In the beginning

Discussion in 'Abrahamic Religions' started by Thomas, Nov 4, 2015.

  1. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    I thought I'd post something on the opening of Genesis ...

    The English translation 'In the beginning' has long been assumed to denote a temporal order of events, thus apologists get tangled up in knots 'explaining' how Genesis, and specifically the Hexameron (6 Days) corresponds to temporal science.

    The Hebrew b'reishit, or bereishit is open to various interpretations, and the usual one has recently become the most literal, that 'beginning' signifies a temporal event.

    This is not the only reading of the term however, and it's notable that the Jewish scholars who rendered a Greek translation of the text – the Septuagint – chose the Greek term En arche as the equivalent term, signifying that what the Hebrew text speaks of is not science, but metaphysics. It's not a temporal beginning, it's the beginning in the Ordinal sense (hierarchical), rather than the Cardinal sense (numerical).

    Thus John, in the prologue to his gospel, reflects the Hebrew understanding in the first verse 'En arche'.

    Likewise, the Vulgate (Latin) translation shows this was how the hebrew was traditionally understood when it translated 'b'reishit' as 'In principio'.

    If a temporal beginning was the primary reading, then the Fathers of the Septuagint would have used the Greek protista, and the Latins inceptium or initium.

    This metaphysical reading is the Traditional reading of scholars of all three Abrahamic Traditions. It's there in Josephus, in the Greek and Latin fathers ... in fact an 'esoteric' reading makes great play of the fact that b'reishit breaks down into:, be = 'at' or 'in'; reish = ''head'; it ='of'. The wordpay here being that God caused creation all-at-once in principle, which then unfolded hierarchically in the vertical order of the Hexameron – logically God knew Creation all at once, as it were, He didn't discover it or make it up as He went along ... or to stretch the analogy even further, God brought creation into existence by the power of His will, not by utilising some unformed substantia that happened to be to hand, as it were ... Jews and Christians (and Moslems, I think) agree in creatio ex nihilo.

    The metaphysical is the reading of the Kabbalists, Hermeticists and esoterists. The Gnostics, of course, are wedded to an absolute dualism even the Hellenes don't adhere to.

    Once one accepts the metaphysical ordering, then the scientific/temporal contradictions evaporate – how can there be light if the celestial bodies are not made until day four ... that kind of thing.
     
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  2. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    Valid points....known for centuries eh? But telling the masses at masses means less masses...

    Folks grip tightly to their mythology.
     
  3. Aussie Thoughts

    Aussie Thoughts Just my 2 cents

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    The way I was taught,

    Genisis1: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
    Refers to the beginning of the first earth age.

    Flash forward who knows how many billions of years, (some call that notion gap theory), and we have:

    2: And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

    This describes what later became of the earth, not as it was in the beginning.
    According to Strong's Concordance, it should read:

    And the earth became without form, and void; and darkness became upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.


    Obviously not everyone's going to agree with this and I'm quite sure many will dispute it and that's fine. I'm just throwing it out there, because it's the way I was taught and something I do believe.
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2015
  4. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Well you can believe what you choose to believe, but the emphasis of the above is wrong. It's not a case of should but can. And according to common understanding the first translation, was is the most logically coherent with the text.

    It seems to me one could read 'became' and still hold to creatio ex nihilo, "And the earth became without form, and void (where before there was nothing); and darkness became upon the face of the deep (where before there was nothing). And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters (where before there was nothing)." So even 'became' does not necessarily infer a pre-existing state, nor an indeterminate passage of time.

    But to read "And the earth was with form and substance, but then perhaps billions of years later something happened, and it became without form, and void; and light was, but then something happened, etc., etc. " is just an eisegesis too far.

    And bearing in mind that what goes in in the angelic is not governed by the temporal conditions of the physical, Satan's fall, the War in Heaven et al occurs in no time at all, therefore there's no logical nor rational reason to argue any gap in time between verse 1 and verse 2.
     
  5. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    If you are saying..gen1 and gen2...there must be something different between the two (if you don't go for the yhwh/elohem/Jerusalem/Bethlehem school of thought) then there must be some metaphor metaphysical difference as the order of creation is different...
     
  6. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    what, where when? Answer is....no he will not be returning in your lifetime and no there are not signs that assure this.
     
  7. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Hi Wil –
    I think the order of creation 'problem' – if you're referring to the common objection – is a literalist reading and another modern myth.

    Have you asked your Jewish friends how they resolve it?
     
  8. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    There are three things I've heard...one is the argument of the two versions...each would not vote for the canon unless their version was represented.. Second is gen 1 was the thought of G!d, gen 2 the actions...third is it is all metaphoraphysical
     
  9. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    But what I was asking was how it applies to your post here.
     
  10. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Never heard of that? Who are the 'they' who are voting?
    Never heard of that, either.
    Myth/metaphor/metaphysics, yes, that's the Catholic/Orthodox reading.
     
  11. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Sorry, I'm not with you. What 'it' exactly?

    If you mean "there must be some metaphor metaphysical difference as the order of creation is different", I don't think it is.
     
  12. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    Then why is it different? Not intentional? The authors didn't notice it when they cannonized the two chapters? Jews? Not paying attention to detail?
     
  13. Devils' Advocate

    Devils' Advocate Well-Known Member

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    Never understood the need to translate a metaphysical story into scientific fact. Genesis and the scientific origin of the universe are entirely separate concepts.
     
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  14. Namaste Jesus

    Namaste Jesus Praise the Lord and Enjoy the Chai Moderator

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    Sounds like another case of science proving what was already written to me.;)
     
  15. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Or maybe the difference isn't there. What difference?
     
  16. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Yes. I wish the literalists could get that into their heads!
     
  17. Aussie Thoughts

    Aussie Thoughts Just my 2 cents

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    Or, we could just try to respect other points of view and not automatically dismiss them.
     
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  18. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Oh, I never automatically dismiss anything.

    Sadly however, I have long lamented that this forum is not that kind of place. IO is the forum for the heterodox and the 'out there'. Orthodoxy of any ilk tends to get a rough ride here, and generally the tendency is to state opinions, rather than reason those opinions.

    There are forums where the standard of respect accorded to respondents puts IO to shame, but they are 'specialist' – the ones I know tend to follow the pattern of respectful peer review. More objectivity, less opinion.

    Whilst I always listen and I never automatically dismiss (there's always something to learn), but where the error seems is evident, I think it would be a disservice to the other not to point it out. I am under no obligation to accept what I can see to be founded on a misunderstanding, and it could well be me who is wrong. But when it comes to Scripture ... no. The idea that Scripture is scientific is a modern nonsense.

    I do think those who contemplate their Tradition rather than themselves have an advantage – they have centuries of learning to call on, and tend also to adopt the long view. Unfashionable orthodoxy tends also to be more aware of ephemeral currents which shape public opinion, because we find ourselves so often swimming against the tide. Those who 'go with the flow' tend to see everything as progress, whereas those who don't tend to see a 'sometimes forward, sometimes back' process at work, both in the short term and the long. (There is a sine wave of Christianity, for example, that goes (so far) on a near-millennia-long frequency.)
     
  19. Devils' Advocate

    Devils' Advocate Well-Known Member

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    I have visited and participated in a few of the other main stream religion forums on the Net, and from my experiences there, this site is moderation in the extreme by comparison. It is why I spend most all my time on this subject here rather than the other ones. Sure we disagree here. We butt heads. We make outrageous statements from time to time. I don't think it is a flaw of the people here, but a flaw in the very concept of attempting to have an interfaith discussion forum. Religions overall historically do not do well with the interfaith concept.

    We try anyway, despite all the obstacles, and we fall down a lot more than we would wish to. That we are willing to even try is to our credit methinks. Okay, end of back patting for the day.
     
  20. Namaste Jesus

    Namaste Jesus Praise the Lord and Enjoy the Chai Moderator

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    Dare to dream....:)
    I look at it this way. Science makes new discoveries all the time, but have they really discovered anything new? No, just a new understanding of what already was. I take this same view of scripture. All the information is there, but our understanding of that information is limited by our current knowledge. As that knowledge increases so does our understanding of what is written.
     
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