Nate posted this topic on Facebook:

Hello, I'm sending this group message to see if any of you know anything about the ancient Israelite culture. Specifically, I am asking if anyone can provide solid information regarding the claim that "Genesis is describing 'who' created and 'why;' but not 'how'" -- a view which is affirmed by many OECs and TEs.

I think this would require a much better understanding of ancient Hebrew culture than I have.

Also disclaimer, I believe this claim made by OECs flies in the face of sola scriptura, and instead takes the hypothetical interpretation of an ancient dead culture and esteems that [hypothetical] above the language clearly laid out in Scripture. If anyone knows information about this, or knows someone that does please let me know.

Some initial responses were as follows:



It seems the [Israelites] considered Adam and Eve real people. The Jewish calendar supposedly dates from Adam, and it's less than 6k years. I think we're currently in 5776 or something like that.


From Alyx: About the "who": The Hebrew word that our Bibles translate to “G-d” is Elohim. Elohim is NOT G-d’s name; it is a title and it's plural. However, it is a word that is not only used in the Bible to refer to the one true G-d, it is also used occasionally when speaking of the false gods - remember, context is everything when dealing with Hebrew language/culture. The “I-M” at the end of the word Elohim means that this word is a masculine plural noun. There is another usage in Hebrew of the “I-M” ending and it’s called the “plural of Majesty”. So, adding the “I-M” at the end of a word can also denote greatness rather than plurality. Christians can take the word Elohim as indicating BOTH greatness AND plurality. Or better a single G-d consisting of 3 persons or essences or manifestations. God the Father is the Creator (Psalm 102:25), and He created through Jesus, God the Son (Hebrews 1:2). By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth” (Psalm 33:6) This is the Holy Spirit. So Elohim was the creator.


The rest of Genesis treats the origin narrative as history . 1 Chronicles chapter treats Genesis 1 - 11 as historical. The sense of language indicates that.... To be continued. . . .



I’m not sure I have much to add on thinking and a culture of ancient Israel, but there is one perspective scholars and laymen alike seem to overlook. Newly freed slaves looking at the beginning of a cultural identity. Whether subscribe to direct mosaic authorship or that Genesis was passed down form Adam, it seems a reasonable assumption that most Israelites were not introduced to “Hebrew literature and customs,” soon after hundreds of years of harsh slavery of a foreign nation. Which would mean that the Torah probably did more to shape the culture and language than the culture did to shape the Torah. Consider how much the King James Bible did to shape and standardize English, many English sayings and our understanding of words are drawn directly how they are used in the Bible. The writing on the wall, nest of vipers, a law unto themselves…there’s a bunch of them. So…my point is, so many people try to understand the culture and language and apply to the Bible (Genesis here, specifically), yet it seems likely to me that the way the language is used in the Torah is more responsible to how the culture and language came about in the first place. Ever wonder way a Jewish day starts in the evening? Probably because it was written that way. (Gen 1:13 NKJV So the evening and the morning were the third day.) Anyway, that’s my two cents. Mar 12:42 NKJV Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans.

So, now it is up to you to respond to these ideas, so that the record remains here as a friendly discussion among like-minded believers.


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Replies to This Discussion

Marc and Nate shared this exchange:


Marc do you agree with my understanding that what they are doing, in this case, is not sola scriptura?



No. Not really.

If they are using a proper interpretive method, such as grammatical Historical Method comma then I'm not sure how you're claiming they're not Sola scriptura. If they're grammatical analysis concludes it is figurative writing, and their historical analysis concludes that a literal historical narrative as we write them or think of them would be anachronistic ancient near East cultures .... what other authority are they allegedly using? They may still be wrong, but their error is regarding Scripture. Not because they're believing another authority over scripture.



My point is they are taking what people have assumed the ancient Israelites believed about Genesis and putting that above what Genesis actually says, this comes specifically from some of the OECs in the group directly telling me that they believe cultural context (which in my opinion is not usually derived from the text) overrides the grammar, genre and literary context of the passages themselves.

If they're position is "The clear grammatic[al] literary and historical context of Genesis is literal, BUT ...." then yes whatever comes next they are putting alongside or above scripture as an authority and that would not be Sola scriptura. However in my experience I see them argue that Genesis is not a literal genre. That it is not grammatically meant to be read as historical narrative. If that is their argument then I think they still fall under Sola scriptura, there just wrong about what scripture says.



Ok I would agree with that. Especially the part where it's not a literal genre. Obviously Genesis has poetic elements in it, the toledots for example. But that doesn't mean it's not meant to be read literally. The poetic elements are more just part of the language. The only reason I even bring this issue up with you guys that I respect highly is because it seems to me that what they just told me yesterday is putting someone's interpretation of Hebrew culture above scripture.



I'm not aware of what conversation took place yesterday, but the thought that comes to mind is whether or not the person is actually saying that Hebrew culture Trump's what the Bible says, or are they saying that Hebrew culture shed light on what the Bible means.



They said cultural understanding tells them how to interpret the text. The first thought that came to my mind was, but scripture interprets scripture, not the "hypothetical culture of some dead group of people that we can never be completely sure we understand anyway."



If you kind of take the same issue on a different topic I have had conversations with fellow Believers about what Jesus meant when he said to turn the other cheek. Was that a teaching about pacifism? That we as Christians are to avoid any violence and not fight back? Or was that a teaching on maintaining our humility in the face of persecution? And how would you know?


Well you would have to look to the rest of scripture to lead you to the consistent interpretation of what Jesus meant



Right. Likewise knowing about 1st century Jewish culture could help us understand as well.


I would say that is only if the source of understanding Jewish culture came from the text also. If they get that information from outside the text, which in my experience has been the case, then it's unreliable at best.



How can you have a Grammatical *Historical* Method if the greater historical context - which includes data from extra biblical sources - isn't considered?



I never said it wasn't considered, I said it's unreliable. How do we know we can trust those extra biblical sources? We simply cannot know for certain. So they can shed light on confusing passages, but ultimately it is scripture alone not extrabiblical sources that lead proper exegetical interpretation of scripture.


Why are we conceding that the Toledoth are a "poetic element"? I see them as a clear marker indicative of historical character, showing that the whole book is a redacted collection of annals, of "what came out of" a predecessor or predecessors (a family's collection of tablets).


I've read Dr. Sarfati's commentary on it and he points out that the toledots have poetic elements in it while still describing actual history.


Good stuff Nate, thanks for initiating it. I ask myself how was Genesis 1-3 understood by the sons of Moses as little boys? How was this passage grasped by those children who were dutifully instructed by their fathers (Dt. 6), and by young Samuel and young kings like Josiah and Mannassah, and the child Timothy learning from grandmother and mother and Paul and Jesus as they were growing up?


I think that's a very good and potentially insightful question especially framed that way


But the group and this topic gets too often overrun by equivocation and strawman arguments and ad hominens and distraction.... [stuff that is so far away from any simple sense that could be received by a child. And then come all the "Scientific Creationist" imaginations about quantum mechanics and atoms and electrons and "what it light?"


To me, OECs always reduce the sense of Scripture to what is possible and plausible in order for them to still believe in "assured science" and still hold to an "inspired" Scripture - regardless of how sorely their hermeneutical gymnastics turns the revelation into obfuscation. But to true scientists and true Scripturalists - the compromise is unsatisfactory to both science and Scripture. The concordist accommodations are neither Scientific NOR Scriptural. 



...Genesis 1 is describing 'who' created and 'why;' but not 'how',...

...then... would be within our rights to (1) make up as many varieties of Creation accounts as we please, and (2) claim sacredness to every one of these accounts, provided: (3) these accounts maintain that 'who' and 'why'.

Whose up for a game of "Will all the sacred fictional accounts please stand up?"

We are created in God's image, yet we would deny that God cares about the non-fictional version of the account?? What are these OEC's and TE's thinking??

According to some TE's, and maybe some OEC's, any possible Creation account of the ancient Believers was largely their OWN product, and this in a time in which ALL humans supposedly did not know better than to think Genesis 1 is historical narrative.

...That, and all humans thought the sky is a beaten sheet of metal, despite that such sheets did not exist until, oh... 25k after the human species evolved from apes. LOL


As I said, will all conceivable sacred fictional True Creation accounts please stand up?

In a really, really pagan culture, in which most people somehow believe in the tooth fairy and the sky-flying Santa's raindeer...

---Oh, wait, that's just the typical American five-year-old of the middle of the last century.

Jim Brenneman said:


They said cultural understanding tells them how to interpret the text. The first thought that came to my mind was, but scripture interprets scripture, not the "hypothetical culture of some dead group of people that we can never be completely sure we understand anyway."

The principle that scripture interprets scripture, though true, does not stand rationally in the minds of those that Nate is referring to. And the fact is that 'culture' is a valid part of sound argument. So it does little good, and often much bad, to simply tell such people that scripture interprets scripture. A better approach would be to turn their 'culture interprets' principle into a genuine problem in itself. The fact is that people who use the 'culture interprets' principle to reduce the Bible to a shallow two dimensional text are using nothing more than a shallow two dimensional view of ancient humans.

If the present is key to the past, as proximal Darwinists say, then this 'culture interprets' principle that TE's and OEC's use is backwards. It presupposes a kind of cultural past that has no reality in the present. In other words TE's and OEC's, like their non-Christian secular cousins, simply use some subcultures of the present to presume a model of all humans of 'the past'.

But what is the point at which the culturally complex present world becomes the homogeneously simplistic and dull-witted past? Did all humans, at some point back there, just suddenly begin realizing how things really work? The human individual may have a developmental trajectory that resembles that sort of evolution. But every human culture on the planet is not naive just because every human individual used to be a child. How do humans, as humans, ever outgrow their childhood, unless the child is more than just a child. Do we ever loose our childlikeness just because we have grown up? Is a child just an inferior version of the adult, so that everything that makes a child a human being is lost when the person becomes an adult?

Even OEC's and TE's can imagine wha their science-fictionally future versions would think if those versions unearthed some remains of what used to be the late 20th century. The globe we knew of in 1996 was dominated not by YEC Christianity, but by secular 'science'. The vast preponderance of those science-fictionally future archeological digs would turn up anything except things confirming YEC Christianity. So, the OEC's and TE's living in that science-fictionally future time would deem their then-present YEC brothers to having not taken into proper account the 'culture interprets' principle as applied to 'The Late 20th century.

The implication here is lost on OEC's and TE's, since they presuppose some kind of essentially homogeneously present-aggrandizing means by which beliefs get from millennia past to the present: they are lost in the rubble, and then buried under earth by being forgotten.



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