Genesis exegesis

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Genesis exegesis

Postby George Jelliss » Tue Feb 06, 2007 6:13 pm

In the Flat-earth topic in the Free for All section:

Timothy Chase wrote:There is a great deal of the use of paradox, particularly in the first three chapters of Genesis, so much that at times I get the impression it is meant to confuse as much as illuminate - or perhaps prod one to think. However, I also get the strong impression that it really isn't about evolution, cosmology or even creation - at least not in the sense of a creation myth. I suspect it is speaks of the human condition, and to do so, it speaks in terms that make sense to one in any age - even as they sow the seeds of confusion.


The truth is that Genesis is a badly edited combination of a number of earlier texts, hence the contradictions and paradoxes.

Even the first line betrays this. The word "Elohim" is a plural, thus revealing that the original authors were polytheists. Later monotheistic commentators of course maintain that this is a special type of plural, used to "magnify" the deity somehow. But they would say that wouldn't they. They can't just alter the original spelling of course because it's sacred text, and that would be sacrilege.

As to it "speaking to the human condition". Surely anyone can see that it is patriarchal propaganda designed to put women in their place. Eve (at least in one version) is created from Adam's rib, so is a secondary creation. It is Eve who is persuaded by the serpent to tempt Adam with the fruit of the tree of knowledge. And so on.

Anyone who believes this "speaks to the human condition" in the present age is way out of touch. Much of it is barbarous, tribal myth.
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Postby Timothy Chase » Tue Feb 06, 2007 6:49 pm

As with anything which is written by another author, you always have to ask the question of how much was accidental and how much was deliberate. In any case, this was no doubt part of an oral or several. More likely the latter, but they were brought together and left together for a reason by priests.

As I wrote elsewhere,

"I believe that the two creation stories of Genesis are meant to be together - they were kept together for a purpose despite their inconsistencies. It is an initiation rite of sorts, presenting a simplified metaphysics and worldview meant to illustrate man's relationship to God, the fact that there is a normativity greater than personal desire which is the foundation for ethics, but which is also the foundation for an epistemological approach of sorts.

"It is meant to bind a community together, not simply in terms of their ability to work together at a practical level, but to learn from each other. Part of the beauty of it is its dream-like quality - it is jarring in its overall incoherence, but I believe this is deliberate - as it is intended to induce a state of confusion - which is also meant to bind a community together. At the same time, this confusion is meant to "throw" the reader out of any naive, literalistic interpretation - which is the essential mechanism of initiation."

But let me take this a step further: by introducing the reader to confusion, the myths seek to introduce the reader to doubt. By introducing the reader to doubt, it seeks to introduce the reader to the need to admit one's mistakes. By admitting one's mistakes, one achieves redemption.

If this is deliberate, as I believe it is, then it is providing the reader with the proper cognitive stance in relation to the world, for this is the fountainhead of rationality.

*

Now I do not mean to argue for religion in general or for Christianity in particular: I am quite open about the fact that I am a pantheistic neo-Aristotelean. But I do believe it contains timeless truths, and the insights which it contains are right. Moreover, they are the antithesis of fundamentalism.
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Postby Timothy Chase » Tue Feb 06, 2007 6:52 pm

PS

However, I must admit that this is my interpretation, and as with all interpretations, there is always the question of how much is actually in the text and how much is a projection of the interpretters own views, whether they are for or against the interpretation which they "impose" upon the text.
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Postby Derek Potter » Tue Feb 06, 2007 7:37 pm

Timothy Chase wrote:As I wrote elsewhere,
"It is meant to bind a community together, not simply in terms of their ability to work together at a practical level, but to learn from each other. Part of the beauty of it is its dream-like quality - it is jarring in its overall incoherence, but I believe this is deliberate - as it is intended to induce a state of confusion...

That would be Zenesis then. But no matter: where Genesis failed to confuse me, Tim, you have succeeded :)
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Postby Timothy Chase » Tue Feb 06, 2007 8:04 pm

derekpotter wrote:That would be Zenesis then. But no matter: where Genesis failed to confuse me, Tim, you have succeeded :)


Yep.

The dialectics of Aristotle, the dialogue of Plato and the complementarity of Zen - all rolled into one. At least from what I can see. But I suspect that even then, it is meant to leave one unsettled.

It leaves me uneasy.

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Postby George Jelliss » Sat Feb 10, 2007 10:44 pm

Timothy Chase wrote:As with anything which is written by another author, you always have to ask the question of how much was accidental and how much was deliberate. In any case, this was no doubt part of an oral or several. More likely the latter, but they were brought together and left together for a reason by priests.

As I wrote elsewhere,

"I believe that the two creation stories of Genesis are meant to be together - they were kept together for a purpose despite their inconsistencies. It is an initiation rite of sorts, presenting a simplified metaphysics and worldview meant to illustrate man's relationship to God, the fact that there is a normativity greater than personal desire which is the foundation for ethics, but which is also the foundation for an epistemological approach of sorts.

"It is meant to bind a community together, not simply in terms of their ability to work together at a practical level, but to learn from each other. Part of the beauty of it is its dream-like quality - it is jarring in its overall incoherence, but I believe this is deliberate - as it is intended to induce a state of confusion - which is also meant to bind a community together. At the same time, this confusion is meant to "throw" the reader out of any naive, literalistic interpretation - which is the essential mechanism of initiation."

But let me take this a step further: by introducing the reader to confusion, the myths seek to introduce the reader to doubt. By introducing the reader to doubt, it seeks to introduce the reader to the need to admit one's mistakes. By admitting one's mistakes, one achieves redemption.

If this is deliberate, as I believe it is, then it is providing the reader with the proper cognitive stance in relation to the world, for this is the fountainhead of rationality.

*

Now I do not mean to argue for religion in general or for Christianity in particular: I am quite open about the fact that I am a pantheistic neo-Aristotelean. But I do believe it contains timeless truths, and the insights which it contains are right. Moreover, they are the antithesis of fundamentalism.


I've delayed responding to this, thinking that if I read it several times it would make more sense, but I'm afraid it doesn't. It seems to me that this is just wish-fulfillment on your part. You want it to be a deliberate and purposeful and beautiful and poetic incoherence put together by priest-philosopher-guru-poets. But there is a much simpler and probable explanation: that in fact it is just a committee compiled muddle put together from fragments by ignorant scribes.
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Postby Derek Potter » Sat Feb 10, 2007 11:16 pm

George Jelliss wrote:I've delayed responding to this, thinking that if I read it several times it would make more sense, but I'm afraid it doesn't. It seems to me that this is just wish-fulfillment on your part. You want it to be a deliberate and purposeful and beautiful and poetic incoherence put together by priest-philosopher-guru-poets. But there is a much simpler and probable explanation: that in fact it is just a committee compiled muddle put together from fragments by ignorant scribes.

It occurs to me that it would be a fine irony if they thought "Well, we've got rid of those stinking pagan demons but God knows how we're going to arrange all His creation odds and sods. Oh bukkit, leave it to our descendants, they'll be smart enough to sort it out."

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Postby Timothy Chase » Sun Feb 11, 2007 4:49 am

George Jelliss wrote:I've delayed responding to this, thinking that if I read it several times it would make more sense, but I'm afraid it doesn't. It seems to me that this is just wish-fulfillment on your part. You want it to be a deliberate and purposeful and beautiful and poetic incoherence put together by priest-philosopher-guru-poets. But there is a much simpler and probable explanation: that in fact it is just a committee compiled muddle put together from fragments by ignorant scribes.


Not a problem.

As I said, its my interpretation - and I may very well be projecting - just as you believe I am. Sometimes people have to agree to disagree. But that doesn't mean that they stop talking, or for that matter that they can't learn from one-another, recognise one-another's insights - at least when they can see them. In my view, that is almost as important as anything that I was thinking about above, right or wrong. But sometimes it helps just to be able to know when to set aside a given topic, at least for the time being.
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