Saturday, April 20, 2013

Mistakes of Moses Expanded Universe: Genesis 7


More fun with the Great Flood in this installment.

Genesis 7:1
As the narrative switches back from "Elohim" (God) to “Yahweh” (LORD), we find out that Noah is godly compared to everyone else around…again. Although in fairness, it is a different word this time (tsaddiyq in lieu of tamim). Why would Moses suddenly perfer to use a different name for God and a different word to describe Noah's character? Well, if it turns out we're dealing with two or more different authors, we would seem to have our explanation.

Here the instructions concerning how many animals to take are modified. Back in 6:19 Elohim told Noah it was to be two of every kind of living creature from all flesh. Now Yahweh tells Noah here that it’s actually seven of every clean animal and seven of every kind of bird, but only two of every unclean animal that’s not a bird. This is odd for a few reasons. First, back in 6:20 Noah was specifically told by Elohim that birds and cattle (a clean animal) will come to him “two of every kind.” Second, we were told in 6:22 that Noah did all that Elohim commanded him. Here, though, Yahweh changes that and adds, “You must take” not they “will come to you.” Later the narrative will switch back to emphasizing just two, oddly enough at the same time the writer begins referring to the deity as "Elohim". It’s almost as if there’s one source who likes referring to God as “Yahweh” who’s concerned that animals will be available for sacrifice after the flood and another source using “Elohim” to refer to God who doesn’t share those same concerns. But that can't be because Jesus and the apostles said Moses wrote the whole thing.

Something else that’s odd about this passage is that the distinction between clean and unclean animals will not be spelled out until the book of Leviticus. Noah is supposed to pre-date the establishment of the sacrificial system at Sinai, so presumably in his day there should be no distinction between clean and unclean animals or any formal sacrificial system, right? Apparently whatever covenant or dispensation Noah is under, which is assumed to be applicable to all of mankind - as the argument for things like the death penalty goes for example - there appears to be a distinction between what is ceremonially clean and unclean. One is left to conclude that some kind of sacrificial system must have been in place. At least that’s what the author of this portion seems to want us to conclude anyway.

Yahweh tells Noah “for seven days yet I will cause it to rain…” Of course, within the narrative itself this means that the forty days of rain is coming in another seven days. What’s interesting about this is that in the Atrahasis myth the flood itself lasts for seven days. Given how seemingly pointless (and contradictory) this seven-day warning is to the narrative, one can’t help but wonder if this detail is an echo of the original Babylonian source material.

Another odd thing is that it appears that now, after the instructions were apparently changed or added to in 7:2-3, Noah has a mere seven days to get his crap together and collect the additional clean animals and birds. But I guess Noah isn't really in any position to negotiate or complain if Yahweh wants to change things up a bit.

I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further.

In 6:22 we learned that Noah did all that Elohim commanded him. Here we learn that Noah did all that Yahweh commanded him as well. It sucks having two bosses, but it must really suck when you have one boss with multiple personality disorder. Or, you know, maybe this is two separate accounts that have been woven together by a later redactor.

Here we’re told that Noah was 600 years old when the flood came, making his sons 100 years old. We don’t really need to remember that Noah was 600 years old when the flood came as Moses is going to be sure to remind us of this fact a mere five verses later.

Here the text literally says “two two” male and female came into the ark of clean and unclean animals and birds. Commentators trying to get around the fact that the narrative is now back to emphasizing pairs of animals rather than seven of every clean animal and birds and two of every other kind as in verses 2 and 3 will say that what this really means now is pairs of sevens with respect to the birds and the clean animals. How do they know this? Well because the text can’t possibly contradict itself, of course.

On the heels of verses 6-8, these verses give the impression that Noah took the animals into the ark just as Elohim had command him and then seven days later the floodwaters engulfed the earth. This is exactly the way AiG understands the text (see under "Description" for day 0).

Here we’re reminded that Noah was 600 years old, but one could argue that information was repeated as a dating method so perhaps the repetition is warranted, but if that’s the case, why mention it back in verse 6? Moses can be downright forgetful sometimes. Oh, wait. That’s right, he’s a literary genius. Expositors just can’t seem to agree on how exactly this shows his genius; but trust them, it’s totally intentional.

We’re also told the watery deep burst open and the floodgates of the sky were opened. This isn’t just narrative imagery for rain either. Ancient people believed there were literally transparent gates in the sky that held back the waters above the invisible, solid dome (see Genesis 1:6-8).

Noah and his family enter the ark. Again? Didn’t they just enter the ark back in verses 9-10?

Again we have emphasis on “two two” and male and female when it comes to every animal on the ark. There is nothing about seven of clean animals and birds. This is, once again, “just as Elohim commanded him.” Elohim does not appear to share Yahweh’s concerns about having a sacrifice later.

Another problem arises when we note that the flood comes “on that very day” and not after seven days as in verses 9 and 10. The other problem with “on that very day” is that Noah and his family along with all the animals entered on the same day. Everything. Thousands of animals. On. The. Same. Day.

We’re told here that in forty days enough water was released to cover all the high mountains to more than twenty feet above them. Even if the Himalayas were smaller back then (a solution proposed by at least one creationist group), the water needed to accomplish this would be well more than double the volume of all the water on earth currently in any form. The amount of kinetic energy released during a forty day event of this magnitude would be astounding. Again, God has to miracle all of the laws of physics away to accomplish this in addition to blowing the water away into nothing.

If only the earth were a flat disk set on pillars the way people in the Ancient Near East envisioned it. That way when God blows on the water, it would just run over the side and drain back into the giant caverns that surround Sheol below the earth. Too bad it's not.

The totality of the destruction is emphasized. Those who would suggest a localized flood here have to ignore the obvious wording of passages like this. Why bother? Why not just admit it never actually happened and it’s just an "allegory" or something? Or just say that God performed all of this miraculously and wiped away all of the expected geologic evidence that such a catastrophe ever occurred.

Additionally, when it was over and God had teleported all the animals back to their proper places, sped up natural selection and mutations on those proto-species to a phenomenal rate, manipulated genetics to prevent bottlenecking, and instantaneously restored all the complex ecosystems both on land and in the ocean, he made sure not only to put into place geologic and organic structures that would strongly suggest a much older earth and arbitrarily alter decay rates among various elements, but he also made sure civilizations like the Sumerians and Egyptians would have written histories going back thousands of years prior to this event just so mankind would have to literally take his word for it that all of this stuff actually happened. Pity the silly fools with hard hearts professing to be wise that follow the conclusions of the mountains of physical evidence to the contrary that God left behind to be misinterpreted.

If one does try to just explain the whole thing away with miracles, this little story becomes easily the most miracle-laden story of all time, making Jesus rising from the dead look like a card trick. Most of the miracles would not only be pointless, but also downright deceptive on God’s part, yet that is the only way to salvage the literalism of this story. The heavens and the earth may declare the glory of God and show his handiwork, but don’t ask the heavens and the earth any questions about how old they are or what actually took place in them. On those points what the heavens declare and the earth shows apparently cannot be trusted.

Isn’t it interesting that over time, Yahweh’s miracles become less and less astounding and easily verifiable for contemporary observers? He goes from creating everything from nothing to all the Flood miracles to parting the Red Sea to fire coming down and burning up sacrifices to men surviving a furnace to the miracles attributed to Jesus in a backwater territory of the Roman Empire to protecting an apostle from a snake bite. It’s almost as though when certain events become easier for historical contemporaries to falsify, God’s ability to do miraculous, readily-verifiable things that are beyond naturalistic explanation diminishes considerably.

So now the focus is 150 days, not 40 days? Recall that in verse 17 the text says, “The flood engulfed the earth for forty days.” It’s not incredibly difficult to reconcile these two verses by simply saying that what it means is that for forty days it was actively raining and the waters were increasing and then for 150 days the waters prevailed over the earth. It’s not clear what that distinction really is, however, because in 8:3 the waters are said to have already been in recession and had gone down a bit by the end of the 150 days. Maybe, just maybe there were two accounts? Perhaps there was one that focused on 150 days and added up to a full calendar year and one that focused on a 40 day event and some editor came along and stuck them together? Nah, that's just silly. Let's just stick with the convoluted timeline.



5 comments:

  1. A massive localized flood (like the Black Sea deluge hypothesis) could make sense as being the origin story for all the later flood myths. But yeah, that's about it.

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    1. Yes. That could be the basis of the cultural memories that produced these stories. From what I've read of that event, though, it was a more gradual event (most people could've simply fled from it on foot) and it is dated much, much earlier than the internal Biblical markers would indicate for Noah's flood.

      Early civilizations formed near bodies of fresh water like the Tigris, Euphrates, Mekong, Yangtze, Indus, etc. These often flooded at intervals and sometimes quite considerably in a very short period of time in ways that probably seemed to the inhabitants like the end of the world or the judgment of a deity. I think that alone is enough to account for the existence of early flood myths among a variety of cultures.

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    2. That makes sense. I guess the image of the Black Sea roaring in like the end of the world is just more appealing to our movie-driven minds :)

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  2. Obviously Genesis (And the entire Pentateuch) is the result of multiple authors, as has been adequately proven. It appears to have culled from different sources, and *THEN* it appears to have been revised several times over the centuries, reaching its present form in the 5th or 6th century BC. The result is kind off a hash job.

    Moses is purported to be an author because the ancient Jews believe that the main character in a story wrote the story. As Moses is the primary protagonist from Exodus on, he must have been the author. They told Christians, Christians believed them. Since Job is set during Genesis, Moses often gets the credit for that one, too.

    Thing is: there's not a serious theologian or historian in the world that believes Moses wrote any of this stuff. I'm not sure if his authorship is an article of faith in any particular church, but in my Bible college they flat out told us that Moses didn't write it, and that most of it wasn't literally true.

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    1. there's not a serious theologian or historian in the world that believes Moses wrote any of this stuff. I'm not sure if his authorship is an article of faith in any particular church, but in my Bible college they flat out told us that Moses didn't write it, and that most of it wasn't literally true.

      Oh, how I wish this were true everywhere. I’m not sure where you're from Randy, but here in the United States, Mosaic authorship is vehemently defended by quite a number of prominent theologians. This defense ranges from some Catholics who claim that Moses compiled and edited the documents and carried the “spirit” of their content to the standard evangelical position that he pretty much wrote everything but his own obituary and even that is attributed to Joshua.

      Thanks to the so-called "Conservative Resurgence" that took place in the 1980s, every seminary run by the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the US, teaches Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. Virtually every major accredited evangelical seminary including Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Dallas Theological Seminary, Gordon-Conwell, etc. teaches it as well. In fact, if you look at the list of the 10 largest seminaries in North America, only one (Fuller) doesn’t. Even suggesting that Moses wasn’t the principal author of the Pentateuch will get you fired at most seminaries and bible colleges in the US.

      If I emailed the clergy of the 100 churches closest to my house and asked them who wrote the first five books of the Bible, without a doubt the vast majority would say Moses. This isn’t really surprising in a country where around half of the people believe Adam and Eve were real people and that the Bible is the actual or inspired word of God without errors. Nearly 40% believe God created the universe in six literal 24 hour days.

      I agree that no theologian and certainly no historian who believes Moses wrote any of this stuff should be taken seriously. However, there are quite a number of theologians in this country who do take it very seriously to the point where they believe denying Mosaic authorship is tantamount to calling Jesus and Paul liars and undermining the foundations of the Christian faith. I wish that were not so, but it is.

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