Words of Wisdom on Selling a Crazy Idea

Do you know about authorial intent as a hermeneutical principle? I can’t vouch for this reference in detail, but it might be a good starting point for you.

These are some of the rules you appear to be violating. At the very least, you are not explaining your rationale based on these rules, or why a departure from these rules is justified. You have to do that if you want to make your case.

I do. And there is a lot I could say about that but I want to take a look at your reference there first and lay out what I am going to say carefully. But re: Genesis chapter one, who is the author?

OK I have read the references which you have provided and I don’t see anything in them that I find objectionable or a consensus I am running afoul of. The third link in particular listed four options, three of which gave plenty of room for the way I am looking at things IMHO, and ended by saying there was no consensus on which of these ways is correct and so one should not be dogmatic about any of these methods. That sounds good to me.

But it seems to me that I am not violating authorial intent given who I understand the authors to be- which is who the text claims that they are per the tablet theory. This makes the first account, that of the Heavens and the Earth, in particular mystical and the authorial intent something beyond the normal rules of what I would call (from the last link you shared) the “Kaiser School” of interpretation. I think I even pay respect to his school, even though I am more keen on the other three. Later on, in the flood account, grasping that it is Shem, Ham and Japheth talking and not God is one of the keys to grasping that chapter seven is not describing a global flood.

Sort of, but not exactly. You can do this, but only in the right way.

One problem is that right the “authorial intent” school of hermeneutics is ascendant. The “divine intent-human words school” has merit but is not accepted right now among most OT scholars. Maybe they are wrong, but they their starting presumption is that you are ignorant about hermeneutics if you an argument that goes this direction. Your interpretation relies on the divine-intent, over merely authorial intent.

Problem two is that your reading is a large departure from traditional readings. No appears to have come to this but you. If this is the true teaching of that passage, why did everyone miss it for 2,000 years (or more)? Unless you have a compelling reason for this, you lose. You can be nearly certain you are wrong, because such a story seems to violate infallibility.

How do you get around these?

For #1, you can make a careful case that you understand the difference between authorial and divine intent, citing key proponents of each position, and giving an incisive reason that either (1) you are in the ‘authorial intent’ tradition of “generic promise” or (2) you are in the ‘divine intent’ school, and are prepared to demonstrate convincingly that this is the appropriate that approach be used here.

For #2, that is much more difficult. I do not know a way around this. Your only hope is to poor over traditional theology to find a forgotten tradition that reads it in a manner similar as you. If this is really the true teaching of the passage, I’d expect you might find it. If not, then I do not expect you will. With out this piece, however, I think your case is toast.

You should know that this title is a really be red flag. If you should drop this, because it basically advertise from the start that you are divine intent, not authorial intent. It puts you at a deficit. It is rhetorically nice, but it is one of the flags for quality that triggers people immediately (including me).

Keep Exegesis and Theology Separate?

So, there may be another way forward. I think part of what is happening is that you are mixing theology and exegesis. These cannot be the same act. Theology is to be Christ-centered, but the Old Testament does not usually intend to speak of the man Jesus. It points to Jesus, sure, but it does not usually intend to speak of Him. If you practice better hygiene here, you might find away forward.

You would do the exegesis (what does the passage say?) without reference to Christ/Jesus. Then, in theology, in light of Jesus, you would show how he fits in. You have to be clear, though, of what the text is and isn’t doing.

I know that means you’ll lose your nice 3 part division of 1:26-27, but I do not think this is ultimately something you can hold on to.

Focus on the Theophany?

I share your impulse to think about Genesis alongside Jesus. That is a good impulse. One place where tradition helps you is with the theophany of Yahweh. There is a long history of seeing the Theophany as an image of Jesus in some sort of pre-incarnate yet bodily form. The passage does not say that the Theophany is Jesus, but some traditions do. I reference that tradition, and I’m clearly on solid ground. No one disputes this.

Perhaps that could be a way to satisfy the same impulse, in a more sound way. You emphasize the features of Genesis 2 - 4 that seem to present Yahweh as a corporeal presence, and remind readers of the traditional interpretation of theophany. This what I do, and even won over @jongarvey in an exchange with BioLogos (unless I changed his mind, its not his view). The strength of that strategy is that it just does not set off any alarm bells at all. There is an immense amount of precedent.

Getting back to the elephant

Why do you keep passing over this?

This may be among your real winners. So much so, it is seeping into my book right now!

Well like so many other issues my actual position here is nuanced. It is hard to pidgin hole me as one camp or the other. While in theory I believe in divine intent I don’t believe that I personally have the authority to say that “what this passage really means is X even though the author didn’t see that”. The apostles had that authority, but I don’t. So there is that.

On the other hand, as both a believer in the supernatural and an adherent of the tablet theory I think this material is very very ancient. I also accept what the text claims about the first account- it is the account of the heavens and the earth. Adam, or one of his relatively near descendants if it was an oral tradition, recorded what he received from creation in a vision or a dream . Or maybe he had access to nature in a way which we do not (alternatively as Guy thinks Adam could have gotten the account from Yahweh-Elohim in the garden). I don’t know that. I just know that there is no conflict between Divine Intent and Authorial Intent when the author is “The Heavens and the Earth” or is communicated by Divine means. So I think the distinction between the two schools is a valid distinction, it just does not apply to the first account.

For the rest of scripture, I go straight with authorial intent insofar as I treat the author’s words as their own rather than God’s, except of course when they are quoting God. If God wants to say something that has a double-meaning or is hiding something about the mystery of Christ which is later to be revealed- perhaps even in troubled times like those we have now- then He is perfectly free to do so. I mean, if I was to write an account which included quotes from you on computational biology would the meaning of your words I was quoting be limited by my own understanding of your field?

So that is my initial response to the first issue you raise, and I’d like to hear your reaction to that before I try to take on the second and thornier issue.

You’ve lost the argument before you even start. Your starting point is a minority of a minority position. If that is what is required come to your point of view, you have to START by convincing people of tablet theory (very difficult) and Divine Intent (very difficult too).

What you seem to miss that either task would take likely over ten years of effort from dedicated academic to legitimize. That, also, would only be true if you are right. If you are wrong, it will take much longer.

You are in a very fringe position. You cannot argue from fringe starting points and expect to be successful. Even if you disagree with them, you have to work with the starting point of your audience and work towards the points you want to make instead.

I’ve already told you that I think table theory needs another look now. That would be a good use of your time. You could make a contribution there. That is one place to focus.

However your Genesis 1:26 and 27 theory is likely to be chaff. Even if it is true, mention it as your crazy idea (and then move one), and trust that if it is true God make it clear to others. You will know that is the case when they start coming to you saying (1) they came to this independently of you and (2) they work hard to make that message known. That is, for example, exactly what is happening right now for “people outside the garden.”

I’ve helped you out too, and given you a better way to identify Christ in the narrative. Take my lead there. I’m helping you out.

Good luck with #2, unless you are both RIGHT and exceedingly LUCKY, I don’t see a way of overcoming that barrier.

That makes sense. That’s why I started there in the book.

This one floors me. I have already said there are limits to using Divine Intent in exegesis, especially for us non-apostles. But how in the world does a theologian not accept Divine Intent when the scripture is quoting God Himself? I guess I would say that neither of us should talk about this to such a theologian until they have the premises necessary to even consider it. Those being 1) God exists 2) Scripture in its original form is a reliable record of His interactions with humanity. I’d probably want to try and convince them of those two things before it would be worthwhile to speak about what the text might mean.

It would take a miracle if it caught on in ten years. Absent that I will be in a “fringe” position for the rest of my life, unless it is a longer than normal one. I accept that and understand that most of the prophets and apostles were considered “fringe” by the authorities during the time of their ministries. None of that meant that they were wrong. Argument from authority is a logical fallacy. I am reminded of the quote by George Bernard Shaw…

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

On the other hand, if the Lord tarries, 100 years from now if there are still real Christian seminaries on this earth I expect almost all of them will be teaching some form of this framework- because all the others will have been invalidated by the evidence and this one increasingly confirmed by it.

I know you are right about that. I am struggling with how to do so with the particular audience you are talking about because their premises are so utterly opposite my own. Your suggestion about the tablet theory may be as far as I can go with them. For the rest of it I need to start with another audience. For that reason, though I very much appreciate that you have attempted to float some of these ideas past them, I don’t ask you to do so to such an audience going forward. Let me just be a “fringe” commenter around here. If some of them wander in here I and others may or may not engage with them over it. In the meantime, I have to find a willing audience here or elsewhere.

If it is then it ought to be an easy matter to have some Hebrew scholar or exegete come and demonstrate its insanity using something other than argument from authority. Jon made a start of it I thought, I just happened to have good answers to those specific challenges.

Its fine with me if others float it as “his crazy idea” so long as they don’t start naming it after me. And though I consider the whole framework the “Christ-centered model” I suppose just what is said of the first two chapters could be called the “Two-population Fusion Model” because it fuses the Sequential and Recapitulatory models and keeps a population outside the garden. I would think you would want that on the table because Jack Collins makes an excellent case for recapitulation being in the mix.

I know you have been helping, or at least trying to. And I don’t want to be ungrateful for that. I don’t know that you have given me “a better way to identify Christ in the narrative” though. Taking “the Christ-Centered model” off the table doesn’t seem like a better way to me. He is a Rock of Stumbling and a Stone of offense by His own admission.

I do see some ways, but what I have to say about your first point is so much easier to digest that if even it gives one heart burn then offering up the other is very premature.

Be careful with that. Yours is not the only Christ centered model. Do not presume Aslan is tame.

Now that is a valid point, and one which I have been mindful of since the beginning. To me that’s the only valid reason to eschew the name for the model, He’s bigger than the model. That is a very different reason than not naming it for Him because the text shouldn’t be considered to be about Him. Ironically Sin and Faith are sometimes found in the same act coming from a different heart.

I know you are not a fan of my zero-budget videos, but the first minute or two of this video is an example of the great pains I go to in order to emphasize that though I name the model for Christ, His kingdom is far bigger than the model.

The distinctive “feature” of your model, Mark, strikes me as the “Two Realms Cosmology;” without that distinction, and your qualifications that the “the image of God” was not necessarily “uncreated” in any sense until this point in Genesis 1:27, but that the text is merely presenting the “heavenly realm’s template” for mankind’s creation at this time, you can’t really avoid the charge of “heresy” that many will level at it. I guess I’ve avoided that because I think I understand that despite a tortured hermeneutic, this is not necessarily completely outside of being, perhaps, an orthodox “implication” in the presentation of Genesis chapter one.

I am not sure I follow you on this one.