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Author Topic:   God's Day 1 Billion Years?
Archer Opteryx
Member (Idle past 3716 days)
Posts: 1811
From: East Asia
Joined: 08-16-2006


Message 47 of 61 (355232)
10-08-2006 3:52 PM
Reply to: Message 44 by Christian7
10-08-2006 6:23 AM


(off-topic) A Genesis day NOT 24 hours
Sorry to intrude with this on a science thread. I'd like to toss in one post to put this 'day' business to bed, then I'm out.
___
Quido Arbia argues that the Hebrew word yom has to mean a literal 24-hour time period when it appears in Genesis. Here's his assertion in full:
The word for "Day" in genesis chapter 1 in hebrew is yom. Yom means one single day. This was also combined with the terms for "Evening and morning". If when Moses wrote genesis, he wanted to mean an age, he could have used a variety of different words.
He could have used Yamim, Qedem, or Olam, all of which would have implied an age, but instead he used the world Yom. (The o has a little thingy on top of it.)
Your argument that in Genesis the word 'day' must necessarily mean a literal 24-our day is not tenable. The argument stands refuted by this passage:
quote:
And the Lord God commanded the man, ”You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’
Genesis 2.15-17 NRSV
(emphasis mine)
Genesis says Adam ate from the tree--then lived a remarkably long life.
quote:
Thus all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years; and he died.
Genesis 5.5 NRSV
Do the math. God says Adam will die the same day. Then Genesis says he died 930 years later, after raising children to adulthood.
When Genesis shows clearly that a day can last 930 years, you have no grounds to insist it has to be a 24-hour time period.
(Check the Hebrew and I think you'll find the word yom with the little thingy on it.)
You could argue that the verbal formula 'evening and morning' necessitates a 24-hour time period. This argument is dubious on two points:
When you already have a figurative 'day' in Genesis, on what grounds can you deny a figurative 'evening and morning'?
How can a literal 'evening and morning' exist before the creation of astronomically measured time on day 4? On what grounds can you insist that a pre-solar day would match the length of a solar day?
The argument fails totally on this ground:
The formula 'evening and morning' is never used of the seventh day. The seventh day is not said to have ended. Neither does Genesis ever mention an eighth day or a ninth day. Even if you can show that 'evening and morning' has to mean 24 hours (good luck), you have no grounds to insist the seventh day lasted only this length of time. It can be biblically argued that all of human history occupies God's seventh 'day' of creation.
___
Thanks for your indulgence, scientists. I'm off.
.
Edited by Archer Opterix, : Title.
Edited by Archer Opterix, : Typo repair.

Archer
All species are transitional.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 44 by Christian7, posted 10-08-2006 6:23 AM Christian7 has not replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 50 by arachnophilia, posted 10-09-2006 4:44 AM Archer Opteryx has replied

  
Archer Opteryx
Member (Idle past 3716 days)
Posts: 1811
From: East Asia
Joined: 08-16-2006


Message 52 of 61 (355395)
10-09-2006 1:25 PM
Reply to: Message 50 by arachnophilia
10-09-2006 4:44 AM


Re: (off-topic) A Genesis day NOT 24 hours
Arachnophilia:
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.
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.
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 will inform you that you are overlooking something crucial in your understanding of how texts work.
If you are curious about this, we can discuss it in chat after you look up a word for me. English dictionary. Very easy.
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?
See you later.
___
Edited by Archer Opterix, : Typo repair.

Archer
All species are transitional.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 50 by arachnophilia, posted 10-09-2006 4:44 AM arachnophilia has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 53 by arachnophilia, posted 10-09-2006 2:45 PM Archer Opteryx has replied

  
Archer Opteryx
Member (Idle past 3716 days)
Posts: 1811
From: East Asia
Joined: 08-16-2006


Message 56 of 61 (356338)
10-13-2006 2:54 PM
Reply to: Message 53 by arachnophilia
10-09-2006 2:45 PM


Re: (off-topic) A Genesis day NOT 24 hours
arachnophilia:
genesis is not a poetic book.
genesis was not written to be artistic.
Irrelevant. The Genesis narratives are very artfully written. Whether or not they were written primarily for
'artistic purposes.' Metaphorical meanings appear in all kinds of writing.
The essence of a meataphor is to use an image 'as if.' We talk about one thing as if it was another. Often metaphors
describe something less concrete--less tangible to the five senses--as if it was more so.
Genesis 1 describes creation just this way. Everything is told on as as if basis. The narrative discusses the
origin of the natural world as if an artisan went to work on a week-long creative project.
The origin of the universe is a vast subject. Yet by means of this image the writer makes sure that everyone who has
ever worked on such a project can get the idea. The telling remains 'as if,' though. because the artisan isn't
human. The artisan is God. Instead of making a rug or an anvil he makes a universe. 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.
It's a common but mistaken assumption that metaphors--literary images--are a feature only of poetry or
'artistic' writing. Not so.
'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.
It is especially useful to use words in this way when one is trying to convey abstract, elusive, or sublime ideas.
One such moment might be when a physicist tries to describe, non-mathematically, what happens after a star collapses
or before a universe expands.
Images of this sort are unavoidable whenever one is talking about God. One can only discuss he
supernatural in natural terms.
All information about supernatural or metaphysical realms has to be conveyed 'as
if.' It's all symbol.
its writing style (even in hebrew) is so elementary that, well, i can generally read it (even in hebrew).
Irrelevant. Multiple layers of meaning often exist where vocabulary and syntax are simple.
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein is a book for children. Yet it can make their grandparents cry. How?
Because it has literal meanings accessible to a child's mind and other meanings an adult's mind will discern. These
co-exist in spite of the apparent artlessness of the storytelling. If anything, the simplicity of the storytelling
makes these multiple meanings more resonant.
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 and place unwarranted limits
on the author. The author is free to do whatever the author wants in the effort to communicate.
I mentioned apparent artlessness. It is a mistake to assert that the Genesis narratives lack sophistication.
Stories in Genesis often exhibit remarkably fine tuned structures and an intricate network of image motifs. They are
very artfully written.
This is well known among Hebrew experts . A good place to being exploring these facets of the 'writing style' is the
translation of the Torah made by Everett Fox, published as The Five Books of Moses. Or explore the writings
of the Hebrew scholar to whom he is most indebted: Martin Buber. You may also want to explore the analyses of Phylis
Trible.
it would make no sense to open the book with an extended metaphor
On the contrary, it makes all the sense in the world. There is no other way to begin. Not if you intend to
start a book by describing a supernatural being whose existence and actions transcend the material universe.
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.
I think I understood this, actually.
Such a purpose proves nothing about literal intent--much less exclusively literal intent. You assume it does
but you have never shown how this follows.
All mythic stories use symbolic images. They often use simple narrative structures. And you have just stated the
functions mythic stories exist to serve. For any people. Any culture.
All mythic stories can be understood literally. All can also be understood symbolically. It depends less on the text
than on the mind that encounters the story. Are we talking about a child's experience or an adult's experience?
It takes more than a dictionary to come to terms with great works of world literature. Good writing starts with that
kind of basic material but doesn't end there. Great texts last as long as they do, and inform the existence of
succeeding generations as well as they do, precisely because of their ability to use language imaginatively
to carry multiple layers of meaning.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your spelling books.
_

Archer
All species are transitional.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 53 by arachnophilia, posted 10-09-2006 2:45 PM arachnophilia has not replied

  
Archer Opteryx
Member (Idle past 3716 days)
Posts: 1811
From: East Asia
Joined: 08-16-2006


Message 57 of 61 (356341)
10-13-2006 3:17 PM
Reply to: Message 53 by arachnophilia
10-09-2006 2:45 PM


Genesis = Art (whether 'artistic' or not)
arachnophilia:
genesis is not a poetic book.
genesis was not written to be artistic.
Irrelevant. The Genesis narratives are very artfully written. This holds true regardless of whether they were written primarily for 'artistic purposes.' Metaphorical meanings appear in all kinds of writing.
The essence of a meataphor is the use of an image 'as if.' We talk about one thing as if it was another. Often metaphors describe a thing less accessible to the five senses as if it was more so.
Genesis 1 describes creation just this way. Everything is told on as as if basis. The narrative discusses the origin of the natural world as if an artisan went to work on a week-long creative project.
The origin of the universe is a vast subject indeed. Yet this image allows the writer to make sure that everyone who has ever worked on such a project can get the idea. The choice of metaphor conveys important theological meanings. The universe doesn't exist because a crowd of deities had a quarrel, it says. It's here on purpose. All in a week's work for the artisan.
The telling remains 'as if,' though, because the artisan in this case isn't human. The artisan is God. Instead of making a rug or an anvil he does make a universe. 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.
It's a common but mistaken assumption that metaphors--literary images--are a feature only of poetry or 'artistic' writing. Not so.
'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.
It is especially useful to use words in this way when one is trying to convey abstract, elusive, or sublime ideas.
One such moment might be when a physicist tries to describe, non-mathematically, what happens after a star collapses or before a universe expands.
Images of this sort are unavoidable whenever one is talking about God. One can only discuss he supernatural in natural terms. All information about supernatural or metaphysical realms has to be conveyed 'as if.' It's all symbol.
its writing style (even in hebrew) is so elementary that, well, i can generally read it (even in hebrew).
Irrelevant. Multiple layers of meaning often exist where vocabulary and syntax are simple.
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein is a book for children. Yet it can make their grandparents cry. How?
Because the story has literal meanings accessible to a child's mind and other meanings an adult's mind will discern. These co-exist in spite of the apparent artlessness of the storytelling. The simplicity of expression actually helps make its range of meanings more resonant.
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.
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.
I mentioned apparent artlessness. The same holds true of stories in Genesis. They employ a straight-ahead narrative style, but they also exhibit finely tuned literary structures and an intricate network of image motifs. The stories are very artfully written.
This is well known among Hebrew experts. If you wish to begin exploring these facets of the Torah you would be in good hands with Everett Fox (The Five Books of Moses) or the Hebrew scholar to whom he is most indebted: Martin Buber. The analyses of Phylis Trible (God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality) are also very much worth your time.
it would make no sense to open the book with an extended metaphor
On the contrary, it makes all the sense in the world. There is no other way to begin. Not if you intend to start a book by describing a supernatural being whose existence and actions transcend the material universe.
One can only describe the supernatural through the use of natural images. Metaphor is built into the project.
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.
I think I understood this, actually.
Such a purpose proves nothing about literal intent--much less exclusively literal intent. On the contrary.
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.
Mythic stories allow literal interpretations have always allowed literal interpretations by the naive. In more naive times this includes quite a number of people. But they simultaneously allow symbolic understandings that inform experience beyond this. Interpreters have been spotting such meanings in every age. The result depends less on the text than on the mind that encounters the story. Does that mind bring ot the text a child's experience or an adult's?
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.
_
Edited by Archer Opterix, : Clarity.

Archer
All species are transitional.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 53 by arachnophilia, posted 10-09-2006 2:45 PM arachnophilia has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 58 by arachnophilia, posted 10-13-2006 5:08 PM Archer Opteryx has replied

  
Archer Opteryx
Member (Idle past 3716 days)
Posts: 1811
From: East Asia
Joined: 08-16-2006


Message 59 of 61 (356990)
10-17-2006 4:36 AM
Reply to: Message 58 by arachnophilia
10-13-2006 5:08 PM


Re: Genesis = Art (whether 'artistic' or not)
I am satisfied with the points as I have made them. I will distill two of the main points and supply two examples for anyone who may be interested in reading more on this subject.
_
1 Limits of the Text
The Creation story in Genesis 1 uses the days of a week as an organizing element. The narrative makes no mention of how long, by the clock or calendar, the days are.
That is what we know. To insist on 'a billion years' goes outside the text. To insist on '24 hours' goes outside the text.
We do know that Genesis had admitted multiple interpretations thoughout its history.
Jewish tradition recognizes the need to 'wrestle with' a text. The expression comes from the story, also in Genesis, about an angel who wrestles with Jacob in the middle of the night. A divine messenger the angel may be, but the experience presents difficulties. So it is with a sacred text. From the text we can expect some amount of confrontation. From ourselves we can expect having to shift our posture from time to time as we come to terms.
Dogmatism on the matter is thus ill-advised. 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.
_
2 The Necessity of Stretching Terms
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 discuss this supernatural subject. The writer is compelled to use the things of the natural world--and the words for those things--on an as if basis. Words and ideas are stretched to fit the grander requirements of the subject.
A responsible reading takes account of this necessity.
_
3 God's Very Long Sabbath
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
The author says God's sabbath rest has continued since the beginning of the world. He clearly identifies it with the seventh day of Creation. He says that God's rest continues for as long as the day is called 'today.' On this basis he urges his readers to be obedient so they may enter the same sabbath rest God enjoys.
This example suffices to show that metaphorical understandings of the Genesis story were in circulation, and considered legitimate, among Jews even in ancient times. Any suggestion that Jews only understood their stories literally stands falsified. Any suggestion that the idea of age-long days first originated in our scientific age also stands falsified.
Inerrantists who believe the New Testament to be inspired have special reason to take notice. 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. It implies a NT understanding of God's Creation Week as a metaphor for all of earthly time.
_
4 The Art of Genesis
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.
Here, for the purposes of this thread, is Joel W Rosenberg's outline of symmetries in the Garden story (Genesis 2.1-4.1):*
__A Headnote 'These are the generations'
___B No field economy. 'no one to till the ground'
____C Humanity given life, placed in the Garden
_____D Man prefers human companionship over animals
______E Man calls companion 'Woman'
_______F Etiological sumary: 'Therefore a man leaves...'
________G Couple 'naked and not ashamed'
_________H Serpent promises 'eyes will be opened'
__________I Transgression
_________H' Couple's eyes are opened
________G' Couple feels shame
_______F' Etiological summary: 'For... you are dust'
______E' Man calls wife 'Eve'
_____D' Couple wears skins of animals
____C' Humanity expelled from the Garden, denied immortality
___B' Field economy begins
__A' Birth of child completes one generation
This omits a smaller symmetrical structure within the larger one that takes place when God confronts the man, woman, and serpent. Remember too that the Garden story is the older and more 'primitive' of the two stories. Impressive 'bricklaying' indeed!
Such artful arrangements of material are typical of ancient Hebrew narratives. See books and translations by scholars such as Everett Fox, Martin Buber, and Phylis Trible for more information.
Thanks for the topic, Guido. Always a fascinating subject.
___
* Outline condensed from the original. Rosenberg, Joel W. 'Genesis: Introduction.' The HarperCollins Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version. Harpercollins Publishers. New York, 1993. (page 4)
Edited by Archer Opterix, : Typo repair.
Edited by Archer Opterix, : Typo repair.
Edited by Archer Opterix, : Credit.

Archer
All species are transitional.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 58 by arachnophilia, posted 10-13-2006 5:08 PM arachnophilia has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 60 by arachnophilia, posted 10-17-2006 8:46 AM Archer Opteryx has not replied

  
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