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Pranav Venkatraman Religion 211Q: Western Religious Traditions October 11, 2013
Minimalist interpretations of Genesis 1-2 have been prevalent since the Classical period. for it was heaven’s movement that was the . and even between those practicing the same sect of a religion. these include determining the premise behind texts. to prove or invalidate as facts. Genesis. the connection to the religion’s notion of sacred reality. an important minimalist interpretation is that of Philo of Alexandria. In contrast. Namely. Genesis receives much attention from maximalists. Nonetheless.Insiders and certain scholars have often claimed that elements of their religious tradition constitute factual truths. if not wholly impossible. individuals who interpret scripture as literal truth under the assumption that “the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” (Davies 2000). many of the accounts therein are arduous. the connection between human nature and the sacred in texts. of texts (Cunningham 2013. The myth of Genesis 1-2 has widely varying interpretations between maximalists and minimalists. or those who argue that accounts in scripture are not historical and are often allegorical. Philo effectively argues against a literal interpretation: “It is quite foolish to think that the world was created in six days or in a space of time at all… It would therefore be correct to say that the world was not made in time. 57). the interpretations of minimalists. but that time was formed by mean of the world. Noting that the text has inherent contradictions. of the claims maximalists have made over time. Because myths in the Hebrew Bible are so old. In the Judeo-Christian tradition. a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher. two of the most debated myths are in the first book of the Bible. historical. physical. many have been incongruent with new archeological and textual evidence. the texts’ place in the practices of religion as a whole. We will discuss possible minimalist and maximalist interpretations to dissect the pitfalls of attempting to understand the myth as factual and historical. and biological evidence and scripture by focusing on aspects of religious texts other than their historicity. can pay less attention to the dichotomy between archeological. rather than the empirical truth. and the sacred truth. Establishing the foundation for the subsequent books of the canon of scripture.
453). 6). Origen recognized that a tripartite of ways had emerged to interpreting the text. the literal. One particular influential modern theory is the Revelation Day Theory. land and vegetation and is created in the first three days of Genesis. the moral. luminaries. water. adding that “the history [has] taken place in appearance.= (Lewis 1989. Augustine of Hipo. and mankind (Kline 1996. Another influential theory is the Framework Theory. Augustine identifies the purpose of each day in the myth to demonstrate “a return to praise and love of the creator” (Lewis 1989. What makes this framework theory diverge from literary theories is that it insists on being figurative. 438-439). but were rather revealed to Moses in six days.index of the nature of time” (Lewis 1989.” that is. which argues that creation did not occur in six days. divides the triads into the first. St. sky. which claims that Genesis divides creation into two triads (Irons 2000). The theory derives from the belief that the creation narrative is not intended to teach cosmogony. Kline. Augustine also interprets the seventh day as that which “the Lord sanctified to an everlasting continuance” (Lewis 1989. birds. and the spiritual. Modern scholars also contributed much to the minimalist interpretation of text. fish. the “Creature Kings. [but] not literally” (Lewis 1989. affirming that time had not been created prior to the creation of the earth and adding that it was created concurrently or subsequently to the end of the sixth day. 435). but rather to inform theology. Following Philo by one hundred years was Origen.” The first triad is concerned with the creation of light. 440). builds on top of Philo’s argument. formulated by Wiseman. an early Christian theologian. but noted that the spiritual approach seemed most complete to understanding the complexities of the next. the “Creation Kingdoms” and the second. 440). a scholar of this theory. arguing that the aim of the creation myth is “that creation is not an end in itself but was created with the built-in eschatological goal of entering the eternal Sabbath rest of . who had an even stronger argument for an allegorical approach to interpreting the myth. The second triad is contained in the penultimate three days of genesis and deals with the creation of “creature kings.
held a strictly literal interpretation of the text. in many cases so far as to overlook the broader considerations of allegory and the relationship of practices of the faith with the sacred reality in the religion itself. In Genesis 1:1. who followed the text as literal. arguing that the making of the heaven at the beginning of Genesis 1:1 is different from the making of the firmament in the second day (Lewis 446). a significant church figure in the fourth century A. writing that. Converse to the interpretations aforementioned. “form and void” was all that there . let us consider water as water. and the biblical creation myth in Genesis describes the recreation exactly. Modern scholars have also proposed maximalist theories. such as the use of “one day” instead of the “first day” in the Bible.” This “eternal rest” is not a singular day in history. maximalist interpretations of scripture are literal. such as the Active-Gap theory. and following the order of creation as is written in the text. asserting that the light that the creator formed divided the night and day “in the exact measure of twelve hours” (Lewis 445). unlike the Active-Gap theory does not recognize God’s early creation of earth. which. Another related theory is the Passive-Gap Theory. Instead. Numerous religious scholars and philosophers have developed the literary interpretation. this would usually entail viewing the days of creation as exactly one day in length.God Himself in incorruptible glory. They include Victorinus of Pettau. which claims that an earlier creation occurred at the date of the Earth’s formation. Basel also asserts that the making of the firmament is a unique undertaking in itself. an earth like body that was without life. but rather all the time that comes after the end of the sixth day. This creation was destroyed by a catastrophe. similar to Augustine’s interpretation. popularized by the Scofield Bible and by the writings of Harry Rimner.” Basil supports his argument by explaining and mending the inconsistencies in the text. I understand that g rass is meant… I take it all [Genesis 1-2] in a literal sense… Dismissing such an explanation as a dream interpretation and old wives tales. Basil of Caesarea. “I hear the word grass.D.
and the myths relationship to man today. water. the sky. weakening the ability of the myth from acting as designed. Those who view the myth as an actual historical or natural event very well may overlook these important qualities in favor of scrutinizing over whether the length of the six days and nights are exactly twelve hours. because Maximalists innately argue that the myth is factually valid. So intent on proving the story true to Greek historians who criticized the validity of the story. 438) that continues eternally to today and the future. Josephus argued that the text constituted a historically accurate source about a true flood. Josephus associates Genesis 6-9 with the histories of the Greek flood story to show that the Biblical flood is . In addition. by attempting to claim a myth as factual. 58). Through the aforementioned we can see some of the troubles related to extreme maximalist theories on the creation myth.was before the six days of creation. This inherently relates the sacred reality to humans. For instance. maximalists obfuscate. notably that God is immanent. A prominent maximalist interpretation is that of Josephus. These characteristics include a myth’s notion of sacred reality. they must compete with contradictory scientific evidence. the myth says much about the nature of the Judeo-Christian sacred reality. Like the Genesis creation myth. Rather. Genesis 6-9 also has a large array of possible maximalist and minimalist interpretations. rather than elevate. the de-emphasis on the religious truth of a myth leads to a depreciation of the religious aspects of a myth other than its “ultimate truth about crucial human questions” (Cunningham 2013. both past and present. First. it is a truth about cosmogony from a religious perspective. “to disclose the ultimate truth about crucial human questions” (Cunningham 2013. The ultimate truth that myth attempts to reveal is not an empirical fact viewed through a historical or scientific perspective. minimalists such as Augustine viewed the seventh day of creation as an “everlasting sanctification” (Lewis 1989. Second. its truth in a religious context. and other earthly attributes emerge (Lewis 454). Thus. Only subsequent to the six days of creation did biological species. 58).
the historians. Josephus expended much of his time taking the defensive. Regarding the words of the Hebrew Bible. Hieronymous. Ancient and modern historians have discovered a myriad of inconsistencies in Josephus’ research.” Philo claims that the story represents both a clearing of evils and cleansing of the soul (Lewis 1978. Josephus had to adulterate both the Jewish and Greek religious histories support his claim of the historicity of the story.true. proving why his religious myth is “true” against those who argued otherwise. Philo’s figurative interpretation characterizes the entire flood passage as an allegory. or any other scripture. can be problematic and remove us from the religious aspects of the text as in order to defend the story as factual. Through the Genesis 6-9 story. Josephus’ extreme approach to proving the historicity of Biblical stories highlights the key pitfalls of the approach. including the aforementioned (Breugmann 73-88). which makes possible a new beginning for creation. Ironically. who lived near an oak tree called Ogynes. with an archaic King of Athens Ogygus. but upon the change wrought by God. Arguing that the purpose of the flood “is not the flood itself. who suffered a flood. Another possible way to approach the Flood story can be seen in Walter Breuggemann’s interpretation. One of the many details he manufactures is his associating of Abraham. where he . Josephus changed many dates in the Jewish and Greek chronology in order to give off the appearance that they fit with each other (Feldman 1998). rather than understanding what the myth says and how it affects the Jewish people’s understanding of their religion. we have again seen the problem of a maximalist approach.” Breugmann expands upon previous allegorical interpretations. such as Berossus. Philo argues that the flood has “an existential value…depict[ing] occurrences that may happen in the present day experience of any person. as factual truth. In addition. Namely. and Nicholaus of Damascus. he cited were those that dismissed Biblical history as high tales. 58-74). A minimalist approach avoids the problem of claiming historical truth. We see this most clearly in such extreme maximalist interpretations as Josephus’.
Indeed. Moreover. that is. a part of the sacred reality. that Venerable Bede’s Hexaemeron gives two separate commentaries of the scripture. However. For at least these two sections of the Bible. taken as a whole. lies not in its truth or lack thereof. but rather in its ultimate purpose to reveal religious truth. Nonetheless. 448). the language used such stories as the Genesis creation myth and the Flood story. That is. for example. they do show some incorporation of minimalist approaches. that is. we must note that there are some solid arguments for maximalist interpretations of scripture. . while such approaches are more maximalist than minimalist. Consider. the power of sacred language. and one that was both moral and allegorical (Lewis 1989.intentionally disregards the chronology of Biblical events to fit his narrow agenda of validating the Bible’s historicity. many maximalist interpretations of text attempt to strike a bargain with allegorical interpretation. relate to “the present day experience of any person” (Lewis 1978. much is lost in adhering to a literal approach that claims the events of the passages as factual. 134). one solely literal. Using a maximalist interpretation. scientific and archeological evidence has developed claiming that some books of the Bible and other Hebrew texts reflect historical fact closely. we may also miss how the events of the flood.
pdf. Accessed October 11. "Space and Time in Genesis Cosmology.etsjets. Lewis. 1978. Feldman." Andrews University Seminary Studies 42.. 1998.asa3. Davidson. no. 2013. The Sacred Quest: An Invitation to the Study of Religion.org/publication. Boston: Pearson.asp?PubID=BSBA&Volume=26&Issue=02&ArticleID=02." Ordained Servant 9. "What Separates a Minimalist from a Maximalist. 2013. Accessed October 11. http://www.bibarch. 15th ser." Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith. 2 (March 1996). Cunningham. Lawrence. Accessed October 11. "The Flood in Hellenistic-Jewish Writers.html." In A Study of the Interpretation of Noah and the Flood in Jewish and Christian Literature. http://members. Kline. http://www. Josephus's Interpretation of the Bible. Leiden: Brill. "The Genesis Flood Narrative: Crucial Issues in the Current Debate. 4 (December 1989): 433-55.andrews.org/ASA/PSCF/1996/PSCF3-96Kline. http://opc. Berkeley: University of California Press. and John Kelsay. no. Irons. 2013. Lewis. 1982. Lee. . no. 48. "The Days of Creation: An Historical Survey of Interpretation.org/OS/pdf/OSV9N1. Atlanta: John Knox Press. http://www. no. Accessed October 11. Phillip R. Maredith G. Jack Pearl. 2013.Bibliography Brueggemann. no. 1 (Spring 2004): 49-77. Genesis. 1 (January 2000): 7-11. Walter.edu/~davidson/Publications/Flood/Genesis%20Flood%20Narrative." Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 42. 02 (March/April 2000). Jack B. 2013. Richard M. Louis H. 2013. Davies. "The Framework Interpretation: An Exegetical Summary.pdf.pdf.org/files/JETS-PDFs/32/32-4/32-4-pp433-455_JETS." Biblical Archeological Review 26. Accessed October 11.
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