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.


Looking at the Book (2015) Genesis: History, Fiction or Neither? (Part 2 of 38)

0005 Charles Halton, editor, pens the introduction.

Galileo serves as an example of the religion versus science debate.

Galileo’s interpretation of the Bible clashes with long-held, cherished interpretations.  His reputation is sullied by name-calling and legal wrangling.  A century later, Galileo is honored as one of the pioneers of science.  Three centuries later, the Catholic Church apologizes.

0006 If one interprets according to genre, then I propose that Galileo works according to the genre of science, while the seventeenth century Church operates in the genre of Thomist (or Aristotelian) metaphysics.

The dispute also may be described in terms of genre.  Galileo says that the propositions of the Bible are addressed to common folk.  That is a genre.  The ecclesial establishment says that Biblical propositions are uttered by the Holy Ghost.  That is a genre, as well.

Both sides may be correct, but that does not dampen the controversy.

0007 Why?

Both parties agree on the same principle.  Nature and grace are distinctly different.  They are not the same.  So, mechanical inquiry into what is does not necessarily cohere to theological inquiry into what ought to be, and visa versa.


Looking at the Book (2015) Genesis: History, Fiction or Neither? (Part 3 of 38)

0008 I now frame the controversy between Galileo and Catholic Church.

A judgment is a triadic relation with three elements: relationwhat is and what ought to be.  When each element is assigned to one of Peirce’s three categories, the judgment becomes actionable.

The three categories are thirdness, the triadic realm of normal contexts; secondness, the dyadic realm of actuality; and firstness, the monadic realm of possibilities.

Thirdness brings secondness, the dyadic realm of actuality, into relation with firstness, the monadic realm of possibilities.

0009 Here is a picture.

0010 This diagram of the triadic structure of judgment shows that a controversy can occur when both parties agree on a key relational principle.  Here, both parties agree that nature and grace are distinct and separate.

This agreement serves as the relation that brings together what is and what ought to be.

The relation belongs to the category of thirdness, the realm of normal contexts, mediations, signs and so on.

0011 In the next blog, I will consider category-assignments to what ought to be and what is.


Looking at the Book (2015) Genesis: History, Fiction or Neither? (Part 4 of 38)

0012 Here is a picture of the infamous Galileo controversy.

0013 If the relation belongs to thirdness (the realm of normal contexts), then there are two configurations for assigning categories to the other elements of judgment.

If the Book of Nature belongs to secondness (the realm of actuality), then the Revealed Book of God belongs to firstness (the realm of possibility).  Nature is real and the Bible is fiction (that is, not real).

If the Revealed Book of God belongs to secondness (the realm of actuality), then the Book of Nature belongs to firstness (the realm of possibility).  The Bible is real and natural inquiry in not relevant.

0014 So, which is more real, nature or grace?


Looking at the Book (2015) Genesis: History, Fiction or Neither? (Part 5 of 38)

0015 Both sides of the science versus religion debate agree that nature and grace are separate.

Because this relation belongs to thirdness in the triadic structure of judgment, what is (science) and what ought to be(Bible) end up assigned to either firstness or secondness.


0016 Either Genesis is history (secondness) and Anthropology is not relevant (firstness)…

…. or Anthropology describes our world (secondness) and Genesis is fiction (firstness).

0017 Here is a picture.


Looking at the Book (2015) Genesis: History, Fiction or Neither? (Part 6 of 38)

0018 What if Genesis is neither history nor fiction?

The title of the book offers this option as well.

Charles Halton proposes that an alternate judgment arises after cuneiform-bearing clay tablets are unearthed from tells in the Near East.  They are found in ruins of royal libraries.  Clever scholars figure out how to translate them.

First the tablets are read.  Then, they are interpreted in light of the genres that they display.  The literature of the ancient Near East contains its own genres.

Reading yields what is.  Interpretation produces what ought to be.  Genre brings interpretation (what ought to be) into relation with reading (what is).

0019 Here is a picture of how extra-Biblical contemporaneous writing offers the neither option.

0020 This judgment clearly transcends the either/or dichotomy of the religion and science controversy.

Or does it?

In one genre, Gen 1-11 is read and interpreted as history.

In another genre, Gen 1-11 is read and interpreted as fiction.

Does the old either/or battle merely shift to the terrain of genre?

Yes, we may project modern genres onto the literature of the ancient Near East.

No, the literature of the ancient Near East is neither history nor fiction.


Looking at the Book (2015) Genesis: History, Fiction or Neither? (Part 7 of 38)

0021 In the previous blog, the relationgenres of the ancient Near East, serves as a antithesis to the relation that both parties in the religion-science controversy are in agreementthe separation of nature and grace.

What does this imply?

The modern period begins, as Charles Halton recounts, with Galileo’s thesis as the antithesis of Aristotle’s framing of the reading and interpretation of the Bible.  The resulting controversy hinges on the dichotomy of nature and supernature.  They are separate.  Either Genesis is history (and natural knowledge is not pertinent) or fiction (and natural knowledge is irrefutable).

0022 The postmodern synthesis begins with the admission that the literature of the ancient Near East expresses genres, that do not match the modern genres of history or fiction.  Genre offers a path to bring reading into relation with interpretation.

0023 The recovery and translation of cuneiform texts from the ancient Near East offers both science and religion new opportunities.  Science may observe and measure genres as phenomena.  Religion may compare written origin stories of the ancient Near East to Gen 1-11.

0024 The latter inquiry produces an observation that is hard to ignore.

All origin stories of the ancient Near East (with the exception of the Genesis Creation Story) depict a recent creation of humans.  For example, in one ancient Mesopotamian myth, humans are created to do the work of the gods.

How far is that from God creating Adam and giving him a garden to tend?

This observation is consistent with the hypothesis of the first singularity.


Looking at the Book (2015) Genesis: History, Fiction or Neither? (Part 8 of 38)

0025 Is the first singularity historical?

No, it occurs in prehistory, starting around 7821 years ago.

Yes, it potentiates history.  In fact, it potentiates all the written origin myths of ancient Mesopotamia.

0026 How so?

The hypothesis of the first singularity entails four key features.

First, the semiotic nature of hand-speech talk, practiced by all humans in the Lebenswelt that we evolved in, favors constrained social complexity.  In contrast, speech-alone talk facilitates unconstrained social complexity, characteristic of our current Lebenswelt.

Second, the transition from hand-speech talk to speech-alone talk is called “the first singularity”.  The first singularitystarts when one culture (unwittingly) loses the hand-component of hand-speech talk.  This culture is the Ubaid of southern Mesopotamia.

Third, the semiotic qualities of speech-alone talk explains the dynamic trends towards increasing labor and social specialization, evident in the Ubaid from its inception.

Fourth, relative differences in wealth (labor specialization) and power (social specialization) inspire adjacent hand-speech talking cultures to abandon the hand-component of their hand-speech talk (in imitation).  These extra-Ubaid cultures are not aware of the consequences.  Through mimesis, speech-alone talk spreads to all the world, seeding the potential of unconstrained social complexity.

0027 These four features explain why the origin stories of the ancient Near East depict recent origins for humanity.  The transition from hand-speech to speech-alone changes the semiotic qualities of language so much that, mythologically, humans are born again.

Oh, the Ubaid even forgets the “again” part.

According to Mesopotamian myths, humans are created by newly differentiated gods.

According to Genesis, Adam is fashioned out of dust.


Looking at the Book (2015) Genesis: History, Fiction or Neither? (Part 9 of 38)

0028 Does Charles Halton (or any of the other contributors) know about the hypothesis of the first singularity?

For the most part, these Biblical scholars are not worried about religion versus science controversies.  They discuss the question of genre, rather than the more difficult topic of reconciling Biblical anthropology and human evolution.

0029 Little does Halton (and the other contributors) realize that the entire scientific framework of human evolution relies on materialist assumptions that are valid for many other species, but not our own.  Really.  Take a good look at a sheep and a lion and imagine a human as an adaptation into a material niche.  The proposition is ludicrous.

Three masterworks, available on smashwords, change all that. Each anchors a series (or course) in smashwords.  The Human Niche covers the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.  Our niche is not material. Our niche is the potential of triadic relations.  An Archaeology of the Fall dramatically portrays the discovery and implications of the first singularity.  How To Define the Word “Religion” examines a crucial difficulty facing our current Lebenswelt.  How do we know whether our spoken words are true?

0030 Well, if that is the case, why would this little book on the genres of Genesis be relevant?


Looking at the Book (2015) Genesis: History, Fiction or Neither? (Part 10 of 38)

0031 Does a debate over Biblical genres offer clues concerning the character of life during and after the start of the first singularity?

0032 For one, technically, the first singularity precedes history, even as it potentiates history.

0033 For two, how can anyone tell the history of an event that no one knows about?

The Ubaid practices speech-alone talk from the start.  Plus, the consequences of practicing speech-alone talk are unfathomable.  The semiotic qualities of speech-alone talk potentiate labor and social specialization, resulting in increasing wealth and power over the span of generations.

Who is going to figure that out?

Surely, the Ubaid is aware that other Neolithic cultures practice hand-speech talk. But, those are loser cultures.  All the action is happening in the Ubaid.  The other cultures are way behind.  Plus, they intend to catch up.  They drop the hand-talk component of their hand speech talk.

The change in semiosis between hand-speech and speech-alone is so dramatic that even these neighboring cultures forget the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.  The tree of life disappears.  The seeds of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil are sown in distant lands.

0034 For three, Gen 1-11 may be regarded as a witness from within the spontaneously differentiating and specializing Ubaid villages, as they develop into Uruk town-chiefdoms, then into Sumerian city-states.