December 18, 2017

Blogging through The Lost World of Adam and Eve (4)

61Y4wiWbWOL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Blogging through “The Lost World of Adam and Eve”, by John Walton
• Post #4: Propositions 12-14

The next three propositions John Walton presents have to do with the setting of the “garden” in Eden and those who dwelt therein.

  • Adam is assigned to be a priest in God’s sacred space, with Eve as his helper.
  • The garden is an Ancient Near Eastern motif for sacred space, and its trees are related to God as the source of life and wisdom.
  • The serpent would have been viewed as a chaos creature from the non-ordered realm, promoting disorder.

Propositions 12-13: I was first awakened to the fact that the “garden” in Eden was more than just a lovely place providing food for humans by my seminary professor, John Sailhamer, who described for us how the imagery of Genesis 2 described a sacred royal botanical garden which found later expression in Israel’s Tabernacle and Temple. In an earlier post on these chapters here on IM, I wrote:

The word “garden” refers to a “park” or a “botanical garden” of the kind that was common in royal temple or palace complexes in the ancient world. Solomon was renowned for his horticultural interests, and records show that the kings of Assyria, Babylon, and Persia had magnificent garden complexes. The most famous, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, was one of the world’s seven wonders. “Eden” means “abundance.” In this lush, verdant location, God created a royal arboretum, fit for the King, furnished by his own hand.

In the light of chapter one, with its metaphorical depiction of God establishing the world as his temple, John Walton describes this garden as the center of sacred space in the world, the “holy of holies” as it were, in God’s cosmic temple. Unfortunately, here is another instance where I think Walton is correct as far as he goes. However he doesn’t follow up to explain that, for Israel, this would identify “the garden in Eden” with “the Promised Land.” This is one criticism I have of John Walton’s approach to Genesis. I think he does an excellent job pointing out what he calls the “archetypal” significance of many aspects of the story and he draws all the right connections with Ancient Near East mythology, but his focus on issues related to the New Testament and science lead him to ignore the context of the Torah and Hebrew Bible. This is an “Israel” story before it is anything else. More on that at the end of the week.

Walton also follows Sailhamer in seeing Adam’s vocation as priestly, based on Gen. 2:15 – ” The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden for serving and for keeping.” These are priestly terms and the unusual syntax of the verse suggests that the garden is not in view as the object of the human’s work. Adam’s calling was to serve as a priest and preserve order in God’s sacred space. This is compatible with the description of human beings in chapter one when it says they were “created in the image of God,” which is a designation of humans as priestly representatives, serving in the king’s temple.

As a priest, the first priest in the Bible, Adam was called to preserve the sanctity of God’s holy place and mediate its benefits to humankind. Eve served with him in this task, and Walton takes care to show the concept of priestesses in the ancient world was not unusual (though Israel later only had a male priesthood).

In conclusion, rather than understanding Scripture as necessitating the view that Adam and Eve are the first humans, in light of their specific role concerned with access to God in sacred space and relationship with him, we might alternatively consider the possibility that they are the first significant humans. As with Abram, who was given a significant role as the ancestor of Israel (though not the first ancestor of Israel), Adam and Eve would be viewed as established as significant by their election. This would be true whether or not other people were around. Their election is to a priestly role, the first to be placed in sacred space. (p. 114)

This also resonates with their role as the humans who brought sin into the world. It is not their genetic role as the first humans, progenitors of the human race, that sets them apart, but rather their calling to be priests tending God’s sacred space in Eden.

What about the trees in the garden? John Walton once more discusses Ancient Near East parallels for the purpose of showing that the special trees and concerns about wisdom and immortality are not unknown in the broader cognitive environment of which ancient Israel was a part. Whether the trees in the garden in Eden were actual trees or parts of the story that represent theological concepts, the point is that they provide what is God’s and God’s alone to give. Life and wisdom are God’s gifts, and his priestly representatives failed to receive them properly. In Walton’s view, this is the traditional story of “the fall” — “human representatives incurred guilt for all of us by grasping [wisdom] illegitimately and therefore losing [life] (p. 125).

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Proposition 14: Here John Walton takes up the subject of the “serpent” in the garden. Though the NT may give us warrant to correlate the serpent with Satan, the Israelites would have viewed this character through Ancient Near Eastern eyes. Serpent symbolism was pervasive throughout the Ancient Near East. Walton concludes that the serpent (the ordinary Hebrew word for a common snake) was a chaos creature, a “disruptive free agent” capable of causing disorder.

It is at this point that Walton makes a distinction he considers important, but with which I am not fully on board.

As a chaos creature, the serpent would be more closely associated with non-order than with disorder. Non-order has a certain neutrality to it, whereas disorder is evil in nature and intent. We might describe an earthquake or a cancer as forces of non-order with evil consequences. But they are not inherently evil. We do not control them, and therefore they can have disastrous effects. If the serpent truly is in the category of chaos creature, neither his contradiction of God’s statement nor his deception about the consequences are part of an evil agenda. They are simply the disruptive, ad hoc behavior that chaos creatures engage in.

I don’t think those distinctions really hold up, but I’m not going to argue the point here.

Finally, in the light of these discussions about the trees and the serpent, etc., in an excursus John Walton discusses whether or not we should label the genre of Genesis 2-3 “myth.” He is not comfortable with that. He does argue that ancients thought about the world differently: we tend to think “scientifically,” concerned with causation, composition and systematization. However, “In the ancient world they are more likely to think of the world in terms of symbols and to express their understanding by means of imagery.” He doesn’t think the Israelites borrowed other people’s myths and transformed them, as some scholars suppose. Rather, they lived in a context where people thought “imagistically,” and they shared that thought world.

On the other hand, I don’t have any problem with the word “myth.” But I’ll save my comments on this for another time.

Comments

  1. “He [Walton] doesn’t think the Israelites borrowed other people’s myths and transformed them, as some scholars suppose. Rather, they lived in a context where people thought “imagistically,” and they shared that thought world.”

    Really? As we know, the Gilgamesh epic contains a story of the Flood, with the whole natural world destroyed except what was on Utnapishtim’s (sp?) (= Noah’s) ship. Utnapishtim even sends out birds — I don’t recall which ones — to check and see if the flood has subsided. But Walton doesn’t think the Hebrew writers borrowed this older story and transformed it? It’s hard to see that such a parallel story could be produced by two peoples (Hebrews and the older Sumerians and Babylonians) who lived close together for thousands of years, but yet never traded stories and merely thought “imagistically.”

    There are many other parallel stories, I’m sure, but this is the first one that come to my mind. I don’t understand how or why Walton would deny what seems to be obvious borrowing. Is it part of his evangelical point: that the Bible is utterly unique?

    • Robert F says:

      Once again, Walton’s contention would make non-evangelical biblical scholars shake their heads. It even defies the principles of science, one of which requires that, when there are two possible explanations for a phenomenon, and one is more complex and less likely than the other, go with the simpler more likely explanation. In this case, that would be that these people living so close to each other for so long were directly influenced by sharing mythologies with each other, rather than that they all possessed some sort of collective subconscious.

    • Robert F says:

      Only in the evangelical academic world, where magical thinking prevails, could such an idea even be entertained as serious scholarship.

      I suppose Walton is a kind of less insidious substitute addiction for recovering fundamentalists, as methadone is for heroin addicts.

      • Robert, as you said yesterday, I think it’s hard for you to fully appreciate the significance of someone like Walton in the evangelical context. He is cracking open doors that one hopes the wind will blow completely open. But it takes baby steps to change one’s entire way of thinking. So, while the critique from your angle is, in many ways entirely appropriate, try to hear people like Stuart from yesterday, for whom Walton is a godsend. The air coming in from those cracked-open doors is saving many who are suffocating.

        • Robert F says:

          I don’t want to undermine anyone’s recovery from dysfunctional forms of Christianity and Christian scholarship. Half-way houses have their function, and at times are indispensable for many people in many different contexts.

          I’m worried, though, when this kind of scholarship sees itself as home rather than half-way house, and convinces others that it is home, and that they can reside in it forever. Moving out of the ghetto to take up new residence in another ghetto that’s a little better lighted, but not well enough lighted to show the walls that still surround you, may be make your situation better, it may move you closer to getting beyond the walls, but only if you don’t stop there.

          My impression is that StuartB is actually, at this point, way beyond what Walton is saying, and that anyone who is ready to accept what Walton is saying is also ready to accept a lot more than Walton is saying. Everyone else will just shut their ears up to Walton, and everything beyond him.

          Of course, I could be entirely wrong. What do I know, anyway?

        • Robert F says:

          I do understand that Walton is also recovering, and that his work could be a significant form of therapy for him, along with the others he’s speaking to. I don’t want to scuttle anybody’s recovery.

          I assume that many or most people who stay on as regular readers and/or commentators at iMonk are either aware, or nearly aware, that they are in some sense post-evangelical and in recovery. They are in transit, and aware of that, too. Walton’s ideas could possibly be accurate; I’m open minded enough to grant that, though I think it’s very unlikely that some of what Walton says is in fact the way things are, and I don’t believe those things myself.

          But I think it’s very dangerous to set up house on the basis of what Walton is saying, just as it’s dangerous to live in a tent thinking it’s a house. If Walton presented his ideas as explorations in interpretation and scholarship, I would be much more accepting; but as it stands, I think it’s important for someone to voice objections to what Walton is presenting as settled scholarship, and point up the fact that in non-evangelical world, including the Christian non-evangelical world, some of what Walton is saying would not be considered sober scholarship at all.

          Now I’ll keep quiet. Unless someone provokes me (Insert smiley face HERE).

          • Robert F says:

            Okay, I lied.

            One more thing: In order to be in recovery, you have to be aware that you are in recovery, and you have to aware of the process (That’s the reason I continue to believe in “purgatory”).

          • I like the fact that we have people from outside the evangelical bubble to critique books such as this. Listening only to evangelicals and post-evangelicals, no matter what their views, only perpetuates the bubble.

      • When it comes to the OT I also take the comparative religions approach – and Walton was one who helped me get there. As I said below, it seems like this book is one of his more conservative publications. But I love that he engages fairly with the ANE as an evangelical. He’s a role model for me.

    • Robert, can you share your reasons for thinking that the Utnapishtim story was the source and the Noah story the borrowing? Given the power of oral literature, I’d hesitate to assume which was first just on the basis of which was written down first.

      Have you read C.S. Lewis’ poetic explanation of the origins of mythic similarities in “Perelandra?” I find it satisfying.

      • Robert F says:

        I don’t necessarily think the borrowing was only one way. I’m sure there was much cross-pollination. I wasn’t referring specifically to the Utnapisthtim story, but to Walton’s idea about “imagistic thinking” being the link that caused these stories to be so similar across ethnic identities.

        With regard to Utnapishtim, he is a character in the Epic of Gilgamesh, which as a literary document dates back to around 2200 BCE, which I believe makes it older than the Bible.

        • History started as an oral tradition.

          The story of the flood was preserved in the Old Testament, and other writers used the same stories as basis for their own writings.

          Least how I always looked at it.

      • Thanks, Robert. What you say makes sense. I meant to address my question to H. Lee in response to her comment.

        • I would have said the same thing as Robert.

          As I recall from my reading in general, the discovery of the Gilgamesh epic on burnt cuniform tablets, and in particular the Utnapishtim story of the Flood, really rocked the Victorian Christian world.

          Utnapishtim is much more “human” in the Gilgamesh epic than Noah in the Bible, and I remember being struck by that when I was reading it in the original Akkadian (heh — just kidding about reading Akkadian!) The poem has Gilgamesh mourning for lost humanity: “I bowed, I sat down, I wept, and over my face ran my tears.”

          I’m sure it’s on the internet in several places.

          • Yes, there are public domain translations available in a number of different formats – Google will get you there.

            As for the upheaval caused by Gilgamesh in the Victorian xtian world, iirc, I’ve read pretty much the same things as you. The discovery of fossils (pre-Victorian, but not by much) was also a very upsetting thing for many.

          • Robert F says:

            Gilgamesh is a wonderful tale, full of heroism, humanity and pathos. At its center is the friendship between civilized King Gilgamesh and uncivilized wild man Enkindu, and the irretrievable loss of that friendship to death. Gilgamesh is a very human and tragic figure, and his love for Enkindu is more moving than I can describe.

          • Robert F says:

            Re: Gilgamesh: Most importantly, it’s really really really short (at least the form we have it in now is)!

  2. Perhaps the serpent was introduced to explain the existence of ‘entropy’ and its irrefutable presence in creation…(okay, more likely not, but the connection at least for me is still rather intriguing)

    • That Other Jean says:

      The serpent in Eden seems likely to me to be related to Apep, the Egyptian god in the form of a snake who embodied Chaos and destruction. Apep fought against the forces of order–the gods accompanying Ra fought him off as the celestial boat carried Ra through the night to his morning destination to begin the sunrise; but Egyptian myths are the ones I know. I don’t doubt that the ancient Hebrews absorbed myths from the cultures around them and used those images and ideas in telling their own stories.

      • There is a serpent – also a tree – in the Epic of Gilgamesh, which has bern mentioned just a bit upthread.

    • Walton is correct that serpents in any form would be seen as chaos monsters – more specifically, the serpent was the chaos monster in most ANE myth. The fact that the elements are symbolic here has been known throughout church history, but I really think we can take it too far in multiple directions. For example, it is often postulated that the serpent was (was possessed by?) the Devil. This obviously isn’t in the text. Stretching the serpent to represent a non-order chaos monster is, imo, also taking it too far. It was the bad guy, as in most mythic structures.

      • and it’s also just a reptile with legs, early in the story, anyway.

        • one that talks.

          this reminds me so much of Native American and African myths and legends where talking animals (whether simply intelligent animals, deities, trickster spirits, whatever) are central to the stories.

      • Yea, I was sort of kidding and didn’t mean to extrapolate that far. I also don’t ultimately believe the serpent represents some larger entity; I suppose it was meant to be more of an observation of the fallen-ness of this world and how entropy is a consequence of that.

  3. turnsalso says:

    I can’t help but notice that he leaves the most important question unanswered: whether the chaos creature spoke with the voice of John DeLancie!

  4. Folks see

    Irving Finkel “The Ark Before Noah: Decoding the Story of the Flood” which covers just these issues. Just came out in paperback and on Kindle.

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Ark-Before-Noah-Decoding/dp/0345804392/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

    Not only do you find a flood story in the Epic of Gilgamesh but the serpent also puts in an appearance!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      This adds weight to the theory I heard last year (which made a lot of sense) that Genesis is styled as a PARODY of the Mesopotamian Creation Myths, taking the archetypes and tropes of the surrounding Creation Myths and putting a new spin on them — sort of an ancient “Rifftrax: Enuma Elish”.

      • Not necessarily a parody, more like reworkings. All of the ANE stories have common elements, which make their appearance in slightly different guises.

        • Richard Hershberger says:

          Definitely not “parody,” which implies humorous intent. “Pastiche” is closer, but a pastiche is an imitation: something in the style of something else. I would go with “example of.”

          This is part of my Genre theme. The Bible is a collection of books of various genres. If you want to read any given book in a sensible way, first identify its genre. Sometimes it is obvious. We all look at the Psalms and immediately recognize the familiar genre of lyric poetry, and read them accordingly. No one complains about this. Others are more controversial. I look at Jonah (one of my favorite books of the Bible, btw) and see religious fiction driving home a point, so I put on my English major hat and examine its themes. Others insist that it is narrative history, and spend their time figuring out how some guy could survive three days in a whale.

          The first chapters of Genesis are tricky because they belong to an otherwise extinct genre: Near Eastern Creation Myth. (Anyone caught up by the word “myth” and its modern sense of “stuff we know isn’t true” should free to substitute some other word or phrase.) We lost track of this because all the other Near Eastern Creation Myths were forgotten. It wasn’t until archeologists started digging up rooms full of clay tablets and deciphering them that people realized what the first chapters of Genesis were.

          I am mostly OK with “reworking,” but that tends to set the reworked version apart from its predecessors. Were the Hebrews members of Near Eastern culture or outside observers of it? I go with the former, but wouldn’t go to the matrasses over this.

          • Richard – good points. I also think Job is fiction that is intended to make a number of points.

          • But I do see some humor in the entire Torah directed specifically at the gods of other nations.

          • yes, definitely! Sarcasm, too, as with Elijah taunting the prophets of Baal.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            (Anyone caught up by the word “myth” and its modern sense of “stuff we know isn’t true” should free to substitute some other word or phrase.)

            I’ll go with the Manly Wade Wellman term:
            “The Old Stories”.

    • Is that the same Finkel that takes the historical minimalist perspective — King David was a fiction, Israel was barely a blip on the radar in history, etc.?

      • You’re thinking of archeologist Israel Finkelstein. Boy oh boy is that another can-o-worms. But the truth is just as there is no evidence for the existence of a historical Adam and Eve, there is no evidence for a historical Exodus. King David probably existed. There is an inscription but the historical David was a minor tribal chieftain and there is absolutely no record of the Davidic world empire described in the OT. The David stories are saga and epic like the Iliad and the Odyssey.

  5. CM – I for one am looking forward to your discussion of myth. I have always been fascinated by myth and by its relationship to other states of consciousness; childhood, dreams, hallucinations, cosmologies of indigenous peoples, etc.

    I believe there is a Realm from which we have expelled where Myth is a better savior of the appearances than Science. Or perhaps the two are indistinguishable for this Realm. Both General relativity and the anthropology of St Maximus the Confessor occupy the very periphery of my intellectual capacity. Special relativity eludes me, I am certain, because I lack the raw IQ necessary to visualize the complex equations involved, and Maximus the Confessor because I am too angry and self-absorbed.

    St. Maximus the Confessor makes much of the invitation God offers to man to inhabit Paradise. Man, already completed and perfected and , is called out of the good Creation into a special place, Paradise, where as far as I can make out, the laws that govern the world outside are either suspended or superceded (Romans 8:2). Man, in his special capacity as mikrokosmos is intended to unify the polarities, first in his own creation as male and female, then to bind the irrational with the rational, and then to bind what Maximus calls the intelligible world to the sensible world, and finally to bind the terrestial with the celestial (Amb. 41). Man was to remain in this state of probation until the Incarnation which would complete the unification of the Diversiverse by binding the Uncreated to the created.

    It makes sense to me. If you go past Thales, Zoroaster, Confucius, the Upanishads and the great Prophets of the 7th and 6th centuries BC, you arrive at the much more distant [to us] psychological landscape behind it; the land of Homer, Hesiod, the Eddas, the Vedas, Anansi stories, and the Genesis material.

    One of the things I appreciate about the Orthodox Church is that these earlier states of consciousness are preserved and even retain a level of authority that they don’t in the Western Churches.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I believe there is a Realm from which we have expelled where Myth is a better savior of the appearances than Science.

      Somewhere on the Tumblr blog archives of Rob Bell (who got piled on by Team Hell), there’s an essay about “Math Truth” and “Poem Truth”. After the Industrial Revolution and Age of Reason, we think in Math Truth: A = A, Fact, Fact, Fact. Before this (as in when Torah & Tanakh were written down), people thought in Poem Truth and wrote in Poem Truth: Once Upon a Time; “Winter is Coming, Jon Snow.”

      • Burro [Mule] says:

        I think there’s something else going on here. I’ve always wondered why the scientific revolution never “ignited” in other environments that seemed to me to be very amenable to it; Hellenistic Egypt, Norman Sicily, Ming China. It was as idf science emerged when the race was ‘ready’ for it.

        I’ve always associated positivism [not strictly identifiable with science, but certainly the underlying anti-metaphysic adopted by most scientists] with arguing and debate. Positivism always represented to me the bare minimum of what you could get an opponent to agree to if he hated your guts or if there was a lot of money involved in the outcome.

        • Christiane says:

          I had thought about this before, when someone in our family commented about an aunt who had a great love of the out-of-doors and no one could figure out where that had come from . . . I remember saying at the time that maybe it was a ‘genetic memory’, not even comprehending fully what that might actually be.

          But if we take all the great myths of the Earth, and we find those places where they intersect and connect with one another,
          is it not possible that we are reflecting something of our human past . . . from a ‘memory’ of a time so early in our history of ‘mankind’ that it has no ‘record’ other than what we all share within the shadowy world of ‘myth’?

          I think that the ‘we’ of our humanity have a shared story that belongs to ‘us’ as a human race, and this story originates at some time and place far back into the ages of the ages and that it is a PART of each one of us,
          so that when we encounter something of ‘myth’ that resonates within us, we may have in fact touched on that part of our humanity that is still brought up in us in our hopes, and our dreams, and our subconsciousness. . .

          something is going on with ‘myth’ that is NOT meaningless or made-up;
          and that ‘something’ may be what lies in the collective ‘genetic memories’ of our human kind.

          • I have had similar thoughts, Christiane. It is a very Lewisian idea; Lewis talked about “good memories” that other ancient people had that were gifts from God. The similarities in stories like the garden, the flood, the dying and rising god were/are myths that come down through the mists of time from that ancient human memory. The originanl human population that migrated out of Africa would have been about 10,000 people and could have been as few as 2-3000. The idea that they shared a common story of origins is not that far fetched. The Rhode studies [Rohde DLT, Olson S, Chang JT (2004) “Modelling the recent common ancestry of all living humans”. Nature 431: 562-566, 2 Rohde, DLT , On the common ancestors of all living humans. Submitted to American Journal of Physical Anthropology. (2005) ] give a plausible explanation of how even one human could be viewed as the “father” of us all. As Lewis said; the bible give us the “true myth”. I like that and find it philosophically satisfying.

          • Christiane and Mike – yes, I really like the idea of “true myth,” too. You articulated it better than I would have, I’m thinking.

          • well, plagues and wars and disruptions of trade are part of it, I’m sure, along with government, literacy (or lack thereof) and much more.

            As well as people being enamored of things like alchemy. Look at Newton – he spent most of his time thinking and writing about arcana concerning the temple of Solomon, alchemy, etc. His scientific discoveries had little to do with his main preoccupations, but we’re exceedingly fortunate to have them.

        • Alexandria was where Archimedes and many other mathematicians and early scientists and engineers went to study, though…

          I think that compwring Western scientific ideas to the revelopment of science in other parts of the world might be a bit of a dead end, even with things like astronomy. That, in and of itself, became pretty sophisticated in Iraq, Egypt and other Arab countires during the early medieval period, along with medicine and higher mathematics – cf. algebra, for which we even use the Arabic name. This is also true of Mudlim Spain. One of the few good outcomes of the Crusades is the wealth of learning and culture that Europeans brougjt back from there, and that came from Muslim Spain as well. Even many Western musical instrument have ME/N. African origins – the lute (wwhich comes from the Arabic oud), the rebec (proto-bowed string instrument) and many others.

          Astronomical observation was also important in Persia and China. Europeans conflated it with astrology until the early modern era, so it’s not as if we were immune to what’s now viewed as pseudosvience – another example is alchemy.

          I think you might wish to look at better documentation on the history of svience, and the undoubted cross-pollination between various cultures and civilizations, due to both trade and, unfortunately, war.

          • NB: Archimedes was from Syracuse, in what is now Sicily, so I think science, mathematics and engineering got there well before the Normans conquered it…

          • Also, I should have stated that A. *probably* spent time in Alexandria and/or other parts of Egypt, not that he absolutely did so. But it would not surprise me, if true.

          • Alexandria was a center for the sciences and math from the 3d c. B.C. onward; Euclid taught there, among others. There was the Museum (actually a prototype of modern universities), the great library, etc. etc. And the lighthouse, no?

            I’ll stop now.

          • Burro [Mule] says:

            Most of the Hellenistic stuff I knew. I took a course in Ancient Science so long ago it could probably have been called Early Modern Science,and the course covered Archimedes, Ptolemy, Eratosthenes, Hipparchus, Hypatia, etc.

            If you meant to say ‘Calm down, Mule. Progress in science has been incremental since Zhang Heng and Esagil-kin-apli. Your fevered brain is seeing patterns that aren’t there. There is no place we can point to and say – here is where science in the modern sense started.’

            I would have accepted that.

          • Mule – yeah, I overdid it. My apologies.

          • but if you *knew* about science in the Hellenistic period/world, why on earth did you include Hellenistic Egypt on your list of places where things *were not* happening?

            Your comments confuse me at times.

          • Burro [Mule] says:

            Why didn’t Hellenistic Egypt develop the steam loom and the compass, for example? You had all this intellectual ferment going on in the abstract, and little or no concrete application of it.

            Why no periodic chart of the elements until 1817, for example, when all the raw material for understanding elements and compounds were present. Why did Babylonian astronomy decline into divination rather than ascend into the geometry of Euclid? Why didn’t we have 18th century Scotland in 12th century Sicily or 3rd century BC Alexandria? I know that there are some things that aren’t possible without other things being known first, but when you consider the amount of information that was processed between, say, 1680 and 1815, a little over a century, it makes you wonder why it didn’t happen sooner.

            Maybe someone with a better grasp on the details of the history of science and technology could ‘splain me better the tech trees that are necessary in the right order , but it doesn’t seem to me that there was much that Abelard or Frederick of Sicily knew that Hypatia didn’t. Ergo, science in the modern sense could conceivably have been incubated in any society with sufficient surplus of resources since the Hellenisitic age.

          • well, plagues and wars and disruptions of trade are part of it, I’m sure, along with government, literacy (or lack thereof) and much more.

            As well as people being enamored of things like alchemy. Look at Newton – he spent most of his time thinking and writing about arcana concerning the temple of Solomon, alchemy, etc. His scientific discoveries had little to do with his main preoccupations, but we’re exceedingly fortunate to have them.

            [Could someone please delete the dupe of this comment a bit upthread? I put my original reply in the wrong part of the thread. Thanks!]

          • I don’t think “other things being known” is the whole story by any means. Social, political, religious, and natural forces all play their parts in whether things start gelling or whether they don’t.

            Besides, other things were happening, as in Renaissance Florence, or in Roger Bacon’s lab (though he had no immediate followers) and …

          • but maybe the single biggest factor is the invention of movable type, and the spread of printing tech throughout Europe.

            Languages are barriers at times, too.

          • Clay Crouch says:

            @Mule

            Perhaps you are observing something similar to Moore’s Law, but on a macro level?

        • Robert F says:

          Burro,
          When you figure out the riddle of why things happen later rather than earlier, there rather than here, and among these people but not those, let the historians and sociologists know: they may be able to put that knowledge to good use. Until then, it’s little more than undergraduates staying up late and discussing the meaning of things when they should be studying for that chemistry exam in the morning.

          • Robert, yes.

            There’s also the factor of people being in the right place at the right time, and no amount of trying to figure things out could account for, let alone explain, that. It just *is,* and not open for debate.

      • You gotta archive and hyperlink this stuff, HUG…

    • Yes! This is wonderful, Burro.

    • “One of the things I appreciate about the Orthodox Church is that these earlier states of consciousness are preserved and even retain a level of authority that they don’t in the Western Churches.”

      A helpful thought for my day, Burro. Thanks.

  6. I’m a big fan of Walton. Having read ‘Ancient Near Eastern Thought & the Old Testament’ and ‘The Lost World of Genesis One,’ the content of this current book strikes me as more conservative than the others. Curious… I’ll have to read for myself.

  7. Joseph (the original) says:

    it seems to me that the Edenic story contains some practical elements of general human development that highlights recognizable traits of what we understand as civilization:

    Adam and Eve being naked: could be the representation of how modern humans lost body hair that separated them from their more prehistoric hominid ancestors. and the animal skins accommodation before their exile the making of garments to clothe their mainly hairless bodies…

    The Garden: could represent the development of agriculture and the end of nomadic lifestyles; the genesis of civilization. and the animals Adam named (development of language?) the common domestic types that are not wild carnivorous types…

    The Serpent/Two Trees: whether or not Adam and Eve represent the earliest modern humans, or if they are 2 specific individuals that ‘birthed’ modern humans, it seems to me the onset of self-awareness (cognition?) introduces a moral/ethical element to humanity. the 2 trees could represent the oldest conflict of a higher moral/conscience awareness, vs. the earthly admixture of good and evil, which is the default condition of all mankind. the ‘talking’ serpent then is writing convention giving a voice to thought, contemplation, weighing consequences, etc. that is easily recognizable as the mental conversation/argument people experience when wrestling with moral issues…

    I do believe the writer(s) of the Genesis accounts were attempting to explain the current condition of mankind as they observed it in real time by putting the main components of the sad default conditions into a mythical setting. they could have taken many of the ancient creation/flood stories into consideration and even borrowed some of the more consistent elements to address the end result condition of humankind instead of trying to clarify the details in a factual, chronological storyline. for the ancients there was no ‘what-if’ considerations, or litmus test of accepting the Genesis accounts as being literal. such an approach was not part of their worldview.

    I don’t think the naïve condition implied by the human condition prior to what is termed The Fall represented a literal choice that had 2 potentially different results. in other words, the choice of obedience and eating of the Tree of Life was the theoretical one highlighting God’s higher moral standard and desire, but not attainable as moral free agents that needed the very character of The Almighty to live out. the need for a Savior, transformation, the building of godly character, etc. seems to be hinted at. I prefer to understand the default human condition as being deficient, or prone to sin, because of the obvious conclusion the writer(s) of Genesis recognized. the idea of how that sinful condition, or tendency, began didn’t need there to be one individual man or woman to condemn the entire modern human race to a condition understood as Original Sin. the manner which the Genesis story is told is a simple explanation of the result, not a testimony to the literal/historical/chronological details of that critical event.

    humanity is part of the ongoing efforts to bring order out of chaos to this still wild world of our earthly existence. there are successes of humanity ‘taming’ part of the wilderness, but there is no conquering of nature’s proclivities. the world is still a dangerous place and people are able to express both good and evil.

    anyway, just some rabbit trail considerations prompted by the review of Walton’s book…

  8. Robert F says:

    “One of the things I appreciate about the Orthodox Church is that these earlier states of consciousness are preserved and even retain a level of authority that they don’t in the Western Churches.”

    This is a pretty big claim, Mule. I can’t help but wonder how it is you came to be familiar enough with the content and character of these earlier states of consciousness to recognize that the Orthodox Church does what you say it does in relation to them. I don’t think having tripped many times during one’s youth would provide such expertise.

  9. No offense to Chaplain Mike at all, but iMonk is exceptional in that the comments are often as enlightening – if not more – as the original posts.