The MB Herald vs. the book of Genesis – Round 5

Well, this is the last installment of my series.  I’ve looked at the articles by Janzen, Cooper, Hiebert and Gobbett and now I’m going to look at the article by Paul Teel entitled Vision Correction.  As per the last several articles, I’m going to put the content from Teel in regular font and my comments & interactions in italics.  As NOT per the previous articles, I will most likely not interact with comments since I currently have insufficient time to properly engage in reasonable discussion with inquisitors and agitators.  Feel free to go back and forth in the comments, but please know that I may likely not interact myself.

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Teel opens up “Often, while we are busy shouting at them in the language of science, the early chapters of Genesis patiently whisper to us in the language of worldview and theology”

–          I honestly felt like Teel opened up the article by cutting straight to the second paragraph.  I don’t really understand how the early chapters of Genesis “often…patiently whisper to us in the language of worldview and theology.”  So was Teel saying that the early chapters of Genesis sometimes do not patiently whisper in the language of worldview and theology?  Do they sometimes shout back in the language of science? If so, when?

Teel’s article, like Hiebert’s article, pulls out the ‘Ancient Near Eastern culture is the key’ idea, suggesting that “we need to examine the setting and characters from the perspective of an ANE culture and worldview.

–          Okay.  Understanding history is part of understanding historic documents.  I know where he’s going, but as of right here we’re exchanging high fives.

Teel comments on how “We 21st-century readers tend to picture the Garden of Eden as a tropical paradise” and speculate on its location since we know about two of the four mentioned rivers.

–          We?  I don’t speculate on it beyond what the Bible says about it.  I have no idea where it was since the global flood obliterated the rivers that were there before and possibly rearranged the land masses at a continental level.  I’d suggest that there’s absolutely no possibility of ever returning to Eden or even finding its remains…ever.  The fact that there are two rivers now that share the names of preceding rivers that no longer exist has little relevance to actually locating Eden.  There’s a city called Berlin in North Dakota.  So what?

Teel suggests that “any ANE listener/reader would have understood the Garden of Eden to be a temple garden.  The clues we miss would have been obvious to them.”

–          Warning lights blinking like crazy.  How is he so utterly confident that he knows what would have been “obvious” to readers of 3,000+ years ago?

What are his reasons for this clear and obvious temple garden?  The fact that “many ANE temples were built on natural springs or streams” and “All ANE temples had gardens attached to them”, and “we were told at the end of chapter 1 that God is resting.  Teel asks “where else would God rest but in a temple?”

–          Wait a minute.  Most temples had gardens so this garden is obviously a temple?  Does anyone else see how absurd that logic is?  If all temples have gardens does it logically mean that all gardens have temples?  Yeah…no.  Teel rings the gong with this “obvious” argument; it’s an obvious fail.

After talking about the temple garden idea, Teel moves on to comment on the characters of Genesis.  Teel comments that there are “only two characters other than God”, and “the writer really wants us to know what they’re made out of”.  He writes “Again, we 21st – century readers tend to get it wrong, thinking that the purpose is to describe our physical makeup.  But in the ANE worldview, things were made distinct by what they did rather than by their molecules.”  He comments that Genesis speaks more of relationship than function.

–          What 21st century readers is he talking about?  I don’t think Genesis exists to tell me that my body is made up of dust instead of water.  Nobody I take serious thinks that either.  He’s right on the distinction of action as opposed to substance, but the issue of substance are important for numerous other reasons (i.e connection to the earth), and the mode of manufacture is also important (i.e. God formed Adam and Eve out of previous substances, not via divine speech).

Teel continues to explore his idea in looking at the creation of woman.  He strangely comments that “along with the man, the woman is made out of dust”.  Interestingly, Teel concludes that “this tells us that the human relationship to God is not through physical ingredients: there is no blurring the boundary between God and humanity”.

–          Except for the “women is made out of dust” comment, it’s possibly true, but completely arbitrary.  There’s around 2 dozen other conclusions that people have drawn from the fact that Adam was formed out of dust.  Teel simply speaks ex cathedra on the issue and assumptions aren’t arguments.

Teel then makes a comment about the creation of Adam and Eve, suggesting that “this also tells us that humanity has a relationship with death”, citing Genesis 3:19.

–          Decoder Ring Cheat!  Teel reads Genesis 3 back into Genesis 2 in total violence to the context.  Adam did, in no way, have a relationship with death in Genesis 2.  Adam’s relation to death comes in Genesis 3, and the fact that Adam was made from dust in Genesis 2 in no way indicates a relationship with (as yet nonexistent) death.

Teel makes another point about how “although ultimately made of dust, the woman is also made of ‘rib’”, and rightly suggests that the proper translation would be “side”.  He rightly comments on how in the ANE world the idea of “side” is telling.  He states that “if the woman were made out of a man’s head, it would indicate she is his master; if out of his feet, she’d be his servant”.  He comments that Adam and Eve were companions “facing the world side-by-side”.

–          Yeah.  I believe that last thought is from Matthew Henry.  I’d suggest that the fact that the woman was made out of the man’s side is suggestive of more that Teel says, but I’m sure he’d agree with me.  He only had a page for his article, so I’ll cut him plenty of slack for not being comprehensive.  Good observations on the whole.

Teel takes these two observations on Adam and Eve as well as the “garden = temple” idea, and then makes the claim that “we can see that Genesis 2 is playing to the assumptions of the ANE world.”  He goes on to point out that the differences between Genesis 2, we see important distinctions.  He comments that other ANE texts do not explain the appearance of humanity and frequently portray humanity as a slave class, but Genesis shows humanity being served by God.  He comments that this adds dignity to humanity.  Teel also comments that other ANE texts portray “humans as springing up like weeds” while “early Genesis portrays humans as descending from a human pair (like family)”, thus again adding dignity to humanity.  He comments that while other ANE texts portray the creation of woman, Genesis “explicitly portrays the creation of woman as the completion of creation, and proclaims the deep side-by-side-ness of men and women”, which dignifies women.  He notes how early ANE texts portray class distinctions but Genesis does not, thus dignifying the underprivileged.  He then closes his article by saying that components of Mary’s song in Luke 1:51-52 are already present in Genesis.

–          And I agree with all of this, but in the context of Genesis being a historic narrative piece of literature.  I can and do believe that modern evolutionary theory is utterly impossible tale of pure sin-goggle fantasy.  I also embrace the historicity of Genesis and have no problem believing that Yahweh created the Heavens and Earth anywhere from 6-20,000 years ago.  I still see the dignity of humanity, women and the underprivileged in Genesis 2.  I also don’t have to consciously ignore what Genesis says about the spontaneous appearance of life on earth, or about the length of time the creation week took, or about the incontrovertible fact that all humankind originated from a single human couple.  I’m free to joyfully embrace a thoroughly biblical worldview and still see dignity for men, woman and the poor in Genesis 2.  I have absolutely no problem with employing the scientific method in studying the universe and I am given cause to worship God by all of the findings of observations made of the universe that employ the scientific method.

So, in the end, Teel’s article basically says something like “Genesis isn’t empirically accurate whatsoever because it speaks in ANE language”.  Teel makes one unfounded assumption (garden = temple) and makes several observations that basically don’t even touch the origins debate or the relevant issues at hand.  I agree with most of what he says in the article, and because of that I have a bit of trouble wondering how Teel thought that the article would stimulate thought or promote the agenda that was so clearly present in the other articles (i.e. a non-historical narrative reading of Genesis).  Teel states a bunch of exegetically bland points that everyone from Robert Thomas to Robert Price would agree with and then closes off.  I found the article to be a nice piece of room-temperature rhetoric that contributed almost nothing of substance to the origins debate.

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “The Armchair Theologian” Unger

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