Jacob

22-23 But during the night he got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants, and his eleven children and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He got them safely across the brook along with all his possessions.

24-25 But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn’t get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob’s hip out of joint.

26 The man said, “Let me go; it’s daybreak.”

Jacob said, “I’m not letting you go ’til you bless me.”

27 The man said, “What’s your name?”

He answered, “Jacob.”

28 The man said, “But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it’s Israel (God-Wrestler); you’ve wrestled with God and you’ve come through.”

29 Jacob asked, “And what’s your name?”

The man said, “Why do you want to know my name?” And then, right then and there, he blessed him.

30 Jacob named the place Peniel (God’s Face) because, he said, “I saw God face-to-face and lived to tell the story!”

31-32 The sun came up as he left Peniel, limping because of his hip. (This is why Israelites to this day don’t eat the hip muscle; because Jacob’s hip was thrown out of joint.)

Genesis 32: 221-33 (The Message)

With whom or what is Jacob wrestling: a man, an angel, or with God, or an aspect of himself?
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Comments

  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    For myself, the text makes it pretty clear in Genesis . 32 vv 29-30. "Then Jacob asked, “Please tell me your name.” “Why do you ask my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there. So Jacob named the place Peniel, explaining, “Certainly I have seen God face to face and have survived.”

    The New English Translation has the following footnote:
    Genesis 32:1 sn The phrase angels of God occurs only here and in Gen 28:12 in the OT. Jacob saw a vision of angels just before he left the promised land. Now he encounters angels as he prepares to return to it. The text does not give the details of the encounter, but Jacob’s response suggests it was amicable. This location was a spot where heaven made contact with earth, and where God made his presence known to the patriarch. See C. Houtman, “Jacob at Mahanaim: Some Remarks on Genesis XXXII 2-3, ” VT 28 (1978): 37-44.

    As an expression of Christian experience, of course, there is perhaps no better interpretation than in Charles Wesley's hymn: "Come, O thou traveller unknown......," though, perhaps, it is not relevant to this Kerygmania discussion.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    Sorry, Gramps49, the rather lengthy quote relating to Genesis 31:1 is clearly not relevant! Many apologies. What I should have referred to is the New English Translation footnote to 32: 30:
    Genesis 32:30 sn The name Peniel means “face of God.” Since Jacob saw God face-to-face here, the name is appropriate.....................................

    It was commonly understood that no one could see God and live (Gen 48:16; Exod 19:21; 24:10; Judg 6:11, 22). On the surface Jacob seems to be saying that he saw God and survived. But the statement may have a double meaning, in light of his prayer for deliverance in v. 11. Jacob recognizes that he has survived his encounter with God and that his safety has now been guaranteed.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    Kwesi wrote: »
    For myself, the text makes it pretty clear in Genesis . 32 vv 29-30. "Then Jacob asked, “Please tell me your name.” “Why do you ask my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there. So Jacob named the place Peniel, explaining, “Certainly I have seen God face to face and have survived.”
    It also seems to be made clear in v 28, when Jacob is given the name Israel, which means “God persists” or “struggles with God.”

  • TelfordTelford Shipmate
    24-25 But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn’t get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob’s hip out of joint.

    I would argue that if you are able to throw someone's hip out of joint, you have got the best of the contest
  • Suffolk RobSuffolk Rob Shipmate Posts: 20
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    22-23 But during the night he got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants, and his eleven children and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He got them safely across the brook along with all his possessions.

    24-25 But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn’t get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob’s hip out of joint.

    26 The man said, “Let me go; it’s daybreak.”

    Jacob said, “I’m not letting you go ’til you bless me.”

    27 The man said, “What’s your name?”

    He answered, “Jacob.”

    28 The man said, “But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it’s Israel (God-Wrestler); you’ve wrestled with God and you’ve come through.”

    29 Jacob asked, “And what’s your name?”

    The man said, “Why do you want to know my name?” And then, right then and there, he blessed him.

    30 Jacob named the place Peniel (God’s Face) because, he said, “I saw God face-to-face and lived to tell the story!”

    31-32 The sun came up as he left Peniel, limping because of his hip. (This is why Israelites to this day don’t eat the hip muscle; because Jacob’s hip was thrown out of joint.)

    Genesis 32: 221-33 (The Message)

    With whom or what is Jacob wrestling: a man, an angel, or with God, or an aspect of himself?

  • jay_emmjay_emm Shipmate
    edited July 18
    I've always had the impression that the hip dislocation was vaguely 'magical' (I think the KJV has he touched the hip and it dislocated).

    To some extent I don't think it matters all that much, anything build too rigidly is on shakey ground, while most of the conclusions apply in any case. Whether the individual was 'physically' human, spiritual or divine they gave Jacob, God's message, renaming and blessing. And again if the physical struggle had been against god by proxy, I think that was representative of a deeper struggle. The NLT has "fought with God and men and won" (although I think the name only has a clear El component)

    If you exclude verse 30, the bias would be vaguely towards the man side ("A man wrestled"), while verse 30 on the other hand seems to suggest Jacob saw the encounter as being very Godly. An angel, among other things, kind of imperfectly covers both.

    ___
    On the man side, there are many follow up questions, what drove him, to what extent was he under God's instruction/power.
    On the godly side, god in carnal form raises questions. Do we go, 'that sounds like Jesus' (in any case we do already have Jesus), do we have some kind of presence. [Of the options it's the one I like most, and has that bit of support, but I like it because it's a big claim]
    If angel, where does the face of god fit in, is the face some kind of title.
  • Suffolk RobSuffolk Rob Shipmate Posts: 20
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    22-23 But during the night he got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants, and his eleven children and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He got them safely across the brook along with all his possessions.

    24-25 But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn’t get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob’s hip out of joint.

    26 The man said, “Let me go; it’s daybreak.”

    Jacob said, “I’m not letting you go ’til you bless me.”

    27 The man said, “What’s your name?”

    He answered, “Jacob.”

    28 The man said, “But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it’s Israel (God-Wrestler); you’ve wrestled with God and you’ve come through.”

    29 Jacob asked, “And what’s your name?”

    The man said, “Why do you want to know my name?” And then, right then and there, he blessed him.

    30 Jacob named the place Peniel (God’s Face) because, he said, “I saw God face-to-face and lived to tell the story!”

    31-32 The sun came up as he left Peniel, limping because of his hip. (This is why Israelites to this day don’t eat the hip muscle; because Jacob’s hip was thrown out of joint.)

    Genesis 32: 221-33 (The Message)

    With whom or what is Jacob wrestling: a man, an angel, or with God, or an aspect of himself?

    Seems to me that any and all of the above. That’s the beauty of Scripture, truth is multi faceted and layered, and can speak to the human condition of every generation in a meaningful way.
  • LatchKeyKidLatchKeyKid Shipmate
    FYI www.chabad.org contains this
    The Zohar14 describes Jacob’s battle with the angel as symbolic of man’s struggle with his darker side.

    As morning was approaching, the angel knew that he had to act fast, for soon the night—the time when he has power—would be gone, and he would be powerless. He therefore struck Jacob’s thigh, the place where the evil inclination rests. And there he was able to wound him.

    The Zohar teaches us that in every struggle, we are powerful and can overcome our evil urges if we so desire. There is only one place where the lust is so strong that even great men are powerless—the gid ha-nasheh. Its very name means “to forget,”15 because once it has been aroused, all rational thinking and religious scruples are left far behind.

    The only way to win that war is to stay far away in the first place, for once one is tempted, there is no knowing where things can lead. For this reason, the gid is not eaten at all, but utterly avoided.16

    There is more at https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/2389625/jewish/Jacob-Wrestles-With-the-Angel.htm
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    In the Old Testament, to know a person's name meant you had some control over the person. Moses asked the voice in the burning bush its name, but the voice would only say "I am who I am."

    So some of the context of Genesis does strongly suggest the person may have been Yahweh.

    And if there is anything about the Jewish religion that I appreciate is they are unafraid to struggle with God, But I am getting off on a tangent here.

    But, what was the larger context? Why did he leave his family behind and when into the desert?
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    Telford wrote: »
    24-25 But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn’t get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob’s hip out of joint.

    I would argue that if you are able to throw someone's hip out of joint, you have got the best of the contest

    But that's not what it said. He couldn't get the best of him wrestling, so he cheated. It's as if I said, "We got into a fistfight to the death. When I saw I couldn't kill him, I pulled out my pistol and shot him." You wouldn't say, "Well clearly you could kill him." Or if you did, it would be silly.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Today's OT reading. The sermon was on the Gospel, much safer as there is so much unsaid in this passage that leaves preaching on it reliant on a lot of guesswork.
  • TelfordTelford Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    Telford wrote: »
    24-25 But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn’t get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob’s hip out of joint.

    I would argue that if you are able to throw someone's hip out of joint, you have got the best of the contest

    But that's not what it said. He couldn't get the best of him wrestling, so he cheated. It's as if I said, "We got into a fistfight to the death. When I saw I couldn't kill him, I pulled out my pistol and shot him." You wouldn't say, "Well clearly you could kill him." Or if you did, it would be silly.

    It is what it said.
  • mousethief wrote: »
    Telford wrote: »
    24-25 But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn’t get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob’s hip out of joint.

    I would argue that if you are able to throw someone's hip out of joint, you have got the best of the contest

    But that's not what it said. He couldn't get the best of him wrestling, so he cheated. It's as if I said, "We got into a fistfight to the death. When I saw I couldn't kill him, I pulled out my pistol and shot him." You wouldn't say, "Well clearly you could kill him." Or if you did, it would be silly.

    The hip is a freaking HARD joint to dislocate--even I with my connective tissue problems and multiple dislocations have never managed to dislocate that one. Think "we need a car crash" for this one.

    That said, for the man/God/angel to do it with a single touch is basically cheating with divine power. So yeah, it's very like pulling an unexpected gun.

    IMHO the hip dislocation made it clear to Jacob who he was wrestling with (I'm plumping for Jesus, here preincarnate); also made it clear that his opponent could have taken him out at any time but refrained; and gave him a lasting (ouch!) reminder of the struggle, which was as much a struggle of faith as it was of the body. Not a bad thing to have, on the whole, though post-dislocation pain sucks sucks SUCKS.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    Yes. No wonder Jacob went on his way limping (v.31)
  • cgichardcgichard Shipmate
    Perhaps it was pay-back for Jacob's grasping Esau's heel at the time of their birth (Gen. 25: 26). This has apparently been interpreted as an attempt to pull Esau back into the womb so that he (Jacob) could be the first-born.
  • :rolleyes:
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    IMHO the hip dislocation made it clear to Jacob who he was wrestling with (I'm plumping for Jesus, here preincarnate);

    Jesus Jesus take no lip!
    Jesus dislocate his hip!
    Jesus!
    Jesus!
    Hooraaaaaayyyyy!
    Telford wrote: »
    It is what it said.

    Have you ever done rational argumentation before?
  • LydaLyda Shipmate
    edited July 21
    cgichard wrote: »
    Perhaps it was pay-back for Jacob's grasping Esau's heel at the time of their birth (Gen. 25: 26). This has apparently been interpreted as an attempt to pull Esau back into the womb so that he (Jacob) could be the first-born.

    It was probably pay back for a lot between Esau and Jacob. It is interesting that Jacob was on his way to Esau to offer him flocks and herds of valuable livestock to appease him after cheating him out of his father's blessing. Then he is told by his messengers that Esau was on his way with four hundred men and Jacob feared the worst. So he made plans to protect his family and at least part of his wealth.

    Jacob had lived his life tricking and being tricked and it continued when he lived under Laban. God basically gave him a chance to get what he wanted (a blessing) in a straight forward but difficult way and and Jacob surprisingly prevailed by strength and determination. Of course, God had to get in the last lick. He is the Almighty, after all.

    I think God wanted Jacob to change and stop living in fear. And Esau offered his forgiveness in the end without needing material equity.

    (All of this is from my non-Biblically trained brain. A shot in the dark. Now you folks who actually have learned books on your shelves may carry on. :blush: )
  • This might be a wild tangent but in Watership Down Hazel the rabbit is wounded in the hip when he resists Fiver's advice not to go to Nuthanger Farm, and goes lame thereafter. Is it because he is striving with Frith?
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    Something I discovered the other day, but there is a play on words in the story: the Hebrew word for Jacob is y'kv. The word for struggle in Hebrew is y'vk, then the word Israel also means "struggles with God."
  • Add this to Ephesians 6, and it becomes clear that wrestling is a popular sport among angels!
  • yohan300yohan300 Shipmate
    I wonder if God makes a habit of this? Something to think about next time you're playing against a stranger and they're losing so accidentally trip you up or knock the chess board over.
  • LydaLyda Shipmate
    yohan300 wrote: »
    I wonder if God makes a habit of this? Something to think about next time you're playing against a stranger and they're losing so accidentally trip you up or knock the chess board over.

    Nah. Most likely it's a narcissist who can't bear to lose. Unless your opponent climbed down from the clouds on a ladder, I think you are safe.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    Lyda wrote: »
    yohan300 wrote: »
    I wonder if God makes a habit of this? Something to think about next time you're playing against a stranger and they're losing so accidentally trip you up or knock the chess board over.

    Nah. Most likely it's a narcissist who can't bear to lose. Unless your opponent climbed down from the clouds on a ladder, I think you are safe.

    Lyda--you are mixing up two separate stories. Jacob's Ladder is in Genesis 23. It also appears to be from the Elohist tradition. The fight with the man through the night is in Genesis 32 and is from the Yahwist tradition.
  • I think you missed the joke.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    I think you missed the joke.

    There was no winking emoji to suggest it was a joke.
  • LydaLyda Shipmate
    It was kind of a joke from someone who has identified herself as writing "all of this is from my non-Biblically trained brain".

    Sorry. I'll retreat now and leave the discussion to those who know what they are talking about.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    It was a perfectly good joke.
  • &*(**!!! Lyda, don't run off. We need you to leaven the deadly seriousness around here!
  • LydaLyda Shipmate
    Well, maybe I can pick up something about the Yahwist and the Elohist traditions while I wrack my brain for its limited jokes. And to remember to use the :wink: .
  • If that's mandatory I'm Doomed™. Ain't gonna do it.

    As for Yahwist and Elohist traditions, I have serious doubts about those and don't do them. They are clearly not a necessity if nobody's thrown me out of Keryg yet.
  • DooneDoone Shipmate
    If that's mandatory I'm Doomed™. Ain't gonna do it.

    As for Yahwist and Elohist traditions, I have serious doubts about those and don't do them. They are clearly not a necessity if nobody's thrown me out of Keryg yet.

    I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts about that, @Lamb Chopped, though, obviously, only if you’ve the time and inclination.
  • I don't mind. I expect to get shot at, but that's all right too.

    I come at this with a couple of different foundations (? oh dear, that sounds wrong) that leave me the oddball in such discussions.

    First of all, I've been a writer for about 35 years. I've written fiction and nonfiction, high academic prose and low advertising crap. I've written sermons and devotions, voice scripts, curricula, and the list goes on. And that gives me a view of texts from the creator's side that I suspect most biblical critics can't match.
    I also hold a doctorate in English (Renaissance period specialty) which means I've been pretty well exposed to the lit crit theories of the past and present, from Aristotle on. And a helluva lot of that stuff has bled over into Bible criticism. (It's a freaking easy way to find a dissertation topic--just grab the Latest and Greatest lit crit theory--which probably hasn't jumped the genre fence into biblical criticism yet--and apply it to a book of your choice. Watch the critics applaud!)
    Third, I'm a believer. Not from birth, I'm a convert, but I have seen the effects of the biblical text in my life and in other lives, and that inclines me to tread carefully. Rather like you'd do in a dynamite factory...

    So.

    (time to start a new post, methinks)
  • Okay. The whole JEDP stuff and its related theories and controversies. I give them full marks for noticing the various weirdnesses in the text--"hey! why are we suddenly switching to YHWH here, we were doing Elohim last week!" I'm a major fan of close reading. But where critics tend to fall down is when they start making sweeping conclusions about WHY the text has a particular weirdness. "Clearly this comes from a separate author!" Well, maybe. On the other hand, I notice in myself that I get on certain word "kicks" that go on for a while, and then I revert to an older pattern. Like having all the sentence prayers at the end of the daily devotions start with "Lord"--which I do unconsciously, until the day I flip over and they're all "Father" or "Jesus" or "Lord God" for a while. And it's even worse, because I tend to write texts like that out of order, so you'll get random blocks of "Lord" or "God" with interspersed bits of the opposite, and all it means is that I wrote the thing achronologically, and didn't notice the pattern.

    If I'm such a doofus, I suspect other writers can be, too. (and that includes oral composers--speakers?)

    This has been an extremely minor example of something that somebody, some day, might use to try to show that the Lenten devotions for 2021 were written by three different authors. (Let's say they add to it the fact that the introductory verses are significantly longer in some cases, which just happen to (mostly) line up with cases where I wrote "Lord" in the prayer. Purely by chance. Or maybe not so purely, because word count means that if I choose a larger introductory verse section, I must economize on words elsewhere, and "Lord" is a helluva lot shorter than "Dear God and Father of Mankind."

    I am aware that this is an extremely minor example, and that larger differences exist between the texts marked as J, E, D, and P, and the various bits of Isaiah, etc. I am not saying otherwise. What I am saying is that it is very, very risky to notice a textual feature and decide that you know how and why it came about--unless you can consult the author or otherwise possess hard evidence (e.g. a series of manuscript copies in various states). (Which, by the way, is what my dissertation was about--a good old five year exercise in filiating manuscripts and printed editions by internal evidence, tracing textual trees, and so forth. We even had a freaking Q document!)

    So I am VERY suspicious of anyone, biblical, classical, or otherwise, who imagines that on the basis of the text alone they can look backward in time and say that there were multiple authors, or that this bit was written before that bit, or that this text is clearly a response to that historical event. Even Tolkien did not escape from being supposed to be writing all about the atomic bomb with his One Ring. And sheer timing would tell you otherwise.

    C. S. Lewis, by the way, has said much the same thing as I've just done in his writings, having been very much annoyed by people pontificating about the way his texts came about--when he had personal knowledge of just how wrong they were. If people do this to a (then) living author, of roughly the same cultural background, and still fail, how much less likely are we to get it right when we try to do it to authors who are millennia removed from us?

    So no. IMHO the best way to deal with the text is to accept it for what it is, weirdnesses and all--to note those weirdnesses, but remain cautious about saying why they exist--and to get on with more fruitful endeavors (such as "What does this text have to say to us? Is there anything in its cultural milieu (via languages, archaeology, history) that might help me understand it better? What poetic devices is it using to get its message across? Why precisely do I enjoy this text so much (if I do)? Having read this, how then should we live?" and the like).
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    @Lamb Chopped you make an important point. FWIW, Robert Alter makes much the same point in his critique of text-critical approaches to the Tanakh. However, he adds an important context to his views -- that we have pretty much wrung whatever value we can out of this kind of approach to scripture already.
    ISTM the really important warning that emerges from JEPD and the like is that we are dealing with a text that has been manhandled by a lot of people over the years. It is still true that an awful lot of religious people treat every jot and tittle of scripture as a pristine communication from the Almighty, As long as that tendency persists, JEPD will provide a valuable service. Or so ISTM.
  • Well, now is anybody's chance to shoot at me. I am an inerrantist (of the originals, naturally). But thank you.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    tclune wrote: »
    ISTM the really important warning that emerges from JEPD and the like is that we are dealing with a text that has been manhandled by a lot of people over the years. It is still true that an awful lot of religious people treat every jot and tittle of scripture as a pristine communication from the Almighty, As long as that tendency persists, JEPD will provide a valuable service. Or so ISTM.
    I guess I don’t necessarily see that. If one is inclined to seeing scripture as a direct, inerrant communication from God (and @Lamb Chopped, I say that without intending any criticism of an inerrantist view), I think one can hold that view regardless of whether each book of the Bible had one author or is the result of editing and, as you call it, manhandling over the centuries. God can work through either.

    For my money, JEPD and similar hypotheses are interesting from a “how did we get the Bible?” standpoint, but I don’t see them as particularly helpful in understanding the story the Bible is telling. As I approach scripture, I see them as the writings/stories of a community, not of individual authors, and they’ve ended up where they have because of how the community has told the stories over time. So when I approach, say, the story of Jacob, I’m concerned with the story as we have it. Whether part of that story is ascribed Elohist origins while another part is assigned Yahwist origins is, to me, pretty irrelevant.

    But this is almost certainly veering into territory for another thread.

  • DooneDoone Shipmate
    Wow, thank you so much, @Lamb Chopped! I will need to read through what you’ve written a few times and think 🤔 a lot, as I’ve just accepted the ‘different authors’ position uncritically till now and certainly not studied it. I really appreciate you taking the time!
  • You're welcome! You see, they did the same thing but earlier in my own field (secular literature), with "Homer didn't write Homer" and all that weirdness, and a desire to dismantle Shakespeare or whomever. I think it's partly driven by a belief that no one person could be such a genius (but apparently a committee could? Sheesh), and also a great, crying need for dissertation topics. And of course it is always much, much easier to deconstruct (read: tear down, collapse the text, point out niggling inconsistencies, and so forth) than it is to build up (read: write or otherwise create a new piece of art that makes people fall on their butts in awe; alternately, provide a new and defensible reading of the text that is actually eye opening and enriches the reader's experience in a significant way.)

    Another way of putting this is, "Everyone wants to deconstruct Jeremiah and be seen as a revolutionary thinker, but nobody wants to spend five years identifying all the puns and geographical allusions for future scholars, even though that would be a truly useful piece of work to have around for centuries to come."

    Because lazy.

    Trust me, I was a grad student!

  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    Well, now is anybody's chance to shoot at me. I am an inerrantist (of the originals, naturally). But thank you.

    Blam! Blam! Blam!
  • Thus die I, thus, thus, thus.
    Now am I dead,
    Now am I fled;
    My soul is in the sky:
    Tongue, lose thy light;
    Moon take thy flight:


    Now die, die, die, die, die.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    I won’t claim @Lamb Chopped’s experience and expertise, but my research MA thesis (a modest 50,000 words) was a comparison between a Robert-Alter-style narrative-critical reading of a text, and a traditional historical-critical reading. What became clear was that the two approaches are not comfortable bedfellows.

    What traditional historical criticism had identified as unevenness in the text indicating a bringing together of different sources, the narrative approach would often see as the narrative technique of a skilled author, often using oral techniques which expect a text to be heard rather than read. There were not many areas where both explanations of the ‘unevenness’ were possible.

    My two further reservations about the traditional historical-critical approach were first that it tended to have unconvincing assumptions about how the text got into its final form.

    Either it was presumed that the disjuncts in the text were unnoticed by the compiler, just lying in wait for a sufficiently educated C19th or C20th westerner to find them. Or it was presumed that there was some kind of reverence for the underlying sources that didn’t prevent a major cut-and-paste job, but did prevent actually changing anything in the source text. So, it was as if the supposed compiler thought, I don’t mind cutting up bits of J and sticking them on to bits of E, but I draw the line at altering them in any other way.

    Secondly the traditional historical-critical approach has a bit of a tendency to leave one, metaphorically speaking with a handful of dead leaves. Various sources might be identified, but an overall meaning for the text disappears. Brevard Childs and others in the realm of canonical criticism are IMHO one of the responses to biblical criticism’s loss of the meaning of texts.
  • DooneDoone Shipmate
    Yes, actually, @Lamb Chopped, your reference to Shakespeare is very helpful to me, as I have done some reading about that and agree with your points. Is there a book you would recommend?
    I’m now also thinking about how oral traditions would have been affected / changed by being ‘translated’ into the written word.

  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    Lamb Chopped, I think you and I grew up in the same tradition. However, I had many issues with the inerrant view of Genesis. The inerrant view of Genesis just was not compatible with what science was saying, nor did many of the stories in Genesis seem to match up with themselves--take the story of the flood: did God order Noah to take a pair of every animal, or did God allow seven pairs of the "clean animals?" The reference to the clean animals would have come from a much later time in the history of the Bible if you think about it. Now, the real question is why did the two stories come together?

    Another mystery I am still working on is the story of Abraham and Issac. We know both of them went up the hill. We are told God intervened at the last moment to save Isaac, but why is it only Abraham is mentioned as coming down the hill?

    Now, in the case of Jacob and the Elohist version of the angels ascending and descending a ladder and the Yahwist story of the struggle in the night, I also wonder if they may be two versions of the same story, one being more peaceful, and the other one more violent. They have the same outcome. God blesses Jacob, with the Yahwist adding that Jacobs's new name is Israel. Then the question arises, why did the redactor of Genesis put the two together?
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    Lamb Chopped, I think you and I grew up in the same tradition. However, I had many issues with the inerrant view of Genesis. The inerrant view of Genesis just was not compatible with what science was saying, nor did many of the stories in Genesis seem to match up with themselves--take the story of the flood: did God order Noah to take a pair of every animal, or did God allow seven pairs of the "clean animals?" The reference to the clean animals would have come from a much later time in the history of the Bible if you think about it. Now, the real question is why did the two stories come together?

    Another mystery I am still working on is the story of Abraham and Issac. We know both of them went up the hill. We are told God intervened at the last moment to save Isaac, but why is it only Abraham is mentioned as coming down the hill?

    Now, in the case of Jacob and the Elohist version of the angels ascending and descending a ladder and the Yahwist story of the struggle in the night, I also wonder if they may be two versions of the same story, one being more peaceful, and the other one more violent. They have the same outcome. God blesses Jacob, with the Yahwist adding that Jacobs's new name is Israel. Then the question arises, why did the redactor of Genesis put the two together?

    Looking at your first question, I think a usually unaddressed issue in relation to the early chapters of Genesis is the question of genre. Basically if you read it as a historical or history-like narrative then you get tied in to a six-day creation. If you read it as something more like a theological parable you still receive the teaching of (inter alia) a God who brings the universe into being by his word, of a created order which is fundamentally good, and which is designedly hospitable to human life, and of human beings created in the image of God. You are not, however, having to wrestle with, for example, how day and night and light and darkness existed before sun, moon and stars.

    As far as Gen 22 is concerned ISTM that giving any kind of weight to the non-mention of Isaac is an over-reading of the text. The verse says
    So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beer-sheba; and Abraham lived at Beer-sheba.
    But we don’t (reasonably) ask if only Abraham is mentioned as living at Beer Sheba where did the young men go? We assume that they continued with Abraham in his household. In narrative terms the separate presence of Isaac on the way to the mountain has to be stated in the narration to set the scene for the conversation between him and Abraham, and to make it clear that Abraham has obeyed. Once the crisis is resolved Isaac’s return down the mountain is included in Abraham by a kind of metonymy.

    In the Jacob/Israel narrative Jacob’s two encounters with God are both in moments of peak vulnerability first as he leaves and second as he returns ‘home’. In the first encounter God promises to bless him, and Jacob’s promise in response is ‘If you bless me, I will…’. But then Jacob goes on and continues his tricky cheating way, as if God is not to be trusted (and meets a nearly equal trickster in Laban). In the second encounter Jacob’s determination to secure his own blessing, and his lack of trust in the promise are challenged by him being brought to a point of helplessness. This is the moment of the new name, and I’ve seen it argued that in narrative terms there’s a kind of Sméagol/Gollum thing going on after that where sometimes he is Jacob and sometimes Israel.

    Even if the varied use of YHWH and Elohim does indicate different clearly demarcated literary sources or oral traditions (and IMHO, the jury’s out on that), the person or people who put them together had something to say to us in the way they combined the sources and produced what we now have. Going back to the hypothetical sources leaves us with narrative fragments which may represent only parts of a larger text, and whose meaning or significance within that hypothetical text are now irrecoverable.
  • Doone wrote: »
    Yes, actually, @Lamb Chopped, your reference to Shakespeare is very helpful to me, as I have done some reading about that and agree with your points. Is there a book you would recommend?
    I’m now also thinking about how oral traditions would have been affected / changed by being ‘translated’ into the written word.

    Well, I tried to remember where I got the Lewis stuff (he has a huge corpus of work, which all runs together in my head at this point) and found this, his "Fernseed and Elephants" essay, which is not a bad place to start. https://normangeisler.com/fernseeds-elephants/ There are likely to be other places he addresses such issues, both for the Bible and for texts like Shakespeare, Homer, etc. (He was a Classics man who ended up writing the Oxford History of English Literature volume Poetry and Prose in the Sixteenth Century (Excluding Drama), so he's got expertise in both. I'd try the various collections of his essays that are out there.

    If you're interested in the way orality vs. literacy (or digitalism (?)) affects texts and authors, try Walter Ong, who has several books on the subject, including (of course) Orality and Literacy and also The Presence of the Word.

    One very important thing to remember (which is rather a "yeah, duh" moment for me) is that communities do not author texts; individuals do. In the end it comes down to one person opening his/her mouth, taking up his/her pen, sitting at his/her keyboard--and making decisions on how to tell a story. Texts simply do not "grow" organically, as a great deal of critical literature implies through its phrasing. Every change that is made, is made for a reason (either intentional or accidental). And THAT means that we have a fighting chance of understanding the text and what the author meant by it, simply by virtue of being fellow human beings. We may not belong to his/her time and culture, but we can learn as much as possible about that spot in space/time, and also draw on our own knowledge of human nature to help. That is sometimes shockingly illuminating--and other times, mundanely illuminating, but still, I'll take whatever I can get.
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    edited August 1
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    Lamb Chopped, I think you and I grew up in the same tradition.

    We may have attended the same church body for a while, but I did not grow up in a Christian tradition. I'm a convert. And that, mainly through reading the Bible in isolation from other Christians and their input. I came to the Missouri Synod with grave suspicions about what they were going to do with "my" book... :wink:
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    However, I had many issues with the inerrant view of Genesis. The inerrant view of Genesis just was not compatible with what science was saying, nor did many of the stories in Genesis seem to match up with themselves--take the story of the flood: did God order Noah to take a pair of every animal, or did God allow seven pairs of the "clean animals?" The reference to the clean animals would have come from a much later time in the history of the Bible if you think about it. Now, the real question is why did the two stories come together?

    Another mystery I am still working on is the story of Abraham and Issac. We know both of them went up the hill. We are told God intervened at the last moment to save Isaac, but why is it only Abraham is mentioned as coming down the hill?

    Now, in the case of Jacob and the Elohist version of the angels ascending and descending a ladder and the Yahwist story of the struggle in the night, I also wonder if they may be two versions of the same story, one being more peaceful, and the other one more violent. They have the same outcome. God blesses Jacob, with the Yahwist adding that Jacobs's new name is Israel. Then the question arises, why did the redactor of Genesis put the two together?

    I don't want to bore everybody by getting totally long-winded (you've already failed, LC!). So just a few points that help me to navigate such texts--

    First of all, whenever people claim that there are two conflicting stories in Genesis (or Mark, or what have you)--

    You've heard of an overview, haven't you? It is a really common technique in writing, TV, and teaching to go over a sequence of events in a very broad-strokes way, and then return and do a close-up focus on the bit you think needs more attention. Human beings do this all the time. I take the first (!) story of Creation to be the overview, and the second to be a close-up on a particular bit of it that concerns human beings most closely. (No doubt if we were trees, we'd get a "second" story that focused on details about dendrological creation.)
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    Lamb Chopped, I think you and I grew up in the same tradition. However, I had many issues with the inerrant view of Genesis. The inerrant view of Genesis just was not compatible with what science was saying, nor did many of the stories in Genesis seem to match up with themselves--take the story of the flood: did God order Noah to take a pair of every animal, or did God allow seven pairs of the "clean animals?" The reference to the clean animals would have come from a much later time in the history of the Bible if you think about it. Now, the real question is why did the two stories come together?

    Another mystery I am still working on is the story of Abraham and Issac. We know both of them went up the hill. We are told God intervened at the last moment to save Isaac, but why is it only Abraham is mentioned as coming down the hill?

    Now, in the case of Jacob and the Elohist version of the angels ascending and descending a ladder and the Yahwist story of the struggle in the night, I also wonder if they may be two versions of the same story, one being more peaceful, and the other one more violent. They have the same outcome. God blesses Jacob, with the Yahwist adding that Jacobs's new name is Israel. Then the question arises, why did the redactor of Genesis put the two together?

    I don't want to bore everybody by getting totally long-winded (you've already failed, LC!). So just a few points that help me to navigate such texts--

    First of all, whenever people claim that there are two conflicting stories in Genesis (or Mark, or what have you)--

    You've heard of an overview, haven't you? It is a really common technique in writing, TV, and teaching to go over a sequence of events in a very broad-strokes way, and then return and do a close-up focus on the bit you think needs more attention. Human beings do this all the time. I take the first (!) story to be the overview, and the second to be a close-up on a particular bit of it that concerns human beings most closely. (No doubt if we were trees, we'd get a "second" story that focused on details about dendrological creation.)

    The same technique explains the differences between "take two of every creature on board the Ark" and "take seven pairs of every clean animal". God gives the general direction that is going to apply to every kind of creature, but then he zooms down to deal with a small subset of creatures who are going to get special treatment. I do this with my son all the time. "I need you to load everything into the dishwasher, and make sure you get everything--I don't want to see any dirty dishes in the sink when I get home.... Don't forget that the good knives need to be washed by hand!" This is no contradiction, it is expanding on a detail. (And if my kid tried to sass me by pointing out that I'd already told him to load "everything" into the dishwasher, he'd get a yank on the ear and the recommendation not to be a smart ass.)

    Now, re Abraham--

    I assume you are referring to this bit in Genesis 22:19: "Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba." Consider: The exciting bit of the story is over. Surely it is very natural for the author to revert to his usual habit of naming the main character in his narrative as going somewhere, and trusting that the reader will mentally fill in the blanks?

    What I mean by this can be seen even in the second half of the verse--"And Abraham stayed in Beersheba." If we were to be utterly pedantic, we would insist on this being written "And Abraham and his family and his servants and his herds and flocks all stayed in Beersheba together." But nobody talks that way. It takes us way too much paper (or parchment) and it drives the reader/listener freaking bonkers.

    Of COURSE an Old Testament patriarch traveled with a large household. We have already been shown the members of that large household in Genesis, over and over and over again. Nobody imagines that 100-year-old-plus Abraham set out on his lonesome with a bedroll and a backpack to camp in Beersheba all by himself. Everybody knows here that "Abraham" is shorthand for "Abraham & Co."

    That being the case, it makes perfect sense that the previous bit of the verse "Then Abraham returned to his servants" includes Isaac, the donkey (if they had one), and so forth. There's no need to name Isaac, we've just had it made immensely clear that he survived Mount Moriah, and where else would he be now but with his Dad? Why waste paper (or breath) on such a detail?

    This is what I mean by considering human nature. Human beings have a tendency to talk in certain ways, to emphasize and omit details according to certain patterns, and while culture affects this to a certain degree, you can see the broad similarities across narratives from all human cultures. The rules are a) tell a story we can understand; b) tell a story we're actually interested in; c) give us enough detail that we stay understanding and interested; d) leave out anything that will bore us to tears; e) if it's going to be complicated, consider doing an overview first; f) if we're really, really interested in one tiny aspect of the big story, tell us more about it, maybe after dinner's over and we bring out the drinks.
  • BroJames wrote: »
    I won’t claim @Lamb Chopped’s experience and expertise, but my research MA thesis (a modest 50,000 words) was a comparison between a Robert-Alter-style narrative-critical reading of a text, and a traditional historical-critical reading. What became clear was that the two approaches are not comfortable bedfellows.

    What traditional historical criticism had identified as unevenness in the text indicating a bringing together of different sources, the narrative approach would often see as the narrative technique of a skilled author, often using oral techniques which expect a text to be heard rather than read. There were not many areas where both explanations of the ‘unevenness’ were possible.

    My two further reservations about the traditional historical-critical approach were first that it tended to have unconvincing assumptions about how the text got into its final form.

    Either it was presumed that the disjuncts in the text were unnoticed by the compiler, just lying in wait for a sufficiently educated C19th or C20th westerner to find them. Or it was presumed that there was some kind of reverence for the underlying sources that didn’t prevent a major cut-and-paste job, but did prevent actually changing anything in the source text. So, it was as if the supposed compiler thought, I don’t mind cutting up bits of J and sticking them on to bits of E, but I draw the line at altering them in any other way.

    Secondly the traditional historical-critical approach has a bit of a tendency to leave one, metaphorically speaking with a handful of dead leaves. Various sources might be identified, but an overall meaning for the text disappears. Brevard Childs and others in the realm of canonical criticism are IMHO one of the responses to biblical criticism’s loss of the meaning of texts.

    This is excellent, and I am so glad that people have addressed these issues. I got such a distaste for most (not all) literary criticism during my grad school years that I have avoided it where I can ever since. (Used to feel like a fool screaming in the wilderness while a certain nameless professor of mine laughed me to scorn for taking the text --in that case, Shakespeare--at all seriously. We were supposed to be far more interested in the rubble left over once the play had been collapsed.)
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    ...whenever people claim that there are two conflicting stories in Genesis (or Mark, or what have you)--

    You've heard of an overview, haven't you? It is a really common technique in writing, TV, and teaching to go over a sequence of events in a very broad-strokes way, and then return and do a close-up focus on the bit you think needs more attention. Human beings do this all the time. I take the first (!) story of Creation to be the overview, and the second to be a close-up on a particular bit of it that concerns human beings most closely. (No doubt if we were trees, we'd get a "second" story that focused on details about dendrological creation.)

    Of course, an overview is usually shorter than the detailed story. My favorite explanation of the two creation stories is from Philo of Alexandria (a Jewish neo-Platonist contemporary of Jesus.) He thought that the first story was how God envisioned creation and the second was what happened when God's idea was instantiated in matter.
  • BroJames wrote: »

    Looking at your first question, I think a usually unaddressed issue in relation to the early chapters of Genesis is the question of genre. Basically if you read it as a historical or history-like narrative then you get tied in to a six-day creation. If you read it as something more like a theological parable you still receive the teaching of (inter alia) a God who brings the universe into being by his word, of a created order which is fundamentally good, and which is designedly hospitable to human life, and of human beings created in the image of God. You are not, however, having to wrestle with, for example, how day and night and light and darkness existed before sun, moon and stars.

    I think there is a middle ground here. The text does indeed convey the teachings you talk about, and that's the main point, of course. But taking it as a narrative of what actually happened does not in fact tie you in to the comic-book version of a six-day creation. Indeed, on a close reading it cannot, as it's not possible to have 24-hour-days when the sun and moon are not yet created...

    For a text this distant from us, I try to make sure I come to it with massive heaping doses of humility and "I don't know" in tow. Because I don't. For example, I really like the fact that light is the first creation, and how beautifully that matches up with the Big Bang theory (because you'd expect light from an explosion, right?). But if the BBT goes under tomorrow, scientifically speaking, I don't want to be the person who's tied her biblical understanding to a toppled theory with an unbreakable knot. Better to say, "It looks like this to me," and let God correct me as needed.

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