Sort of imitating Rachel Held Evans here, but for good reason. Of course, I really want to talk about hockey – we are so proud of our women, as well as our men! And my sister just saw K. D. Lang yesterday, reminding me of her rendition of Hallelujah. Here is Cohen on Hallelujah. I remember k.d. lang from the days when she wore skirts and boots and a cowboy hat, sang country and danced to the fiddle. (Okay, I can’t find any more youtube sites without some awful advertising so that’s enough.)
The second post was about the quiet feminism of Bernice Gerard, who was recognized by the Vancouver Sun as the most influential spiritual leader in British Columbia of the last century. I used to love watching her TV programme as she was such a calm and matter of fact preacher, such a gentle and no nonsense person. She was a Vancouver city counsellor, pastor and preacher, anti-abortion, anti-pornography, and anti nudity on Wreck Beach. She lost those fights but she happily commented that she was content to have her say even if she didn’t win. She was no sourpuss. She was a foster child in an abusive household and was rescued, educated, became a teacher and travelling preacher.
There is an exhibition of Gustave Doré in the Musée d’Orsay this winter, and then it moves on to Ottawa, Canada (yes, the capital city that many Harvard students can’t name) this summer. I am very excited about this exhibition, but also have the opportunity soon to view some original prints in a bound edition from 1880 that a friend inherited from his great grandfather.
Gustave Doré (1832-1883): Master of Imagination
From June 13 to September 14, 2014
Organized in collaboration with the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, Gustave Doré (1832-1883): Master of Imagination is the first comprehensive retrospective devoted to this major artist. It will include prints, drawings, paintings, and sculptures. A hundred works, ranging from spectacular panoramas to intimate studies on paper, will be brought together to illustrate Doré’s great artistic diversity. NGC chief curator Paul Lang worked with Edouard Papet, chief curator at the Musée d’Orsay, and Philippe Kaenel, professor of art history at the University of Lausanne and an expert on Doré.
Today, Gustave Doré is probably better known as an illustrator; his notable works include Perrault’s fairy tales, La Fontaine’s Fables, Dante’s epic poems, and his incredibly successful edition of the Bible. He worked mostly at the more intimate scale of the book, but he also created paintings and sculptures of monumental proportions.
Doré also revived history painting in order to bear witness to the disasters of the Franco-Prussian War from 1870-71 and the consequent loss of his native Alsace. An incisive caricaturist, Doré contributed to the birth of the comic strip and the graphic novel.
Visitors will be surprised by how familiar they are with Doré’s works. His influence on film and photography is a testament to this. For example, the Victorian London in Oliver Twist by Roman Polanski pays tribute to his illustrated book London, A Pilgrimage.
Joseph Novak has put up a “Minimum Bible” site with minimalist graphic posters illustrating the books of the Protestant Bible. Here are three examples:
I was a little taken aback recently when I followed link to a post about five women of the early Christian church that we ought to be familiar with. One of the women was Katherine of Alexandria. I looked her up, wondering why I had never heard of her before. She was supposed to have lived in the 4th century and the first written record of her life appeared several centuries later. So her history is based on oral tradition. There is no other evidence for her existence.
Why are we suddenly hearing about her now? It turns out that the movie Katherine of Alexandria, to be released later this year, was the last movie that Peter O’Toole acted in before dying on Dec. 14, 2013. This makes it historic, in one sense at least. Here is the official website. I scanned the website but could not find any admission that this history of Katherine of Alexandria is only a story, a legend.
What are we to do when people get enthusiastically taken up with stories like this which seem to prove that women did great and noble things in the early church? We can certainly recognize those for whom there are records, and often given less recognition that they are due – women like Paula, who worked with Jerome on the Latin translation of the Bible. But what do we do with the ones who are clearly fictitious?
This applies not only to early Christian martyrs but also to Judith, Esther and other biblical women. The books of Judith and Esther are both classified by scholars as “novels.” The book of Esther is part of the Hebrew canon, while the book of Judith is not. The most obvious reason is that Judith was written later than Esther, when the Hebrew canon was more or less formed. Even though there now exists no Hebrew copy of the book of Judith, all scholars agree that it was written in Hebrew. However, the Hebrew copy of the text was not preserved, while the Greek translation was preserved in the Septuagint. Therefore, the Greek and Roman church, but not Jews and Protestants, consider Judith as part of the canon, and her heroic acts are celebrated along with Esther’s. Jews, do, however, consider Judith an important Jewish hero. Evangelical Christian women tend to say “Judith who?”
Those who search out the Bible record and history to validate the participation of women in society as agents do well to recognize that many of these women may not have existed, or may not have lived the lives attributed to them. However, the same is true about many stories of male heroes.
In spite of this caution, one can derive from these stories which qualities were attributed to women with approval or disapproval. There are other intriguing details as well. For example, Esther was an orphan, and Judith was a widow. This put these women into a special class of persons under the protection of God, but also distanced them somewhat from male authority. These women also used their beauty as an instrument of power, although for Sarah, Bathsheba and Joseph, beauty was a vulnerability. We can at least know what some people at the time thought about women, even if we don’t know if some of these women actually existed.
I have now read repeated reports that The Gideons are now distributing (along with their traditional distribution of the KJV) a variant of the ESV that has been modified to include “missing verses” from the Textus Receptus. According to some accounts, the ESV is replacing the NKJV; after the acquisition of Thomas Nelson by HarperCollins, The Gideons were not able to negotiate a renewed licensing agreement to their tastes.
Here is the lengthy copyright entry in the new Gideons ESV Bible (original source):
From the copyright notice:
The ESV Bible translation carries forward the historic stream of Bible translation in English exemplified especially by the King James Version (KJV) Bible of 1611 and subsequent literal Bible translations. At the request of the The Gideons – and in appreciation for their worldwide, century-plus distribution of more than 1.8 billion Bibles – Crossway is pleased to grant permission to The Gideons to include certain alternative readings based on the Textus Receptus, for exclusive free distribution of a Gideons edition, as follows: Bible translation of the New Testament into English and other languages are almost exclusively based on either (a) the Greek Textus Receptus manuscript tradition (which was the basis for the 1611 translation of the KJV Bible), or (b) the Greek NA-UBS manuscript corpus (which is the basis for almost all Bible translations completed since the late 1800s). In some places in the New Testament of the ESV Gideons edition, as printed and distributed exclusively under license to the The Gideons International, the Gideons edition follows the Textus Receptus manuscript tradition, which corresponds in the vast majority of instances to the corpus of New Testament Greek manuscripts known among scholars today as the Majority Text.
One commentator compiled a list of changes made in the Gideons ESV.
I have to admit that Crossway has shown a fair amount flexibility with its ESV edition – allowing this adaptation, a version that includes apocryphal books (based on the RSV Apocrypha), and even considering at one point a set of modifications for the Catholic lectionary.
While I am unable to recommend the ESV translation, I am fascinated by its evolution and change through this process. I hope I can obtain one of these Gideon modified ESVs..
BLT co-blogger Victoria has published a brilliant interview about music and theology here; and I encourage you to read it. I want to talk about an aesthetically simpler issue: musical fraud.
I rarely watch television, and I don’t subscribe to cable, but I do have a Tivo box to record over-the-air television. I’m about one week behind on watching the Sochi Olympics, and thus only last night did I watch Daisuke Takahashi’s free skate performance to the soundtrack of Mamoru Samuragochi’s Sonatina for Violin. When I saw it I was outraged. I was outraged because Samuragochi is a fraud.
Mamoru Samuragochi’s claim to fame is that he has been a brilliant Japanese classical composer who is deaf. However, we now know that there are three problems with that claim:
- Samuragochi did not compose the musical works attributed to him.
Takashi Niigaki composed Sonatina, for example: “Niigaki said he created the pieces based on Samuragochi’s instructions and images. He said Samuragochi is incapable of penning his own scores.”
And in fact, in an apparent publicity stunt, the piece was “composed” for a violinist with an artificial arm: “the most calculated part of the story involves Mikkun — Miku Okubo, the teenage violinist for whom Samuragochi ‘wrote’ the Sonatina, which went on to sell more than 100,000 CDs. While Mikkun had already been noticed by the media because of her artificial bowing arm, Samuragochi’s attentions have made her even more famous. Niigaki suggests it was he who told Samuragochi about her, since Niigaki had been her accompanist when she was a little girl and he was close to her family.”
- Samuragochi apparently has normal hearing.
Niigaki said that “that he never felt that Samuragochi was deaf and that he carried on normal conversations with him. He explained that he often composed melody fragments based on ideas provided by Samuragochi, played them on the piano and recorded them. He then let Samuragochi listen to them and choose from among them, then he composed a bigger piece based on the chosen melodies.”
From another story: “many of the elements that contributed to his story sound as if they were engineered to make it more affecting. In an article he wrote for Shukan Bunshun, Norio Kamiyama describes how once Samuragochi became a public figure, he always wore black, as if in mourning, and sunglasses, because bright lights made his ears ring. He walked with a cane, and his left hand was bound with tape because he suffered from tendonitis. As for the deafness that earned him the sobriquet ‘the Japanese Beethoven,’ it developed late in life, which meant he could speak with ‘normal’ pronunciation but tended to use a sign-language interpreter during interviews. Last week, Samuragochi admitted his hearing ‘returned’ three years ago.”
- Samuragochi is not brilliant.
One summary: “Though a number of critics have said, mainly in hindsight, that Samuragochi’s most famous work, the 80-minute Hiroshima Symphony, is basically an amateurish Mahler pastiche, it has sold more than 180,000 CDs, impressive even for an established artist.”
Now, this is absolutely craven. Can there really be any doubt that any number of people were in on the con? Here, a classical “composer” was given the “J-Idol” treatment. We are used to this in Japanese pop music – cute but talentless adolescents being presented as “the next big thing” when their sole contribution to music may simply be lip synching (of course, this happens in Western pop music too, as any Milli Vanilli fan knows.) But who could imagine that this would happen in classical music.
The degree of calculation here is just absurd: we do, in fact, celebrate Beethoven’s late compositions – not because he was deaf, but because he was a brilliant composer. We do study Leonhard Euler’s mathematics – not because he was blind, but because his mathematics is particularly important and relevant. We do read William H. Prescott’s History of the Conquest of Mexico and History of the Conquest of Peru – not because he was blind, but because of his brilliant writing and research abilities. Beethoven, Euler, and Prescott became greats not because of their disabilities (and certainly not because they faked their disabilities) but because of the quality of their work.
But apparently, in Japan, it is acceptable to take such a low view of the human condition that disabilities – real or faked – simply become marketing opportunities.
The canon is closed, and can not be re-opened. The Jews lost their stewardship of the old revelation around the time the NT canon was completed (if not recognized as closed) — to use an infamous saying of Justin the Martyr’s, speaking to Trypho, his Jewish interlocutor: "Not your scriptures, but our scriptures." [Chapter 29] […] As the early Christian church had no competence to define (for lack of a better word — the canon is not defined, it is recognized: and it was left to the Jews to recognize the OT canon) the OT canon, the Jews had no competence to affect the NT canon. And so on.[…]
The Jews can’t change their canon now, not in a way that affects Christians, because the OT canon was transferred to the care of the "New Israel" after the close of NT revelation.[…]
Now in a very real sense, I agree with him. Each religion defines its own canon. You and I might consider The Book of Mormon to be 19th century cultist writings in pastiche of the KJV, but to a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints, The Book of Mormon is sacred scripture.
And further, the Roman Church has an Old Testament Canon distinct from the Hebrew Scriptures – the Roman Church has a Deuterocanon considered to be apocryphal by Jews (and even its own Catholic apocyrpha in an appendix to the Vulgate.) We are fortunate to have ecumenical scholarly translations such as the RSV, NRSV, NETS and the OTP (the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha – recently expanded) which present these texts.
Finally, the Christian churches do not generally accept the body of greater rabbinic “Torah writings” (including the Mishnah, Talmud, Midrash, and medieval writings). Christians may study Rabbinic “Torah” writings for historical insights, but regardless of the degree of reverence granted to these writings by Judaism, they are most definitely not regarded as scriptural by most Christians.
But yet, it seems to me that the Hebrew Scriptures are in a different category. Jews guarded these texts with care, and this carries weight in the Christian churches. Thus, for those books in the Hebrew Scriptures, Divino Afflante Spiritu gives primacy to the Hebrew version (and this is subsequently clarified in later Vatican writings to include consultation of the Septuagints). In practice, this means that translations tend to be based largely on the Masoretic texts of the 9th-11th centuries; even though these versions were under Jewish stewardship (as opposed to the Septuagints, which are sometimes available in more ancient forms and were under Christian citizenship). The reasoning, as I understand it, is that even though the Masoretic text is much later and under Jewish control, it is generally acknowledged that Jews have been careful custodians of their sacred texts and thus the Masoretic text is generally considered to be less corrupt than a translation from the Masoretic text. (There are clearly some exceptions to this rule – there are places where the Masoretic text appears corrupt or incomprehensible – but overall, the Masoretic text carries the day.)
Now to be fair to CJA Mayo, I do not think he was necessarily making any statement about text critical issues, but rather he here restrictied his statements to the question of the list of books included in the canon. Nonetheless, it is fascinating to me that despite the centuries of animosity between Judaism and Christianity, there is still is a degree to which contemporary Christianity sometimes relies on post-Common Era Jewish scholarship. (A notable exception to this rule, of course, is the practice of certain Eastern Churches to solely rely on particular Septuagint texts in the suspicion that Jewish texts may be seriously corrupt. )
I just got around to watching the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics last night, and I was of course struck by the choreography (even if only four of the rings unfolded). I was particularly interested in the striking film of the character of the little girl Любовь/Lyubov (“Love”) working through a Cyrillic abecedary (now conveniently archived at Wikipedia). Here it is:
|В||[Igor] Sikorsky’s helicopter [also associated with US]||Вертолёт Сикорского||aviation and space technology|
|Г||[Yuri] Gagarin [first human in space]||Гагарин||aviation and space technology|
|Г||Gzhel [pottery]||Гжель||folk culture|
|Е||Catherine the Great||Екатерина II||history|
|Ё||[Animated Film] “Hedgehog in the Fog”||Ёжик в тумане||cinema|
|Ж||[Aerodynamicist Nikolay] Zhukovsky||Жуковский||aviation and space technology|
|З||Corn mowing machine||Зерноуборочная машина||technology|
|Й||[Pyotr Ilyich] Tchaikovsky||Чайковский||music|
|Л||Lunokhod [lunar rover robots]||
|aviation and space technology|
|Н||[Vladimir] Nabokov [also associated with US]||Набоков||literature|
|О||[International] space station||
|aviation and space technology|
|П||[Dmitri Mendeleev’s] periodic table||Периодическая таблица||science|
|Р||[Sergei Diaghilev’s] Ballets Russes||Русский балет||performing arts|
|С||Sputnik||Спутник||aviation and space technology|
|Т||Television [likely referring to Boris Rosing’s experiments]||Телевидение||technology|
|Ф||Fisht [a mountain and the name of the Soichi stadium holding the opening ceremony]||Фишт||geography|
|Х||Khokhloma [painting style]||Хохлома||folk culture|
|Ц||[Rocket scientist Konstantin] Tsiolkovsky||Циолковский||aviation and space technology|
|Ш||[Marc] Chagall [also associated with France]||Шагал||painting|
|Щ||[Architect Alexey] Shchusev||Щусев||architecture|
|Ъ||[Alexander] Pushkin [note the Ъ is implied but not explicitly written in the name]||Пушкин||literature|
|Ы||We [note that the Ы appears at the end of the word]||Мы||general|
|Ь||[The little girl narrator of the story] Lyubov (“Love”) [note the Ь appears at the end of the word]||Любовь||general|
|Ю||[Gleb Kotelnikov’s] Parachute [note that Ю appears in the word]||Парашют||aviation and space technology|
|Я||Russia [note that Я appears at the end of the word]||Россия||geography|
Now grouping these together, we see the most popular broad categories are
Arts (5 literature, 3 painting, 2 cinema, 1 architecture, 1 music)
Science and technology (8 aviation and space technology; 2 [other technology]; 1 science)
It was a bit surprising to see so much formal culture discussed in a popular forum (especially since the program also included references to War and Peace, etc., and featured classical music icons such as Anna Netrebko and Valery Gergiev).
Contrast Russia’s pride for its high culture, for example, to the opening and closing ceremonies at the Vancouver Winter Olympics which featured performances by K. D. Lang [yes, I know she does not like to capitalize her name], Garou, Nelly Furtado, Bryan Adams; with the closing ceremony featuring William Shatner, Michael J. Fox Catherine O’Hara, and Michael Bublé.
1997I remember being taught, when I was a child, the G. B. Shaw was the second greatest playwright in the English language (Shakespeare, of course, was first). Now some may consider such an assessment overblown, but it is hard to argue against the assertion that Shaw was a literary giant of the 19th century, fin de siècle, and first half of the 20th century. Still we lack any good compilation of Shaw’s writings (or a quality edition of his plays). How could someone so highly praised in his own era (Shaw won awards ranging from the Nobel Prize in Literature to an Oscar for Best Screenplay) have fallen so far a few mere decades since his death.
Now, some may argue that Shaw is still held in high esteem, pointing, for example, to the Shaw Festival in Canada. However, this year’s program reduces productions of Shaw to a mere two out of ten plays! Similarly, there are some outstanding volumes of Shaw’s plays. I particularly want to praise the “New Mermiads” volumes on him: Arms and the Man, Major Barbara, Mrs Warren’s Profession, Pygmalion, and Saint Joan. Nonetheless, “New Mermaids” treats a number of other playwrights better: Thomas Middleton and Christopher Marlowe, for example. (Middleton does particularly well, with Oxford publishing a luxurious collected works and textual companion.) Penguin publishes a scattering of Shaw plays, with many volumes now out of print. We have better collections (e.g., Metheun’s volumes) of the writings of Noël Coward than Shaw. Even modern playwrights such as Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard, and August Wilson are treated better than Shaw.
I do own three serious collections of Shaw, but all of them are flawed (and long out of print):
- From 1994-1997, Viking published a three volume set of the Complete Prefaces of Shaw, collecting the various prefaces that Shaw had to his various plays. One interesting point is that several of these prefaces were previously uncollected, even among so-called complete editions of the plays and prefaces.
- From 1970-1974, Bodley Head published a seven volume set of Complete Plays with Prefaces, which aimed to present in chronological order, the fifty-two plays (with prefaces) that comprise Shaw’s “official” canon, augmented by “pertinent essays and programme
notes by Shaw, and […] self-drafted interviews, many of which have not previously appeared in book form, and some of which have not previously been identified as by Shaw. A history of composition, publication, and earliest performances [is] provided for each play, as well as a cast of characters.” They attempt to preserve Shaw’s unique spelling and punctuation (e.g., spelling “don’t” as “dont,” “show” as “shew,” and putting spaces in some words for empahsis.) While this is arguably the best edition of Shaw ever published, it leaves much to be desired. Reviewer Bernard Dukore complained: “First, the rationale underlying what is to be included and what excluded is never made explicit, and if there is an implicit justification, it escapes me. For instance, the publishers include Shaw’s Preface to the 1893 edition of Widowers’ Houses (which is in neither the Standard Edition nor the Dodd, Mead), but why do they fail to include his three appendices […] ? They include Shaw’s spoken and written prefaces to the film version of Major Barbara, but why do they exclude the added scenes Shaw wrote? They include Shaw’s reply to a questionnaire about the ending of the movie Pygmalion, but not the ending Shaw actually wrote. […] Why did the publishers not include or summarize significant textual variations […] ? It would be instructive, for instance, to have the original version of Act III, Scene 2 of Major Barbara, for it is strikingly different from the final version. It would be useful, too, to have the Candida references in the original How He Lied to Her Husband and Shaw’s added dialogue for the extras in the crowd scenes of Caesar and Cleopatra. The latter would be of obvious value not only to students and scholars but also to directors of the play. Helpful as well would be indications of such variations as the final line (by Sergius, after Bluntschli’s departure) of Arms and the Man: first edition (1898), ‘What a man! W h a t a man!’ […]; Standard Edition (1931), ‘What a man! I s he a man!’ […]; Odham’s Complete Plays (1950), ‘What a man! Is he a man?" Although the third version was also printed during Shaw’s lifetime, Bodley Head uses the second. The punctuation is in this instance a significant change, and I for one should like to know whether the third version is a typo or an authorial change, and, whether or not this can be answered, why the publishers chose the second.”
- In 1963, Dodd, Mead published a six volume set of Complete Plays with Prefaces which is hardly complete and arranged in an apparently haphazard fashion. (Dukore notes one volume, typically, ranges from the 1892 Widowers’ Houses to the 1937 Cymbeline Refinished.)
The mind staggers that a major writer such as Shaw has yet to receive a worthy complete collection of his plays, much less Shaw’s many other prosaic and critical pieces.
Cross-posted from Wordgazer’s Words.
A lot of people have been talking this week about the Bill Nye/Ken Ham Debate on Creationism vs. Evolution. So I decided to weigh in with where I stand on this issue.
When I converted to Christianity at the age of 15, I was taught that one of the things I had to embrace if I was going to follow Jesus was young-earth creationism. The Bible “clearly” taught that God had made the earth in six 24-hour days and that the earth is 6000 to 10,000 years old. So I read several books that supported creationism, and as far as I could tell with my not-particularly-scientific mind, it made sense. I left what my parents and my teachers had taught me and became a creationist.
Something happened when I was nearly through my college years, though, that shook me up a little.
A public debate was scheduled on my college campus between a local biology professor and Duane Gish of the Institute for Creation Research, who had flown in specially for the event. Since most of my fellow church members were attending, I went along. As I listened, I couldn’t help but think Dr. Gish was winning the debate. After all, he was a gifted debater and public speaker, while the biology professor was– well, a scientist who taught classes now and then. And the audience was clearly on Gish’s side. Whenever Gish spoke, he was applauded. When the local professor spoke, he was booed and hissed at. And most of my friends were gleefully joining in. This clearly bothered and rattled the poor guy– and that was where my cognitive dissonance started. My sympathies have always lain with the underdog, and I simply couldn’t understand why good Christian people who were supposed to be following Jesus’ teachings on loving your neighbor, would treat this poor man with this abysmal rudeness.
I left the debate wondering how, if we were in fact so very right, we could be so totally wrong about it. I knew that what really mattered, what Christ really cared about, wasn’t whether we believed single-celled organisms could slowly become human beings. It was how we treated actual human beings
I walked away from that debate feeling ashamed. I couldn’t bring myself to join in with my fellow church members as they rejoiced in how thoroughly the biology professor had been humiliated. As far as I could see, the main thing he was going to take away from that debate was not the reasonableness of creationism. It was how little Christians actually practiced what they preached.
Years later, when I began the process I’ve mentioned before of laying all my beliefs on the table and finding what held true for me, creationism was one of the things that I took another look at. I bought a book called A New Look at an Old Earth by Don Stoner. He discussed how early Christians had considered God to have “written” another “book” in addition to the Bible– the “book of nature,” and how the created universe itself was meant to testify alongside the Bible, just as Psalm 19:1 and Romans 10:18 said.
He also talked about how very un-Christian it was to mock and ridicule evolutionists in public debates.
I thought he made a lot of sense.
So for a while I became an old-earth creationist and stopped believing that the “days” in Genesis 1 referred to actual 24-hour periods. But I had learned in the process of re-examining my faith to hold my view lightly. What I believed about human origins wasn’t essential to my faith in Christ, and I knew I wasn’t a science expert.
I kept on reading, and I kept on examining. And some of the books and articles I read actually made even more sense than Don Stoner’s book. One of them was The Language of God by Francis Collins. Dr. Collins is the founder of the Biologos Foundation, and his view is called “evolutionary creation” or “theistic evolution.” Collins believes in the same foundational Christian doctrines that I do: in the Incarnation, death and Resurrection of Christ as the Son of God, in the authority of Scripture and the work of the Holy Spirit. And the genetic evidence for theistic evolution presented in his book is hard to deny.
So the one obvious thing I have come to see is that it’s quite possible for sincere Christians to believe any one of these positions. So who is right?
I think the most compelling scientific view definitely lies with theistic evolution. But I am an English graduate from the University of Oregon, and the best way for me to approach the topic is to look at it in terms of one thing I do really feel I have learned well– how to read and understand a text.
So here’s the thing. Both young-earth and old-earth creationism approach the first two chapters of Genesis as if they are historical/scientific prose about the origins of the universe and of humanity. Young-earth creationism says that each detail should be read according to its most obvious, plain-sense reading, including the “days” as literal 24-hour periods. Old-earth creationism says that the “days” actually represent periods of time lasting thousands and thousands of years. It says that the passage that says that God made the sun, moon and stars on the fourth day should be understood as God revealing the functions of the sun, moon and stars as they would exist for humankind. It says the current Cenozoic period is the extended “seventh day” of the creation. But it still approaches the text as a scientific, historical narrative.
And that is exactly what I can’t, as an English graduate, view as the actual genre of these first chapters of Genesis.
I find, in fact, that I agree with Old Testament Theologian Bruce K. Waltke in his article The Literary Genre of Genesis Chapter 1, when in response to the identification of Genesis 1 as a “straightforward historical narrative” he says, “The text, however, is begging us not to read it that way.”
When I look at other portions of Genesis, this is the type of thing I read:
After Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Abram’s wife Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife. (Genesis 16:3)
That’s it. Straightforward prose, recounting events more or less in chronological order.
When I read Chapter 1 of Genesis, however, here’s what I see:
Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit after their kind, with seed in them, on the earth; and it was so. And the earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit, with seed in them, after their kind, and God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, a third day.
The bold parts mark phrases that repeat themselves over and over throughout the text. The two phrases picked out in green mark text that repeats itself within the same section. The entire chapter works this way. Each section has a “Then God said,” a statement what He is making, then a phrase “and it was so” noting what God has made, followed by a repetitive detail of what was made. Then, each time, God sees that what He has made is good, and we get a repetition of “there was evening and there was morning,” denoting a day.
This is not quite poetry, but it is, as Dr. Waltke says, highly stylized, didactic prose, intended not to give a straightforward recounting of events so much as to show the power of God and the order and beauty of His work:
[W]e argue that [this text] cannot give a satisfying scientific account of origins, for it is not scientific literature. . . The Bible is concerned with Ultimate origins (“Where did it all come from?”) not scientific questions of proximate origins (“How did A arise out of B, if it did?”). [Also] its language is non-scientific. The account reports the origins of the cosmos phenomenologically, not mathematically or theoretically. . . We come back to [this] genre identification: it is a literary-artistic representation of the creation. To this we add the purpose, namely, to ground the covenant people’s worship and life in the Creator, who transformed chaos into cosmos, and their ethics in His created order. [Emphasis added.]
I also note that as far as the specific things being made, there are three pairings, occurring in two groups. On the first and fourth days God creates light and the orbs that convey the light. On the second and fifth days God sets apart the “expanses” of the sea and the air, and then makes creatures (birds and fish) that will live in them. On the third and sixth days God makes the dry land and its vegetation, and then the animals (and finally humans) that will live there. The whole pattern up to the seventh day goes as follows:
Creation of an element (light)
Creation of an element (air, separated from water)
Creation of an element (land)
Creation of things for the light (sun, moon, stars)
Creation of things for the air and water
Creation of things for the land
I find this reminds me of the kind of stylized, didactic order shown in parts of the Proverbs, such as in Chapter 2, where the pattern is:
My son, receive my wisdom
Here are the results of my wisdom
For the Lord gives wisdom
Here are the results of the Lord’s wisdom
They will keep you from the ways of evil
Here are the results of the ways of evil
So you will walk in the way of the good
Here are the results of doing good
And here are the result of doing evil.
In short, I think the first chapter of Genesis is a kind of didactic prose, similar to but not identical to the opening chapters of Proverbs. I think it was written for the purpose of revealing the nature of God as Creator, not for the purpose of detailing scientific facts about the processes of our origins. Dr. Waltke says that “Genre identification depends on a text’s contents and function.” By the context and function of Genesis 1, it simply is not in the genre of historical/scientific prose.
Similarly, when I read the second and third chapters of Genesis, here is what I see:
A garden at the source of four great rivers
Two highly symbolic trees: the “tree of life” and the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”
A serpent that talks
God walking in the garden
A prophetic speech of God (the curse) spoken in the prose style of the Books of the Prophets
I don’t actually know of any Christian group that takes all of this literally– particularly not the talking snake. Based on other biblical texts such as Revelation 20:2, Christians identify the serpent with Satan– that Satan appeared in the form of a serpent, not that Satan actually is a literal serpent. Similarly, when the text says God “walked” in the garden, most Christians don’t take this to mean that God literally has legs like a man. Christians believe, on the basis of texts like John 4:24, that God is a Spirit, not a big manlike being like the Greek god Zeus. The walking of God in the cool of the day may mean that God appeared in the form of a man, or it simply may be a metaphor for the Presence and Voice of God moving through the garden.
Since no one knows what kind of fruit a “life” fruit is, or a “knowledge of good and evil” fruit is (it’s only tradition that calls it an apple), these trees are meant to be symbols. Were they also literal trees, somehow bearing these abstract concepts as actual fruit? I’m not at all sure that we’re meant to understand the text that way.
In fact, Genesis 2 and 3 are no more straightforward historical prose than Genesis 1 is. This second part of the creation text is not stylized didactic prose, but bears more in common with the symbolism of the Book of Revelation, or with the metaphorical language of some of Jesus’ teachings (“the tree is known by its fruit” in Matt. 12:33 is not a reference to actual trees) than it does with the straight prose of the Abraham-Isaac-Jacob narratives.
Does this mean there was no actual, real Adam and Eve? I don’t know. Since both Paul and Jesus speak of Adam and Eve, they may actually have been real people. They may have been the first humanoid creatures that God chose to bear His image. Or this may be a true story of the universal human condition, told metaphorically/symbolically (that from the beginning, when free to choose to believe God or believe the serpent, humanity, as one, has ended up choosing the serpent). In this case Paul and Jesus, understanding that their audiences also understood it symbolically, may have felt free to speak of Adam and Eve according to the truths their story conveyed without needing to mention a shared understanding of the story as non-literal– in the same way we might speak of Dorothy and the lure of “over the rainbow” today.
You may have a strong conviction one way or the other. But this is not a primary, foundational doctrine of the faith, so I’m simply going to allow it to remain a mystery in my mind. Either way, there is certainly a heavy metaphorical/symbolic emphasis in the Adam-and-Eve story. And the intent of the story is manifestly not to give a scientific account of how humanity came to exist on the earth.
I don’t think the original audiences, either of the oral or written traditions, thought according to our post-Enlightenment emphasis on fact and procedure. I think God accommodated His revelation to their mindset, not to ours. In fact, to insist on reading these stories as scientific explanations of origins is, in a way, enslaving our minds to Enlightenment ways of thought. Rather than examining the biblical texts according to what they themselves seem to be saying they are, we impose upon them what we believe they ought to be– and what we think they ought to be is directly determined by the Enlightenment’s emphasis on fact and historicity.
According to Dr. Waltke in the article above, “Natural theology and exegetical theology are both hindered by a continued adherence to the epistemic principle that valid scientific theories must be consistent with a woodenly literal reading of Genesis.” In other words, whether our theology focuses on understanding God through the “book of nature” or the “book of scripture,” when we make it a rule that the only way we can know either book is according to a strict literal reading of these texts, we keep our thinking inside a very small box and try to drag the limitless God to fit in there with us. And it doesn’t really work.
What it all comes down to is that I have come to embrace evolutionary creation, also known as theistic evolution, on the basis of the biblical texts themselves. I think young-earth creationism and old-earth creationism both show too much dependence on Enlightenment mentality to be true to the pre-Enlightenment revelation of God to the pre-Enlightenment original audiences. The point of these texts is that God created, not how God created– and this is also the main point of theistic evolution
Since I also find the evidence for evolution more compelling than the evidence for either young-earth or old-earth creationism, the cognitive dissonance of my college years is resolved. But my position is based more on how I understand the Bible than on how I understand science.
So to Ken Ham and Bill Nye, I would say this. This science-faith schism is unfortunate and completely unnecessary. I hope that in the future we can find the openness– and the humility– to move past it.
In the Anglo Saxon Gospels, the phrase for huioi theou in the Greek – therefore by fiat of Wayne Grudem, “sons of God” – has actually been translated as godes bearn, “children of God.” The Lindisfarne Gospels, however, are a Latin text accompanied by a gloss, which supplies a Northumbrian word above the Latin one, and there it has suna for “sons of God.” One would expect this in a word for word gloss, not a translation. However, one can say that for 1000 years, on the basis of the Anglo Saxon gospels, the English expression has been “children of God” or its equivalent, and there is manuscript evidence to support this. Here is a past list. But now I can say that Matt. 5:9 has contained the expression “children of God” from the Anglo-Saxon Gospels through Wycliff, Tyndale, Coverdale, Matthew’s, Cranmer, Bishops, Geneva, JKV, Calvin, Luther, Douay-Rheims, and so on.
Here are some internet resources that I have used in the past few weeks to research this and other matters. And these are some of the Bibles I have referred to. Wycliff, Tyndale, Coverdale, Cranmer, Matthew’s, Bishops, Geneva, KJV, Douay-Rheims, Calvin, Luther, Olivetan, Svenska 1917, Pagninus, Erasmus, West Saxon, and Lindisfarne. The worst one of all to read is the Olivetan. I will post an image at the bottom.
Die Schrift by Buber and Rosenzweig
The Source by Nyland
Below is an image of Ex. 3, from the Olivetan Bible. I would love a searchable text, but no luck. I can kind of get the hang of it now, for most of it, but the first time I tried to read this was no joke. I still can’t make out the last margin note.
“Son” (huios, ben) should not be changed to “child,” or “sons” (huioi) to “children” or “sons and daughters.” (However, Hebrew banim often means “children.”)
The office of Old Testament Prophetess is closed to us today. But we can still learn from Huldah and her example…. Women are not to be busybodies. They are to mind their own affairs. They are to avoid going from house to house spreading rumors (1 Timothy 5:13).
This is from the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery edited by Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit and Tremper Longman III, 1998. Even though Leland Ryken is the original literary stylist of the ESV, there is not one mention of “sons” in the following discussion of adoption of children. It all sounds so open and non-genderized. This is published by IVP. I thought that perhaps they had a stated policy on non-sexist language, but if they do, they don’t advertise it. At least, I haven’t found it so far. So this selection uses only inclusive language. It’s great! Sometimes my kids buy books and I like to know what is safe reading for them.
I hate to seem knit picky, but some of you know that I am. I can’t help but think that someone needs to assess which authors, which publishers, which books are not sexist and are safe reading. Where has the notion come from that the Bible must say in English “adoption of sons?” Oh right! I know where it comes from. .
I remember being told by my pastor how much easier it was to teach the gospel with the words “adoption as sons” for the Greek word uiothesia, than “adoption as children.” He explained to me about Roman laws regarding inheritance and so on. A lot of people could see his point. In fact, in the TNIV, Gal. 4:5 was translated as “adoption to sonship,” just so that this version could be used to explain salvation, in spite of otherwise using inclusive language like “brothers and sisters.” Sonship was a very important word. Women are saved through sonship and being under headship. It takes two ships to save a woman.
And as one evangelist explained about Matt. 5:9,
Actually, the TNIV appears to be a move not toward greater accuracy but away from it. One example: In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.’ (Matt. 5:9). The TNIV changes sons to children. But the Greek word huios in its plural form means ’sons,’ not ‘children. ‘My Latin Bible translates it ’sons’ (filii). My German Bible, my Dutch Bible, and my French Bible translate it ’sons.’ Likewise, every English Bible I own translates it ’sons.’ Indeed, from the first century until today, the whole world has understood what the Greek says.
I had never made a serious investigation into finding out which Bibles translated Matt. 5:9 using “children” once I knew that the KJV and Luther used “children” or the linguistic equivalent. But eventually, my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to line up six verses for investigation. They are Matt. 5:9, Romans 8:15, 8:23, Gal. 4:5 and Eph. 1:5. Here are the verses in the ESV using “sons.”
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Matt. 5:9
but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father! Romans 8:15b
we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies Romans 8:23b
so that we might receive adoption as sons. Gal. 4:5b
he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ Eph. 1:5
The preface to the ESV says of “adoption of sons,” “it was used as a legal term in the adoption and inheritance laws of first-century Rome.” Yes, the term was used when a man with no heir adopts a free male citizen with no father, and that adopted son is under the authority of his adopted father until the father dies, and then the adopted son inherits and carries on the family name. The adopted son was not free nor did he inherit until the adopted father was dead. Not much comparison with Paul’s epistles. However, that is the explanation.
In any case, here are the translations I have picked, Tyndale, Coverdale, Bishop’s Bible, Geneva Bible, KJV, Luther and Calvin’s French Geneva Bible, 1588. I feel that this covers the Reformation fairly well. I will simply list the terms used in each of these 5 verses in the various Bibles.
Tyndale: chyldren, adoption, adopcio, naturall sons, heirs
Coverdale: chyldren, adopcion, childshippe, childshippe, as children
Bishop’s Bible: chyldren, adoption, adoption, adoption as chyldren, adoption as children
Geneva Bible: children, adoption, adoption, adoption of sons, adopted
KJV: children, adoption, adoption, adoption of sonnes, adoption of children
Luther: kinder, kindschaft, kindlichen, kindschaft, kindschaft
Calvin: enfans, adoption, adoption, adoption d’enfans, adopter
Following the use of “adoption” all these translation used the word for “children” or the linguistic equivalent, except for the 3 cases I have noted. I would like to note further that all these translations use “children of God” in Matt. 5:9, and Luther, Calvin and Coverdale, three significant Bibles of the Reformation use “children” and “adoption as children” throughout.
Continuity with the Reformation seems important to some people, and I wonder if they would like continuity with Reformation Bibles. Afterall, these were the Bibles which influenced so many for salvation, for doctrine, for literary and secular purposes as well. These are the recognizable Bibles. How does the TNIV stand up to this,
TNIV: children, adoption to sonship, adoption, adoption to sonship, adoption to sonship
Clearly this correctness overall did not affect the acceptance of the TNIV. It was doomed for including women on any level, in spite of the inclusive tradition of the Reformation Bibles. How about the NIV 2011?
NIV 2011: children, adoption to sonship, adoption to sonship, adoption to sonship, adoption to sonship
Well, I have no statistics to say that “adoption as sons, or to sonship” as saved more people than just plain adoption, or adoption to childshippe, I just don’t know. But I do know that if we want to connect with our heritage, we need a few more children. I know which ship I want to be on.
Even though the landscape is familiar, these poems are meditations on the attributes and value of words.
I sat by the lake,
under the hemlock,
flat needles carpeting the ground,
the familiar smell
mingled with close-by cedar.
The wind blew down
from the dry pine ridge,
over the alders below,
bordering the lake.
A lone fir tree towered
on the right,
a lonely sentinel.
We had scrambled up
a short rocky path,
rough steps set
in a pile of boulders,
tossed downhill by the last ice age
and rounded a small bog,
rimmed with hardhack,
blooms turned to brown.
Then over a slight rise in land,
and down to the small lake,
surrounded by rock bluffs
and mountains in the distance.
False box and oceanspray
lined the path,
but when I lay on the mossy ground,
and looked at the sky,
a huckleberry bush
hung over me,
ripe with tiny fruit,
and the sharp spurts of tart juice
wakened my mouth.
Words bring yesterday’s reality
Back to life in the mind
For those of us
Who don’t paint.