Friday, December 14, 2018

Part #3: Wrestling....In the Beginning


(Hebrew name for first book of Jewish Bible) In the Beginning

1:1 --In beginning, Elohim created/creating, the heavens and the earth

A number of questions can be asked about this short sentence, and the next several. There are disagreements among Hebrew scholars, too, on a number of issues.

#1 Was this the beginning of the whole cosmos or, specifically, the beginning only of the earth and sky?

#2 Why is God called Elohim (which means God,‘in a generic sense’ in Hebrew because the word is also used for other gods than that of the Hebrews, and even refers to messengers and rulers, too)
rather than YHWH as in In the Beginning , chapter 2?

#3 Why was the earth “unformed and void” in the beginning?
Why would God create it in what seems to be a negative state of being?
And were the heavens also "unformed and void"?

#4 Why was there “darkness on the face of the deep”?

#5 Why did the spirit of God hover “over the face of the waters”, the “face of the deep”?

#6 What was the light that God said, “Let there be…” since the earth’s sun wasn't created until the 4th day?

#7 Why did God see the light, “that it was good”?

#8 What does it mean to say that “God divided the light from the darkness”?

#9 Is the “darkness” the same as “unformed and void”? Did God create the “darkness” or oppose it by creating light?

#10 Why did God call the light Day, and the darkness Night since there wouldn’t be turnings of the earth to meet the sun until the 4th day?

#11 Likewise, what does it mean when it says, “there was evening and there was morning, one day”?

#12 Why do modern translators use words such as Genesis instead of translating the Hebrew word-for-word?

I actually prefer the Hebrew literal translations of the first 5 books instead of the traditional English names:

In the Beginning
-
The Names
-
And He Called
-
In the Desert
-
Things or Words


TO BE CONTINUED--


In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Part #2: Wrestling with Religious Texts: Misinterpretation--Reading Modern into Ancient


How NOT to Explicate the Text

1. Don’t read into the ancient text modern scientific discoveries. That is eisegesis, not exegesis.

Sarah Salviander, a brilliant astrophysicist, misreads the basic text of Genesis:
https://sixdayscience.com/genesis-1-modern-science/
--
[Gen. 1:14] God said, ‘There shall be lights in the heavenly sky to divide between day and night.’
"Plants changed the atmosphere of the Earth so that it became transparent."
[Gen. 1:15] ‘They shall be lights in the heavenly sky, to shine on the earth.’
"Enough (unscattered) light was eventually able to reach the surface of the Earth to allow the Sun, Moon, and stars to become visible."
--

What?!

The Bible's text says nothing about the “light was eventually able to reach the surface of the Earth to allow the Sun, Moon, and stars to become
visible” or that the “atmosphere of the Earth…became transparent.”

On the contrary, what the text says is this:
Genesis 1:14 And it was evening and it was morning, third day. And God made two two great lights, the great light for dominion of the day and the small light for dominion of night, and the stars. And God placed them in the vault of the heavens to light up the earth and to have dominion over day and night and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. Ans it was evening and it was morning, fourth day.
The Five Books of Moses, translated by Robert Alter

The actual text doesn't mention the cosmos gradually coming to be visible! It says nothing about plants changing the atmosphere so that it "became transparent."

What it states is that God said, There shall be lights...

And notice that this takes place in the evening and morning of one day!!

NOT billions of years.

God makes the sun and the moon on the 4th day.

How Salviander gets around the incredible disparity is that she says that the first few verses of Genesis are from God's point of view while the last ones are from the Earth's point of view. BUT such a claim--that part of Genesis chapter one is from God's point of view, not our view isn't in the text itself.

I do admit her understanding about astrophysics appears to be marvelous. Her explanations are way over my head--I only had high school physics. Indeed, her PhD explanations arguing for God's point of view sound very impressive.

However, how does she know God's point of view?!

Besides, why would God need a "day" with an evening and a morning?

Salviander wrote she is referencing the views of another famous astrophysicist, Gerald Schroeder.

But there are plenty of other scientists who strongly disagree with this combining of cosmology and religion. For instance, read counter views of another physicist, Mark Perakh:
http://www.talkreason.org/articles/schroeder.cfm

Furthermore, the earth's moon isn't a "great light." Even grade school students know for a fact that the moon isn’t a light at all, but that it reflects light from the sun.

If misinterpreters such as Salviander claim that the text doesn't mean to give an accurate understanding of reflection in the case of the moon, then the text isn't scientific, and their whole central thesis that Genesis is accurate to modern cosmology is defeated.

Also, it's strange that Genesis only mentions the stars last! If Genesis was meant to be scientifically accurate, it ought to have spoken of trillions of stars, multiple galaxies. And that many of those stars are millions of times larger than our relatively small sun in a rather minor solar system on the edge of one galaxy, the Milky Way, and that there are billions of galaxies beyond ours.

YET according to Salviander, her website is named after the ancient biblical scholar Nahmanides who wrote that "that the six days of creation (Genesis 1) contain “all the secrets and ages of the universe.” In other words, Nahmanides was claiming Genesis 1 as a work of scientific literature. “SixDay Science” is a reference to how developments in modern scientific fields like relativity, cosmology, and particle physics are supporting this claim."

From my perspective as a literature teacher, and former Bible teacher, and avid reader of modern cosmology books, this claim seems extremely untrue.

Here’s another translation of Genesis, considered one of the most literal word-by-word translations:
14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons,6 and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 to lrule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
ESV

Note that none of Sarah Salviander’s points are true, none of the text has anything to do with modern scientific facts.

Lastly, if Genesis was meant to be scientifically accurate, the HUGE question is why didn't the text warn early humans of germs and viruses. That would have been far more important than giving ancients correct knowledge of modern cosmology? It would have saved billions of humans throughout history from horrific illnesses, gruesome deaths, such as in the Black Plague.


In the Light of literary interpretation,

Daniel Wilcox
retired literature teacher

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Wrestling with Religious Texts


THAT, I’ve done all of my life!

#1 As a young sincerely intense Baptist fundamentalist, ages 8 to about 11ish

#2 As a questioning, doubting ethically focused teen, ages 14-18

#3 As a skeptical, cast-a-about searcher, social peace and rights activist ages 19-27

#4 As a quasi-evangelical liberal Baptist/Quaker/Anabaptist leader, ages 28-37

#5 As a disheartened, confused, questioning, despairing seeker/leader, ages 39-44

#6 As a seeking, despairing, stand-the-faith-ground-against-creedal-C. father full of honest doubt but trying to the heart to raise his kids right, good, and correct, ages 45-47

#7 As a disillusioned, despairing idealist Quaker/Anabaptist/generic who tries to hang on against all the theological, philosophical, ethical defeaters, ages 48—61

#8 As a skeptical, disillusioned, realistic, hope-seeking, orphaned ex-Christian, yet still deep moral realist Process-theist, ages 62-72

In ALL of those phases of my life, I’ve wrestled with the Bible, the Old Testament (Jewish Bible) and the Christian New Testament.

The earliest encounter/doubt-creator/troubling text was when I was 11 and in Sunday School one morning at Adams Baptist Church, and our teacher told us (and read to us) that God had sent bears to maul Elisha for making fun of him.
2nd Kings 2:23-25

Very upset from a moral standpoint, I spouted out that God would NEVER do such an immoral, unjust act!

SO here we go, wrestling with those thousands of texts in the Bible that have been the basis of horrific acts, amazing causes of human flourishing, puzzling confusion, and baffling defenses.

Side Note:
All of this article is true and as accurate and historically factual as I can make it, HOWEVER, one also needs to realize that for most of my life, I’ve always been able to step outside of my limited self and worldview, have been overwhelmed by honest doubt, at least since encountering severe critical doubt at about 16, largely because of the trapdoor-to-abyss of Augustinian-Calvinistic-creedal Christian horror lectured to us dedicated teens by that Christian youth leader to us at a Bible study. And the worst of that, the leader claiming to us that God will sometimes command us to do what is immoral! And he proceeded to prove this with texts from the Old Testament. And then told me directly that I ought to go and kill for God.

And then later the wide-shock of secular university-education including atheism and so many other contrary philosophies, worldviews, especially Existentialism and Absurdism and other life-stances that at 18, I became so aware that I as a rather average intellect, finite human may be wrong.
AND THUS, I have said, repeatedly out loud to others in print or vocally, or silently to myself, that “on Thursday’s I am an existentialist.”;_)

NOW, let us explicate, study, reflect, and chew the cud of the Bible.

To be continued—

In the LIGHT,
Daniel Wilcox

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Guest Post: "Vote...with Your Life" by a doctor to the impoverished, Sarah Thebardge


FROM SARAH THEBARGE:
"A while ago, a horrible thing happened to me. Someone I trusted used, abused and violated my personhood, while I was undergoing chemo in a life-threatening fight with breast cancer.

"It took me years to get over it. Years of tears. Countless questions. And hours upon hours of quality therapy.

"I kept asking my therapist how I could get past it. How I could move forward when it was impossible to go back and change the past. How I could live with a terrible stain that could never be erased. How I could live in a world where such injustice was possible...tolerated, even.
“You live your life well,” my therapist said. “Because the way you live your life is your way of voting how the world should be.”

"And in those words I found the peace, the forgiveness, the strength I needed to move forward.

"I forgave because I think the world needs more forgiveness.

"I befriended a refugee family because I think that marginalized, invisible people need to be seen with love and dignity.

"I started a college fund for these five little Somali sisters, and I’ve willed my house to them, because I think the world needs more engaged, intelligent, powerful women to lead it...

"I practice medicine in the U.S. and in developing countries around the world because I think the world needs as many compassionate healers as it can get...

"I don’t do it perfectly, but I try to do it well: I try to vote with my life for the way I think the world should be.

"With every single thing we do, every single day, we can cast a vote for the way the world should be.

"We can vote for Love.

"We can vote for Compassion.

"We can vote for Forgiveness.

"We can vote for everyone’s voice to be heard.

"We can vote for women who have been discriminated against.

"We can vote for people of color who have been oppressed.

"We can vote for refugees and immigrants to be welcomed as our guests.

"We can vote for justice to be served...

Read the rest of Sarah Thebardge's inspiring, encouraging article at:
https://www.patheos.com/blogs/sarahthebarge/2018/11/vote-with-your-ballot-then-vote-with-your-life/

"She studied Medical Science at Yale School of Medicine, and Journalism at Columbia School of Journalism.

"Sarah has practiced international medicine extensively, volunteering in Togo, West Africa, Kenya and the Dominican Republic. Her next book, WELL, about three months she practiced medicine in Togo, launched in November 2017.