reading Genesis like adults

Posted by PeteEnns on July 18, 2016 in nature of the Bible Old Testament 50 Comments

Over a hundred years ago, German-and-therefore-evil-and-easily-dismissible-Old-Testament-scholar Hermann Gunkel (1862-1932), the dapper gentleman pictured to the left, wrote the following about Genesis:

A child, indeed, unable to distinguish between reality and poetry, loses something when it is told that its dearest stories are “not true.” But the modern theologian should be further developed. The evangelical churches and their chosen representatives would do well not to dispute the fact that Genesis contains legends—as has been done too frequently—but to recognize that the knowledge of this fact is the indispensable condition to an historical understanding of Genesis. This knowledge is already too widely diffused among those trained in historical study ever again to be suppressed. It will surely spread among the masses of our people, for the process is irresistible. Shall not we Evangelicals take care that it be presented to them in the right spirit? The Legends Of Genesis, pp. 11-12.

I was kidding about all that evil and dismissible business above. Gunkel was one of these biblical scholars that don’t come along any more. He profoundly changed how people thought about two huge areas of the Old Testament: Psalms and Genesis.

To make a long story short, before Gunkel, Old Testament scholars on Genesis focused largely on an internal analysis of the Hebrew text—things like the literary style, usage of certain words and phrases, and what all of this tells us about when Genesis (and the other books of the Pentateuch, Torah) were written—which is what we in the field call source criticism (we like our code words).

Gunkel came along a little bit later, after archaeologists brought to light the similarities between Genesis and the mythic stories from some of Israel’s ancient neighbors—namely the creation story and Noah’s flood.

Gunkel called these stories “legends” and, along with pretty much every Old Testament scholar since, said, “Yeah, these stories and the Bible are similar enough to say they are connected somehow. We need to think about how this information helps us understand what Genesis means and what we can expect from it.”

In the quote above, Gunkel makes 3 basic points:

1. The cat’s out of the bag: Genesis contains “legends,”
2. Children may be thrown by this, but adults shouldn’t be, and . . .
3. Rather than denying what is so widely known, church leaders have a sacred obligation to help their people process this information rather than letting others do that who might put their faith at risk.

Don’t let the word “evangelical” throw you in the quote. That means “Lutheran,” which along with Roman Catholicism made up (and still makes up) the state churches of German.

In my experience, though, America evangelicalism has essentially rejected Gunkel’s pastoral advice in #3 above.

The results have not been pretty. Because of a pastoral failure to help everyday Joe and Jane pew-sitters process the kinds of data Gunkel is talking about, a lot of Christians over the last century or so have struggled in needless and unhealthy ways with their faith.

Too often the issue is posed as “you can either believe that Genesis contains legends” OR “you can be faithful to the Bible.” To remain a faithful Christian means to remain a child and “suppress” (as Gunkel puts it) information that is “widely diffused.” To engage the Bible with our adult faculties means putting your faith at risk.

That’s not much of a choice.

The church, Christians colleges, and seminaries would be the best place to have a faith crisis, provided their leaders embrace the call to help their people through it rather than hiding the crisis out of fear, under a cloak of piety.

But, instead of helping people process the information, the evangelical tradition has a strong track record of 41laJ6C-ITL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_minimizing the deep impact of historical study on how Scripture is understood, or providing answers that strain and groan to maintain the old ways despite the evidence.

I really, really, really wish that hadn’t happened. I really do.

I would like to see church leaders do a better of job of training adult readers of the Bible. I don’t mean dumping complex and potentially threatening information on the unsuspecting, but engaging with them—in all wisdom and pastoral maturity, from the perspective of faith—in ways of thinking about the Bible that have been convincing to scholars, many of whom are people of deep personal faith themselves.

Or at least helping them to see that biblical scholarship is worth taking seriously, and not the devil’s playground to run from and dismiss.

I’ve put the question like this numerous times: “What is the Bible and what are we supposed to do with it?” That question has been before us for a long time. How is the Bible “historical?” Where do myth and legend end and history begin? How can we know and what difference does it make?

With cable TV and the internet, the kinds of things biblical scholars routinely discuss are not hidden, but, as Gunkel saw already over 100 years ago, have “surely spread to the masses, for the process is irresistible.”

It is a holy, wise, and pastoral duty to raise adult readers of the Bible, rather than living in fear and legitimizing childish readings.

***The original version of this post appeared in September 2012. I talk more about the nature of the Bible and Genesis in particular in The Bible Tells Me So (HarperOne, 2014), Inspiration and Incarnation (Baker 2005/2015) and  The Evolution of Adam (Baker, 2012). I also discuss the fear of letting go of theological certainty in The Sin of Certainty (HarperOne, 2016).

  • Gary

    What to say?

    What a bunch of yahoos undeserving of trust.

    Let it go.

  • https://nextcreation.wordpress.com/ Phil Ledgerwood

    This is a big thing to me when it comes to kids heading off to college. How many Christian kids have these huge crises of faith in environments that have no interest in helping them retain their faith because they discover that what they’ve been taught is simply untenable?

    Obviously, there’s a lot going on in that transition in life, but how much easier could we have made that experience if we had congenially shared with them the very things that would cause them so much angst and helped them work through the ramifications? If these kinds of things are mentioned at all, it’s only to be coupled with pat responses that have no chance standing up to the rigor of actual college professors, despite what it looks like in the movies.

  • Poetreehugger

    In my sleepy Monday-morningness I read, “church leaders have a SCARED obligation to help their people process this information”, and I thought yeah, there seems to be a certain fear about taking the blinders of certainty off.

  • Hill Roberts

    I feel like I’m 100 and have just learned that Santa doesn’t really come down my chimney from a sleigh drawn by eight flying reindeer to stuff my stocking with toys and candy. Nonetheless, I shall prevent this heinous heresy from being exposed to my family and friends for their protection. (So, who’s the crazy one living in an alternative reality?)

    • Derek

      And yet you believe in a resurrected God-man?

      • Hill Roberts

        Yes, based on the testimony of folks living at the time and their willingness to go their graves affirming their testimony and the unprecedented historical global impact the event has had on the ensuing millennia. Are some aspects of the accounts embellished and colored by their own expectations of what God would do? Almost certainly.

  • Jim Moore

    The problem I have with Gunkel is twofold. First was the assumption that if a story was widely diffused among numerous cultures it cannot bear some seed of truth. In fact, the opposite seems to be much more obviously true. If many people in many places say similar things then it’s likely SOMETHING happened to create the similarity. Instead of calling them legends he should have said stories.

    Second is relying on Gunkel today is like going to a doctor from 1900 for your medical advice. Archaeology has greatly matured since his days. Sociology and Anthropology have basically been invented after his heyday. We know today not just a little more than we knew then, we know exponentially more than we knew then. From documents, to site work, to the scholarly reassessment of the people Gunkel trusted, to an awareness that Gunkel and his crowd held an intense Western bias we would dismiss outright today.

    Gunkel’s statement belongs in the category of the statements suggesting humans would never fly, or women should never vote.

    Now, having said that, yes, all of us have a duty to look honestly at the stories we have and treat them as what they are in the best understanding of our day. Jesus’ followers have nothing to fear from viewing these Books properly. But we shouldn’t rely on Gunkel anymore than someone in 2115 should rely on Moore or Enns.

    • Pete E.

      I’m not aware of anything in biblical scholarship since Gunkel that contravenes the basic point he is making about Genesis, at least nothing that has gained traction. No chronological snobbery here! The 19th century got a lot right that have formed the foundation for much on the field.

    • Occam Razor

      If a story was diffused among different cultures, it means that the concept was not unique to the Hebrews, nor did it originate with the Hebrews. That has implications when deciding the historicity of the stories. The flood story, for example, is a Hebrew borrowing of an older story. Certainly there could have been a flood somewhere in the ancient world that sparked the entire story, but the fact that it was borrowed means it is extraordinarily unlikely to have happened the way it is described in Genesis.

      There was no global flood, no ark with Noah and two or seven pairs of animals (depending on the version), and so on. The evidence points to it being a common ancient legend developed among ancient civilizations as a way of understanding man’s role in the world in relation to nature, etc.

      • Jim Moore

        I know what you are saying is the received wisdom but can’t you see the logical error in that thinking? In a trial if I bring multiple witnesses from multiple backgrounds with multiple agenda’s a jury is more likely to believe that something happened. Nineteenth Century Biblical scholars arrived at exactly the opposite conclusion. They suggested that since the stories appeared in multiple cultures they must have been “borrowed” and therefore a historical. All I’m saying is that all these cultures sharing a similar story suggests that something happened at some time and multiple people saw it and interpreted it multiple ways. Now can we tell from that fact alone what actually happened? Of course not. But a “borrowed,” repeated, of shared story grows in likelihood of truthfulness when it is discovered somewhere else. It doesn’t diminish.

        • Occam Razor

          How could “all these cultures” have emerged with variations of the flood story, since only one family survived in each telling?

          What 19th century scholars are you referring to?

          The fact that a story was borrowed does in no way impact the historicity of an event. There was no global flood, there’s just no evidence for it. There were no angels that mated with humans and created races of giants, just didn’t happen.

    • Andrew Dowling

      If anything scholarship since then has only strengthened his position.

  • charlesburchfield

    Peeps will do anything to avoid the depression of loss. The bargaining stage can and does become a chronic state for lots of us IMHO.

  • Occam Razor

    Someone in my family put it another way. Either you think “Daniel and the lion’s den” is a true story or the author was a liar. Surely the Bible wasn’t written by liars?

    • Gary

      At some point, you run out of family members you’d bother discussing religion with.

      • Occam Razor

        Not just religion!

        • Gary

          Indeed.

      • Veritas

        You folks need bigger families

        • Gary

          Um. I’m the genealogist of the family and know a lot of them out to the third cousins.

  • Occam Razor

    In the church I went to recently for many years, scholars who promoted such reasonable theories were derided in the same terms as “secular progressives,” totally evil snakes trying to rob people of their faith, who think they know better than the authors themselves. What arrogance to think you know more about the origin of man than Moses!

  • gingoro

    Legend “a traditional story sometimes popularly regarded as historical but unauthenticated”. Somehow that seems a higher view that what I gather that Pete has from reading his blog and books. Pete’s view seemed to be something like fairy tales or just so stories. Maybe I need to correct my understanding of Pete’s view?

    • Pete E.

      I don’t think Gunkel is using “legend” that way. I do think there are historical triggers/events for a good bit of the Bible, by the way–like the Flood and Exodus–but they are “mythicized” by the writers so that we cannot say that what we read is what happened. If it helps, I see this view among mainstream evangelical scholars, too.

      • gingoro

        So what do you think Gunkel’s is meaning by legend? Fiction, Lies, or maybe a story that carries religious or philosophical truth about mankind?

      • gingoro

        I agree with your statement “I do think there are historical triggers/events for a good bit of the Bible” as that is how I approach the Bible, primarily the OT. It would be interesting to see posts summarising your thinking on what bits of the Bible you think have historical triggers/events behind them. I tell stories about growing up in the 1940s and 50s living in Ethiopia and attending abusive residential schools. It is absolutely true that I inevitably get some details wrong, out of sequence…, I tend to see parts of the Bible being narrated in the same fashion. But if someone could show there were no actual events behind what I remember then I would be very disturbed indeed. Probably when events have emotional significance I over emphasize them or in some cases leave them out entirely as they still hurt too much.

        • Pete E.

          The challenges of biblical history are certainly more than just getting some details “wrong.” It’s about overlaying past events with theological and mythic content (eg Flood and exodus).

  • Derek

    I’m thankful for this post and for your desire to help critical readers of the bible remain faithful, Pete. I’m just trying to figure out how one can faithfully follow along this trajectory that seemingly pits “history” against “theology” and not come to the “adult” conclusion that “theology” is synonymous with “pious fiction”.

    Thanks again, as always, for your work.

    • Pete E.

      A fair question, Derek, but the fact that there might be a “trajectory” doesn’t nullify the very real problem of the Bible and historicity. Personally, though, I don’t know if “trajectory” is the right word. I think we need to be thinking more of “genre classifications,” as Kent Sparks reminds us, so we can talking meaningfully about the varied nature of historiography in the Bible

    • Brian Pendell

      Hrm… my concern with the above comment is that it seems to resemble what is called in logic the “slippery slope” fallacy; the mere fact that we recognize that Genesis is not literal history does not mean that the entirety of the Bible — or Genesis itself, for that matter — is pious fiction. You take that viewpoint only as far as the evidence will allow. And the evidence does not allow dismissing the Bible in toto as fiction, because there are places where it intersects other people’s records and archaeology. Caiaphas’ grave. The Megiddo Stele. And so on.

      Clinging to a demonstrated falsehood merely to avoid falling into an opposite falsehood is not the path of wisdom, I think. That’s one difference between adult thinking and childish thinking. Children are very fond of black and white alternatives , simple truths. Good vs. Evil. Adults know that very rarely are things so simple; there is often at least partial truth in many different points of view, and the wise man recognizes this.

      In other words, adults can recognize alternatives and shades of meaning between two extremes, to choose the narrow path between Scylla and Charybdis.

      • Derek

        Great comment thanks. So would it be fair to state that you are advocating for biblical minimalism? If there is no evidence for something in the bible, should one refrain from believing it? Please clarify.

        • Brian Pendell

          Thank you, Derek, I’m glad you found the comment useful!

          I would not go so far as Biblical minimalism. I think we can accept that, in the absence of evidence, the scriptures are mostly accurate. Remember just how spotty and incomplete are records of the ancient world are. It’s perfectly reasonable that things important to the Jews would not rate a mention in other people’s records. The Exodus , for example. Or the vast wealth of Solomon’s temple, which Shoshenq fails to mention carrying off from his siege in Rehoboam’s time.

          I do think, however, we have to recognize that these records are not history in the modern sense. They were not written by unbiased observers trying to achieve an unvarnished, balanced view. Ancient records were written to advance a particular viewpoint.

          1 and 2 Kings, for instance, is written to defend the thesis: “Whenever we serve God we prosper, and every problem we experience is directly due to our unfaithfulness and no other cause.” The author spends two books building a persuasive case to this effect, using the ‘annals of the kings of Israel’ and similar books as primary sources from which he constructs his thesis. He doesn’t spend a lot of time trying to consider other points of view or alternate theories. He does not make any obvious effort to consider all the evidence — instead he is picking specific instances which support his viewpoint and building a case based on it. This is not history; it is advocacy.

          Likewise, we must consider the impact of semitic hyperbole in this and in other records:

          http://tektonics.org/gk/hyperbole.php

          So when it is claimed, for example, that Solomon was wealthier than any other king in the earth — including the Pharoahs of Egypt — we can take the claim with a grain of salt. The point of this claim is not verifiable historical accuracy with footnotes. The intent of the passage is *rhetorical*, to show how good the Israelites had it in Solomon’s time before they mucked everything up with idolatry. If we were to speak to the ancient scribes and point out that king X was wealthier than Solomon, they would no doubt dismiss the objection as quibbling.

          Finally, although I am willing to extend the Bible charity when other records are silent, we must take notice when external records, archaeology, or science contradict the Biblical account.

          For example, if the Bible tells us there was no death before the first man, but we find reptile fossils several feet under any human fossils in digs, thereby demonstrating that there was not only death, but mass extinctions, centuries before humans walked the earth, we are faced with two choices:

          1) Attempt a Ken Ham-style harmonization of scripture and the extent facts, forcing the evidence into our preconceptions.

          2) Acknowledge that the Bible was not intended to be literal on this point, and look to see if there is some other way to read the passage.

          The belief that Genesis is literal history, by the way, has been decried at least since St. Augustine’s time.

          http://college.holycross.edu/faculty/alaffey/other_files/Augustine-Genesis1.pdf

          Chapter 19, “Christians should not talk nonsense to unbelievers”, requires special attention, I think.

          So I am not arguing for Biblical minimalism. I am arguing that we should reject naive readings of the Bible. Whether that is a naive belief that, say, Jesus cleaned out the temple twice because it happens at the beginning of John but at the end of the other three gospels, or a naive rejection of the Bible’s word because “hur hur hur, the Bible says the world is flat!”. Both readings are ignoring what kind of books the Bible comprises; what their style is, what they are intended to communicate. Reading them as if they were modern books for a modern audience, and not what they actually are.

          I say we need to reject naive, simplistic, Daily Bread-style reading and consider the Biblical passages seriously in their original context. Only then will we be prepared to properly understand what the authors were trying to tell us.

          Or, as the author of the book put it, to stop defending the Bible as what it isn’t, and then to seriously engage it as the book it was written to be.

          Does that make sense?

          I apologize for the length of this comment, but it was a really good question.

        • Brian Pendell

          I just attempted a lengthy reply. I’m waiting to see if it shows up.

        • Brian Pendell

          In the event my longer post does not show up, I’ll say this briefly: No, I am not advocating for Biblical minimalism. I think we should extend the Biblical authors a bit of charity in the absence of evidence.

          Be that as it may — and this is the longer part of the discussion — there’s a big gap between what moderns think of as ‘history’ and what the ancients wrote. The ancients were not interested in an objective account supported by evidence. They were interested in advocacy — to make a case and provide support for it.

          Arabic and Jewish records are also noted for their extensive use of hyperbole , which is a cultural thing. So readers of the Bible should remember this, look for that particular style and tone, and not assume that a piece is , strictly speaking, accurate in the technical sense. Not if the aim of the piece is *rhetoric*, not accounting.

          So I’m not advocating for Biblical minimalism. I’m advocating that we reject naive readings of the Bible — whether simplistic literal readings or equally simplistic rejections by athiests. We should, instead, consider the book in its cultural context and read it as the work was intended to be read, stop thinking of it as a western work with western assumptions.

          I had a much longer piece with links and examples but Disqus seems to have eaten it!

  • Daniel Fisher

    I know many evangelicals (myself included) would have no particular problem with thinking of Adam and Eve as a mythical, legendary story collected that can share some certain spiritual moral, if not for Jesus’ endorsement of it. Many evangelicals (including John Calvin, if my memory serves?) have no issue taking such an approach with Job, for instance. If the Genesis story was similarly isolated in the Bible and Jesus made none but oblique references to it, I doubt there would be the same concern But he referenced it, certainly seeming to present it as history, and developed further teachings and exhortations based on what he presented as the very reality of the way that God made man and woman. And for that reason I am more compelled to take it seriously as history – This complicates the question:

    If Jesus knew better and was simply using the mythical story to make the point…. it loses much impact. An oblique reference is one thing (like referencing 3 days of Jonah), but this is a different category: “Marriage is uniquely valuable because in the beginning the creator made them male and female…. even though the creator didn’t really do that and it was just an unguided natural process…” (It would be about as motivating to me as trying to be good because Santa Claus is making a list….)

    On the other hand, If Jesus was just a product of his time, mistakenly believing what was common for the rest of his culture, I find it hard to understand how I can trust anything he said outright and not second-guess everything that came out of his mouth – especially regarding things of eternal relevance. Would not even those things be the result of his own time and culture? What he believed about prayer, the last judgment, the character of God the Father….. do I end up cherry-picking from his teachings, embracing the doctrines, historic teachings, and exhortations which I (with my superior vantage in both morality and history) approbate, and rejecting those teachings of his that I deprecate? He was just a product of his time on all these matters and believed things as part of his culture, but we’ve made progress since then both in our historic, theological, and moral understandings, no?

    • Pete E.

      I think all these points you are raising here are good ones, Daniel. You are articulating the unavoidable dilemmas of Christian theology, particularly of Christology and the implications of the incarnation on what Jesus knew and how he knew it (and to throw in, the at times highly creative retelling of the Jesus story by the Gospel writers). But what I don’t think is a fruitful line of argument and that I hear over and over again (which you may or may not be advocating) is that if an omniscient Son of God talks about Adam in a way that looks historical to us, then it must be so. If only it were that simple. Others put it more starkly: either Jesus is right about human origins or science is, and I’m taking sides with Jesus.

      • Veritas

        In explaining a moral truth to children I have often used Star Wars and Lord of the Rings as reference points. Surely this doesn’t imply that I think they really happened…. They understood my point better because they knew the stories well.

    • Greg

      “If Jesus knew better and was simply using the mythical story to make the point…. it loses much impact.”

      Daniel, I understand your dilemma, but Jesus does this sort of thing other places. He presents ‘truth’ (about God) within the cultural context and ‘worldview’ of his audience. My favorite example is Matt. 24:31, where Jesus says he will send his angels to gather the elect from the ‘four winds’. To Jesus hearers (the disciples) the ‘four winds’ no doubt referred to the four sides of a flat earth. Jesus didn’t stop and say ‘teachable moment’ – ‘While we’re talking cosmology, the earth really isn’t flat with four sides; it’s a sphere that rotates on an axis, and revolves around the Sun every 365.24 days. The Sun, by the way is really a star like those you see at night, and it’s part of something called a “galaxy” . . .’ That would have confused them more than they already were! He is not concerned with teaching cosmology but theology, so he speaks to them in the language they understand, in light of their knowledge (or lack thereof) of science. I think he does the same thing when speaking of Adam and marriage. Whether an actual unique Adam and Eve lived doesn’t change the truth that God’s intention for humanity (of which they are the archetypes) is monogamy.

    • Andrew Dowling

      Jesus as omniscient is docetism.

    • AHH

      “Marriage is uniquely valuable because in the beginning the creator made them male and female…. even though the creator didn’t really do that and it was just an unguided natural process…”
      I think you are making a false dichotomy here, in a couple of ways.
      First, it is still true that humans from the beginning have been male and female, whether Adam & Eve is a mythical story or not. So your “the creator didn’t really do that” doesn’t hold — it would just mean that the creator didn’t do that in the way that a naive literal reading of early Genesis would suggest. To put it another way, the point relevant to Jesus’ teaching is that from the beginning God made humans male and female, but there is no more need to interpret this as Jesus affirming the historicity of the story referenced than there is with the case of Jesus mentioning the story of Jonah.
      Second, affirming that God used evolutionary processes to create does NOT entail affirming that it was “just an unguided natural process” Both the “just” and the “unguided” in that phrase are metaphysical judgments that are beyond the scope of science. The “new atheists” are fond of attaching such God-excluding meaning to the science of evolution, but Christians should not repeat their error.

      Your last paragraph raises interesting questions that are worthy of consideration, but again I think the word “just” is a problem in “if Jesus was just a product of his time. Clearly Jesus was a product of his time in some ways, like being a Palestinian Jew. He probably thought the Sun revolved around the Earth, too. But I think Christian orthodoxy would require that Jesus transcended that in some ways, so that the “just” is rejected. Sorting out what is in what category (to whatever extent it is necessary) can be a tough task, but I think we can do better than the arbitrary cherry-picking you mention.

    • Stephen Stoned

      Here is another possibility. Jesus was sharing information that he thought would be helpful to his listeners, and so he was just using information that was readily available, accepted, and understood by his listeners and then adding more depth/dimension to expand their knowledge. Indeed, he did this all the time. You and I do the same thing, too. It is so much easier to transmit information, ideas, and concepts to another individual when you don’t have to literally start “in the beginning” every time you begin a conversation. As a teacher, it is even more important when addressing an “audience” (a collection of individuals, each with different backgrounds and experiences) to address them in a way that they are able to understand and assimilate new information in a useful, constructive manner. Bear in mind that Jesus was not teaching in 21st seminaries (or secular universities for that matter) where the language to describe concepts and ideas would be very different. We should expect the language used to convey concepts and ideas in those modern day institutional settings would (and should) sound quite a bit different from that of a Palestinian Jew speaking Aramaic to a very different crowd some two thousand years ago. Not just the language, but the concepts under-girded by the language, and the assumptions of an already formed (and shared) knowledge base between the teacher and the students are dramatically different. This does not negate the ability to learn from Jesus or undermine his teaching in any way to recognize that we have a much different understanding of the world we live in. And part of that “understanding” (and what I am speaking to most directly) is the scientific knowledge of the world we live in since that seems to be your primary test of the veracity of Jesus teaching. I don’t really understand why so many American Christians (of which I am one) seem to think that if we allow ourselves to move forward mentally in our understanding of science from what was commonly accepted two thousand years ago, then we must abandon all of the non-scientific truths the Bible can teach us. I don’t think Jesus would have ever considered putting the science vs. scripture tests of faith to his followers that certain Christian “theologians” do today. Indeed, Jesus himself often seemed to have some pretty loose interpretations of scripture (as did Paul).

  • Josh Wallace

    Haha

  • Sheila Warner

    “The Bible Tells Me So” & “Genesis For Normal People” were of enormous help to me. I have to re-read “The Evolution of Adam”, I think, because it was a bit confusing. The only book you listed above that I have not read is “Inspiration & Incarnation”. Does that one shed some light on exegesis?

    • Pete E.

      It will shed light and will forever change how you look at everything. 😉

      • Sheila Warner

        Thanks. Your other books certainly did!

  • Veritas

    If Jesus taught in parables, why is it so hard to believe that The Holy Spirit also taught in parables?… Put another way; if the incarnate Word of God spoke in parables, why is it not obvious that The Word of God speaks in parables?

  • Pete E.

    As I’ve said in an earlier thread, Daniel, I don’t think your Christology grapples sufficiently with the complete humanity of Jesus. N. T. Wright makes the point in a lecture I have my students listen to every year is that American evangelicals tend to have the “divinity dial” of Jesus turned way up and the “humanity dial” turned way down (if not functionally off). Also, remember that Jesus’s “reliable teaching” included midrashic/creative/very non- grammatical-historical uses of his scripture, which were seen by his culture as convincing (see Jesus use of Exod 3 in Luke 20). So “reliable” is, like everything else, a culturally laden notion. We always need to ask “reliable to do what?”

  • Pete E.

    Yes, you grossly misunderstand. I feel as if you are not really listening but filtering what I say through a grid you a priori accept as determinative. But I won’t lose sleep if you won’t :-)

    The NTW video is called “Kingdom and Cross “ and was a 1 hour lecture given at Fuller a few years back.

  • James Rinkevich

    The people here act as if they’ve never read the book Free From All Error: Authorship, Inerrancy, Historicity of Scripture, Church Teaching, and Modern Scripture Scholars https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/most/getwork.cfm?worknum=216 by Fr William G. Most of happy memory (FYI he was EWTN’s first Q&A scripture expert after he retired from his university post). But even worse you act as if he hadn’t published a Commentary on Genesis. https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/most/getwork.cfm?worknum=81 I think you are not schiolars of much repute if you can ignore one of America’s greatest scripture scholars when he has written on the topics. You might disagree with what he says but he maintains inerrancy and much of the type of stuff you are dealing with at the same time.

    • Pete E.

      I appreciate your zeal, James, but I don’t mind saying that I don’t know who Father William is. I did go, however, to the links you provide and read 4 of the 26 chapters in the first book. I don’t think we can really call this a “book “but a blog series. There seems to be no peer review and the chapters does not go into the kind of depth these issues require. Is he a biblical scholar? What do you see is so valuable and needed in the discussion?

  • AHH

    Darwinistic understanding of evolution demands a process unguided by
    any intelligence, by definition. Otherwise, by definition, you have
    “intelligent design,” even if executed through common-descent type
    evolution. The science that I understand Pete to endorse (such as is
    also endorsed by biologos, for instance, if I’m not mistaken) is by
    definition hostile to that perspective called “intelligent design.”

    This is a detour, but I think you are off in several characterizations here.
    1) “Evolution” at its core means common descent, regardless of how the evolution was produced. So those ID people (like Michael Behe) who accept the fact of common descent are also theistic evolutionists, even though they might avoid the term.
    2) The “unguided” aspect of evolution is far from being a scientific definition. Many scientists would hold to it, but that is an additional philosophcial assumption added on top of the science.
    3) Biologos (I just returned from a meeting where some of their people were) is not hostile to the idea that evolution has been guided or superintended by God in some way. It is the fact of common descent that they are trying to get people to accept, and people there would have a variety of perspectives on how or whether God might have provided active “guidance” in the process (all would affirm that God is somehow the “maker of heaven and earth”). To the extent ID is rejected, it is because most of the ID movement tries to undermine common descent, and often demonizes those who take an evolutionary creation position.
    4) The true hallmark of the ID movement is not the assertion that God has guided the process by which life developed. It is the insistence that God’s design and guidance must be scientifically detectable, usually with the implication that the truth of theism hangs on such scientific detection of design. That is the other reason many evolutionary creationists don’t like the ID movement — we feel like it requires God to be a gap-filler and says that lack of gaps means lack of God, which is a denial of the doctrine of providence.

    Now back to our regular programming …

  • Stephen Stoned

    Daniel, I hear you yourself saying (essentially): “I am able to think this way with other texts, I just can’t bring myself to do that with this one”. Turning the tables somewhat, if Jesus had used a reference to Snow White’s apple in describing the Pharisees, no one would have known what he was talking about because at the time his point of reference would have been almost two thousand years into the future. So while that sentence and reference might make sense today, it would have made no sense at all to his audience in that particular place and time.

    I think one thing that is important to understand is that Jesus was actually speaking about the spiritual aspects of *marriage* and *divorce* here… NOT about the scientific aspects of origins and evolution. He was drawing on a reference that I’m sure he assumed ALL of his audience would understand, which would allow him to more easily answer their question in a cultural context. I think it is a serious interpretive mistake to assume that Jesus used *that* specific reference in *that* specific way JUST SO theologians in the 19th and 20th centuries could combat a scientific theory that would arise and threaten His church. When you think about it that way, it actually seems kind of silly, doesn’t it? And it would be if it weren’t such a problem preventing people from thinking critically about both science and theology in this wonderful world we live in. I have a seriously hard time understanding how Jesus answering some religious people on a question regarding marriage using a reference point that they would certainly understand has been twisted to defend a doctrine that has NOTHING to do with marriage (and that would not even exist for almost 1900 years).