Darrell Bock and Richard Averbeck addressed the same topic in part 2 of the recent The Table podcast (part 1 compares the biblical creation account with one ANE accounts). You can listen to the podcast here.
This week I’ve been reading one of my favorite books (if not my favorite) in the Hebrew Bible: Ecclesiastes. If you’ve never taken the time to read through the prologue (1:1-11) slowly you’re missing a real literary treat. Qohelet says, “Absolutely absurd! Everything is absurd!” (See Peter Enns, Ecclesiastes, 4, 31-32 for the logic behind this translation) Then the narrator goes on to use proofs/examples from creation: the sun rises, descends, and then goes “panting”(שׁואף) back to its place to do it again (v. 5); the winds blow to the north and to the south without end (v. 6); the rivers bring water to the sea, but the sea is never satisfied (v. 7); our eyes can never see enough nor can our ears hear enough (v. 8). Qohelet tells us this to remind us that everything is circular. One generation appears on the scene as another leaves the stage (i.e., dies), and this is all there is to it, always (v. 3).
The narrator summarizes Qohelet’s message before Qohelet is introduced: it is all absurd. There is nothing new (vv. 9-10). One day you will die, you will be forgotten, and your children and grandchildren will go about doing the same cyclical things you did until it is their turn to die, be forgotten, and give way for the next generation (v. 11).
Yes, this is a bit pessimistic. Yes, it presents a worldview void of the resurrection of Jesus. Yet I think it is one of the most real, gritty, earthy, existential sections of Scripture. Much like the psalms of lament, so Qohelet (and his narrator) give us permission to have those days when we wonder if there is any meaning in it all. It seems like we wake up Monday, run until Friday, relax for a weekend (for those of us lucky enough to have a M-F job), then repeat, until we die. Sometimes it seems meaningless. Where is it all going? What is the point?!
The image of the sun “panting” as it runs to move back into position to do it all over again makes me smile. It reminds me that we are part of this creation. We move in rhythm with nature and we share its plight. The earth was spinning around the sun before I was born and it will do the same when I decompose in my grave. In some sense this is freeing. Our insignificance should free us from having “messiah syndrome,” while allowing us to find surprising worth in the words of the psalmist (8:4) who wrote, “What is man (and woman!) that you are mindful of him (and her!)? and the son (and daughter!) of man (and woman!) that you care for him (and her!)? We are born, we live, we die, and this seems quite depressing….well, unless there is a resurrection from the dead, but that’s another topic for another time.
These are some blog posts and articles I have enjoyed recently:
Matthew Montonini has embedded some lectures by David deSilva on the Apocalypse: David deSilva Revelation videos.
Peter Enns gives us five reasons to rethink original sin as an Old Testament doctrine: 5 Old Testament Reasons to Rethink “Original Sin”.
Danielle Tumminio interviewed Candida Moss about her forthcoming book The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom: Candida Moss on Whether Christian Martyrs are a Myth.
As I’ve mentioned, I worship with a local Mennonite congregation here in San Antonio. My wife and I have come to love our group, even though neither of us had any direct connections to Mennonites. Interestingly, this is true of many people in our congregation. I have a Pentecostal background. Another person has a Lutheran background. One person came to us after several years in the house church movement. My experience has made me aware of other people discussing anabaptist thought including the following:
- Zach Hoag proposes that as there has been a Neo-Reformed movement there may be a Neo-Anabaptist movement in the making as well in Nuancing the Neo’s.
- Woodland Hills, the congregation pastored by Greg Boyd, considers joining the Mennonite Church USA (we are part of this denomination): Minnesota Megachurch to Go Mennonite? Possibly, Says Greg Boyd. Update: Boyd’s first sermon exploring anabaptist thought: Ana-What?
I spent several months reading and writing notes on John Collins’ Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? Who They Were and Why You Should Care and Peter Enns’ The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say About Human Origins. It went far longer than I expected it to go! Let me emphasize that these posts are notes–nothing more, nothing less. I placed them on this blog so that readers could interact with me if desired. Reading these notes does not (1) give readers of this blog a sufficient picture of these books and (2) does not provide excuse for dismissing the arguments of these authors. What you have here are the thoughts of Brian LePort, not C. John Collins and not Peter Enns.
If you decide to read these books please feel free to come to my blog, leave your thoughts and reflections, and maybe we can discuss things further. I hope these post cause people to be interested in these books.
There has been a lot of talk about what Scripture is and how to interpret it over the past five years. Books such as Kenton Sparks’ God’s Words in Human Words and Sacred Word, Broken Word, Peter Enns’ Inspiration and Incarnation, Thom Stark’s The Human Faces of God, Christian Smith’s The Bible Made Impossible, Darrell Bock’s Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? and N.T. Wright’s Scripture and the Authority of God have flooded my “More Items to Consider”section on Amazon. Not only this, there has been a lot of blogging about what exactly Scripture is as of late. Gregory Boyd argues that a hermeneutic of cruciformity needs to be our starting place for interpreting Scripture here. Peter Enns discusses Kenton Sparks new book here. Even eminent Arminian scholar, Roger Olson, praises Sparks’ book here.
What do we do with the texts that seem like blunders to us? Whether it has to do with the issue of monotheism in the Old Testament, the historicity of the Exodus from Egypt, texts of genocide, the pastoral epistles, there clearly are biblical texts that cause us trouble.
If I understand correctly (I haven’t read either of Sparks’ books), Sparks argues that we need to interpret all of Scripture through the lens of Jesus himself. Since Jesus is the true revelation of God all other revelation is secondary to this. Boyd argues that a Christocentric hermeneutic is too broad, and that we need to look at the most defining act of the incarnate God, the crucifixion. Thus, Boyd argues we need to have a cruciform hermeneutic. What Boyd also argues is that where there is a depiction of God that doesn’t align with the crucified Jesus, then we essentially put it away and say that this is a fallen view of who God is, and not a true revelation of what or who God is. This also frees us up with historical inaccuracies, since this is the human and fallen side of Scripture when it factually errs. Others, such as Craig Bartholomew in his recent book, Hearing the Old Testament: Listening for God’s Address has argued that the christocentric and cruciform (although he doesn’t mention the cruciform hermeneutic, the one he proposes negates it) hermeneutical approaches fall short; what we need is a Trinitarian hermeneutic! Still others not comfortable with any of these approaches take Warfield’s approach.
There clearly are tensions in Scripture, strong ones. To ignore this is intellectual dishonesty or ignorance. Nevertheless, I do believe that Scripture is reliable for faith and practice. Even though it has received much criticism, Paul Copan’s Is God a Moral Monster? addresses many misunderstandings concerning the Old Testament. Not only this, but David Lamb’s book God Behaving Badly deals with ethical issues in the OT as well. But these books haven’t exhausted the issues concerning ethics and diversity in OT/NT thought. Nor have these books touched the issues of archeology and textual criticism (this isn’t to say there aren’t books that have).
What do you think? How do you interpret texts that seem to be blunders? What is your hermeneutic epistemology? How do you reconcile the God of the cross with the God who commands genocide (which isn’t to say they are two different God’s)?
Peter Enns has written a short essay providing a “descriptive historical survey” on the evolution of the Pentateuch titled “When was Genesis Written and Why Does It Matter?”. You can access it from the BioLogos website here. The thesis is as follows:
“The Pentateuch as we know it was not authored out of whole cloth by a second millennium Moses, but is the end product of a complex literary process—written, oral, or both—that did not come to a close until sometimes after the return from exile.”
Enns makes some good observations (nothing radically new, hence a “historical survey”). I think it is a worthwhile read and I’d be interested to hear the opinion of any student of the Old Testament who has read it.
Many of you have read N.T. Wright’s most recent work After You Believe (if you have not I recommend it). Watch this video to see Wright discuss the book with Peter Enns: