Creation Myth Analysis Term Paper

Pages: 50 (15782 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion

SAMPLE EXCERPT:

[. . .] The Law was both cause and effect in the recreation of the race after the Babylonian exile."

Unless this fact is taken into account, Wellhausen cautioned, "one will above all fail to understand the great work accomplished by the prophets in destroying Old Israel, and preparing the way first for Judaism, and then for the Gospel"; however, Wellhausen did not merely employ literary arguments as his predecessors had done. In fact, he went so far as to track the development of religious forms and practices and provided an examination of the religious cult of the Hebrews, their ceremonials and holy places, and an analysis of the historical books of the Old Testament. Furthermore, this historian had larger plans for the future including an analysis of the reconstruction of Israelitish history; however, this work was never completed but there is a sketch prepared for the ninth edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica based on it.

In the final analysis, Holm and Thompson suggest that, "Whatever corrections may be made in details or even in the main thesis, the Prolegomena will remain a classic for beauty of utterance, profundity of vision, and boldness of outlines."

From the perspective of these authors, the significance of Wellhausen was that he was a decent historian rather than merely being a sophisticated critic.

In this regard, they point out that Wellhausen "could dissect and analyze sources in brilliant -- and sometimes specious -- fashion, as he demonstrated in Die Komposition des Hexateuchs und der historischen Bucher des Alten Testaments."

This proponent of the documentary hypothesis was more interested, though, in the historical events that were behind these sources and in how the religious development of the Jews took place rather than the importance of the criticism of the Old Testament as it applied to Christian dogma.

Contemporary commentary about his works frequently maintain that Wellhausen actually developed little original thought, but simply offered a rehashing of old views mixed with unsupportable assertions that he tried to defend by the reiteration of the words "gloss" and "interpolation."

According to Holm and Thompson, Wellhausen's "friends and followers have admitted that he sometimes tended to overstress an argument and to exceed tenable positions. Some capital has been made of his limited linguistic equipment. He taught Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, and Arabic at Marburg; but his knowledge of Assyrian and Babylonian literature was largely second-hand, and he never devoted much study to the archaeological research of his generation." In fact, the entirety of the Prolegomena dedicated just six pages to stylistic and linguistic arguments and these authors suggest that Wellhausen failed most miserably in his efforts to dissect Judges and Samuel.

According to Morris (2003), the majority of past conservative scholars have accepted the view that Genesis was written by Moses. This has been the uniform tradition of both the Jewish scribes and the Christian fathers. Genesis is considered to be the first book of the Pentateuch (the others being Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), and all of them together taken as the Law (Hebrew, torah) of Moses. This general view was apparently accepted by Christ as well: "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. . . These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me" (Luke 24:27, 44).

Assuming that Moses was responsible for the Book of Genesis as it has come down to modern believers, there remains the question as to the method by which he received and transmitted it. In this regard, there are three possibilities: 1) Moses received it all by direct revelation from God, either in the form of audible words dictated by God and transcribed by him, or else by visions given him of the great events of the past, which he then put down in his own words, as guided subconsciously by the Holy Spirit; 2) he received it all by oral traditions, passed down over the centuries from father to son, which he then collected and wrote down, again as guided by the Holy Spirit; and 3) he took actual written records of the past, collected them, and brought them together into a final form, again as guided by the Holy Spirit (Moore, 2003).

Evidently any of these methods would be consistent with both the doctrine of plenary verbal inspiration and that of Mosaic authorship; however, neither of the first two methods has a parallel anywhere in the canon of Scripture. For example, "visions and revelations of the Lord" typically involve the prophetic revelations of the future (e.g., Daniel, Ezekiel, Revelation, etc.). The direct dictation method of inspiration was used mainly for the promulgation of specific laws and ordinances (e.g., the Ten Commandments, the Book of Leviticus, etc.). By sharp contrast, though, the Book of Genesis is comprised entirely of narrative records of historical events. A number of biblical parallels to Genesis are found in such books as Kings, Chronicles, Acts, and so forth. In all of these cases, the writer either collected previous documents and edited them (e.g., 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles), or else recorded the events which he had either seen himself or had ascertained from others who were witnesses (e.g., Luke, Acts). It also is significant that, although the Book of Genesis is quoted from or alluded to at least two hundred times in the New Testament, as has been already noted, in none of these references is it ever stated that Moses was the actual author (Moore, 2003). This is particularly significant in view of the fact that Moses is mentioned by name at least eighty times in the New Testament, approximately twenty-five of which refer to specific passages attributed to Moses in the other books of the Pentateuch (Moore, 2003).

While this evidence is not conclusive, it does favor the explanation that, while Moses actually wrote the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, he served mainly as compiler and editor of the material in the Book of Genesis. This in no way minimizes the work of the Holy Spirit, who infallibly guided him in this process of compilation and editing, just as He later did the unknown compiler of the Book of Kings and Chronicles. It would still be appropriate to include Genesis as one of the books of Moses, since he is the human writer responsible for its present form. In fact, this explanation gives further testimony to the authenticity of the events recorded in Genesis since we can now recognize them all as firsthand testimony (Moore, 2003).

Holm and Thompson suggest that Genesis was written by a priest after the Captivity and incorporated ancient materials; this would require some innovative argumentation on the part of biblical scholars to prove why Genesis failed to contain allusions to a time after the Exile. According to these authors, a good example of his wealth of illustration and cumulative argument is the introduction of the use of incense as evidence of 'increased luxury'; hence its lack of mention in certain writings mark them as dating from the time of poverty after the Exile; even more relevant than all the foregoing is the criticism that like Baur and the Hegelians, Wellhausen wrote "conceptual" history, and "forced the texts and facts to fit the Procrustean bed of his own stages in Jewish history."

What Is Myth?

The logical place to begin in a creation myth analysis is with the most fundamental question, "What is a myth?" The following definition may help provide some insight into common usage: "Myths are stories of the acts of superhuman beings, often improbable to us, but believed to be true by those who related them. The narrative form is essential. While myths deal with the gods, they are not expressions of worship (prayers or psalms) nor statements of belief (creeds)."

Even when they describe the gods, they do so in a tangential fashion, in connection with some story of their acts; therefore, when they are concerned with the constantly recurring processes of nature, the description seeks to be a narrative of what happened once in the mythical past.

This view is reiterated by Paul Avis, who notes that, "Myths are essentially narratives that embody numinous symbols. They speak of origins, transformations and destiny, the interaction and commerce of God and humanity, heaven and earth. Myths are set in a different timeframe, 'the Great Time' when the world was different. Their characters, though not always gods, are superhuman. In a similar yet slightly different fashion, Dundes defines a myth as "a sacred narrative explaining how the world and man came to be in their present form."

Dundes is not without his detractors, though. According to Wethington (2004), Dundes suggests the proper approach to understanding the authorship of Genesis can be gained by contextualizing the Judeo-Christian Scriptures within an orally dependent… [END OF PREVIEW]

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