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Author Topic:   God's Day 1 Billion Years?
Member (Idle past 1462 days)
Posts: 9069
From: god's waiting room
Joined: 05-21-2004

Message 50 of 61 (355328)
10-09-2006 4:44 AM
Reply to: Message 47 by Archer Opteryx
10-08-2006 3:52 PM

Re: (off-topic) A Genesis day NOT 24 hours
Your argument that in Genesis the word 'day' must necessarily mean a literal 24-our day is not tenable.
archer, this is one my pet peeves. i'm actually suprised i haven't hit this thread yet, as i am continually making this point over, and over, and over here and elsewhere.
the fact that there are multiple usages of a word does not mean that you can make it mean whatever you please.
the hebrew word (yom) has four literal usages. they are, with examples:
  1. a 24 hour day:
    Gen 8:4 And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat.
  2. the roughly 12-hour period of daylight:
    Gen 3:8 And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day:
  3. —- (kol-yami- ___), "all the days of {blank}," meaning "years"
    Gen 5:5 And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died.
  4. (b'yom), "in (the) day (that)," meaning "when."
    Gen 5:1 In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him;
the example you cite is number 4, and idiomatic usage. "in the day" is not a usage that literally describes a length of time. though it often describes causality: when something happens, something else will happen. the verse you supply is one such verse, but i could find you any number of others. the implication is immediacy -- meaning that god told an untruth. don't shoot the messenger, that's what it says.
When you already have a figurative 'day' in Genesis, on what grounds can you deny a figurative 'evening and morning'?
specious argument. one yom is a different usage than the other yom. in fact, all four examples i provided above are found within genesis. i'm sure you picked up on that fact.
further, this argument, like many others, denies the plain and simple truth of what the text is. genesis is a book of etiologies. stories of origins of practices and traditions, place names, tribal names, etc. each story was written for an express reason. if you have any jewish friends, i'm sure you've noticed that they start observing yom kippur at sundown of the night before. the hebrew day starts in the evening -- genesis explains why: because there was darkness before there was light.
How can a literal 'evening and morning' exist before the creation of astronomically measured time on day 4?
how can plants grow on tuesday, when there's no sun until wednesday? yet there it is in the text. because you're actually reading it backwards. we know now that the sun provides light, but that's not what genesis says. it says there is daytime, and light (remember, "let there be light?") before a sun, and when the sun is placed in the heavens, it is to rule the day sky.
genesis was not written by modern scientifically thinking people. this whole "day-age" idea is simply apologist drivel to try to shoe-horn a text written for an entirely different purpose into our modern scientific understanding of the world, and still have it be accurate. but it's not accurate. the cosmology and scientific knowledge it hints at are simply and completely untennable nowadays. a flat earth? a solid dome of a sky? water above and below? plants and light before the sun? ridiculous.
i want to go a little deeper into two points i hinted at above. you'll notice i used "tuesday" and "wednesday." this was not rhetorical device. genesis 1 was written to explain the hebrew work week. moreso, it turns out, than it was written to explain the universe. god works for six days, and rests for one. this is a theme so important in the torah that it commands death to anyone who breaks it.
the modern hebrew for "tuesday" is (yom sleshi), literally "third day." wednesday is (yom rebayi), literally "fourth day." you may notice a patter here. for every day of the week except saturday and sunday, genesis 1 give their modern names. feel free to check that statement, using a hebrew bible and dictionary if you don't want to take my word for it. the name is gives for saturday, , is the origin of the modern name, (shabat or "sabbath"). in literal terms, it is exactly describing a week.
The formula 'evening and morning' is never used of the seventh day. The seventh day is not said to have ended.
the seventh day, shabat, does not follow the formula of the other six, more or less by definition. further, god is said to have rested for the seventh day -- and clearly since god is involved with pretty much everything that comes after this point in the bible, we can reasonably infer that the seventh day ended.
Neither does Genesis ever mention an eighth day or a ninth day.
weeks are not 8 or 9 days long. they are 7. this is not a coincidence. to argue for such a distorted reading of the text is essentially to remove the obvious and stated logic of the text, the practice of keeping the sabbath, and say that the fact that it's seven periods of each darkness and then light that precisely reflect the hebrew week is just coincidence. and that we have to create a new and unfounded usage for a word is not a problem.
guido may argue out of ignorance, and his desire for a literal YEC text, but believe me, i do not. when you know enough about the text and the language, such exercises in making genesis and geology synchronize become laughable mental gymnastics. it doesn't work, and we shouldn't expect it to. let's just read the text for what it is.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 47 by Archer Opteryx, posted 10-08-2006 3:52 PM Archer Opteryx has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 52 by Archer Opteryx, posted 10-09-2006 1:25 PM arachnophilia has replied

Member (Idle past 1462 days)
Posts: 9069
From: god's waiting room
Joined: 05-21-2004

Message 51 of 61 (355329)
10-09-2006 4:53 AM
Reply to: Message 48 by ReverendDG
10-08-2006 4:05 PM

Qedem - means before earlier or past, this has no meaning here
technically, it means "east." though it's often used to mean "before," "in front of" or idiomatically to mean "ancient times."
Olam - means world,
only in modern hebrew. the biblical usage seems to be only "eternity." though there has been some question here before about whether eternity is finite or infinite -- a question i was unable to answer.
yom also means day,lifetime, and some time unknown
see above.
Yom works the best since its a story about the sabbath, and why theres a 7 day week.
using any other word wouldn't make any sense
but supposing the author meant to say "a thousand years." there are words for that. the author could have written (eleph shanim). but instead, he wrote the literal word for a single day.
you can argue that it's all a metaphor, but the p'shat meaning is 24 hours. applied, it's about the structure of a week. to lay a secret meaning on top that contradicts the literal is rather silly, imho.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 48 by ReverendDG, posted 10-08-2006 4:05 PM ReverendDG has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 54 by ReverendDG, posted 10-09-2006 4:05 PM arachnophilia has replied

Member (Idle past 1462 days)
Posts: 9069
From: god's waiting room
Joined: 05-21-2004

Message 53 of 61 (355410)
10-09-2006 2:45 PM
Reply to: Message 52 by Archer Opteryx
10-09-2006 1:25 PM

Re: (off-topic) A Genesis day NOT 24 hours
It saddens me to say you have profoundly misrepresented my point of view. You posit an agenda involving OEC apologetics that does not interest me. It's a cliche to say 'strawman' but there it is.
archer, i realized when i wrote the above post that this was NOT your point of view. what i intend to point out is that the only real reason for attempting to justify such an interpretation is a desire to match the text with reality. there is no textual, literary basis for it; i was suprised to see you argue for it.
I appreciate the literal definitions you provided. They are as helpful as any literal definitions are in coming to a better understanding of great world literature.
you could legitimately argue that there is a metaphorical meaning to the whole text (not the word "day"), but that defeats the literal structure and purpose of the text. and it's contrary to just about every school of jewish thought: no dresh may contradict the pshat.
I will not debate points, as I understand this discussion to be off-topic and have already expressed my desire to leave it be.
i think it's quite on-topic, as it regard lengths of time, wrt god.
I will inform you that you are overlooking something crucial in your understanding of how texts work.
supposing there is a more secretive meaning, it has to be grounded in the literal text. if we are reading "gulliver's travels" we first have to understand what happens in the story before we can talk about who the big-endians and the little-endians really represent.
Please tell me what 'artistic license' means.
I invite you to explain it to me in chat with the same thoroughness you would explain a Hebrew term to me here. Does the license mean writers have to use words according to their literal definitions? Does it mean writers can use words elastically? Does it mean they can use words to mean anything they please?
What does it mean... exactly?
genesis is not a poetic book. its writing style (even in hebrew) is so elementary that, well, i can generally read it (even in hebrew). we're not talking complexity and shades of meaning, and we're not talking esoteric or mystical content. and it would make no sense to open the book with an extended metaphor when another such metaphor cannot be found in the rest of the e document -- or the rest of the torah for that matter.
if you want some artistic licence, look at a book with artistic content. look at job. look at isaiah. look at ezekiel. look at jeremiah. look at psalms or lamentations or ecclesiastes. those have metaphors, even extended ones, and similes, and creative use of grammar and language and semantics.
genesis was not written to be artistic. it was written to record the traditions of the people, and the things that define their religion. the torah is the foundation of the many themes found later in the bible. when isaiah predicts nebuchadnezzar's eventual fall, he invokes imagery from genesis 11. when ezekiel taunts the prince of tyre, he uses imagery from genesis 3, and exodus.
these sorts of things are really easy to spot, in any language. i don't know why basic literary study goes out the window when it comes to the bible.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 52 by Archer Opteryx, posted 10-09-2006 1:25 PM Archer Opteryx has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 56 by Archer Opteryx, posted 10-13-2006 2:54 PM arachnophilia has not replied
 Message 57 by Archer Opteryx, posted 10-13-2006 3:17 PM arachnophilia has replied

Member (Idle past 1462 days)
Posts: 9069
From: god's waiting room
Joined: 05-21-2004

Message 55 of 61 (355438)
10-09-2006 6:21 PM
Reply to: Message 54 by ReverendDG
10-09-2006 4:05 PM

what i mean is, if you argue that it was anything other than a real 24 hour day, then the whole thing about god resting on the 7th day and this giving meaning to the sabbath becomes pointless and irrelevent.
becides the fact that if they meant something else the words they used in the context wouldn't make much sense with say olam or qedem, maybe i need more hebrew though
olam and qedem would indeed be the wrong words to use, for both reasons. the modern hebrew word to use would be (tequfah) which means "season" or "era" or "epoch." but i'm not sure that it's used anywhere in the bible.
there are some words in the tanakh that are translated "season," including yom, but these all appear idiomatic. since it would be dishonest if i didn't point this out, i will. for instance:
Jos 24:7 And when they cried unto the LORD, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and brought the sea upon them, and covered them; and your eyes have seen what I have done in Egypt: and ye dwelt in the wilderness a long season.
if you look at a concordance, you find that yom is the word rendered "season." this is the peril of using a concordance, for now you might (wrongly) think that yom can be rendered "season." the hebrew, however, says (yamim rabim) or "many days." usage in plural, especially with rabim, can be unspecified. but in singular it's just not.
the other three words i see frequently translated as "season" are (moad) which refers to a specific time/date, (zman) which just means "time" as in "i have no time (for...)." the third is probably the best match, (et or eth) which seems to be loose enough to include great lengths of time, seasons, years, etc.
so my guess is that if the author had wanted to literally describe something other than a day, he would have used , probably not but certainly not in singular.
Edited by arachnophilia, : wrong vowel in unusual hebrew plurals.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 54 by ReverendDG, posted 10-09-2006 4:05 PM ReverendDG has not replied

Member (Idle past 1462 days)
Posts: 9069
From: god's waiting room
Joined: 05-21-2004

Message 58 of 61 (356355)
10-13-2006 5:08 PM
Reply to: Message 57 by Archer Opteryx
10-13-2006 3:17 PM

Re: Genesis = Art (whether 'artistic' or not)
Irrelevant. The Genesis narratives are very artfully written.
in the same way that laying brick is artful architecture. although, there have been a few "bricklayer poets"
This holds true regardless of whether they were written primarily for 'artistic purposes.' Metaphorical meanings appear in all kinds of writing.
then perhaps you can show me another such metaphor in the book of genesis. or, i'll be generous, the entire torah?
suppose for a second we are reading josephus's antiquities. would you expect to find an extended metaphor there? how about gilgamesh? why is genesis different?
it's different for a lot of people because they have a need to believe it. by and large nearly everyone who does not have this need reads genesis a particular way: literally. they read it like it's a collection of ancient myth, and is fairly straightforward. it's not until we need to find truth in the text that we go looking for it in other ways.
is there more meaning to be found than merely the literal? of course there is. we could, for instance, read gilgamesh to be about everyone, and our inner quests for immortality. did the authors intend this? maybe. but did they intend for it to be some kind of code to be deciphered to reveal the "true" meaning? certainly not.
Genesis 1 describes creation just this way. Everything is told on as as if basis.
you have not demonstrated this. you have demonstrated that if you change the meanings of some words, you can fit the narrative (kind of) to an old earth interpretation. this is not metaphor, it is distortion.
further, the deeper levels of meaning to the text -- the cause of the traditionally sabbath, the structure of the week and day -- are violated by distorting this meaning. you are actually destroying the real intended metaphor.
Instead of working with human-sized quantities of material and time, he works with God-sized quantities of everything. God's Creation Week spent working on a universe will necessarily be a very different thing, in quantity and quality, than a human week spent in a workshop making a rug. There's a vast difference in scale. It's built in.
think about this a little for a second, because there's something you're not scaling up here: god's abilities. maybe we can make a rug in a week, but god can make the universe in a week. further, part of god's creation, indeed, the major creation of the story, is time. god sets the sun and moon to define periods of time. the darkness and light define time. there is no sense saying it's different for god, because they story is about how god created markers of time for us.
the story is neccessarily told from our perspective, because it is about preparation for us. never once in the bible are we told a story from god's perspective. on a literary basis, there is a very good reason for this. we wrote the stories. we wrote them to explain how things we are familiar with (ie: night and day, and the week) came to be.
the story simply does not make any sense the other way.
It's a common but mistaken assumption that metaphors--literary images--are a feature only of poetry or 'artistic' writing. Not so.
my point is that it does not fit the style of genesis, or the rest of the torah. these texts are written a specific way, and very simplistically. and i mean very.
and our ONLY reason for modifying the timeframe here is modern knowledge. we now have reasonably convincing evidence that the exodus did not happen. is the book of exodus all one big extended metaphor? we can't revise the point of the texts to suit ourselves.
'As if' images appear wherever language is used. They appear in all genres, even today's scientific documents.
'Black hole' is such an image. 'Big Bang' is such an image. How poetic are physicists trying to be when they use these expressions? In each case a term's literal dictionary definition has been stretched to express a more complex and less literal (by the dictionary) idea.
euphemisms and idiomatic usages are not metaphors. i could point you to any number of idiomatic usages in genesis -- in fact, i pointed you to one earlier in this thread. and they are certainly not extended metaphors.
One can only discuss he supernatural in natural terms.
this is frankly a very artificial split that has only been introduced since the age of reason. a careful and contextual reading of the bible will tell you that the ancient hebrews did not differentiate natural from supernatural. god was a physical entity (at least part of the time), who lived in a physical place called heaven. natural phenominon was god's doing. the two are inexcorably linked until, well, science came along.
we cannot presume to read genesis from a scientific understanding the authors would not have even had a clue about.
A beginning speaker of English can understand every word in The Giving Tree. It would be a non sequiteur to argue that this proves anything about its author's intent that we take it only at a child's level, as literal fact. To say so would betray a profound misunderstanding of how stories work. It would place unwarranted restrictions on the author.
a beginning speaker of english -- a child -- can easily pull the metaphor from shel silverstein's classic. metaphors are not really that hard to recognize. the bible is not different. how easily can we pull the metaphor from "the lord is my shepherd" and "he makes me lay down in green pastures?" surely, david is not literally a sheep. we understand the deeper meaning, that god takes care of us, even when we are afraid.
this is not what is happening in genesis. the deeper meaning is plainly evident, and your proposed metaphor conflicts with it. genesis was simply not written for this purpose.
The truth is that authors are free to do whatever they want in the effort to communicate. We do a better job as readers if we recognize this. Refusal to recognize the latitude authors enjoy does not make that freedom go away.
this is not refusal to recognize artistic latitude. this is from a few years of educated study of the text. it's just not there. there is a lot of artistic latitude in the bible, and i mean a lot. in fact, i'm the one constantly ragging on the fundies about how little credit they give the authors.
genesis is a very carefully written text. it walks a very fine line between vaguery and precision. enough vaguery to be a somewhat blank canvas for later traditions to paint shades on meaning onto, but enough precision that its words are still very clear.
longer periods of time can (and often are) read into genesis -- but we need to make the distinction between something we are reading into the text and something the author put there.
All mythic stories use symbolic images. They often display simple narrative structures. And you have just stated the functions mythic stories exist to serve. For any people. Any culture.
you have a better chance arguing that the serpent in genesis 3 is symbollic of all temptation, evil spirits, or perhaps even satan than you do arguing that "day" in genesis 1 is symbollic of "a billion years." one is a lot more obviously a symbolic image, although you'll find that many here dispute that.
Great stories last as long as they do, and inform the existence of succeeding generations as well as they do, precisely because of the freedom and ability storytellers have to create multiple layers of meaning.
yes, and i'm not denying that. all i'm saying is that it's simply not in the text. the story of genesis 1 is literal. meaning can be extracted from it, but forcing meaning into it is a different story.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 57 by Archer Opteryx, posted 10-13-2006 3:17 PM Archer Opteryx has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 59 by Archer Opteryx, posted 10-17-2006 4:36 AM arachnophilia has replied

Member (Idle past 1462 days)
Posts: 9069
From: god's waiting room
Joined: 05-21-2004

Message 60 of 61 (357008)
10-17-2006 8:46 AM
Reply to: Message 59 by Archer Opteryx
10-17-2006 4:36 AM

Re: Genesis = Art (whether 'artistic' or not)
Genesis 1 uses the days of a week as an organizing element in presenting the story. The narrative makes no mention of how long, by the clock or calendary, the days are.
this is just silly; no offense.
when i say that, for instance, "i'm driving to tallahasse this weekend to see my friend. i'll be gone for two days." how long do i mean? must i define what "day" means? and yet, genesis does provide us with a definition: a day is a period of darkness, followed by a period of light.
this really isn't very complex, and i will keep making this point no matter how many times you continue to ignore it. genesis is a book of origins. this story explains the origin of the week, and shabat. the days are neccessarily 24 hours by definition. because these days were written about to explain and define our days.
That is what we know. To insist on 'a billion years' goes outside the text. To insist on '24 hours' goes outside the text.
"24 hours" isn't exaclty very far outside the text. it is the only logical implication of what the text says, what it means, and the "moral" application.
Jewish tradition recognizes the need to 'wrestle with' a text. The idea is that a sacred text is like the angel who meets Jacob in the middle of the night. A divine messenger it may be, but it also presents difficulties. We cannot expect ease in coming to terms. We can expect confrontation from the text and shifting postures on our part over time.
yes, and this (among other things), is a very good reason why "there is a jewish interpretation that says x-y-z" is actually a very specious argument. there's jewish interpretation that says just about whatever you want it to say. if you can't find your particular viewpoint in the many volumes of the talmud, there's always midrashim and modern interpretations.
"so and so says..." just isn't any good with the torah. we must look at the text a) in the cultural context of the time (which is rather tricky), and b) with the intent and purpose of the book in mind.
Dogmatism on the matter is thus ill-advised.
i promise you, this is not an issue of dogma. on the contrary, your point is entirely dogmatic; reading one word to mean another. i am just voicing what the text actually says, and the very barest of logical implications of what it means, how the text was used, and the purpose behind the story. the only good reason i can see for subscribing to this day-age stuff is the conflict between a young-earth genesis, and an old-earth reality.
The burden of proof lies on anyone who insists the narratives must be understood a certain way, were always understood a certain way, were meant by the author to be understood a certain way.
"were always" was never part of my argument. people have always understood things differently. and jewish interpretation is vast and contradictory. and i am not insisting that it must be understood a certain way, simply that it must be read for the words on the page, and what those particular words mean in the correct usages.
if you want to understand the whole thing as allegory, that's up to you. but i think the metaphor here is highly unlikely, and does not fit with the style and purpose of the rest of the torah.
One can only describe the supernatural in terms of the natural. Images come to us through our five senses. An extended passage about God requires an extended use of natural images to describe the supernatural. The writer is compelled to use the things of the natural world--and the words for those things--and stretch them to fit the requirements of the supernatural subject.
A responsible reading takes account of this necessity.
there are very few books of the bible which god does not play a rather prominent role. but the presence of god is not a valid excuse to insist on changing meanings as you see fit. the argument is, essentially, that there are different levels of truth to the bible. it can be inaccurate on the surface level, but still contain a deeper truth to it. and even if that deeper truth isn't right either, there's some kind of moral truth to it.
this really is a very amatuerish view of the bible. understand that i am by no means a fundamentalist; i make this argument partly out of personal history. i looked at the bible this way before studying it more intently. i once subscribed to this day-age idea myself. but as it turns out, the authors of the bible are much more forward than this. genesis in particular does not beat around the bush, or hide its meanings at all. the stories practically end in "...and that's how this place got its name" or "...and that's why these people are called this." if you want to know why a story was written, look at the end of it. the "truth" to the story is the point it's getting at, not whether or not we can fudge the details and make somehow accurate. it's deeper meanings are human ones. why do we get married? because otherwise we are lonely. the truths are obvious, not secret divinations about god -- god was almost a granted, like the "scientific" content -- and not the point of the story.
One first-century Jew had no trouble with the idea that God's seventh-day shabbat lasted for centuries. He considers the idea so obvious to his readers that he does not even argue the point. He assumes. He uses it as the premise for a theological argument:
Hebrews 4.1-11
again, you're putting the cart before the horse. if you want to look for deeper metaphorical meanings, hey why not, paul's a good place. but the themes he uses come from genesis. this is a classic fundamentalist blunder; not recognizing the chronological order and textual heirarchy of the book. paul's epistles were written long after genesis -- his reading tells us nothing about the intent of the authors (especially because paul so often differs from the traditional jewish reading, tending more towards a hellenized viewpoint).
and in any case, paul is not speaking literally about a sabbath, but using shabat as an allegory for heaven.
The author says God's sabbath rest has continued since the beginning of the world.
clearly, it has not. the rest of the bible demonstrates this fact -- such a reading neccessitates the utter absence of god after genesis 2:4, meaning everything from that point on must be complete fiction. such a reading simply does not make sense: why accept the first chapter, but not the rest of the book, volume, or library?
This was written centuries after Genesis. By then God's 'seventh day' would already seem to have gone on since time immemorial. The example does suffice to show that metaphorical understandings of the Genesis story were in circulation, and considered legitimate, among Jews even in ancient times.
i don't think paul was considered a legitimate jew somehow. and, again, this is not a metaphorical reading of genesis. this is another text using themes from genesis as a metaphor. if i refer to a power struggle in the workplace using ideas from shakespeare's macbeth, am i reading macbeth as metaphor? or am i using it to make a metaphor?
Any suggestion that Jews only understood their stories literally stands falsified.
the question is not how people have read it, but how the authors intended it. very different ideas.
Any suggestion that the idea of age-long days first originated in our scientific age also stands falsified.
paul does not say what you think he says. but i am also aware of older talmudic readings that describe similar "long days." the argument does not originate in modern times. but the primary reason people accept it today are scientific ones. there are no good textual or contextual reasons.
To the inerrantist who believes the New Testament is inspired, Hebrews 4 presents a compelling case that God's 'seventh day' (never said in Genesis to have ended) should be understood as lasting far longer than 24 hours.
i am not an inerrantist. making arguments simply to win the approval a crowd who does not agree with you, and whom you would otherwise want nothing to do with, and based upon a reading and technique i'm sure you know to be highly faulty logic is nothing but intellectually dishonest.
Genesis gathers an ancient body of stories. The stories are simply yet artistically told. The stories exhibit symmetrical structures and sophisticated network of image motifs.
i never said otherwise. but the bit you propose, extended metaphor, is simply not the style presented in genesis. of course there is art to it, but it's not exactly high art, art-for-art's-sake, or outright poetry. yes, skill went into it. but you have to consider the style of the book.
just like we wouldn't expect to find abstract expressionism (ala pollock) in medieval tapestry, so we would not expect to find extended metaphor in traditional and etiological history.
Remember too that the Garden story is the older and more 'primitive' of the two stories. Impressive 'bricklaying' indeed!
yes, it is. rigid framework is the definition of "bricklaying" in poetry. so is simplistic language and grammar.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 59 by Archer Opteryx, posted 10-17-2006 4:36 AM Archer Opteryx has not replied

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