The historical-grammatical method and Genesis

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Philip
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The historical-grammatical method and Genesis

#1

Post by Philip » Tue Apr 30, 2019 6:20 am

I've been thinking of late of the OEC vs. YEC creation time wars, especially how hyper-partisan and ugly they sometimes get. What bothers me the most is not an opposing time viewpoint, but is when false accusations of not taking the text seriously, or being "a compromiser," or "sowing doubt in God's Word," that kind of stuff. Which is unnecessary and exceptionally divisive.

But at the heart of the bickering of the above, so often is the question of the author's original intent - which I think is sometimes far too narrowly assessed - especially when it comes to Genesis, the Creation passages and the time issue. And HOW the historical-grammatical method is applied seems key. Because it seems to me, to assert that that one mostly just needs to ask, "But what would Moses' words have meant to those in the new nation of Israel - how would they have understood it?" - well, that seems far too limiting of a question. Point being, as God well knew His words would speak to BOTH the ancient Israelites AND those of the modern scientific age, and with meanings and understandings that would speak truths uniquely valuable FOR EACH, yet THAT GOD INTENDED TO BE DIFFERENTLY (or as additionally) UNDERSTOOD (per the ancient audience vs. the modern one) - BUT ALSO WITH INFO THAT IS EQUALLY TRUE.

Of course, there is the issue of "the Bible wasn't meant to be a science textbook" and all of that. But there are double meanings found in Scripture - texts adapted by the apostles for application that weren't necessarily used ONLY per their original usage. So, it seems to me that attempts at literalism by isolating meanings ONLY to the original audience is far too narrow. Lastly, there is the question of whether Moses fully understood the meanings that might be understood more fully per those reading it in the scientific age. I don't believe the Bible writers always had full understandings of what they were inspired to write down.

Comments please!

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Re: The historical-grammatical method and Genesis

#2

Post by PaulSacramento » Tue Apr 30, 2019 12:05 pm

Genesis 1 simply points out that God created the world over 6 distinct events.
An order of creation if you will.
And while one can debate what "DAY" means and the significance of " a night ( or evening) and a morning", what isn't debatable is that there is NO time frame between "DAYS".

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Re: The historical-grammatical method and Genesis

#3

Post by RickD » Wed May 01, 2019 6:07 am

It's clear from the text that day is a 24 hour day. And anyone that says otherwise, is a compromiser.

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Re: The historical-grammatical method and Genesis

#4

Post by Philip » Wed May 01, 2019 7:07 am

THE important questions I have, as to interpretation of the time of the days, and all surrounding that, are for those who insist that THE question is how the original audience - and ONLY that audience - would have interpreted those days as normal 24-hour periods. What I'm most curious about is why would not BOTH, what it perhaps meant to the original audience AND the modern / scientific-age one, not BOTH be considered as equally important? Because God knew when He inspired Moses that both audiences would be reading those texts. And a secondary question, why can't the text accurately have truths for both the ancient and modern audiences, without contradicting each other, yet with deeper and more comprehensive understandings that the modern, scientific-age audience now has the the tools to understand, that the ancient audience did not?

It just seems ridiculous to only ask the question ONLY about how the ancient / original audience would have understood this (or many other Scriptural passages), as the context of greater knowledge of subsequent generations (or rather, the evermore numerous and complete audience), for some things, which will bring more enlightenment to the texts' more complete meanings.

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Re: The historical-grammatical method and Genesis

#5

Post by PaulSacramento » Wed May 01, 2019 8:10 am

Philip wrote:
Wed May 01, 2019 7:07 am
THE important questions I have, as to interpretation of the time of the days, and all surrounding that, are for those who insist that THE question is how the original audience - and ONLY that audience - would have interpreted those days as normal 24-hour periods. What I'm most curious about is why would not BOTH, what it perhaps meant to the original audience AND the modern / scientific-age one, not BOTH be considered as equally important? Because God knew when He inspired Moses that both audiences would be reading those texts. And a secondary question, why can't the text accurately have truths for both the ancient and modern audiences, without contradicting each other, yet with deeper and more comprehensive understandings that the modern, scientific-age audience now has the the tools to understand, that the ancient audience did not?

It just seems ridiculous to only ask the question ONLY about how the ancient / original audience would have understood this (or many other Scriptural passages), as the context of greater knowledge of subsequent generations (or rather, the evermore numerous and complete audience), for some things, which will bring more enlightenment to the texts' more complete meanings.
Well, since the original audience would have had an ORAL tradition to go with the written one, we would think that they had more clarity on this then we do.
We do know that the term DAY was used for a 24 hour period, for a period of time MORE than that, for an era, etc.
We do know that using "an evening and a morning" implied a beginning and an ending as much as it implied a "time-schedule".

The question is, did the original audience think that Genesis 1 meant 6 literal 24 hour days, one right after another?
Well, we know that they probably did NOT envision Billions of years, that's for sure.
We know that the ANE creation myths all have creation being some sort of conflict event or a birthing event and that was NOT the case with this account. Indeed, looking at Genesis 1 you see as close to the scientific evidence we have now as it could be for the time it was written, you have no other creation account that is even close to it in terms of comparability with modern scientific understanding.

The original audience MAY have thought 24 hour periods OR they may NOT, we simply don't know for sure.

We do know that they viewed the word day to mean MORE than just 24 hours and we know that they viewed creation as a divine driven event, in stages, solely by one God, ending in the coming of Man.

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Re: The historical-grammatical method and Genesis

#6

Post by Philip » Wed May 01, 2019 5:45 pm

Paul, not sure if you are getting the heart of my question - which is: Why would a correct understanding of Genesis one and two involve ONLY how the plain meaning would have been understood by ancient Israel? In other words, why does it have to be an either / or? Why can't a correct interpretation involve the entire audience, BOTH ancient and modern, AND YET STILL BE ACCURATELY UNDERSTOOD - with truths mean for both audiences, with each unique, but not necessarily, comprehensively understood by both? I think literalist interpretations aren't just making a mistake in how they apply their literalism to the question of time, but also in their narrowing the issue only to the context of Moses-era Israel. The literalists also seem to be ignoring Romans assertions that the Creation itself broadcasts "knowledge." Clearly, we know much for our study of the Creation that is not indicated in the Bible - least not specifically so.

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Re: The historical-grammatical method and Genesis

#7

Post by Kurieuo » Wed May 01, 2019 7:26 pm

Neo-X once raised a valid and interesting point with me (for his otherwise heretical views ;) *jokes Neo*) about how ANE people understood the heavens to be something like (and I just did a quick search here):

Image

If you read through Scripture, not just Genesis where waters above are separated from waters below, but also Psalms where God spreads out the heavens like a tent, four corners, and the like -- this is the truer impression you come away with of a world being recorded by the ANE writers in the Bible.

Jac too raised a valid point with me in discussions re: a literal understanding of Scripture -- which is to put yourself in the shoes of the author to understand what THEY would have meant and intended by their words. This, at least, is what Jac with his YEC beliefs, would understand literal to mean when he states OEC Day-Age while perhaps providing a literal understanding of the words themselves, aren't being at all honest with a truly literal understanding what the author would have meant or intended. How we can get at what the author would have meant or intended is a whole other game, but nonetheless, I think such is an accurate statement. People tend to focus on what the words of Scripture can be moulded into, while dismissing what the actual author would have intended -- which I think is a grave error hermeneutically.

It's here I think many Evangelicals on all sides neglect to have an adquate doctrine of the human writers' influence upon the text of Scripture. It is perhaps a heresy akin to just calling Jesus God, while neglecting His full human nature. The Word, interestingly obviously Christ in John 1, is both fully human and fully divine.

If we take some steps back, some deep breaths... truly, so many issues in Scripture that often have detailed apologetic responses, just become settled most naturally and automatically if we allow Hebraic authors to just be writers who lived in the ancient near east with their views on the world and beliefs they had. Perhaps, as much as I don't like his rhetoric, Heiser is here correct to accentuate ANE beliefs (but perhaps even he doesn't go far enough in that he simply picks and chooses according to his fancy?).

Second, if God can use a donkey to talk, to what extent could God take a people who are fallen in sin as well as in knowledge (indeed compared to God's knowledge we're all distant from God there!), and use such to inspire events and recordings with a set purpose, which points to a figure who'd save Israel, and the world through Israel?

To what extent do we allow humans, and their understanding of things, to otherwise bear witness to God Himself through whom God communicates His divine plans?

Such are important questions, and ones that are often neglected and not dealt with as thoroughly as say Biblical (divine) inspiration and inerrancy. That is, what of human inspiration and errancy of their actual beliefs and perceptions of the world in which they lived? It feels heretical to even go there, and yet, we ought to go there because Scripture is both fully divine and human, just like Christ.
"Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Romans 10:13)

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Re: The historical-grammatical method and Genesis

#8

Post by Philip » Wed May 01, 2019 8:01 pm

People tend to focus on what the words of Scripture can be moulded into, while dismissing what the actual author would have intended -- which I think is a grave error hermeneutically.
K, just because the human author (Moses) may have understood the time issue a certain way, does not mean that he fully understood what he was inspired to write down! AND, we have to know the context of what Israel also had absorbed per ANE creation myths over four centuries in Egypt. There is no way the Genesis Creation account is so similar to the phrasing of the ANE creation myths, not without that being on purpose. Obviously, even with familiar cadences, they have some very important differences per Yahweh as the Creator. Think of all the misunderstandings concerning the Messiah to come, that weren't accurately understood until FAR later. Did the ancient writers, pre-Christ, fully understand what they have been inspired to write down? I seriously doubt it! So, what generation of God's chosen leaders had much had a much fuller understanding of those prophecies - the much later one in which they had far more information.

I doubt very seriously if the ancient Israelites even thought much about the length of a day as much as much more they did about Who the Creator was and the sequence of the creation. And they would have understood a day to require a sun and a moon, and yet, for the first three Creation days, those did not yet exist - least according to a literal interpretation. Again, why isolate the pertinent questions to ONLY the ANE context and audience, if they were also aimed at the modern audience, if with additional contexts and meanings that could not yet be fully known by the original audience? Of course it has to have a logical understanding for the original audience. But as they were of a pre-scientific age, for THEM, I doubt the context was how things worked scientifically. This is where I think Johnny Miller is correct - God was correcting Israel's false, ANE creation myth beliefs - and not their scientific understandings.

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Re: The historical-grammatical method and Genesis

#9

Post by PaulSacramento » Thu May 02, 2019 8:23 am

Philip wrote:
Wed May 01, 2019 5:45 pm
Paul, not sure if you are getting the heart of my question - which is: Why would a correct understanding of Genesis one and two involve ONLY how the plain meaning would have been understood by ancient Israel? In other words, why does it have to be an either / or? Why can't a correct interpretation involve the entire audience, BOTH ancient and modern, AND YET STILL BE ACCURATELY UNDERSTOOD - with truths mean for both audiences, with each unique, but not necessarily, comprehensively understood by both? I think literalist interpretations aren't just making a mistake in how they apply their literalism to the question of time, but also in their narrowing the issue only to the context of Moses-era Israel. The literalists also seem to be ignoring Romans assertions that the Creation itself broadcasts "knowledge." Clearly, we know much for our study of the Creation that is not indicated in the Bible - least not specifically so.
The thing is that, while the bible was written FOR ALL, it was written TO the ANE / 1st century Israel/gentiles.

Which means that while the THEOLOGICAL message is the same, HOW it is delivered will not be.
heck, it is that way NOW even since you can't deliver the same message, the same way to ALL people of the Earth because of different cultural contexts and such.

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Re: The historical-grammatical method and Genesis

#10

Post by PaulSacramento » Thu May 02, 2019 8:27 am

Jac too raised a valid point with me in discussions re: a literal understanding of Scripture -- which is to put yourself in the shoes of the author to understand what THEY would have meant and intended by their words. This, at least, is what Jac with his YEC beliefs, would understand literal to mean when he states OEC Day-Age while perhaps providing a literal understanding of the words themselves, aren't being at all honest with a truly literal understanding what the author would have meant or intended. How we can get at what the author would have meant or intended is a whole other game, but nonetheless, I think such is an accurate statement. People tend to focus on what the words of Scripture can be moulded into, while dismissing what the actual author would have intended -- which I think is a grave error hermeneutically.
Sure, that is important BUT we needy to realize that we CAN'T do that OUTSIDE the cultural context of the land ( not just the bible).
What I mean is that, we can't "put ourselves in their shoes" by simply reading ONLY the bible, you have to read what the culture of the time, of the area, believes ( right or wrong) because that would be the filter through which context comes.
Also, literal understand comes for literal context of the literary GENRE.

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Re: The historical-grammatical method and Genesis

#11

Post by Philip » Thu May 02, 2019 9:02 am

Paul: we can't "put ourselves in their shoes" by simply reading ONLY the bible, you have to read what the culture of the time, of the area, believes ( right or wrong) because that would be the filter through which context comes.
But as some Scriptures have things to uniquely say ALSO to the present generation reading it - why should that context be limited to the first audience? Now, I agree that there has to be a way they would have understood it that made sense to THEM, but is it the only context as to whatever subsequent generation understands it in additional ways - especially about science things they didn't understand at all?

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Re: The historical-grammatical method and Genesis

#12

Post by PaulSacramento » Thu May 02, 2019 9:52 am

Philip wrote:
Thu May 02, 2019 9:02 am
Paul: we can't "put ourselves in their shoes" by simply reading ONLY the bible, you have to read what the culture of the time, of the area, believes ( right or wrong) because that would be the filter through which context comes.
But as some Scriptures have things to uniquely say ALSO to the present generation reading it - why should that context be limited to the first audience? Now, I agree that there has to be a way they would have understood it that made sense to THEM, but is it the only context as to whatever subsequent generation understands it in additional ways - especially about science things they didn't understand at all?

I don't think it should be limited to the first audience BUT if you are discussing what THEY would have thought, then...

In terms of theology, it think it is import to also distinguish what is EXPLICIT - statements such as : God is never changing, Jesus is God, Adultery is a sin, etc. with what is IMPLICIT and, typically, needing to be interpreted.

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Re: The historical-grammatical method and Genesis

#13

Post by DBowling » Sun May 05, 2019 4:59 am

Kurieuo wrote:
Wed May 01, 2019 7:26 pm
Jac too raised a valid point with me in discussions re: a literal understanding of Scripture -- which is to put yourself in the shoes of the author to understand what THEY would have meant and intended by their words. This, at least, is what Jac with his YEC beliefs, would understand literal to mean when he states OEC Day-Age while perhaps providing a literal understanding of the words themselves, aren't being at all honest with a truly literal understanding what the author would have meant or intended. How we can get at what the author would have meant or intended is a whole other game, but nonetheless, I think such is an accurate statement. People tend to focus on what the words of Scripture can be moulded into, while dismissing what the actual author would have intended -- which I think is a grave error hermeneutically.
I agree that it is wrong to "dismiss what the actual author would have intended".
But I would agree with Philip that it is also wrong to attempt to limit the meaning of Scripture to "what the actual author would have intended"

A couple of specific Scriptural examples come to mind.

1. One of the commands in the Mosaic Law is
Deut 25:4
4 Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.
In 1 Tim 5:17-18 Paul applies this verse in the following way
17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 18 For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.”
Is Paul limiting his understanding of Deut 25:4 to what Moses actually intended?


2. The prophet Hosea talks about God's love for Israel despite their unfaithfulness in Hosea 11.
Hosea 11:1-2
“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
2 But the more they were called,
the more they went away from me.
They sacrificed to the Baals
and they burned incense to images.
Matthew applies this verse to Joseph fleeing to Egypt with Mary and Jesus.
Matthew 2:14-15
14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
Is Matthew limiting his understanding of Hosea 11:1 to what Hosea actually intended?


These are just a couple of many examples where Scripture itself goes beyond what the human authors of other portions of Scripture would have originally meant.

So I don't think it is "dishonest" to understand that the words used by Moses in Genesis 1 could have one meaning to Moses and his original audience (within the context of an ANE cosmology), and yet have a different (and yet factually true) meaning when those same words are understood within a modern cosmology (ie Hugh Ross).
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Re: The historical-grammatical method and Genesis

#14

Post by Philip » Sun May 05, 2019 2:19 pm

Good examples, DB!

Not only has literalism been incorrectly applied to the Genesis creation texts, per the time issue of the "days," but literalists also seem to easily dismiss the tremendous, ongoing and complementary witness of the Creation itself as a further and GROWING revelation about God and His handiwork!

We should pay careful attention to the great importance the Apostle Paul placed upon the witness of the countless wonders of the Creation, in Romans 1, as being so powerfully obvious to ancient, unbelieving humanity, that the Apostle Paul asserts they had "clearly perceived" both God's existence and His basic attributes, "through the things that have been made" - and because "God has SHOWN it to them":

Romans 1:19-20 "For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,[g] in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse."

And so overwhelming is this witness of the details of the Creation that, Paul tells us, in Romans 1, ALL men "are without excuse," due to the resulting knowledge it reveals to them about God. And Paul continues to elaborate upon this in Romans 2, by telling us that this witness of the Creation reveals so much knowledge about God that, on judgment day, those never having believed in God - even those WITHOUT the Law and the Prophets (the Old Testament) or the Gospel - will not be able to credibly state they rejected God out of ignorance! (Thus: "So they are without excuse.")

Romans 2:12 "For ALL who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law."

And what Paul testifies to about the great power of the witness of the knowledge God has given humanity of Himself - even in early human history - is all one needs to know to desire to know God and MORE about Him, IF they were to desire it. But Paul notes that, INSTEAD, most haven't wanted anything to do with God - that they turned instead to idols of their own making (which humanity still does, btw).

And, in Romans, Paul is also further echoing what the David the Psalmist had written long before, concerning the PARALLEL knowledge, to Scripture, God has ALSO given us, through the extraordinary revelations found in the Creation itself:

Psalms 19:1-4: "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. 2 Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals KNOWLEDGE. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. 4 Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world."

VERY key, David writes that the Heavens and the Creation declare God's "handiwork" and that it reveals "KNOWLEDGE!"

So, when literalists so easily gloss over the knowledge revealed by the Creation itself, as to what and how God made things, they far too easily dismiss the powerful testimonies BEYOND Scripture which God inspired David and Paul to write about. Just think of the huge, stunning array of astonishing things and discoveries, through which God has taught us about His Creation's "handiwork" - the many things man has learned, INDEPENDENT OF and in addition to, WHAT HE'S ALSO GIVEN US THROUGH SCRIPTURE: The "knowledge" God has continuously made available to us per our methodical studies of the Creation's many evidences! The scientific method itself was developed as mankind learned of the astounding precision and predictability of the many processes and components of the universe and earth - which are so incredibly dependable and consistent in operation that we can confidently test for repeatable results to either affirm or falsely things scientists have considered. Just think of the huge, ever-GROWING list of important discoveries man has learned about - not through the Bible - but through science's study of God's revelations found throughout His Creation!

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