Friday, May 29, 2020

Against the Cosmic Temple Nonsense

The "New Party Line" about the creation account in Genesis among some theological circles is the "Cosmic Temple" (CT) view. The CT view has a giant sales advantage in reaching scientifically oriented Christians who cringe at the ongoing conflict that many views of the text have with mainstream science. Many such Christians will leap at the chance for a view of the text which resolves this conflict on acceptable terms. The competition for the creation theology of scientifically oriented people is "Concordism". This is the idea that nature and scripture when properly understood will not be in conflict. But concordism just leads right to the, in the view of some unnecessary, battle between mainstream science and the veracity of the text. They reject concordism because they don't see reconciling the text to modern science as necessary, possible, reasonable, or even desireable. Many concordist views of the text do seem awkward and forced. The CT position says that's because concordism is nonsense.

The Christ-centered (CC) model I advocate says that that its not nonsense, but concordists err by making the story smaller than it really is. The Christ-centered model has a sort of "secondary concordism". That is, the text is aligned with nature to the extent it speaks of nature, but its mostly talking about something more important- the work of Christ and the eternal supernatural realm. And after all, aren't Christians supposed to believe that "this earth is not our home" and that the eternal realm is more important than this temporal one? Why then would we think that the creation account ignores the greater realm, much less He who rules there?

I believe the point of commonality people see in CT and CC is that both views consider that the text of Genesis chapter one is talking about something other than the creation of the natural universe. In the case of the CT view it isn't at all talking about creating or making material things. Instead, the text is talking solely about assigning function to already existing things in the natural universe according to the dictates of religious practices of antiquity. It isn't saying anything about the formation of material things. God is "transforming" the universe into His "Cosmic Temple" (circa 2000 B.C.) by assigning function.

In the case of the Christ-Centered Model the text is talking about God actively working on the natural universe, but not just the natural universe, and not even firstly that. Instead, the language of chapter one is talking firstly about both the formation and assigning of function to the eternal realm of which our natural universe is only a shadow. God is working in both realms and the same words are being used to describe what is happening in both. So in CT it isn't speaking of the formation of the physical world at all. In CC it is, but not just that. It is talking about more than that and firstly something other than that.

I have no doubt that the CT view does a better job of providing relief to Christians who cringe at the thought of a continued battle over the veracity of the text in light of the claims of current mainstream science. It will also be of more use to non-believers who wish Christians would quit taking the scriptures as something so relevant to our world today. Both groups can relieve their discomfort by assigning all meaning in the text to the remote past, in a distant culture, with very limited application in some broad spiritual sense. They can join hands and praise it as beautiful prose from an ancient day. A magnificent relic. Relief, if not true peace, is thereby achieved.

There is just one small problem with the CT view. It's not true. It truncates truth out of existence. Those whose focus is on its wonderful utility in their present situation might express some exasperation with those like me. This is because when evaluating CT I show little concern for its usefulness in addressing their felt needs and instead dwell on its veracity. If you don't care whether its true so long as it meets these other needs then you should stop reading now. You'd be happier blue-pilling.

There is a post here from a young theologian named Evan Minton which describes (and advocates) the "Cosmic Temple" view of early Genesis. It also gives the most common points of support for the idea. I'm going to use his piece to "compare and contrast" the CT view with the Christ-centered model (CC) which I advocate.

Minton does in his piece what I do in my book- talk about what early Genesis is and use that as a guide as to how to interpret it. Context is the start of understanding. I think we would agree on that. He, speaking for advocates of CT, says:
When looking at any passage of scripture, we need to ask “Is this how an ancient would understand this phrase?” If not, we can dismiss that as an accurate interpretation.
In other words the understanding of a passage should be limited to that of the author and the original audience. Dr. Hugh Ross is a prominent concordist, which takes the opposite view, and as such Minton uses him as a foil when he writes:
The only way we could extend the meaning is if The Holy Spirit gave us additional revelation to tell us “Yep. That reference to place of Darkness in Job is a subtle allusion on my part to the presence of dark energy.”5 Perhaps if we had good reasons to believe that Ross’ books should be canonical books of scripture, we could accept his interpretation. However, in light of such evidence, in light of a “New New Testament”, we should go no further than the original author and audience’s understanding. I would not be confident in a concordist reading of the text in the absence of such a revelation.
He quotes John Walton on the problem:
“Such extended meanings can claim no authority since they do not derive from inspired sources.They cannot justifiably represent claims to perceive meanings that God intended, because they are not meanings that are independent of our own imagination. Both our organizations (editor's note, Walton means Biologos and Reasons to Believe) affirm that the “two books” can and should be read together. Yet we do not undertake such reading in the same way because at BioLogos we recognize a weakness of concordism that is found in the very flexibility that it exploits. No matter what the modern scientific consensus might be, concordists can feasibly find Scripture to support it."
Sure they are speaking of the narrow issue of concordism, but in imposing their rule of interpretation (any meaning we take from the text must be within the meaning which we ascribe to the original author and audience of the day) to combat concordism, they run into a number of problems. The first problem with their rule of interpretation is that Jesus Christ explicitly rejects it as it applies to Him. He said in John 5:46 that Moses wrote about Him. Luke further informs us that on the road to Emmaus a resurrected Christ showed them, starting with Moses, all the things in the Old Testament scriptures concerning Himself. Other passages from the gospels and the epistles verify that this is the meaning and view that the apostles brought to the text- that it pointed to Christ.

I should probably "drop the mic" right here, but I've noticed that once a belief system meets some felt need that a person has, we humans are highly reluctant to let go of it just because something else is true. In the context of Young Earth Creationism, even if you show people how a Christ-centered view of the Seventh day gloriously points to the Atonement, it is maddening how many will reject believing the text is about Christ in favor of making it about twenty-four hour days. Their "felt need" for which they will sacrifice the focus on Christ is simplicity. They want scripture to be something they can wrap their head around with little thought or effort or need for expert help. They'd rather it be simple than it point to Christ! Before advocates of CT look down on YECs for doing so, they should look to themselves. The study of scripture should be about finding God's truth, not meeting our felt needs.

But this brings us to another problem with this interpretive approach (hermeneutic). They can't really know the limitations of the original authors, or their audience. They can't even be sure who the original author or audience was. They are in effect trying to impose limits on meaning based on what they imagine the limitations of the original audience might be. That's putting their imagination in charge, which is exactly the accusation they level against concordists.

Let's say for a moment that the original author of Genesis was Moses. He was "God's friend". Moses spent much more time in the actual manifested presence of the LORD than even the Apostles. Imposing some arbitrary rule about what information could have been revealed to Moses looks like nothing more than an attempt to impose the philosophy of naturalism on the interpretation of sacred texts. Scripture says that the messages which Moses wrote were actually a testimony of things to be spoken of afterwards (Hebrews 3:5), and that those who fell in the wilderness with Moses had the gospel preached to them (Hebrews 4:2). It is written in Amos 3:7 says. "Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets." Any scholar who makes the assumption that a prophet of God could only know what a man of his day knew is full of hubris. They are in effect trying to take God out of the equation of what could or could not be known.

Advocates of CT insist that these hermeneutics are the only valid way to interpret religious texts even though the logic of their two requirements is effectively self-refuting. The human author and the audience of the day considered much of the text to be prophetic utterances from God. They would have been completely comfortable with the idea that God would also be laying groundwork for some progressive revelation of His nature and majesty with these words. It was even expected that God could speak through someone who was not even aware that they were speaking by inspiration (John 11:50-51). So in effect these artificially imposed man-made rules claim that the text of scripture can only have a meaning that the audience of the day would understand, but that they were in fact dead wrong about what they understood!

But beyond all this, they can't even assume that they know who the original author and audience was. If they can't be sure of who the audience even was, how can they ascribe limitations in understanding to them? I hold to a modified version of the Tablet Theory for early Genesis. If some of the same scholars who try to shoe-horn these naturalistic hermeneutics unto the text scoff at the Tablet Theory, it only further verifies their need of faith, humility, and knowledge of the scriptures- a need common to us all. The tablet theory as originally proposed was too rigid, but a modified version of it such as what I propose addresses the issues raised by the critics. So far as I know it has never been evaluated by experts (and therefore should not be dismissed).

The Tablet Theory notes that there is a "tolodoth" phrase which occurs at least eleven times in early Genesis, "these are the generations of". Sometimes it is associated with a genealogy, and sometimes not. But in the ANE, the phrase is associated with "accounts". As in "these are the accounts of", and it served to identify narratives from clay tablets back in the time of Abraham, or before. So then early Genesis would be a series of accounts from the patriarchs of scripture which were preserved on tablets and translated/edited into early Genesis by Moses.

If that's so, then these accounts are from well before Moses. Some before Noah! These accounts would therefore be older than the ANE stories which have similar elements. The implication is that early Genesis wasn't a "polemic" against the other accounts which inspired Moses, rather the other ANE accounts were distorted versions of early Genesis. The parallels with the "Cosmic Temple" stuff would then be the other way around. The creation account was ancient and ANE cultures mimicked elements of it into their religious practices. The creation account in Genesis wasn't based on their religious practices, but if anything the reverse!

The second account is from "Adam", and the first is said to be that of the Heavens and the Earth, as if Creation was giving an account of how it got here! That the account is from creation itself may be strange to us as modern readers, but aren't the CT folks telling us to see the text with ANE eyes? Whether they choose to follow their admonitions even when its inconvenient for them is a separate issue, but the fact is from ANE eyes early Genesis is written as a series of prior accounts strung together, a sort of Anthology. Even if it isn't, whoever wrote it made it seem like that.

But what if it was just what it seemed to be from ANE eyes? How do you apply the CT hermeneutics to that? It would be unbridled hubris to imagine that we can go back and decide what limitations in understanding that "the heavens and the earth" may have had in giving an account of themselves to Adam, who walked with the LORD God Himself in an unfallen state for who knows how long. We have no context to even comprehend what Adam might have known or not have known. The CT hermeneutic is therefore marked by an extreme lack of faith that the text can say anything more the average person of some place and time that these scholars select could have intended to say, while embracing an unshakable faith in their own ability to select the correct place and time.

So if the tablet theory is correct, the original meaning of the first chapters of Genesis could have been lost knowledge from the distant past even on the very first day that Moses wrote them into the first scroll. Perhaps for generations thereafter, the Israelites preserved words whose true meaning was obscure to them from the start. They weren't the original audience. Advocates for the CT hermeneutic need to first demonstrate that they can even know with any confidence who the original author and audience was, and beyond that how they can know what their limitations in intent and understanding might be. That's before they can even make a reasonable claim to be certain that God couldn't inspire men beyond their human limitations.

I consider Minton's complaint (which is hinted at by Walton) that men like Hugh Ross should be writing canon before their teachings have any credibility to be more of a rhetorical trick rather than a legitimate argument. For example, YECs call their interpretative framework "biblical" creationism as a tactic to control the debate. By accepting the label it is implied that any interpretative framework other than theirs is "un-biblical". This is the same tactic being employed by CTs against Ross. By implying that the way they interpret the bible is just the proper way to do it, they imply that any other interpretative framework isn't a competing viewpoint, it's an attempt to write new scripture! I have difficulty respecting such rhetorical tricks when YECs do it, and I have the same attitude when CT advocates try it. And I write that knowing that I have and will take some heat for calling what I believe "The Christ Centered Model". Hey, I will make the same offer to you that I made to the first guy who complained to me about it- find another model that is just as Christ-centered and I will quit calling it that. If you can't and it still bothers you, maybe you should fix your discomfort by adopting a view that does focus on Christ more than the one you now have.

The text is the text. There are different ways to interpret the text, and we should have a vigorous debate as to which is best on the merits. But that the text is true should be the assumption of the theologian. Our interpretation of the text- or the rules by which we interpret, should always be up for scrutiny no matter who we think we are. This is where I call for theology to be more like a Science, which it originally was.

And that of course answers another objection sometimes raised - that concordist views will change from time to time. Yes, that's how the scientific method works as applied to theology. We propose a meaning, the proposal is tested, and if it is confirmed we are more sure and if it is not we look for better answers. That's how we get closer to truth, both in the natural universe and in the understanding of scripture. The universe and scripture both contain truth for us to find. We should not expect the natural sciences to get an idea and then never refine or change it, nor should we expect that in our understanding of scripture, aside from the basics like the Apostle's creed. There is the paradigm, which we assume, and then there is the way that works itself out, which we test. For more exploration of my call to return theology to more of a science see here

Look, if you think early Genesis was composed from the 9th to the 6th century B.C. by some priests who adapted stories they heard in captivity based on the obsession ANE cultures had with temples, then the CT view seems reasonable. I think it was composed by Moses, from older material. and that it points to Christ and His work from the start because the prophets of God were not limited to what the average person of their day knew. Your premises determine your outlook.

Fact is, God doesn't think much of temples. I won't go into all the details here. but read 2nd Samuel chapter seven. The temple wasn't God's idea. He only wrote it into the story because David wanted to do it. He promised that He would destroy it if they strayed and write it out of the story, read 2 Chron. chapter 7.  Even Solomon acknowledge that the Temple would be a place where God's name was, not a place for God to dwell ("the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?"). That doesn't fit with the idea that man the vizier is dwelling on earth and God is dwelling in heaven, as CT proposes. Almost as soon as it was built the priests went one way but God kept speaking to Israel through prophets which were outside the temple system.

God was happy with the tabernacle. And it was the tabernacle that was said to be a copy of the original in heaven. And again, this points to Him. The best translations of John 1:14 say He "tabernacled among us", because that is the intent of the Greek in the word usually translated "dwelt". When God would again come to dwell with His people, He would take a temporary home of flesh like ours, it wasn't His permanent dwelling place. The tabernacle was God's idea and pointed to the Incarnation.

In Rev. 21:21 it specifically says that there is no temple in the New Jerusalem. God and His Lamb are the temple. Look, temples were a big deal in the ANE culture that these scholars want to use to bound the meaning of early Genesis, but throughout scripture, God isn't big on temples, except for the temple of our bodies. That's what He wants His house to be. He wants to live in us and through us. Very little about the CT view makes sense if you believe the scriptures are inspired by God, and I do. My view of Genesis one that agrees with Jesus Christ when He said that Moses wrote about Him.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Answering Dr. Rana and Reasons to Believe on People Outside the Garden

Jesus said in John 5:46 that Moses wrote about Him! And it turns out when you read it through that lens it is also far less contentious regarding evidence from history and the natural universe. Obviously this could not be true unless He is who the scriptures say that He is and the scripture, even Genesis, was inspired by God. The Christ-centered model for early Genesis is what this book is really about.

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Saturday, May 23, 2020

Against Australian Aborigines Admixture with Denisovans

I noticed that Cambridge University reported on a study on Australian Aborigines and Papuans that reflects on the debate about proposed Denisovan introgression into our species. 

They basically said that it wasn't Denisovans per se which mixed with the ancestors of people from this region, but rather a related unknown species which was much like them. That is, the mutations were similar in Denisovans and Papuans, but not the same. 

At the same time, the study claimed that Australian Aborigines got their present language and culture from a group of Asians who swept through the continent only 4,000 years ago but then died out leaving little or no genetic trace. 

If you think there is something in-congruent about the idea that the people they got their language and culture from 4,000 years ago being virtual genetic ghosts while this other unknown hominid's signature stuck around for a dozen times longer despite making no known contribution to their language or culture then congratulations, you are a thinking individual. 

There is a large segment of our society very determined to make humanity just another species, like a chimp or a pig or a rat. So much so that they have mis-appropriated the word "human" and applied it to all these other hominids (so I have taken to calling what was "humanity" by another term, "Adamics"). I am convinced that many others push the idea of other-hominid introgression without even knowing or understanding why they are emotionally invested in it. These are almost always people who are also invested in a macro-evolutionary framework, which to be fair could still be true even if their ideas on other hominid introgression are false. All it would indicate if the introgression model was false was that Man was somewhat set apart from these others, it wouldn't in itself undermine the larger framework. Yet even the idea of a potential crack in the wall seems to much for some of these folks to contemplate. 

For example, I have tried at many online watering holes to get qualified people to take a look at the work of Dr. William Amos of Cambridge, who has an alternative explanation for all or almost all of the supposed genetic signal from Neanderthals. I've yet to encounter a single individual who dares to seriously engage with the work of this distinguished professor at Cambridge University. 

This mental block extends so far as to seemingly throw out everything they have learned, believed, and taught about convergent evolution with regards to hominids. If Tibetans have a mutation which allows them to function better at high altitudes, and Denisovans had a similar mutation, then by golly it must have been from introgression! The same thing regarding genetic adaptations in fat burning so as to better deal with cold weather, or resistance to similar pathogens. For some reasons, when other species develop similar mutations, they can see that it is a result of convergent evolution. For example, here is a report on a study on mammoths and neanderthals developing a similar gene as an adaptation to cold. Yet when human groups have some adaptation to cold or to high altitudes or exposure to the same pathogens and a similar adaptation is found in another hominid there is always a chorus quick to say it is due to introgression! 

And many if not most of the genes that we supposedly inherited from other hominids are mildly deleterious or neutral. I suspect these are from populations that have always been small or lacking in diversity, and they just couldn't shed these genes fast enough. The reason a small part of the Aborigine's genes look different from the rest of us isn't because of Denisovan introgression, but that they were an isolated group with lower diversity to start with. That changed over time as they have been living in place for a long time, but they diversified from an initial population that was low in diversity and isolated from other human genes. That means any peculiar variants they had would be more likely to be preserved in some form while in the rest of humanity such variants would be more likely to get washed out in a flood of other genetic material. 

My book on early Genesis really isn't much about all that, but something more incredible. Jesus said in John 5:46 that Moses wrote about Him! And it turns out when you read it through that lens it is also far less contentious regarding evidence from history and the natural universe. Obviously this could not be true unless He is who the scriptures say that He is and the scripture, even Genesis, was inspired by God. The Christ-centered model for early Genesis is what this book is really about.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The Flaming Sword of Genesis 3:24

One of the many mysteries of Early Genesis is the "flaming sword" which the LORD God posted at the east of the garden to keep The Man from going back to eat of the Tree of Life in his newly fallen state. Cherubim were also posted to guard the way. We know what cherubim are because they are referenced other places in scripture and elsewhere. The "flaming sword" however, is its own category, and thus more open to interpretation. Here is the verse (Genesis 3:24 (interlinear)) in several versions:

New International Version
After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

English Standard Version
He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Berean Study Bible
So He drove out the man and stationed cherubim on the east side of the Garden of Eden, along with a whirling sword of flame to guard the way to the tree of life.

The first point I want to make clear is that the Hebrew doesn't really say "a flaming sword". Rather it says "a sword of flame" or "the sword of flame". It wasn't describing a metal sword with flames coming off of it. Rather it was composed of flame. My second point, in contradiction to most of the artwork I have seen depicting an angel wielding a sword, the text seems to separate the two, as if the sword was acting independently of the cherubim guarding the way, even if both precautions served the same purpose.

My third point refers to the definition of the Hebrew word translated "sword" in Genesis 3:24:
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance
axe, dagger, knife, mattock, sword, tool
From charab; drought; also a cutting instrument (from its destructive effect), as a knife, sword, or other sharp implement -- axe, dagger, knife, mattock, sword, tool.
The word is most often used of an actual sword in the scriptures, but early on the word applied to almost any bladed or sharp instrument. The account of Adam in Genesis chapter three is an early account. As some of you may know, I support a modified version of the Tablet Theory for early Genesis, which answers the charge that Genesis was borrowed from other Ancient Near East accounts which pre-date the Mosaic period. They were instead family history from the ancestors of Moses, the patriarchs of scripture. Thus the use of the term here should be considered in its broader context, not the narrow meaning which later became dominant.

Swords more than two feet in length were uncommon until the Iron Age. Sickles on the other hand, have been around since the Neolithic and were used both for harvesting grain and as a weapon. Ussher's method of calculating dates almost certainly provides figures which are too young, and I place Adam back around 11,000 years ago in eastern Anatolia.

Ezekiel also speaks of a "Mountain of God", perhaps in Eden, which had stones as hot as fire.
13 You were in Eden, the garden of God. Every kind of precious stone adorned you: ruby, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and emerald. Your mountings and settings were crafted in gold, prepared on the day of your creation. 14 You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for I had ordained you. You were on the holy mountain of God; you walked among the fiery stones.
The word translated "garden" really means an enclosed garden, The entrance to the garden of Eden, on the eastern side, may well have been dominated by the "Mountain of God" which had fiery stones. It so happens that one of my top three prospects for the location of the Garden of Eden is a valley just to the west of Lake Van in Turkey. On the eastern end of this valley is a volcano called Nemrut. There are various kinds of volcanoes, and some just have flowing lava. Others are more explosive in their eruptions. Nemrut is of the explosive variety, and geologists tell us that it had an eruption in the same time frame I am suggest for Adam.

 Therefore I suggest that what Adam testified to in the "Book of Adam" recorded by his near-descendants regarding the Sword (or sickle, cutting instrument) of Flame which turned every which way was something like this....
An Explosive eruption: phtoto by Marc Szeglat/science source
 The cherubim sent to guard the way back lest Adam return were divine beings, as attested to later in scripture. The turning or flashing implement of flame was Adam's way of describing an eruption like the one pictured above, which also served to warn him not to re-enter the garden. When the LORD God drove them out, perhaps He brought about this event as part of His warning not to return, which Adam interpreted as a sickle or an instrument of flame, turning every which way.

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Friday, May 15, 2020

Two Books that Share one BIG IDEA

Comparing "Early Genesis, the Revealed Cosmology" to "The Genealogical Adam and Eve".

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Monday, May 11, 2020

The Flawed Premise of the Biologos Forum

Biologos has managed to alienate a lot of people, including Christians who affirm mainstream science's views on evolution. These are people who should be in their camp, and some of them once were. Considering the massive investment that our entire media and government has undertaken to sell macro-evolution, you would think they would have had more success than they have in their mission to get Christians to accept that God used evolution to form living things. After all, they are just trying to get Christians to move with a massive tide, not fight the tide.

I am not going to contend here today over the particulars of the evolution-creation controversy. You may know that to some degree I think it is a false conflict, but not in the manner that Biologos does. Rather I want to share publicly what they would not hear from me privately about some flaws in their premises which hinder their efforts to accomplish their high-sounding goals. If it gets back to them and they want to listen, then they will improve and maybe real dialogue, instead of what goes on in their forum now, will be possible.

Their mission, according to their own website, is.....
We embrace the historical Christian faith, upholding the authority and inspiration of the Bible.
We affirm evolutionary creation, recognizing God as Creator of all life over billions of years.
We seek truth, ever learning as we study the natural world and the Bible.
We strive for humility and gracious dialogue with those who hold other views.
 Some would say that the first two sentences are mutually contradictory, but that's not even my complaint with them. After spending some time on their forum and seeing how it actually operates, I would direct their attention to the last two lines in their mission statement. They don't do those things, while constantly talking and posing like they do, and that's one real reason they are flailing away, despite their massive cultural and resource advantages.

I have found that the forum as a whole is not seeking truth, as they fully believe they already have it. They are there to talk, and you are there to listen. Not listen to the answers to any questions you might have, but listen to what they have decided that you need to hear from them. Obviously, this posture is inconsistent with a goal of "humility", as well as "dialogue", be it gracious or any other kind. They say they want a dialogue but what they really want is a monologue to browbeat anyone who questions the current scientific status quo into conforming to it, regardless of legitimate questions on matters of evidence. The atmosphere there is ultra-conformist to whatever way current scientific opinion leans, even though that is supposed to change as new evidence comes in. Ultra-conformity to what is in vogue with the sub-culture you identify with isn't conducive to the last two lines of their mission statement above. Let's start there.

The example that finally drove this home, and induced me to ask to have my account deleted, was their response to my posting some of the work of Cambridge Professor Dr. William Bradshaw Amos. Obviously his credentials are impeccable. But he takes issue with one of the more recent cultural additions to the box called "what everyone knows is true".  He doesn't think that modern humans carry any appreciable (and maybe none at all) DNA due to introgression from Neanderthals. And he has some really sensible studies which strongly support his position. I posted one of them and asked people there to evaluate it.

Notice that this idea is no threat to the larger macro-evolutionary hypothesis. I am confident that Dr. Amos himself believes that humans evolved from a common ancestor with apes via natural means. IOW, he should be favorable to them overall in what they say their mission is. But even that rather inconsequential deviation from the party line was too much for them. Mostly they just didn't respond to it. One, more honest perhaps but not particularly conforming to the traits of their mission statement, informed me that since it was not peer-reviewed it wasn't worth commenting on.

This is a very common tactic that defenders of the status-quo use to avoid having to grapple with evidence. They hide behind "peer-review". And of course, ideas outside the mainstream tend not to get peer-reviewed, even when they come from well-qualified individuals like Dr. Amos. So it is a catch-22 and that's the way some people like it. I protested that the reason it wasn't peer-reviewed was because the viewers were biased against non-mainstream ideas, that his evidence was strong and deserved to be looked at, even without a stamp of approval from the gate-keepers. That sent him off on a tizzy about my questioning the motives of the scientific community, and how that was a violation of forum standards and he was going to run off and tell the moderators. No one there ever engaged on the evidence. They made it about other things, including my attitude. Which I will admit by this point was pretty testy.

Fortunately, it looks like Amos' paper is now close to being peer-reviewed, but he has been jerked around before where people have acted like they would publish and then didn't without explanation. I like to think that the noise some of us made had a little to do with his ideas getting a fair look after four years of trying.

But my main point here is that there forum rules which say motives can never be questioned is contradictory to their mission statement. It doesn't fit with what scripture says about humans. That no one's motives can ever be questioned when this pattern occurs consistently indicates a very different view of humanity than the one I have. Scripture says that our righteousness is as filthy rags. Even our purest motives are tainted by sin. That the question of motives can never be raised therefore takes a position that this view of man is irrelevant to any discussion. It makes a mockery of our constant need for introspection, repentance, and improvement. It would be a waste of my time to participate in any group operating from such flawed premises.

Of course this can be taken to the other extreme. I have a policy against starting an analysis of a different idea by scrutinizing the motives of the person presenting it. Based on my own sorry nature I always assume that even the best motives of others are mixed. So instead of attempting to scrutinize their motives, I just try and evaluate their arguments. I figure if I want to scrutinize the motivational purity of anyone deeply enough I can always find an excuse to not hear what they are trying to say- but that would be me sealing myself off from ideas I don’t want to consider. IOW my own motive in doing that may be worse than whatever flaw in their motives I am using to shield myself from having to consider their ideas. Maybe that’s just me, but I doubt it.

So then we have a tension between two opposing ideas. The assumption that one's motives should never be questioned verses the impulse to evaluate the other party's motives rather than their evidence. Both extremes hinder progress. The truth is in the middle ground as it so often is. Again, I don't want to make it about their motives, I'd rather discuss the evidence, it is only when they will not engage on it that the reasonable thing to do is try and figure out why. And since that seems to be a no-no in their neck of the woods, it left me no further recourse on that forum.

The bottom line is that they do not come close to living up to the lofty ideals that the profess. They have rules on their forum which run counter to a scriptural view of humanity, never mind whether we evolved or not. They functionally don't agree with who scripture says we are now! They are incredibly uncompromising, which just makes their rhetoric about dialogue more irritating and hypocritical.

They may or may not improve. Certainly, they won't with if they take the view that only others need improvement! I am streamlining my life by getting out of as many internet echo-chambers as possible, even if by some chance they agree with me. If there is no dialogue, my time is much better spent elsewhere.
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Saturday, May 9, 2020

The Transmission of the Account of Adam

An important part of the Christ-Centered model for Early Genesis is a modified version of the Tablet Theory for the origin of these early accounts. That is, Moses edited the first chapters from a series of tablets he inherited from his ancestors. Thus, the discovery of other Ancient Near East (ANE) stories which pre-date Moses doesn't mean that the Israelites borrowed and adapted those stories from other cultures later. Instead, their ancestors came from the same region and retained their own independent accounts of what happened.

One question raised by this theory is whether the earliest accounts had a long oral transmission period. Since in the Christ-centered model Adam is a figure of Christ (Rom. 5:14) and not the sole male progenitor of the human race, Adam doesn't have to be extremely far back in time. There were already humans around when Adam was formed and placed in the garden. Still, Adam came along at least 6,000 years ago, and 12,000 might be closer to the mark when you consider that Ussherian Dating methods will give only minimum dates which are almost certainly too young. This raises questions about how the accounts could have been transmitted long before the known invention of writing able to carry a narrative of such detail and complexity. I am going to ultimately answer this question with a "Deus ex Machina you can believe in" (if you are a believer) because it is already a part of the text. It is something that people have missed on this question even though it is "hidden in plain sight." Skip to the end if you don't care to wade through my exploration of the issue.

This question applies in particular to the first two accounts in Genesis, that of the "Heavens and the Earth" and "Adam". Those are the accounts which would seem to be too old for written transmission. For the genealogy in chapter five (see this for commentary on number pattern) you would need only the name of the ancestor, the number of years until they started having sons, and the number of years they lived afterward. This is the sort of thing which could be committed to memory, but would also not require a full system of writing in order to record. People have recorded the amount of time which has gone by and how long their ancestors lived even without a complete written language. The account of Noah would be close enough in time to the known emergence of writing so as not to be an issue, though I place the flood somewhat earlier than the traditional dates.

The first account, basically chapter one and the first few verses of chapter two, is a candidate for a long oral transmission period. Not only is it short, and could possibly be sung, but there are stories with similar elements even in distant cultures which had no known contact with any ANE civilization. It may be that the account in chapter one pre-dates Adam!

Nevertheless, the account of Adam in chapters two through four isn't a good candidate for oral transmission. It is much longer, with many specific facts and great complexity. Therefore, most people consider that for the tablet theory to make sense, there would have to have been some sort of written language able to communicate narratives available to Adam or his near descendants. I am not one of those people if Adam was indeed formed a mere six thousand years ago for the folowing reason: If we are to take seriously the idea that the descendants of Adam had exceptional lifespans as stated in the text then oral transmission over two thousand years becomes a more reasonable proposition because it represents only three to five generations. 

The end of the account in chapter four hints that it was compiled after the third generation after Adam for the line of Seth, but after the the seventh generation after the line of Cain. Of course Cain was older than Seth and that could explain one additional generation. The rest of the difference could be a result of disparity in life-spans between the line of Seth which stayed in the presence of the LORD until the flood, and that of Cain which was exiled from His presence. After the flood, the LORD wasn't regularly present with any group. This is when, according to the text, lifespans in the rest of the line of Adam dropped precipitously.  

If Adam was formed 6,000 years ago and the account was compiled near the end of or just after the life of Enosh, then it was written roughly 4000-4,500 years ago. Narrative writing was unquestionably available at that time. We may consider 1,500 to 2,000 years a very long time for oral transmission to occur, but given the exceptional lifespans, this was simply a case of writing down a story you heard from your grandfather!

Yet as I mentioned earlier, there is reason to believe that the Ussherian date for Adam is a minimum date, and the life of Adam was much further back in time, perhaps even as much as twice as far back as his calculations showed. Thus Adam could have been formed as long as twelve thousand years ago. This would mean that the original accounts were compiled as long as 10,000 years ago - 8,000 B.C. A date of 6,000 B.C. may be a good median within the range of possible dates. These dates are well before any writing capable of producing such a narrative was available, so far as we know.

On the other hand, humans have been making symbols to communicate things for a long time. It turns out that the same thirty-two symbols were used in caves across Europe for almost 30,000 years. 

This wasn't a true written language. It may have been more like a code, like the Hobo Code from the American Depression. The La Paseiga Inscription looks like an early (Ice Age) effort to string a series of symbols together into a larger meaning, but doesn't rise to the level of a true written language either. The point is that there was widespread use of symbols to communicate things for a very long time. It isn't inconceivable that one group took that principle further prior to the known development of writing.

The mainstream view is that true writing did not emerge until around 3200 B.C. in the Sumerian city of Uruk. Before that, there were just symbols for numbers and goods to be sold, so any writing from before this time could not tell a narrative. Contesting this are finds like the Dispilio Tablet and other evidence for something called "Vinca" or "Old European Script" from around 5000 B.C. It is believed that those Europeans had contact with either people from Anatolia or the Caucus region, which would connect more ancient writing to the area in which I believe Adam's near descendants lived. Still, it is unknown whether or not "Old European Script" was a true language. The debate goes back and forth and no one can translate inscriptions from it.

The first written word whose meaning we know is from Gobekli Tepe 11,000 years ago. The symbol for "God" in  Luwian Hieroglyphics appears on a pillar there, along with those of several other words. That doesn't prove there was at that time a whole written language capable of relating a narrative though, because the symbol could have been adopted much later into a written language which doesn't show up in full bloom for many thousands of years. But it is astounding enough to think that the symbol for "God" and other words from 11,000 years ago shows up in a written language from less than 4,000 years ago. The meaning of those symbols was preserved for 7,000 years!

Despite these tantalizing hints, I can only conclude that the case has not yet been made that a written language of some kind existed 8-12 thousand years ago. But these facts also suggest that it isn't unreasonable to think that there could have been one. Yet there is another possibility which could apply to the question of transmission of these early accounts. This is the "Deus ex Machina you can believe in" that I mentioned earlier. And it has been staring us in the face all along. The text of early Genesis indicates that until chapter six, when He declared that He would not "strive with the men forever", that the LORD God routinely fellow-shipped with the line of Adam, sans those from Cain. This was what Cain was complaining about when he was being "driven from your presence" after he murdered Abel. Before the flood, it wasn't unusual for the person of God, in anthropogenic form, to walk with man. At least those men of Adam. 

 Thus the normal limitations which apply to oral transmission don't apply in this case. The story could have been transmitted from generation to generation, but there was also Someone present who lived through all of those generations who also knew the true and correct version of events. Noah didn't need to wonder if the account of Adam he had was distorted over time. The LORD God could clarify any issues, and tell it just the way that He wanted it told. 

I therefore conclude that it is irrelevant to this question whether the near descendants of Adam had a written language. The normal limitations of oral transmission don't apply until one gets to Noah and his near descendants. At that point the objection becomes moot because true written language is either present, or in the case of the most distant date for the flood in my model, soon present. 


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