[Contents] [About the Participants] [Opening Statement by John Rankin] [Opening Statement by Robert Price][Dialog] [Questions from the Audience] [Closing Statements]
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Is the Bible Coherent?
 
Dialog
John Rankin: Bob, thank you so much, there was a lot of fun in what you gave us in the process. You know, when we set up this forum and I proposed the title, "Is the Bible Coherent?" Bob e-mailed me back and said, "Or we could do the topic, is Bob Price coherent?" And I enjoy any self-deprecating humor. And I guess I could respond and say that no, we won't have that be the topic. But nor was I going to make the topic, is the Scofield Bible coherent, okay, because when you mentioned the Scofield Bible and its view of Ecclesiastes, the problem there is not with Ecclesiastes, but with Scofield and his interpretation.

But you know, it's interesting, one thing that you said, Bob, and I tried to write this down as closely as possible, that you used to regard the Bible as a pocket promise-book with dogmas, and so forth. A pocket promise-book. And I think that's a very interesting observation. And my first question, there are so many I want to ask you, but my first question is at the human level and at the experiential level. Here we have a person like you, who was once a Baptist pastor, and now you are, by definition, a non-theistic humanist, and I want to ask you about that a little bit later. And you've gone from that side to the side you're on. I was raised a secular humanist, an agnostic, a Unitarian. I was taught that there were no miracles. I was taught to be a skeptic, but what happened to me was that I accepted that teaching, and I became a skeptic of the skepticisms I was taught, and so now I'm a believer.

So we've come from two different angles, we've arrived on two different sides. So my first question for you is, having been a Baptist pastor, having been an evangelical Christian if that's language you would use, why did you change?

Bob Price: By the way, while I was a Baptist pastor I was still a raving lunatic liberal like I am now, theologically, it was much earlier than that, when I was involved in Campus Ministry, that I was an evangelical.

John: That's more when you viewed the Bible as a pocket promise-book, as it were.

Bob: Yes, I think it was Dave Wilkerson's phrase.

John: It was, you're right, thirty years ago.

Bob: And I use it because I get that impression often, of the way good and sincere folks treat the Bible, as a kind of a mass God almost, and I really don't mean to ridicule him, but that really does strike me as a good sum-up, in a way, for a view of the Bible that is vastly inflated, like a magic book, like a universal dictionary that you can find any answer in, and you'd have to obey it once you found it, and, on the other hand, the kind of devotionalizing, domestication of the Bible, as if the only importance of it were to be a little evangelistic tract or devotional manual.

But I guess it was, strangely enough, the zeal of fundamentalists to get down pat what the text of the Bible is, originally and what it said in the original manuscripts, and to try to get it right. What were the writers trying to tell us, that made me gradually become more skeptical about the claims I heard of what the Bible did say and mean.

And the issue of God, really, was a whole different issue, in fact, I still have a view that is difficult to categorize. I'm not an atheist pure and simple, I've no interest in condemning the idea of God. It's a question of-sort of Wittgenstein and different language games, it seems to me the error is trying to project God outside of religious experience, as if God were a factor in science or history or math, which, I think, is not the case. But I'm not against it, I just carve up the pie differently. I love Christianity and other religions, so I'm a bad atheist and a heretical atheist in that sense.

I love the Bible. I'm working on a new translation of the New Testament right now. My love of the Bible is maybe the one thing that never did change, I just became impatient with nonsense about the Bible. "Well, we believe in the pretribulation rapture, even though it doesn't actually say it, but…." And I'm saying what the?! And speaking in tongues is over with, even though the Bible doesn't actually say it….

I don't see that. And the more I got into it, the more I began to see the same was true of apologetics, Josh McDowell and others, the arguments they gave. Oh, the Bible of the gospels must be accurate, Jesus must have risen from the dead because of this, that, and the other. And I approached it, trying to use those arguments to defend the faith, and eventually I thought, I can't ask somebody to believe on the basis of arguments that no longer seem cogent to me.

And then I realized it is an open question. So I didn't exactly change sides and go against it. I've sort of detached myself from any membership in it. But I wanted to get rid of Kant, or like one might say, to adopt the Heilsgeschicte thing, I'd like to get rid of the bull-geschicte that surrounds the Bible so often.

John: Is that a new German word?

Bob: Yeah, I stole it from a guy at Gordon-Conwell, actually.

John: Oh, did you.

Bob: He's an Episcopal priest.

John: So if I'm interpreting you correctly, I see you reacting to various post-Biblical, systematic straitjackets placed upon it. So when you hear me, and in fact, I was doing a forum years ago at Yale, and there was a fellow who was very schooled in reformed theology, and I'm very much in reformed theology myself. But he simply couldn't understand some things I was saying, I could see clearly that he had certain presuppositions about the structure of a certain reformed theology. And I kept saying to him, okay, I understand that, but what does the Bible say on its own terms?

Now, of course, is it my terms, its own terms, and that's an honest debate there, and so I said, well, you know, I was raised a Unitarian. I was raised with no doctrines, no systematics whatsoever, and so when I came to the Bible, after an intellectual and supernatural experience with the Lord at age 14, I came to a text almost as virgin territory for me.

And so when I, at this point, make the statement that the Bible is a story, and it understands itself on the basis of creation, sin, and redemption, how do you respond to my definition of its coherence at that level?

Bob: Well, I like very much the idea that a lot of it is narrative and not teaching, though a lot of the narrative is an indirect way of teaching, obviously.

John: It's the basis for the teaching is what I say.

Bob: I like that, but I have to admit, I don't agree exegetically at a number of points. It seems to me, for instance, that it's to read later Christian categories into most of the Old Testament, for instance, it seems to me that there's more than one story in the Bible, and they're not necessarily inconsistent, but they veer way off….

John: Well, before we go into that, and I want to do that, at the very simple starting point, if I say it's a story, well let me give you an example. When I was studying at Harvard with my advisor Professor Arthur Dyke, and I made the statement that the Bible is a story of creation, sin, and redemption, he stroked his chin for a second and said, "Even Krister Stendahl would agree with you."

Now, Krister Stendahl, former dean of the Divinity School, is about as skeptical as they come toward my evangelical presuppositions, I think that's pretty fair to say. And Stendahl believes the whole Bible is a bunch of incoherent pieces, okay. And he said, but if there's one coherence to it, it's the story of creation and the repair of a broken creation, which is what I mean by creation, sin, and redemption.

So if I make the statement that the Bible has that coherence, an order of creation, a brokenness, a contest between the two, and redemption, is that a fair assumption on my part?

Bob: I really don't think so. And Stendahl, in fact, wrote one of the greatest expressions of the Biblical theology movement idea in the supplement to the Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible. And it was this idea that yes, there is all kinds of stuff but oh boy, here's the central developmental axis that we can find some unity in. And I think he has to do a lot of synthesizing to get to that.

John: I understand.

Bob: And I really don't think that even Genesis 2 and 3, the Garden of Eden story, involves the idea of sin. I think Jews accept that as well, in fact, it seems to me that this is very much like the Prometheus story, in which the narrator has God lying to the man and the woman, later called Adam and Eve, and the serpent telling the truth. And it's so much like the neighboring Greek story right down the street of Zeus and Prometheus with the same result.

God is jealous that the mortals not get his food. This leftover god, the serpent, must have been hushed. And First Kings tells us had been worshipped in the Temple of Jerusalem even up to Josiah's time, he says, he's like Prometheus, a God on the outs, is really the ally of the human race, says this isn't true, it's not poison, eat it and you'll be like God. They do and God cannot do anything about it, but he stops them from having-

And the knowledge in question is procreative knowledge, like the Attra Hassus [phonetic] epic, God doesn't want the world to be flooded with pesky humans. And he only made the one, just as in the Enuma Elish, the Babylonian Genesis, because he wanted a caretaker for his garden. Right? He put the man in the garden to tend it and keep it. I think it's very much like the Babylonian Genesis.

John: Except, and I've got to challenge something you said in just a moment, except that the Babylonian Genesis starts with finite gods and goddesses who are destructive.

Bob: I think Genesis does, too.

John: In the beginning? Yahweh Elohim?

Bob: In chapter, well in both of them, I think there are two creation accounts.

John: They're complementary, one has the grand design, Genesis 1, and Genesis 2 has the first covenant with the first man and the first woman.

Bob: I don't think they go together real well, the animals are created in a different order, but even if you….

John: But see, I don't argue that there is a chronological order, I argue that there's a theological order of God, the image-bearers of God, and the lower forms of life.

Bob: Well, in chapter one, human beings are made in the image of God right off the bat, whereas that's just what they're not supposed to have in chapters two and three. God says to his fellow deities, we better kick them out now, because if we don't, they will eat the tree of immortality and become one of us, and that ain't no editorial "we."

John: Okay, I want you to cross-examine me, you've raised a lot of interesting issues here, and we could go off in 93 directions at once. But let me make one observation for you, okay? You said the knowledge that was forbidden was sexual knowledge, and I will challenge you. The knowledge of good and evil, from Genesis 2:9 and Genesis2:17 is a classic Hebraicism, which means the knowledge of everything.

Bob: From A to Z.

John: Exactly. And God gave man and woman sexual knowledge in the two becoming one flesh. And so on the one hand you had the tree of life and an unlimited menu of choices in the garden to eat from, and only one prohibition, the one fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The knowledge of everything, by definition, is only the knowledge that Yahweh Elohim, the Lord God can have, and therefore to try and understand what the uncreated creator can understand is like trying to eat an elephant in one bite. We can't do it. It will kill us.

Secondly, to know evil in its fullness is something only God can do and not be tempted or polluted by it. Therefore, the knowledge that's being proscribed, but not out of our reach of taking, he's saying if you want to live you don't eat it, is knowledge that will kill us. And therefore, God is good and prohibits nothing good. And so I will challenge you when you said earlier it's the knowledge of sexuality, or the knowledge that somehow gets reversed as a positive. It's a negative knowledge from the word go, and the Hebrew structure of the text understands that.

Bob: Should I respond to that now? It seems to me that's a kind of an abstract spiritualization of it.

John: That's the classic Hebrew use of that phrase.

Bob: Oh no, I don't challenge that part of it, and you're right, God thinks that the knowledge he has is too great for man and so forth and tragedy results. But the serpent says to the woman, you won't die if you eat it, and your eyes will be opened. And then the narrator says, well, her eyes were opened, she saw that it was good for food, it wasn't fatal, and then, at the end, what the serpent had said, who is not called the devil, of course.

John: Right.

Bob: But what the serpent says, Yahweh himself says to the other gods, he says, gee, their eyes are open, they've become like one of us, unless they stretch forth their hand and take from the tree of life…. He doesn't even finish his sentence, he exiles them. It seems to me the idea was, you will keel over dead, this is poison, and it wasn't true.

John: Ah, but see that's where I disagree. Because once you come to Genesis 2:15 through 17, Yahweh commands the man akol tokal, in feasting you shall feast, an unlimited menu of good choices. If we eat the forbidden fruit, the Hebrew is moth tamuth, the infinitive and the imperfect of the verb "to die." In dying you shall die.

So from the word go, the idea of death is not an immediate keel over, but rather an active participle that will rot away. And so for Adam, he goes from forever, down to 930 years, and we continue to slide thereafter.

So it's not an immediate definition of death. In fact, if we look at Jesus' language of hell in the New Testament, always a place we choose, never a place that we're not there unless we want to be.

Bob: Oh, I can't believe that, that's a shell game.

John: It's not.

Bob: If you ask for it, you're going to heaven!

John: You're thinking of fundamentalist preaching.

Bob: No, that's my own view of it.

John: Then we'll talk the text, but let me say the one thing I was going to say. When the language is used from Isaiah and Jesus borrows it, about the worm that never dies, the idea is dying and yet never dying, that goes right back to Genesis 2:17. So the very concept of death to begin with is not physical termination of life.

Bob: On the day you eat it you will die.

John: Buhyom, in the moment, the time, the day you eat of it, you will die, but the death is moth tamuth, in dying you shall die. And the definition of death there is not physical termination of life. It's brokenness of relationship, it's an active participle.

Bob: I find that hard to believe that's really the lexical, what other use of the word in ancient Hebrew would yield such, we only know about it by the context of usage.

John: You're absolutely correct about the context, and you will see death used all the way through the Old Testament, referring to other capacities than physical termination of life.

Bob: There's Isaiah 66.

John: There is spiritual death, there is moral death, yes, and that's another place of physical death.

Bob: And it says that the bodies dumped in the Valley of Hinnom will always be in perpetual burning and the ever-increasing maggot hordes, it doesn't say anything about being aware of it, these are just dead bodies.

John: But Jesus then says, taking from that, that the maggot of the worm never dies, which means the experience of dying is forever.

Bob: I wouldn't equate the two, in fact….

John: But that's exactly where Jesus took it from.

Bob: But the fact that there are always more maggots, he's describing … .
John: It means the body is never consumed. Yeah, the Valley of Ben Hinnom….

Bob: And that the bodies of those not fit for a pious, honorable burial, which is why that Joseph of Arimathea wanted to see that even he got an honorable burial, they are exposed to this everlasting shame.

John: Just as Jesus takes Topheth and the Valley of Ben Hinnom and Gehinnom for Gehenna, for hell, it's the idea of the trash dump and the child sacrifice where that pain and that suffering continues.

Anyway, that was my response, you may have questions for me, from what I said earlier.

Bob: Well, in terms of the redemption and so forth, is that element really in the whole Deuteronomic history, for instance, where it's all about who's going to be king, is it going to be Saul or David, is it going to be Solomon or one of the other descendants of David, there's stuff about people pleasing and displeasing God, but it seems to me that vast parts of the Old Testament story have nothing to do with that and don't even have an afterlife in view.

Other things, like the vast amount of the wisdom literature, they have no sense of sin and redemption, it's just good stuff about living a wise life, not a foolish one. Old Testament theology people like Eichroate and Van Rod have this problem, is there any kind of unifying center, and in my opinion, they've never been able to find one. Nor is that a problem, it's not even an embarrassment, it's just all kinds of religious literature. A book of hymns, a book of fortune cookie sayings that are well worth reading, a book of nationalistic sagas in history, there's nothing wrong with any of it, but it doesn't seem to me to all constitute a mega-history.

And especially, once you get into the New Testament, it jumps the track and goes off into a new sectarian history, which is overtly about spiritual and apocalyptic death, resurrection, sin, and all that, and then they re-interpret the Old Testament in light of it. And the reason that it's spiritualized and so forth is two things, it's written by members of a powerless sect, who certainly have no interest in who's king, since none of them ever can be. That's where the "turn the other cheek" ethic comes in, you can afford to feel that way when you're a member of a persecuted minority. And also, the temple has been destroyed, so we have the language of submitting yourself a spiritual sacrifice to God and so on.

The same thing with the Dead Sea Scrolls when they were cut off from the temple. So the New Testament speaks in a kind of spiritualized way, and exactly, I mean, there we do have language of spiritual death and alienation from God and the power of sin and so on, rather than the Assyrians or the Hittites or the Romans. It seems to me it's like a sectarian offshoot, analogous to the way the Koran or the book of Mormon have continuity with the Bible, they certain grow out of the major Bible stories, but they shoot off in different directions because of the communities that start them. What am I missing there in terms of how it all forms…?

John: Well, again, you asked me a good 93 questions, and if we had the time we'd go into all of that. But let me make a couple of brief responses.

First of all, what we have all the way through the Bible is a contest between sin and redemption, I was going to ask you earlier what your definition of sin was, and maybe I'll come back to that.

My definition of sin is brokenness of relationship between ourselves, and between ourselves and God. And what we have is we have a faithful lineage, that God is faithful to because people trust him in spite of their own sin, that begins with Seth after Abel is killed. We have an unfaithful lineage. And the unfaithful and the faithful lineages battle each other until Noah, when there's only eight faithful people left.

God wipes out the planet, it doesn't purge the human heart, sin begins again. We go up to the day of Abraham, and Abraham and Melchizedek, whoever he is, might be the only non-synchretists alive, the only people who haven't brought Yahweh down to the level of false gods. And what God is doing all the way through here is looking for a faithful remnant who will believe in the one who will crush the ancient serpent who, we learn in Revelation, is Satan.

And so what happens is we have these competing lineages, and God's agenda, all the way through, is to redeem all of humanity. And so by the time of Abraham, all the rest of humanity again has chosen to follow falsehood. And so God says to Abraham, I will build a nation through you. The nation built through are just as stubborn. They have 400 years of suffering, they become the Jewish people, become the Law of Moses. And the Law of Moses, all those cultural details about the Levitical laws you spoke about, were in place to protect a nation away from pagan cultural ideals, so as to protect the core of the Ten Commandments and the core moral ethics.

The pagan nations, it was sorcery, sacred prostitution, and child sacrifice, all of which was aimed at destroying the human race. And so what happens is, God redeems, or buys us back out of slavery. And the difference between the Old and New Testaments, or between Israel and the New Testament, is that Israel is a political nation, not forever to be a political nation, but to protect the remnant until the Messiah comes. And we trace the lineage of the anointed one, of the Messiah, until Jesus comes.

When Jesus comes, he comes to fulfill the promise, redemptively, for all the Jews and then the Gentiles, then Jews and Gentiles accept or Jews and Gentiles reject, and then we move on in terms of preaching the kingdom after that. And the new heavens and the new earth that Isaiah talks about that was present in the order of creation, is the conclusion of Revelation, and so we have this continuous theme of redemption, creation, sin, and redemption all the way through.

And so when Jesus, in John's Gospel says he is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the father except by him, I say this is the most inclusive statement in all of history. Why? Because it's based on the one God who made us, who has come and who is not nationalistic, is not tribalistic like all the other religions are, but has come to save everyone, who's taught us to love our enemies.

One other observation in response to something you just raised. I see no consistency in the Koran, I'm re-reading it right now, with the Bible, because they say the Jews and the Christians perverted the Bible, and our Bible is false, and the only true Bible is what Allah delivered from heaven on 610 A.D. on following.

Bob: Well, it's incoherent, it does say that in some places, but there are others where….

John: Yes, yes, well, it not only says it, but that's what Mohammad and all the Muslims have believed ever since. Whereas Joseph Smith, on the other hand, he came up with an invented revelation, but he didn't get rid of the King James version of the Bible, and that's why there are some interesting tensions there.

Bob: Yes, it is based on the King James, not just the Bible. I just have a hard time seeing most of the redemptive history categories, even, in most of the Old Testament. It seems to me that's like when Mohammad says, or whoever actually wrote it, in the Koran: Behold, I'll show you a secret history of Moses or Noah that no one has ever heard before, and then you get the spin on it, because the idea of the human race divided into the Sethite and Cainite races, that sounds to me more like Gnostic scripture, like some of the Nag Hammadi texts, I just don't see that even, really, in Genesis.

John: Except what is so powerful to me is the understatement of the Bible on its own terms. It doesn't make a lot of these hypotheses that a Mohammed might make, or the Gnostics might make. It simply puts out the data and shows the humanity, the sin as well as the righteousness among people.

And I think, perhaps, one of the most crucial elements in my own interpretive understanding, is that if we understand that it's a story, and if we understand that the story-regardless of how we understand the story-but if we understand the story, it's our obligation to get completely inside the story in order to understand.

Because once we're inside a story, we understand what to others may appear to be inconsistent, because they don't know the whole story, they don't know the details. Once we get inside the story, we see the consistency. So that's where I've made the observation of creation, sin, and redemption.

But let me go to a deeper level. Let me go, real quickly, to the ethical level. All the pagan texts start with the assumption of no known origin of the universe. They can't deal with what preceded the Big Bang, what preceded creation. Whereas the very name Yahweh Elohim, he who is bigger than space, time, and number is, by definition, he who is bigger than the universe, and his nature is to create, his nature is to give, whereas all the pagan deities' nature is to destroy.

And so if you take that ethical starting point in contrast, then you see the consistency of the story all the way through. But I grant you, depending on the prism through which we come to the Bible, we may have a lot of garbage to get rid of. So you said something I agree with very much. We should not come to it with presuppositions. And what I'm sharing with you, what I find interesting about this, is that you and I come from two different perspectives … overwhelming determinance of its coherence is ethically, the power to destroy among the pagan text, self-consciously rooted in mythology, versus the God of the Bible, self-consciously rooted in history with eyewitnesses, the power to give, the power to create.

Bob: Yes, I think there's basically no eyewitness history in the Bible, and it does seem to me….

John: Oh, gracious, no, we disagree. It's the basis for eyewitness, because all the pagan texts self-consciously start with mythology. What we have, whether or not you accept it to be true, the text we have is always mentioning the eyewitnesses.

Bob: Always mentioning? One or two places I can think of, Luke says he's not one of them.

John: All the way through the text, oh, I can think of hundreds of them. Take, for example, when Hagar is driven out in the wilderness, Beer Lahai Roi, where she got the water, and where the angel appeared, and Moses says, and that place is still there, we all know it.

Bob: But these are obviously punning re-explanations of….

John: Ah! There's your presupposition!

Bob: No, no. Once I learned this way of explaining so many of these names, I thought, jeez, that makes so much more sense.

John: But you know what? Again, it's the starting point.

Bob: I don't think so.

John: If you start with the Babylonian Genesis, you start with the Greek or Roman mythologies, or the Hindu Vedas, they self-consciously are mythological, they don't even try to give eyewitnesses, until very recent history, to those who write it, whereas the assumption, all the way through the Biblical texts is eyewitnesses.

Bob: I don't think so.

John: Now you may re-interpret it to say it's not there, but it's there. Not only that….

Bob: Who saw the seven days of creation?

John: Well, that's a whole different issue.

Bob: Because that's the place where you're saying it's not mythical.

John: Well, then we have to talk about revelation and what God reveals to Adam.

Bob: What's the difference between that and straightforward mythology?

John: Oh, it depends on whether it's a true God or a mythological god.

Bob: Well, how are you going to know that? The Bible also has God creating the world from the innards of a dragon, look at Psalm 74, Psalm 89, a number of other places, Job actually describes ….

John: Psalm 139, we were conceived in the depths of a volcano. Which was as remote to David as the womb, since he didn't have ultrasound in 1000 B.C. So we do understand the literary use of language, of metaphor, analogy.

Bob: Why isn't that true of the Babylonians?

John: Ah, but I'm not looking at the metaphorical use of language, I'm looking at the ethical content. The ethical content is that the universe is made out of the split carcass of a dead goddess, and you and I were made out of the dripping blood of a god so that we could be slaves to gods.

Bob: What's the difference with Leviathan, Rahab, and the dragons that God killed?

John: Because that is in sin, not the order of creation.

Bob: No, that's in creation, like in Psalm 74, the reason you have all these themes of God being king, destroying the dragons, and creating the world, is because it's part of a new year festival that they celebrated in common with the Babylonians. For instance, yet God is my king from of old who works deeds of deliverance in the midst of the earth, thou didst divide the sea by thy might. That's Yom, the sea monster. Thou didst break the heads of the sea monsters in the waters, thou didst crush the heads of Leviathan. Thou didst give us food for the creatures of the wilderness; thou didst break open springs and torrents, thou didst drive ever-flowing streams. Thine is the day. Thine also is the night, thou has prepared the light and the sun, thou has established all the boundaries of the earth. Thou hast made summer and winter. So God has made the world from the carcass of Leviathan, who appears again in the Book of Revelation.

John: Okay, we're going to have to take Q&A in a minute, but let me respond to that real quickly. It's delightful that you, as a non-theistic humanist have quoted and actually have a Bible present.

Bob: I love that Bible.

John: And actually have a Bible present, compared with me. But what I'm going to say there is the order of creation, Genesis 1 and 2, this is reflective, many years later, within the experience of human sin, reflecting back upon a critique of Babylonian religion. But this is not prescriptive, from Genesis 1 and 2, about the nature of the order of creation. That's why I start with the text on its own terms, creation, sin, redemption.

Bob: I agree with you. That's what Genesis 1 is, it's an abstracting based on this, [the Babylonian god] Tiamat comes to home, but this is one of the Bible's stories too, there are many voices.

John: No, but I'm saying it the other way around, Genesis 1 and 2 has none of the Tiamat, it has none of that mythology, and what we do see in Psalm 73, what we see in Job, what we see in other places are reflections, okay, within a sinful world against sinful doctrines.

Bob: It seems to embrace these, not to give us no criticisms. Isn't God great because he crushed the heads of the dragon? Boy, what a God!

John: But that's not stating his origin point in creation and the order of creation.

Bob: I think it is, that's the whole point of all those myths.

John: The very place of the text, the very history of the text, does not assume that. It rather goes back to the one who is the creator, Genesis 1 and 2, and says he judges the pagan myths.

So, for example, we can see that Moses, when we have the text of Genesis right now, doesn't name the sun and the moon, he calls them the greater light and the lesser light. Why is that? Because in 1446 B.C. the name for the moon and the stars could be confused easily with Babylonian, pagan deities. And so Moses was making that separation, while speaking of the one who preceded all that.

So underneath all this is the ethic of Genesis 1 and 2, of he who is bigger than the universe, in whom all powers to create, and the starting points, whether Roman, Greek mythology, Hindu mythology, Babylonian mythology, is an existing universe that is not comprehended, and destruction. And we are the fruit of destruction versus the fruit of creation.

Bob: I think that's in the Bible loud and clear. In fact, I would translate….

John: Okay, let me ask you this, can you find it in Genesis 1 and 2?

Bob: Yes.

John: Where, where is there destruction in the God of creation of Genesis 1 and 2?

Bob: Well, depending on how you translate it, it seems to me on analogy with these other texts, the only….

John: But see, when you make analogy with the other texts, you've jumped ahead many years.

Bob: No, no, it's just that you can translate the Hebrew, as most footnotes in most Bibles do, either in the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth, the earth was without form and void, or, when God began to create, the earth was without form and void so that there's stuff there already, and both were options. The Egyptians had the god Ta create the whole darn thing.

John: You're right, except I've reviewed all that, I think that's a false translation, because of the very nature of time and tense in Genesis. But even if it were, the very nature of Yahweh Elohim is he who is bigger than space, time, and number.

Bob: Where do we get that? Except out of a theology book.

John: Oh, we get it out of the etymology of Yahweh Elohim. Yahweh, the divine presence who's bigger than space.

Bob: Is that what that means? Some scholars say it just comes from the Arabic word to blow like the wind and that Yahweh was a storm god.

John: There are people who say that, but the Hebrew understanding of the "I am who I am," of the alpha and the omega….

Bob: But that's already an attempt to dope out the meaning of the word.

John: But that's your presupposition.

Bob: No, it's not!

John: Yes it is. Yes, because the whole history of the Jewish understanding….

Bob: It's almost like a multiple choice test, who shall I say sent me? Tell them that Yahweh has sent you. Tell them that "I am that I am," tell them that "I am" sent you, tell them that Yahweh has sent you, it's like people are trying to come up with-and the same thing you mentioned with the first names, again and again, it's obvious that ….

John: Yahweh is very close to the infinitive tense of the verb "to be."

Bob: Hi-yah, that's one of the zillions of punning names, like Cain, I have [Hebrew] cannah, gotten a man with the help of Yahweh.

John: And the Bible is full of puns, okay. So here's the question. Is the pun in place as revelation, or is it human imagination, I think that's what we're looking at.

Bob: It's human imagination.

John: I thought that's what your assumption would be.

Bob: It's a darn good thing.

John: Human imagination is set at liberty by the God who reveals himself in Genesis.

Bob: That's no doubt true, too, but what I'm saying is….

John: Oh, therefore you are a theist.

Bob: Well, remember, I said I'm pretty slippery on this even to me, I find it hard to pin myself down.

John: I won't make the analogy to the snake.

Bob: It's okay by me. If it makes any difference, I did not approach this with any of these assumptions, they began to make much more sense to me of the text as I read it. And that doesn't prove anything to anybody but in fact, as a matter of biography, these ideas were alien to me, and as I began to read about them, I thought gee, that makes more sense of that good old text. I think there is nothing more edifying than understanding the text of the Bible. However, I don't think I have like the copyright on what it means.

My whole thing is to say let 100 flowers bloom, people should, if anything I would like people to take away from me is just the encouragement to take a look at the text as honestly as you can and let the chips fall where they may. I don't care if you never think of anything else I've said ever again. So I'm not trying to say you should put on any set of lenses. Nobody can take off all their lenses of presupposition and expectation, but that's no excuse for not trying to do as best you can.

John: Why don't we end our dialogue on that point and take questions.


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  [Contents] [About the Participants] [Opening Statement by John Rankin] [Opening Statement by Robert Price][Dialog] [Questions from the Audience] [Closing Statements]
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