mercredi 6 août 2014

But "I believe ALL of the Bible is true ..."

Before I really became a Christian, at least before knowing very well the Gospel story, and my own baptism had been delayed "until I could chose for myself" because of different confession of parents, I was open to very many winds of shifting doctrine. For instance, in school, first or second grade, a school teacher who gave us lessons in "religion" had voiced her opinion:

  • Genesis/the Bible/First Book of Moses (can't recall which of the words she used, think it was "the Bible") is myth from Adam to Noah.
  • Genesis [etc ] is partly myth, partly true history between Noah and Abraham.
  • Genesis is true history from Abraham on.

And I believed that. Now, one day my mother had arranged for a Pentecostal to come and visit me and play with me (or technically not a Pentecostal yet perhaps, but one raised by such).

At one point I gave the above résumé, and I am certain I used the word "the Bible".

But he answered: "I believe ALL of the Bible is true."

He never came again. Not sure whether he was forbidden to go to us by his parents after hearing my deficint creed, when it comes to Biblical inerrancy, or whether my grandma - an Atheist and Evolution believer, unlike ma - forbade him to come to us. Or perhaps he just didn't very much like me. I have no memory of disliking him, but I know I was taken aback by the genial simplicity of his words. When you state it that way, the theory of my teacher seems a bit shabbier, like a kind of compromise and shilly-shallying. Or when you have heard someone stating it that way.

But there is another little twist on this. The word "myth". Per se it does not mean "made up story", it means rather simply "story", it is the real Greek word for "story", while the word "story" itself, also Greek, in its original trapping "historia" means "research". A historian was unlike the poets not giving one myth about an event in the past nor conflating different ones into a larger one, but rather comparing the myths, i e versions, about same events, and discussing in some detail the rational reasons to prefer one myth over another in a given case.

One commenter on yesterday's CMI article* stated against the "it is poetry" argument against historicity that Charge of the Light Brigade** was also poetry and it was definitely about a historical event at the Battle of Balaklava on the Crimean.

But - to return to the confusion of termninology behind my already mentioned school teacher's words - not only is this true of narrative poetry set in the recent past, like Tennyson's Charge of the Light Brigade, or Camões As Lusiadas, or one Greek Tragedian's Persai, it is also true of narrative poetry set in a more remote past, like Homer*** writing around 800 BC (after Assyrians had destroyed remains of Hittite Empire) of events having taken place around 1200 BC°, perhaps before the Hittite Empire even ended.

Ulysses and Paris and Hector°° are often counted as "myth" these days when not only Pagan Greeks, but also most Christians of the Western tradition (even as far east as Greek/Russian Orthodox) have taken rather the view this was historical than that this was pure invention. And Hercules is counted as myth, these days but St Augustine thinks he and Romulus were historical persons.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Bourg la Reine
Transfiguration of Our Lord

* CMI : Christian leaders who uphold Genesis
by Don Batten
Published: 5 August 2014 (GMT+10)

** By Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

*** Φιλολoγικά/Philologica : Homer (again)

° Wiki has "Traditional dating: c. 1194–1184 BC; Modern dating: between 1260 and 1240 BC" - I think the traditional date will hold if the modern dating depends on C14, in an atmosphere not yet having our levels of C-14 in relation to C-12, but being close to having them.

°° A case has been made Hector MIGHT have been a fable, intended by Homer to give unity of action as well as showing a more loveable kind of soldier than many of the rest: someone who simply fought for the city he was born to, rather than for swaggering about glory and glutting in acts of cruelty.