How can we convince 'head in the sand' exegetes?

(RiderOnTheClouds) #1

So I read this article by AiG which “refuted” the claims of John Walton and other exegetes. It infuriated me. Regarding Genesis 1 and other ANE texts they said this:

By using ancient Near East literature, Walton is going outside of the Bible, which is committing eisegesis—reading meanings “into” the biblical text as opposed to “out of” the biblical text exegesis, this is to substantiate what he wants the Bible to say in order to accommodate those views.

There is much dissimilarity between the ancient Near Eastern accounts and the Bible. For example, how does one explain the polytheism, the theogony (creation of the various gods) the cosmic wars, the magic that is at the center of these epics. These are not found in the Bible. The Scriptures on the other hand give a true historical, chronological account of the event.

Good luck trying to convince someone like John Walton with arguments like this.

This is just head in the sand exegesis. Without question there are parallels between Genesis 1-2 and Egyptian, Babylonian, Sumerian and other ANE creation stories:

  • Light before the sun (which assumes that daylight is independent from sunlight, so is hardly scientifically accurate.
  • Watery chaos.
  • Wind moving over said chaos.
  • Association between naming and creation.
  • Separation of heaven and earth.
  • Land rising out of sea.
  • Creator God founding a temple.

By the way the cosmic war may not be present in Genesis 1 (neither is it present in Egyptian creation myths) but it IS present in Psalm 74. Psalm 74 is only one passage in the Bible which mentions Leviathan. Here is another one:

On that day the Lord will punish
With His sword, which is hard and great and strong,
Leviathan, the fleeing serpent,
And Leviathan, the tortuous serpent,

Compare this to an Ugaritic text:

When thou shalt smite Lôtan, the fleeing serpent,
(And) shalt put an end to the tortuous serpent,
Shalya of the seven heads. . . . .

To deny the parallels here you must have your head in the sand.

Which brings me to a question. How are we to convince these people that Genesis, though it may lack some features such as a cosmic war and theogony, still has parallels with other ANE creation stories. And moreover, how do we convince those who refuse use extrabiblical texts to interpret the Bible in it’s original context. Is there any way?

I may respond to AiG on my own website at some point.

(Laura) #2

I tend to just fall back on the “So you must believe that the sun revolves around the earth then?” which probably isn’t very mature or productive. But if the response is “Well, I pay attention to genre,” then you could probably say that’s just as much an example of going “outside the Bible” since books don’t tend to have a genre code stamped on them anywhere. Naturally, AIG makes a big deal of genre for that reason, so perhaps that’s worth bringing up since I would consider it “outside the Bible” as well.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #3

I made a post here:

(George Brooks) #4


How do you distinguish between the Ostrich of the page sponsor that you criticize…

and your replacement of the term “Firmament” with the word “Expanse”, and your
implied meaning “Expanse of Nothingness”?

They seem to be motivated by kindred methods and kindred intentions…

(RiderOnTheClouds) #5

No they aren’t. I couldn’t care about how full of error the Bible is. I DO think the Bible’s cosmology is prescientific, I just don’t see the evidence for a solid Raqia.

(George Brooks) #6

@Reggie_O_Donoghue , what is different from you rejecting the Hebrew definition of the word Raqia and those who reject the science of Evolution?

For the time being, let’s assume that there is a big difference. When I first heard you write this phrase “[no] evidence for a solid Raqia”, I assumed that you were focusing on the term “solid”… and that you had some other idea about how the firmament kept the waters of the the heavens “way up there” - - not in reality, but in the view of the scribes.

But after reading your oblique, brief and vague treatment in your Rider of the Clouds posting, it suddenly occurred to me that you don’t think the Hebrew thought there is any kind of “firmament” up there… even though we actually found some pretty detailed treatment from the Babylonian art works showing that there were people other than the Hebrew working on this problem.

You have once again returned to the idea that “firmament” meant just “the sky” … or something … and despite Genesis being quite specific about something dividing the waters, you propose that what divides the waters is … well… the “nothingness” of the sky! Instead of an “expanse of firmament”, you are proclaiming that it was just expanse… and nothing else!

So… is this a subtle way of rejecting the Celestial Ocean as well? After all, why not? You’ve changed the sense of the term “firmament”… and you have gone public that the stars mentioned in that part of Genesis was really just the planets. And that the stars didn’t have rain gates or windows (even though they are mentioned) … because how do you have windows in the middle of an expanse of emptiness?

Gosh … what is keeping that water up there ?!?!?

(RiderOnTheClouds) #7

There are Egyptian texts which mention an ‘air bubble’ dividing the waters.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #8

If this article is anything to go by, then at least some Egyptians believed Nut was a celestial ocean, not a solid dome:

(RiderOnTheClouds) #9

My argument is that in the wider ANE context, the Raqia most resembles the space which divides heaven from the earth, not a solid dome/disc.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #10

There really is no reason why these windows cannot be figurative.

(George Brooks) #11


1] I’m going to ask you nicely to restrain your reflex to throw the word “dome” into the discussion. It seems a pretty clear ploy to me. Every time you do that, it creates an impression in the reader’s mind that I am trying to make the Hebrew (or the Egyptians or the Babylonians) conform to the controversial theme or trope of “a dome”. You are too youthful a person to adopt such a scurrilous debating practice, more often used by old bitter men who are bitter that their views aren’t more widely accepted.

2] Why are you presenting this as an “either/or” discussion: “solid floor (not dome)” or “celestial ocean”? We have already produced conclusive evidence that the Babylonians held to both simultaneously. In fact, one of our sources said one of the cuneiform documents discussed three solid levels, with an “expanse” above each one, except the lowest “heavenly firmament”, which had a the celestial ocean.

3] Here, you have done it again: “My argument is that in the wider ANE context, the Raqia most resembles the space which divides heaven from the earth, not a solid dome/disc.” Not only are you attempting to associate my views with “(shaky) dome talk”, but you also misrepresent the ANE context: the Babylonians have "expanses with solid dividers**.

4] Technically speaking, the article you provided (even with some various technical errors by the author) does not represent Nut as an ocean. Nut is actually the firmament to which the stars are attached. I have represented the logic of this comparison with this image:


I should point out that I didn’t see any illustration in the article, which does make it more challenging for the reader to follow along … rather than to try to imagine what the author means.

Reggie, the highpoint of that article comes in the one or two paragraphs that specifically affirm that the Biblical firmament is “solid” as a dam… and that Nut is the parallel to the firmament, even though the author labels
Nut the “sky”, instead of Shu (which he calls “dry air”). Wouldn’t you say that Shu is “the expanse” in the Egyptian model?

Regarding your concluding thought, Reggie, I’ll give you the idea that the windows can be figurative, if you tell me your view of what is keeping the waters in the heavens when it is not raining? Shouldn’t it be raining all the time according to the Genesis depiction?