Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Dabar (Psalm 33:6)-Creation By Means of the "Deed"

Did God produce the cosmos by merely speaking or uttering commands? Genesis 1:1-31 possibly indicates no such thing. For while AMAR can mean "to say, speak, utter, tell, or declare," Ps. 33:6 proclaims that the DABAR and RUACH of YHWH brought forth the heavens and the earth. DABAR can refer to a word or deed: its semantic import is not confined to utterances. DABAR and RUACH are apparently employed as synonyms in Ps. 33:6. Furthermore, since Genesis implies that a divine force was moving to and fro over the primordial waters (1:2), I submit that it possibly was not God's spoken utterance that brought forth the universe, but his deed or act produced the cosmos by means of holy spirit (compare Jer. 5:28). As Goethe's Faust exclaims: "In the beginning was the deed."

Now I am not suggesting that one should construe John 1:1 in a Faustian fashion per se. What I am contending, however, is that the Johannine Prologue may lend support to the idea that God's deed (his work through holy spirit) brought forth the cosmos. More than utterances were potentially involved when God created the universe. This point has been recognized by ancient writers of sacred literature and modern physicists like Einstein.


Philip Fletcher said...

Proverb 8 does seem to indicate, that what was brought forth was brought forth with labor pains, or a lot of effort. Not by simple expression. Along with Genesis the holy spirit or God's power was involved. Whenever power is used it usually requires effort or energy. Just my thoughts on Creation.

Duncan said...

moving to and fro is a subtly different idea to fluttering.

Duncan said...

Or as some translations render - hovering over the waters.

Edgar Foster said...

Philip: Good use of Proverbs 8. That too might support the idea that Jehovah did not literally speak creation into existence. Ps. 90:2 might also be invoked to make this same point.

Duncan: I didn't want to get bogged down by how to render Gen. 1:2. As you realize, there are several translational possibilities with the Hebrew of 1:2. I agree with you that we could say "hovering" or fluttering. But "moving to and fro" is also an option.

Duncan said...

επεφέρετο ?

The brooding bird does not move to and fro, it's wings oscillate putting a pressure of air on the chicks.

Deut 32:11.
Jer 23:9 translates as shake.

Are Matthew 3:17 & mark 1:11 metaphore ?

Edgar Foster said...

You make a good point about the brooding bird, and I'm not totally disagreeing with you. But I think the caution given in Benson's Commentary regarding the metaphor at work in Gen. 1:2 deserves consideration. We can't read too much into the bird imagery.
Matthew and Mark are a little different from Genesis 1, where things are being brought into existence by a deity speaking. However, we know that God does not have a human voice (since he does not have a physical body), and God does not speak Hebrew-Aramaic or Greek, and God does not have vocal chords or a larynx. So how could Jehovah literally speak?

I'm not saying no voice was heard in the examples you cite. Yet we have to allow for the fact that God is not a man, so the Bible often uses metaphor or anthropomorphic speech regarding Jehovah.

Duncan said...

When satan speak through the serpent is this metaphorical since snake do not have vocal chords or speak Hebrew. How could a litteral snake literally speak, but then neither does satan. Do you see my point. You cannot impose conditions on the power and method of Jehovah. When genesis refers to God saying let there be light through his sound (voice) I do not see this as an impossibility if the (sound) voice being described is function not form.

"Everywhere in the universe there is a field called the electron field. A physical electron isn’t the field, but rather a localized vibration in the field. In fact, every electron in the universe is a similar localized vibration of that single field."


In this way Jehovah could be speaking light into existence in his language of matter that is anthropomorphised into "let there be light".

Duncan said...

The example in Matthew and Mark should be tempered with the controversy in John 12:29. Can Jehovah speak all languages simultaneously? With or without human form. I cannot dis count the possibility.

Edgar Foster said...

I am not saying it is impossible for God to produce human sounds, but I doubt he speaks as we do since that requires human bodily parts or some kind of adaptation like materialization. It has also been suggested that the Devil possibly used something akin to ventriloquism, but we do not know what exact mechanism was employed to produce the speech sounds recorded in scripture. Furthermore, anthropomorphism would mean the speaking is not literal or it is not exactly like human speech. If God did speak things into existence, then the event occurred in ways we cannot understand based on known scientific principles. However, other verses and science itself tend to suggest that literal discourse may not have brought the universe into being.

As far as we know, the utterance of natural language seems to require specific conditions and certain bodily organs.

Edgar Foster said...

Two other considerations. An omnipotent God does not have to speak things into existence, and what if things gradually came into existence over thousands of years (day ages)? Philip also made the point about creation being produced with birth pains, as it were.

Duncan said...

Much of this issue is dictated by the assumption of life being, or not being created from nothing.

We know that there is no such thing a simple cell organism so creation seems to have stages.

Of course there is also the possability that the light referred to is not the light in the galaxy or universe but rather the light from an earthly perspective as it's division is also included as night and day.


This has a new approach to the problem.

Proverbs 8 - "the origins of wisdom" needs to be examined in context v7 lxx "truth shall meditate my throat", v8 lxx "all the sayings of my mouth"

See V27 lxx.

MT of V23 & 24 are problematic - from times earlier than the land when there were no deep waters. The inclusion of verse divisions can artificially break the dialogue.

Edgar Foster said...

I have many questions about this response, but one thing I'll post regards Proverbs 8. The problem you mentioned is not all that clear to me. Maybe you could mention 1 or 2 features of the narrative there that you find hard to understand.

Duncan said...

I have no problem with the narrative. It (as usual) is the method of translation or at least the way the words are generally interpreted by the reader. There are a significant number of places where erets is translated as "earth" where "land" is just as valid and is probably a better choice in modern English. "Land" is the common understanding. It can mean the whole planet (including its sea's) but context should strongly suggest this before "Earth" is used.