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An alternative history in Genesis?


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#1 RichardWorthington

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Posted 20 August 2008 - 06:44 AM

This is a good point... if we look at the Book of Revelation, a prophecy of the future, there is little there that we would dare to interpret literally and Fathers who left commentaries on the Book of Revelations sought hidden/symbolic meaning in the images presented in the book. If we apply the same principle to the Book of Genesis (1-2) and view it through the eyes of the Fathers, we will see that all of them either interpreted it literally or did not deny literal interpretation.


I, too, believe in a literal Genesis (Yuri converted me by describing the beauty hidden under the letter!!) but I am not a Creationist by any stretch of the imagination: to me trying to understand humanity or God by using proofs from creation (whether evolutionary or ‘creation-ary’) is a simple denial of the Spirit of life. God fundamentally has not given us inspired books (although these exist), but He has given us His Spirit …

St Jerome has written the following:

A firmament is constructed between heaven and earth, and to this is allotted the name heaven, … and the waters which are above the heavens are parted from the others to the praise of God. Wherefore also in the vision of the prophet Ezekiel there is seen above the cherubim a crystal stretched forth,(Ezek. i. 22.) that is, the compressed and denser waters. …

In Eden a garden is planted, and a fountain in the midst of it parts into four heads.(Gen. ii. 8, 10.) This is the same fountain which Ezekiel later on describes as issuing out of the temple and flowing towards the rising of the sun, until it heals the bitter waters and quickens those that are dead.(Ezek. xlvii. 1, 8.)

When the world falls into sin nothing but a flood of waters can cleanse it again. But as soon as the foul bird of wickedness is driven away, the dove of the Holy Spirit comes to Noah(Gen. viii. 8, 11.) as it came afterwards to Christ in the Jordan,(Matt. iii. 16.) and, carrying in its beak a branch betokening restoration and light, brings tidings of peace to the whole world.

http://www.ccel.org/...206.v.LXIX.html


I do view Genesis as real, and as real as the book of Revelation. However, I can not help but get the feeling that someone turned Genesis from reading like an apocalypse into a text reading like a story. As can be seen from the above, Jerome also believes in Genesis, but his Genesis is a world which we now know as visions. Our physical world is merely a poor reflection of the world of the Visions: the world of Visions is the original world created very good by God (my current guess is that this is the world and universe before the big bang).

Fr Seraphim Rose in his big book on Genesis is quite adamant that Genesis 1-11 be interpreted realistically, even though symbolic interpretations can also be used. However, in his commentary on Revelation 22:1 ("he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.") he can only give symbolic interpretations, "This symbolically depicts the grace of the Life-giving Spirit". At the end of the chapter he notes that this is the same river as that mentioned by Ezekiel 47:12 - which Jerome above believes is the very same river as that in Eden! ("The Apocalypse", Archbishop Averky & Fr Seraphim Rose, p. 277 & 283)

I think there is a fundamentally flawed approach to both Genesis and Revelation: Genesis must be adhered to literally, Revelation must be adhered to symbolically. Yet St Jerome links the river mentioned in both as being the same.

So for a breath of fresh air, as Revelation can be interpreted as referring to historical events (e.g. the Jewish War of 66-70AD and Rev. 12:6, p. 180), I would like to give below my ideas of how a sizeable portion of Genesis 1-11 is actually a ‘story-fied’ version of ancient Jewish history. Genesis seems to me to be one big ‘what went wrong’ story, with elements of the original creation and Fall and Flood, and elements of Israelite history, the lapse into idolatry, the destruction of the temple, the rebuilding of the temple, etc. Genesis has indeed been ‘story-fied’ hiding a double history!

Before judging me too harshly, ask this: how many coincidences does it take to go beyond a coincidence?

As ever, I have been profoundly impressed by the approach of Dr Margaret Barker (http://www.margaretbarker.com).

Richard

#2 RichardWorthington

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Posted 20 August 2008 - 06:54 AM

Genesis chapter 1:1-2:3

Exodus 40:17-34 describes how the tabernacle of the Lord was set up. Yet it clearly mirrors the six days of creation:

Like God at creation, the people began to build the tabernacle on the first day of the year. On Day One was created the basic structure of heaven and earth, waters, abyss, light, darkness and heavenly powers; on the first day of building, the frame and covering of the tabernacle were set up, establishing the basic structure. On the second day, the firmament was created and in the tabernacle the ark was screened from view by the veil. By implication, the ark and the veil represented heaven, just as Cosmas said several centuries later. On the third day, God created the dry land and its vegetation (Gen. 1.9-13; Jub. 2.7 says he created the Garden of Eden), and in the tabernacle a table was set up in the outer area where bread, the fruit of the earth, was offered. On the fourth day, the LORD created the sun, moon and stars (Gen. 1.14-19), and the seven-branched lampstand was set in the tabernacle which the people knew was a symbol of the sun, moon and planets (Philo, On Gen. 1.10). After this point the pattern is not so clear, but there can be little doubt that the whole creation had a heavenly archetype and that both were represented in microcosm in the temple and tabernacle. The human, Adam, created on the sixth day, was the high priest.

Page 20 from the book http://www.margaretb.../Revelation.htm


I think I can improve on the symbolism for days one, five, and six. First day one:

Gen 1:1 IN the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Gen 1:2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
Gen 1:3 Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.


The heavens: "And he spread out the tent over the tabernacle and put the covering of the tent on top of it" (Exd 40:19). The tent was made from the same material as the veil, and the priest’s tunic (Paul mentions that the veil of the temple was the flesh of Christ).

Let there be light: "he brought the ark into the tabernacle" (Exd 40:21). The ark was covered in gold, and so I think represented the glory of God shining.

The waters: "a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb" (Rev 22:1). There was a symbolism of a river coming out from God’s throne: somehow could there have been such a symbol of water in the tabernacle, flowing from the Ark of the Covenant?


Day five:

Gen 1:21 So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind.


The relevant part in Exodus is the following:

Exd 40:26 He put the gold altar in the tabernacle of meeting in front of the veil;
Exd 40:27 and he burned sweet incense on it, as the LORD had commanded Moses.


At first sight, this has nothing to do with the sea and birds. However, the incense used in burning contained onycha (Exd 30:34) which is "the covering or shell of a kind of muscle found in the lakes of India" (from Strong’s concordance, Blue Letter Bible). Additionally the incense was to be salted (Exd 30:35; some translations interpret the word here as ‘tempered’ or ‘mixed’). And it seems likely that salt would be gathered from the Dead Sea, a.k.a. Salt Sea. So this is a possible reference to the sea and its creatures. For birds, we have that "clouds fly forth like birds" (Sirach 43:14).
(See also this post where I link the fifth day with the priestly basin used for washing.)


Day six:

Gen 1:25 And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind.

Exd 40:29 And he put the altar of burnt offering before the door of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, and offered upon it the burnt offering


On the altar animals were burnt as a sacrifice.

Finally observe that:

Exd 40:34 Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.


God rested on the seventh day, God’s rest refers to His uncreated glory.



So, the erecting of the tabernacle is related to Genesis chapter 1. Which influenced which? The tabernacle would never have been built how it was unless there had been a prior belief in the specific creation of God, but then again perhaps the Genesis account has been shaped by the erecting of the tabernacle!

Read Genesis chapter 1 again - with new eyes of a double history: the start of creation and the start of the worship of God!

Richard

Edited by RichardWorthington, 20 August 2008 - 07:13 AM.


#3 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 20 August 2008 - 09:00 AM

Dear friends,

It is with some trepidation that I see another thread related to Genesis and creation beginning. Over the past year, a tremendous number of threads on this topic have been started, almost all of which ended up becoming generalised discussions on creation and/or/vs. evolution.

Of such conversations, from the Creation, the Cosmos and Human Nature area alone we have:

That's over 1,200 posts (and to this we might add the current discussion in the Nature of God area, entitled Can God lie?, which is starting to lean in the same direction), in threads that - despite being started with different titles and areas of focus - all tended to end up addressing the basic evolution/creation question. Needless to say, somewhere long before post 1,000, the discussions had grown rather circular and repetative.

For this new thread, then, in order to avoid simply stirring up and tromping over well-trodden ground, can I request that all participants make a special effort to keep strictly to the topic of the relationship of Genesis to the laws and practices of worship, and not to use it as a thread for additional redress of the creation/evolution issue.

Particularly in a forum dedicated to patristic heritage and testimony, remembering that discussion of Genesis and creation does not always (or even primarily) equal a discussion on the science of creation, is an important reclaiming of a patristic focus.

Many thanks, INXC, Dcn Matthew

#4 Father David Moser

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Posted 20 August 2008 - 01:28 PM

[/U] Our physical world is merely a poor reflection of the world of the Visions: the world of Visions is the original world created very good by God (my current guess is that this is the world and universe before the big bang).


That's not Orthodoxy - that's Platonism. Plato taught that the physical world was only an imperfect expression of the ideal - that the multitude of creatures are various attempts to portray the "real" ideal. This leads not to Orthodoxy, but to gnosticism.

Fr David Moser

#5 RichardWorthington

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Posted 20 August 2008 - 01:34 PM

That's not Orthodoxy - that's Platonism. Plato taught that the physical world was only an imperfect expression of the ideal - that the multitude of creatures are various attempts to portray the "real" ideal. This leads not to Orthodoxy, but to gnosticism.

Fr David Moser


Dear Father,

I think we agree with each other: the physical world that God created was very good - and the bit that remains unfallen (the firmament) is still very good.

I am just thinking of the effects of the Fall ... the world now is very imperfect, that's all. Even so, the 'very good' still shines in it. Christ partook of the fruits of the physical world when He took upon Himself a physical body, which He will keep for ever.

:)

Richard/Alban

#6 Antonios

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Posted 20 August 2008 - 04:59 PM

Dear Richard,

I enjoyed reading your posts above. What you wrote was very interesting.

In Christ,
Antonios

#7 John King

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Posted 21 August 2008 - 05:12 PM

"Particularly in a forum dedicated to patristic heritage and testimony, remembering that discussion of Genesis and creation does not always (or even primarily) equal a discussion on the science of creation, is an important reclaiming of a patristic focus."

But science and Faith are not always at odds on The Creation. When I first read Stephen Hawking's Brief History of Time I saw the hand of God in his explanation of the 'big bang'. Hawking's theory is that in the beginning there was an infinite void. In the midst of that void appeared a minuscule point of energy (which he calls a 'singularity') which potentially contained all the matter in the universe. The point of energy exploded, and the void was filled with light. As the light spread throughout the void the photons disassembled/mutated into sub-atomic particles (quarks, meson, bosons etc), which eventually coalesced into atoms (hydrogen being the first - one nucleus, one electron) and so on.

As a philosopher friend of mine always says, if the void contained nothing then that would have remained the situation for all time, so someone must have put the singularity into the void.

And my friend is an agnostic, and so I think that Hawking's theory actually moves people to think about God.

#8 RichardWorthington

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Posted 22 August 2008 - 10:38 PM

As a philosopher friend of mine always says, if the void contained nothing then that would have remained the situation for all time, so someone must have put the singularity into the void.

And my friend is an agnostic, and so I think that Hawking's theory actually moves people to think about God.


Somewhere at least the concept of a Creator will need to be posed, but when we look at this universe around us it definitely was not the work of any loving God: we Christians invoke the Fall (and myself the Flood, see below).

But can things be left as "In the beginning God did something and then left it to be messed up"?

See here for my view on the beginning of the Big Bang:

The Book of Enoch states of the Flood:

I had laid me down in the house of my grandfather Mahalalel, (when) I saw in a vision how the heaven collapsed and was borne off and fell to the earth. And when it fell to the earth I saw how the earth was swallowed up in a great abyss, and mountains were suspended on mountains, and hills sank down on hills, and high trees were rent from their stems, and hurled down and sunk in the abyss. (1 Enoch 83:3-5)


And my view of the Flood is:

In the Flood of Noah, the entire universe was re-formed. However, it was not fashioned again by the hand of God but by itself, having a ‘remembrance’ of what was before, and having being handed over to the demons by our sinfulness.


The universe that then existed fell into a dark abyss - a black hole perhaps? - and then reemerged in a Big Bang as the fallen world we see today. Humanity is older than this universe, and yet created on Day 6 of creation! However, please post views on this in the thread quoted.

Many thanks for your comments.

Richard

#9 RichardWorthington

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Posted 01 September 2008 - 09:48 AM

Gen 2:10 Now a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it parted and became four riverheads.
Gen 2:11 The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one which skirts the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold.
Gen 2:12 And the gold of that land is good. Bdellium and the onyx stone are there.
Gen 2:13 The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one which goes around the whole land of Cush.
Gen 2:14 The name of the third river is Hiddekel [Tigris]; it is the one which goes toward the east of Assyria. The fourth river is the Euphrates.


The Euphrates and Tigris we know about - but what are the Pishon and Gihon? As a glance at the relevant Wikipedia entries shows, there have been numerous attempts to identify these rivers, as well as the ‘location’ of the Garden of Eden.

However, Blessed Jerome writes that

In Eden a garden is planted, and a fountain in the midst of it parts into four heads.(Gen. ii. 8, 10.) This is the same fountain which Ezekiel later on describes as issuing out of the temple and flowing towards the rising of the sun, until it heals the bitter waters and quickens those that are dead.(Ezek. xlvii. 1, 8.)

http://www.ccel.org/...206.v.LXIX.html


His approach to the Genesis narrative is realistic but not materialistic, spiritual but not mystical. The rivers of Paradise are real, but are grasped by the Vision of the Spirit, which Ezekiel saw. Indeed reading the referred passage in Ezekiel produces the following:

Eze 47:1 THEN he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the front of the temple faced east; the water was flowing from under the right side of the temple, south of the altar.

Eze 47:8 Then he said to me: "This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley*, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed.
*Footnote: valley=Arabah, The Jordan Valley. My note: presumably it is the waters of the Dead Sea that are healed.


The interesting thing about the passage from Ezekiel is that there is no river from Jerusalem to Jordan Valley or to the Dead Sea. If we were only told that the temple was at the source of a river flowing into the Jordan Valley then we would not be able to identify its place as being Jerusalem.

Therefore I think it is safe to deduce that the rivers mentioned flowing from Eden were the names of real rivers, but that their symbolic interpretation mattered more than their given location. Is this not how the book of Revelation is interpreted? So what were the original Pishon and Gihon?

First the Gihon:

Apart from the Gihon river of Paradise there is a mention of a spring near Jerusalem, significantly where King Solomon was anointed king (1 Kings 1:38-39).

About this, Dr Margaret Barker has written,

The holy place Enoch* knew must have been on the south eastern hill, above the Gihon spring, which was later known as the Virgin’s Spring, or the Spring of the Lady Mary. Enoch was not describing the ‘Temple Mount’ as we know it today.
*Referring to the Book of Enoch

The most important question is: Which hill was Zion? Josephus said it was the western hill of Jerusalem, the higher of the two, and that the south eastern hill was the lower city, but most scholars now think he was mistaken, and that the original Zion had been on the south eastern hill, over the Gihon spring.

Pages 13 and 14 of http://www.margaretb...heNewchurch.pdf


I am not the first to point out that "The spring Gihon in Zion is related in some way to the river Gihon in the story of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:13)." (see here, page 3). However when we realise that "Wisdom described herself as water flowing out of the temple where she was established on Zion, pouring forth her teaching [Ben Sira 24.30-33]" (page 12 of TheNewchurch.pdf above) and that the Temple was a symbol of the Garden of Eden, then the link does become undeniable (well, at least for me!).

The Pishon

Interestingly enough, the Pishon River is only mentioned in Genesis and Sirach 24:25. Wikipedia mentions that some say it is the Ganges, others the Nile, with others a now dried up river bed in Arabia. Having read that the Gihon Spring flowed into the Pool of Siloam I could not help but feel that perhaps somehow this was linked to the enigmatic Pishon. Significantly, there were two aqueducts leading to the Pool of Siloam.

So I read and read, thought and thought, and got nowhere. However, while I do not know Hebrew yet I had been trying to see if there might have been a transcription error by comparing letters in the Hebrew Alphabet. This mainly involved memorising what appear to be pictures and trying to compare them - such is my ignorance!

The Pishon in Hebrew is:

http://www.monachos....8&pictureid=987

(from the Blue Letter Bible)


Reading from right to left the letters are P-i-sh-o-n; the various dots are vowel points, with consonants also for the ‘i’ and ‘o’. Now having tried to memorise various pictures (such is my knowledge of the Hebrew alphabet) I then noticed something frighteningly remarkable when looking under the Bible entry for ‘Shiloah’ (the Hebrew name of Siloam):

http://www.monachos....8&pictureid=988

(from the Blue Letter Bible)


Now look at the bit I have highlighted in red. Doesn’t that look similar?! Comparing this with the letters (i.e. to me pictures) of the Hebrew alphabet yields that the word in red is K-i-sh-o-r -- yet the ‘p’ and ‘k’ at the start look similar, and the ‘n’ and ‘r’ at the end. I think this is the Pishon=Kishor=another aqueduct flowing into the Pool of Siloam.

Significantly, the word ‘Kishor’ also occurs in Proverbs 31:19 (see Blue Letter Bible)

Proverbs 31:19
KJV:
She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.

Peshitta:
She stretches out her arms diligently, and puts her hands to the spindle.

Latin Vulgate:
She hath put out her hand to strong things, and her fingers have taken hold of the spindle.

LXX (NETS):
She extends her forearms to what is profitable, and she strengthens her hands at the spindle


The word Kishor is translated quite differently in the ancient versions from its modern translation (see underlining above). May I suggest therefore, without any knowledge of Hebrew whatsoever, that this verse should be translated as "She stretches out her arms to (as?) the Kishor=Pishon, and her hand upholds the district (its circuit?)". (The word translated ‘hold’ also means to ‘hold up, support’, and the word translated as ‘spindle/distaff’ more often means a ‘district, circuit’.) Note that the ‘Virtuous Wife’ of this section of Proverbs is in all probability Wisdom/The Daughter of Zion/Mother Church reaching out from the temple (this is inspired again by Margaret Barker)


The next part is this: assuming my ignorance is correct, then what is the significance of the Genesis account, placing the Pishon=Kishor and Gihon near the Red Sea? More soon …

Richard
PS. I will be meeting Dr Barker in a few weeks, and so will discuss my ideas then (she is a Hebrew scholar).
PPS. I originally titled this thread as "The genes of Genesis: an alternative history". Ok, so this might have sounded silly (an extension of my nature perhaps ...?!) but could one of the Moderators change the thread title back to something similar, e.g. "An alternative history in Genesis"?

#10 RichardWorthington

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Posted 02 September 2008 - 07:46 PM

(following on from the previous post)

Gen 2:10 Now a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it parted and became four riverheads.
Gen 2:11 The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one which skirts the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold.
Gen 2:12 And the gold of that land is good. Bdellium and the onyx stone are there.
Gen 2:13 The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one which goes around the whole land of Cush.
Gen 2:14 The name of the third river is Hiddekel [Tigris]; it is the one which goes toward the east of Assyria. The fourth river is the Euphrates.


The four rivers here - Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, and Euphrates - are only mentioned together again in Sirach 24:25-27 (indeed, this is the only other place the Pishon is mentioned):

25It overflows, like the Pishon, with wisdom,
and like the Tigris at the time of the first fruits.
26It runs over, like the Euphrates, with understanding,
and like the Jordan at harvest time.
27It pours forth instruction like the Nile,*
like the Gihon at the time of vintage.

* Footnote yields that the start of verse 27 is from the Syriac, but the Greek text is "It makes instruction shine forth like light"
Sirach 24:25-27 NRSV, from http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=86650101


It is interesting here that the four traditional rivers of Eden are mentioned alongside two others, the Jordan and the Nile. (Additionally, soon after these verses Wisdom describes herself as being "like a canal from a river, like a water channel into a garden. … And lo, my canal became a river, and my river a sea.", verses 30-31: may I suggest that the garden is the Garden of Eden?)

Now this interested me because there are six rivers mentioned. Why was I interested? Because I had previously read of seven rivers elsewhere:

Jubilees 5:24
And the Lord opened seven flood-gates of heaven, And the mouths of the fountains of the great deep, seven mouths in number.
http://wesley.nnu.ed...udo/jubilee.htm ; compare with 1 Enoch 89:2

1 Enoch 77:5-8
I saw seven rivers on the earth larger than all the rivers: one of them coming from the west pours its waters into the Great Sea. 6 And these two come from the north to the sea and pour their waters into the Erythraean* Sea in the 7 east. And the remaining, four come forth on the side of the north to their own sea, two of them to the Erythraean Sea, and two into the Great Sea and discharge themselves there [and some say: 8 into the desert].

(In verse 3 "the garden of righteousness" is mentioned …)

* "The Erythraean Sea … is an ancient name for the Indian Ocean or its attached gulfs, specifically, the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea" (from Wikipedia).
Text from http://reluctant-mes...ok_of_enoch.htm


So what has six got to do with seven? Look at the picture of the Menorah (seven branched candlestick of the temple) below:

Posted Image

(from http://en.wikipedia....enorah_(Temple))


Now ignoring the base, what do you get if you turn this picture upside down? To me it could easily be a river with its delta: one main stem and six branches, making seven rivers. I would guess that the main stem river is the first river Enoch mentions, the one that flows from the west, like the river Ezekiel (chapter 47) mentioned flowing symbolically from the temple into Dead Sea.

So if all this is true, why are the six branches given in Sirach the names Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, Euphrates, Jordan, and the Nile?

Well the Tigris and Euphrates are huge rivers, and Enoch describes the rivers as larger than all the rivers of the earth (interestingly, the second and third rivers Enoch mentions are mentioned together as flowing "into the Erythraean Sea in the east" - exactly as the Euphrates and Tigris do!).

The Gihon is the spring where Solomon was anointed King, and the location of the First Temple (see previous post). The Jordan is where the Ark of the Covenant parted the waters to allow Israel to pass into the Promised Land: therefore I guess it represents the entry into Paradise. The Nile was turned into blood by Moses: therefore I guess it represents the flow of blood and water from the Temple (the water being used to clean the blood - see page 11 of TheNewchurch.pdf).

And the Pishon? I do not know, but the Pool of Siloam is where the Immanuel prophecy of Isaiah was spoken (Isaiah 7:3,14) and Israel is accused of rejecting "the waters of Shiloah [Siloam] that flow softly" (8:6).

From this - if I am right - two major questions arise: Why are the Pishon and Gihon moved to Havilah and Cush? Why are the rivers Jordan and Nile omitted from the Genesis account?

The Gihon: Cush is Ethiopia, so reading Genesis like an apocalypse, may I suggest that moving the place where Solomon was anointed King to Ethiopia implies that the kingly line of descent passed there at the time of writing. No prizes for guessing what the Ethiopian kings claimed for themselves - descent from Solomon! (The date of Genesis 1-11 I would place with Ezra or shortly afterwards, though it is still part of the Books of Moses - like Solomon writing the Wisdom of Solomon, or the Letter to the Hebrews being written by Paul: the ascriptions stand as a continuity of prophethood, so to speak.)

The Pishon: I do not know what the exact symbolism of the Pishon flowing into the Pool of Siloam might be (although Jesus healing a blind man via the waters of Siloam probably had a very symbolic meaning). However, first of all, where is Havilah ("Pishon … skirts the whole land of Havilah")? "Semitic Havilah was located in Eastern Africa, modern day Ethiopia" (from Wikipedia for the Queen of Sheba, see the map there), although the entry for Havilah mentions Yemen, which was governed by Ethiopia at times. Either way we are back with a link to Ethiopia!

However, Genesis also says that in Havilah "there is gold. And the gold of that land is good. Bdellium and the onyx stone are there". Bdellium is only mentioned again in Numbers 11:7, "Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its colour like the colour of bdellium". Reading Genesis as an apocalyptic text can give only one interpretation: this is the manna of "the golden pot that had the manna" (Hbr 9:4)! The gold of that land is indeed good - it is gold from Solomon’s Temple. Interestingly, it has been argued that the Pot of Manna "survived at least until the time of Jeremiah", and yet "The Sanaite Jews have a legend that their ancestors settled in Yemen forty-two years before the destruction of the First Temple. It is said that under the prophet Jeremiah some 75,000 Jews, including priests and Levites, travelled to Yemen". I think the two can be put together to make four perfectly well - which lends much credibility in my eyes to the claim of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church to have either the Ark of the Covenant or some things related to it!

Now regarding the onyx stone, the main Biblical use of the word onyx is apparently to describe the Urim and Thummim:

Exd 28:9 "Then you shall take two onyx stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel: … Exd 28:11 … You shall set them in settings of gold.


Significantly, the Urim and Thummim were lost around the time of the same Jeremiah, "Talmudic sources are unanimous in agreeing that the Urim and Thummim were lost much earlier, when Jerusalem was sacked by the Babylonians", from Wikipedia.

The second question is much simpler: Why are the rivers Jordan and Nile omitted from the Genesis account? It is in the Jordan that Christ was baptised, so bringing us to the rivers of Paradise. When on the Cross, blood and water, like the Nile of old, flowed from His side, making us drink the life-giving waters of Paradise. But why omitted? During the first temple, Israel fell into idolatry, but during the second temple period they returned to idolatry, but not that of idols. I think it is an idolatry of ideas, the start of monotheism:

Malachi 2:11 Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the LORD which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god.


So in other words, by omitting these rivers the writer of Genesis 2 (Ezra?) is stating that they had forsaken the Wisdom - and so the Messiah - of God.


So when you read Genesis, do indeed read it as real history, an alternative history - the history of Israel as told mingled with the creation stories. More to follow - hopefully shorter posts, but I found this one fascinating …

What are people’s thoughts on this? Is this the way Genesis should be read, being based on the approach of St Jerome? Is this more helpful than insisting everything literally happened, or literally did not happen?

Richard

#11 RichardWorthington

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Posted 25 September 2008 - 09:45 PM

The Pishon in Hebrew is:

http://www.monachos....8&pictureid=987

(from the Blue Letter Bible)


Reading from right to left the letters are P-i-sh-o-n; the various dots are vowel points, with consonants also for the ‘i’ and ‘o’. Now having tried to memorise various pictures (such is my knowledge of the Hebrew alphabet) I then noticed something frighteningly remarkable when looking under the Bible entry for ‘Shiloah’ (the Hebrew name of Siloam):

http://www.monachos....8&pictureid=988

(from the Blue Letter Bible)


Now look at the bit I have highlighted in red. Doesn’t that look similar?! Comparing this with the letters (i.e. to me pictures) of the Hebrew alphabet yields that the word in red is K-i-sh-o-r -- yet the ‘p’ and ‘k’ at the start look similar, and the ‘n’ and ‘r’ at the end. I think this is the Pishon=Kishor=another aqueduct flowing into the Pool of Siloam.


FYI

I did speak with the Hebrew scholar Dr Margaret Barker, and she confirmed the possibility of my suspicions regarding the interpretation of the river Pishon.

#12 Paul C.

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Posted 26 September 2008 - 07:33 AM

[quote name='RichardWorthington']Somewhere at least the concept of a Creator will need to be posed, but when we look at this universe around us it definitely was not the work of any loving God: we Christians invoke the Fall (and myself the Flood, see below).

[quote]Originally Posted by RichardWorthington Posted Image
In the Flood of Noah, the entire universe was re-formed. However, it was not fashioned again by the hand of God but by itself, having a ‘remembrance’ of what was before, and having being handed over to the demons by our sinfulness.

[/quote]I have read from several Orthodox sources that demons do not inhabit any part of the universe beyond the atmosphere of the earth.

Just doing my bit,
Paul

#13 Kingsley

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Posted 26 September 2008 - 04:40 PM

now let us talk about the apple that God said Adam &Eve should not eat
what did God mean there

#14 Paul Cowan

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Posted 26 September 2008 - 11:59 PM

ummm, that they should not eat it? Call me crazy, but I think that is what he meant.

#15 RichardWorthington

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Posted 28 September 2008 - 06:33 AM

I have read from several Orthodox sources that demons do not inhabit any part of the universe beyond the atmosphere of the earth.

Just doing my bit,
Paul


Thank you for your comment. I would agree whole-heartedly - after all they all want to attack us made in God's image rather than some inanimate star whizzing around!

Job 1:6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.

However, it would seem as though there are some spiritual places where they also exist, not limiting themselves to this material universe.

Richard

#16 Owen Jones

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Posted 28 September 2008 - 01:55 PM

Just a minor quibble here, but Plato's cosmology in the Timeaus does not inevitably lead one to gnosticism anymore than the New Testament inevitably leads one to gnosticism. Plato is simply saying what the Fathers are saying, that what we see in the physical world is not what is completely or fully real but a representation of it. We are created in the Image and Likeness of God. We are not just things, but images. For those who have the eyes to see...

#17 Owen Jones

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Posted 28 September 2008 - 02:42 PM

I would caution against taking Margaret Barker en toto. There are just too many red flags. I think her approach has some validity, and confirms the temple mysticism, so to speak, of Orthodox theology. But when I find that Mormon "scholars" have taken a great interest in her work, that's just one red flag.

A couple of interesting things that I concur with: that resurrection is not unique to Christ or Christian teachings but a continuation of temple mysticism and Hebrew tradition. That there is a belief in a Most High God at the very least does not confirm monotheism as it is conventionally understood. That Atonement is more than just propitiation of sins. That the Eucharist relates not to the passover. Origen, of course, relates it to the Exodus.

But there is an imbalance here, I think, in terms of too much confidence in gnostic texts, and the idea that somehow the Old Testament canon as we know it is somehow suspect. There is also a somewhat disturbing focus on esoterica which inevitably leads one away from the fundamentals -- if I may use that term -- of Christianity -- a life of virtue in obedience to the commandments. Christ's teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, etc. While there are esoteric elements to Christ's life and teaching, one never wants to make this the absolute focus because this is when one inevitably backs into a kind of gnostic mysticism.

One hopes that instead of just stumbling upon Orthodox worship in 1999 she would actually strive to become Orthodox instead of posing as a Methodist minister.

A much better source I think is Origen himself -- his Biblical commentaries -- one can avoid his speculative theology if one wishes. Interestingly, in the 2d Century Origen is already correcting other Christians in terms of the true Hebraic meaning of certain Christian practices. An excellent text is Spirit and Fire, which is a thematic anthology of Origen compiled, with brief comments, by the Catholic scholar Hans Urs Von Balthasar.

And of course, St. Maximos, who has many extensive passages that one might term esoteric when it comes to Biblical interpretation.

I am reminded here of a very controversial essay by Eric Voegelin called "The Vision of the Resurrected" which is found in Volume IV of Order and History. On the one hand, it is a corrective to the doctrinaire literalism that many Christians adhere to with respect to the Resurrection. On the other hand, it is so esoteric as to veer too sharply in my opinion away from that which is commonly available to all Christians as we strive to do His will.

True gnosis according to the FAthers does not exist apart from obedience to His law. So when scholars focus on esoterica, absent this fundamental balance, look out! Even the most esoteric writings of the Orthodox Fathers are infused with obedience to the law as the common theme. Jewish scholars often accuse Christians of being antinomian. Which is an untrue, unfair criticism. Let's not make that mistake.

#18 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 28 September 2008 - 05:48 PM

I would echo Owen's caution on Margaret Barker's hypotheses. This is not to say she shouldn't be read and considered; I find her approach very interesting in many facets, and she presents several good insights and - often - an approach that takes into account aspects many other scholars regularly omit or ignore.

However, she is extremely speculative, and often her speculations strain evidence and resources beyond what is helpful. I've only had one occasion (out of interest) to go beyond a simple reading of her works and scrutinize in significant detail some of her theories -- with respect to an article she wrote in Sourozh some years back, on the temple in Jerusalem. Without going into the details here (as I can't remember them off hand; I'd have to read the article again), it boiled down to a very shaky and highly speculative interpretation of archaeological and etymological details, not taking into account the testimony of other sources (if I remember the basic context of that article, it argued for a view of the temple that was all but utterly refuted by various early patristic sources - but again, it was long enough ago that I cannot remember much of her thesis or the specifics of my criticisms of it).

Again, I don't at all suggest Barker should be ignored or dismissed. I've quite enjoyed some of her work, and do think she has some valuable insights. However, her work has found a rather difficult reception in many circles, at least in part because a great deal of it seems driven by a kind of intense speculative drive, often with very little concrete basis.

I would certainly read with that cautionary lens. Overturning widespread views and interpretations only has value if there is substantive justification for it.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#19 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 28 September 2008 - 06:04 PM

Dear Richard,

Just to give you a little critical back-and-forth to chew on in your deliberations, I some days ago printed out your post on the Pishon, with particular interest in the linguistic portion on the Hebrew, and passed it along to a good friend of mine who is far better with Hebrew than I. My knowledge of biblical Hebrew is workable, but I am certainly no expert and my proficiency gets worse, rather than better, as time passes (since I no longer use it with the frequency I used to). So when I had my own suspicions on your thesis in that post, that pishon was misread kishor - which I found improbable, but intriguing enough that I wanted to know more - I thought it best to give it to an expert.

Her response was this: that "this is the sort of possibility that would occur to a non-native speaker like you [she was referring to me], but not to a native. Those two words are as clear as you could want."

Just an additional perspective -- coming from someone who is Hebrew, speaks modern Hebrew as a native tongue, and is fairly expert in biblical Hebrew.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#20 RichardWorthington

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Posted 28 September 2008 - 10:51 PM

Dear Richard,

Just to give you a little critical back-and-forth to chew on in your deliberations, I some days ago printed out your post on the Pishon, with particular interest in the linguistic portion on the Hebrew, and passed it along to a good friend of mine who is far better with Hebrew than I. My knowledge of biblical Hebrew is workable, but I am certainly no expert and my proficiency gets worse, rather than better, as time passes (since I no longer use it with the frequency I used to). So when I had my own suspicions on your thesis in that post, that pishon was misread kishor - which I found improbable, but intriguing enough that I wanted to know more - I thought it best to give it to an expert.

Her response was this: that "this is the sort of possibility that would occur to a non-native speaker like you [she was referring to me], but not to a native. Those two words are as clear as you could want."

Just an additional perspective -- coming from someone who is Hebrew, speaks modern Hebrew as a native tongue, and is fairly expert in biblical Hebrew.

INXC, Dcn Matthew


The possibility of a transcription error she did confirm when I saw her, although I did forget to mention the very speculative re-reading of Proverbs 31:19!

However, it is not a cornerstone of the post on the rivers of Paradise, just something very interesting that occurred to me.

There is also the river Kishon - might this be a possibility for the otherwise unknown Pishon?!

Many thanks for your observations, though.

Richard




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