Sex, gen si transgen – II

In prima parte a acestui subiect, o discutie inregistrata “live” cu Dl. Profesor Aurel Ionica, PhD, am amintit ca as fi dorit sa discutam mai detaliat problema identitatii sexuale si de gen la copiii de varsta pre-pubertatii, acest segment al populatiei fiind cel mai vulnerabil influentelor uneori nefaste din partea familiei, prietenilor, educatorilor, sau pastorilor. Acest deziderat nu a fost realizat in prima emisiune. Este adevarat ca problemele legate de sexualitate si identificarea individului in ce priveste propriul gen (o traducere stangace a ceea ce este numit “gender identity” in limba engleza) sunt complexe. Accentul pus de Dl. Ionica a fost pe aspectele conceptuale, indreptand atentia telespectatorilor la modul in care sunt intelesi termenii “sex” si “gen”. Odata ce discutia a pornit in aceasta directie, ideile noastre, fie in acord sau dezacord, s-au orientat catre intelegerea acelor concepte. Amanand pentru o ocazie viitoare o dezbatere mai larga a acelor chestiuni, care stau la baza polarizarii in diferite directii pe tema sexualitatii si genului, in acest articol doresc sa prezint rezultatele unui studiu amplu al acestui subiect realizat din perspectiva stiintelor biologiei, psihologiei si sociologiei, subiect care, in opinia mea, este neglijat in biserica din care fac parte, educatia membrilor bisericii fiind sub-minimala. Acest studiu a fost publicat intr-un articol de catre magazinul The New Atlantis in numarul trimestrial din toamna anului 2016, pe care il recomand tuturor celor care doresc sa inteleaga mai bine aceasta tema. Articolul este accesibil Online la https://www.thenewatlantis.com/docLib/20160819_TNA50SexualityandGender.pdf .

Pentru moment, voi prezenta traducerea Sumarului Executiv, realizat de Lawrence S. Mayer si Paul R. McHugh.

“Acest raport prezinta un sumar atent si o explicatie curenta a cercetarilor – din domeniile biologiei, psihologiei si stiintelor sociale – in legatura cu orientarea sexuala si identitatea de gen. El este oferit in speranta ca o astfel de prezentare poate contribui la capacitatea noastra ca medici, oameni de stiinta, si cetateni de a aborda problemele de sanatate cu care se confrunta populatia de tip LGBT in societatea noastra.

Cateva elemente principale:

Partea intai: Orientarea sexuala

  • Conceptia ca orientarea sexuala este o proprietate innascuta, fixa din punct de vedere biologic, a fiintelor umane – adica ideea ca oamenii se “nasc in acest fel” – nu este sprijinita pe evidente stiintifice.
  • Desi exista evidente ca factori biologici cum sunt genele si hormonii sunt asociati cu comportamentul si atractia sexuala, nu exista explicatii credibile de cauzalitate biologica in ce priveste orientarea sexuala. Desi anumite diferente cu privire la structura sau activitatea creierului intre persoanele heterosexuale si homosexuale au fost identificate de catre cercetatori, aceste rezultate neurobiologice nu demonstreaza ca aceste diferente sunt innascute, ci mai degraba sunt rezultatul unor factori psihologici si de mediu.
  • Studii longitudinale facute pe adolescenti sugereaza ca orientarea sexuala poate avea o anumita dinamica in viata unor persoane, unul din studii aproximand ca 80% din adolescentii masculi care au marturisit ca au avut atractii catre persoanele de acelas sex nu au mai avut aceste atractii cand au devenit maturi (desi masura in care aceste cifre reprezinta cu adevarat schimbarile cu privire la atractiile catre persoane de acelas sex, sau sunt doar artefacte ale procesului de intervievare, au fost contestate de unii cercetatori).
  • In comparatie cu persoanele heterosexuale, se pare ca persoanele non-heterosexuale au experimentat intr-o masura de doua sau trei ori mai mare abuzuri sexuale in copilarie.

Partea a doua: Sexualitatea, Sanatatea Mintala si Stresul Social

  • Comparativ cu restul populatiei, fractiunea populatiei non-heterosexuale se afla in situatii de risc elevat de a fi afectate negativ in ce priveste sanatatea corporala si mintala.
  • Membrii populatiei non-heterosexuale au un risc de aproximativ 1.5 mai mare de a experimenta tulburari de anxietate, si deasemenea o rata dubla de depresie, o rata de 1.5 mai mare de abuz de substante chimice, si aproape o rata de 2.5 mai mare de sinucideri fata de populatia heterosexuala.
  • Membrii populatiei transgender au risc chiar mai mare cu privire la o varietate de afectiuni fata de membrii populatiei non-transgender. Alarmant este mai ales faptul ca rata atentatelor de sinucidere, indiferent de varsta, la persoanele transgender este estimata la 41%, in comparatie cu sub 5% in cazul populatiei Statelelor Unite, in general.
  • Exista evidente, desi limitate, ca factorii de stres social cum ar fi discriminarea sau stigma contribuie la acest risc ridicat de conditii de sanatate subreda pentru populatiile non-heterosexuale si transgender.

Partea a treia: Identitatea de gen

  • Ipoteza ca identitatea de gen este o proprietate fixa, innascuta a fiintelor umane, care este independenta de sexul biologic – exprimata prin expresii de genul “un barbat incatusat intr-un trup de femeie”, sau “o femeie incatusata intr-un trup de barbat” – nu este sprijinita de evidente stiintifice.
  • Conform unei estimari recente, aproximativ 0.6% din populatia adulta a Statelor Unite considera ca apartin unui gen care nu corespunde sexului biologic cu care s-au nascut.
  • Studiile care au comparat structura creierului la indivizii transgen si non-transgen au demonstrat o corelatie foarte slaba intre structura creierului si identificarea ca transgen. Aceste corelatii nu ofera nici o evidenta cu privire la o baza neurologica pentru aceste identificari atipice.
  • In comparatie cu populatia generala, adultii care au procedat la operatii de schimbare a sexului continua sa aiba un risc major de sanatate mintala redusa. Unul din studii a aratat ca, in comparatie cu grupul de control, indivizii care au suferit operatii de schimbare a sexului sunt de 5 ori mai predispusi sa atenteze la sinucidere si de 19 ori mai predispusi la deces din cauza sinuciderilor.
  • Copiii sunt un caz special cu privire la identificarea ca transgen. Doar o minoritate dintre copiii care au experimentat o identificare ca transgen vor continua sa se identifice ca transgen cand ajung la varsta adolescentei sau maturitatii.
  • Exista prea putine evidente stiintifice cu privire la valoarea terapeutica a interventiilor care amana pubertatea sau care altereaza dezvoltarea caracteristicilor sexuale secundare ale adolescentilor, desi in cazul unor copii este posibil sa se observe o conditie psihologica imbunatatita daca sunt incurajati si li se acorda sprijin in identificarea lor ca transgen. Nu exista insa nici o evidenta pentru ideea ca toti copiii care exprima ganduri sau comportamente atipice genului ar trebui sa fie incurajati sa devina transgen.”

Intentionez sa revin pe tema indentitatii de gen la copii, un subiect care are trebui sa fie bine inteles de catre parinti. Consultarea medicului endocrinolog trebuie sa fie prima intervenție a părinților in a se alinia identitatea de gen a copiilor cu sexul lor biologic.

Sex, gen si transgen

Reforma protestanta – lumini si umbre

Creation – Thesis 6

In my previous article I mentioned that “to examine critically the doctrine of inspiration, especially by a lay member of the church, is looked upon with suspicion, if not anger, by theologians. For them, the main issue is authority. By claiming the authority of the Bible based on inspiration, they actually claim authority for themselves and for their opinions regarding spiritual matters as the ones who are the ‘professionals’ in the field”. The issue of authority is both a pressing and debilitating one for the church, as shown by George Knight’s recent article “Catholic or Adventist: The Ongoing Struggle Over Authority + 9.5 Theses”[1]  presented recently at the Unity 2017 Conference in London, England.  Dr. Knight says:

“Looking back at early Adventism, no one could have predicted that by mid-twentieth century Seventh-day Adventism would be the most highly structured denomination in the history of Christianity, with four levels of authority above the local congregation. The plain fact is that the earliest Adventists feared structured churches. And with good reason. That fear is nicely expressed in the October 1861 meeting that saw the establishment of the first local conference. Part of the discussion at that historic meeting had to do with developing a formal statement of belief. John Loughborough took the lead in the discussion and laid out five progressive points that nicely express the attitude of most of his audience.

  • “The first step of apostasy,” he noted, “is to get up a creed, telling us what we shall believe.
  • “The second is, to make that creed a test of fellowship.
  • “The third is to try members by that creed.
  • “The fourth to denounce as heretics those who do not believe that creed.
  • “And, fifth, to commence persecution against such.”[2]

Could it be that “The 28 Fundamental Beliefs” is nothing else than a “first step of apostasy”, a “creed, telling us what we shall believe”? When it comes to the issue of the Genesis creation, it surely looks like it since our arms are twisted into accepting the church’s views as stated in the 6th Fundamental Belief, which was modified and made more stringent at the 2015 session of the General Conference in San Antonio, TX. It states:

“God has revealed in Scripture the authentic and historical account of His creative activity. He created the universe, and in a recent six-day creation the Lord made “the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them” and rested on the seventh day. Thus He established the Sabbath as a perpetual memorial of the work He performed and completed during six literal days that together with the Sabbath constituted the same unit of time that we call a week today. The first man and woman were made in the image of God as the crowning work of Creation, given dominion over the world, and charged with responsibility to care for it. When the world was finished it was “very good,” declaring the glory of God. (Gen. 1-2; 5; 11; Exod. 20:8-11; Ps. 19:1-6; 33:6, 9; 104; Isa. 45:12, 18; Acts 17:24; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2; 11:3; Rev. 10:6; 14:7.)”

What follows is clearly my own position, which diverges from that of the church, and is based on my right, as a Protestant, to read and interpret the Bible using my own mind. Regarding the wording of the sixth Fundamental Belief I can say that, first of all, God did not write the Genesis “authentic and historical account of His creative activity”. Genesis is written by a human author sometime in the 1st or 2nd millennium BC who does not claim to had been shown this “account” in any kind of supernatural revelation, as later prophets of the Old Testament claim. Second, the language of the 6th belief is equivocal. Did God create the whole Universe in six days? Or just our solar system? And what exactly is meant by “the heavens” in the first verse, since the heavens were created in the second day? Third, there is nothing in the text of Genesis to suggest a “recent” creation. This idea of “recent” is based on Bishop James Ussher’s calculated chronology published in his 1658 work The Annals of the World iv. This chronology was included in an authorized version of the Bible printed in 1701, and since then it has been considered as authoritative as the Bible itself[3]. Are we to be confined to some 17th century theologian’s views? Thirdly, the Genesis narration does not say that “He established the Sabbath as a perpetual memorial of the work He performed”. The Sabbath is lacking “an evening and a morning” like the other days, and all is said about it is that “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because on it he ceased all the work that he had been doing in creation (NET trans). Lastly, the Genesis says nothing about the “six literal days that together with the Sabbath constituted the same unit of time that we call a week today”. The seven-day week has been used by Sumerians and Babylonians long time before the author of Genesis writes about it, therefore it is no wonder why he describes the work of creation being done in the same pattern of work and rest that humans used in most of the Mesopotamian valley. There are many more things to be said, therefore, I will bring here some additional information regarding the sources that support my thesis # 6, as it reads:

Thesis 6 – The narration of Genesis does not represent a historical and factual report of Creation, but a polemic device against the mythologies of Ancient Near East, namely Sumerian, Babylonian, and Egyptian.

The Bible presents us with two creation stories, somewhat different from each other. The first story is found in Genesis 1:1 – 2:3. The second story is in Genesis 2:4 – 2:24. Have you ever wonder why are there two creations stories in Genesis, or why are they different from each other? Have you pondered upon the meaning of things such as an Earth “without form and void”, or “the face of the deep”, or “the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters”? I have been interested in the stories of creation since my adolescence, however, only recently I discovered that many studies done in the last hundred years or so make the Creation story to be easily understood, therefore I am about to share some insights of my recent search for understanding.

Fundamentalists and American evangelical believers, in general, hold to a verbal inspiration of Scriptures, therefore they believe that the Genesis creation stories should be read and understood as a literal description of how the world was created, as if in a newspaper story or a TV documentary film showing what actually happened. For some, this has been a way to counteract the liberal theologies of the 19th and 20th centuries, perceived as a threat to the doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible. I do not doubt the good intentions of those who sincerely believe in a literal understanding of the Creation story. However, we need to admit that the great majority of fundamentalists are uneducated and ignorant regarding science. Even those who have higher degrees and have ever held teaching positions in various evangelical institutions, rejected, from a misunderstood allegiance to the Bible, clear, documented, facts of science if they contradicted the Bible. As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the retired theology professors I spoke with states that his preferred way of understanding the world is that of a “strict conformism”, meaning that he would only accept facts of science that align with a literal understanding of Genesis, otherwise they would be discarded. When I pointed to another active professor of the same institution that the Biblical writers understood the Earth as being flat and in the center of the cosmos, he admitted that. Indeed, he said, that was their understanding regarding the Earth, but “they never claimed to have been inspired by God to say that”, which begs the question: if the author of Genesis did not claim that God inspired him to render the Creation the way he did, why do we claim that he was inspired? I asked him, “what if, theoretically speaking, evolution proves to be true beyond any doubt, just like the Earth is proven now to be round, not flat as it has been believed by the writers of the Bible”? He answered, “even if evolution proves to be true, I will not accept it, because it would mean that I have to reject the Bible and its God because He lied to me in the Bible”. I told him that God did not lie to him or anyone else, since God did not write the Bible. “What if”, I asked him, ” you are just lying to yourself, since you believe that the only way to understand the Bible is your own way”? Indeed, Ellen White warned us that “as a people we are certainly in great danger, if we are not constantly guarded of considering our ideas, because long cherished, to be Bible doctrine and in every point infallible, and measuring everyone by the rule of our interpretation of Bible truth. This is our danger, and this would be the greatest evil that could ever come to us as a people.[4]

We ought to keep in mind that in our attempt to understand the Creation, we simply cannot look at the Genesis narrations by our 21st century understanding of the Cosmos, but we have to consider what the author had in mind, what message he wanted to convey by his text and how it was looked upon by the readers to whom it was addressed, namely the Jews coming out of the Egyptian slavery. Evidently, the Genesis author did not have a different knowledge regarding the Cosmos than what it was believed by those living at the time, as expressed in the mythologies of the Ancient Near East and especially the Egyptian cosmologies. If Moses is the writer of Genesis, as it is largely believed, it is amazing that most theologians, liberal and conservative alike, missed out on focusing on Egyptian mythology in order to realize the close parallels and also contradictions to it, as they appear not only in the first two chapters of Genesis, but throughout the Old Testament. The Genesis writer takes a clear and direct stand against the Egyptian mythology, therefore the Creation narrative is not a scientific description of how God created the world, but a literary theological polemic against the Ancient Near East mythologies and especially the Egyptian mythology.

Why did liberals and conservatives miss the “Genesis as polemic” view?

Gordon H. Johnston listed four reasons for which scholars were in the dark regarding the Egyptian mythology:

“Nearly a century ago two biblical scholars – A.H. Sayce and A.S. Yahuda – drew attention to parallels between Genesis 1 and Egyptian creation myths, which they claimed were tighter than the putative Mesopotamian parallels. However, their work fell on deaf ears for several reasons: (1) scholars’ fixation on the Mesopotamian materials, which were more widely known and accessible; (2) criti­cal assumptions that Genesis 1 should be classified as P, dated to the exilic or postexilic period, and assigned to a Babylonian prove­nance; (3) failure to take seriously the biblical tradition of Hebrew origins in the land of Egypt; and (4) general lack of familiarity with the Egyptian language and literature dealing with creation.”[5]

Indeed, after Wellhausen and his colleagues proposed the Documentary Hypothesis in the 19th and 20th centuries, the majority of liberal scholars adhered to the idea that Genesis as we have it now in our Bible, like other texts of the Old Testament, is an edited collection of various texts coming from various sources. While “many writers, one Bible” is an acceptable view of Scriptures, the Documentary Hypothesis viewed Genesis as an Exilic or post-Exilic text dated somewhere between the 3rd and the 6th centuries B.C.. This lead to a fixation of the scholars on the Babylonian mythology as the source from which the Genesis author borrowed, being known as the “Pan-Babylonian view”. As such, scholars tried to find parallels between Genesis and the Mesopotamian creation stories, especially after various clay tablets have been discovered with texts like The Epic of Gilgamesh (1872) and the Enuma elish (1875). The Egyptian mythology has been neglected almost entirely, even though various scholars studied its connections with Genesis.

On the other hand, conservative scholars missed the polemic aspect of Genesis due to their fixation on the dogmas of the biblical verbal inspiration, seen as a safe guard against the attacks on the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible coming from the liberal critics. They concentrated their efforts in dismissing the higher criticism, showing, like Gerhard F. Hasel did, that Genesis was not dependent on Mesopotamian mythology. Instead, they argued for a literal, historical interpretation as the only Biblical supported view. However, as I grew up in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, I have never heard a good explanation as to why we have two creation stories in Genesis (and other poetical references to creation in the Old Testament), which are different from each other. Also, nobody ever explained why are these stories so irrational if looked upon through our modern understanding of the world and Cosmos. Clearly, in my mind, the Genesis stories must have had something else to say rather than describing the making of our physical world in a literal sense. And so I continued to look, starting from our SDA sources, like the Biblical Research Institute (BRI) and the Adventist Theological Society (ATS).

The first articles that got my attention were Dr. Hasel’s articles “The Polemic Nature of the Genesis Cosmology[6] and “The Significance of Cosmology in Genesis 1 in Relation to Ancient Near Eastern Parallels[7] Then, I found Dr. Gordon H. Johnston’s article “Genesis 1 and Ancient Egyptian Creation Myths,”[8]These articles in turn provided for me other sources of Egyptian scholarship which helped me to understand the background against which the author of Genesis wrote and what his intentions were, meaning, to deconstruct, if I may use this expression, the Egyptian and ANE texts in order to deny the validity and prowess of Egyptian gods and to exalt the Hebrew god, Yahve-Elohim.

The Egyptian mythology and Genesis

Many of the Genesis terms and concepts used in Genesis 1 and 2 are found in Egyptian texts dated as early as the 26th century B.C., thus predating the times of Genesis by hundreds of years (this is already a blow to the idea of Genesis as a “special revelation”, idea promoted not by the author of Genesis, but by the fundamentalist scholars). The main question I am raising in this article is not whether Genesis is myth, because I do not believe it is, but whether it is a historical narrative of how God physically created the world or, rather, it is a theological polemic against the ANE mythologies and especially the Egyptian mythology written in a mythological language. I believe it to be the latter.

The Egyptian mythology is diverse, having many variants depending on the many civil and cultic centers where preference toward certain gods was the main criteria of distinction. There are more than twelve Egyptian mythological variants, but the most important are those centered in the great cities like, Hermopolis, Thebes, Heliopolis, and Memphis. There are four main texts belonging to these cultic centers and they can be arranged by the dates of their writing, such as:

  • Pyramid Texts, from the time of the Old Kingdom (ca. 2613 – 2345 B.C.)
  • Coffin Texts, from the Middle Kingdom (ca. 1991 – 1786 B.C.)
  • Book of the Dead, from the New Kingdom (ca. 1570 – 1220 B.C.)
  • Shabaka Stone, written at the order of king Shabaka (ca. 716 – 702 B.C.) with the intention of preserving a deteriorating text dating from the time of the Old Kingdom (ca. 2494 – 2345 B.C.)

As early as 1887, A.H. Sayce observed the parallels between Genesis and the Hermopolis mythology: the deep watery chaos, the spirit that moves over across the waters, the creation of light, or the appearance of land from the waters. A.S. Yahuda also observed in 1933 – 1934 the similarities between the old Egyptian texts and the first chapters of Genesis, highlighting the influence of Egyptian texts upon the Pentateuch. In 1982, Cyrus Gordon, an evangelical Egyptologist, noted the similarities between the mythology of Thebes, where Khnum, the “potter” god, creates mankind from clay, and the second creation story in Genesis 2, 4 – 24, and in 1983 James Hoffmeier wrote an article in which he emphasized the clear parallels between the Egyptian mythology and the Genesis accounts of creation, like the Cosmos condition before the creation, the first acts of creation, and the similarities regarding the creation of man. Egyptian mythologies use various names and roles for their gods and often times there are associations between these names and roles, as there are associations between the gods and the elements of nature. The role as Creator is attributed to the main deity of a particular center of worship. Atum and Re (or Ra) are associated with the Heliopolis mythology, Ptah is the main deity at Memphis, and Khnum is the potter creator god at Thebes. However, these mythologies (except the Thebes one) present a pretty similar story, as follows.

  • There is an undifferentiated chaos, a primordial ocean personified as the god Nun.
  • From this ocean (Nun), the god Atum (in other versions Re, or Ptah) appears by self-creation. He is the creator of other gods and the world.
  • When Atum (Re, Ptah) appears from the waters (Nun), his first manifestation is a supernatural light.
  • Also from waters (Nun) appears a hill, a dry land on which Atum (Re, Ptah) will perform his creative acts.
  • Atum creates the first generation of gods, personifications of elements of nature, from his saliva or semen, Ptah creates by word (the Memphite mythology says that Ptah created Re/Ra), Khnum creates at the potter’s wheel.
  • The climax of creation is the creation of the Sun god Amun-Re.
  • At the end of creation, which lasts one day, the creator god (Atum/Re/Ptah) rests in satisfaction.
  • Every morning a new creation cycle starts at sunrise.

The purpose and space of this post does not allow going too much in depth regarding the Egyptian mythologies. It is noteworthy, however, to observe that while the humans creation is mentioned only tangentially in most Egyptian creation stories, which deal mainly with the creation of gods and the Cosmos, in the Thebes’ tradition, Khnum, the potter god, creates man from clay and his wife, goddess Heket, breathes life upon the clay silhouette, which becomes a living being.

Below is a comparison chart that shows structural parallels between the Memphite mythology and the Genesis 1 account, as noted by Gordon Johnston.

Memphis – Shabaka Stone – Mythology Genesis 1 Account
There is a pre-existing, primordial ocean, an undifferentiated watery chaos. God is pre-existing. He creates Heavens and Earth, and Earth is a watery chaos.
Breath/wind (Amun) moves on the waters. The Spirit of God moves over the waters.
Word of Ptah creates god Atum (light). Word of God creates light.
Emergence of primordial hill “in midst of Nun” Creation of the firmament “in the midst of the waters”.
Procreation of Shu (god of the sky) when Nun was raised over earth. Creation of sky when waters were raised above the firmament.
Formation of heavenly ocean (Nut) by separation. Formation of heavenly ocean when waters were separated.
Formation of dry ground (Geb) by separation. Formation of dry ground when waters were gathered.
Earth sprouts plants, fish, birds, reptiles, animals. Creation of plants…later fish, birds, reptiles, animals.
Sun created as the image of Re to rule the world. Sun and moon created to rule the day and night.
Creation of gods’ statues, cult sites, food offerings. Creation of man as divine image, food to eat, dominion.
Ptah completes activity and “rests” in satisfaction. God completes activity and “rests” in satisfaction.

As stated above, the fact that the Egyptian texts are in fact much older than the Book of Genesis, older than the Flood itself, as understood by fundamentalists who believe that the Earth is about 6000 years old and that the Flood occurred in year 2348 BC, leads us to a rather rational explanation that the Genesis author has never been given a “special revelation” of the Creation. Instead, he was aware of the previous texts and mythologies of the Ancient Near East, Egypt’s included, and engaged in a direct polemic and refutation of the polytheistic view of gods, promoting Yahve the only true God as the Creator of the world.

Polemic Points

  • Yahweh is not like the Egyptian gods, who are made of, or appear from, matter; he is pre-existent, self-sustaining, and Creator of all there is.
  • Light is not a manifestation, or dependent, of a god, but it is a natural element created by God for a purpose. (I have heard fundamentalists explain that during the first three days of creation, before the sun was created, “an evening and a morning” had to do with God lighting up the world. This is a wrong, unbiblical concept, because Genesis is speaking on purpose against the idea that light comes from deity, from gods).
  • There is not a struggle between Yahweh and the primordial matter, between Yahweh and Tehom, as there is a struggle between Marduk and Tiamat in the Babylonian mythology, whom Marduk kills in battle and, from her body, he makes heaven and earth. Yahweh creates matter effortlessly and creation is harmonious.
  • While in the Egyptian mythology the climax of creation is the creation of the Sun in the image of Re, in Genesis the climax is the creation of man after Yahweh’s image. The Sun and the Moon are not even mentioned by name, but they are called “luminaries”, or “a greater light for the day, and a lesser light for the night”, made to help number the days, and years, and seasons.
  • While in the Egyptian mythology Khnum can only make humans on the potter’s wheel and he needs his wife, Heket, to give humans the breath of life, Yahweh is superior and does it all by Himself, He is not dependent on helpers.
  • While the creation cycle is repeated every day in the Egyptian mythology, in Genesis creation is described by the long established pattern of working six days and ceasing on the seventh, a cycle that does not repeat every week, because the creation of Yahweh is “very good” and complete. (The issue of the seven-day week and the Sabbath will be discussed on the next article).

In closing, there are too many parallels between the Egyptian mythology and the Genesis rendering of creation to consider them just accidental and unrelated. At the same time, there are clear differences that “speak” volumes in terms of what the Genesis author’s intentions were. These descriptions of origins, whether Egyptian or ANE mythologies, and the Genesis have nothing to tell us regarding how the physical world came into being. We know today a lot more about the Cosmos and our world than ever before. It is quite clear that the Genesis author “borrowed” from the existing stories and transformed them into stories compatible with an orthodox Yahwistic theology. He is interested in theological and ideological “right” or “wrong” of things rather than the scientific explanations of origins. Understanding his intentions and how the readers of his time understood the Genesis text help us to be balanced and be more restrained when tempted to advance scenarios of origins that are easily contradicted and discarded by modern science. We need to accept our limitations in knowledge and not pretend to know what God had never revealed. Also, we better let God defend Himself rather than defending Him with lies. Instead, let us be open to the mysteries yet to be discovered about life and the role we have in the great scheme of things.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

[1] Knight, George R., “Catholic or Adventist: The Ongoing Struggle Over Authority + 9.5 Theses”, Online at https://adventistunity2017.files.wordpress.com/2017/06/historical-perspectives-on-ad-view-of-authority-knight.pdf

[2] Idem 1.

[3] Simanek Donald, “Bishop Ussher Dates the World: 4004 BC”, available online at https://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/ussher.htm

[4] E. G. White, “Light in God’s Word,” MS 37, 1890.

[5] Johnston, Gordon H. “Genesis 1 and Ancient Egyptian Creation Myths,” Bibliotheca Sacra 165, no. 2 (April-June 2008): 179.

[6] Hasel, Gerhard F., “The Polemical Nature of the Genesis Cosmology”, accessed online at https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/eq/1974-2_081.pdf on 06/05/2017.

[7] Hasel, Gerhard F., “The Significance of the Cosmology in Genesis 1 in Relation to Ancient near Eastern Parallels”, accessed online at http://digitalcommons.andrews.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1216&context=auss on 06/12/2017.

[8] Idem 5.

Moise si ideologia puterii – 12

Moise si ideologia puterii – 11

Moise si ideologia puterii – 10

Moise si ideologia puterii – 9

Intermezzo – Magarul lui Avraam

Moise si ideologia puterii – 8

Moise si ideologia puterii – 7

Moise si ideologia puterii – 6

Moise si ideologia puterii – 5

Moise si ideologia puterii – 4

Moise si ideologia puterii – 3

Moise si ideologia puterii – 2

Moise si ideologia puterii – 1

Creatia in Geneza – o polemica teologica

Creation – Thesis 5

While the first four statements on Creation may be easily accepted by most Christians, conservative and liberals alike, in the following articles, 5 through 10, I will tread on dangerous waters, so to speak, because we will be dealing with the exegesis and hermeneutics of the Bible and especially with the Book of Genesis. I am aware that touching on the interpretation of Genesis may prove to be a difficult task, not only because of the condensed format and content of the text itself, but also because of the staunch allegiance to various interpretations people have come to adopt, be it by self-study or by accepting others views on the topic. It is not my intention to offend anyone’s beliefs, but only to look at the Genesis creation account in the light of its cultural background and also the scientific evidence we have at this time. Before we look closely at Genesis, thesis 5 says something about the Bible in general.

Thesis 5 – We understand the Bible as a human enterprise and search for God, an interface that allows us to draw closer to God and understand His love. The Bible is not dictated by God and is not inerrant and absolute.

It may look, at surface, that these statements deny the Revelation of God in the Bible, but there is no such intention here. As a matter of fact, the delay in publishing this article had to do with the fact I took extra amounts of time for research. Also, I engaged in conversations with two professors of the Adventist Theological Institute in Bucharest, Romania, posing questions and waiting for answers. Some answers are still missing, perhaps because I was too bold in asking the questions, but my hope has been for an open dialogue in an academic manner in search for truth.

The Bible is the sacred text for Christians. It includes the Hebrew sacred text, the TaNaKh (Torrah, Prophets, and Writings) known as the Old Testament, and the New Testament, which is a collection of writings from the first century A.D. When I say that the Bible is a human enterprise, I mean that the entire process, the writing, the copying, the recopying, the selection and compilation of the books to be included in the Bible, all these have been acts of humans. God did not dictate any of the portions of the Bible and God did not choose the canon of the Bible we have in our hands. The great assumption made by theologians is that “the Bible is the inspired Word of God”, but once you say that, a floodgate of contradictions come out of various interpretations of what exactly is meant by “inspiration”.

Terminology

As Gerhard Pfandl mentioned in a brief article, ” because the Bible does not develop a full theory of inspiration, various views have arisen in regard to the nature of inspiration”. Pfandl, a retired Associate Director of The Biblical Research Institute, identifies five kinds of inspiration:

  1. The Intuition Theory – defines inspiration as a heightened degree of insight. The Biblical authors were religious geniuses but in principle not different from other great thinkers, such as Plato, Buddha, or Mohammed.
  2. The Illumination Theory – allows for the working of the Holy Spirit, but only in heightening the biblical authors’ natural abilities. There is no special communication of truth, but merely a deeper perception of spiritual matters.
  3. The Plenary or Dynamic Theory – has the Spirit of God imbuing the writers with the thoughts and concepts they are to pass on. This view allows the writer’s own personality to come to play in the choice of words and expressions.
  4. The Verbal Inspiration Theory – the Holy Spirit supplies not only the thoughts but also the words and expressions, albeit from the writer’s own vocabulary and background.
  5. The Dictation Theory – teaches that the Holy Spirit actually dictated the biblical books to the various writers.

Another SDA theologian, Alberto R. Timm, Director of the Brazilian Ellen G. White Research Center, gives a historical account on the development of the inspiration doctrine in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In an article published on the Adventist Theological Society, he asserts that:

Terminology employed in discussing the nature of biblical inspiration is often confusing. Such technical expressions as mechanical inspiration, verbal inspiration, plenary inspiration, and thought inspiration have at times carried different meanings. Because of the various shades of meaning, it is important to be aware of the basic understanding of those terms.

Thus, mechanical inspiration is usually associated with the theory that all the words of Scripture, even down to the Hebrew vowel points, were actually dictated by the Holy Spirit. This theory virtually negates the human element of Scripture.

Verbal inspiration normally is understood by its advocates to mean the Holy Spirit guided the writers not only in receiving a divine message but also in communicating it, without completely eliminating the personality and the style of the writers. The emphasis, however, is on the end-product of the whole inspiration process, namely, on the words of Scripture.

The term plenary inspiration points out that Scripture in its entirety is inspired, making no distinction between alleged inspired and non-inspired words. Some authors prefer this term in order to distinguish their position from any mechanical understanding of inspiration, which may at times be associated with the term verbal inspiration.

Lastly, thought inspiration is proposed by others to indicate that it is the writer who is inspired, the Holy Spirit thereby transmitting God’s thoughts to the writer, who then chooses the proper words to express those thoughts under the continued guidance of the Spirit.

Misunderstanding the issue

To examine critically the doctrine of inspiration, especially by a lay member of the church, is looked upon with suspicion, if not anger, by theologians. For them, the main issue is authority. By claiming the authority of the Bible based on inspiration, they actually claim authority for themselves, for their opinions regarding spiritual matters as ones who are the “professionals” in the field. The accusation, coming often in the form of a question such as “Who are you to place human reason above the revealed Word of God?”, implies that such an examination must necessarily comes from rationalism, understood not in its epistemological meaning as a methodology which employs reason as source and test of knowledge, but in its reductionist meaning of a worldview centered on secularism and atheism.

My position is that we cannot understand the Bible except by using our reason, and I believe this is supported by the Bible itself:  1 John 4,1-3; Matthew 7,15-17; Deuteronomy 18,21-22; Deuteronomy 13,1-3, etc.. are just a few texts among many others from which we learn that it is our duty to “test” the teachings of anyone even when signs are given and they are fulfilled, because true knowledge only comes from using our rationality.

Historical context

Understanding the Bible implies understanding that the Bible did not come in a cultural or historical vacuum, all the books of the Bible being ancient writings. Another fact is that most of the ancient writings, even those older than the Bible, are talking about gods who have relations with humans and communicate with humans. Most of the ideas we find in the Bible are also found in mythologies of the cultures of the Mesopotamian Basin. Leaving aside the ideas about the origins, which I will examine later in the following theses 6-10, I will mention here just a few that have to do with the ideas that gods communicated with humans and vice-versa.

  • In the Epic of Gilgamesh, containing information from tablets as old as 2100 B.C., the god Enki, or Ea, as it is known later in Akkadian or Babylonian mythology, communicates to Utnapishtim  (Noah in Genesis) that the gods decided to destroy the world by a flood and advised Utnapishtim to make a ship in which he could save himself, his family, friends, and animals from the upcoming deluge.
  • Hesiod, one of the great authors of Greek mythology, said that it was the muses, which he identifies as the daughters of Zeus, who “inspired” him to write.
  • The Oracle of Delphi is said to tell the future to those who inquired about it. The Oracle was the prophetess named Pythia, the messenger of the god Apollo, and her predictions, called “oracles”, were always coming to fulfillment. In some of the English translations of the New Testament, the words of the Scriptures are called “the oracles of God”.
  • The ancient literature is filled with supernatural stories, with predictions about the future coming from gods, with temples of various gods in most of the cities and visionaries, prophets and future-telling mediums who transmitted the will of gods to humans.

Another very ancient idea circulating in the area where the Biblical writers lived was that the humans cannot see the reality of gods majesty.

  • Enki speaks to Utnapishtim through a wall that separates them.
  • Zeus, when he falls in love with Semele, a mortal woman who, after sacrificing a bull on his altar, went on to wash herself in a river, came to visit her as an eagle. Hera, his wife, planned to destroy his affair and showed herself to Semele as an old woman, became friends with Semele, and when Semele confided in her that Zeus was visiting her, taught her to put Zeus to a test and ask that he showed himself to Semele in all his glory. When, later on, Zeus does this, Semele is consumed by fire.
  • In the Old Testament we find this idea in the “Burning Bush” of Moses, and the fact that God refused to show Himself in His glory.

The ancient people understood that gods reveal themselves to humans in various forms. Lucilius Balbus, a stoic mentioned by Cicero, said that:

  • God may reveal himself directly to humans, or
  • The goodness of nature, on which humans depended for their life and happiness, is a manifestation of God, or
  • The brutal calamities of nature, earthquakes, thunders, tsunamis, are also means of God manifestation of his anger, or
  • Contemplation of the Universe by philosophers like Seneca may help oneself realize the divine origin of one’s soul and prepare one for understanding the spiritual realities and communication with the deity.

While philosophers were the privileged ones, the plain, normal people would need to seek the advise from these wise men who could communicate with the gods. Since gods were understood mostly as being benevolent toward humans, the advise received from gods was to be regarded with trust and obedience, otherwise a punishment was on the way. Humans have been attempting to consult the gods from the earliest times, as this is demonstrated by traditions of Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Hebrews, Greeks, Romans and many others. Besides dreams and prophets, spoken of in large measure by all Mesopotamian traditions, there were also divination objects, like the Tablet of Destiny (Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian), which in many ways can be compared to the Urim and Thummim stones mentioned in the Bible (Samuel), through which it was said that the will of gods was manifested. Also. in the New Testament, we find that in order to replace Judas Iscariot, the apostles chose Mathias by casting lots, understood as a means by which God’s will can be known.

Another long-held tradition among both Hebrews and Gentiles was that nothing has happened or would happen without God predicting the future to His prophets. Thus, the ancient literature is permeated by stories of predictions that preceded various events of history, like the end of the world, the fall of Jerusalem, the assassinations of Julius Caesar or Domitian, and many others. Christians took over from the Jews predictions about the end of the world, as we find in Mark 13, or Acts 2, 17-21 where Peter mentions ideas from Joel 2, 28-31.

It is such a world as described briefly above that the Biblical writers write their stories. In the OT YHWH revealed Himself rarely and only toward few people: Abraham (Gen. 12:6–7; 17:1–2), Isaac (Gen. 26:24), Jacob (Gen. 35:9–10; 48:3–4; cf. Ex. 6:3), Moses (Ex. 3:2ff., 16–17), Manoah and his wife (Judg. 13:21–22), and Solomon (I Kings 3:5ff.; 9:2ff.). At the same time, consulting of oracles was prohibited as seen in Isaiah 8,19; Hosea 4,12; and Habakkuk 2,18. Often times we find that Biblical writers claim to have been told by God what to write, like in the Old Testament  (Exodus 25,1; 2 Samuel 23,2; Ezekiel 32,1; etc.).  In the New Testament we find reaffirmations of the inspiration of Scriptures (meaning the Old Testament) by Paul (2 Timothy 3,16) or Peter (2 Peter 1,21), and also it is implied that the readers or hearers believed that the New Testament writers were also inspired (1 Thessalonians 2,13; 1 Corinthians 2,13). Clearly, the Bible was not dictated by God and therefore the Bible is not inerrant nor absolute. Is the Biblical text inspired by God? And if it is inspired, to what extent is it inspired and in what manner? We must admit that we don’t know for sure. Paul says “All Scripture” but he can only refer to the Old Testament since the New Testament was not compiled yet. To those who study history it becomes clear that the writers’ narratives were influenced by the traditions of other people. At the same time, the Biblical writers offer a replica to the ancient stories, a polemic against the mythologies prevalent around them. While I do not intend to diminish the possibility of God revealing Himself to writers or prophets of the Bible, this is an issue that cannot be proven in an objective, scientific manner. As one of the professors mentioned above stated during a debate on the issue of inspiration, it is ultimately a decision left to the reader to believe that the Bible was or not inspired by God (he obviously believed that it was). As for me, as I already stated before, it does not help me in any way that someone tells me “the Bible is inspired by God”, because in order to understand the message, all I have, and all I need actually, is the text itself. Understanding the conditions under which that text was written and the reasons for which it was written, makes the difference between understanding or misunderstanding the message of the Bible.

How does our church understands or presents the doctrine of inspiration?

Our church inherited the Protestant views on inspiration. Fighting against the fourfold sense of Scripture adopted in the medieval times (allegory, anagogy, tropology, and literal), which is still upheld in the Roman Catholic church, the reformers of the 16th century affirmed that the only true sense of Scripture is its literal sense resulting from a plain reading of the text. The attention has been turned back to the Bible only in order to understand the truths revealed within. No outside sources of meaning or keys for interpretation should be employed, whether the Pope, the church councils, philosophy, or other human authority. This has been known in hermeneutics as the “historico-grammatical method” of interpretation.

As Alberto R. Timm has shown in the articles he wrote under the theme “Adventist Views on Inspiration”, here, and here, and here, during our 150 years of history, the issue of inspiration has never been settled among Seventh-day Adventists, but rather has been a controversial issue. Perhaps it cannot be otherwise, counting the fact that this doctrine has been built upon concepts coming from mythology, Hellenism, Judaism, christianity, enlightenment and positivism, whether realizing it or not. In the beginning of our church history predominated the verbal inspiration. When the Testimonies were submitted for revision in 1883 and the Great Controversy edited in 1910-1911, the thought inspiration was put forth in opposition to the verbal inspiration. Later on, after E.G. White’s death in 1915 and under attack from Modernists who challenged the historicity of the narration of the creation in Genesis and generally of the supernatural acts in the Bible, the tendency was to cling back to a verbal view on inspiration as a solid ground on which to defend the ideas of the infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible. But events of 1919, like the Evangelical Conference on Fundamental Beliefs of Philadelphia, the D.M. Canright’s critical book “The Life of Mrs. Ellen G. White” and the SDA Biblical Conference held between 1-21 July, fueled renewed animosities regarding the  inspiration doctrine. Thus, a special Conference of Bible and History Teachers was held between 31 July – 1 August 1919 chaired by Arthur G. Danniels, that tried without success to unify our theologians and administrators views on inspiration. Falling back toward Fundamentalism, the main view on inspiration until the 1950’s was the verbal inspiration.

Between 1950-1970, a trend towards the Encounter Theory of Inspiration is supported by Frederick E. J. Harder, who in his Doctoral dissertation tried to include Emil Brunner’s views on the personal aspect of inspiration, which seemed to depart from the “special revelation” aspect, and also by Jack W. Provonsha, professor of Christian Ethics at the Loma Linda University. In 1966, in the Adventist Encyclopedia, an entry on Biblical Inspiration states that Adventists do not believe in verbal inspiration, as usually understood, but rather on what was called Thought Inspiration. With verbal, thought, and encounter views on inspiration in the mix, theologians like Roy Branson, Herold Weiss, John C. Brunt, and Larry G, Herr adopt a “revisionist” approach to inspiration, using the historico-critical method of interpretation, which has been met with criticism from other theologians like Edward Zinke and Gerhard F. Hasel. Alarmed by the direction in which the controversies would take the church, the Annual Council of the General Conference adopted a document called “Methods of Bible Study”, which forbade the use of the historico-critical method by Adventists. However, in 1991, Alden Thompson, a professor of biblical studies at Walla Walla College, printed his book “Inspiration: Hard Questions, Honest Answers”, in which he emphasized the role of human reason in dealing with the Scriptures, a view that was criticized by various Adventist theologians, especially those of the Adventist Theological Society, who charged that Thompson was based only on partial readings of the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy and that was done from a historico-critical perspective, which the 1986 document of GC deemed “unacceptable”.

In 1993, Fernando Canale, professor of systematic theology at the Andrews University, proposes a “new approach” to the issue of inspiration, based on an understanding of God and His acts from a Biblical perspective rather from Greek philosophical views, meaning that we should understand God from a temporal-historical conception of God’s being and actions, not a God who acted within a timeless realm, thus rendering an inspired Scripture whose theological teachings also belong to a timeless realm, from which it follows that the historical side of Scripture belongs not to the divine but rather to the human condition needed for the expression of its truths, or in other words, the Scripture is “historically conditioned”. Canale proposes that God acted within history, thus the Scripture is “historically constituted”. Further moves toward fundamentalism come in 1995 from Robert S. Folkenberg, then president of the GC, and Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, then a doctoral student at Andrews University. George R. Knight, who was a professor of church history, criticized Pipim for still believing in the “inerrancy and verbalism”. Ironically, both Folkenberg and Pipim proved later to be detrimental to the church’s reputation due to their outrageous actions. Enough said on that. Knight views on inspiration were that a) the inspiration is not infallible, inerrant, or verbal, b) that several factual mistakes can be found  in the inspired writings, and c) that those writings are infallible only as a guide to salvation. Furthermore, the concept of models of inspiration was built upon in 1996 by Juan Carlos Viera,  director of the Ellen G. White Estate, in his Adventist Review article entitled “The Dynamics of Inspiration”, which in my opinion continued the work of multiplying the ambiguities in the models of inspiration he proposed.

It would not be fair to not mention at least Raymond Cottrell’s support for a historically conditioned perspective on inspiration, printed on a paper titled “Inspiration and Authority of the Bible in Relation to Phenomena of the Natural World”, submitted in 1985 at the revisionist Conference on Biology and the Biblical Record. I will examine this paper in more detail in the following theses dealings with the issues of the Creation narrative of Genesis. Suffice to mention that the paper was published in print only in 2000, as a chapter of said Conference’s symposium, titled “Creation Reconsidered” (smile), a title I can relate to fully.

In conclusion, I find that the SDA’s concepts of “thought inspiration”, “author’s inspiration”, “propositional revelation’, etc. are only meant to avoid the criticism allotted to the doctrine of verbal inspiration, which is known to be untenable, while in practice they are still translated into a literal reading and interpretation of the Genesis account of Creation, enforced at present by our fundamentalist leadership. Were we to start, in trying to understand the Creation, from the New Testament and not from the Old Testament, as Emil Brunner advises, we would begin to unravel the mystery of God’s Creation outside the chains of literal reading. Unfortunately, Seventh-day Adventists adopted a literal, fundamentalist  interpretation of Genesis, which is not only counter-intuitive, but altogether obsolete. However, claiming divine inspiration of the Word cannot make up for the pitfalls in which a literal interpretation of Genesis will lead. The Protestant Principle, including the notion of Sola Scriptura, described by Huston Smith in the following words (the bold is mine) is today’s article conclusion:

Stated philosophically, it warns against absolutizing the relative. Stated theologically, it warns against idolatry. The chief Protestant idolatry has been Bibliolatry. Protestants do believe that God speaks to people through the Bible as in no other way. But to elevate it as a book to a point above criticism, to insist that every word and letter was dictated directly by God and so can contain no historical, scientific, or other inaccuracies, is again to forget that in entering the world, God’s word must speak through human minds.

 

Toiagul si nuiaua inspiratiei – 2