ANCIENT NEAR EAST APPROACHES TO GENESIS?

PMW 2018-083 by Paul J. Barth (Aquila Report)

Gentry note:
The Genesis Creation Account is not only foundational to a biblical worldview, but to the Bible itself. Too many evangelicals waffle when it comes to Moses declaring that God created in six days. I could only wish they had the same problem as Augustine: Why did it take so long? But they don’t. They are trying to maintain academic respectability before the secular, God-denying world. And that is tragic. This is a helpful article for a (postmillennial) worldview.

Now let us hear Paul J. Barth on the matter.

False Assumptions of Ancient Near East Literary Approaches to Genesis

“Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” Hebrews 11:3

“Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.” 1 Timothy 1:4

Dr. Richard Belcher Jr. summarizes Dr. C. John Collins’ theory from his book Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? about how ancient Near East literature and cosmology should influence our interpretation of Genesis:

“[Collins argues that] Genesis 1-11 is historical in the sense that it is referring to actual events, but because the author uses literary and rhetorical techniques there is a high level of figurative and symbolic description. In fact, he talks about the benefit of a pictorial approach to the Bible as explaining ordinary experience.

“The view that Genesis 1-11 exhibits a high level of symbolic description is confirmed when Genesis 1-11 is read in the context of the Mesopotamian stories of origin. These stories are the proper literary background for reading Genesis. Thus the Mesopotamian stories give us clues as to how we are to read Genesis. These stories are historical in the sense that they are referring to actual events but they are not to be taken literally. They manifest historical preferentiality clothed in imaginative description. It is reasonable to expect Genesis to take the same approach. For example, Enuma Elishdescribes the formation of the earth and heavens as the result of a battle between the gods where Marduk defeats Tiamat and slays her. He cuts her body in two pieces and with one half of her body he forms the earth and with the other half he forms the skies. This story refers to actual events, such as the formation of the earth and skies, but it does so in a way that is full of symbolism that is not true to reality (imaginative description). On the basis of Collins’ argument concerning the relationship of Genesis to these ancient stories, one could draw the conclusion that we should understand Genesis 1-2 the same way. Genesis is talking about real historical events but doing so in a highly symbolic way which should not be taken too literally. Collins concludes that Genesis 1-11 has an historical core. This core includes the historicity of Adam, but there is uncertainty concerning how the body of Adam was formed. Thus we should not understand Genesis 2:7 in too literal a fashion.” [1]


As It is Written FRONT

As It Is Written: The Genesis Account Literal or Literary?
Book by Ken Gentry

Presents the exegetical evidence for Six-day Creation and against the Framework Hypothesis. Strong presentation and rebuttal to the Framework Hypothesis, while demonstrating and defending the Six-day Creation interpretation.

See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


This theory rests on two historiographic assumptions. [2]

Assumption 1: That ancient Near East religious-cosmological concepts were contextually formative to the writing of Genesis.

Assumption 2: That Mesopotamian myths were not taken in a “literalistic” fashion by ancient Mesopotamians.

These assumptions are problematic for the following reasons:

Ancient Near East Concepts Were Not Formative to the Composition of Genesis

In the first place, it is not entirely clear that certain Babylonian myths existed prior to Moses. For instance, the earliest extant fragments of the Epic of Gilgamesh are believed to overlap the time period Moses wrote the Pentateuch; which was written first remains an open question. [3] Likewise, Dr. Noel Weeks states “all evidence indicates that Enuma Elish was not yet written when Moses wrote Genesis.” [4] While other scholars think these were indeed written before the Pentateuch, it is tenuous enough to weaken confidence in theories that are dependent on these myths being widely prevalent before Moses wrote.

Secondly, the ancient Near East was not necessarily as uniform as this theory assumes. When we speak of the ancient Near East, we are talking about several individual cultures over a wide geographic area, not one homogeneous culture. Dr. Weeks warns:

“We should be very wary of any interpretation built on the claim that something was ‘just what everybody did or thought in those days’. It assumes a uniformity which is not necessarily the reality. As I have mentioned, it is common to take Babylonian practice as though it is the standard for the whole of the Ancient Near East. Yet there are significant differences between Babylonia, Egypt, the Hittites and Ugarit.” [5]


Understanding the Creation Account
DVD set by Ken Gentry

Formal conference lectures presenting important information for properly approaching the Creation Account in Genesis. Presents and defends Six-day Creation exegesis, while presenting and rebutting the Framework Hypothesis.

See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


Much of the ANE writings have not survived to this day—they were not providentially preserved like the Bible was. Some texts have survived due to the material they were written on and due to the climate, such as in Iraq and Egypt, and these are often fallaciously assumed to be representative of the entire ancient Near East. Dr. Weeks explains:

“If, from the immediate environment of the Old Testament in Palestine, very little survives, but from other countries, there is a lot of material, what will be the likely result? It will be to treat the material from other cultures as though it is relevant to the Old Testament. And sometimes that will be the case. The problem is that it is not always the case.” [6]

While some idioms, motifs, and conventions genuinely appear to be widespread, it is tenuous to assume that the beliefs of one pagan culture, or even a few, would be commonly accepted everywhere or among the Hebrews.

Most of the things we can learn from ANE texts are either known from Scripture already, or do not make a very big impact on our understanding of the text one way or another. [7] Occasionally outside sources can provide insight into certain puzzling passages or curiosities of language and literary allusion, but these are almost universally auxiliary insights that merely add context, they do not radically alter the meaning of the text and the momentum of the narrative. ANE studies are best used to support and confirm the teaching and history of Scripture, rather than to question or undermine it.

Ancient Near East similarities to Scripture are secondary and derivative

Most importantly, the historical account of Genesis, passed down orally from Adam to his posterity, which Moses committed to writing by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is the original and infallible account. “And the Lord said unto Moses, Write thou these words: …” (Exodus 34:27). . . .

To read full article with footnotes: click


consider-liliesConsider the Lilies
A Plea for Creational Theology
by T. M. Moore

Moore calls us to examine the biblical doctrine of general revelation from the perspective of what he calls creational theology. In this artful introduction to creational theology, Moore helps us develop the skills and disciplines for doing theology as we look upon and interact with the world around us.

See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


Advertisements

Tagged:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: