Notes - Bible in Western Literature Notes 8/26/04 Next...

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Bible in Western Literature Notes 8/26/04 Next Tuesday: Quiz on Genesis chs 1-11 Over weekend: Read genesis, and begin Paradise Lost. Sometimes reading aloud helps understand it. What characteristics with the verisimilitude of Truth? There are two things we seek to do to verify truth: 1. To eliminate as much ambiguity as possible. Clarity has a truthful quality to it, whereas ambiguity makes us feel uncertain. 2. Consistency As opposed to ambiguity and contradiction. Wish to construct single story as clear and consistent rendition of what occurred as possible. Is this truly the western idea of how we get at the Truth? This was not the same way in the ancient near East, the culture in which the Bible emerged, neither of these would be the primary criteria of which to determine the truth of something. Genesis 1:2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. What images does that conjure? Hebrew: Tohu Bohu Means wet (God was moving over the face of the waters) and deep. Big watery deep that has a face, or a surface. But if it has a surface, whats above the surface? God is moving above it… What is the source of the light that God created? Raqia (dome): Something made, pounded thin. Overall picture of what’s going on is very fuzzy. Very ambiguous. Key: Whoever wrote this Bible does not think that this is ambiguous. There is no sense of defensiveness about it. Unashamed. Tone is very laconic. Genesis 2 Seems like a repeat of Genesis 1. Also different from Genesis 1, done opposite way. No vegetation, no water (except misty). First thing God does is create humanity. Could read chapters as contradictory. But no sense of defensiveness, no desire to explain necessity of retelling story in different terms. Even the styles are different. Clarity and consistency are not higher priorities. But what is important to them? Text is highly rhetorical. Playing with words in artful fashion. In love with language. Play with words and the sounds of words. Creation stories in ancient near east usually have long convoluted verse phrase. Imitative of an old style of writing. Both texts are also highly contrived—there are many things in groups of seven. Consider the dilemma of someone assigned to write Genesis. We want an account of how everything began, from the view of the Israelites. It’s not the time of empirical science, so go ask elders what happened. Oral tradition. Seek what people have said. One thing that 1
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distinguishes ancient Near East from modern thought is that we celebrate initiative, innovation, and originality. These, to us, are hallmarks of genius. In the ancient world this is not true. We are of a society that always looks ahead; they are of a society that tends to look backwards. Seek authority from what is old, not what is new. There could be multiple stories of the same thing. Both stories are old, and both stories are SACRED. The most important criterion for seeking truth is SACREDNESS. If it is sacred,
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Notes - Bible in Western Literature Notes 8/26/04 Next...

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