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Interpret Genesis 1 to make sense

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  • Interpret Genesis 1 to make sense

    It seems to me Christians need an interpretation of Genesis 1 that appears to make sense. It doesn't have to be the RIGHT one, just seems to make sense.

    People who have tried to make sense out of Genesis 1 are Oxymixmudd and GRMorton. They had a debate recently, but unfortunately it seems GRMorton is too busy.

    A point to keep in mind is that the Lord God is timeless (out of time, if you prefer). Something that from our human perspective occurred in the past and another thing that will soon occur in the future are things that occur all at once from God's perspective. Not a good way to put it, perhaps, but about the best I can explain.

    Another point is that God may be frequently anthropomorphized in the Bible, even though that may distort the truth. We humans are simply not able to understand God's nature in human terms.

    If you have a favorite interpretation, go ahead, present it here!
    The greater number of laws . . . , the more thieves . . . there will be. ---- Lao-Tzu

    [T]he truth I’m after and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance -— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

  • #2
    Originally posted by Truthseeker View Post
    It seems to me Christians need an interpretation of Genesis 1 that appears to make sense. It doesn't have to be the RIGHT one, just seems to make sense.

    People who have tried to make sense out of Genesis 1 are Oxymixmudd and GRMorton. They had a debate recently, but unfortunately it seems GRMorton is too busy.

    A point to keep in mind is that the Lord God is timeless (out of time, if you prefer). Something that from our human perspective occurred in the past and another thing that will soon occur in the future are things that occur all at once from God's perspective. Not a good way to put it, perhaps, but about the best I can explain.

    Another point is that God may be frequently anthropomorphized in the Bible, even though that may distort the truth. We humans are simply not able to understand God's nature in human terms.

    If you have a favorite interpretation, go ahead, present it here!
    Actually I do not attribute any significant religious meaning to Genesis at all. I consider it simply as ancient literature describing the world from an ancient perspective over 2500 years ago.

    For those seeking a religious perspective I prefer the allegorical Jewish understanding of Genesis. Genesis 1, nor Genesis as whole, is in reality not an important book for Jews. The following link describes it well. Cited is part of the summary.

    Source: http://www.myjewishlearning.com/beliefs/Issues/Science/Creationism_and_Evolution/Bible_as_Allegory.shtml?p=3



    The religious message is precisely the realm in which science cannot compete, and those devoted to the cause of the Bible would do far better service to their cause by stressing its unique religious message. To the religious person it makes little difference whether the world was created in six days or several billion years.

    What counts is the deeper message of the biblical account of creation: The world was made by a wise Creator who seeks man's welfare, who created the world carefully with man's benefit in mind, who created man with Godlike qualities and commanded him to administer the world wisely.

    Though we observe the Sabbath every seven days, it is this deeper message which we celebrate each week. The current views of modern science deepen our understanding of this message and renew our confidence in it.

    © Copyright Original Source

    Last edited by shunyadragon; 06-21-2014, 09:58 PM.
    Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
    Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
    But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

    go with the flow the river knows . . .

    Frank

    I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

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    • #3
      http://www.amazon.com/Creation-Persi.../dp/0691029504

      It does some work connecting Genesis 1 with its cultural and historical contexts as well as its relationship to other parts of Scripture.

      I took a class that got into this subject a bit, but I'd have to dig back through some notes and texts in order to explain it.
      Don't call it a comeback. It's a riposte.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Truthseeker View Post
        It seems to me Christians need an interpretation of Genesis 1 that appears to make sense. It doesn't have to be the RIGHT one, just seems to make sense.

        People who have tried to make sense out of Genesis 1 are Oxymixmudd and GRMorton. They had a debate recently, but unfortunately it seems GRMorton is too busy.

        A point to keep in mind is that the Lord God is timeless (out of time, if you prefer). Something that from our human perspective occurred in the past and another thing that will soon occur in the future are things that occur all at once from God's perspective. Not a good way to put it, perhaps, but about the best I can explain.

        Another point is that God may be frequently anthropomorphized in the Bible, even though that may distort the truth. We humans are simply not able to understand God's nature in human terms.

        If you have a favorite interpretation, go ahead, present it here!
        During one of my orientation classes while converting to Judaism, I took a class in Hebrew that used Genesis as a text. They choose this book because it uses a variety of combinations of plural names for gods. Yes; gods with an "s"

        It is believed that G-d is conversing with other deities during the creation of the Earth. I didn't understand this at the time, because they emphasised the Shema (G-d is one) so much.

        But, as I have come to understand, Judaism does not make the claim that G-d is the ONLY god - just the "correct" G-d. After all, how can one be jealous of other gods if there are no other gods?

        The class did get into a whole symbolic thing about gardens in ancient Jewish philosophy, but it got so esoteric, I kind of tuned it out. Plus, my Hebrew wasn't that good at the time, so I just pretended to understand out of embarrassment.

        The take away is that Jews mostly view Genesis as an allegorical book rather than a traditional Creation story. Christians spend way more time with Genesis than Jews, I would say.

        For example, Jews do onto use Genesis to bolster the "original sin" theory as Christians do. They do not believe in original sin. They do not believe that mankind is "fallen." They believe that G-d also created evil, and that is why there is evil in the world.

        NORM
        When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land. - Bishop Desmond Tutu

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        • #5
          Originally posted by NormATive View Post
          The class did get into a whole symbolic thing about gardens in ancient Jewish philosophy, but it got so esoteric, I kind of tuned it out.
          My Tour Guide in Israel said, on more than a few occasions, "If there is a difficult way to do something, the Jewish [sic] will find it".
          "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

          Comment


          • #6
            Since I've posted this a couple times before I might as well repeat it here...
            Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
            Personally I see the creation account (especially the one provided in Genesis 1) as primarily being a monotheistic polemic against the various pagan cosmogonies and polytheistic myths of the people that surrounded the ancient Hebrews and were corrupting the ancient Israelis -- and that it still conveys powerful truths today. Theological truths that remain timeless.

            Such a reading is still a literal interpretation but one which doesn't rely on symbolism or a lot of poetic elements. While historical and scientific questions may be foremost in our minds it seems doubtful that it was foremost in the author’s. If it were then it would contain the answers to questions that have vexed theologians probably since the day it was written. If the text were primarily concerned with presenting history then it would have provided simple details like who in the world Cain married, and the like.

            This is why we need to be real careful about attempting to extract answers to questions the writer wasn't concerned with. We need to be on guard that we don’t get so distracted by our own interests that we fail to notice what the message about God here is.

            The burning issues when the text was written had nothing to do with science or history but the temptations of idolatry and syncretism that threatened Jewish monotheism. Hence, the frequent invectives by the various prophets against altars in high places, the Canaanite cult of Baal, and "whoring after other gods” seen throughout the Old Testament. What appears to be emphasized at the start of Genesis is that God is the one true God who is responsible for the creation of and is Lord over literally everything.

            He isn't merely yet another tribal deity or the ruler of a nation, but the creator and ruler over the Sun, Moon and stars, which (as Deuteronomy 4:19-20; 17:3; cf. 29:25; 32: 8-9; II Kings 21:2-3; 23:5; Jeremiah 8:2; 19:13; Zephaniah 1:5 demonstrate) were seen by many as deities themselves. In Genesis the heavenly bodies are denied any divine character or potency. Their primary duty is to bestow light at their appointed times, thus restraining the darkness in an ordered fashion. In Genesis 1:16 the Sun and Moon are deliberately not named but are merely referred to as “two great luminaries” or “two great lights.” The Sun and Moon were deified by the neighboring people but here they’re reduced to nothing more than lamps that light the Earth and along with the stars regulate the calendar in service of humanity (as opposed to the belief the stars control our lives).

            The same thing goes for the other things mentioned in Genesis 1. There were sky gods and earth gods (in some myths the earth was made from the body of a dead god) and water gods. There were gods of light and darkness, rivers and vegetation, animals and fertility. Water and darkness themselves were often characterized as forces with which the deities in pagan lands had to struggle with and overcome. Yet all are relegated to the status of merely things that God created and commands. Everything worshiped by the Egyptians, Canaanites, Assyrians or any other Mesopotamian people are shown by Genesis 1 to be creations of God, effortlessly brought into existence.

            God is not one of the forces of nature like so many of the neighboring deities represent. Not even the supreme fertility or Nature with a capital “N.” Instead God is the sovereign creator of the world and source of everything in it – but not identifiable with it. He is wholly other, the transcendent God. God is, well God. Absolutely nothing lies outside His creative power[1].

            There isn't the slightest indication here that God is bound or restricted by Chaos or merely some demiurge working with a resisting material that wasn't of His own making and that somehow places limits on His will. The plants and animals reproduce after their own kind to stress that they remain plants and animals and don’t become deities – not some scientific declaration. And mankind isn't like the Pharaohs of Egypt, divine in our own right, nor are we merely some afterthought as depicted in the Babylonian Enuma Elish.

            Further, it is made clear that while nature is "good" it is not divine and shouldn't be worshiped, and by declaring it good God informs us that the view that physical things are inherently evil is also to be rejected. Our problem is sin, not physicality.

            For me, the intent of Genesis 1 is crystal clear; it serves to glorify God the Creator, not those things which He created. All of creation, the entire universe and everything within it, owes its existence to the creative power of God (cf., Acts 17:24; Romans 11:36). God has absolute sovereignty over creation and everything in it. There are just too many elements suggesting (to me at least) that history is being used here more as a literary device or framework for presenting the completed work of creation.

            Moreover, it seems a good idea to keep in mind that even when presenting historical events that they’re theological representations of the historical events. IOW, essentially, biblical history is more concerned with transmitting significance over exact statistical detail[2].

            Finally, we must keep in mind that the entire concept of reconstructing and recounting events in exact statistical detail (as it actually happened) is a relatively modern development owing a lot to the ideals of the 19th century positivists. The point is that it is ridiculous to hold Genesis, or other parts of the Bible for that matter, to modern standards of scholarship that were unknown to it.

            Paul tells us what the purpose of the Bible is, and it is not to tell us how nature functions or came about. Rather, it is "to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (II Timothy 3:15). It is "breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (vs. 16-17).

            Genesis isn't an attempt to grapple with or answer technical scientific questions, but instead deals with matters beyond the realm of science. It seeks to bring us in touch with the eternal God and to reveal the sacred meaning of His being, His purpose and His dealings with us as He works out His holy will. Simply put, the Bible is not trying to tell us exactly HOW or WHEN God did this or that but rather, it is telling us WHY God did this.










            1. And God is responsible not just for the origin of all that there is but the entire being of all that is (As Thomas Aquinas wrote in "De potentia dei" (On the Power of God), the only cause of being is the power of God and all natural causes act as instruments of that power).

            2. Like other sections of the Bible, Genesis 1 appears more concerned with great Truths rather than mere chronological exactitude which while so important in much of our Western writing is not such a big deal in the Hebrew literary tradition. Topical arrangement or rearrangement is not infrequently found.

            For instance, the Temptation accounts recorded in Matthew 4 and Luke 4 provide different orders which are only contradictory if you feel that the authors were concerned with getting the order of the temptations correct rather than emphasizing the fact they took place. Likewise with Psalm. 78 which is intending to stress God’s care of the Israelites but places the smiting of the rock (78:15) before the manna from heaven (vv. 24-25) in contradiction to the account in Exodus 16 and 17. Even the ten plagues are summarized as seven, and in a different order, in Psalm 78:42-51; 105:24-37.

            If the author of Genesis 1 was interested in stressing the fact of creation and wasn't overly concerned with its exact chronological sequence of events, then many difficulties are eliminated.

            And I'll throw this quote from John H. Walton, a professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College in as additional food for thought:

            Source: Lost World of Genesis One; p.18-19


            If cosmic geology is culturally descriptive rather than revealed truth, it takes its place among many other biblical examples of culturally relative notions. For example, in the ancient world people believed the seat of intelligence, emotion and personhood was in the internal organs, particularly the heart, but also the liver, kidneys and intestines. Many Bible translations use the English word "mind" when the Hebrew text refers to the entrails, showing the ways in which language and culture interrelated. In modern language we still refer to the heart metaphorically as the seat of emotion. In the ancient world this was not metaphor, but physiology. Yet we must notice that when God wanted to talk to the Israelites about their intellect, emotions and will, he did not revise their ideas of physiology and feel compelled to reveal the function of the brain. Instead, he adopted the language of the culture to communicate in terms they understood. The idea that people think with their hearts describes physiology in ancient terms for the communication of other matters; it is not revelation concerning physiology... Throughout the entire Bible, there is not a single instance in which God revealed to Israel a science beyond their own culture.

            © Copyright Original Source


            I'm always still in trouble again

            "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
            "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Truthseeker View Post
              It seems to me Christians need an interpretation of Genesis 1 that appears to make sense. It doesn't have to be the RIGHT one, just seems to make sense.
              "Makes sense" relative to what though? If you're arguing makes sense against our current understanding of natural laws of the universe, how can that be used as a gauge if our knowledge of the universe is not consummate? History shows our views of the universe constantly change because of this fact.
              "I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole, it was like... we had entire training courses. It reminds you of the glory of the American experiment." - Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State (source).

              Comment


              • #8
                By "make sense", do we mean internally consistent, or consistent with external evidence? There is no shortage of explanations that fulfill one of these criteria, but not both.
                "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post
                  My Tour Guide in Israel said, on more than a few occasions, "If there is a difficult way to do something, the Jewish [sic] will find it".
                  LOL! Very true!

                  NORM
                  When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land. - Bishop Desmond Tutu

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by shunyadragon View Post
                    Actually I do not attribute any significant religious meaning to Genesis at all. I consider it simply as ancient literature describing the world from an ancient perspective over 2500 years ago.

                    For those seeking a religious perspective I prefer the allegorical Jewish understanding of Genesis. Genesis 1, nor Genesis as whole, is in reality not an important book for Jews. The following link describes it well. Cited is part of the summary.

                    Source: http://www.myjewishlearning.com/beliefs/Issues/Science/Creationism_and_Evolution/Bible_as_Allegory.shtml?p=3



                    The religious message is precisely the realm in which science cannot compete, and those devoted to the cause of the Bible would do far better service to their cause by stressing its unique religious message. To the religious person it makes little difference whether the world was created in six days or several billion years.

                    What counts is the deeper message of the biblical account of creation: The world was made by a wise Creator who seeks man's welfare, who created the world carefully with man's benefit in mind, who created man with Godlike qualities and commanded him to administer the world wisely.

                    Though we observe the Sabbath every seven days, it is this deeper message which we celebrate each week. The current views of modern science deepen our understanding of this message and renew our confidence in it.

                    © Copyright Original Source

                    Shuny, thank you for posting the summary. Perhaps this thread did need to have that included as a reminder of what is important. But please don't forget I started the thread in the Apologetics forum.
                    The greater number of laws . . . , the more thieves . . . there will be. ---- Lao-Tzu

                    [T]he truth I’m after and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance -— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Truthseeker View Post
                      It seems to me Christians need an interpretation of Genesis 1 that appears to make sense.
                      It depends on what you mean by making sense. I don't think there is a sensible interpretation that is consistent with any inerrantist dogma. The only sensible interpretation is one that says, "This might not be true, but it could have been what the authors believed."

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        To all those posters asking what is meant by "make sense": If, after reading an interpretation of Genesis 1, you feel like saying, "Yeah! That makes sense!"--well, then Does this Wikipedia entry "Allegorical interpretations of Genesis" make sense to you for the most part? If not, why not?
                        The greater number of laws . . . , the more thieves . . . there will be. ---- Lao-Tzu

                        [T]he truth I’m after and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance -— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          The Allegorical interpretation does not make sense to me. If you want to get some idea of my understanding of Genesis you might look at http://www.reasons.org/. It makes great sense to me.
                          Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

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                          • #14
                            An example of what especially does not make sense to me is those interpretations that place Adam and Eve way back in time back tens/hundreds of thousands of years (or even further in some cases). The people in the first few chapters of Genesis are portrayed as Neolithic farmers.
                            "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Truthseeker View Post
                              Does this Wikipedia entry "Allegorical interpretations of Genesis" make sense to you for the most part? If not, why not?
                              It's a long article, and I've had time to only skim it. The writer seems to discuss several interpretations without expressing a preference for any particular one.

                              For an interpretation to make sense to me, I need a reason to think it was the author's intention that his work be so interpreted. I have no reason to suppose that the authors of Genesis expected their readers to think anything other than "This really happened."

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