Author Archives: Jon Garvey
Last night Channel 4 aired the documentary on the genome sequencing and facial reconstruction of Cheddar Man, the 8,000BCE mesolithic skeleton discovered in Gough’s Cave in Cheddar Gorge a century ago. It was interesting and well done, though of course the “Hey Presto” effect of unveiling the reconstruction was lost because his photo has been splashed over every newspaper and TV channel for the last fortnight.
The revelation that senior figures from the major relief charity Oxfam, whose income is £400m annually, engaged in prostitution and possibly the abuse of minors whilst doing relief work after the Haiti earthquake, has shocked the nation. That’s especially so as it emerges just how many other major charities have experienced the same, and largely winked at it, over recent years. Some in the know speak of deliberate infiltration of the charity industry (sic) by abusers.
In my last post I pointed out the close match between the description in Genesis chapter 10 of the migration of Semitic peoples to lower Mesopotamia, and the story of the Akkadian Empire of Sargon the great, and also the general correspondence between the table of nations and the western (but not eastern) Neolithic radiation. I suggested how this was an indicator that the writer of Genesis must have been fully aware that non-descendants of Adam existed at this time, and quite plausibly in the time of Adam himself, given his habit of ignoring outsiders.
Genesis chapters 1-11 continue to intrigue because, for all their “under-determination” of meaning for us moderns, and their mythic style, they keep resonating with details of the most ancient human history. And so, quite apart from any theological reasons, I can’t go along with those who regard them as ahistorical, nor have much sympathy with the idea that they are purely late, exilic, additions – they wear their great antiquity prominently.
The conversation on BioLogos about the implications of Lenski’s E. coli experiment continued, between Richard Buggs and Joshua Swamidass, after I wrote my piece on it here. It turns out that, after discussion, they agreed that, in contradiction of my conclusion, the situation with respect to human genetics is less unpredictable, rather than more, as I suggested there, because of the highly mutable nature of bacteria in comparison to mammals. Lenski therefore seems to have been dropped from the discussion as irrelevant. As Joshua writes, “Retractions are good”!
Following on from my recent post, N T Wright provoked another thought, through an offhand reply in a video of his. He described Genesis 1-11 as “The Old Testament of the Old Testament”. And that of course is true, both in its time frame – the world before the call of Abraham into covenantal (= testamental) relationship – and its provenance, in a classical Mosaic torah framework at least, as the ancient traditions that Israel already possessed at the time of the Exodus.
I’m looking for a succinct summary of the Bible for a Bible Overview course. That’s only worthwhile, of course, if one regards the Scriptures as telling (in the popular phrase) “His Story”, rather than their being a disparate collection of pious thoughts from Jewish religionists, cobbled together over their history from even more disparate and contradictory sources. Yet even that might add up to single story if one believes that God is in charge of history, and has a plan for it.
Over at post 449 of 462 on the BioLogos debate between Dennis Venema (BioLogos staff member) and Richard Buggs (chief researcher in Plant Health at Kew Botanical Gardens) on population genetics predictions about early man, Richard replied to, I think, my only previous contribution on the thread. In that post I had ventured a concern I addressed in more detail in a post here:
There’s an interesting, and rather long, podcast here in which philosopher Lydia McGrew calls out New Testament scholars, as an entire guild, on what she perceives as systemic errors in their basic methodology, and particularly in the field of what is called “redaction criticism”. I have to say I agree with most of what she says, but there has also been a backlash from evangelical NT scholars contradicting her, partly on the basis of credentialism, ie that since she herself is not a trained New Testament scholar, she has no warrant to criticize those who are.
I thought I’d tidy up a few loose ends left by the last two posts. One thing that has never seemed quite credible to me, in the Patristic expressions of the Ransom theory, is simply the suggestion that Satan was outwitted and blindsided by the death of Christ. Origen, Gregory of Nyssa and Augustine all spoke of God deceiving Satan (justly, as the arch-deceiver), the latter even using the analogy of Jesus as bait in an animal trap (an image to which Gregory the Theologian objected). But Satan was a bright guy: did he really have no inkling, up to the Passion, of what was going on? After all, the … Continue reading