14-18). Moreover, when Israel “serves gods that were no part of their heritage” (Deuteronomy 29:24-27), Yahweh becomes jealous that “they have forsaken me and worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Molech the god of the Ammonites” (1 Kings 11:33), instead of following the god allotted to their nation. That is also why Ezekiel and the other prophets explain Israel’s destruction by the Assyrians and Judah’s destruction by the Babylonians as the result of their religious “apostasy” — by turning to the gods of other nations, Yahweh abandoned his political support and left them defenseless to the forces of the Assyrians and Babylonians.

    Having laid out these basic concepts, let me go on to discuss the two types of conflict myth in the Bible and in near Eastern literature……….”****

    KW it is in the next passage where he/she? made this comment: ‘…As for the creation of the cosmos, El’s abode is given as the “source of the Double-Deeps” (cf. also Ezekiel 28:2), which might reflect an earlier conflict myth involving El…’

    And I am honestly thinking, ‘hey, this is interesting stuff from a pagan source. I’ll have to get back to this, especially since it even mentions (paragraph eight) the Ezekiel 28 passage…’

    At this point I am not only encouraged to go on (But I’m like you, I don’t have the time to do this)—‘but not right now.’

    And like I said, I’m busy. Six of the grand kids are spending the night and tomorrow is our Shabbat service (amiyisrael.net). ‘I have seen enough’. As far as I am concerned, “I get it”. It is the same concept, this time from a “johnny come lately so-called ‘christian/xtian’ source” that has obviously swallowed the German Higher Criticism/Historical Criticism/Documentary Analysis/ (or as Dr Steve says ‘Histiography’). And basically swallowed it “hook, line, and sinker” and I’ll bet that after I have gone back and studied all of it, I could honestly say, “…and the fishing rod as well as the tackle box.” There is Jehovah Witness for you. Hey, I think I can respect them!

    KW, I’m giving you a window of what goes through my mind, just after reading your post and following your advice. That is me. I think in “live”, satirical/lampoon just about all the time.

    But I am not personally afraid of delving into this stuff because it challenges me AND THIS IS THE GOOD PART!

    (AND I QUOTE YOU FROM YOUR LAST POINT THAT YOU MADE ABOVE): “This comes back to the point that Dr. DiMattei is making, though — you can’t insert new material into the text. If the text has God only forming sky and earth out of chaos, then we don’t get to say that he did other stuff besides that, because… how do we know?

    What is the basis for any further claimed knowledge besides what the text tells us?”

    ‘AHHH, HOW ABOUT THE 1ST AMENDMENT TO THE US CONSTITUTION. THEY HAVEN’T CRIMINALIZED THAT ONE YET!’

    I know this is Dr Steve’s blog and he has the right to set the terms of the debate. And that is the good part. You’re on his good side and wear the white hat. I’m more the red devil on his shoulder (see great Disney cartoon movie: “The Emperor’s New Groove.” See the bumbling meathead and cohort/consort to the movie’s female Antagonist. He teaches her @ the end how to talk to chipmunks ;~)). But the deal is, I didn’t come up with this passage in Ezekiel 28. I had it in mind when I said,

    “I WOULD LOVE TO GET INTO WHAT “PROBABLY” (like everyone else, I didn’t ride in that rodeo) HAPPENED between GENESIS 1:1 and 1:2.”

    And the beauty of it all, (from my perspective “by the grace of YHVH”) You did! (via Jehovah’s Witness). So we could go there since that is one of the texts I had in mind about “just what DID happen between verses 1 and 2 in Genesis?”

    *******All Right Now! I don’t want to lose you. But we must address this issue I noticed Dr Steve wrote about in his article of 12/24/12. And I quote verbatim:

    “All of these discoveries were still leading up to the work of the most influential biblical scholar of the nineteenth century, Julius Wellhausen.

    The Pentateuch: a product of the late monarchal and (post-)exilic periods

    The German scholar and professor Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918) was primarily interested in what the Pentateuchal sources told us about the history of Israelite religion.7 Wellhausen’s task of reconstructing the historical development of Israel’s religious ideas and institutions was accomplished by arranging the biblical sources in chronological order. Following on the work of de Wette, Hupfeld, and Graf, Wellhausen claimed that the Mosaic ritual and legal institutions stood not at the beginning of Israel’s historical development in some remote archaic past, but at its end, that is in the exilic and post-exilic periods. To a large extent this was merely a rearticulation of the observations made by his predecessors. However, Wellhausen pushed further. Since Deuteronomy (D) and the Priestly source (P) were already claimed to be products of the late monarchal and exilic periods respectively—based on the textual evidence that the ritual, ethical, and cultic laws and practices proclaimed in P, and secondarily in D, were not present in the pre-monarchal and monarchal periods per our biblical sources, the books Joshua to 2 Kings—Wellhausen further concluded on thematic and theological grounds that the Priestly source was composed after Deuteronomy. This he based on the observations that D (Deuteronomy) displays no familiarity with the ritual system of P (Leviticus), and secondly, while P assumes that centralization of the cult of Yahweh at Jerusalem is a given, D has to argue for such centralization. Thus Deuteronomy’s argument that the cult of Yahweh must only be practiced at Jerusalem predates P’s ritual law code which already acknowledged the cult’s centralization at Jerusalem. This, along with the fact that neither Joshua through 2 Kings nor the pre-exilic prophets display any knowledge of the laws of P (the book of Leviticus), led Wellhausen to argue for a late date of composition for P, most probably of a post-exilic origin. In other words, the ritual law and the cult surrounding the tabernacle which the biblical narrative presents as part of the wilderness experience in the books of Exodus and Leviticus is actually a later post-exilic composition that reflected the cultic and ritual concerns of the community of exiles who, returning from their Babylonian captivity, resettled in Palestine in the Persian period and rebuilt Yahweh’s temple and cult. Accordingly, Wellhausen hypothesized that the sources that now make up the Pentateuch were composed in a series of successive stages and redacted together at a later date. From oldest to youngest the sources run: J-E-D-P.8

    The Documentary Hypothesis: J, E, D, P

    Wellhausen’s hypothesis came to be known as the Documentary Hypothesis and quickly established itself as the orthodoxy in critical scholarship. All introductions to the Old Testament published throughout the twentieth century contained in some form or another the Documentary Hypothesis, which in short, stated that the Pentateuch was a composite of (at least) four sources that could be identified and arranged in chronological order according to their theological, linguistic, and historical emphases, and whose final form came about through a series of redactional stages that dovetailed these sources together. J was dated to the Solomonic era (9th c. BC), or a century afterwards, and seems to have been a product of the Judean scribes of the southern kingdom. E was seen as a literary product of the northern kingdom and therefore must have been composed prior to its fall in 722 BC. J and E were redacted together probably not much later than the fall of Israel. To the composite JE text, D was combined, which most probably occurred sometime in the 5th century BC. A further redactional process probably occurring in the 5th or early 4th century BC added the post-exilic composition P to this JED document.

    It must be borne in mind that the Documentary Hypothesis is just that, a hypothesis. And as such there is a scientific rigor to it. As one critic writes: “A hypothesis is a conceptual structure which serves to organize and render intelligible a mass of otherwise disparate and disordered observations.”9 Like the model of an atom, which also is a hypothesis constructed out of what is observable from data collected from photon accelerators, so too the Documentary Hypothesis. It is still the best and most reconfirmed hypothesis that explains the textual data observed in the Hebrew text: duplicate stories, competing theologies and ritual systems, contradictions, differences in style and vocabulary, etc. More than a century after Wellhausen no alternative model explains the observable textual data as well as the Documentary Hypothesis. Certainly the Documentary Hypothesis as Wellhausen conceived is reproduced with considerable variation, and has had, and continues to have, its critics. It would be beneficial to quickly look at how the Documentary Hypothesis has been re-envisioned by successive generations, and additionally what have been its challenges.

    Now you’re ready to learn about the specific features of the Yahwist, the Elohist, the Deuteronomist, and the Priestly Writer and what distinguishes these textual sources from each other.

    Modern challenges to the Documentary hypothesis”*******

    Turns out he talked about it back in 2012. I didn’t interject nary a thing when it came to the German question.

    And I guess my question is: “not only mentally, but spiritually, when I come into this site and hang my hat on the hat rack, in courtesy to the rules, that no hats are worn on this blog, do I have to leave my brain and my relationship with YHVH in my hat?

    Again, KIW, I quote you: “…but this is due to a simple fact: the Bible has deep personal significance for you, whereas modern scholars…”

  33. Sabba, I would like to reply to all of your comments on my comments, but (1) I want to avoid turning this comment area into a general debate forum, and (2) I really don’t have the time. So I’ll just elaborate on a couple points I was making. One, I felt that your behavior was “us vs. them” and ‘conspiratorial’ when you connected modern Biblical criticism to unpopular concepts like communism and immoral events like the Holocaust. As I said, I share a background in fundamentalism and so I recognize where you are going with this. You see a “wheat and the weeds”/”sheep and goats”/etc. scenario developing from the translation of the Bible into common languages, where the Devil used this as an opening to mislead people. You are also suggesting that questioning the Bible leads to rejecting morality, which leads to extreme acts like genocide. This is the sort of black-and-white thinking which makes it impossible to understand the other side. You have already decided they are setting out to “destroy” belief in God, so you cannot relate to their position, which is simply attempting to understand the texts on their own terms without a pre-existing belief that the texts are inspired.

    Two, I didn’t really feel you addressed my point about common sense. Your response was simply about the rise of atheism. The point I was trying to get across was that I see a tendency in humans to not want to be skeptical about things that were instilled in them from youth, such as the importance of the Bible. Questioning whether the prophecy about Cyrus was written beforehand is just one example of someone applying the same sort of common sense that they would use to debunk a modern-day man who claimed to be a prophet or miracle worker, or to avoid being scammed by a conman. Why shouldn’t we apply the same standards to the Bible?

    Okay, on the subject of Leviathan and other monsters being pagan gods, I’ll simply direct you to: http://www.jehovahs-witness.com/topic/68098/skinny-on-leviathan-rahab-monsters

    Next, you asked for elaboration on the council of 70 gods (the sons of El): http://www.jehovahs-witness.com/topic/225309/bethel-house-canaanite-god-el?page=1 (see 7th post)

    Although these posts come from a doctorate in linguistics, they aren’t in a peer-reviewed journal, but I think the linguistic evidence they draw on is indisputable and her conclusions are in line with general scholarship on the related scriptures. There are other sources I could cite, but I think these are the most clearly stated and thorough treatments of the subjects that I’ve seen.

    “I WOULD LOVE TO GET INTO WHAT “PROBABLY” (like everyone else, I didn’t ride in that rodeo) HAPPENED between GENESIS 1:1 and 1:2.”

    This comes back to the point that Dr. DiMattei is making, though — you can’t insert new material into the text. If the text has God only forming sky and earth out of chaos, then we don’t get to say that he did other stuff besides that, because… how do we know? What is the basis for any further claimed knowledge besides what the text tells us?

  34. I have read some of your material. Not all 300 posts yet. I’m not intending to leave or “take over”. You have the right and the power to keep me and any comments I might make in the future from every appearing again on this site. No problem with me. You can start with this observation I’m making if you like.

    If that is the case, will the 48 different posts also cease to exist here “in space and time’?

  35. Dear KW,

    THANKS FOR YOUR THOUGHTS AND HONESTY. I’M NOT “YELLING” WITH THE UPPER CASE. IT IS EASY TO DISTINGUISH MY THOUGHTS FROM YOURS AND SO I HAVE INCLUDED ALL YOU SAID AND WILL COMMENT AS FOLLOWS:
    KW says:

    March 13, 2015 at 12:38 am

    Sabba AbuShy, it’s difficult to unpack the content of your posts from the rhetoric which they’re wrapped in. I used to have a very black-and-white view of the world myself, though, so this is very familiar ground for me. Eventually I realized that I had simply been believing in whatever I was told by my parents, passed down by their parents, and their parents’ parents, etc. Once I was willing to seriously consider the documentary hypothesis, the weight of the pieces of evidence gradually added up and changed my mind.

    MY MIND CHANGED TOO. I WAS RELIGIOUS AND CHURCH GOING BUT KNEW NOTHING. NEVER READ THE BIBLE AND COULDN’T FIND GENESIS IF MY LIFE DEPENDED ON IT. ONLY AFTER FLUNKING OUT OF MY FRESHMAN YEAR IN COLLEGE (WHICH I ALMOST DID CONSCIOUSLY SINCE I HAD NEVER “BEEN THERE BEFORE”) DID I GET TO WHERE I AM.

    But when one insists on maintaining a pure black-and-white view — “us vs. them” — it prevents any new information from entering one’s mind.

    I’M NOT ‘US V THEM’. BLACK AND WHITE CONVICTIONS BUT I’M HARD TO PUT IN A BOX AND I WILL GUESS THAT YOU HAVE SOMEONE ELSE IN MIND. THAT IS WHY I’M THANKFUL THAT YOU GOT BACK WITH ME. IT IS EASY TO EVEN TOTALLY MISREPRESENT OR FAIL TO UNDERSTAND SOMEONE EVEN WHEN LANGUAGE IS NOT A BARRIER.

    For instance, there is no real connection between modern Biblical scholarship and the other concepts you listed. Evolution? Socialism? The Holocaust?! Surely you jest.

    NO I DON’T. IF YOU LOOK CLOSELY @ WHAT I SAID, IT WAS USING THE SAME HISTIOGRAPHIC, “KEEP EVERYTHING IN IT’S PROPER CONTEXT” APPROACH THIS BLOG USES. I WAS USING IT TO GO BACK TO THE BIRTH OF THIS PHILOSOPHICAL PERSPECTIVE. THIS BLOG HAS AN HISTORICAL BASIS. IT WAS SPAWNED AFTER THE PRINTING PRESS BEGAN TO WREAK HAVOC WITH THE CATHOLIC STATISM THAT HAD DOMINATED THE DARK AGES. THE “histiographic approach” DID NOT EXIST UNTIL PEOPLE BEGAN TO WORK WITH IDEAS THAT CAME FROM THE BIBLE BUT AT THE SAME TIME FROM PEOPLE WHO WERE NOW FREE TO QUESTION ANY AND EVERYTHING IN THE BIBLE. THAT WAS NOT ALWAYS POSSIBLE UNTIL PEOPLE LIKE Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel SHOWED UP ON THE SCENE. WE CAN DISCUSS THIS AT LENGTH IF YOU LIKE, BUT AS YOU INTIMATED, THIS IS NOT THAT TYPE OF BLOG, PER SE.

    But as long as you mentally sort everything into bins labeled “good” and “evil”, and make conspiratorial connections amidst all the things you don’t like, you have no chance of understanding the points that scholars are making.

    I’M NOT MAKING CONSPIRATORIAL CONNECTIONS HERE. MAYBE YOU COULD GIVE JUST AN EXAMPLE OF WHERE I HAVE DONE SO IN YOUR EYES. WHILE I AM PREPARED FOR THE LITERAL DAY WHEN I MAY BE CALLED TO LITERALLY GO “BEHIND ENEMY LINES” AND DRAG BACK PEOPLE, (as it were) ‘KICKING AND SCREAMING AND STUCK IN A TYPE OF “Stockholm syndrome” MENTALLY OR SPIRITUALITY, I DON’T SEE THAT AS TAKING PLACE HERE NOR DID I VISIT THIS BLOG FOR THAT PURPOSE.
    YES, I AM AND ALWAYS WILL BE A MISSIONARY TO ISRAEL AND HAVE THAT, “as if it depends on me” to save the world approach to life, BUT I AM NOT HEAVY HANDED. SORRY, NOT THE CASE. ATLEAST NOT HERE (if you want to see a more “hammer and tongs” take no prisoner approach that I use to write my observations on the prophetic history we are all living through, feel free to view me under my handle that I use here—on my FACEBOOK PAGE WITH THAT SAME HANDLE. YOU MIGHT FIND IT NOT JUST INTERESTING (AND YOU MIGHT SCREAM AT YOUR PC MONITOR IN RAGE AT MY THOUGHTS — WHO KNOWS?~)) BUT YOU MIGHT ALSO FIND IT AMUSING AND YOU MIGHT EVEN AGREE WITH ME WHOLE HEARTEDLY!

    Ultimately I know that you and Dr. DiMattei will never see eye to eye, but this is due to a simple fact: the Bible has deep personal significance for you, whereas modern scholars see it as one of many ancient writings.

    YOU’RE RIGHT BUT “MODERN SCHOLARS” ARE NOT MONOLITHIC. THERE ARE THOSE (depending on how narrowly you define the term) WHO TOTALLY DISAGREE, I.E. THERE ARE MODERN SCHOLARS OUT THERE THAT ARE “MODERN” BUT ARE NOT “HISTIOGRAPHERS” LIKE DR. STEVE. NOT ALL SCHOLARS PUT THE BIBLE AND PAGAN LITERATURE ON THE SAME PAGE. SOME WILL SAY QUITE PERSUASIVELY THAT ONE IS MYTH AND ONE IS FACT.

    The fact that the Bible shares elements of its creation story with older stories from Babylon, Egypt, etc. would indicate to a neutral party that those stories naturally must have informed the stories that were later written by the Israelites. But a person who has the need to defend his belief in the Bible will argue that the Bible tells the original story and the “pagan” cultures simply copied and corrupted it.

    I’M NOT SAYING THAT. EVERYONE (and they all had a flood account) GOT OFF THE BOAT AT THE SAME TIME. THEY WERE NOT IN COMPETITION WITH ANYONE. THEY SIMPLY WROTE DOWN WHAT THEY WANTED TO SAY. THE PAGAN ACCOUNTS ALL SAID ABOUT THE SAME THING. WHICH WASN’T MUCH SINCE, LIKE I SAID, THEY WERE NOT IN THE BUSINESS TO TRYING TO CONVINCE ANYONE…ATLEAST NOT LIKE THE HEBREWS WERE. THE BIBLE IS DIFFERENT…..

    Which view is correct? Perhaps nothing can be proven absolutely, but an objective observer would be content with believing that the oldest stories are likely the predecessors to the younger stories. Likewise, a prophecy about a man named Cyrus, claimed to be made 200 years before his birth, would naturally seem suspicious to an objective person, as the simpler explanation is that the account was merely written afterward.

    HE WHO SETS THE RULES ON WHAT CAN AND CANNOT BE SAID OR THOUGHT WILL ALWAYS WIN THE DEBATE. I HAVE MENTIONED THE “ENLIGHTMENT” PERSPECTIVE IN PASSING BECAUSE IT IS THE BASIS FOR THIS BLOG SITE. BUT THERE WAS ANOTHER GROUP THAT ORIGINATED WITH THE “REFORMATION” THAT RESPONDED DIFFERENTLY WHEN THE “BOTTLENECK” OF ALWAYS NEEDING TO DEPEND ON SOMEONE ELSE (such as the priest who alone could read latin) WAS OVERCOME WITH BIBLES BEING PRINTED IN A LANGUAGE THAT THEY COULD UNDERSTAND AND READ AND THINK FOR THEMSELVES. ONE GROUP (THE “histiographers”) WENT THE ATHEIST, APOSTATE WAY SINCE NOW THE DEATH PENALTY FOR BLASPHEMY WAS NO LONGER A THREAT. PEOPLE COULD MOVE AS FAR FROM THE CULTURE THAT CLAIMED BIBLICAL AUTHENTICITY AND PREVIOUSLY HAD THE POLITICAL POWER TO FORCE “THEIR RELIGION DOWN EVERYONE’S THROAT”.

    THE OTHER GROUP, THE REFORMERS, TO PUT IT IN OUR COUNTRY’S CONTEXT, WENT TO AMERICA BECAUSE THEY WERE SICK AND TIRED OF BEING BURNED AT THE STAKE BY THE CHURCH THAT WAS ALSO THE “STATE”. AND WHY WERE THEY MARTYRED? IN PART BECAUSE THEY BELIEVED WHAT WAS OBVIOUS TO THEM THROUGH THE LENSE OF PERSONAL FAITH. FOR THEM THE SUPERNATURAL, MIRACLES, AND THE PROPHETIC PREDICTIONS WERE FOR THEM NOT A PROBLEM. THEREFOR ISAIAH WAS A PROPHET AND NOT TWO OR THREE DIFFERENT PEOPLE MASQUERADING AS IF THEY WERE ONE MAN. PROPHETS TELL YOU ABOUT HISTORY BEFORE IT HAPPENS (RE:Cyrus the Persian). THEY ALSO TEND TO BE PUSHY AND TELL YOU TO REPENT AND SO ON. THEY ARE WATCHMEN WHO SEE THINGS BEFORE THEY HAPPEN AND “THOSE WHO HAVE EARS TO HEAR” TAKE HEED AND THE REST DON’T. AND THOSE WHO WERE IN POSITIONS OF AUTHORITY COULD NOT ONLY BE OFFENDED BUT FEEL THREATENED ENOUGH TO WANT TO BURN ‘THOSE BASTARDS DOWN’ (and if they had the political power to do so, they did).

    It’s only if we start off being taught from childhood that the Bible is Special and Deeply Important that we could ever be inclined to look put our common sense aside and believe the word of people we never met when they tell us that a bunch of prophecies were fulfilled a very long time ago.

    IT IS WORSE THAN YOU KNOW OR COULD HAVE EVER THOUGHT POSSIBLE. THESE SAME PROPHETS TOLD ABOUT THE TIMES WE LIVE IN AND INDICATED THAT THE KEY WOULD BE A RESURRECTED NATION STATE OF JEWS COMING BACK FROM THE GRAVE AND RETURNING TO THEIR PROMISED LAND. IT DOESN’T STOP THERE. THE LOST 10 tribes HAVE ALSO AWAKENED AND THEIR RETURN WILL BE EVEN MORE REMARKABLE AND CAUSE EVEN MORE TROUBLE THAN THAT OF THE JEWS COMING BACK—BOTH OF THEM TO THE SAME PLACE, JEW FIRST AND THEN THE NON-JEWISH ISRAELITES. NEXT.

    Additionally, you accuse Dr. DiMattei of missing the point of the Bible, but it’s fundamentalists who dismiss the actual wording of many accounts. It’s not my intention to start a debate on these points within the comments on this blog, but off the top of my head, here are just a few examples of uncomfortable truths that fundamentalists need to ignore in order to believe that the Bible has a unified, inspired message:
    – The references in the Bible to “pagan” creation myths, with appearances by pagan gods such as Yamm, Leviathan, and Rahab.

    JOB DOES NOT DEPICT Leviathan AS A pagan god. A STRAIGHT FORWARD READING REVEALS SOME KIND OF CREATURE WHO LIVES IN WATER, LIKE SCOTLAND’S LOCHE NESS MONSTER.

    – The fact that Genesis 1:1 is an introductory sentence to the creation account, meaning roughly, “In the beginning of God’s creating sky and land…”, and then goes on to describe “tohu wabohu” as the starting condition of things, so it does not support [i]creatio ex nihilo[/i].

    I WOULD LOVE TO GET INTO WHAT “PROBABLY” (like everyone else, I didn’t ride in that rodeo) HAPPENED between GENESIS 1:1 and 1:2. The fact that Dr. Steve actually validates the prophets by quoting them would possibly open that door but…

    – A very limited, man-like version of God in the creation account starting in Genesis 2, who enjoys walking in his garden, and who can’t find his humans as long as they are hiding from him.
    – No mention of humans being created “perfect” (whatever that means), and the fact that being exiled from Eden was what caused them to age and die, since they could not eat from the tree of life and they were naturally mortal creatures.

    I’D LOVE TO GO HERE WITH THESE TWO TOPICS AS WELL AND IN DETAIL…

    – Literal descriptions of the earth being flat and having foundations, and of God standing/sitting on top of the sky (the solid firmament).
    – Descriptions of the heart and other organs as the seat of thought and emotion, later interpreted as poetic when science showed that they were not literally accurate.
    – An evolving conception of God from being one of 70 gods in El’s council to being a lone, invisible, omniscient, omnipotent deity.

    I NEVER HEARD OF THIS ’70 gods’ BEFORE—NOT IN THE BIBLE—ELUCIDATE POR FAVOR!

    – Treating women as property and condoning slavery and rape.

    YOU GOT THIS MIXED UP WITH ISLAM. JESUS, IN THE CONTEXT OF HIS DAY WHICH CONDONED DIVORCE, QUOTED FROM THE END OF GENESIS 2 AND USED IT AS HIS AUTHORITY TO PROMOTE MARRIAGE AND CONDEMN DIVORCE. MARRIAGE, (*despite Hillary Clinton once notoriously claiming it was like ‘living on an Indian Reservation’*) JESUS ASSERTED WAS BETWEEN ONE MAN AND ONE WOMAN. AND THE MARRIAGE RELATIONSHIP IS TO BE A PHYSICAL PICTURE ON EARTH OF THE SPIRITUAL INTIMACY WE CAN HAVE WITH GOD NOW AND FOR ALL ETERNITY.

    Pointing to neat instances of linguistic symmetry or other patterns in the Hebrew of the Bible only proves that the writers of some accounts were obsessive about numbers and language. But this sophistry serves to distract from the deep flaws in the various writings that have been collected in the Bible. The actual degree of wisdom (or lack thereof) in these writings, and the numerous inconsistencies, naturally support the idea that these are writings of men, not God, and furthermore that they are the work of competing schools of thought.

    AS YOU HAVE ALREADY POINTED OUT ABOUT DR STEVE AND I JUST AGREEING THAT ON SOME POINTS WE WILL JUST HAVE TO DISAGREE…I THINK YOUR COMMENTS ABOVE WOULD FIT INTO THAT CATEGORY.

    Though you reject the modern scholarship as a chaotic and meaningless way to interpret the Bible,

    I DON’T THINK IT IS CHAOTIC AT ALL. IT IS VERY ORGANIZED AND SYSTEMATIC. VERY ACADEMIC TOO. IT IS JUST BUILT ON PSEUDO-INTELLECTUAL SAND.

    AND IT IS NOT MEANINGLESS EITHER. IT OBVIOUSLY MEANS TO DESTROY THE CONCEPT THAT THE BIBLE IS INSPIRED BY GOD, AMONG OTHER THINGS…

    I’ve found the opposite to be true. I’ve been excited to come to a much more coherent, unified understanding of the writings and of the history that surrounds them thanks to this scholarship. It all makes so much more sense than the cherry-picking and special pleading that I was raised on! (Apologies to Dr. DiMattei for deviating so far from discussing the details of the Genesis account, but it’s difficult to respond to Sabba’s generalizations without making more generalizations of my own.)

  36. Steve, you claim:

    “First, as many modern Hebraists have noted, Genesis 1:1 opens with a temporal clause. The precise meaning of its first word, bere’shît, is literally “in the beginning of.” This is a complex grammatical topic, but simplified, the way in which the first word has come to be vocalized, indeed the first letter, bet, implies that grammatically the word is in the construct state, that is a noun which is followed by another noun. A literal translation is “in the beginning of.” And this is exactly what we find as the proper understanding of bere’shît when this same word appears elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible. So, for example, the Hebrew of Jeremiah 27:1, bere’shît mamelekhet yihôyaqim, is properly rendered: “In the beginning of the kingdom of Jehoiakim.” But the grammatical problem in Genesis 1:1 is that bere’shît is not followed by a noun but rather a verb-subject pair: bere’shît bara’ ’elohîm. Thus a literal rendering of the first three words of Genesis 1:1 is impossible: “In the beginning of God created.” Thus many modern translations have sought to capture the temporal aspect in the opening word of the book of Genesis by rendering the Hebrew: “In the beginning of God’s creating…” or “In the beginning when God created…” or even “When God began to create…”

    Steve, Hebrew isn’t that hard. Back in Germany in the later 18th century, nobody but Jews knew it and few of them at that because they developed a slang called Yiddish which took a little German and a little Hebrew and combined them together to get to Yiddish.That was still in the dark ages where most everything was in Latin and the printing presses couldn’t get to the Hebrew yet because nobody spoke it like it had been in the distant past. That would take another century and a half (1900s, technically 1948). Today, a child can understand. I have grandsons as proof. As I have already gone at some length to explain, this chapter is pretty straight forward, simple and structured.

    You probably don’t have the right pronunciation for the first word since “bere’shît” is transliterated into just two syllables. It is actually three—“b’-re-sheet”.

    But don’t take my word for it.The following is taken directly from the website of some good friends of mine in Israel, Ephraim and Rimona Frank: ttp://weeklyparashahebrewinsights.blogspot.com/2013_09_22_archive.html

    B’resheet is both the name of the first Parasha, and the name of the book of Genesis. “B’resheet bara Elohim…” At the first, beginning –b’resheet – created – bara – Elohim – God. The meaning of r’sheet is “first, beginning, start and prominence” and it stems from the root r.o.sh (resh, alef, shin) – “head.” (Notice the river in 2:10 that comes out of Eden and divides into four streams. The latter are also called here “heads”). The usage of this phraseology, therefore, establishes a foundation that the prime and first cause is Elohim, who is the initiator of everything. In Colossians 1:16, 18 it says of Messiah Yeshua: “For by Him all things were created, in the heavens and on earth… He is also the head of the Body… and He is the beginning… so that He might come to have first place in everything” (italics added). This above passage indeed exhausts “r’sheet” to its fullest.

  37. Sabba AbuShy, it’s difficult to unpack the content of your posts from the rhetoric which they’re wrapped in. I used to have a very black-and-white view of the world myself, though, so this is very familiar ground for me. Eventually I realized that I had simply been believing in whatever I was told by my parents, passed down by their parents, and their parents’ parents, etc. Once I was willing to seriously consider the documentary hypothesis, the weight of the pieces of evidence gradually added up and changed my mind.

    But when one insists on maintaining a pure black-and-white view — “us vs. them” — it prevents any new information from entering one’s mind. For instance, there is no real connection between modern Biblical scholarship and the other concepts you listed. Evolution? Socialism? The Holocaust?! Surely you jest. But as long as you mentally sort everything into bins labeled “good” and “evil”, and make conspiratorial connections amidst all the things you don’t like, you have no chance of understanding the points that scholars are making.

    Ultimately I know that you and Dr. DiMattei will never see eye to eye, but this is due to a simple fact: the Bible has deep personal significance for you, whereas modern scholars see it as one of many ancient writings. The fact that the Bible shares elements of its creation story with older stories from Babylon, Egypt, etc. would indicate to a neutral party that those stories naturally must have informed the stories that were later written by the Israelites. But a person who has the need to defend his belief in the Bible will argue that the Bible tells the original story and the “pagan” cultures simply copied and corrupted it.

    Which view is correct? Perhaps nothing can be proven absolutely, but an objective observer would be content with believing that the oldest stories are likely the predecessors to the younger stories. Likewise, a prophecy about a man named Cyrus, claimed to be made 200 years before his birth, would naturally seem suspicious to an objective person, as the simpler explanation is that the account was merely written afterward. It’s only if we start off being taught from childhood that the Bible is Special and Deeply Important that we could ever be inclined to look put our common sense aside and believe the word of people we never met when they tell us that a bunch of prophecies were fulfilled a very long time ago.

    Additionally, you accuse Dr. DiMattei of missing the point of the Bible, but it’s fundamentalists who dismiss the actual wording of many accounts. It’s not my intention to start a debate on these points within the comments on this blog, but off the top of my head, here are just a few examples of uncomfortable truths that fundamentalists need to ignore in order to believe that the Bible has a unified, inspired message:
    – The references in the Bible to “pagan” creation myths, with appearances by pagan gods such as Yamm, Leviathan, and Rahab.
    – The fact that Genesis 1:1 is an introductory sentence to the creation account, meaning roughly, “In the beginning of God’s creating sky and land…”, and then goes on to describe “tohu wabohu” as the starting condition of things, so it does not support [i]creatio ex nihilo[/i].
    – A very limited, man-like version of God in the creation account starting in Genesis 2, who enjoys walking in his garden, and who can’t find his humans as long as they are hiding from him.
    – No mention of humans being created “perfect” (whatever that means), and the fact that being exiled from Eden was what caused them to age and die, since they could not eat from the tree of life and they were naturally mortal creatures.
    – Literal descriptions of the earth being flat and having foundations, and of God standing/sitting on top of the sky (the solid firmament).
    – Descriptions of the heart and other organs as the seat of thought and emotion, later interpreted as poetic when science showed that they were not literally accurate.
    – An evolving conception of God from being one of 70 gods in El’s council to being a lone, invisible, omniscient, omnipotent deity.
    – Treating women as property and condoning slavery and rape.

    Pointing to neat instances of linguistic symmetry or other patterns in the Hebrew of the Bible only proves that the writers of some accounts were obsessive about numbers and language. But this sophistry serves to distract from the deep flaws in the various writings that have been collected in the Bible. The actual degree of wisdom (or lack thereof) in these writings, and the numerous inconsistencies, naturally support the idea that these are writings of men, not God, and furthermore that they are the work of competing schools of thought.

    Though you reject the modern scholarship as a chaotic and meaningless way to interpret the Bible, I’ve found the opposite to be true. I’ve been excited to come to a much more coherent, unified understanding of the writings and of the history that surrounds them thanks to this scholarship. It all makes so much more sense than the cherry-picking and special pleading that I was raised on! (Apologies to Dr. DiMattei for deviating so far from discussing the details of the Genesis account, but it’s difficult to respond to Sabba’s generalizations without making more generalizations of my own.)

  38. Dr. Steve, as someone who teaches the German philosophical, liberal method of looking at the Bible as a myth, as nothing more than a glorified (if that, probably less than, not more than the) alternative form of the Gilgamesh mess, your own approach is therefore under the same rules and method of critical analysis that you apply here on this blog which, by it’s very name, describes it’s purpose.

    Being a self avowed histiographer and as evidenced by your approach to this philosophy, demonstrates your premise that the only way to view the Bible is through re-writing history based on a critical analysis, evaluation, and selection of authentic source materials and composition of these materials into a narrative subject to scholarly methods of criticism. Which by the way, came out of Germany in the late 18th century, and was the basis for and spawned the various philosophies with names like Socialism, Communism, Evolution, Relativism, Atheism, Agnosticism, etc. which are just the tip of an iceberg of philosophical worldview “fellow-travelers” who are quite diverse but share one thing in common. Their critical analysis of life has the same object of criticism: the God of the Bible.

    You make this abundantly clear. You insist upon it. The Bible, and most people’s understanding of it is filled with contradictions, and folks that share this view of others who read the Bible are to be found on this site. I find it very interesting to see you converse with former xtians on your comments all over the topics that you have chosen to discuss. It is obvious that the only way you will allow one to read the Scripture is this very scholarly approach (I call it pseudo intellectual— you claim this is ad hominem and invective) that by it’s very definition is subjective in that it will not allow any other perspective. Such as reading/studying Scripture as if it can be done by anyone. As if anyone in any age can understand it in and of themselves and come to the knowledge, and spiritual insight and life changing experience that are found in it’s pages. You find that anathema and to quote you, “bullshit”.

    Please understand that I am not angry or have an ax to grind. I didn’t come here to start a war. As I have said to you and to Daniel and KW et al, it was to see if I could get a another, new perspective on just why Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land. And a funny thing happened. I picked your post on Isaiah to browse and it has led to where I am as I type this to you.

    And as I said at the start of this particular post (which will show me posting 13 hours into the future!~)), your higher critical method applies to you as well. And as you have insisted that you are the epitome of subjectivity, you have more or less said the same thing in so many words on so many occasions. What is good for the goose… (;~))That being said, as a digression…

    One of the things I noticed in your histiographic account here is the insistence, starting with the very first words in the Bible, that the opening line is grammatically incorrect and impossible to understand and is the intellectual basis for rejecting, whole cloth, the very notion that God created everything out of nothing! “How preposterous!” you say. In fact, the very concept does not comport with reason or with all the pagan thinking of the ancients!

    Well I agree. Reason won’t work here. And the Bible is the only place on planet earth, from earth’s inception until today that claims God pulled it off, “ex nihilo”. I agree with you. But revelation and faith in what is revealed through grace and by faith has no problem with “ex nihilo” at all. And no, that statement is not blasphemy. And just because the German mindset of 200+ years ago couldn’t grasp biblical Hebrew, doesn’t mean anything more than the obvious. You are no Hebrew scholar. They weren’t either. The German mindset, well, it also morphed into what came to be known as the Holocaust.

    You by definition don’t even claim to be and won’t and can’t discuss the Hebrew text and won’t and can’t put it in context. That is obvious from just a rudimentary reading of the texts in Isaiah and Jeremiah which you have chosen because they use words that are found in the Genesis 1:2 passage. They do not speak at all about your theme that you interject. I can go into great detail but that is not necessary since you have already told me that though you would like to talk about it, you can’t right now. Maybe later some time.

    ***a footnote to anyone who may come across this*** Just read the Jeremiah and Isaiah passages that Dr. Steve uses to insist that the message of hope in being restored is not only what is being talked about but is the whole message and context of the ancient unnamed authors, like deutero-Isaiah (a construct of the German philosophical higher critical analysis that insisted supernatural things like “ex nihilo” and Isaiah predicting people like Cyrus coming to defeat Babylon and calling him by name almost 200 YEARS BEFORE HE CAME ON THE PAGES OF HISTORY {e.g. Isaiah 45} not only could not happen but would not be allowed. So they invented the theory that some unnamed scribe living after the fact wrote down prophecy after the fact. In other words, the Bible is a lie. How do you spell contradiction?~)).

    Here is a pull quote from the good Doctor’s comments, by way of example: ““He did not create it a desolation (tohû), but formed it to be habitable.” The message and image reaffirms to this exilic community, the goodness and holiness in the created order of the world despite their current plight living in tohu! This is why creation from nothing meant nothing.

    Notice the logic or extreme lack thereof, depending on which end of the historiographic telescope you’re peering backward into Biblical history.

    What he means is that this is what the pagans were thinking and since they had images in their creation accounts that were similar to that in Genesis, and since Jeremiah and Isaiah quoted from this account, as it were—through the quoting from Genesis 1:2, it not only showed the influence of paganism on the Bible, but influenced greatly the whole Jewish world which, at the time of Jeremiah and Isaiah, were in Babylonian captivity. Therefore the pagan mindset of that time and place MUST have been what those two prophets were talking about.

    By the way, neither Jeremiah, who worked up to the time of the captivity but did not go into one himself, personally—he just warned his countrymen in vain about it’s impending doom—nor Isaiah who was not Jeremiah’s contemporary were in this scenario. Neither of them were in the time frame or place where Dr. Steve insists they were.

    Isaiah lived a century before Jeremiah. He knew prophets like Hosea and Micah and worked in his art which was unrivaled in the versatility of expression, brilliance of imagery, and richness of vocabulary. He was a prophetic poet and that was how he used the passage in question.

    But neither passage comes even close to saying anything of the sort. The passages speak of judgment, because of the Israelites insistent rebellion and defiance but they speak of and insist upon personal repentance. That is where the hope is. That is the message for our day. Whoops! but iDiGRESS…

    If Dr. Steve and the late 18th century German agnostics wanted to have Jeremiah and Isaiah speak of hope and restoration there are certainly plenty of chapters to choose from to accomplish this. But he/they chose these verses, totally out of context because their segue in was the Hebrew words like tohu va vohu. That is classic inductive thinking which by it’s nature is totally subjective. In other words, you come up with a premise which epitomizes your whole view of life, such as, “This is why creation from nothing meant nothing” and then you build on this specious perspective and inject it, in this case with the chosen Jeremiah/Isaiah verses that have the same Hebrew words.

    Pardon me for being about ready to laugh, but that is not how you interpret Scripture. As I have said to Dr. Steve on at least two occasions, it is like coming up with “Judah hung himself. Go and do likewise” by just picking random verses out of the Bible and making that your personal faith. It may be the way you re-write history, but it is only considered smart if you take what is said on face value and fail to read the Book in it’s entirety and with an open heart and mind.

    Dig a little deeper!***

    1. Sabba,

      Your mischaracterization of myself, blatant ad hominem generalizations (not one of which is accurate!), and unsubstantiated claims when it comes to myself and the biblical texts is tiresome and a bit childish. I have repeatedly stressed, and my over 300 posts demonstrate, and my readers would confirm, that it’s all about the texts, the texts, the texts here—not German liberal philosophy, not myth, not evolution, etc. But the texts. My agenda is and has always been the texts, and the beliefs of their authors, whomever they may be. Your inability to read and understand this (after it has been pontificated 48 different times) as well as, one can only surmise, your inability to do the same with respect to the biblical texts is now quite visible. Even your attempted, I must assume, discussion of Genesis 1:1 is merely centered around later theological and traditional perspectives. If you can’t—or don’t want to I assume—focus your comments around the text then I’m inclined to end this conversation. I have been more than transparent and courteous here.

  39. OK it looks like everything is fine if 13 hours in the future or somewhat over 180 degrees out of phase works for everyone. Me personally, I find it hard to go back and forward at the same time, at least in responding…

  40. Steve— I have gone through just about everything on this particular blog that I could begin to comment on. There is much more. Basically your comments I wish to address are below. I will, in effect, use this as a place to store this until I can come back and deal with the “tohu vah vohu”.

    THERE IS ANOTHER REASON TOO. I AM CAPITALIZING THIS TO HELP ME REFER TO THIS IF NEED BE. MY POINT IS CURIOSITY: WILL THIS COME OUT AT THE SAME POINT OF THE DAY AS THE FIRST POST I MADE ON THIS CURRENT TOPIC? I DID NOT, REPEAT DID NOT MAKE THAT POST TODAY but yesterday @ approximately the same time. Why you have me saying (this is my opening line to identify it) “Steve, try as you might…” as being (excuse me for the previous typo “2:15 pm”) issued @ 2:15 am today. That was posted yesterday @ approximately 1:30 pm. This one, when I click on the POST COMMENT button should read 1:08 pm March 11.

    WE WILL SEE!

    *** again, I will come back and try to address what follows in the near future***

    “He did not create it a desolation (tohû), but formed it to be habitable.” The message and image reaffirms to this exilic community, the goodness and holiness in the created order of the world despite their current plight living in tohu! This is why creation from nothing meant nothing. What the Israelites sought to portray was a deity powerful enough to make, to convert, a desolate, formless, barren wasteland into a fertile, habitable, ordered, and blessed land. Both Genesis 1:1-10 and these passages from the prophetic tradition accomplishes this, and I might add marvelously well.

    The point I’m trying to make is that this specific vocabulary and imagery is unique to the exilic literature of the 6th century BCE and reflects these authors’ reality, or at least how they perceived their reality—as a desolation, a wasteland. Thus similar to these passages in Jeremiah and deutero-Isaiah, the author of Genesis 1:1-2:3 is also expressing the same idea in his creation account, and to the same audience and for the same purpose! In this case, the tohû wabohû of Genesis 1:2 serves two purposes: on the cosmic level it describes the primordial desolate and formless “earth” which the creator deity eventually forms into a habitable life-bearing land; and on the historic plane it describes the state of desolation and waste wrought by the Babylonian aftermath of 587 BCE. If this is so, then the Priestly creation account, like the Isaiah passage above, is a message of hope to the exilic community. It is an expression of the very hopes and reality of an exilic community and how this community perceived its own condition. It is an affirmative message: that as God had created an habitable earth from a preexistent formless waste (tohû wabohû), so too he can, and will, reestablish the land of Judah as habitable from its current condition of desolation and barrenness: “He did not create it a desolation (tohû), but formed it to be habitable.” The message and image reaffirms to this exilic community, the goodness and holiness in the created order of the world despite their current plight living in tohu!

    Moreover, 3) there were specific historical reasons why the author of Genesis 1, deutero-Isaiah, and passages from Jeremiah all present Yahweh with the ability to (re)create dry habitable earth from a state of barren waste (tohû wabohû), and why deutero-Isaiah explicitly has Yahweh proclaim: “I did not make earth a barren wasteland (tohû).” All of these passages, including Genesis 1, have in the background the historical reality, as perceived from our scribes, of the complete and utter annihilation of the land of Judah in the early 6th c. BCE. Jeremiah 4:23 even uses the expression tohû wabohû to speak of Judah in this state and to instil hope in his audience by saying that Yahweh can transform this tohû wabohû into dry habitable land as he did at creation! All these texts have one particular and historically conditioned focus in mind—Yahweh can, has the ability to, transform Judah’s present state of tohû wabohû into dry habitable life-sustaining earth. This is their message! Furthermore, there is linguistical support here. The expression tohû wabohû and the imagery it invokes is only prevalent in the literature of the 6th century BCE, including our Genesis 1 text, and again is reflective of this author’s historical circumstances.

    So again, it is not I, but it is you who are claiming, in opposition to the beliefs and perspectives of these authors, that God created earth a tohû wabohû. Our authors, I contend, would have been adamantly horrified by such a blasphemous (from their perspective) claim. It goes against the text; it goes against the cultural context; and most severely it goes against the historically-conditioned message of this text. Moreover, on theological grounds such a position as yours ultimately leads to an absurd conclusion: that Yahweh didn’t and couldn’t create earth (and skies) at one go! Rather, and properly reading the text on its terms as was important to the cultures and peoples of the ancient Near East, Yahweh is portrayed with the ability to create dry habitable land/earth from a preexisting primordial tohû wabohû “earth” mass. And this message had utmost importance to our author and his audience.

    Both the cultural, historical, and literary context of this piece of literature dictate that its genre is myth. This is as objective as it gets. It is a literary genre defined by the text’s culture! Perhaps you view ‘myth’ as a pejorative term?

    So again, it is not I, but it is you who are claiming, in opposition to the beliefs and perspectives of these authors, that God created earth a tohû wabohû. Our authors, I contend, would have been adamantly horrified by such a blasphemous (from their perspective) claim. It goes against the text; it goes against the cultural context; and most severely it goes against the historically-conditioned message of this text. Moreover, on theological grounds such a position as yours ultimately leads to an absurd conclusion: that Yahweh didn’t and couldn’t create earth (and skies) at one go! Rather, and properly reading the text on its terms as was important to the cultures and peoples of the ancient Near East, Yahweh is portrayed with the ability to create dry habitable land/earth from a preexisting primordial tohû wabohû “earth” mass. And this message had utmost importance to our author and his audience.

    It’s simply preposterous and self-serving, and disingenuous I would argue, to assume that 2,500 year old beliefs, culturally-defined perceptions, and views of the world are equal to and representative of ours.

    there were specific historical reasons why the author of Genesis 1, deutero-Isaiah, and passages from Jeremiah all present Yahweh with the ability to (re)create dry habitable earth from a state of barren waste (tohû wabohû), and why deutero-Isaiah explicitly has Yahweh proclaim: “I did not make earth a barren wasteland (tohû).” All of these passages, including Genesis 1, have in the background the historical reality, as perceived from our scribes, of the complete and utter annihilation of the land of Judah in the early 6th c. BCE. Jeremiah 4:23 even uses the expression tohû wabohû to speak of Judah in this state and to instil hope in his audience by saying that Yahweh can transform this tohû wabohû into dry habitable land as he did at creation! All these texts have one particular and historically conditioned focus in mind—Yahweh can, has the ability to, transform Judah’s present state of tohû wabohû into dry habitable life-sustaining earth. This is their message! Furthermore, there is linguistical support here

    Moreover, on theological grounds such a position as yours ultimately leads to an absurd conclusion: that Yahweh didn’t and couldn’t create earth (and skies) at one go!

    First, as many modern Hebraists have noted, Genesis 1:1 opens with a temporal clause. The precise meaning of its first word, bere’shît, is literally “in the beginning of.” This is a complex grammatical topic, but simplified, the way in which the first word has come to be vocalized, indeed the first letter, bet, implies that grammatically the word is in the construct state, that is a noun which is followed by another noun. A literal translation is “in the beginning of.” And this is exactly what we find as the proper understanding of bere’shît when this same word appears elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible. So, for example, the Hebrew of Jeremiah 27:1, bere’shît mamelekhet yihôyaqim, is properly rendered: “In the beginning of the kingdom of Jehoiakim.” But the grammatical problem in Genesis 1:1 is that bere’shît is not followed by a noun but rather a verb-subject pair: bere’shît bara’ ’elohîm. Thus a literal rendering of the first three words of Genesis 1:1 is impossible: “In the beginning of God created.” Thus many modern translations have sought to capture the temporal aspect in the opening word of the book of Genesis by rendering the Hebrew: “In the beginning of God’s creating…” or “In the beginning when God created…” or even “When God began to create…”

    “He did not create it a desolation (tohû), but formed it to be habitable.” The message and image reaffirms to this exilic community, the goodness and holiness in the created order of the world despite their current plight living in tohu! This is why creation from nothing meant nothing.

    Not only that, but this type of practice—pontificating meaning on an ancient text while willfully being ignorant of the cultural and literary contexts, beliefs, and worldviews advocated in the texts themselves—has the adverse effect of merely fueling more ignorance, and in turn generating staunch hypocritical views, since one now believes, out of ignorance, something about the text which the text in fact does not claim! Our goal is to be honest to the texts themselves on their own terms and to the beliefs of their authors—not ours.

  41. I’m not sure how your ID system works. The post above was just completed and the time is 8:30 am on march 11. Your ID system says it is over 12 hours later in the day, 9:13 pm. That is no big deal, but the reason I bring it up is that we are basically “live” right now.

    That being said, let me get to at least one point you made according to the ID system, LATER THIS AFTERNOON @ 2:15 pm!~)).

    Here is the pull quote from your comments made later today: “More so, the author of Genesis 1 was well aware of the literary genre that he himself was composing in; he knew of other creation myths and even borrowed themes from them in composing his account. You’d know this if 1) you’ve read some literature on the topic; or 2) read my post, or 3) read Genesis 1 along side other ancient Near Eastern creation myths.”

    Moses/Moshe and the Hebrews were very well aware of the time in which they were living. They had just been miraculously delivered from the bondage in Egypt. While Moshe was qualified to write the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy (Joshua wrote his epitaph), since the first 40 years of his life were spent in Egyptian universities in preparation for becoming Pharaoh, and because he lived the 80 years that followed, personally—the book of Genesis was totally revelation from God. The events of that book were no closer than 300 years to Moses being on the earth and thus he needed SOMEONE TO START AT THE BEGINNING to get to the exact details.

    As you have already pointed out ad infinitum ad nauseam, the rest of the world believed in paganism, polytheism, and in the Creation account STARTING IN VERSE 2, OF GENESIS. The world soon after the Flood was in complete rebellion and as I pointed out before and as the Bible clearly says, from chapter 8:21 “for the intent of man’s heart i s evil from his youth”.

    So while they had most of the details basically right in all of the cultures, namely that god/gods worked with verse 2 of Genesis 1, there was a Flood, etc. they all denied the miraculous, “ex nihilo”. And as I have pointed out, except for the Chosen People that God in His Sovereignty chose, starting with Abraham, the whole world would to this day think exactly like you do.

    God called Abram out of the male moon god environment of Ur and then from Geneis 12 to the end of the last chapter of Genesis, He gave this testimony to Moshe. The people knew the general outline, including the fact that they would have to endure slavery since that had been revealed to Abraham and he had faithfully passed it on to his children and through them to the Israelites languishing in slavery. It gave them hope that the promised deliverer would come and they knew approximately when: 300 years after Joseph.

    So yes, of course Moses knew the culture of his day and had heard of that of Abraham’s time too. He just didn’t have the exact details until his encounter with YHVH Eloheem.

    What you fail to see, are willingly ignorant of is the fact that the Bible is distinctly different from the rest of the culture and still is today and while you claim that you honor this, your whole reason for being here, the very name of this blog, speaks volumes. Speaks otherwise.

  42. The problem with “winging it” is that IN DOING SO, i can make glaring mistakes.

    Mine is thinking my memory would do just fine when a simple re-checking of the coming text would have sufficed.

    I said that on day one, God did not say “It is good.” Wrong! It was day two, when He made a distinction between between the “rah-kee-ah” which He called “sha-mah-eem” (heaven—aka, ‘sky’) and the water He placed above and below the earth, “ha-mah-yeem”. On that day, at the end of verse 7, He simply and succinctly observed, “vie-he-ken”, ‘it was so’. No good or bad about it.

    On day one, He “saw that the light was good”. Days 3-5, follow the pattern introduced on the first day. Verse 4. So verses 10, 12, 18, and 21 include, “And God saw that it was good.” Who knows, maybe because He failed to do so on day two, and to balance things out, on day three He repeats the phrase “vah-yar Eloheem key tov” twice.

    A footnote: The simplicity of the Bible is seen in it’s structure, which, at the very least, is orderly. Six days are divided into two sets of three. On the first three He creates a multi-faceted environment: light from darkness, sky from ocean, and land from sea. The sharp contrasts He makes on these first three days create distinctions which make for variety, one of which is that on day three He starts to fill the earth with plants, which starts to define the “form” that the planet now has. It is a beautiful design!

    ***footnote #2: Depending on the context, “aretz”/”eretz” can refer to the ground, the planet earth, and the Promised Land (Israel). No, Hebrews were not and are not knuckle headed, knuckle dragging Neanderthals who thought/think the earth is flat.***

    Then, on the next three days of Creation, He designs what He created on the first three. So day four the sun, moon, and stars give substance to the light and darkness of day one. The birds and fish then fill the sky and sea created on day two. And on day six, animals and Adam—mankind—are created to occupy the land He designed on day three.

    The earth is now full of life, created in an orderly and precise manner. This design process started in verse three, (or really at the end of verse two, as the “Ru-ach Eloheem mera-chef-et al pah-nay ha-mah-yeem”) as God began to bring order and grace out of the chaos found in the created elements listed in verse two. Those elements He alone created “ex nihilo”.

    That is another of the conversations we can have (“so just where and how did this chaos and confusion come about directly after the opening verse of the Bible?”) if you like, since I noticed you almost refer to the prophets like I would. They speak and then you take what they say at face value and as supporting evidence (for the points you were making to Aaron on May 6, 2014 and in your article above where you observed Jeremiah 4:23 where the prophet makes a direct quote of Genesis 1:2). You and I will disagree with your assigning Isaiah to the plight of being “double-minded”. Probably all the prophets for that matter.

    How else can you come up with 70+ authors?~)).

    We will also vehemently disagree on your whole premise that all of the Bible was therefore written by a bunch of unnamed scribes during the time just before or after the first exile to Babylon. Just because JEREMIAH, for instance, quotes from Genesis 1:2, IS HARDLY PROOF THAT GENESIS WAS THEREFORE WRITTEN DURING THE TIME FRAME IN WHICH HE LIVED.

  43. Steve,
    try as you might, you’re as subjective as they get! You may call this ad hominem and invective, but you display your perceived reality with a subjectivity on steroids and in spades. Take your insistence that the Bible is included in and is described therefore as the “creation myth”. Very subjective — based on your background steeped in pagan philosophies. The Bible is set apart from all the rest.

    But no need to go there, necessarily. So let us just start at the beginning. Genesis 1 is the foundation for the rest of the Bible. It is referred to throughout the OT by the prophets and even more so by the NT apostles. It has a simple style that is easily understood and the 76 root words found in the first chapter begin the repeated, cyclical process that develops the rest of the Hebrew scriptures. Chapter 1-2:3 stands in stark contrast to the surrounding cultures’ description of creation such as the Babylonian account which has little link with reality. It is complicated and weird. A child can understand the Bible and it has been translated into every language on the planet.

    So let’s go to the text: the words in English: ‘In the beginning’ and ‘created’ have the same exact root of the first three letters in the biblical, Hebrew text. The very first 3 letters which constitute the Bible’s opening word, “b’re(sheet)” are also the same as the ones that make up the next word, “bara”, which is “created” (the letters being bet, resh, alef). Thus, “created” appears twice in a row in the very beginning of the Holy Writ, as if to add an extra emphasis to the fact that Elohim is truly the Creator. Note that the verb “bara”, to “create”, refers exclusively to the Creator, and never to man. In fact the primary meaning of “bara” is to “release the varying elements or materials so as to enable them to exist, materialize, express themselves, or grow.”

    As opposed to “all scholars”, the first thing the text tells us is that God created everything out of nothing. That means that God who is eternal, worked with what didn’t exist to create everything. “Bara” literally means that by definition and is used three times in this passage to describe the creation of matter, life, and man. Later, “asa” is used to indicate something manufactured. Something made out of something else.

    Later, in the Scriptures (like the one in Isaiah 45:18 you made reference to above), “yatsar” is introduced. The context is simple. God creates. He manufactures from what He creates. Yatsar tells us the formation process of manufacturing.

    And He doesn’t create chaos and confusion. One way to look at verse 2 is to see the material He created in it’s nascent form on day one. That is the day in which He did not say, “It is good”. The formation process begins as this Creator, by his Spirit which was hovering over the “material”, begins to make distinctions, in this case, between light and darkness.

    This is where, if you want, we can begin to look at and discuss the text…

    1. Sabba,

      You’re just failing to read what I have posted, and more problematic gravely misrepresenting myself and what I did and did not say, and still more severely misrepresenting the biblical authors. I have not, nor would I ever, refer to the Bible as myth; I cringe when people do that. If I had to condense into one genre what the biblical literature is, it would be historiography. That said, Genesis 1-11 display obvious and apparent literary affinities to other ancient Near Eastern myths and mythic themes. Labeling the creation account in Genesis 1 as myth is far from subjective, and maybe you need a rudimentary course in what subjective and objective are. In this case, it is a literary genre that is defined by and prevalent among the culture that produced this text. More so, the author of Genesis 1 was well aware of the literary genre that he himself was composing in; he knew of other creation myths and even borrowed themes from them in composing his account. You’d know this if 1) you’ve read some literature on the topic; or 2) read my post, or 3) read Genesis 1 along side other ancient Near Eastern creation myths.

      Second, and again, the goal here is to read the text as part of its own cultural, historical, and literary context. If you do not know anything about the culture and the context within which this text was written, if you do not know about the historical circumstances within which the author penned this piece of literature, if you know nothing about the author, if you do not know to whom this author wrote, why this author composed his text, what literary influences shaped his composition, who wrote texts in antiquity and what were the literary conventions scribes used, and what cultural and historical circumstances shaped his beliefs and views of the world—in short, if you don’t know any of these things and yet attempt to assign or proclaim meaning about this text, then that is a 100% subjective reading and meaning that you the subject (reader) are bringing to and imposing on the text. Period.

      Par contre, a reading which seeks to culturally and historically understand the text from the view point of its author (or if you prefer the text itself), his (or its) audience, and his historical concerns, that is an approach which attempts to minimize reader-oriented subjectively imposed meanings. In point of fact, I have no subjective investment in these texts. They are my object of study, and I am interested in them, their authors, their cultures, their beliefs, and understanding their meanings as they intended, to the best of my objective abilities. Both the cultural, historical, and literary context of this piece of literature dictate that its genre is myth. This is as objective as it gets. It is a literary genre defined by the text’s culture! Perhaps you view ‘myth’ as a pejorative term?

      Lastly, I’m not going to present a personalized argument to and for you of the text of Genesis 1 and 2 as I delineated in the series of posts above, which apparently you have not read. The demonstration in the post proceeds on these grounds: 1) the cultural background and context which reveals that there are no extent creation myths from the ancient Near East that speak of creation from nothing. Furthermore, from what we know about the culture and its people, this was not what they were concerned with nor perceived. The most omnipotent portrait that an author could create of its national deity, including our biblical scribe, was one wherein the deity was presented as being powerful enough to control and subdue those elements that continually threatened life (from the perspective of these peoples)—thus the forces of water, death, barrenness, darkness (see the Exodus account too). The god of Genesis 1 is portrayed as being in complete control of these forces. This is what ancient peoples were concerned with. But this I’ve already explained in the post.

      2) on textual grounds our text opens with a temporal clause whose first sentence also functions as a title or heading. More specifically, our text presents its god creating earth, which our text defines as “dry habitable land,” on the 3rd day in verses 9-10. The point? God can create life-supporting land/earth from an initial undefined, inhabitable, barren mass of tohû wabohû earth. This is our author’s message and it was a more powerful statement for him, his audience, and his culture than portraying the creator deity creating dry habitable land (i.e., earth) from nothing, which again our text explicitly says is not the case.

      Moreover, 3) there were specific historical reasons why the author of Genesis 1, deutero-Isaiah, and passages from Jeremiah all present Yahweh with the ability to (re)create dry habitable earth from a state of barren waste (tohû wabohû), and why deutero-Isaiah explicitly has Yahweh proclaim: “I did not make earth a barren wasteland (tohû).” All of these passages, including Genesis 1, have in the background the historical reality, as perceived from our scribes, of the complete and utter annihilation of the land of Judah in the early 6th c. BCE. Jeremiah 4:23 even uses the expression tohû wabohû to speak of Judah in this state and to instil hope in his audience by saying that Yahweh can transform this tohû wabohû into dry habitable land as he did at creation! All these texts have one particular and historically conditioned focus in mind—Yahweh can, has the ability to, transform Judah’s present state of tohû wabohû into dry habitable life-sustaining earth. This is their message! Furthermore, there is linguistical support here. The expression tohû wabohû and the imagery it invokes is only prevalent in the literature of the 6th century BCE, including our Genesis 1 text, and again is reflective of this author’s historical circumstances.

      So again, it is not I, but it is you who are claiming, in opposition to the beliefs and perspectives of these authors, that God created earth a tohû wabohû. Our authors, I contend, would have been adamantly horrified by such a blasphemous (from their perspective) claim. It goes against the text; it goes against the cultural context; and most severely it goes against the historically-conditioned message of this text. Moreover, on theological grounds such a position as yours ultimately leads to an absurd conclusion: that Yahweh didn’t and couldn’t create earth (and skies) at one go! Rather, and properly reading the text on its terms as was important to the cultures and peoples of the ancient Near East, Yahweh is portrayed with the ability to create dry habitable land/earth from a preexisting primordial tohû wabohû “earth” mass. And this message had utmost importance to our author and his audience.

      I realize the importance of yours and our culture’s beliefs, sincerely, and ultimately would like to have a conversation about that. But our goal of reading and being faithful to the text of Genesis 1, is to let the text invite us into its worldview, its belief systems, the concerns and message of its author. Instead, however, you seem to want to impose our/your worldview, our/your beliefs, and our objective scientific knowledge onto this text. Let the text say what it wants to! We, as a culture, need to start being honest to these ancient texts and their beliefs. And frankly speaking, many readers of the Bible, Christians very much included, are becoming more and more aware of this. And indeed in many occasions it’s posing challenges. But let’s be thinking human beings about it (not drone monkeys slavishly adhering to a centuries-later reader-created theological tradition—there’s my reference to evolution or de-evolution!), and face these challenges together sincerely, openly, and respectfully of these ancient texts and their authors’ beliefs and cultural contexts. It’s simply preposterous and self-serving, and disingenuous I would argue, to assume that 2,500 year old beliefs, culturally-defined perceptions, and views of the world are equal to and representative of ours.

  44. Sorry for all my misspellings and leaving words out. Hope you can understand what I wrote. I thought I checked back over good , but I guess not. : )

  45. Great article Steven. From my understanding the word ‘bara’ means to fatten, to replenish, to make more. Also I wanted to say that the idea of the world being made created from nothing is a false teaching that began only a few hundred years ago. Kind of like the rapture stuff, which is also a false teaching began only a few hundred years ago. It got started by some Jesuit written a novel about such. Also, wanted to say that all those creation stories all came from the same source. It was Noah’s son Ham and Ham’s descendants that created the civilizations of Babylon and Egypt and other nation of that time. The Hebrew people lineage was from Noah’s son Shem. All of those middle eastern nations were kinfolks so of course they would all have similar creation stories past down. One other thing, the creation story originally was most likely not about the creation of the physical world and heavens. It is more likely the creation of a covenant relationship with those people and their God. Their temples were created in such a way that would make more sense. Their temples were created to reflect the human body temple , as well as the Garden of Eden temple. The two section the Holy of Holies and the inner courts was referred to as the heavens and the outer part of the court was referred to as the earth. In the NT it was the old heavens and earth (the old covenant of the Law) that was to pass away by fire and the new heavens and earth is the new covenant and temple not made by human hands, which is the human body temple. When Jesus say their physical temple would be destroyed, not one stone left upon the other, this happened in 70 A.D. when it was burned and destroyed by the Roman. Jesus referring to the temple being raise back up in three days, he was saying his physical body temple was to be raised. The new covenant law (Love) was written in peoples hearts and the kingdom of God that is eternal is found within yourself. The whole of the bible is about God having a personal loving relationship with people. All the stories in the bible point to this even the creation stories. From my reading and researching, Gen.1 is a song and Gen. 2 is about the creation of God’s temples, mankind.

  46. John J. Scullion in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, volume 2, page 943 points out that, “[t]he problem of creatio ex nihilo , creation out of nothing, is not a problem [in Genesis 1]; it became one for later generations when Hebrew and Helenistic culture came together (cf. Wis 11:17; 2 Macc 7:28).”

  47. It’s probably worth noting that the myth of the world creation by defeating a “sea-beast” is found elsewhere in Biblical literature. It appears several places in Psalms, and in depth in Job 40-41.

    The solution to the grammatical problem in the first sentence is to change the word “bara” into a noun by altering the pointing. No early texts have vowel markers, or pointing in them. The pronunciations we used today were added by the Masoretes, at earliest in the 4th century CE. The Masoretes pointed it incorrectly, possibly because the idea of creation ex nihilo was popular at the time. This is the argument made by the Jewish 11th century theologian, Rashi, in one of those rare instances where traditional Jewish theology agrees with modern scholarship. Rashi argues that the word should be pronounced “b’ro” as a noun, and the translation of the sentence would go something like:

    “In the beginning of the creation of heaven and earth, and (when) the earth was…”

    Lastly, I don’t buy the argument that the root ברא (br’) means separation. While I agree that separation is the dominant theme of this creation, there is already a word בדל (bdl) that means separation and is used in that context multiple times in Genesis 1 (v. 4, 6, 7, 14, etc). If the author wanted to indicate separation, he would have used that word. Clearly, ברא has some additional connotation besides mere separation. I do agree with the main premise that creation ex nihilo is not supported at all by the biblical text.

    1. Aaron, I’ve noted the Yahweh–Leviathan myth elsewhere (#2), but perhaps I need a good footnote somewhere here.

      I might have overplayed bara’, or maybe didn’t stress enough “creation by means of differentiating, separating,” or perhaps I’m reading too much of the context into the verb here. In fact, I had axed this paragraph in an earlier draft. Also, the citation from Isaiah above, also makes it difficult to nail down differences in connotation between bara’ ‘asah, and yatsar — well, the later seems more distinct.

      For thus saith Yahweh, he who created (bara’) the heavens, the very god who formed (yatsar) the earth and made (‘asah) it, who himself established it—”He did not create (bara’) it a desolation (tohû), but formed (yatsar) it to be habitable” (Is 45:18).

  48. Interesting, and well-argued (though I dare say it could have been more concise :-). I am still in the process of taking off my literalist goggles and seeing these early accounts for what they are, and I keep learning more details of what these accounts are really telling us about the ancient view of the earth and the human condition.

    It’s amazing how, if one just reads the first three chapters on their own terms, one comes to completely different conclusions about what is happening than what kids like me were taught, growing up in a fundamentalist religion, which was a long series of, “This doesn’t really mean this; this part is poetic; this part is prophetic.” You’d think that, without that lengthy education, these chapters wouldn’t make any sense for a poor, untutored reader.

    But read them on their own terms, and wow, wait a minute — these accounts stand on their own as stories that had a clear meaning and purpose. The way the earth was constructed, the reasons for various human problems such as difficult childbirth and crop-growing… it turns out that the stories didn’t require any prior education as preparation for understanding them, after all!

    They also show just how limited the ancient view of the universe was. For instance, one can see that the ancients didn’t understand what a big deal the sun was, and have it being created after the earth’s land and sky are differentiated and plants are made (!). Though I’m not clear on why 1:3-5 has a separation of light and darkness before there is a sun. Did the ancients not understand that all light comes from the sun?

    Similarly, chapter 3 has a primitive view on the reasons for various human problems, but I won’t get into that here and risk derailing any later comments. It’s all been quite an eye-opener for me, though.

    1. KW,

      It’s nice to see you still participating here. Yes, my whole “apologetic” agenda to understand these texts on their own terms and as products of their own cultural and literary worlds, beliefs, and perceptions leaves little to no tolerance for modern agendas that attempt to impose modern views and beliefs onto these ancient texts, or conversely extrapolate them from the text often by employing abusive and hostile hermeneutic tricks that in all honest simply ignore what the text claims or doesn’t claim, ignore why it makes such claims, ignore the authors and their beliefs, ignore the cultural and literary contexts that produced these texts, etc.

      Honestly, I have no experience, nor idea of what it must have been like being raised in a fundamentalist environment. In large, I feel that much of this still happens not only because as a whole we culturally are ignorant about these ancient texts, what they are and what they are not, but more severe, we actually live in a culture that encourages and perpetuates such ignorance, and the hypocrisy that results from this ignorance.

      I still hope that one day the human species might be strong enough, intellectually and spiritually, to honestly admit that these ancient documents and their authors believed in and perceived a world, its origins, religion, women, God, etc. in vastly different terms than we do in modernity. The real conversation actually starts there—when we as a culture can admit, OK, the beliefs and views that I thought were legitimated by these ancient texts are actually not even in these texts at all!

      On a similar note,

      I have moved away from what I now perceive as a misdirected, misconstrued, dichotomy (although I recognize its merits) between literal or figurative readings. This whole debate saturates every part of our culture now, often pinning liberal and fundamentalist Christians against each other. I say that this is misguided because I think it grossly still misses the point, and still misses everything about what these ancient documents are, and conversely are not, and how we as modern individuals, culture, ought to perceive them and interact with them — or not.

      More correctly the issue is between reading and understanding these ancient texts from within the perspectives, cultures, and literary genres that produced them, or, reading and understanding them through modern cultural or theological lenses and perspectives. I certainly don’t advocate the latter, as you’re well aware. And the issue is more complex because in the camp of this latter abusive hermeneutic I would include how NT writers read and understood these ancient documents, and even how these ancient documents are read and understood through the implied interpretive framework inherit in the title “the Bible” not to mention the “holy Bible.” These are all abusive to the actual once independent texts. They distract from examining and understanding the texts individually, and prescribe rather authoritatively how they ought to be read through a centuries later interpretive framework. Likewise, the whole modern debate about figurative and literal reading falls into this latter camp too.

      This modern misplaced literal – figurative dichotomy also rests on a faulty underlying premise — a premise that might have actually created the dichotomy itself Should moderners read the Bible as the literal or figurative word of God — Neither! I’d say. We should read them as products of their cultural and literary worlds, i.e., in their proper historical contexts. The interpretive, theological, claim that the Bible is the word of God was created centuries after many of these texts were composed!

      So, to return to my original point: As I work through Genesis 1 it appears to me that I am doing a literal reading of the text! But this word in modern usage implies that I therefore understand this text as a literal, i.e., accurate and truthful, depiction of creation. No, not at all! As a biblical historian I read these ancient documents as products of their own world, so in this regard, yes it’s a literal reading of how the ancient Israelites, or perhaps an elite guild, perceived and understood their cosmos. So just to pick a couple of examples:
      – the moon is represented as a light-producing—not reflecting (our perspective)—luminary (1:15). This was how the ancients literally perceived their world.
      – “earth” literally refers to the dry ground (1:10). Earth as the planet did not exist as a concept.
      – the sky is literally a firmament, vault, that holds back the waters above them, half of the original primordial waters – I read this literally as an accurate depiction of how the ancients literally viewed their world!
      – day is essentially light; the sun does not produce day or daylight. This too was a literal understanding of their world (I’m working through this now)

      Again, the dichotomy between literal and figurative as it is normally articulated is misguided because it rests on erroneous premises themselves — the text is the inerrant word of god, we just have to figure our if that word is literal or figurative. I call BS on this whole endeavor and conception. And it furthermore rests on another faulty premise, that the Bible, when one manipulates its texts, literally, figuratively, or what have you, would then reveal truth claims about the world that we can then verify with modern science. BS too! The “truth” claims that these ancient texts reveal is how ancient Israelite scribes perceived, believed, and understood the nature of their world and its origins. These in themselves became “truths” of their culture and were then transferred to the culture’s national deity, so that the God of the text also shared in, and indeed legitimated, these “truths.”

      These subjective and literary processes and “truths” are what I feel we as a culture should be discussing — and it would be a fantastic and fascinating discussion. But we will never get there I fear because there is too much ignorance and hypocrisy about these ancient texts in general.

      Sorry for the long reply, and rant. — certainly not directed at you.

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