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Shadows of Divine Things

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Location: Texas, United States

This site is devoted to theological and philosophical investigations of the spiritual meanings of life, current events, music, spiritual growth, nature, and learning to be attuned to listening to the 'language of God.' The name of this blog comes from one of Jonathan Edwards's journals which he called 'Shadows of Divine Things,' and later renamed 'Images of Divine Things.' As a Christian I am continously on a spiritual journey to grow more into the image of Christ, to understand what it means to be crucified with Christ. To seek the truths of the Christian Faith is of upmost importance, and to know that any truths that are found outside of Christianity are present there because they ultimately point to God. I have an M.A. in theology and apologetics and I completed one year of graduate studies in Philosophy at Marquette University.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Are All The Stories (Narratives) In the Bible Historical?

While I think this is an important question, I am not sure that it is completely answerable. What I mean by this is the fact that the evidence we have, historical and otherwise (i.e. scientific, etc.) do not indicate that all accounts of the Bible are in fact historical. Does that make these accounts not historical? By no means!

However, let’s say that, for instance, the account of Noah and the flood was discovered to be simply narrative written by the Hebrews (or whomever) to illustrate a point, and thus this account was not historical. Would this shatter the basic theological beliefs of Christianity? I do not think so. So if Noah’s ark was never discovered (ok, stretch your mind here with me, I know about the silly claims by certain groups who say Noah’s Ark has been discovered, but let’s not go there), would that decrease the value of the narrative? My answer remains the same, I do not think so.

However, if one reads the Bible quite literally through and through, then it seems that reading is left with a more difficult time explaining certain “problems” within the texts themselves. For instance, if a literal reading is given to the creation account, a reading that would certainly believe that this account occurred in history (in time) exactly as it is written, how does that reading account for the first and second chapter of Genesis? This is an important question, I think, by virtue of the fact that there are serious discrepancies between the days and events on those days in the creation narrative. This leaves the 'literal reading' performing all sorts of hermeneutical gymnastics to explain why these things conflict with one another.

However, if this narrative is simply there to explain creation, why we as humans are sinners (i.e. fallen), etc. then whether the chapters have “difficulties” or discrepancies is irrelevant, since the main thrust of the texts is to communicate certain truths and not written as an “eyewitness” account for the reader to believe verbatim. Of course this is merely one example and an example that has no crucial bearing on the basic tenets of Christianity. In others words, take the creation account away, and Christianity still stands firm on its foundation.

Of course, I do think there are narratives that are truly historical since they have been demonstrated via certain evidence to be so. And of course there are narratives that are so crucial to the Christian system that to think they are simply stories to demonstrate points or metaphors, etc. would simply crush Christianity. The best example of this is the resurrection account. So what does this leave the reader with?

Is the process of determining historicity in the Biblical texts an arbitrary process? I don’t think so. But at this stage of my research I do not think I have a solid answer for determining the difference. The best I have to go on at this point in my research is this question. If the narrative that I am reading is not historical, what does that do to my Christian theology/beliefs?

2 Comments:

Blogger Steve Scott said...

I doubt anybody will ever find the ark. It would have been such a good source of firewood. It would be interesting to hear what you believe the problems in Gen 1 & 2 are. What discrepancies?

6:57 AM, November 04, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Steve,

Welcome to my blog. In answer to your question here are a few of the problems or discrepencies between Gen. 1 and 2 (off the top of my head):

First, Genesis 1 describes the animals being created prior to humans, but more specifically, Gen. 2:19 turns this around.

Second, the order of events are different between the two chapters, certain "days" certain tings were created, are not exactly the same between the two chapters.

Third, chapter one describes the notion that the earth had light prior to the creation of the sun.

Fourth, there are descriptions in Gen 1 regarding plant life being created and in Gen 2 detailing that plant life had not been created yet, etc.

Overall, the details do not match in all instances between the two chapters. I have heard many conservative fundamentalists worked "miracles" in exegeting these two passages to make them fit together. And certainly this would be the case for them since their reading of the text is quite literal, and that being the case, there can be no discrepencies at all since that would fly in the face of their literal interpretation.

A popular theory is that the creation account was a polemical account by the Hebrews (perhaps Moses) to respond to the Egyptian account of creation. The Hebrews were not the first to have a written account of creation. Hope that helps.

9:10 AM, November 05, 2006  

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