Monthly Archives: May 2010

All said and done…

The aftermath of the office, complete with half-empty chip bags, and piles of books. Left for school at 4:55pm to turn in my last paper of the year. Very glad to be done for a while. Hebrew starts Wednesday this coming week; it will be a welcome change from the heavy mental work this last semester.

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Research Paper

I have recently developed a new method of studying. It involves using an X-acto knife to cut a plain block of post-its into bookmark size slivers that you can still write on. I normally underline the life out of every page I read, but that’s not a possibility when I am using library books. I have always envied the crisp post-it bookmark dispensers people use, but I decided to go original and make them myself.

So far so good. I am writing the paper tonight, we’ll see how it pays off on the backend trying to find the quotes I want.

We always said that English and Anthropology Departments were to blame….

From the New York Times:

We love stories as much as we need them, but a funny thing has happened to departments of literature. The study of literature as an art form, of its techniques for delighting and instructing, has been replaced by an amalgam of bad epistemology and worse prose that goes by many names but can be summed up as Theory. The situation seems to call for a story, and one written in the style of Jorge Luis Borges, the grand chronicler of the tragicomic struggle between humans and logic.

Theory, Literature, Hoax

Finished Paper On Genesis

Here are two excerpts from the most recent paper I worked on. They are my conclusions on two items: comparing the genre of Genesis with Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) Myths and trying to understand the function of genre for carrying out the theological themes Moses wants to communicate to the Exodus Community of Israelites (EXCI).

This is a straight copy and paste from my paper, so please excuse the lack of good writing introducing each excerpt.moses_writing_in_eden_420.jpg
When treated faithfully, Genesis as a whole exhibits itself to be historical narrative1. This genre “seeks to render a realistic picture of the world”2. For this reason, Cassuto notes Moses’ use of prose, which, “employs as a rule simple, not figurative, language, and weighs every word scrupulously”3. It is this mature dismantling of contemporary myths that leads Cassuto to say that Moses’ “language, … is tranquil, undisturbed by polemic or dispute” while yet “[setting] the opposing views at nought by silence or by subtle hint.”4 Only this sort of writing would fit the Hebrew understanding of Yahweh, as Lioy mentions, “the Hebrews deemed the creation of the universe to be a work of Yahweh ‘in history, a work within time.’ Correspondingly, ‘if the account of Creation stands within, time, it has once for all ceased to be a myth, a timeless revelation taking place in the natural cycle’”5. Indeed, Moses intended the EXCI to read the narrative of creation as a version of the event itself.6 The Genesis account is presented as “direct history with no evidence of myth”7, and thus is deserving of the full confidence of the EXCI. The overt temporal structuring of the Days, as well as the development within each of the Days (“and there was light … and it was so” 1:3, 9 etc.) gives the sense of an eye-witness account8. Moses presents his account of Yahweh creating the world as utterly trustworthy. The God who redeemed Israel out of slavery was not just a peculiarly powerful god, he is the Sovereign Creator of all that exists9. Only this sort of story could serve as the foundation for the faith of a community of ex-slaves wandering through the desert on their way to conquer a whole territory. If this God can’t act in history, what use is he when in the face of the giants of Canann, they “seemed to [themselves] like grasshoppers” (Num 13:33)? While it is clear that this genre serves as a historical certainty, its theological use still needs to be demonstrated.


************

Contrasting man’s duty before and after the rebellion in chapter 3 is instructive, both to further illuminate the contrast between Moses’ accounts with the ANE creation accounts, as well as further describe the nature of Israel’s calling. Much of what the ANE myths portray as the original nature of man’s life on earth is what Moses presents as life under the curse outside of the garden; they are missing the most important part. Indeed, as Wenham notes, “[m]ost important for an understanding of Genesis are the opening chapters, particularly chapters 1-2, which describe the world as it was first created, before humankind disobeyed: it thus serves as a vision of God’s ideals for the human race”11, and therefore, I would add, as the telos as well. Both the EXCI and the whole world are still responsible to fulfill their duty of extending the rule of God. If they are to do this well they must continue in their loyalty to God, especially as that loyalty relates to their independence and knowledge12.


It is important to note that the ultimate crux on which the whole story turns is the issue of loyalty to God, and God’s activity. God’s covenantal interaction with humanity is the central force driving the story before and after the fall. God’s commitment to his people forms the boundaries of human existence, and thus shapes the way the story unfolds. God’s gifts to man are the means of man’s rebellion. Yet, those same gifts are used by God’s fatherly discipline as he turns them into frustration. Since this is the central theological plan, it becomes clear that while Moses is committed to accurately portraying the historical events of Genesis 1-4, he nonetheless subordinates the choice of what events to include to his pastoral agenda. That is, Moses is not simply an historian, concerned with detailing the events. He is not less than historical in his account, but he is more than that; he is pastoral. As Lioy points out, “[h]e did not spell out with scientific precision the process by which the cosmos came into existence, but rather crafted an ‘artistic synthesis of history’ to spot light the divine Agent behind the process”
13. Moses chose to include certain events, in a certain order, so that the full theological significance of those events might be clearly understood by the EXCI. One clear example of this is found in the genealogy of chapter 5 in which each person mentioned “had other sons and daughters” (5:4, 7, 10, etc.). As well, we are not told what sort of work Adam first set about to doing in the garden. We are not told how the Adam and Eve prepared meals, nor any of the other ocean of details which fill everyday life. Rather, Moses “chose incidents that effectively recounted what occurred as well as conveyed the ‘meaning and significance of what happened’”14. Every event, and every detail mediated to the reader through the text is essential for Moses’ pastoral aim.

1J. Sailhamer, Pentateuch as Narrative (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992), 12.

2J. Sailhamer, 13.

3U. Cassuto, 11.

4U. Cassuto, 7. He makes an odd comment that the creation is not polemical. While he is right about its tone, he overlooks too much of the context in which the EXCI would read Genesis.

5D. Lioy, 29, quoting G. Von Rad Genesis: A Commentary (trans. John H. Marks, London: SCM Press, 1961)

6J. Sailhamer, 13.

7D. Lioy, 7.

8D. Lioy, 32.

9G. J. Wenham, Story as Torah (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2000), 25.

11G. J. Wenham, 3.

12There is a wealth of literary contrast in chapters 2-4 that is well worth investigating. The climax of chapter 3 is the eating of the fruit; an act which demonstrates moral autonomy.

13D. Lioy, 31.

14D. Lioy, 32.

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Enter intellectual Dimensia

Too many hours reading on a screen, typing . . . it turns out that academic work is a bit taxing

The floods have moved on

And they took most of the driveway with them. My wife posted an update on the flood here, at our family blog. There are some good pictures of the water, the destruction, and my adorable little boy playing in the water.

Thematic Contrast Before and After the Fall

From a paper on the function of genre in Genesis. This table is instructive in seeing the way Moses renders the effects of sin and the curse.

Pre-Fall Post-Fall
Food
  • Creation prepared for man
  • Eden situated in good location
  • Food for enjoyment (sabbath rest)
  • Difficult to produce
  • Famine
  • Abundant (or at least enough) for the Patriarchs
  • No longer in the garden
Dominion
  • Given by God, → Subject to God and his direction/purpose
  • Over all Creation, not in enmity with creatures (or woman)
  • Cultivation of world → Man’s authority for how garden looks, aesthetic freedom (Music Art)
  • Curse:
    • enmity between seeds of woman and serpent, humans prevail
    • pain in childbirth
    • thorns and thistles, earth frustrates cultivation
  • Kenites:
    • oppression
    • murder and vengeance
    • music and poetry are vehicles for death
  • Wandering
  • Flood: Licentiousness, mocking of obedience
  • Babel: imperialism, pride, anti-diversity
  • Pharaoh
Relationship
  • Matching Helper, man unable to fulfill calling on his own
    • one wife
    • cherished
    • intimacy
    • monogamy is more important than multiplication
  • Shares dominion with man
  • Plurality needed to reflect God
  • Equal with man
  • Subject to man’s leadership as subjection to God’s design
  • Wife is in conflict with husband or manipulates husband (rejection of leadership):
    • Adam/Eve
    • Abraham/Sarah
    • Isaac/Rebekah
    • Jacob/Leah/Rachel
  • Women become possession: Lamech, Abraham with Hagar, etc.
  • Man domineers over woman (rape):
    • Sodom, Dinah, Tamar
  • Naked Intimacy spills out inappropriately:
    • Adam (realizes shame, makes covering),
    • Noah (drunk past shame and uncovers),
    • Lot (same as Noah)
  • Plurality of humanity reflects rebellious perversion, not God’s image

All that is good before the fall has been either turned into an item of frustration (food, marriage) or has been perverted for some form of sinful tyranny (Lamech uses instruments to sing to his wives of his murderous vengence). Yet none of the good gifts are withdrawn, but are globally committed to in the covenant with Noah.

Much of this is from Gordon J. Wenham’s helpful little book Story as Torah (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2000).

The floods lift up their roaring!

My wife and family are doing well amidst the flooding in Nashville. Many, many are not, especially the poor. Many in the area are desperately poor and have no resource to help themselves; please pray for these people especially.

Psalm 93:

1The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty;

the LORD is robed; he has put on strength as his belt.
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
2 Your throne is established from of old;

you are from everlasting.

3The floods have lifted up, O LORD,
the floods have lifted up their voice;

the floods lift up their roaring.
4Mightier than the thunders of many waters,

mightier than the waves of the sea,
the LORD on high is mighty!

5Your decrees are very trustworthy;

holiness befits your house,
O LORD, forevermore.

Pray for my Family

My wife and son went down to visit her family in the countryside outside of Nashville this weekend. Since being there, the rains have not stopped, and she and her family are stuck in the house due to major floods covering the valley and road. Everyone is fine, and they have all dealt with it before. The waters are still about 20′ below the house, and it shouldn’t be too bad (they still have power and food). But, of course anxiety is high for her and her family (and for me being separated from them).

Your prayers are appreciated.