Adam and Eve (and Babel): late additions to the Old Testament

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by Neil Godfrey

Margaret Barker writes in “The Older Testament” that “the Adam and Eve myth in its present form is not integral to the Old Testament. It has all the signs of being a late addition” (p.23). Thus:

Adam and Eve (via Wikipedia)
  • The story is isolated. Not a single prophet, psalm or narrator makes any reference to this story of their creation and Fall (von Rad)
  • Later biblical narratives stress the value of atonement. Sin is a matter of momentary transgressions of the Law. It is as if the narrative of the Fall, and its messages for the nature of mankind and sin, are unknown to the rest of the OT. (Eichrodt)

I have been partial to the argument that the Jewish Scriptures as we have them originated from Persian times (albeit our version of course dates from the Masoretic Text, post 70 c.e.). I suspect many of the pre-Abraham stories were scarcely matters of interest or knowledge among the various scribal schools of the province of Jehud.

And Babel, too

I am reminded of another suggestion that the story of the scattering of peoples through language confusion at Babel first surfaced some time in Hellenistic era. As it stands, it informs readers that Babylon was left deserted and unfinished. Every reader who comes to that point must deep down, even if only for a nanosecond, wonder how that fits with the later power of Babylon waging a war of conquest against the Kingdom of Judah. But if the author of that story knew only the Babylon of the third-century b.c.e. after it had been to a very large extent deserted, he could have been forgiven for thinking he was composing a “just so” etiological tale of how it came to be that way.

Babylon, Iraq, 1932 CALL NUMBER: LC-M33- 14474...

The Mystical Return of Jesus to “Many Mansions”

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by Neil Godfrey

In my Father’s house are many mansions . . . . I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also. (John 14:2-3)

There is nothing like this statement in the synoptic gospels. Many interpret this passage in John to mean that Jesus is going to prepare a room in a heavenly palace for each believer who will eventually get there. But the author of the gospel appears to explain what he means here just a few verses later, and it has nothing to do with a believer going to heaven and finding a nice apartment room there with their name on the door. Rather, the room is the body of the individual believer, and that Jesus and the Father will descend to earth to make their mystical union with each believer.

The larger house or mansion that contains all of these many rooms or abodes or homes is the “church” or wider community of the Johannine Christians.

This is another snippet from John Ashton’s Understanding the Fourth Gospel, 2nd ed. He begins with Hoskyns suggesting that the starting point for interpreting this verse is the fulfilment of a prophecy found in both canonical and noncanonical Jewish writings:

Let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. (Exodus 25:8; c.f. Exod. 29:45; Lev. 26:11-12)

And I will set my sanctuary in their midst for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them . . . (Ezekiel 37:26-27)

For behold! I am coming and I will dwell in your midst, says the Lord. (Zechariah 2:10)

And I will build my sanctuary in their midst, and I will dwell with them and be their God, and they shall be my people . . . (Jubilees 1:17)

This suggestion is plausible and attractive. If Hoskyns is right, then the μοναι (AV “mansions”) of 14:2, individual rooms or apartments in the house of God, are reinterpreted in 14:23 as places on earth, localized in the community, where not only Jesus but God himself, coming in a cultic or mystical manner, can find a welcome. (Understanding, p.441)

Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word; and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:22-23)

Another scholar (David Aune) is cited by Ashton as suggesting that the term for “house” in 14:2 and 8:35 was probably used by the Johannine community of Christians to refer to themselves. For this reason, Aune also interprets “mansions” as a reference to each individual believer in whom dwells the spirit of the Father and the Son.

That is, according to the Gospel of John, the “coming of Jesus Christ” is not a “parousia” at a climactic “end of the age” event, nor is it the resurrection, nor is it the sending of the Holy Spirit. Rather,

[i]t presages a mystical union of awesome intimacy, one that indicates the profoundly contemplative character of the Johannine community.

Ashton is aware that many Protestant writers don’t like to use words like “mysticism”, but that the above interpretation of Jesus and the Father making their home with believers in their “rooms” (bodies, minds) is a much more coherent and obvious explanation than the “going to heaven” idea preferred by many believers today.

How could I resist including this pic (The Mansions) that Zemanta [now defunct] threw up for me while typing the above post. I never knew I grew up and lived so many years so close to heaven — my old hometown, Brisbane, Australia.

An Asian news perspective on Iran

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by Neil Godfrey

In Asia Tims Online, US misunderstanding on Iran lingers By Ali Gharib:

Some extracts:

But much of the attention in Washington and elsewhere in the US is often misplaced, misguided, or completely detached from the realities currently embroiling Iran in its most significant crisis since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

US experts with firsthand knowledge of Iran grew older and their knowledge grew more obsolete. . . . . “We have a whole generation of foreign service officers who didn’t learn Farsi.”

“I was the point person on Iran from 2005 to 2008, and I never once met an Iranian official,”

Many pundits and politicians in the US view the current crisis as an opportunity to instigate a regime change in Iran, projecting their own aspirations on those of the demonstrators . . . . .

. . . . no credible evidence has emerged to suggest that the protest movement as whole endorses an overthrow of the system.

Undeterred by those realities, or perhaps unaware of the dynamics, US commentators continue to present the protesters as opposed to the system of the Islamic Republic.

the battle being waged in Iran is between two factions within the regime. Even Mousavi’s faction, . . . does not necessarily want to install a democracy in the Western sense.

“The neo-cons know nothing about Iran, nothing about the culture of Iran, . . . They have no interest in understanding Iran, in speaking to any Iranian other than Iranian exiles who support the idea of invasions

“There are people who . . . were worried, as some wrote in op-eds, that Mousavi would be a distraction and would make it easier to Iranians to build a nuclear weapon. And now all a sudden they want to be on his side? Go away.”

(Inter Press Service)

Who sees the Son of Man coming, according to Mark’s gospel?

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by Neil Godfrey

Mark 13:25-26:

and the stars of the heaven shall be falling, and the powers that are in the heavens shall be shaken. And then they shall see the Son of Man coming in clouds with much power and glory

Often noncanonical (and sometimes canonical) Jewish literature of the Second Temple period equates stars of heaven with angels. Powers of heaven are certainly angelic powers.

So is Mark here saying that it is these angels who will see the Son of Man coming etc?

What does the Greek in this case suggest re the ones who see?