Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Genesis among Myths - were they meant to be understood literally? Yes

On Philologica and New Blog on the kid : 1) Flat Earth theories - Common Sense or Solar Mythology?, 2) Why were Babylonians so sure Apsu and Tiamat were different substances?, 3) Genesis among Myths - were they meant to be understood literally? Yes

On Assorted Retorts : 1) ... on Historical Adam and Eve, 2) ... on Genre of Genesis

Of course, where they contradict, one of them at least is literally wrong, as also is the case between these and the Modern Evolution myth.

Now, I will be quoting a pdf which was shared on FB in Catholic Creation Alliance, the FB group. While reading it, my attention underwent some modifications.

First I grasped, then forgot that the pdf was against a general trend of people saying "Genesis is a myth like the rest of Ancient Oriental creation myths" rather than against a specific author arguing it was so.

Then I saw the arguements of the specific author who wasn't there and the non-answers by the author who was, that is the author of the pdf and started giving the responses I felt were lacking.

Then I discovered the author I argued against was not a real author, but the résumé in our author's mind of several people claiming roughly similar and overlapping things.

Last, I saw the responses given by our real author, and felt they needed a bit of correction too. Here I will be giving my responses all over the process, with indications when I misunderstood and when I no longer misunderstood that there was no particular author claiming these things in writing, and also adding some other clarification, but deleting nothing.

What I state in my "answers" to the non-extant author is of course my steady conviction just as what I state in my corrections to the extant author.

"It is argued that, since Genesis is a mythology borrowed and adapted from other ancient Eastern Mythologies, the author never intended for it to have been interpreted literally."

Right there ... the other ancient Eastern Mythologies were taken literally. The enlightened attitude to myth as symbolism which we know from Greco-Roman Pagans of late antiquity, for one thing even left these with much more "mythological thinking" than some would credit them for. Would Plato have disbelieved tree nymphs? Would Aristotle have insisted heavenly bodies are purely material things, neither innate nor extraneous spirits guiding them? No. For another thing this attitude was probably developed somewhere Homer-Plato times when it came to gross myths like "a god like Apollo chasing a nymph as if he were a playboy" - it was even absent in the times Homer wrote about (and not very overt in Homer either) and as certainly strange to the Middle East Paganism.

"because there was virtually no linier understand [linear understanding] of history, at least in the modern sense, among ancient eastern cultures, the author of Genesis must have had no intention for Genesis to be a factual account of history."

If one could be sued for being an eejit, this author [=non-extant author of the non-extant other paper I thought refuted in the pdf] would drown in law suits.

Paganism having "no linear understanding of history" refers to certain "advanced" Further East Paganisms having a cyclic one [much more recently]. But even these would if referring to an event as past and if philosophising it was as future as it was past eternally infinitely many times over, still be referring to the event as an actual past event, and not as a merely hypothetic conjecture of the future or cyclic future-past.

Plus, Cyclic view of History was not quite the Ancient Middle East one either. Rather it was linear in a sense similar to Christianity, but non-Apocalyptic, i e having all interesting stuff ONLY in the past.

"In other words, since the ancient pagan religions, because of their rather circular view of history, assigned little to no importance to events of the past or future, we shouldn’t expect Genesis to do otherwise."


Mixing Greeks up with Chanaaneans, and both with Stoics and Hindoos (Stoics actually also had a cyclic view of history). His view of "Ancient Paganism" is worth as much as taking one's view of "Middle Ages" from Hal Foster. King Arthur fighting Saxons but getting help from a VIKING who also takes a VIKING SHIP to Americas ... Leif Eriksson spoke neither English (Anglo-Saxon) nor British and lived about 600 years later than King Arthur - and the last Legionary on Hadrian's Wall is mixing the Arthurian Romans with the kind of Romans you find in Asterix and the Centurion of the Gospel and Prussian militarism as well at the bottom of it. It is good reading, like when Gaels coming to help King Alfred against Guthrum march with Bag Pipes or like when Farmer Giles from the Little Kingdom well before Emperor Constantine carries a blunderbuss. But these anachronisms have no weight as historic arguments there were blunderbusses in England before Constantine or that a Viking could meet a Roman who was wearing the uniform and armour of his predecessors in Hadrian's time. THAT is about how intelligent the thesis is (if even as much).

But here the [non-extant] author refuted by this paper gets one worse (unless misrepresented [by the real author refuting "him"]):

"In other words, since the ancient pagan religions, because of their rather circular view of history, assigned little to no importance to events of the past or future, we shouldn’t expect Genesis to do otherwise."

What is worse here? Taking a Chanaanean who sacrificed children and a Babylonian who sacrificed bulls (which the Chanaanean perhaps also did) for the equivalent of a Zen Buddhist, just because both are Pagan?

Or trying to sense what having a circular view of history would mean, and from one's attempt at empathy with a state of mind clearly not one's own conclude that "they attached little to no importance to events of the past" (when they bothered to keep records) "or future" (when they bothered to do diviniation).

[Here I make the discovery:]

One little problem here before I can say I have refuted an author taking this view, the paper cites none.

The resumés are not of a given opponent, but a subjective résumé of ideas common among a huge set of opponents.

I can of course not say we cannot have gotten one of them wrong insofar as he might have argued somewhat more intelligently than this imagined and synthetic proponent of "Genesis was only meant as myth" hypothesis.

But I don't have the feeling of really having missed a huge amount of intelligent arguing for that position.

Quite another position is of course the Atheist one, that Genesis is myth like the others and like the others WAS meant to be taken as literally true and like the others was created by a series of misunderstandings - but that is hardly the position you will find argued among Modernist priests.

"Still, other common motifs found in various eastern creation myths include a spontaneous generation of gods who, following fundamental motif of pagan religion, deified common objects of nature (e.g., the Sun and the Moon), ... Rather than deifying the heavenly bodies (i.e., the Sun, Moon and stars), Genesis treats them merely as God’s creations, that would not exist apart from His awesome and creative fiat (Gn 1:16)."

Deifying Sun and Moon and recognising some kind of personhood in them are two completely different things. Author [real author] of this paper [of the pdf] speaks of "objects" and of "heavenly bodies".

Genesis speaks of luminaries. Jews except Sadducees, Pagans, early Christians all seem to have shared a concept (I am of course as subjective in my résumé as the author* is in his résumé of the opponents**) that angelic beings were actively behind the physical world. It is - back then as yet - too vague (or at least my résumé of it - as back then - is) in a way to pinpoint the fine distinction on whether Sun is an angel having "fire" or "a burning gas cloud" as its body (which seems to be condemned in 1277) or is an angel who carries a ball of fire or a burning gas cloud like a lantern (which mos-t conspicuously was not condemned in 1277 when the distinction was already well analysed). But it is clearly there. BY the time of Christ it has basically been contested mostly by Epicureans (the philosophy à la mode of the time, the philosopphy St Paul warns against) and by Sadducees "who do not believe in angels" (no mention of them making an exception for angels guiding heavenly bodies).

Note VERY well this is NOT a theme where Paganism and Genesis or later Hebrew and Christian writings are up against each other.

"Hence, the Genesis account, unlike ancient pagan myths, is in all together a whole other category by itself. It took itself as real history;"

But so did the Pagan mythologies. The "nice symbolic story" interpretation of Pagan myth was not around yet.

"it taught of One God, rather than many; that God existed prior to matter, rather than matter having already existed;"

This contrast is correct.

"that the heavenly bodies were creations, rather than deifications to be worshiped;"

Sun and Moon were hardly even considered deifications by Platonists. And St Thomas in his sermon on the Creed upbraids worshippers of Sun and Moon, not for undue personification of personless mere things, but for taking a servant in very fine uniform for the king. Or rather, for doing the equivalent of it when it comes to Kingship of the Universe.

"that sea creatures were mere creatures, as opposed to rivaling the gods, and a host of other contrasts."

The Pagan idea in that kind of myths was basically that universe was run by superheroes but only after they beat supervillains.

Note that neither Genesis nor Gospel deny that sea may contain supervillains.

Bible just says, such supervillains are no match for God, he had no need to fight them physically as a mere superhero.

Except on the Cross, where His fight has a moral dimension.

And the nature He needs to put up a fight is not the Divine and Eternal nature, but the assumed one, not even of a superhero, not of an angelic creature, but of a man.

Et Verbum Dei caro factum est et habitavit in nobis.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Bpi, Georges Pompidou
Christmas Eve

Download for pdf:

Genesis-Another Creation Myth?

* Here the real author of the pdf

** The several opponents resumed, about whom I was at a moment under impression of dealing with a single author refuted by the pdf and to be more completely refuted by me.

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