I love opinionated non-PC people. This blog is to vent my opinions on life, the universe and everything. Which is 42 which in gematria is "My Heart" (LBY) according to Rabbi Abulafia. The Divine Heart is the centre of everything.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Israel’s Cosmological Stories: A Hebrew Catholic Opinion

Gilgamesh mourns Enkidu

Each person reading the text of Genesis will have their own ideas based on their background and worldview about Israel's cosmological origin stories. One could choose to parrot the understanding of a certain consensus of biblical scholars or some other form of totalising philosophical or theological structure, ideology or grouping.  I personally find the ideas of Levinas on intimate face to face encounter of the other to be a truly Hebraic way of reflecting on these Hebrew origins stories. The concept of face to face encounter is found in Genesis with the encounter of the masculine face upon the deep and the feminine face upon the waters (with bridal imagery) (Gen.1:2) and later in the text the masculine face upon the expanse (rakia) (Gen 1:20) and the feminine face upon the earth (with fruitful conjugal imagery) (Gen.1:29).  

Genesis 1 stresses the ethical concept of goodness (And it was Good), and thus God (Elohim) is perceived as a good and loving Creator that encounters or rendezvous with his creation. This encounter of the faces creates the ‘makom’ or meeting place (see Gen.1:9) which is also reflected by God strolling in the terrestrial garden in the cool or spirit of the day in order to intimately encounter human beings (Gen.3:8). These cosmological stories of the Hebrew people tell of how this intimate relationship of God, human beings and the earth was ruptured but not totally destroyed, with God still initiating encounters with broken and wounded humanity. In these encounters God (Elohim) reveals that God is Y-H-V-H the one that descends with fatherly Chesed (lovingkindess, mercy) which after the Fall manifests as motherly Rachamim (compassionate mercy).

While the Enuma Elish, the Epic of Gilgamesh and other non-Hebrew cosmological stories demonstrate a common origin experience and even similar literary conventions, according to some scholars, they are radically different in their understanding of the Divine and its encounter with man and the earth. These stories divide the divinity into a number of rather petulant Gods who are very like fallen humanity itself. Rather than an intimate loving encounter we read of a competitive, totalitarian and utilitarian relationship between the Gods, human beings and the earth. The non-Hebrew accounts are rather fascinating, engaging and potent with rich imagery from a purely literary or storytelling perspective. In their own way they also reveal the rich panorama of human experience and its desires and motivations.

The concept of ex nihilo, found in the Abrahamic faiths based on Genesis, is an important difference with the other pagan Near Eastern faiths. The creation of humanity from pre-existing substances is also found in these non-Hebrew accounts. There are scholars that believe that the Enuma Elish draws on Genesis and not the other way round as believed by other scholars. Even those scholars who hold to the Documentary Hypothesis are not agreed on the date of when J and E were combined. Some say this happened post-exilic, others pre-exilic in the days of Josiah or Hezekiah and others in the time of the Dual Monarchy.

We can ask ourselves a couple of questions. Is the Biblical account the original source which has been paganised by the other accounts or is the Biblical account a cleaned up of pagan elements version or are they two independent accounts that are drawing from a common experience?  I believe that in fact the Biblical account was written in the 14th century BC (most likely drawing from older oral and written traditions) and that the dating of the others is highly speculative based on the faculty Accepted Chronology of Academia. Does it really matter for an understanding of the texts? I think it may do so in some aspects.

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