Friday, February 19, 2010

Should Genesis Be Taught in Public Schools?

Alice C. Linsley

Today three Democratic senators introduced Senate Bill 142 in Frankfort. It would allow Kentucky schools to teach from the Bible. Kentucky schools would offer it as an elective social studies course to help students become familiar with the Bible’s content and style. Read more here.

The Senators are riding the wave of the increasingly popular Bible Literacy Project. I looked at the Project to see who is the Consultant for Genesis.  It is Thomas B. Dozeman (Ph.D., Columbia University), who is a Professor of Old Testament at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.  Professor Dozeman is one of the editors of A Farewell to the Yahwist? The Composition of the Pentateuch in Recent European Interpretation, (Society of Biblical Literature Symposium Series 34).

Dozemen generally holds to the Documentary Hypothesis, which maintains that the Pentateuch derives from four documentary sources: (1) a Yahwist (J) source, written in the south (Judah) in early monarchial times, (2) an Elohist (E) source, written in the north (Israel) somewhat later (these two sources being combined at some point, a combination referred to as JE), (3) a Deuteronomic (D) source, representing the book of the law found in the temple during the 621 B.C. reforms of Josiah., and (4) a Priestly (P) source, which most DH adherents thought to be post-Exilic. These sources were combined by an editor or Redactor (R) to form the   first 5 books of the Old Testament (Pentateuch).

I've already written about the failure of this hypothesis to account for the uniqueness of Genesis, so I will not dwell on that here. Let me say only this: Genesis is a record of the Afro-Asiatic rulers and priests before the emergence of a people identified as Israel. As such, it deserves to be studied apart from Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy which focus on Moses and the people of Israel.

Genesis names no one as its author, but claims to be the “toledot” or record of God’s intervention in history among real persons. The claim to be toledot is made thirteen times in Genesis, a number associated with the Afro-Asiatic lunisolar calendar of 13 months (requiring adjustment 7 times every 19 years.) This, with the organization of 7 days of Genesis 1, suggests a priestly source which is much more ancient than that proposed by the Documentary Hypothesis.

Dozeman, taking the approach of literary criticism, views the ancestor and exodus traditions as originally separate, but ignores the significance of the unique kinship pattern found in both Genesis and Exodus.  Analysis of the marriage pattern of Moses and his father Amram reveals that it is identical to that of Abraham and his ancestors. 

I'm afraid that this Project will teach children that a resourceful editor is responsible for the first 5 books of the Old Testament, without showing them why the priestly lines intermarried according to a unique pattern until the time of the birth of Jesus Christ.  This is equal to asking children to grasp the essence of an animal by showing them only the dissected parts.


BibleGeorge said...

I'm wondering if the Horite kinship pattern can still be maintained using the Documentary Hypothesis at least to some degree when you consider the 2 political realities that occurred along the way: 1)division of the 2 kingdoms - northern and southern Israel (passages that favor Aaron (Judah) and discredit Moses (the north) and vice versa (example: the golden calf story where Jeroboam possessed one) 2) Israel's control of Edom (Jacob (as Israel) favored over Esau (as Edom)- the older shall serve the younger). We see political divisions written about also in the NT (example: Paul verses Peter, Simon Magus, etc) These divisions don't necessarily have to affect the Horite patterns but I could be wrong. Also, Richard Elliott Friedman has the priestly source in King Hezekiah's time and not in a post-exilic time. Could this be an accurate time period or would it be earlier?

Alice Linsley said...

The Horite marriage and ascendancy pattern did not change throughout the whole of the Bible. Samuel's father was a Horite priest with two wives: Hannah and Penninah. The pattern dies out after the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. I have not be able to trace it after Jesus. It appears to have served its purposed in bringing Messiah into the world, as promised in Gen. 3:15 to Abraham's Edenic ancestors.

There is only one P Source. It is associated with the number 7. The Ha-biru (Hebrew) or 'Apiru held the number 7 as especially sacred. This word is derived from the Nilotic Luo word for the number seven - abiriyo.

There is a common idea that Abraham and Moses represent two different account of the origins of the Israelite, but this is false. Both were Horites. See this:

The division of the Davidic-Solomonic kingdom into north and south was motivated by the northern clans wanting relief from the hegemony of the southern clans, especially in regard to taxation. David's father, Jesse, ruled over a territory that extended from Galilee south to Ramah.

It was the custom for Horite rulers to have two wives. The wives lived in separate households on a north-south axis. Likely, one of Jesse's wives was located in Bethlehem of Galilee and the other in Ramah of the hill country to the south. Ramah has a long association with prophets; Samuel being one of the greatest. Judges 4:4-6 states that Deborah, “the wife of Lappidoth, was a prophet” who judged from her tamar (date nut palm) between “Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim." Ramah was named for Kush's son Ramah (Gen. 10:7). Samuel's father was a priest of Ramah. Samuel anointed David as king over Israel in Ramah.

Bethlehem of Galilee was known as a fruitful place and therefore called Bethlehem "Ephratha." This is the Bethlehem of David's ancestors Ruth and Boaz. It was a region known for fruit and grain. It was connected to the royal house of Tyre. Tyre was one of the ancient seats of wisdom. Hiram I of Tyre helped David build his palace. Tyrian craftsmen also helped Solomon build the temple. The rulers of Tyre were considered to have roots in ancient Eden (Ezekiel 28:11-18).

BibleGeorge said...

Thank you Alice for this information. It's clear now that the priestly system goes back as far as the Nioltic Luo. But what about the possibility of a 'layman' (God as anthropomorphic in Genesis) source in the time period of the north-south division of Israel? All the people you just named came before the time of that division. Although the biggest reason for the division in Rehoboam's time was taxation, there may have been at least 2 groups within the Horite system pushing their agenda: 1) Aaronic priest supporters in Judah and 2) Shiloh priests who supported King Josiah (Deuteronomists). During the division, the Aaronic priesthood became dominant. I understand that the Horite system continued all the way to the time of Jesus, but could it be possible that these conflicts and agendas were written about? I will abandon this theory if I'm wrong.

Alice Linsley said...

Shiloh, Bethel, Jerusalem, Ramah, Hazor, etc. There were many shrine cities in the land of Palestine, some of them existing before the time of Moses and even Abraham. There was competition between them, just as there was competition between the water shrines of the Nile and the Tigris-Euphrates. You are seeing how that is reflected in the Biblical text. However, I don't think there is a strict division into Aaronic versus Shiloh priests. They had common ancestry. Nor huge difference between the priests' worldviews and their practices.