Saturday, March 29, 2014


There is no doubt that the Bible is one of the most valuable historical documents that we have.  Textual critics date most of the OT to around the time of the great Athenians -- Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides, Herodotus, Xenophon etc.  But it also seems clear that the assembly of the OT did include at times much older documents.  Just which those are is of course something that textual scholars continue to debate.

For my money I see Exodus and probably Genesis as very early.  And I base that on the view of the Gods found there.  The Greek Gods were generally very powerful and effective figures.  Nobody pushed them around.  But YHWH as described in Exodus is rather pathetic, much more like the only barely effective Gods of earlier times.  He has the Devil of a time (if I may use that expression) in getting the Pharaoh to do anything and it is only after YHWH has visited plague after plague on Egypt that the Pharaoh relents a little

But that is only the start of YHWH's troubles.  Now he has to keep the Israelites in line.  And he frequently fails. They go off after other Gods all the time.  So I see Exodus as a true account of a quite primitive people  -- much earlier than the sophisticated Greeks.

And that is valuable.  We have no comprehensive account of such a primitive people from any other source.  We have a few scraps of cunieform but that is it.  So how accurate is the OT as history?  From what I see, it always has the last laugh.  Things in it that were once dismissed as myth keep being confirmed as real  by archaeological discoveries.

So what are we to make of the days of Methuselah, when some men lived to be nearly 1,000 years old?  As is usually alleged, it could simply be a mistranslation.  In earliest times there were a variety of number systems in use and interpreting numbers given in one system as if they were from another system could give absurd answers.  They could be out by a factor of 10, for instance.  That this was the mistake is now well-argued for, so instead of Methuselah living to 969 years, his age is now given by some scholars as 96.9 years -- which is very plausible.

I am reluctant however to say that anything as recorded in the Bible is wrong or mistaken. People who claim that often have to eat their words.  So I have an explanation which makes sense of the literal Bible account.

Most people these days accept it as entirely likely that there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.  But they also see it as quite unlikely that we will ever get vistors from extra-terrestrials.  Why?  Because the distance between alternative biospheres is so great.  You would need to travel several lifetimes just to get from one biosphere to another.

But what is a lifetime?  I don't think it stretches credibility too far to say that there may be  some beings somewhere for whom 1,000 years is a lifetime.  And for such a people, interstellar travel may be a more attractive and plausible idea.

So Genesis chapter 5 could be seen as showing that there is such an extraterrestrial people and that they did once visit us.  And that they were humanoid is not a stretch too far.  As biologists say, form follows function.

Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).


Doom said...

I always chuckle when extraterrestrials are brought in, on any subject. Do they exist? The scientific community seems to believe so. Right after they suggest God doesn't exist. Even while there is vastly more evidence for God than for alien life. Never mind.

As to living a thousand years? If you believe a word of the bible, then this is rather simple to understand and not difficult, at all, to believe. If man, Adam, and Eve, were created perfectly, even immortal of flesh before they sinned, then their forms would have had a great resistance to death. It would have taken time to devolve through sin, and eventually it was suggested that God... after the flood perhaps, put a limit on the life of men, to about 100 years.

Still, play as you will. Believe whatever works for you. I'll just grin and giggle at the amalgamation of notions which contradict and weave in that odd fashion you have.

Wireless.Phil said...

Don't even get me started!
God did not write the bible!
A bunch of people sitting around with nothing better to do decided to make up a great hoax and we're the idiots that still believe it!

slwlion1 said...

I repeat what Bible ??? Septuagint,Tanakh,Douay Rheims, or maybe any of the following Niv, Nasb, Asb, Kjv, Nkjv, Drv..It is preposterous to state "the Bible says its so"..Since the Protestant Reformation the Bible has become whatever anyone wishes it to be.. Essentially good but flawed with each translation..

slwlion1 said...

Hey Phil' it's okay Partner, calm down..If you don't believe it's alright..Why all the anger ?? ..I'll pray that you find Faith and serenity..

Doom said...

"God did not write the bible!" Absolutely, but God did inspire it.

Odd that you don't believe in God, but believe the most recent, if you know of them, despite not being able to prove a one of them, and further knowing most of them are wrong... able to put holes in them in your area, theories developed by men. Men as fallible as yourself. Still, quite your choice.

As to the version of the bible that is best? If I could learn Latin, and Greek and Hebrew, I would read the Vulgate and the other original resources (which would also require a true language and social study for the era of specific writings). I just don't have the energy, or resources, to do that correctly. But the Challoner Revision of the Douay–Rheims Bible will suffice, after reviewing many translations. The King James can be good, so long as it isn't one of the newer revisions (but it was heavily influenced by the Douay-Rheims, so... I just stick with the original, revised before feminism and modernism and not influenced by protestantism.

After all, King James was having the book written because one of his predecessors broke away from the Church so as to be the "head of the church" in order to marry, and kill, as many wives as it took to please his ego with a son. And he yet failed. A king without a son, spiting God to do it, and still losing, does not a good head of the church make. Fail.

JR said...

The translations differ only in minor ways. Getting the intended sense of a text is no great problem 99% of the time

Doom said...

To a degree, JR. But I would disagree on the 99%. Especially when he, or she, has been reduced to them, give or take. But in other areas, it can get really messy. My father was an actual biblical scholar, and preacher. I got to see some of the mechanics of language and some of the atrocious mishandling that a slight wording change can, and does, make.

If the bible is too heavy, stick with Tolkien.

slwlion1 said...

JR: In reality there are 73 books in the Catholic Bible and only 66 in the Authorized King James Bible..You are correct in what is available being similar, it is what is not available wherein lies the problem. Doom: I am not a Biblical scholar, just an old Altar

Doom said...

Oh, yea, I forgot about the abridgement, slwlion1. But then, even when I was a protestant, I read those forbidden books. And as a Catholic, and before, read Enoch... all with some grains of salt, if for some of that, now, less of a grain. Actually, Christ referred to the book of Enoch, though whether because it was right whole, right in that spot, or culturally relevant is... difficult to know.

I'm not scholar myself, just as I mentioned, worked closely enough with one to see some serious issues with many interpretations. I've spoken, at one time, five other languages, so... I see even more the significance of mal-translations.

I didn't know altar boys got old? I thought they just faded away to the last pews! :)


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