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Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Adam and Eve: were they the first humans?

In this essay I discuss various views about Adam and Eve. I also present my own view which explore the wider ancient context in which the story originated. Questions asked are: Does the Biblical narrative say that Adam and Eve were the very first humans on earth or is there reason to believe otherwise? Can we view the story as historical? How should we understand the creation of Adam and Eve? Did God really created Adam out of dust and Eve out of one of his ribs? And how does the story relate to the ancient Sumerian story of Adapa which corresponds with it? This essay is the second in the series on the Book of Genesis.

There are few Bible stories that is so well known as the one about Adam and Eve. It is not only the very first story about humans in the Bible, it also include other well-known themes like the garden of Eden, the fall of man, the first appearance of the snake (typically taken as a symbol of the devil) etc. In this essay I focus only on Adam and Eve (the other themes will be discussed in other essays as part of the series on the Book of Genesis). Adam and Eve are the first humans mentioned in the Bible. But does this mean that they were the very first humans to walk this earth? How should we understand the creation of Adam and Eve? Did God really created Adam out of dust and Eve out of one of his ribs? How should we understand these things in an age in which science has established that humans are hundreds of thousands of years old and in which the Neo-Darwinian theory of evolution has become widely accepted.

The Biblical story of Adam and Eve has been hotly disputed and there is a lot of disagreement about it. In this essay I will discuss the important views. Among the best known are those who take the story in its simplicity as historically true. They believe that God created Adam and Eve about six thousand years ago and that they are the parents of the whole human race. Then there are some Christian scientists who present a scientific version of the Biblical narrative. They think that we should associate Adam and Eve with the original parents of the human race who lived about 200-150 000 years ago. Still others think that the story of Adam and Eve should not be seen as historical, but as a myth or metaphor. In this essay I will discuss these views. Each of them have some important drawbacks. I make some new proposals as to how the story could be understood by incorporating important background information from the ancient world (going back to ancient Sumeria, the fatherland of Abraham) which the author used when he wrote this remarkable story.

Simple interpretation

There are many Christians who believe that Adam and Eve were the first two people that God created on this earth about six thousand years ago. These Christians typically hold to the young earth creation view (see part 1 of the series) according to which God created the heaven and the earth in six solar days about six thousand years ago. They believe that a literal interpretation necessitates such a reading of the text. According to this view God created Adam out of dust, placed him in the garden of Eden and brought all the animals to him to name them. Later God caused a great sleep to overcome Adam and took one of his ribs to make Eve from it. Adam and Eve were the first humans on earth and all nations are descended from them.

Although it might at a first glance seem that this is what the narrative in Genesis 2 tells us, a careful reading reveals important inconsistencies which should warn us against taking a too simplistic view of this passage. We, for example, find that two creations of man are mentioned. According to the first account (the creation story) man, both male and female, were created during the sixth creation day (Gen. 1:27). According to the second account (the garden story) man was created only after that creation was completed (Gen. 2:7). Now, there are various ways to explain this. Some scholars accept that two different creation narratives were incorporated in the text but these readers normally do not accept this view. They argue that the first account place the creation of mankind within the overall account of creation whereas the second one is a more detailed account as to how Adam and Eve were created [1].

But even within such an interpretation of the text certain inconsistencies occur. In the garden story we find that Adam was created (Gen. 2:7) before God brought forth the trees out of the ground (Gen. 2:9) or formed the animals out of the ground: "And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them to Adam" (Gen. 2:19). Only after their creation did God introduced them to Adam to name them. The problem with such a "literal" reading is that it implies that Adam was created before the trees or the animals, which is in direct conflict with the creation story (Gen. 1)!

This, however, need not be a problem as long as we allow that the creation acts in the garden story do not necessarily occur at the time when they are mentioned in the text. We can logically assume that the trees and animals were created before Adam, but that the author thought it necessary to each time, when he reintroduce them in the garden story, mention again that God created them (even though it actually happened some time before during the days of creation).

But this has important implications for this view: it can imply that mankind was also created long before Adam is introduced into the story of the garden of Eden with the words: "And the Lord formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life" (Gen. 2:7). This could be taken as a general statement about the creation of mankind as it was previously described in the creation story. But this interpretation would negate the whole view that Adam was the first human created! Another way to read the creation of Adam in the garden story is to assume that this is in fact the same event mentioned previously in the creation story. But this is only one possible reading of the text.

There are other information in the story which also suggests that the author did not hold that Adam and Eve were the first humans. We, for example, find that Cain's wife is introduced as if the readers would know that other humans existed (Gen. 4:17). Now, it is certainly possible that he could have taken a wife from among his many sisters (Gen. 5:4). But this is just an assumption. We also read that Cain, after being sent away, is concerned that he will be murdered by anyone who come across him. This also seems to imply the presence of other humans. Why would one try to assert that Adam was the very first human on earth if the text allows for other readings which are more in line with scientific evidence which shows that humans have been around for a very long time? Both archaeology and DNA tests prove that humans and related species (even the Neanderthal's DNA has been sequenced) existed for some 200 000 years before the period in which Adam and Eve is placed (about six thousand years ago).

The story of the creation of Eve from Adam's rib also seems strange if taken literally. Does it mean that Adam literally lost one of his ribs in the process? Given the ancient context of the story, is it not more sensible to assume that this was but a story to introduce her and that the author maybe wanted to thereby affirm that women are in the closest possible sense part of men, so much so that "man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" (Gen. 2:21-24). One can understand that proponents of this view think that such an interpretation could in some way undermine the historicity of the rest of the story, and thereby the account of the fall itself, which is so important in Christian teaching. But this need not be the case. It seems to me that this interpretation is too one-dimensional and does not allow for other normal literary tools like metaphors to be used.

Some have tried to reconcile the evidence of early human existence with Adam and Eve's creation about six thousand years ago. C I Scofield, for example, in his so-called gap-theory, proposed a gap between the first and second verses of Genesis 1, between an early creation when those earlier humans lived and a later creation during which plants, animals and subsequently also humans were created in six solar days. In this scenario the fall also took place in phases, with the fall of Lucifer happening to the end of the previous creation and the fall of Adam and Eve, and all their descendents, happening as told in Genesis 3. The problem with this view is that there is no evidence of such a radical destruction or reappearance of the species.

Scientific interpretation

There are some Christian scientists who have developed an interpretation of the story of Adam and Eve consistent with scientific findings. These Christians accept the old earth creationist view, according to which the earth was created billions of years ago. They accept that the "days" of creation in Genesis 1 refer to long periods of time. If the sixth period ("day") of creation was millions of years long as these Christians accept, then there is no reason why humans who were created during that period, could not also be around for a long time. They therefore accept that the creation of mankind during the sixth period of creation happened much, much longer than six thousand years ago.

In this view it is accentuated that God created humans, i.e. that they did not came into existence through Neo-Darwinian evolution. These scientists use DNA evidence to argue for an original human pair from which all humans descend. Molecular anthropology (the use of genetic variability among people around the world as a way to understand the origin and early history of humanity) enable us to establish when such a mitochondrial Eve and Y chromosomal Adam lived. Current studies show that these converge around 150 000 years ago. Symbolism developed about 80-70 000 years ago, which these scientists view as reflecting the "image of God" in humans.

Some of the proponents of this view (from Reasons to Believe) argue that the Bible is silent about when God created Adam and Eve. They figure that the Biblical Adam and Eve should be identified with the mitochondrial Eve and Y chromosomal Adam [2]. In their opinion the genealogies in Genesis 5 and 10 should not be used to calculate the date for Adam and Eve. They see these as theological constructs and rejects the idea that Adam and Eve lived about six thousand years ago. These interpreters can clearly account for all humans as descendents of "Adam and Eve". And since they place the fall of mankind so many thousands of years ago, they can include all humans in the fall.

Not all Christian scientists are convinced by this view. Those from BioLogos, for example, do not think that Adam and Eve should be associated with some historical personages (see the next section) from the distant past which were miraculously created by God. They argue that the Biblical account of creation, which includes the creation of humans, is compatible with evolution. In the creation story God commanded that "the waters bring forth" (Gen.1.:20) or that "the earth bring forth" which is then equated with "God created" (Gen. 1:21) or "God made" (Gen. 25). This vagueness as to how God created implies that the creation story does not tell us in detail how that happened, but merely that it happened. This show not only that the creation of the various species, but also of mankind (Gen. 1:26), could have been through theistic evolution.

The scientists from BioLogos argue, furthermore, that DNA similarities between species prove common ancestry, especially when the nature of genomes are considered. These do not only share healthy genes but also broken genes. The presence of such broken genes proves a common ancestry because it show that these were inherited, not miraculously produced each time by God. They except that this data does not specify how such changes occurred, when they occurred or how long they took. This could be viewed as evidence for some form of theistic evolution, but not necessarily Neo-Darwinian evolution (see part 1). They, however, believe that this happened through Neo-Darwinian evolution.

The most important problem with the view discussed in this section (excluding the BioLogos view) is probably that they impose a scientific view on the Biblical text which should be read totally differently. If one wants to keep to a literal interpretation of Genesis 1, it is difficult to see how events like those told in the garden story, which are clearly placed within the historical horizon of the people of Israel, could have happened 150 000 years ago. It seems quite clear that the Biblical authors viewed Adam as living in the distant, but rememberable, past.

Metaphoric interpretation

In this view the Biblical story of Adam and Eve is taken as ancient literature which should be approached as such. They do not see any conflict between the scientific view of Neo-Darwinian evolution and the Bible story because they do not think that Adam and Eve as described in the Book of Genesis refer to historical personages. In their opinion the story should be considered as myth or at least as a metaphorical tale. They take some of the features in the story, like the creation of Eve from Adam's rib and the speaking serpent, as proof that it was never intended to be taken in any literal sense. In their opinion the story was meant to accentuate some truth for the listeners.

For some of these scholars, from the Biblical Criticism tradition, the mythical reading of this story implies that the fall of mankind and therefore the whole argument for Jesus Christ's death is superfluous. According to many passages in Scripture Jesus is said to have died to save us from the effects of the fall (for example, in Romans 5:12-21). So, they argue, if the fall is part of a myth, Jesus's death could not have been what New Testament authors like St. Paul made it out to be. Other Christians, for example from BioLogos, hold a metaphorical view and believe that the story of Adam and Eve is a "kind of traditional story that cultures use to understand themselves – stories that unpack the common experience of humanity" [3]. In this reading the story of the fall explains why all humans seem to have a "dark side". It should be taken as a statement about the common human condition. In this reading Jesus's death is taken as rectifying that condition.

Many evangelical Christians find it problematic that this view in general excludes the possibility that the garden story could in some sense be taken as historical. Even if we do not consider Adam and Eve as the very first humans on earth, they still seem to stand in some historical framework at the beginning of God's involvement with humans. The metaphoric images in the story does not negate the possibility that some historical event could be described. One can even argue that the classification of literature as mythical has become too easy and stereotypical – it does not really make an effort to understand the text within the wider Middle-Eastern context in which it originated. Unpacking the story within the framework of this wider context could provide important insights that go beyond a mere mythical view.

Contextual interpretation

In my view the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2-3 should not be taken simplistically as describing the creation of the very first humans on earth but also not scientifically as referring to our first human ancestors. There are good reasons to think that, although the author presents them as being first in some sense, he did not present them as the very first humans ever created. This does not dispute that some mitochondrial "Eve" and Y chromosomal "Adam" could have lived some time in the distant past.

I have already shown that the mentioning of acts of creation in the garden story (Gen. 2:7,9,19) should not be taken as referring to actual events because that would undermine the unity of the stories told by the author. These should be taken as merely referring to the fact that humans, trees and animals were originally created by God during the six periods of creation as told in the creation story. This imply that we can distinguish between the creation of humans during the sixth creation period (which could have happened 200 000 years ago) and the time of Adam, who was a descendent of those first created beings.

This view is supported by the fact that the name Adam does not occur in the creation story. Only the word 'adam appears, which is translated as "man". This could imply that the 'adam (man) mentioned in the creation story should be distinguished from the man who is the central personage in the garden story and is later identified as Adam (Gen. 3:20) [4]. This would mean that in the creation story the word "man" refers to mankind in general, who was created in God's own image, who was created as "male and female" (Gen. 1:26-29). This is supported by Gen. 5:1-2 where the word 'adam is used to refer to both male and female persons: "Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name 'adam". We can then assume that these 'adam were in the time of Adam also present outside the garden of Eden and that Cain referred to some among them as the ones who may kill him.

This view that Adam and Eve were not the very first humans is supported by the extra-Biblical material used in this story. There can be no doubt that the material which the author of the Book of Genesis used for his ancient history (Gen. 2-11) goes back to ancient Sumerian sources [5]. Some of these stories go back to the earliest strata of memory in the Middle-East. This is especially true of the story of Adam, who corresponds with Adapa who is mentioned in Sumerian sources. This is not the place for a detailed discussion of the topic, but I can mention some of the obvious agreements. Adapa was misled by die Sumerian god Enki (who is sometimes described as a snake) regarding the food of life in the same way that Eve was misled by the snake regarding the food of the tree. Agreements between the stories include these basic motifs as well as the names (Adam/Adapa), their place in history as the first known human, their relationship with the Most High God [6], their not eating the food of life etc [7].

Adapa's role in Sumerian tradition as the founding sage who brought civilization to Sumeria (Mesopotamia) in the time of the first permanent settlement in the plains fits nicely with our picture of the archeological history of that country. Adapa was not the very first human; he was the first known human with whom the Most High God was associated. And this is what was important to the author of the Genesis narrative who tells about God's involvement in the history of mankind. Once we recognize that Adam-Adapa was in fact a well-known figure of ancient history, who was believed to have lived at the time when civilization started in the plains of Mesopotamia about six thousand years ago, it is immediately clear that it is very unlikely that the Biblical author would have presented him in conflict with this age-old tradition as being the very first human. This is another reason why we should not interpret the garden story such that Adam is made into the very first human created.

But if Adam and Eve were not created as the first human pair, what do we make of verses in the Bible which mention that God "made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth" (Acts 17:26)? Does not this clearly state that all humans on all the earth descended from Adam and Eve? Such statements in the Bible were clearly never intended to be understood in a scientific way as making an absolute statement of truth (in the pre-scientific age such statements were typically regarded as observational statements). Rather, it refers to an obvious truth, namely that according to the genealogies in Genesis 4, 5 and 10 the later peoples of the Middle East were considered descendants of Adam and Eve or of Noah and his wife. But this does not mean that these peoples had no other possible forefathers or that distant nations like the Chinese, the American Indians and many other peoples around the world were all descended from them (these are after all not mentioned in those lists).

A historical account?

We can now consider the question: Should we regard the garden story as historical? To explore this, we should first discuss the various images in the garden story. In this essay I will only discuss the images used to depict creation; other images, like the talking serpent, the tree in the middle of the garden, the forbidden fruit etc. will be discussed in other essays in this series. The first such image is where God made man from the dust of the earth. This is a very old Middle Eastern image in which God as creator is envisioned as a potter who made man from the soil. The word 'adam also means "soil". This obviously does not imply that humans are physically made from ground; rather, it is only the image of the potter which is used to metaphorically describe the divine act of creation (see also Is. 64:8 etc).

The other creation image is more complex and requires a more detailed discussion. We read that Eve was made from Adam's rib. Now, this is also taken from a very well-known ancient image. In the story of the Sumerian god Enki's creation of eight other gods and goddesses from his own body, these gods and goddesses were named after various parts of his body in a play of words. One of these was a virgin goddess called Ninti, whose name means "lady rib" but play on the words "lady life". Now this is exactly what we find in the garden story in the Book of Genesis: Eve is taken from the rib of Adam and her name is later said to mean "life" (Gen. 3:20). The probable reason why the author used and reworked this story to introduce Eve was that he wanted to accentuate that she was in the closest sense one with Adam, just as the mentioned gods and goddesses were in the closest possible sense associated with their parent god. The story was used purely as a metaphoric image; it seems to me extremely unlikely that the author took this story which he invented as literally true.

Once we understand these creation images, we also see that the author used them to provide some background for the first humans that he introduced in his narrative. But does this mean that we should take the garden story as a whole also as a mere metaphoric tale? Not necessarily. Although it is certainly true that the story wants to convey an important truth (or truths: not only about the fall, but also about work and rest etc.) there is good reason to assume that the author wanted to present Adam as a real historical figure from the distant past. As mentioned before, Adam-Adapa was considered in the ancient Middle-East as the first known human who brought civilization to Mesopotamia about six thousand years ago and both Sumerians and Semites probably viewed him as a forefather. This allowed the author to place him within the historical framework of patriarchal history.

We should, however, remember that Eve does not appear in the Sumerian equivalent of the story. Did the author invent her? It is possible that he used a variation of the story in which she was already present. We do not know in what form the story was transmitted in Semitic circles and (as I argued elsewhere [5]) later within the midst of the Abrahamic family. It was a very old legend and it is not strange for such legends to incorporate all sorts of mythical and metaphorical elements. But the presence of these do not negate the legendary aspect of the story which could very well have been grounded in some historical event. This gives some support to the view that the story could in some sense be considered historical. But at the end of the day, it is clearly impossible to confirm or deny the historicity of the garden story and those who take it as historical typically do so because they consider it as a divinely inspired story which, given its place at the beginning of the patriarchal lineage, should be considered as historical.

The reason why this story was important to the author could not be divorced from the broader narrative found in the Book of Genesis, which tells the story of God's involvement with mankind since their creation to the time of Abraham and beyond. In this framework the story of Adam and Eve (as does its equivalent, the story of Adapa) is of special importance because it represents the oldest known story about God's involvement with mankind. This involvement included an awareness of mankind's fallenness which stands central in their relationship with God. New Testament authors like St Paul, who also takes Adam as a historical person, also accentuated this aspect of the garden story [8]. 

When we accept that Adam and Eve were not the very first humans on earth, then we should carefully consider what the fall as historical event means. Such an event in the garden would have excluded all other humans living at that time outside the garden. This problem, however, could be solved if we see Adam's disobedience as the occasion when the fallen human condition was first revealed (I plan to discuss this in more detail later on in this series on the Book of Genesis). Then the great truth presented in the story is (even for those Christians would prefer not to take it as a particular event) the fallen human condition which plays such an important role in our relationship with God. For most Christians the story of Adam and Eve reveals this fallenness which stands central in the salvation that Jesus Christ achieved on the cross.

Conclusion

The garden story stands at the beginning of the author of the Book of Genesis's narrative about God's early relationship with humans. It tells about the first known human(s) who had a relationship with the Most High God. There is no reason to assume as the simple traditional interpretation does – in direct contrast with all evidence that mankind is much, much older than this – that Adam and Eve are presented in this story as the very first humans on earth. We must distinguish the creation of humans in general as described in the creation story (Gen. 1: 26-29) from these later events in the garden. Regarding the two images of creation (of Adam and Eve) that the author uses in the garden story, we should not consider these as referring to actual acts of creation but merely as giving some background as to the nature of the characters when he introduces them in his narrative.

The basic elements of the story of Adam and Eve is very old and goes back to the earliest strata of Sumerian tradition. We do not know precisely in which form the story was known to the author, but some of the elements of the story were definitely present, namely the name of the main character (Adam-Adapa), the relationship between this early human and the Most High God as well as his failure to eat of the food of life. The author reworked the story, using some well-known Sumerian creation motifs, and accentuated the act of disobedience which is associated with the fall. Although there is no possible way that we can ever confirm or deny that this event really happened, the author most likely viewed Adam and Eve as historical personages and the fall as a real event which he then situated at the beginning of the lineage and story of the Abrahamic family. This interpretation of the story secures the integrity of the Biblical text and is at the same time in agreement with our current archeological, historical and scientific understanding of the past.

[1] Biblical Criticism accepts that the two "creation stories" represent two of the hypothetical sources that were used for the Pentateuch. I plan to discuss this in more detail in later parts of the series. In this essay I accentuate the unity of the narrative as written by the same author.
[2] On the internet: http://www.reasons.org/articles/when-did-mitochondrial-eve-and-y-chromosomal-adam-live.
[3] Giberson, K.W. & Collins, F. S. 2011. The Language of Science and Faith. London: SPCK.
[4] Or Gen. 3:17. In Gen. 5:1-2 Adam and 'adam are also be distinguished: "This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; male and female created he them, and called their name 'adam, in the day when they were created." This gives some background for Adam, who was of the human species ('adam) which was created during the sixth period of creation.
[5] I discuss the ancient Sumerians in part 1 of the series. For a detailed discussion of the agreement between the ancient history in the Book of Genesis (Gen. 2-11) and the ancient Sumerian sources, see Mc Loud, W. 2012. Op soek na Abraham en sy God. Kaapstad: Griffel.
[6] In my book I argue that the Most High God of Sumerian tradition (called An) corresponds with the Most High God (El-Elyon) in the Hebrew tradition. Both was known as the father of the gods in the council of the gods (see for example Ps. 82:6). The difference between the names/words An and El can be seen as equivalent to God and Dieu (God in French)
[7] As one expects of such stories which go back to the same original tradition, but which were orally transmitted over thousands of years in different environments, there are also some differences. Eve, for example, does not have an equivalent in the Adapa story. Why would one prefer the Biblical version? I argue in my book Abraham en sy God (2012) that there are reasons to believe that the Semitic version is more reliable. This is partly due to the techniques used in the Semitic oral tradition (reference to these techniques and examples of such transmission are found in the Akkadian tradition). Christians could prefer the Biblical version because they believe in the divine inspiration of the text.
[8] Considering Adam and Eve as historical personages does not negate their archetypical character as representing the ancient ancestral pair or the fall as an archetypical event, i.e. as a revelation of our fallen (disobedient) nature. Eve as "the mother of all living" (Gen. 3:20) is such an archetypal depiction. This can obviously not be taken as really referring to "all living" but only to humans. Although she is presented in the Book Genesis as the mother of all those mentioned in the lists of genealogies, she is here depicted as an archetypal mother figure of humanity. Adam is also depicted in such fashion. We read in reference to Gen. 2:7 (discussed above): "The first man Adam was made a living soul" (1 Cor 15:45). This takes Adam, the first "known" man, as the archetypal human.

Author: Dr Willie Mc Loud. Posted on www.wmcloud.blogspot.com
The author has written a book on the Sumerian roots of the Bible (Op soek na Abraham en sy God (Griffel, 2012)) and is a scientist (PhD in Physics). He writes on issues of religion, philosophy, science and eschatology.

The book of Genesis, part 1: Does the creation narrative of Genesis 1 support the idea of a young earth?  
The book of Genesis, part 3: The Garden of Eden: was it a real place?
Also: A critique of Biblical Criticism as a scholarly discipline.  

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10 comments:

  1. Found this most interesting...thank you

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  3. Dankie vir die baie interessante stuk.
    Het ook al dikwels gedink dat Adam dalk die eerste mens was aan wie God homself openbaar het. Maar dit laat nou weer 'n hele spul ander vrae opduik soos hoekom God dit nie vroeër gedoen het of ook aan ander mense nie...
    Soveel vrae, so min tyd! Dankie weereens, ek geniet u blog baie.
    Groete,
    Brand

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    1. Hi Brand. Eks bly jy vind dit interessant. Ek wil darem net noem dat ek nie dink dat Adam noodwendig die eerste mens was aan wie God Homself geopenbaar het nie. Ek dink wel dat hy die eerste een is van wie ons weet. Dis nogal 'n verskil en kan dalk jou vraag gedeeltelik beantwoord. Die Adam-verhaal is natuurlik ook besonders omdat dit vertel hoe sy ongehoorsaamheid (ek laat Eva maar hier uit die bespreking) die menslike gevallenheid openbaar gemaak het.

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  4. Het nog nie so daaraan gedink nie, dankie Willie - Maak 'n hele nuwe denkveld vir my oop...

    Goed gaan
    Brand

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  5. Willie, gesien teen die feit van jou "konserwatiewe evangeliese" agtergrond is hierdie stuk skryfwerk baie veelseggend. Die praktiese probleem lyk vir my om eerlike Skrifuitleg vanuit die konteks en agtergrondskennis so aan te bied dat mens nie aan die eenkant evangeliese Bybelgelowiges verloor en afskrik (of verwar)nie, maar aan die anderkant om jouself duidelik te onderskei van diegene wat die Bybel bloot as 'n oud Midde-Oosterse boek vol mites beskou.(Nuwe Hervormers) Dit kos fyntrap...en ek sou dink kan mens blootstel aan baie onregverdige kritiek...? Ek sou graag wou weet hoe jou "tradisionele gehoor" hierdie insigte van jou hanteer? Dit behels nogals 'n spanning tussen eerlike omgang met die Skrif sowel as die wetenskap, en 'n pastorale besorgdheid om nie die "eenvoudiges" te laat struikel nie, as jy verstaan wat ek bedoel...

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    1. Johannes, dankie vir jou sinvolle opmerkings. Ek besef dat ons grootgeword het met sekere interpretasies van die Bybelse teks wat ons baie maal as die enigste Bybels-korrekte sieninge beskou. Soos ons egter die teks beter verstaan omdat ons kennis vermeerder (Dan. 12:4), bv as gevolg van nuwe inligting uit die antieke wêreld waaruit die Bybel kom (neem die storie van Eva wat uit Adam se rib gemaak is), moet ons oop wees vir beter interpretasies wat meer sin maak vanuit 'n evangeliese benadering tot die teks. Verder, soos ek die Goddelike inspirasie verstaan, sal die teks se integriteit die toets van tyd deurstaan, ie as die wetenskap (bv argeologie) duidelik toon dat die mensdom baie ouer as 6000 jaar is, sal dit nie in stryd met die teks wees nie. Ek probeer dus 'n interpretasie daarstel wat reg doen aan die teks maar wat ook vir die ingeligte mens van ons tyd sinmaak. Jy is reg dat sommige dit nie verstaan nie - ek kry sommige mede-Christene wat enige afwyking van die tradisies waarmee hulle bekend is baie negatief neem as 'n aanslag op die Bybel self. Maar ek is bereid om daardie kritiek te verduur want dit is vir my baie belangriker dat die Bybelse teks vir die mense van ons tyd sinmaak. Mense sal tog nie in die God van die Bybel glo as hulle geen vertroue in die Bybelse teks het nie. So, ek glo dat, alhoewel sommige dit nie sal verstaan nie, is dit presies wat ek moet doen. Om sinvolle en gesofistikeerde interpretasies van die teks op die tafel te plaas vir gesprek in Christen kringe - interpretasies wat die gesag van die teks, die antieke milieu, ons huidige kennis oor die wêreld en ons evangeliese vertolking in ag neem. Ek glo: My volk gaan te gronde vanweë 'n gebrek aan kennis. Ek hoop dat die meeste evangeliese Christene die belangrikheid hiervan sal raaksien en dat daar met tyd 'n groter openheid vir so 'n aanslag sal kom. As ons dit nie doen nie gaan die Christendom al meer 'n geloofwaardigheidskrisis beleef en kan die godlose wêreld van Europa ook hier ons voorland wees. Wat die liberale sieninge betref wat bv. die Bybelse teks maar net as nog 'n antieke teks sien, probeer ek ter selfder tyd duidelik toon waarom sulke sieninge verwerp moet word. Ek het bv onlangs 'n artikel oor Kritiese Bybelwetenskap op my blog gepos. Wat die "eenvoudiges" betref wat kan struikel, wat kan struikel, glo ek dat iemand soos jy 'n belangrike bydrae kan lewer deur voorstelle te maak en die gesprek so uit te bou.

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    2. Ek voel dit beslis eens met jou opmerkings, en ek dink daar wag 'n groot werk en 'n felle stryd. Die geveg is na twee kante toe : teen die postmoderne relatiwisme en allerlei vorme van ongeloof (Nuwe Hervormers ens.), maar aan die anderkant ook evangeliese Christene wat enige dinkwerk bykans as sonde beskou. (die tipe mense wat by die King James staan en val ens.) 'n Tussen hierdie twee uiterstes is daar natuurlik ook baie variasies. Miskien moet mens dink aan iets soos 'n eietydse helder belydenisskrif (geloofsverantwoording) wat o.a. sake soos skrifbeskouing sal aanspreek, maar ook duidelike onderskeid sal tref tussen ononderhandelbare waarhede (soos die liggaamlik historiese opstanding van Jesus) en sake waaroor ons maar mag verskil soos die ouderdom van die aarde (omdat die Woord bedoel om daaroor uitsprake te maak nie) Ek stem heelhartig saam met jou stelling : "Mense sal tog nie in die God van die Bybel glo as hulle geen vertroue in die Bybelse teks het nie."
      Twee sake staan vir my uit as krities belangrik om 'n nugtere Bybelse standpunt vir ons tyd te formuleer : Skeppingsleer en die kwessie van homoseksualiteit.

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