I LOVE comments. Please leave some even if they are brief half-formed ideas
that you aren't even sure you really believe. I just love comments.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Cosmology of the Ancient Hebrews

I want people to search out the moral teachings of these stories that were not told to address scientific questions--questions that would not be asked for thousands of years after the stories were recorded--but rather were told to tell us how we related to God, both transcendent and eminent.

One way to encourage folks to do so is to point out the two creation stories are not easily reconciled. I say not easily reconciled because you can certainly add new facts to the stories to bring them in line with each other. Here's an example I came up with: the first creation story is how everything was created, then the second story is how a specific couple of people were created. Now, that's not what the Bible says, in fact it is probably contradicted by the Gen. 2:4, but it is a third creation story that incorporates all of the facts from the other two. Adding new facts doesn't seem very "literal."

Recently, I've focused on the different images of God in the first and second story. I prefer this to arguing over details, because talking about details encourages bright people to try and figure out a way to make both stories fit. Focusing on the tone, turns ones attention to the transcendent nature of God recounted in Gen. 1, and the eminent/God with us nature of God in Gen. 2.

But, here's another shot at it. The first creation story and the flood story assume the cosmology of the Hebrew people of the era. Here is a picture.And here are some words in support of this vision.
When God created the world (that's the transcendent of the first creation story) he split the water into two parts to create the dome pictured above.
And God said, "Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water." So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse "sky." And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.
Gen. 1. After the Great Flood was over, God shut of the sources of water and allowed the world to dry out.
But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky.
Gen. 8. The point is that these stories assume a cosmology that we must reject. It doesn't matter because the point of the stories is not to convey a cosmology. But continue to argue that there is anything about these stories that relates to the questions astrophysicists ask is a big mistake. That is, it will interfere with the seeker's efforts to find the great truth they hold.

No comments: