[quote=""Tharmas""]There have been a couple of questions raised in this thread which the main participants have gone round and round on without resolving. [/quote]
Well, only one participant has been going around and around, but that’s par for Poli’s course.
They got me thinking, however, and I thought I would add another perspective, perhaps foolishly.
I’ll divide my commentary into separate posts.
Topic One: What critical standards should one use when reading the Bible?
Actually, we were discussing a particular continuing storyline
found in two primary books of the Bible (Genesis, ACT I of the storyline and GMark, Act II), but, ok.
So, specifically, we need to consider what critical standards and methodologies one properly applies when reading the Creation story(ies) in Genesis, and how they compare to those used for reading a Gospel.
See caveat above in regard to the fact that we were discussing—specifically—only one story and how it had its origin in Genesis and a sequel, if you will, or continuation in GMark.
I’ll apply Genre Criticism
. I’ll examine the elements of the texts to determine what type or genre of literature we’re dealing with.
With Genesis we find the following elements, among others:
1) Time period: unspecified distant past, the dawn of time.
Not necessarily accurate as we know from various sects of the cult who have dated it back some 6,000 years based on the ages of the people listed in the genealogies (and Genesis), starting with Adam, but fine.
2) Narrative scope: cosmic. The creation of the entire universe is described.
3) Fabulous elements, including a magic tree, talking animals, etc.
4) Gods (in this case one god or arguably two) who directly intervene in the action and/or have a role as a character in the story.
As far as I’m concerned, these should all simply be conflated, since they all constitute “fabulous elements” (I prefer “fantastical”
. And, technically, again, the narrative scope with regard to the Adam/Eve/Jesus storyline would be more post-cosmic, particulalry since there are conflicting narratives in regard to Adam’s creation.
Iow, what Poli and I have been discussing is the storyline that comes after everything has been created, including Adam, but, again, I’m fine so long as these caveats are noted. As is evident itt, Poli has a very bad habit of using equivocal language, shifting goalposts and stuffing straw, so I fear it’s unfortunately necessary to keep pedantic track of exactly what it is under discussion.
5) Archetypical human characters, in this case of course Adam, the first man, and Eve (meaning “living”
created from Adam’s rib.
6) We might add the “just so” story of how the snake lost his legs.
From the presence of these elements we conclude that Genesis
is a myth
, and more particularly, a creation or origin myth
Let’s stick to “myth” as again all of the above caveats should be applied or else we get this shift (however unintentional):
Creation myths often share a number of features. They often are considered sacred accounts and can be found in nearly all known religious traditions. They are all stories with a plot and characters who are either deities, human-like figures, or animals, who often speak and transform easily. They are often set in a dim and nonspecific past that historian of religion Mircea Eliade termed in illo tempore ("at that time"). Creation myths address questions deeply meaningful to the society that shares them, revealing their central worldview and the framework for the self-identity of the culture and individual in a universal context.
See what I mean? The Adam/Eve/Jesus storyline isn’t exactly a “creation myth” so we’re already skewing off the tracks a bit. Unless we’re saying it’s a myth about how “sin” (aka, “death”
was instantiated—and then an assertion of our being able to overcome death through cult belief in Act II of the storyline—but is that properly a “creation myth” or merely us using the word “creation” for a natural condition of our existence?
Next, let’s look at the Gospels.
Well, once again, we should next look at the passion narrative—Act II to the Adam/Eve “sin/death” Act I narrative—to be consistent and focused, but caveat once again noted, I guess.
It turns out that as a literary genre, the Gospels are a mixed bag.
Yes, well, again, but ok.
Some of the narrative elements include:
1) Time period: Recent, historical past, with some actual historical personages mentioned or even as actors.
Well, that’s also true of Genesis in regard to all of the begetting going on as well as Poli’s assertion that “God” is an actual being.
2). Narrative scope: limited, from three to thirty years depending on the Gospel.
Except that the characters make reference to the characters in Genesis and their are numerous instances of attempts at linking the Jesus character to the “Old Testament” as if he were the future fulfillment of earlier prophecy, so, this is not at all accurate in regard to “narrative scope.” It may be accurate in regard to historical scope—i.e., the characters can be more easily placed in an historical time period, but then again, that likewise would depend on whether or not we accept the adding-up of ages that gets us to the 6,000 year mark, etc.
3) Fabulous elements: a number of miracles performed by Jesus.
Note: In the context of the Gospels, these miracles serve as proof that Jesus was the son of God. It seems likely that the authors of the various Gospels believed that these miracles had actually occurred.
4) Gods directly intervening in the action. See above regarding fabulous elements. I recall that there are some angels in Luke and Matthew and it could be argued that they help the plot progress. They mostly deliver messages.
And demons and the ability of Jesus’ disciples to drive out demons and miraculously heal the sick “in his name” and the like, as well as resurrection from the dead as a general, acceptable proposition (separate from the more specific miracle Jesus performs) and, I would say, knowing the future (or at least knowing his own fate), which I think is separate from him being able to perform miracles.
The character of Jesus as a god is somewhat ambiguous.
Well, the “virgin” birth (also contested) and just the notion that a god could impregnate a woman in order to have a son would likewise be “fabulous” elements sufficient to establish the character as non-human or at least part-divine, regardless of whether we accept cult dogma about being “fully man.”
He performs miracles like a magician, yet seems powerless to affect the overall course of the story.
Well, he does beg his “father” to change his fate, but the statement, “not what I will, but what you will” indicates it may be something he could change, but is instead seeking to obey his father’s will over his own. Or some such nonsense.
He could perhaps be considered a demi-god
Well, again, the story of his birth alone would establish this.
In the end, he dies as a human, but is resurrected as a god. Jesus in the Gospels is altogether a complex character. I wouldn’t call him an archetype.
What about the fact that he is constantly referred to as the “Son” and God the “Father” as well as being referred to as the “son of man” (tied, once again, to Adam)?
4) Archetypical characters? As mentioned above, some of the characters are historical. This gives the veneer of historicism to the entire works, even though some of the ancillary characters, such as the disciples, could be considered stock characters. I don’t find any true archetypes in the Gospels.
Well, again, aside from Jesus being the “son of God” and “son of Man” there is the betrayer (Judas) who is central, the doubter (Thomas) and there is the whole judge/trial/washing of the hands motif.
So the gospels are a mixed bag, and don’t fit easily into any established genre.
Myth seems the perfect fit.
and partly eyewitness reporting.
Well, no, they can’t be that since they report scenes/dialogue that no one could have been present for to eyewitness.
Personally, I consider the Gospel narratives to present a unique literary genre.
In any case, one wouldn’t apply the same standards of criticism to Genesis as the Gospels.
Again, aside from the caveats above applied here, “myth” fits them both perfectly. They both contain fantastical (“fabulous”
elements, Gods and Archetypical characters, but even more so, the later constantly reference the former in an attempt to link the two, such that the characters and events in Genesis (and other books of the Old Testament) serve as “evidence” of the claims regarding the characters and events in the Gospels (and other book of the New Testament).
Iow, if one book is considered mythical then the sequal to it must therefore also be considered mythical.
It is my opinion that the use of a term like “sequel” to the Gospels in relation to Genesis is, to say the least, from a literary point of view, a misuse of the term.
Which is, once again, precisely why I had to provide all of those caveats at the beginning and only brings us back around. What, for example do we do with all of the begatting going on in Gen 5
1This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. 2He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created.
3When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth. 4Then the days of Adam after he became the father of Seth were eight hundred years, and he had other sons and daughters. 5So all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years, and he died.
6Seth lived one hundred and five years, and became the father of Enosh. 7Then Seth lived eight hundred and seven years after he became the father of Enosh, and he had other sons and daughters. 8So all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years, and he died.
9Enosh lived ninety years, and became the father of Kenan. 10Then Enosh lived eight hundred and fifteen years after he became the father of Kenan, and he had other sons and daughters. 11So all the days of Enosh were nine hundred and five years, and he died.
12Kenan lived seventy years, and became the father of Mahalalel. 13Then Kenan lived eight hundred and forty years after he became the father of Mahalalel, and he had other sons and daughters. 14So all the days of Kenan were nine hundred and ten years, and he died.
15Mahalalel lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Jared. 16Then Mahalalel lived eight hundred and thirty years after he became the father of Jared, and he had other sons and daughters. 17So all the days of Mahalalel were eight hundred and ninety-five years, and he died.
18Jared lived one hundred and sixty-two years, and became the father of Enoch. 19Then Jared lived eight hundred years after he became the father of Enoch, and he had other sons and daughters. 20So all the days of Jared were nine hundred and sixty-two years, and he died.
21Enoch lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Methuselah.
22Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. 23So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. 24Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.
25Methuselah lived one hundred and eighty-seven years, and became the father of Lamech. 26Then Methuselah lived seven hundred and eighty-two years after he became the father of Lamech, and he had other sons and daughters. 27So all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred and sixty-nine years, and he died.
28Lamech lived one hundred and eighty-two years, and became the father of a son. 29Now he called his name Noah, saying, “This one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the LORD has cursed.” 30Then Lamech lived five hundred and ninety-five years after he became the father of Noah, and he had other sons and daughters. 31So all the days of Lamech were seven hundred and seventy-seven years, and he died.
32Noah was five hundred years old, and Noah became the father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
Which in turn, of course, leads us to the flood, but what are we to say in regard to all of these
“ancillary characters”? Are they likewise historical? If so, what about the claims of their ages? If not, then what literary purpose do they possibly serve? it’s just a list of names and who they produced and how long they each lived, so how does that advance the story in any figurative manner?
We know today, of course, that it is highly unlikely that any humans ever lived so long (as we have found no bones so dated and ample evidence of much shorter lifespans), but did anyone back in the day think this to be the case when told such a story? Was it just “understood” that, like a talking snake and magical trees, no such people actually existed and/or were “figurative” or the like? If so, what is your criterion for making such a literary analysis?
It may be generally agreed upon that there was no global flood (though that too is debatable and many many Christians believe there was an actual global flood) and/or that Noah, if he existed, probably did not live to be almost a thousand years old, but does that rule him Archetypal in any sense? If so, what is the archetype?
And if not, then we really only have one
archetypal character (two, technically; Adam and Eve, but they are essentially of one single archetype; the origin of our species), but, again, how can they be if they actually have a genealogical lineage that is traceable to Jesus (well, all of humanity for that matter)? And why does the author of Gen 5 (and further) make such a detailed list of characters and their ages if it is not intended to be an historical account (or fool people into believing it is an historical account)? Again, what is figurative/archetypal about any of it?
And then we get into Gen 6, which is a whole ‘nother mess of mythology, where the author essentially contradicts or negates Gen 5 and has God limit the age of man to (as still too long) 120 years, and we get the nephalim briefly mentioned and basically forgotten before the flood kicks in and we have Noah and his
offspring specified once again as if they actually existed and we’re off and runnning.