Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Reading Genesis

Genesis 1:28-30 presents some very beautiful language that is also imbued with just as much controversy. These verses read:
28 God blessed them [nascent humans] and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply! Fill the earth and subdue it! Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that moves on the ground.” 29 Then God said, “I now give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the entire earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the animals of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to all the creatures that move on the ground – everything that has the breath of life in it – I give every green plant for food.” It was so. (NET Bible, underscore added)
From this we learn two things:

First, the first humans were told to “subdue” the earth, ruling over the three domains occupied by the animals: the water, air, and land. The Hebrew word here is כבש [kabash]. As the NET Bible explains:
Elsewhere the Hebrew verb translated “subdue” means “to enslave” (2 Chr 28:10; Neh 5:5; Jer 34:11, 16), “to conquer,” (Num 32:22, 29; Josh 18:1; 2 Sam 8:11; 1 Chr 22:18; Zech 9:13; and probably Mic 7:19), and “to assault sexually” (Esth 7:8). None of these nuances adequately meets the demands of this context, for humankind is not viewed as having an adversarial relationship with the world. The general meaning of the verb appears to be “to bring under one’s control for one’s advantage.” In Gen 1:28 one might paraphrase it as follows: “harness its potential and use its resources for your benefit.” In an ancient Israelite context this would suggest cultivating its fields, mining its mineral riches, using its trees for construction, and domesticating its animals.
It also is an invitation to construct crafts that can dominate all three domains. Thus, to “rule over” רדה [radah] was also originally meant to be constructive, not abusive. Unfortunately, while not originally intended to have negative consequences on the animals, following Adam and Eve’s fall, the negative consequences bore their ugly heads with humanity abusing the animals’s realms.

Was Life Created?

Second, we learn about the basis for the food chain. Regarding the last two verses, the Jewish Study Bible presents a note that interprets the text in the most painfully literal way imaginable:
Humankind, animals, and birds all seem originally meant to be neither vegetarians nor carnivores, but frugivores, eating the seeds of plants and trees.
This illustrates what happens if one interprets these verses without getting the point, or, by ‘not seeing the forest through the trees.’ According to this, humans were meant not to just be exclusively herbivorous, but were to be exclusively frugivorous, and animals were not just to be exclusively herbivorous with no scavenging and certainly no predation, but were also meant to be exclusively frugivorous. This of course is completely unhistorical, and ignores that the entire spectrum of vegetables, grains, legumes, as well as mushrooms, all fall into the domain of “every seed-bearing plant.” Also, fauna has always included carnivores, both scavengers and predators. (Compare with Psalm 104:21 where faunal predation is celebrated in song and 2 Peter 2:12 where faunal predation is considered natural.) Fortunately, old-earth creationist and astronomer Hugh Ross explains these verses better:
In Genesis 1:29-30 and 9:2-3 God gave humanity some specific dietary guidelines appropriate to their circumstances at the time. … With reference to animals, who rely on instinct rather than choice in their eating habits, His instructions reflect no change from one passage and time frame to the next. God simply stated and reiterated the importance of green plants. Both humans and animals ingest some nongreen plants, such as mushrooms. However, green plants are the foundation of the food chain. It seems likely that God emphasized to Adam and Eve (and us) that since all life depends on green plants for survival, proper management of these plants would be essential. (A Matter of Days, 2nd edition. 2015. P. 93)
His comments have the advantage of also harmonizing with Genesis 2:15 where God commands Adam to “care for it and to maintain” the Garden of Eden. The NET Bible footnote explains further: “Note that man’s task is to care for and maintain the trees of the orchard.” (emphasis original) It is also not stating that no animals were scavengers or predators: that is just as unhistorical as saying they were exclusively frugivores.

Thus, the original purpose of humankind was to be a benefit for the earth, the precious jewel that God bequeathed to them and us. We were to cultivate the green vegetation as we peacefully occupied the domains previously ruled over by the animals. Only after the entry of human sin did kabash and radah inherit negative connotations.

Additional reading:


Saturday, February 03, 2018

A case of smoke and mirrors

The NET Bible for John 8:58 says:

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the solemn truth, before Abraham came into existence, I am!”

Its footnote for this states:
I am! is an explicit claim to deity. Although each occurrence of the phrase “I am” in the Fourth Gospel needs to be examined individually in context to see if an association with Exod 3:14 is present, it seems clear that this is the case here (as the response of the Jewish authorities in the following verse shows).
As can be seen, it is presented as a “proof text” for the “deity of Christ,” which is a code-word (sociolect or circumlocution) for “second person of the Trinitarian Godhead.” The “I AM” of John 8:58 is connected to the “I AM” of Exodus 3:14. Let’s now explore this popular John 8:58-Exodus 3:14 connection:

1996 New Living Translation:

Jesus answered, “The truth is, I existed before Abraham was even born!” F42

F42 Or “Truly, truly, before Abraham was, I am.” link

Exodus 3:14
God replied, “I AM THE ONE WHO ALWAYS IS.F7 Just tell them, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’“


New International Version (NIV):

Exodus 3:14
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.[a] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

[a] Exodus 3:14 Or I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE

My comments: Having the Hebrew not be “I AM” is highly significant for ones who think Jesus was calling himself “I AM” in John 8:58. This is especially true as John 8:58 does not necessarily state “I AM.”

Let’s now compare these two scriptures in both Hebrew and Greek:

click to enlarge

Question: If the “I AM” in John 8:58 is the “I AM” in Exodus 3:14 which the Pharisees wanted to stone Jesus for, then why do the Hebrew translations of John 8:58 NOT have the Hebrew of “I AM” in Exodus 3:14? If the Pharisees understood Jesus as saying “I AM” in Exodus 3:14, then why are the same Hebrew words not used in John 8:58?

This is a serious question for Trinitarians in light of what the Trinitarian Dr. Fred Sanders said concerning their alleged “proof texts”:
Some of these proof texts evaporated because they were, in fact, never anything but Trinitarian mirages.—The Triune God (2016) page 164.
The data just doesn’t add up to support the classic Trinitarian claim as expressed in the NET Bible footnote. The Trinitarian take on John 8:58 is a mirage—smoke and mirrors—nothing more. If you have used this erroneous and falsifiable reasoning before, then now is the time to cease and desist from doing so. Promoting falsehood and error is a disservice to everyone.

Additional reading:

Link to color-coded scripture source:

“Sometimes the footnotes smell like actual feet.”