TED STOLZE – PHILOSOPHY 204. Notes on The Philosophical Study of the Bible. What Use is the Bible?. A Short Talk by Joel Baden, Professor Hebrew Bible at from Yale University: http://youtu.be/NIXfDyoYK8Q. A Key Distinction.
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Notes on The Philosophical Study of the Bible
A Short Talk by Joel Baden, Professor Hebrew Bible at from Yale University:
In this course we’ll do our best to take the Bible seriously. However, this does not mean that we have to read the Bible literally. Instead, it does mean reading biblical texts by situating them within their comparative historical, religious, economic, political, cultural, literary, and archeological contexts.
(Borrowed from Michael Satlow, How the Bible Became Holy [New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014], pp. 4-5)
Day OneDay Four
LightBodies of Light
Day TwoDay Five
Sea and SkyCreatures of the sea and sky
Day ThreeDay Six
Land (and plants)Creatures of the land (animals and humans)
“[T]he religion that first bound ‘Israel’ contained elements not far removed from Enuma Elish. But by the time of the Exile, people had wrestled with YHWH, one another, and their neighbors for centuries. For many, Enuma Elish’s version of ‘creation’ was blasphemous. However, it was and remains one thing to criticize someone else’s worldview, and quite another to have a clear and coherent vision of one’s own.
For many in Babylonian Exile, the first chapters of Genesis offered the beginning of that systematic alternative. At the heart of its stories of origins of the earth and humanity is the question: If the Babylonian story is wrong, how did things come to be? Put another way: What stories should we teach our children to keep them from being influenced by the power of Enuma Elish and the opulence and might of Babylon that, for now at least, is our home?
Read from this perspective, the majestic and stately account of God’s creation ‘in the beginning’ can be heard for what it is: a counter-narrative to the Babylonian worldview. Each carefully worded detail expresses with power and beauty the ways of the true Creator. For instance, consider the contrast between the means of creating earth’s creatures. In Enuma Elish, Tiamet’s body is ripped open by the violence of her son, bringing forth the species. But in Genesis, it is God’s ‘word’ that brings things into being. But the Hebrew (‘amar) and Greek (lego) verbs for ‘to speak’ imply not simply the physical act of pronouncing words but also the deeper sense of bringing an intention into being. God’s creative word is not in reaction to anything else, as Marduk’s violence is. Creation does not arise as a response, but simply because God wills it into being”
(Wes Howard-Brook, “Come Out, My People!”: God’s Call out of Empire in the Bible and Beyond [Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2010], pp. 18-19).
“Hebrew tselem generally refers to a statue or other physical representation, such as of a god or goddess. It seems likely that Genesis presents human beings serving a parallel function to Babylonian or other ‘idols.’ When you see a human being, you are seeing an ‘image’ of God.”
(Wes Howard-Brook, “Come Out, My People!”: God’s Call out of Empire in the Bible and Beyond [Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2010], p. 21).
“Does God’s mandate to humans at creation encourage us to become controllers and managers of the whole of creation on this planet? No. It ascribes to God’s gift the unique degree of power within creation that realistically our species has, and we should neither underestimate nor exaggerate that if we are to exercise it responsibly, as the mandate requires.
Granted our limited place within the God-given order of creation, the power we do have is to be exercised with loving care for the rest of creation. Our right to use the Earth’s resources for human life and flourishing is strictly limited by the responsibility to conserve and by the rights of the other living creatures who share the Earth with us.
A role of caring responsibility for other living creatures, our ‘dominion’, is not a role that sets us above creation but a specific role that humans have within creation. It is rightly practised only when we recognize it to be dominion over fellow-creatures” (Richard Bauckham, The Bible and Ecology, pp. 33-4).
The biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann has argued that God’s establishment of a day of rest or sabbath at the end of the six days of creation is an assertion that “life does not depend on our feverish activity of self-securing, but that there can be a pause in which life is given to us simply as a gift.” Brueggemann argues that the sabbath has four key aspects:
(From Walter Brueggemann, Genesis: A Bible Commentary for Preaching and Teaching [Philadelphia: John Knox Press, 1982], pp. 35-6.)
A Key Philosophical Question:
Creation out of Chaos? or Creation out of Nothingness?
Gen 1:1-2:4bGen 2:4b-25
SourcePriestly (P)Yahwist (J)
Divine nameElohimYHWH Elohim
Order1. Light1. The Human
2. Waters, sky2. Plants
3. Land, plants3. Animals
4. Bodies of light4. Woman (with the man remaining)
5. Water, sky creatures
6. Land creatures
7. Sabbath rest
Creative actSpoken into beingFormed out of clay
Truth claimsa) Emphasizes God’s nature asa) Emphasizes God’s nature as
1. Transcendent1. Intimate
2. Omnipotent 2. Personal
b) Humans as the culmination of creationb) Humans as the reason for
c) Stresses the relationship between c) Stresses the relationship between
1. Humanity and God 1. Humanity and the earth
2. Woman and man
“The story is in many ways a satire of the Sumerian Gilgamesh Epic. In that narrative, a future king went off to seek the secret of immortality. After many harrowing experiences—including power acquired by defeating the embodied forces of the natural world and a great flood—he found that he must accept life ‘as it is.’ In other words, one can’t change the world but must adapt to it. In the Genesis Flood, not only is the hero no king, but the world is utterly transformed as a result of his collaboration with the divine will and power. God makes a ‘covenant’ with Noah and ‘all flesh’ never again to cause widespread destruction by flood (9:9-17).
Noah’s reaction to this new development is not narrated, but once he is on dry land, Noah plants a vineyard. What a long time he must wait for that celebratory drink of wine! He, like Cain, is described as a “man of the soil” [’adamah] (9:20). He, too, is a child of agriculture. There was indeed no going back to Eden for Noah and his descendants. From his three sons, Genesis states, ‘the whole earth was peopled’ (9:19). This contrasts starkly with ‘empire religion,’ in which peoples are pitted against one another in the ongoing battle for honor and control of resources. But in the religion of creation, all humanity is one family, creatures of one God, even outside the Garden.”
(Wes Howard-Brook, “Come Out, My People!”: God’s Call out of Empire in the Bible and Beyond [Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2010], pp. 44-5).