Monthly Archives: June 2017
This post is an occasional (and I feel necessary) return to the concept, fielded by Christian sociologist Peter Berger, of the difference between the “credible” and the “plausible”, sociologically speaking. I can illustrate this from my recent recollection of Bishop John Robinson’s book, Honest to God.
One of the common practices in building dubious Hebrew cosmologies is to take an elaborate concept from some non-Hebrew ancient source, and apply it wholesale to sparse references in the Bible. One example would be the Babylonian Apsu, the subterranean watery realm, which is pretty well described in cuneiform texts, and which is mapped uncritically to the Hebrew tehom, which usually means the seas, and sometimes the depths from which freshwater springs come, in order to construct an infinite abyssal ocean never mentioned in Scripture, as in this “Hebrew Cosmology”:
There is debate nowadays as to whether Genesis 1 teaches ex nihilo creation, or whether it implies that God used pre-existing materials to create. To some extant the answer hinges on whether v1 is a first act of creation, making a formless heaven and earth which he then organises; or whether v1 is a summary, like the subsequent toledot introductions to sections of the book, and that the formless earth is the material he begins to work on. The two interpretations of this verse have been contested (amiably) since at least the time of St Basil, though the question of creation from something pre-existent seems only to have arisen with … Continue reading
Last year Joshua Swamidass, an Evolutionary Creationist who believes in a historic Adam, set a challenge called The 100 Year Old Tree to examine the question of the implications of a specially-created Adam. This was predicated on the fact that human beings appear to have a genetic history reaching back long before the young earth time frame for an Adam who is the first progenitor of humanity. Most ECs, of course, also argue that man has genetic footprints revealing his animal ancestry.
It’s become something of a habit – mainly because of writing this blog – to chase up the back-story of any vaguely unusual natural history I come across, because there’s nearly always something interesting to learn. Finding a gaudily-cloured caterpillar once led me to read an entire book on aposematism that gave me entirely new insights into the history and sociology of science. I wondered if some such discovery might be so in the case of this wee lass, who appeared uninvited in the window-recess of my study earlier this week. Do you recognise her?
The main burden of today’s post has to do with the firmament and the cosmic ocean, since these are the controversial assumptions in the “normal” (goldfish-bowl) view of Hebrew cosmology, to some extent based on the evidence that the Septuagint Greek translators, who knew a thing or two, insisted that the Hebrew raqia meant something very solid, a στερεωμα (translated into Latin as “firmamentum”). But before I go there, let’s look at what St Basil says about the creation of light on Day 2 of the creation account, before the sun.
I thought I’d about wrapped up writing on ANE “cosmology” for now, with a three part series on Wayne Horowitz’s magnum opus in the can. But I got into e-mail conversation with Eddie about a remark I’d made in reply to a BioLogos comment. The comment had suggested that accommodation of the Genesis creation story to everyday knowledge only became necessary with the insights gained through modern science. I had replied that the Church Fathers, mainly raised in a Greek Ptolemaic kind of worldview with a round earth surrounded by crystal spheres, would have maybe had to do plenty of work to harmonize that and Scripture. My discussion with Eddie … Continue reading
When I recently posted a YouTube clip of the band Devo, it was based on a vague recollection of a hypnotically quirky song attached to a supposedly subversive philosophy not of revolution, but of devolution. Checking out the back-story, though, I discover that the whole idea was rather ironically purloined from a controversial anti-evolutionist pamphlet-writer of the 1920s, B H Shadduck. The Devo track was, in fact, named for Shadduck’s 1924 pamphlet Jocko-Homo Heavenbound.
Today I want to tie up a couple of loose ends with reference to Wayne Horowitz’s Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography as it relates to the Hebrew understanding of the world that appears in Genesis 1 and elsewhere in the Bible. The main themes, the non-existence of a heavenly ocean, and the non-existence of a solid vaulted heaven, in “ANE cosmology” I dealt with here and here.
Last time I described how Wayne Horowitz’s authoritative book on Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography has no room for the infinite abyss of waters so often claimed to lie above and below the world in “the ANE cosmology”. He stresses this in another passage: In Enuma Elish, KAR 307 and AO 8196, the highest level of heaven belongs to Anu. Elsewhere, this heaven is identified as the “Heaven of Anu” (šamȗ ša danim; šamȗ danim). Additional evidence that the Heaven of Anu is the highest heaven is found in The Gilgamesh Epic and The Erra Epic, In Gilg. XI 113-14, gods ascend to the Heaven of Anu in order to escape the … Continue reading