Friday, July 03, 2020

The nurturing one

A God beyond human gender can still be imagined in terms of gendered humans, without any rejection of tradition, as long as those images or metaphors are not reified. As such, the nursing God is as valid as any other biblical image, and it has the potential for great good. As Davina Haskell observed, it “construct[s] an emotionally positive relationship of nurture and reliance between God and human beings” and “establishes an intimate, familial bond between divinity and humanity, redefining the relationship between the two in terms of tenderness, rather than dominion.” As the Bible testifies, this is part of God’s identity.

Efforts to discourage and stamp out goddess worship are at best useless, and at worst harmful. Christians who attempt this are already conformed to the patriarchy of this world, and they can be transformed, as Paul said, only by the renewing of their own minds. The battle that has long been waged outward against the culture must be turned inward if it is to succeed—turned toward the long self-inquiry and self-analysis required to root out the ways in which the church continues to push people away from the God of the Bible, who offers his nurturing breast to all. The resources of the tradition are rich in this area. Using feminine language and imagery for God in worship is a starting point that can create fruitful discomfort and invite worshipers to ask hard questions about God and gender that lead to good conversations.—Christopher B. Hays in Divine Doppelgängers: YHWH’s Ancient Look-Alikes, 218

But I thought my interpretations were inerrant!

What Christians often forget, however, is that while the Bible is true in all that it intends to teach, our interpretations are not always correct. We need to be open to the possibility that we have wrongly understood a particular passage, perhaps not completely but in some important way.—Lost World of the Flood, 169

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Beyond gender

As long as the dominant Christian church is patriarchal and misogynistic, women in particular (though also some men) will look at it and know innately that is not the true church, and that it cannot meet the needs with which their Creator created them. Only a church that recognizes and worships a God who is beyond human male and female identity is the true and fulfilling church. But we cannot avoid gendered imagery, so we must instead embrace it in all its forms, feminine as well as masculine.—Christopher B. Hays in Divine Doppelgängers: YHWH’s Ancient Look-Alikes, 218

Was it the Black Sea?

As intriguing as it is, however, we are not saying this particular flood generated the story of the flood. We do not believe We can reconstruct the historical event from the biblical account. However, we are confident, due to the genre (theological history) of Genesis 6-9 and in our affirmation that the Bible is true in all that it affirms, that there was a historical event. Our conclusion is that the Black Sea flood is the type of devastating flood that could have ultimately inspired the biblical account, even if it is not itself the biblical event.—Lost World of the Flood, 149 (emphasis original)

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The problem of metaphors

That is not, however, the end of the matter, because the notion that the God of the Bible is masculine rather than feminine is false. Despite the overwhelmingly masculine language used for God in the Bible, to extract the notion that God is male is an example of the error of the via eminentiae: the idea that God is like something else, only more so. In this case: God is like a king, only much more powerful; God is like a father, but a better father than any human. It is necessary, albeit difficult, simultaneously to affirm the metaphors as metaphors and to admit that they fall so far short of divine reality that they threaten to lead us astray in crucial ways.—Christopher B. Hays in Divine Doppelgängers: YHWH’s Ancient Look-Alikes, 217–18 (emphasis original)

Well, did it or did it now happen?

We do not believe the flood story of the Bible is myth, but neither do we believe the author of Genesis 6-9 intends to give us a straightforward depiction of the event that lies behind it. We believe there is an event that inspired the story; after all, Genesis 6-9 is theological history. However, we believe the best understanding of Genesis 1-11, which of course includes the flood account, is that it talks about real events of the past through the use of figurative language. In the case of the flood story, we have identified the use of hyperbole to describe the flood. But there is a real event behind the story just as there was an actual conquest behind the hyperbolic presentation of Joshua’s conquest as presented in Joshua 1-12 (see proposition four).—Lost World of the Flood, 145 (emphasis original)

Monday, June 29, 2020

Keep making those cakes!

As long as a church is patriarchal, or indeed outright misogynistic, as long as it is a means for men to worship and reinforce their own power, which is often what it has been throughout history, then people will always feel a need for a goddess. If Christians are going to worship our own likenesses, then femininity is, after all, not less worthy of adoration than masculinity. As long as God the Father reinforces patriarchy, it is entirely natural that many will want to make cakes for the Queen of Heaven.—Christopher B. Hays in Divine Doppelgängers: YHWH’s Ancient Look-Alikes, 217

About those statues…

"Social memory theory maintains a group’s memory of the past is always socially constructed—never how it actually was. The past has run through a social filter so that it serves the needs of the community and its coherence. Further, this past impinges on the present moment, as a community understands and acts in the present moment in a way that for them seems consistent with that memory. Communities keep the constructed past alive and in front of the community through myth, stories, festivals, sites, media, and various social institutions. Likewise, the community structures its future vision based on this constructed history."—Rodney Werline, in Early Judaism and Its Modern Interpreters, 2nd ed. (Atlanta: SBL Press, forthcoming).

<idle musing>
And don't forget to add statues! They are part of the ordering of our memory. We need to always be examining that ordering; perhaps—no! definitely—it needs to be reordered and modified to bring it more into line with what actually happened and whom we want to be as a nation and as a people. This should especially be true of Christians, who follow the only truth.
</idle musing>

Inclusio

When the theme of order by means of divine presence is recognized in Genesis 1-2, and when the restoration of divine presence is recognized as the motivation of the ziggurat builders, Genesis 1-11 can be seen as a unit with these important bookends serving as a rhetorical inclusio for the record of the primordial period.—Lost World of the Flood, 138

Friday, June 26, 2020

Augustine and the dea nutrix

At the roots of monotheism, then, there began a kind of theological dance in the tension between the desire to preserve female imagery for God, including the dea nutrix, and the denial that this is possible for a single deity who was more commonly imagined as male. This would go on through the ages. Even individual theologians were often of two minds. For example, the same Augustine who spoke of “the Lord’s breast” elsewhere declared that, in “the image of God,. . . there is no sex,” and that the woman is not the image of God except when she is joined together with her husband.—Christopher B. Hays in Divine Doppelgängers: YHWH’s Ancient Look-Alikes, 212

<idle musing>
Augustine was wrong! I suspect that the reason he went the route of women not being fully the image of God, aside from his patriarchal frame of reference, was that the church is the bride of Christ, and apart from Christ can't reflect the glory of God. But those two don't have to be, in fact, shouldn't be, tied together.

The problem with Augustine is that he wrote so much that you can find pretty much anything you want in there. Unfortunately, it seems his worst stuff is what the church adopted! But that is just an
</idle musing>

Who are they?

In contrast, focus on the use of terminology in the Bible suggests that “sons of God” (as rare as it is) refers consistently to the members of the divine council (e.g., Job 1-2), and this is the interpretation adopted in the earliest sources (Second Temple period works like the Book of Enoch) as well as reflected in the New Testament (2 Peter and Jude).—Lost World of the Flood, 123

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Filling the void

The polemic against dea nutrix imagery for God is deeply connected with the process by which Israelite religion came to focus on a single deity for whom masculine pronouns were most commonly used. The attempted exclusion of goddess worship, particularly that of Asherah (e.g., 2 Kgs 23:4–7),34 left a psychological void for Yahwistic worshipers that continued to be filled in various ways. Monotheism was a revolutionary idea—or to put it a different way, an irregular one. It is not surprising that it was resisted; consider the backlash against the religious innovations of Akhenaten or Nabonidus. Rather, it is surprising that it endured.—Christopher B. Hays in Divine Doppelgängers: YHWH’s Ancient Look-Alikes, 210

Here's where inspiration lies

[I]f we wish to get to the core of the authority of the author, we have to focus on what the author (who has been vested with God’s authority) is doing with the event.—Lost World of the Flood, 121

<idle musing>
Because Walton/Longman restrict where they believe the inspiration lies (and I agree with them), there is no issue with many of the issues that are hang-ups for so many. This view frees you from having to defend undefendable positions; you're not continually on the defensive, looking for offense. That kind of defensive attitude seems pretty anti-Christian, by the way. At the least it is the opposite of the attitude you see in the scriptures.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The nourishing God

Blending the imagery of flowing milk into that of flowing water, the passage goes on to promise that the wealth of nations will be “like an overflowing stream,” inverting the negative imagery of floods as a violent threat in, for example, [Isaiah] 30:28; 28:2, 15–18; and 10:22. God then says: “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem” (66:13). So this passage distances YHWH from breastfeeding imagery both through the use of simile and by projecting the divine nursing onto Jerusalem/Zion as a proxy. Nevertheless, it is difficult to ignore the effort to connect God with dea nutrix imagery. —Christopher B. Hays in Divine Doppelgängers: YHWH’s Ancient Look-Alikes, 207

Quick! Hit the reset button!

The naming of Noah could indicate that he will be the one through whom order is preserved and restored in the aftermath of the insurgence of nonorder represented in the flood. Be that as it may, however, the text indicates that Noah would comfort us (presumably humankind) “from our labor and from the toil of our hands from the ground” (authors’ translation). The combination of the verb nhm with the preposition min (from) occurs three times in this verse and nowhere else in the Hebrew Bible. The combination does not suggest consolation or comfort concerning those things—that uses a different preposition. It can mean only that nonorder related to the labor, toil, and ground are going to be resolved and a greater semblance of order would be restored. It is difficult to deduce how that is taking place; what is important is that it is taking place. The vocabulary shows us how the flood is being interpreted—it is an order—bringing event. The connection of Noah’s name to the flood suggests that besides being presented as an act of judgment, grace, and deliverance, the narrator is recounting this event as a sort of order “reset button.” God uses nonorder (the waters) to eliminate disorder (pervasive violence) and then to reestablish optimal order (even as he recognizes that disorder remains [Gen 8:21]).—Lost World of the Flood, 118 (emphasis original)