The Ancient Universe and the Cosmic Temple

(system) #1
Genesis isn’t trying to give us a world picture, but a worldview. There’s a big difference.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

(Jon Garvey) #2

It’s good to see Cosmo Indicopleustes getting his due as the first scholar to spot the temple imagery in Genesis!

But apart from the architectural descriptions of the world through the Bible, I wonder if you feel, Richard, that the biblical view of nature itself is illustrated by the way Yahweh is so often depicted as a householder (or homesteader), managing the world as a head of the household would?

And so we have him as the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills (leasing them to Israelites), we have him making the clouds his servants and riding on the wings of the storm, feeding the young lions.

(Phil) #3

Also as a gardener, planting the garden of Eden. That actually resonated with me as I like to garden, and when you plant a seed, you think of the potential, the possibilities that may come if your plans are fulfilled, yet know that bugs and hail and drought may interfere. I’m still musing what that means for the Calvinism/ Armenianism/ open theism issue, but somehow think it is relevant.

(J Richard Middleton) #4

Jon, I certainly see this picture reflected in allusions to God as householder, owner of the animals, feeding them, and living in the heavens as his “upper chambers” (as I discussed in my Psalm 104 article, which I believe led to our first contact with each other); also as gardener (as James notes). These images pervade Scripture if we have eyes open to see them. And yet in none of this are secondary causes denigrated.

(Jon Garvey) #5

On the face of it, quite the contrary - if we see as God as being in his temple, served by his creatures and his priesthood, or more generally as a householder, managing his family and staff, then occasionalism really doesn’t fit such a picture at all, any more than “mere conservationism.”

Interaction of Creator with creatures seems implicit in the imagery.

(J Richard Middleton) #6

I agree with you here. However, my point was that to say that “God feeds the lions” does not mean that they didn’t have to hunt for their food, any more than saying that “God gave me a child” means that we can’t describe the process of insemination, gestation, and birth. So, I was actually trying to articulate concurrentism (clearly not doing it well), which you have articulated as being part of what you have called “classic providential naturalism” ( Perhaps I have misunderstood your point.

(Jon Garvey) #7

No, no - not all. I was agreeing with you, and just extending what seems a very rich vein of biblical metaphor.

Possibly my reference to occasionalism was prompted by reading today a non-biblical analogy of divine interaction by a scientist, which (unlike the “temple” image, and quite contrary to his intentions), read at face value like a denial of secondary causes.

(J Richard Middleton) #8

Got it. I now see that “quite the contrary” applied to secondary causes being denigrated and not the entire sentence. :slight_smile:


Thanks Richard - the “world picture” vs “worldview” distinction is helpful. Interesting timing - I just presented at the recent ASA meeting on “Watering Barren Ground: Metaphor in the brain, Bible and science.” One of the points I argued is that the ancient world may or may not have viewed the world literally as per the “dome” picture, but their focus was definitely on the more symbolic/metaphorical aspects of creation - agree?

(Jon) #10

Actually Cosmos wasn’t the first to see the temple imagery in Genesis 1, and he drew on a lengthy existing Christian and Jewish tradition which had already articulated the temple imagery of Genesis 1 in some detail. Cosmos just added some funny ideas of his own.

(J Richard Middleton) #11

Good point about “literally.” It’s hard to get into the head of the ancients; that’s why I noted: “So long as we don’t take this world picture as overly literal (it is more a phenomenological portrait of the world), this makes perfect sense as a non-scientific way of describing the human environment.”

(J Richard Middleton) #12

Cosmas was definitely not the first to see the temple imagery; that tradition was especially strong in Judaism. But his graphic is very illuminating. :slight_smile: