01/25/22

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.

01/24/22

Looking at Mark S. Smith’s Book (2019) “The Genesis of Good and Evil” (Part 10 of 16)

0058 In chapter four, Mark Smith addresses the question, “Is Genesis 3 about human sin?”

After covering what modern scholars say about the text and conditions of Genesis 3, the question turns to production3Hand writing3V.  Readers seek to interpret both the conditions2H and the insights2V of the author.  These are tied to the author’s scope1H and charism1V.

As far as conditions go, I speculate that the conditions2H include the increasing social complexity of the Ubaid villages, then the Uruk townships.

The authors are the daughters of Seth, who gradually compose the early stories of Genesis, as well as one for Noah, plus more.  The stories are maintained by the women of Seth, then afterwards, the women of Israel.  Then, the bards of Israel take them for their own, around the time of (or later than) Ezekiel.

0059 These conditions explain how the stories can be so ancient, yet showing the patina of post-exilic editing.

Plus, these conditions explain why the lessons of the Genesis 1 are declared in the time of Moses, while the lessons of the stories of Genesis 3 are ignored.  Adam and Eve belong to the stories of the women, not the men, of Israel.

The bards of Israel account for why the stories of Adam and Eve find their way into the writing of Genesis.  Their genius forces the redactor’s pen.  But, the written scriptures are new, compared to the age of the oral tradition.  Consequently, the stories of Adam and Eve make a dreamy impression in the time of the Second Temple.

The bards, the wandering preachers of Israel, also account for the conditions surrounding John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth.  No one seems particularly surprised by their appearance.  They recite the scriptures just like all bards do.  The audiences attend to their words.  The kingdom of God is at hand.

0060 These conditions are radically different than those intimated by Mark Smith and colleagues, who examine only the patina and not what might lie beneath.  Smith wants to retrieve insights by considering only the surface conditions.  His procedure is to begin with the explicit writing of Genesis 3, particularly concerning the choice of words.

0061 He starts with the word, “evil”, first mentioned in regards to the tree at the center of the garden.  The scriptural Hebrew, ra’, means poor in quality and disagreeable, as well as wicked and harmful.  For example, if a fruit is poisonous, then it is ra’.  An inedible fruit would fit the idea where God commands Adam not to eat, if only for health reasons.  But, this idea is dispelled as the story plays out.

0062 Then, there is the creation of woman from Adam’s rib.  God fashions all sorts of animals, who get names, but none are sufficiently helpful.  Adam tends a garden.  Adam domesticates animals.  They all live in paradise, offering a hint ofthe Lebenswelt that we evolved in.

God, not Adam, insists that it is not good that the human should be alone.  He then fashions a woman from Adam’s rib.  Adam is overjoyed at the introduction.

Here is the etiology of woman, according to the daughters of Seth, who tell fairy tales to their children, about the beginning.

01/21/22

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.

01/20/22

Looking at Mark S. Smith’s Book (2019) “The Genesis of Good and Evil” (Part 7 of 16)

0037 In chapter three, Mark Smith asks, “What do contemporary scholars say?”

0038 Clearly, without Saint Paul, original sin does not swim below the surface of consciousness, like a fish waiting to catch the eye of Saint Augustine.

0039 Contemporary scholars suggest that Adam and Eve know not what they do.  Where have I heard that before?  They cannot be culpable for disobeying God’s command not to eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil,because they do not know good and evil.

The logic is circular.  But, it is hard to refute.

0040 Interpretation1b, the potential underlying the reader’s acquisition of meaning, presence and message from the author2a, retrieves an intersection of insight2V and conditions2H.  That is what the author2a is!  The author2b is an intersection, arising from the fusion two actualities. 

0041 So, who is the author?

During the centuries after the exile, when the Scriptures are compiled, the authors are the ones gathering material for redaction.  They have a lot to work with, because the bards of Israel actively draw on sources from throughout the region, weaving them together in cogent and coherent narratives.  The bards of Israel bring the stories of Adam and Eve out of their domestic tradition.  The bards of Israel dramatically render Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Oh, and you know about Joseph!  The bards of Israel remind me of Joseph. The bards of Israel outperform the priestly class.  They are not dull and ritual oriented.  They wear cloaks of many colors.  Their garments are seamless.  And, their reputations are colorful and seamy.

0042 Centuries later, Jesus steps into their sandals.

One of the remarkable features of the gospels is how they do not recite the stories in the Scriptures, even though such recitations may have been the bulk of Jesus’ orations.  Audiences hear the same stories from Jesus as from any other bard (or “wandering preacher”).  Plus, with Jesus, there is more.  The kingdom of God is at hand, in the Word made flesh, not the script made permanent.  The parables, the analogies and the lessons of Jesus, offered to his admirers, come like fireworks at the end of an event.  The event is the telling of the stories of Israel.  The stories raise the questions that Jesus addresses.  What is the kingdom of God?

0043 The bards do not write.  They recite.  They are held to strict account by their audiences.  That includes women who tell their children the traditional fairy tales.  These women are the condition2H that preserves the early Genesis stories through millennia, starting with the Ubaid of southern Mesopotamia.  Not the start of the Ubaid, when the world still seems like paradise.  Rather, later, when labor and social specializations generate inequalities so great that nothing seems quite right.

Adam and Eve are fairy-tale figures who, like so many fairy-tale figures, capture an archetypal image of an event that cannot be properly pieced together.  Why?  Changes occur over generations.  No one knows what exactly is going on.  But, the fairy-tale figures indicate that ‘something’ is going on and this ‘something’ has to do with their drama.

01/19/22

Looking at Mark S. Smith’s Book (2019) “The Genesis of Good and Evil” (Part 6 of 16)

0030 In chapter two, Mark Smith addresses the question, “What is the original sin in Genesis 3, according to Scripture and Christian theologians?”

What do the authors of Wisdom of Solomon 2:24, as well as Saint Paul, Saint Augustine and John Calvin, retrieve from Genesis 3?

0031 What do I mean by the word, “retrieve”?

The reader is an actuality2b, virtually situating the author2a, the intersection of insight2V and conditions2H.  The reader2bemerges from (and situates) the potential of interpretation1b, in the normal context of retrieve3b.

Ah, the reader2b retrieves the author2a’s insights2V and conditions2H.

0032 The two-level interscope is introduced in A Primer on Sensible and Social Construction (available at the smashwords website and other sites that market e-works).

Here is a picture for the reader and the author.

0033 Deuterocanonical texts, such as the Wisdom of Solomon, are not clear about the nature of Adam and Eve’s transgression.

Neither is Saint Paul, who writes a typology.  Adam is the type of the one who fell.  Jesus is the type of the one who is risen.

0034 Saint Augustine proposes that original sin arises in the realm of potential within Adam and Eve, then enters into actuality after the serpent closes the pitch.  Yes, the sales pitch.  The potential consists of pride, welling up within Adam and Eve.  It is like a boil.  First, it wells up below the surface.  Then, it ruptures.

Augustine concludes that an infection of pride condemns all of us because we are all descendants of Adam and Eve.  Original sin is like a sexually transmitted disease.

Augustine’s diagnosis… er… interpretation covers both insight2V and conditions2H.  The insight2V is pride as a motive for sin.  The condition2H is infection and transmission.

0035 John Calvin, after assessing many options, claims that the sin of Adam’s transgression is unfaithfulness.  His approach to this conclusion is noteworthy.  He retrieves early Christian authors.  Then, he retrieves the gospels and letters of Paul.  Then he retrieves the Old Testament.  What does he unearth?  Mark Smith is precise, saying, “The understanding of the conditions of human sin informs Calvin’s understanding of the origins of sin.”  Calvin illuminates conditions2H.

0036 So, Adam’s transgression is like a pustulating infection2V, where pride seethes beneath the surface then ruptures into rebellion against God’s command.  The conditions2H are unfaithfulness.  Then, the infection transmits from one generation to the next, through acts of procreation.

01/17/22

Looking at Mark S. Smith’s Book (2019) “The Genesis of Good and Evil” (Part 4 of 16)

0018 The author2, in prior blogs, is the single actuality composed of two actualities, insight2V and conditions2H.  One cannot separate the two.  They work in tandem.  Insight2V emerges from the author’s charism1V, a divine gift.  Condition2H situates the author’s scope1H, the cultural impress of the time, including literature that the author may have been exposed to.

The author2 is an actuality.  This actuality2 is contextualized by the normal context3 of revealing3.  This actuality emerges from the possibilities of ‘recording something for someone’1.

0019 The resulting nested form is:

Revealing3( author2 ( potential of ‘recording something for someone’1)

0020 On one hand, Genesis is not a secret document, so ‘something’ goes to all.  On the other hand, for those who heard the oral tradition for millennia, ‘something’ is very personal.  The early stories of Genesis are told to attentive children, by their mothers.  These mothers know that their tradition is older than they can imagine.  This is their charism.  They are the ones who tell the stories of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Lamech and the rest, generation through generation.

May I also say that they are the authors, so to speak?

0021 In chapter one, Mark Smith broadly speculates that Genesis 3 and Ezekiel 28 and 31 derive from the same source.  Yet, there is, as Jacques Lacan puts it, “a petit objet A”, evidence that serves to inform the observer that there is a missing piece to a puzzle.  The four rivers that flow into the Persian Gulf do not flow during Ezekiel’s time.  They flow during the Wet Period of the Developed Neolithic of southwest Asia, five thousand years earlier.  The four rivers in Genesis 3 are a petit objet A.  They are in Genesis 3, yet are missing at the time when the redactor composes the scriptures.  So, how does the redactor know about these four rivers?

Oh, there must be an oral tradition.

0022 Ahem. There is another observation that needs to be accounted for.  Why does the bulk of the Old Testament, from Abraham through the prophets, not directly mention the stories of Adam and Eve?  Why do they mention the seventh day as a day of rest, a theme of the Creation Story?  Why is Genesis 3 ignored while the lessons of Genesis 1 are placed center stage?

Does it have anything to do with rotten men?  The lessons of Genesis 1 are proclaimed by Moses.  Not its companion, Genesis 3 and the like.  Genesis 3 is told by the women of Israel to their children.  Surely, Moses knows what the daughters of Israel tell their children, with unswerving dedication.  Here is the source of the oral tradition that mentions the four rivers flowing into (or is it out of?) Eden.

0023 Here is my conclusion.

The sons of Israel are so busy constructing their world, according to their manly ways, that they do not imagine that these womanly stories about Adam and Eve have any… well… relevance to the issues at hand.  When the bards of Israel put these fairy tales as the opening act, then… oh… the situation changes.  Suddenly, Adam and Eve are legit.

0024 The bards of Israel?

The concept is implied in Smith’s speculative common source for Ezekiel 28 and Genesis 3.  Who is the common source?  Well, they are probably not members of the priestly class.  Yet, their style is evident even in the days of Jesus.  Jesus’ ministry is precisely what one expects for a bard of Israel.  Jesus is totally traditional and miraculously entertaining.  He recites the scriptures to all who come to listen.

0025 Still don’t imagine the bards of Israel?

The Greeks have the same schtick around the same time.  Homer!  He compiles the stories of the Greek bards.  These stories, told in the Iron Age, detail the Bronze Age.  Did I mention that the Bronze Age ends in some sort of catastrophe, hundreds of years prior to Homer?

0026 Still don’t grasp the bards of Israel?

Here, I jokingly shift my gaze to Hollywood, brimming with Jewish talent, sons of Abraham, rebels with Moses, kings like David and self-aggrandizers like Solomon.  Where does all their verve come from?  The bards of Israel got around.

01/15/22

Looking at Mark S. Smith’s Book (2019) “The Genesis of Good and Evil” (Part 3 of 16)

0009 Mark Smith concludes the introduction by casting an eye upon the reader.  The Christian reader of Genesis 3 wants to plumb the author’s scope1H and charism1V in order to apply lessons to “his” own situation, where “his” indicates “his” and “hers”.

0010 “His”?

Even the awkward attribution smells funny.  Presumably, men, like rotten fruit, no longer represent the entire species.

So, we have to clean up the language, don’t we?

0011 What does Genesis 3 really say?

Mark Smith intends to inform the reader.  He begins with a retrospective.

0012 John Milton (1608-1674), at the start of the Age of Ideas, composes an epic poem, titled, Paradise Lost.  Paradise Lost begins in the middle.  Yes, a theodrama precedes Adam’s occupation of paradise.  And, Satan is not pleased.

The most recent Catechism of the Catholic Church formulates original sin as the connection between Adam’s transgression and our current misery.  Figuratively, we are all Adam’s descendants.  Or, is it literally?

0013 These introductory retrospections add a puzzling emptiness.

Maybe, the story of Adam and Eve begins in the middle, but what goes before?  The defeat of Satan is not about humans. What would it mean if humans, or generally, our hominin ancestors, live before Adam and Eve, on the open plains and in the gnarled forests that the defeat of Satan leaves open for settlement?  It is an odd question…

…further cemented by the formulation that we are all descendants of Adam.  How can folk living on the far edges of Eurasia be Adam’s descendants, when Adam lives a generation before the formation of Cain’s city?  They cannot be literally descended. After all, the first towns start a little over 6000 years ago.

Better words may be “drawn into” and “entangled”.

We are all drawn into Adam’s transgression.

0014 Indeed, we are entangled.  It is like the sticky postmodern situation where the word, “he”, once meant both “he” and “she”, then “she” declares that “he” is presumptive, arrogant, and so on, and demands her own pronoun.  And now, everyone wants their own pronouns.  For me, it is back to “he”, but now in scare quotes, because there is no way to get disentangled.

0015 What sin has all humanity been drawn into?

What sin entangles us?

Oh, it must be original sin.

0016 According to Mark Smith, the foundational stories in Genesis 3 contain deeply unsettling psychological portraits.  The psychology is tied to the drama, just like the pronoun business.  The drama contains comedy and tragedy and, most horrifying, catastrophe.  Yet, all this is not so bad, because good people appear in every generation, like Abel, who gets murdered, and Enoch, who gets swept up in mysterious circumstances, and Noah, who gets to build an ark because God is about the wipe out the civilization.

Other people, who may not be as good as good can be, are somehow in play, even though they are not upstage.  They are the ones who call upon the name of the Lord.  They remember.  Plus, a good God knows all.

0017 So, I say, “There is more to Genesis 3 than meets the eye.”

01/14/22

Looking at Mark S. Smith’s Book (2019) “The Genesis of Good and Evil” (Part 2 of 16)

0004 Two key words pop out in the introduction, “scope” and “retrospect”.  Both apply to reading and writing.

First, consider the author.  The author has a gift, a charism.  Insights are framed by “his” scope, the cultural impress of the time.  But, the cultural impress does not determine the author’s words.  The author does.  The author has “his” own concerns, which somehow intersect with scope.   The author’s insights arise from “his” own interpretations and experiences.

0005 I can write two formulaic descriptions of the author, following A Primer on the Category-Based Nested Form(available at the smashwords website as well as other purveyors of e-works).

One, the normal context of producing text3 brings the actuality of the author’s personal conditions2 into relation with possibilities inherent in the cultural milieu of the author1, including “his” scope.

Two, the normal context of writing3 brings insights2 into relation with the potential of the author’s point of view1, containing “his” charism.

0006 Do these nested forms interscope?

Some say that an author emerges from the civilizational conditions.  Others say that an author conveys insights.  Clearly, one nested from does not fully situate the other.

They do not interscope.

0007 Instead, they intersect.  The author is the single actuality that fuses the actualities of conditions2 and insight2.

0008 Ah, the author2 is a single actuality that is the intersection of two actualities, conditions2H and insight2V.  One nested form defines the horizon.  One nested form transects the horizon.  Clearly, the intersection celebrates, rather than resolves, contradictions inherent to the author2.

Here is a picture of the intersection.

01/13/22

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?

05/4/21

Looking at Jeff Hardin’s Essay (2019) “Biology and Theological Anthropology” (Part 15 of 15)

0079 Jeff Harden follows his appeal with summaries of faithful Christian approaches to human origins.  These approaches include models of existential recapitulation, of protohistory, of representative ancient ancestors, of recently, elected representatives and of genealogies, as opposed to genetics.

None of these are adequate.

0080 Why?

They do not fit the fairy tales about Adam and Eve.

0076 In this look at Hardin’s article, another option appears.  It appears as a mirror image of his opening question.  It asks, “Why doesn’t evolutionary science recognize a twist in human evolution?”

The answer wonders, “Why is our current Lebenswelt not the same as the Lebenswelt that we evolved in?

The hypothesis of the first singularity is a scientific mechanism that works as an adjunct to theological formulations.

Indeed, we come to a new age of understanding, which the late John Deely, calls “The Age of Triadic Relations”.

0077 Here is a picture of three masterworks and their corresponding periods in human evolution.

0078 My thanks to Jeff Hardin, Chair, Biologos Board of Directors, for his mind-opening essay.