Monday, December 02, 2013

Different paradigm

As far as Gen 1–11 protohistory was concerned, the Israelites “did history” in ways similar to other ancient Near Eastern cultures because it was part of their common cultural heritage—this common way of doing history was the result of the common ancient cognitive environment. The importance of this for our purposes is the way the ancients, and by association the Israelites (in this section of Genesis), did history was through the medium of myth. They “did indeed make it their practice to express their speculations about world forces and their situation amid them by means of very sophisticated compilations of mythological motifs and patterns.” In other words, the ancient mind tended to (as we would describe it today) mythologize their past. That is, they speculated about their past in mythological terms. Kitchen rightly observes that in the ancient Near East they “did not historicize myth (i.e., read it as an imaginary ‘history’). In fact, exactly the reverse is true—there was, rather, a trend to ‘mythologize’ history, to celebrate actual historical events and people in mythological terms.” Furthermore, our modern tendency to separate myth from history would be a completely foreign notion to them—that was not the way they “did history.” Again, all of this should make perfect sense in light of the values and concerns of ancient history writing discussed above. Mythological language was the perfect means by which to communicate the relevance of such weighty historical matters.—Toward a Poetics of Genesis 1-11 , pages 48-49

<idle musing>
We need to learn to let the text speak for itself. We have tried for too long to squeeze scripture into our Western, mechanistic materialism mold. It doesn't work!
</idle musing>

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