The Bible Reconsidered: A Second Historical Look at Scripture

"Luck" is certainly an arguable factor. If Christianity had not been adopted by Constantine, the Bible may not have survived to the present day.
I mostly agree. However, from the calamitous third century onwards, Christianity was becoming popular through a broad cultural turn towards inward-looking religions/personal salvation, and monotheism and henotheism. These trends are evidenced in inscriptions, artwork and religious buildings. Admittedly, Neo-Platonism, Mithraism, the cult of Jupiter Dolichenus and other aspects of pagan religion also appealed to this cultural development, and this is where Constantine's involvement was particularly decisive. Through the measures of Constantine and his sons, a powerful network of bishops now existed, and they were only getting more powerful. Constantius II had serious trouble dealing with disobedient bishops like Athanasius of Alexandria (whom he had great trouble, over several years, forcing into exile), and Valens would have even more trouble (e.g. failing to exile Athanasius altogether, and suffering the disobedience of Basil of Caesarea).

This was a privileged class. Noel Lenski (2008: Constantine, in Barrett (ed.), Lives of the Caesars, Malden MA, Oxford & Carlton, Victoria, 255-279) 274: ‘…Constantine began privileging the Christian church within months of defeating Maxentius by granting exemptions from mandatory service to clergy, by calling two councils to examine the Donatist dispute, and by pushing for freedom of worship and the restitution of properties confiscated during the Great Persecution. His grant of revenues from imperial domains to Roman and African churches in the months after the Battle of the Milvian Bridge was eventually extended across the empire. This amounted to imperial financing for Christianity, making it into something of an official religion. Constantine took further steps down this road, beginning in the mid-310s, when he granted authority to bishops formally to manumit slaves and to adjudicate civil suits. The combination of these powers and privileges turned bishops into an elite, which, by the end of the fourth century, had come to dominate local government and even to play a significant role in politics at the imperial level.’ With such measures, Constantine had made being a bishop appealing to the aristocratic elite. Within a few decades the elite dominated the clergy.
 
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abram

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Oct 2014
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oklahoma
I mostly agree. However, from the calamitous third century onwards, Christianity was becoming popular through a broad cultural turn towards inward-looking religions/personal salvation, and monotheism and henotheism. These trends are evidenced in inscriptions, artwork and religious buildings. Admittedly, Neo-Platonism, Mithraism, the cult of Jupiter Dolichenus and other aspects of pagan religion also appealed to this cultural development, and this is where Constantine's involvement was particularly decisive. Through the measures of Constantine and his sons, a powerful network of bishops now existed, and they were only getting more powerful. Constantius II had serious trouble dealing with disobedient bishops like Athanasius of Alexandria (whom he had great trouble, over several years, forcing into exile), and Valens would have even more trouble (e.g. failing to exile Athanasius altogether, and suffering the disobedience of Basil of Caesarea).

This was a privileged class. Noel Lenski (2008: Constantine, in Barrett (ed.), Lives of the Caesars, Malden MA, Oxford & Carlton, Victoria, 255-279) 274: ‘…Constantine began privileging the Christian church within months of defeating Maxentius by granting exemptions from mandatory service to clergy, by calling two councils to examine the Donatist dispute, and by pushing for freedom of worship and the restitution of properties confiscated during the Great Persecution. His grant of revenues from imperial domains to Roman and African churches in the months after the Battle of the Milvian Bridge was eventually extended across the empire. This amounted to imperial financing for Christianity, making it into something of an official religion. Constantine took further steps down this road, beginning in the mid-310s, when he granted authority to bishops formally to manumit slaves and to adjudicate civil suits. The combination of these powers and privileges turned bishops into an elite, which, by the end of the fourth century, had come to dominate local government and even to play a significant role in politics at the imperial level.’ With such measures, Constantine had made being a bishop appealing to the aristocratic elite. Within a few decades the elite dominated the clergy.
I agree, but we seem to be having a parallel conversation. I started this thread as Bible study and some keep talking about the rise of Christianity, which is slightly related, but not directly. Maybe one of us should start another thread. Yours seems to be drawing more interest than mine, but I'm used to talking to myself.
 
I agree, but we seem to be having a parallel conversation. I started this thread as Bible study and some keep talking about the rise of Christianity, which is slightly related, but not directly. Maybe one of us should start another thread. Yours seems to be drawing more interest than mine, but I'm used to talking to myself.
Sorry about that. I agree that the rise of Christianity should be a separate thread.
 
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abram

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Returning to Gen. 2, if I'm right that the genre is myth and allegory, what is the message? Like all good myths, that is somewhat subjective, lying in the mind of the beholder. I'll give you my take. I'd say it's about the human condition and the character flaw that is at the root of human suffering. Here we have two people created (according to Gen.1) in the image and likeness of God and given dominion over the resources of the earth. They had it made in the shade--especially in comparison with their counterparts in the Atrahasis myth from Babylon--the seven pairs of humans the god created to do their heavy labor. https://www.godawa.com/chronicles_o...mer-Kensky_Atrahasis_Epic_And_Genesis_1-9.pdf But were they content? No. They wanted the one thing that was forbidden to them, the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (at least by the time the serpent tempter got through with them). I doubt that there was any Buddhist influence going on hetre, but I think the concept comes close to what Buddhists call
taṇhā meaning thirst, desire, longing, greed and often translated as craving. Acccoding to the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, taṇhā is the cause of human suffering, or dukkha which leads to the endless cycle of samsara.. But that's another religion. Here the craving in question in question appears to be a desire to be gods, as though that were a reasonable aspiration, through the acquisition of knowledge about good and evil. Silly humans.
 
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tomar

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Creating Eve seems to follow from a process of trial-and-error elimination in God's search for a suitable companion for Adam.
Which of course raises the question of why/how an omniscient being needs to go through a trial and error process (and also why he needs to take a piece of adam to create eve)
 
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I would like to deal here with two subjects: (1) Eve´s rebellious character, (2) Adam´s role in the so-called Fall.

Eve´s rebellious character:

Eve´s speech to the serpent belongs to the Top 5 of the riddles posed by the Eden narrative.

Firstly, Yahweh´s speech to Adam in Gen 2:16-17:

16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Here is Eve´s speech to the serpent in Gen 3:2-3:

2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”

The differences between both speeches are:

+ tree of knowledge vs. tree in the midst of the garden

+ prohibition of eating the fruits vs. prohibition of eating and touching the fruits

+ death on the day of the violation versus death without any ´deadline´ (Eve´s speech report is correct regarding the events to come, while Yahweh´s statement is wrong (that means: a lie) since Adam and Eve do not die on the day of the violation, what however cannot be known to Eve when talking to the serpent, what makes her speech kind of prophetic)

The question is: Why does Eve´s speech report deviate in some points from the original speech of Yahweh? Of course it would be too trivial to suppose that the author merely wants to demonstrate Eve´s deficient memory of Adam´s report of Yahweh´s speech to him (which is here to presuppose). More likely is that the author´s intention is to intimate a certain aspect of Eve´s character, that is, behind Eve´s distortion of the original speech (= manifest content) lies Eve´s resistance against the divine authority (= latent content). So Eve doesn´t accept the divine superiority but revolts inwardly against it. When the serpent assures her of a transformation into divinity as a result of eating the fruits (confirmed by Yahweh in Gen 3:22), it becomes clear to her that Yahweh (in whom she doesn´t already trust) does not forbid to eat the fruits in order to save the humans from death but in order to prevent them from becoming gods (the well-known motif of the ´divine envy´).

If Eve´s character is understood that way, the serpent seems to figure not as an external ´seducing´ trigger of her behavior (the conventional interpretation) but as projection (avatar) of her own latent character, the function of which is to actualize the latency, that is, to translate it into concrete rebellious action - as subsequently happens.

This interpretation is supported by a probable pun by the author which led to the name ´Havva´ (Eve) to which he attributes the meaning of ´Mother of all Living´ (Gen 3:20 / a frequent mother goddess epithet in the cultures of the ancient Near East). A Hebrew or Aramaic source of that word is not known. It is likely that the author had mixed two existing words to build his word creation ´Havva´: ´Hayya´ (Aramaic = who gives birth to life) and ´Hivya´ (Aramaic = serpent).

More support for the interpretation Eve=Serpent can be found in Gen 3:15:

"I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head,and you shall bruise his heel.”

Thus Yahweh (resp. the author) drives a wedge between Eve and her ´avatar´, the serpent, due to the principle of ´divide and rule´ in order to forefend future rebellions. Of course, the plan does not work. In John´s Revelation, another (symbolic) woman, the ´whore Babylon´ (not eating a psychoactive fruit like Eve but drinking wine), is allied with a dragon (variation of the Eden serpent) for the purpose of rebellion against ´God´.

Adam´s role in the so-called Fall:

(Gen 3:6)

6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate (...)

The manifest text does not show any significant temporal gap between Eve´s eating and the passing on of the fruit to Adam, quite contrary, it says that Adam "was with her". The opponents of the interpretation that Adam is absent while Eve´s plucking and eating the fruit contend that Adam either arrives at the scene after Eve´s has plucked the fruit and bitten into it, or that she brings the fruit to him after all that. However, there is no basis for the absence interpretation in the text. The actions ´eating´ and ´passing on´ are connected by an ´and´ in the same sentence instead of being separated in two different sentences.

(to be continued)
 
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(continuation)

A strong argument for Adam´s presence is as follows:

(Gen 3)

6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.

So their eyes were opened at the same time; at least, the text does not suggest any temporal gap between the eye openings of Eve and Adam. There is no doubt that the fruit is sort of a psychoactive drug with a certain time of latency until the effect starts. In case Eve would have eaten her part much earlier that Adam, the effect would have started correspondingly earlier so that she would have realized her nakedness before Adam did so on his part, and had covered her nakedness before Adam did so on his part. However, the text says nothing about any time difference. At any case, simultaneous effects mean simultaneous eating. Thence one can conclude that Adam is present at Eve´s plucking and eating the fruit.

Nevertheless I would like to present some counter arguments, for example, Yahweh´s speech in Gen 3:17:

And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree (…)”

According to that, Eve has talked to Adam before he ate the fruit what however cannot be verified in Gen 3:6. Concerning the importance of such a seemingly authoritative verbal request of Eve to Adam, it is most amazing that the author didn´t think it worth mentioning in Gen 3:6. So it is possible that there is more which remains unmentioned in Gen 3:6, for example, that Eve brings the fruit to Adam, or that he enters the scene from somewhere else and then receives the fruit. But this is speculation without textual evidence. Another argument against Adam´s presence is: Why was Adam only ´seduced´ by Eve´s voice (according to 3:17) in case he was present at the former serpent scene, that is, why wasn´t he already ´seduced´ by the serpent´s arguments?

However, in Gen 3:12 (Adam´s speech to Yahweh) Adam does not intimate any verbal ´seduction´ by Eve, he just says that she had ´given´ him the fruit. So Gen 3:17 (Adam obeys the voice of Eve) seems to stand in contradiction to Gen 3:6 (no voice mentioned) as well as to Gen 3:12 (no voice mentioned).

As to 3:12, Adam´s speech is interesting also in another respect:

“The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”

The complement ´whom you gave to be with me´ is unnecessary because at this time, apart from Eve there is no other woman existent. The only purpose of Adam´s remark can be seen in his endeavor to blame Yahweh for being responsible for the debacle: Had he not created the woman, all that weren´t occurred. This does not exactly give the impression of self-confidence but strengthens the impression of Adam´s inferiority (to Eve).

Gen 3:17 is furthermore the only passage which points to the alleged ´seductive´ function of Eve. However, Gen 3:6 gives no hint of that cliché which is notoriously attached to the Eve figure. The cliché is moreover completely wrong insofar as it depicts Eve as a sexually motivated seductress, what has no basis in the manifest text. Sex is allowed in the Garden already since the creation of Eve (2:24). Gen 3:17 demonstrates Eve´s superiority to Adam at least until the fruit scene. Only with the curse 3:16 and definitely with 3:20 (Adam´s name-giving to Eve), Adam becomes superior to his wife. The giving of names is part of Adam´s dominating position already in Gen 2:20 (regarding animals), so it is in the case of Eve, however not before the curse scene.

Hence the text shows that Adam is present at Eve´s plucking and eating the fruit. His role in this scene is most passive since he does not object to Eve´s decision. However it is left to show that there is no major temporal gap between Eve´s and the serpent´s conversation and the plucking and eating the fruit, what implies Adam´s presence at Eve´s conversation with the serpent.

At least, there is no compelling argument against such a presence. The manifest text tells the appearance of the serpent and its staying in the garden until the curse scene, that is, the serpent is present in the garden during the Fall and also afterwards. So the question is: Has the serpent left the scene after her talk to Eve and dwelled in another place in the garden, or does it stay nearby so that it can observe the results of its intervention? We know about its ´cleverness´, moreover, we know about its interest in Eve´s eating the forbidden fruit what is exactly the reason for the serpent´s intervention. So why should it leave the scene? The serpent weren´t clever if it would do without any control of the results of its endeavors. Furthermore, there is surely nothing better to do.

So, given that there is a certain logic in the narrative and the characters, the serpent is present at Eve´s plucking and eating the fruit. Thence one can deduce that Adam is present not only at Eve´s plucking and eating but also at her talk to the serpent.
 
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abram

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Oct 2014
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oklahoma
Which of course raises the question of why/how an omniscient being needs to go through a trial and error process (and also why he needs to take a piece of adam to create eve)
I guess I view this as a parable instaed of a theological treatise. God in Gen.2 seems to be very anthropomorphic. To me, the anthropomorphism conveys a feeling of intimacy and simplicity. In Genesis 1, God was saying that everything was "good." In Genesis 2, God sees that something is not good "not good." "It's not good that the man should be alone" (2:18). God (unlike the Babylonian deities) cares about our wellbeing, and identifies a basic characteristic of humans we are social creatures who need the companionship of others to thrive.
 
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tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
13,755
I guess I view this as a parable instaed of a theological treatise. God in Gen.2 seems to be very anthropomorphic. To me, the anthropomorphism conveys a feeling of intimacy and simplicity. In Genesis 1, God was saying that everything was "good." In Genesis 2, God sees that something is not good "not good." "It's not good that the man should be alone" (2:18). God (unlike the Babylonian deities) cares about our wellbeing, and identifies a basic characteristic of humans we are social creatures who need the companionship of others to thrive.
Agree, my point was simply that initially God (in the OT) was NOT seen as omniscient and omnipotent... This came later
 

Maki

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Jan 2017
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Republika Srpska
Creating Eve seems to follow from a process of trial-and-error elimination in God's search for a suitable companion for Adam.
An interesting point. I've never really gotten this impression but I see your point.
 

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