Board index Specific Bible verses, texts, and passages Genesis

The beginning of the covenant; Faith vs. Faithlessness

Re: How do you reconcile the Garden of Eden with evolution?

Postby Epic » Tue Oct 30, 2018 4:46 pm

Yours is the post-hoc explanation here, friend. If you start with the presupposition that something doesn't contradict science, you could make this kind of case for anything. I don't think you really get how utterly and absolutely unconvincing it is.

Days imply chronology and the passage of time. YEC's and old earthers alike agree on this, they just disagree on the specific amount of time implied by these "days". But regardless of how much time a day is, we still know that light comes from light sources and is required for plants to grow. Sort of like how dudes can't live inside of giant fish, there never was a worldwide flood, and this is so obviously fictional mythology we're talking about that it feels retarded even legitimizing it with a reply.
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Re: How do you reconcile the Garden of Eden with evolution?

Postby jimwalton » Tue Oct 30, 2018 4:56 pm

> If you start with the presupposition that something doesn't contradict science, you could make this kind of case for anything

But I didn't. For years I was a young earth creationist, believing in 6-day creation. On the basis of biblical analysis, I discovered that the YEC interpretation just didn't hold. I came across the writings of Dr. John Walton, and they made so much sense. I came to realize that the Scriptures didn't contradict science at all, and that the two lived in perfect harmony. It was quite a eureka moment for me.

> But regardless of how much time a day is, we still know that light comes from light sources and is required for plants to grow.

Of course it does. The ancients perceived the sun, moon, and stars as light-bearers, and they knew that the light they saw with their eyes was in distinction from those light-bearers they saw high in the firmament. Light was not considered something physical in the ancient world. Rather, it was a phenomenon. Here in Genesis it is clear that the author is talking about a period of light and a period of darkness. The light is called "day" (yom) not "light" ('or). They knew that light was required for plants to grow. An ancient agrarian society had that one down pat.

> Sort of like how dudes can't live inside of giant fish, there never was a worldwide flood, and this is so obviously fictional mythology we're talking about that it feels retarded even legitimizing it with a reply.

These are distractions from the conversation and don't apply to what we're talking about. Those are complete different discussions.

But the point is, I have shown you how Genesis 1-2 don't need to taken as fictional mythology unless you are close-minded to looking at things in a new light. Don't insist on a very small bandwidth as the only possible way to interpret Genesis 1-2.
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Re: How do you reconcile the Garden of Eden with evolution?

Postby Behemoth » Wed Oct 31, 2018 1:21 pm

It seems that I didn't make myself clear.

There is the literal story, the story interpreted so that each word refers to what it means in its most basic sense. This is the fundamentalist/young earth creationist interpretation, and the one that is taught to children (source: my memory from primary school).

Then there are deeper readings, those that appreciate poetic and symbolic elements. The real events the story describes differ from what happens in the "primary school interpretation".

Your interpretation belongs to the former category. In fact, you admit so much:

> [On the word "nudity":] Yes. It's figurative.

Now for arguing semantics:

The very definition of metaphor is "a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea being used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them" (from Merriam-Webster dictionary, with modifications for flow) Thus, any interpretation in which the true meaning of the story is different from the primary school interpretation (adjusted for mistakes in translation) has metaphorical elements, and if they are widespread enough, can be said to be "metaphorical" as a whole.

Your interpretation is one of the better ones in this thread, but your insistence that it is not metaphorical kills me (metaphorically).
Also, as a language nerd, this bugged me:

> the Hebrew word "bara" that we translate as "create" was not used by the Hebrews for material creation, but rather abstract things (purity, righteousness, people groups like the nations)

Why would one put physical things as the object of a verb that could only refer to abstract things? Also, why would the early translators have used "to create" (the word used for material creation) instead of a more appropriate term?

This is easily explainable if the word has a basal meaning of "to create (materially)", and the abstract meaning is an extension of it.
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Re: How do you reconcile the Garden of Eden with evolution?

Postby jimwalton » Wed Oct 31, 2018 2:02 pm

Thanks for the dialogue. Glad to continue it.

> the story interpreted so that each word refers to what it means in its most basic sense.

We are not after letting each word refer to what it means in its most basic sense. We are after what the author intended by it, which we can gain by linguistic and cultural studies. It's not legitimate to deal with the English text as if the most basic meaning of our English words communicates the full import or even the intended gist of the Hebrew term. For a full meaning of difficult, ancient texts we need to go back as far as we can to the original, both linguistically (comparative linguistics) and cultural studies (anthropology, sociology, mythology, theology, etc.).

> This is the fundamentalist/young earth creationist interpretation, and the one that is taught to children (source: my memory from primary school).

This is only the most basic sense because you were taught a Western Enlightenment approach to the text. As I have written, taking the text as functional seems even a more "literal" approach to it that the YEC Sunday School version.

> Then there are deeper readings, those that appreciate poetic and symbolic elements.

The deeper readings are not the poetic and symbolic ones. For instance, I have told you that the text is about functional creation, not material creation. Let me add to that, and it has nothing to do with poetry or symbolism.

In the ancient world, something was considered "created" (it came into existence) when it was separated out, given a function, and given a name. In the Ritual of Amun, the first god arises on his own from the primeval waters, separates himself from them, and then separates himself into millions to function as the gods.

Prior to creation, the Egyptian texts talk about the "non-existent." In their thinking their "nonexistent" realm continues to be present in the sea, in the dark night, and even in the desert—places not without physical (material) existence but without role or function. In the Egyptian pre-creation state of nonexistence there are two elements: primeval waters and total darkness.

Mesopotamian records show that when one named something (and the name designated the thing's function or role), then it was considered to exist. In the Babylonian Creation account, bringing the cosmos into existence begins "when on high no name was given in heaven, nor below was the netherworld called by name ... When no gods at all had been brought forth, none called by names, no destinies ordained, then were the gods formed." In the earlier Gilgamesh, Enkidu and the Netherworld, the first couple of lines read: "After heaven had been moved away from earth, after earth had been separated from heaven, after the name of man had been fixed," then the heavens and the Earth were considered to exist.

We can see these same cultural ideas in Genesis, and they have nothing to do with poetry or symbolism. Something was considered to exist when it had been separated out, given a name, and ordained with a role and function. As you read Genesis 1, now, you can see it more in its cultural context. The Genesis account is more about who controlled functions (a very common ancient Near Eastern worldview) than about who gave something its physical form. In the ancient world something was created when it was given a function.

You'll notice that Genesis 1.2 present a world without separation and without function. Material is present, but it's disordered and nonorder, formless and void. The material that is there is without order and proper functionality.

> Your interpretation belongs to the former category. In fact, you admit so much:
[On the word "nudity":] Yes. It's figurative.

You know, because I admitted that one piece of the writing was figurative doesn't mean you can toss the whole narrative into that category. It's inaccurate. What I said was that the story is literally about functional creation, not material creation, literally (if we can use that word). It's not poetic, allegorical, or metaphorical. But of course, yes, there is one figure of speech in there (maybe even more, but that doesn't make the text metaphorical or poetic).

> Why would one put physical things as the object of a verb that could only refer to abstract things? Also, why would the early translators have used "to create" (the word used for material creation) instead of a more appropriate term?

"Create" was the appropriate term. It's just that the ancients thought differently about creation than we do. If you're a language nerd, let's go deeper.

בָּרָא (bara’) means "create" all right. It refers to some unique formative act, but does not rule out any process, immediate or developmental. An examination of the Old Testament:

Verses with bara’ in it:
Gn. 1.1, 21, 27, 27, 27
Gn. 2.3, 4
Gn. 5.1, 2 – people, male and female
Gn. 6.7
Dt. 4.32
Ps. 51.10 – create in me a clean heart
Ps. 89.12 – north and south
Ps. 102.18 – created a people
Ps. 104.30 –
Ps. 148.5 –
Isa. 4.5 – a canopy of smoke and fire
Isa. 40.26 –
Isa. 41.20 –
Isa. 42.5 –
Isa. 43.1, 7 –
Isa. 45.7, 8, 12, 18 –
Isa. 54.16 –
Isa. 57.19 – the fruit of lips that praise his name
Isa. 65.17, 18 – the idea of Jerusalem
Jer. 31.22 – created a new thing
Amos 4.13 –
Mal. 2.10 –

The objects "created" are unusual things, in the categories of abstractions rather than material products. It has nothing to do with manufacture (the way we modern Westerners think of "create"), and not with things. When we speak of creating a piece of art, we are not suggesting the manufacture of paints and canvas, but rather of what we DO with them. Even more abstractly, one can create a situation (e.g., havoc), or a condition (an atmosphere of hostility, for instance). The verb bara' is never joined with an accusative of material. This is all in perfect keeping with their cultural context and linguistic worldview. As we examine bara' we can see that the objects of the verb point consistently toward its connection to functional properties than to material existence.

> Why would one put physical things as the object of a verb that could only refer to abstract things?

Gn. 1.1: "The heavens and the earth" are often used in Scripture to speak of the totality of all things. An abstraction of completeness.

On Day 1, there is no word for "create" or "make." Only an abstract concept of "let there be..."

On Day 2 the word for "made" (v. 7) is from the Hebrew root 'asa, as term that means "do." It is used 1560 times in the OT to designate the accomplishment of a task, and 670 times of making either a material object (like an idol) or an abstraction (like an offering). Notice that most of what is happening on Day 2 is that God is creating a separation (abstract).

On Day 3 nothing is made. There is a separation and a naming.

On Day 4 we read "let there be" and then a function: to mark days and seasons. There is also separation. Verse 16 again uses the term 'asa. Job 9.9's use of the word is the arrangement of the stars into constellations (abstract) rather than manufacture. Isa. 41.17-20's use of the term is regarding function. So also Isa. 45.7.

And so it goes. I won't continue because I hope you get the thrust of the text.

> Also, why would the early translators have used "to create" (the word used for material creation) instead of a more appropriate term?

"Create" just may be the most appropriate term. Other alternatives may give the wrong impression. Translation work is not always smooth and easy.
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Re: How do you reconcile the Garden of Eden with evolution?

Postby Behemoth » Thu Nov 01, 2018 1:07 pm

Thank you for this discussion. I don't think I have much more to add. I have to admit that the view still feels like apologism to me (trying to retroactively make modern science and the Bible fit together), but feelings are not arguments.
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Re: How do you reconcile the Garden of Eden with evolution?

Postby jimwalton » Sat Dec 01, 2018 3:46 pm

Thanks. It has been a good discussion. It's always good to dialogue, imho. If you're truly interested in it, you may want to pick up John Walton's book, "The Lost World of Genesis 1." It's a fairly inexpensive book ($13) and a decently easy read (about 190 pages). I find it fascinating. To me it makes so much more sense than the young earth creation view, the old earth creation view, or a chronological view of Genesis 1. It makes sense from the vantage point of the ancient worldview, and it takes away any war with science. I really like the approach he takes, and to me it makes excellent sense of the text. After all, I want to stay true to the text of the Bible, acknowledge the truth of science, and understand the Bible in its cultural context. This does all of them.


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