ScottBarger wrote:... I think the Hebrew Cosmology was written not only to give a concrete account of events that happened (God made a good world, and put his creatures into that world for a good reason) but to invest these events with theological significance.
So when the writer says that God made the world in six days and then rested on the seventh, the ancient Hebrew certainly would not have walked away thinking he had just read a historical account of an event (not the way we use the term "historical", anyway). Instead, I think he would have believed he read an account of a concrete event (God made the universe) that had been invested with rich, theological significance (and he did so in six days, resting on the seventh - a detail that would have clearly connected the concept of "God of Creation" with "God of Covenant" because of the importance of Sabbath within the Ancient Hebrew theology of covenant).
Does that make any sense?
Thanks for the reply to Joe’s query (and mine).
So is the essence of your argument that, yes, the Garden of Eden and other Hebrew cosmological tales are true literally in those ways that we moderns can still accept, such as that there is, indeed, a world (and if one is a believer, that God made it)? But in the details that flatly conflict with modern knowledge, there must be underlying “theological significance” or some deeper truth? And the ancient Hebrews would have been able to sort out the difference you think?
It’s nice to think that there are, somehow, deep truths involved in these tales. But as Emery noted in another context in the podcast about justice, that sure takes a lot of work.
Of course, many other Hebrew bible passages discuss cosmology. Such verses mention the earth having a foundation, being supported by pillars, having ends and corners, and being fixed in place. Conversely, the sun and moon move around the earth (or occasionally stand still at God’s command). Of course, some of those verses are clearly intended as poetry, but some are not.
Taken together rather than in isolation, doesn’t the Hebrew cosmology suggest the sort of basic misunderstandings regarding the actual workings of the universe that a primitive people would be expected to have?
Are all those other cosmological passages, too, indicative of some hidden, deeper, truth?
Or might they simply be reflections of the worldviews and limited understandings of a primitive, pre-scientific, tribal people who simply heard and believed the tales literally?
If one believes the former "deeper truth" possibility, on what basis?
Might the only honest answer to that question be that a believer must
, by some means, maintain the idea that the Hebrew bible – the law that Jesus later is said to have desired to keep and observe every “jot and tittle” – is “divine” rather than created solely by primitive people with tribal agendas? Accepting that latter interpretation, of course, would strongly suggest that the Hebrew deity was a human creation, too, so I know that’s anathema.
In any event, if the Penteteuch writers were capable of writing passages having “deeper or hidden” cosmic truths, especially
if one believes that the God of the universe was guiding their minds and hands, other passages that seem ridiculous or offensive (but which don’t necessarily discuss cosmology) should also have hidden and deeper truths for us, or at least would have for the early Hebrews, no?
Then what of jots and tittles like Deuteronomy 25, my favorite part of which commands that if you happen to be “striving” with another man and his wife grabs you by the “secrets,” you have to cut off her hand.
Can anyone tell me what the deeper, universal truth might be there?
(I would also welcome humorous “hermeneutics.”)
Or how about the commands in Leviticus 21 that require that priests never shave and that anyone who is blind, crippled, hunchbacked, a dwarf or who has running sores or injured testicles
can’t approach the alter.
It’s hard enough to figure out what the severely obsessive compulsive ancient Hebrew who came up with that stuff thought he was doing for his tribe, but what could be the deeper or hidden truth?
I have to say that it just seems to me that the truth of all of it is in plain sight, not hidden at all for anyone who isn’t absolutely determined to believe in a biblical deity. And no work is required beyond the basic skills we all use to assess every other set of ancient claims and tales, or put another way, good ol' Occam and his simple sharp edge. It seems like belief in a god makes it soooooooo much harder to sort the real wheat - much of which is wonderful - from the gritty and silly chaff.
One last thought about the “Law.” If a creator God – one who actually created the universe – was going to involve Himself in the creation of texts discussing cosmological matters, wouldn’t it have been a whole lot more useful if He’d given a basic description of how plate tectonics works instead of inspiring writings about chopping off a woman’s hand if she grabs your dangly parts?
Those who know the most of nature believe the least about theology. - Robert Ingersoll