01/31/22

Looking at Mark S. Smith’s Book (2019) “The Genesis of Good and Evil” (Part 1 of 16)

0001 Mark S. Smith is a theologian in the Catholic tradition.  He writes a book that is equally weighted between text and endnotes.  The text ends at the center of the bound volume. The endnotes begin at the center of the bound volume.  Smith sends a message.  At the very center, there is a gap.  The gap is between the text and the endnotes.  Does the text write the endnotes?  Or, do the endnotes write the text?

The full title of the book is The Genesis of Good and Evil: The Fall(out) and Original Sin in the Bible.  It is published by Westminster John Knox Press, in Louisville, Kentucky.

0002 A scholarly introduction sets the tone.  This work is not about the Bible.  This book is about scripture.  Nowhere in the Bible, does anyone say the word, “Bible”.  Instead, people in the Bible say, “scripture”, all the time.  So, their scope (or cultural impress at the time) includes Jewish scripture.  Only a retrospective reading, by Christians, years after the gospels are added to the Jewish scripture, allows the use of the word, “Bible”, which comes from the Greek, “biblos”, denoting a collection of manuscripts.  The Bible, at its heart, binds two books, which we now call the Old and New Testaments.

0003 How scholarly is that?

01/22/22

Looking at Mark S. Smith’s Book (2019) “The Genesis of Good and Evil” (Part 8 of 16)

0044 What happens when the Ubaid begins?

The following claims are stated plainly in The First Singularity and Its Fairy Tale Trace.  They are dramatized in An Archaeology of the Fall.  Both e-works are available at smashwords and other electronic-book venues.  Search Razie Mah along with the title.

The Ubaid of southern Mesopotamia first appears on the edges of the newly filled Persian Gulf.  The Ubaid is similar to all the Developed Neolithic villages of the day, except for one difference.  The Ubaid practices speech-alone talk.  All other cultures practice hand-speech talk.

In hand-speech talk, the referent is imaged or indicated by the gesture-word.  In speech-alone talk, spoken words are pure symbols, labels that can be attached to the part, as well as to the whole.  The semiotic world of the Ubaid is correspondingly out of kilter. Speech-alone talk can fashion words for things that cannot be pictured or pointed to in hand talk.

Consider the word, “wheel”.  The wheel does not appear in nature.  How can hand-speech talk picture or point to a wheel?  Instead, the rotary motion that goes into making pottery gains a spoken name.  Then, an artifact is built that validates the name.  The Uruk period, following the Ubaid, invents the wheel.

Different producers develop specialized languages, increasing their innovation and productivity.  Different social circles find new ways to organize, increasing their capacities for regimentation and coordinated action.  The Ubaid becomes rich and powerful.  The subsequent Uruk period is more rich and more powerful.  The Sumerian Dynastic is labeled, “civilization”.

These sociological trends take place over thousands of years.  They are difficult to fathom.  No one really can figure out what is happening.  But, whatever it is, it does not stop.  Soon enough, the present erases the past.  Then, the present erases the past, over and over and over.  It is like a pustule that festers, then ruptures, festers, then ruptures, over and over.  Each iteration is different.  Each iteration is more uncanny.

0046 The Epic of Gilgamesh recounts the adventures of a king, who lives (according to many intelligent guesses) around 4500 years ago.  The Ubaid coalesces around 7800 years ago.  Let me imagine that a complete overturning of the established order occurs  each time the conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn move into a new element, around every 200 years.  In the 3300 years between the start of the Ubaid and King Gilgamesh, sixteen complete turnovers occur.  How can anyone comprehend the changes?

Yet, the fairy tales of Adam and Eve convey the nature of this social process.  There is a definite beginning, in a idyllic garden.  A threshold is crossed, the garden is lost.  Then, another threshold is crossed.  Cain kills Abel.  Then, another threshold is crossed.  Lamech, with two wives, murders a man with none.  Then, the genealogies begin.  One name follows another.  The lengths of the lives call to mind the slow grinding of the heavenly spheres.  One overturning follows another.

0047 Today, we are blessed with novel, otherwise invisible celestial timekeepers.  Uranus, 84 year orbit, associates to revolutions.  Neptune, 165 year orbit, links to dreamy oceanic spirits of the age.  Dwarf Pluto, 248 year orbit, goes with the trees of life and death.  The years of discovery oddly reinforce astrological associations.  They are 1781, 1846 and 1930, respectively.  Think French Revolution (1791), the Communist Manifesto (published 1848) and America’s big stock market crash (1929).

The stars and the planets are telling.  Recall, Satan, the one who is defeated in the first half of the grand sweep of Paradise Lost, is a stellar angel, at first.  Now, he sells faithlessness, to us, just as he did to Eve.

0048 The conditions that define the authors of Genesis 3 touch base with the reactions of mothers, in the tradition of Seth, within the Ubaid, to ever increasing social complexity.  Each story is like the completion of a spiraling development, like royalty (Jupiter) having to meet time (Saturn), like the cycle of peace and revolution (Uranus), like popular movements, rising like islands, then drowning in a sea of their own contradictions (Neptune) and like a long, treacherous trek between the tree of life and the tree of death (Pluto).  The cycles spiral because labor and social specializations are always innovating.

The fairy tales of Adam and Eve point to the start of our current Lebenswelt.

01/21/22

Looking at Mark S. Smith’s Book (2019) “The Genesis of Good and Evil” (Part 9 of 16)

0049 What do contemporary scholars say about the emblematic trees?

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil raises the question of human wisdom and discernment.

The tree of life raises the question of human immortality, or lack thereof.

0050 Perhaps, there are other lessons as well.

If the stories of Adam and Eve are fairy tales about the one-way increase in social complexity that characterizes the Ubaid of southern Mesopotamia, made possible by the realization of speech-alone talk, then the women of Seth may be onto something.  

Speech-alone talk projects meanings, presences and messages into spoken words.  Then, culture constructs artifacts that validate those projections.  Surely, the nameless and feminine authors of the Genesis fairy tale do the same with the fabled trees.  The trees are artifacts that validate their projections.  This is a condition2H.

0051 Speech-alone talk exists as two arbitrarily related systems of differences.

The key term is “differences”.

So, what is the tree of life different than?

Obviously, the tree of death.

What is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil different than?

The tree of the lack of such knowledge?  The tree of innocence?

0052 Why are the trees of death and innocence not mentioned?

They are projected as shadows onto the trees that are mentioned.

Eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and you will surely die.

Eat of the fruit of the tree of innocence and you will surely live.

0053 God’s command to Adam is sound advice.

But, it is the other advice that God does not speak, because He knows the truth.

0054 Speech-alone talk fosters unconstrained social complexity.  The adoption of speech-alone talk is a one-way street.

Today, no one wants the internet to go off, despite its dangers.  Two generations ago, nobody wants the electricity to fail.  A hundred years before that, railroads and steamships are necessities.  These types of statements go back to the start of the Ubaid, where people learn to trade before the temple.  Technical and social innovations produce more wealth and more power.  Consequently, speech-alone talk spreads from the Ubaid to surrounding hand-speech talking cultures.  It flies on wings of mimicry.  Today, as with the Ubaid, all civilizations practice speech-alone talk.

0055 So, what is the truth?

There is no return to the innocence and the life of the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.  The portal is closed.

The women of Seth acknowledge this.  They see people gaining knowledge all around them, as novel specialties arise, flourish, then are replaced by further innovations.  They see new insights gain fashion, order society, then go berserk.  They see people leaving small villages and migrating to larger ones, if only for their own protection.  The old ways no longer offer security.

0056 The women of Seth somehow grasp the Ubaid in their fairy tales.  God is correct.  Once the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is consumed, we can become like the gods, because we may devise ways to live forever and to be all controlling.  Self-anointed human gods may be aided by the tree of life, pruned into the tree of the innocence of others.

But, more worrisome, the tree of life offers an escape from the dreary technicalities and the nightmarish machinations of speech-alone talk and all that it actualizes.  Adam and Eve are expelled from the garden in order to prevent an attempt to escape their divine fate, inspired by a delusion that we can return to the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.

0057 The women of Seth see the madness, through the passing generations.  First, the crowds ridicule and kill the shamans of old.  Who needs the timeless ways?  Then, generations later, the crowds gather like sheep in the hope of a revival of a shaman of old.  Then, a pretender guides them, as they move and become one with the animals.  Then, a flaming sword, swerving in all directions, drives them to annihilate one another, along with everything that seems to prevent their return to bliss.  This is an insight2V.

There is no return to the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.  We cannot eat from the tree of innocence, ever again.

01/19/22

Looking at Mark S. Smith’s Book (2019) “The Genesis of Good and Evil” (Part 11 of 16)

0063 What does the woman want?

Trees are all over the garden.  But, there are two notable botanical specimens.  There is the tree of life, somewhere in the periphery.  There is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, placed right in the center.  So, I already know what the woman wants.  She wants to be center stage.

0064 The tree in the center of the garden has not attracted Adam’s curiosity, so far.  He is happy with a tasty garden, attentive domesticates, and the rib-helper.  Wow, she is the most.

0065 Yes, the woman has desire.  Sure, the trees are good for food and beautiful to behold.  In Genesis 2:9, the author uses the word, “nechmad”, meaning desirable.

0066 Then, the woman enters into conversation with the serpent, who also has desires.  Its desire is to manipulate her desire.  He wants to pitch a sale.  Immediately before Eve seals the deal, Eve notices that the fruit is “ta’awah” (desire) to the eyes and “nechmad” (desirable) to make one wise.  Then, the serpent closes the pitch with a promise that the purchase will open her eyes.  She will be like the gods, knowing good and evil.

0067 Then, Adam joins in and the eyes of both are opened.

They realize that they are exposed.

0068 This word, “teshuqah” (desire), shows up again in Eve’s chastisement, as well as in the Song of Songs.  In the Dead Sea Scrolls, the same word gains creepier overtones.  The clay, within the human person, desires to return to dust.  This is an insight2V.

0069 But, what about the conditions2H?

Is Genesis 3 about human sin?

Or, is it about giving one’s sons and daughters a little hint about the nature of desire?

There is a difference between desirable and desire.  Plus, the serpent can close on both.

01/18/22

Looking at Mark S. Smith’s Book (2019) “The Genesis of Good and Evil” (Part 12 of 16)

0070 In chapter five, Mark Smith asks, “When does the story of human sin begin in Genesis?”

0071 At this point, conditions further clarify.

The first audiences for the early stories of Genesis are children.  The first authors are their mothers, the daughters of Seth.  Eve is their great-great-…-great grandmother.  The stories convey to each child this lineage, a direct descent to this mother, who is center stage.  Eve is more than a foolish woman who talks to serpents.  Eve is your mother as well.

0072 What does it mean to be a mother, a woman, cursed under Eve’s indictment?

A Primer on the Family presents the family as a prototype of the corporation, the content level of the organization tier.  Eve, the woman, is the producer.  Her man is the management.  Her children are the service, or, in today’s terms, the human resources.  Eve does not change the centrality of the mother.  She magnifies it.

She offers a warning.

0073 The story of Eve’s temptation offers many lessons, including ones on the nature of desire.  As Smith points out, Genesis 3 portrays a deeply disturbing psychological narrative.  Don’t all good fairy tales?

Plus, I add, Eve’s narrative, along with other Genesis stories, captures the weirdness of the constellation of unconstrained social complexity during the Ubaid.  Adam and Eve are made in paradise, eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and are expelled.  Neither Genesis 2 nor 3 use the word, “sin”.  The label, “evil”, is only mentioned in the name of the infamous tree.

Afterwards, Eve bears two children, Cain and Abel.  Eve is the producer.

0074 “Sin” is mentioned in Genesis 4, along with the word for desire, “teshuqah”.  Desire appears in the temptation of Eve and in her rebuke, where God says, “Your desire will be for your man.”  Yes, the woman will desire her man to be her manager.  There is no sin in that.

So, where does the word, “sin”, first appear?

When Cain, the gardener, complains about God preferring burnt offerings of meat, God offers a revealing repost, saying (more or less), “If you do what is right, you can bear it.  If you do not do right, sin crouches at your door.  Its desire (teshuqah) is for you, but you can rule over it.”

The word, “sin”, appears for the first time.  It does so in conjunction with a desire that crouches, like a predator, at Cain’s threshold.  Cain can rule it.  Or, it can rule Cain.

We all know what happens next.

0075 The daughters of Seth do not pull punches.  This conjunction of “sin” and “desire” is so provocative that I wonder, what child would not remember it, later, as an adult?

Even more intriguing is how this conjunction exposes a disquieting reality within the Ubaid’s spiral towards unconstrained social complexity.  The idea of one brother killing the other is not out of the question.  Why?  Such killingis an artifact that validates what the murderous brother has been telling himself.

0076 In hand-speech talk, gesture-words picture or point to their referents.  So, the words cannot lie about what they refer to.

In speech-alone talk, spoken words do not picture or point to their referents.  Instead, we construct artifacts that validate our projection of meaning, presence and message.  We speak, and the world comes into creation.  Not just any creation.  Our creation.  Our imagination constructs artifacts that validate our spoken words.

0077 Oh, those damned artifacts.

When fatty portions are added to a fire, the fire jumps to life.

When cabbage is added to a fire, the fire smolders.

0078 One son does not talk to himself.  Instead, he praises God.

The other mutters under his breath.  He complains about God’s rejection of his artifacts.

0079 The children hear a fairy tale, telling them of dangers in their upcoming lives.

The mothers hear the tragedy of two sons, where one rules over his desires and the other does not.

0080 This is one of the poisonous fruits of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the tree of speech-alone talk.  I can create my own world through my own symbolic actions that simultaneously do not honor God and open the door to the one whose desire is for my desire.

Sin crouches at Cain’s door.  It desires to speak to him.

Behold the fruits of the tree of death.

01/17/22

Looking at Mark S. Smith’s Book (2019) “The Genesis of Good and Evil” (Part 13 of 16)

0081 Mark Smith points out other links between Genesis 3 and 4.

When God rebukes Adam, He curses the ground.

When God confronts Cain, He says, “…now you are cursed from the ground…”

God expels Adam and Eve from Eden.

Cain replies to God, saying, “…you have driven me out…”

Adam and Eve settle east of Eden.

Cain goes to live in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

0082 Genesis 4 does not elaborate on the crouching sin.  I suppose Abel’s murder is plain enough.

Smith notes that Abel’s offering is pleasing to the Lord.

Smith adds that God does not punish Cain for murdering Abel.

Smith does not say what happens next.  He is tracking two words, “sin” and “evil”.

0083 However, what happens next provides insight into the author-ity of Genesis 4.  After the murder, God gives Cain a mark, deterring others from killing Cain.  Cain founds a city.  Within a few generations, another murder occurs.  Lamech, who has two wives, murders a man with none.

0084 Here is a critique of the social conditions of the Ubaid.  Increasing labor and social specializations lead to greater wealth and power.  The haves learn to take from the have nots.

01/15/22

Looking at Mark S. Smith’s Book (2019) “The Genesis of Good and Evil” (Part 14 of 16)

0085 In chapter six, Mark Smith asks, “Where does human evil begin in Genesis?”

In Genesis 3, Eve takes the fruit.

In Genesis 6, divine sons take beautiful daughters.

0086 Genesis 6:2 describes divine males commandeering human females.

What does this mean?

An extrapolation from Lamech offers an answer.  These men are “divine” in name only.  These wealthy and powerful “gods” have designs on women who attract their attention.

Does this sound vaguely contemporary?

0087 Then, there is the word for design, “yester”.

In Genesis 6:5, God admits that every design of the thoughts of civilized hearts is only evil, continually.

In Genesis 8:21, God, having let loose the civilization-destroying flood, regrets the act, but does not change the diagnosis.  The design (yester) of the human heart is to evil from its youth.

Its youth?

Think of the start of the Ubaid.

Unconstrained social complexity is a condiiton2H.

0088 Yes, evil in Genesis, associates to design.

The same word, “yester”, appears in Genesis 2:7, when God designs a man from earthen materials.

Smith notes that “yester”, design, typically applies to craftsmanship.  With the story of Noah, craftsmanship applies to thoughts.  So I ask, “What tool shapes thought?”  The answer is spoken words.  This is an insight2V.

0089 Various origin myths of the ancient Near East mention the Great Flood of Mesopotamia as a civilization-changing event.  By the time of the flood, evil and design are already joined.  Everyone knows it.

0090 As far as Mark Smith is concerned, by the end of chapter six, he covers the genesis of “evil”, “sin” and the fall(out).  He has only “good” and “original sin” left.

01/13/22

Looking at Mark S. Smith’s Book (2019) “The Genesis of Good and Evil” (Part 16 of 16)

0096 Does the name of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil say it all?

On one hand, since the time of Adam, knowledge continually increases, along with labor and social specializations.  Civilizations gain wealth and power.

On the other hand, since the time of Adam, evil designs the thoughts in our hearts, because its desire is for our desire.  These designs cohere to the traditional notion of original sin.  Civilizations corrupt from within.

0097 In Mark S. Smith’s book, the text ends in the middle of the bound volume.  Then, the endnotes begin.  This is the work of a scholar.  It does not step out of the closed loop of retrieval.

0098 Yet, this is precisely what happens in the fictional account of the first singularity, An Archaeology of the Fall (available at smashwords and other e-book vendors).   The first singularity is a scientific hypothesis, addressing the question, “Why is our current Lebenswelt not the same as the Lebenswelt that we evolved in?”

0099 When retrieving an author, both insights and conditions are valuable.  If indeed, the conditions are as proposed in this blog, then the insights allow a re-articulation of the concept of the Fall, and perhaps, of original sin.

There is more to Genesis 3 than meets the eye.

0100 My thanks to Mark S. Smith for his well-documented work.

11/30/21

Looking at the Book (2015) Genesis: History, Fiction or Neither? (Part 1 of 38)

0001 Biblical scholars James Hoffmeier, Gordon Wenham and Kenton Sparks contribute to a little book, titled Genesis: History, Fiction or Neither?, edited by Charles Halton and published by Counterpoint Press (affiliated with Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan).

0002 The format is straightforward.  Each contributor offers an essay and responds to the other two essays.

0003 These essays and responses are written shortly after the e-publication of An Archaeology of the Fall, by Razie Mah, which dramatizes a scientific hypothesis about the potentiation of civilization (and how the Genesis stories can be re-imagined in light of the hypothesis).

Why is this significant?

The contributors to Genesis: History, Fiction or Neither?: Three Views on The Bible’s Earliest Chapters, are not aware of the hypothesis of the first singularity.

Their arguments may be examined a point of view that is aware of the hypothesis.

Finally, their innocence of the hypothesis may illuminate the origins of our current Lebenswelt, from within.

0004 What is the first singularity?

The series, Crystallizations of the Fall, at the smashwords website, offers a succinct introduction.  This series contains two works.

The First Singularity and its Fairy Tale Trace offers a brief scientific account for the potentiation of unconstrained social complexity.

Comments on Original Sin and Original Death: Romans 5:12-19 offers a reading of Paul consistent with the consequences of the first singularity.

07/15/21

Looking at Josh Hammer’s Opinion Piece (2021) “…Experts” (Part 1 of 4)

0001 Josh Hammer authors an opinion piece for The Epoch Times.  Zerohedge reprints the opinion on Friday, June 4, 2021 at 9:00 p.m.  The full title is “Covid-19 Has Forever Destroyed America’s Trust in Ruling Class ‘Experts'”. 

0002 I only want to look at the first paragraph.

0003 I will look at this paragraph in two ways.

First, I will use the Greimas Square.  The Greimas Square is introduced in Comments On Philip Marey’s Post (2021) “Insurrection”, appearing in this blog in January 2021.  To date, no series has been generated for the Greimas Square in smashwords.

Second, I will use the first two levels of the society tier.  The two-level interscope is introduced in A Primer on Sensible and Social Construction (available at smashwords).  The society tier is posited in the masterwork How To Define the Word “Religion” (also available at smashwords).  

The two-level interscope recently appears in this blog with Saturn-Jupiter Conjunction in Aquarius (Jan. 2021), Be Little Men (Sept. 2020) and Comments on Yoran Hazony’s Post (2020) “Challenges of Marxism” (Sept. 2020).

0004 Here is the first paragraph of Josh Hammer’s opinion piece, reproduced for examination in the following two blogs.  There are three sentences in this paragraph.  I present them in sequence.

Hammer writes, “As even many casual observers of America’s fractious politics are aware, the overwhelming majority of lawmaking at the federal level no longer takes place in Congress as the Constitution’s framers intended.

“Instead, the vast majority of the ‘rulemaking’ governing Americans’ day-to-day lives now takes place behind closed doors, deep in the bowels of the administrative state’s sprawling bureaucracy.”The brainchild of progressive President Woodrow Wilson, arguments on behalf of the administrative state are ultimately rooted in, among other factors, a disdain for the messy give-and-take of republican politics and an epistemological preference for rule by enlightened clerisy.”