The Creation Account: How Moses Taught Faith to the Jews... and Me
- Thursday, July 25, 2013
(By the way, I’m surprised how many Christians have the same struggle I did. I wished I were more like my wife Julie, who doesn't worry about this at all. But, I'm not).
I intensified my research. I read books on general and special relativity, quantum mechanics, chaos and string theories, cosmology, time dilation, the standard model of particle physics, multiple dimensions, multiple universes, evolution and natural selection. Then, I tackled anthropology and genetics. You can read and study a lot of books in 15-20 years!
I cherished the things I learned, but none stabilized my faith. Everything was either/or. Either I accepted the literal seven-day creation or I accepted the findings of Science. No intermeshing of Science and Genesis One was apparent on the horizon. I was as confused as ever.
Then, I was introduced to Conrad Hyers and his book, The Meaning of Creation. Genesis One began making sense.
Hyers demonstrates how Moses used Hebraic poetry to declare that the Most High alone is God while the gods of Egypt were just creatures, all of which were made by the hand of the Most High.
What might Moses have been thinking about when he composed the creation story? He had just engineered the Exodus from Egypt. Many of the people were still worshipping Egyptian gods (cf. the golden calf (Exodus 32)); they wanted to worship like they had in Egypt. Aaron caved in and made them a god. Moses was so angrily out of control that he smashed the stone tablets to powder!
Moses' biggest concern was that the people would forget the Most High and begin (or continue) worshipping the Egyptian gods (Joshua 24:14). It boggles the mind to think that Moses was at that time focused on a literal, scientific teaching of when and how the world came to be.
To make his appeal as simple as possible he wrote in thoughtful, poetic, rhyming schemes that were easy to grasp and remember orally. Poetry was just the tool he needed.
Most of us recognize a poem as a poem because the words rhyme. But as we immerse ourselves deeper into poetry, we discover the genius of rhyme schemes and rhyming thoughts instead of just words. Poems are, in fact, more likely to rhyme thoughts than words. Shakespeare, for example, never rhymed words in his sonnets, but he utilized poetic patterns to rhyme thoughts; his plays were poetic narratives written in unrhymed iambic pentameter. Observe that several contemporary songs are rhythmic and tell stories without a single word rhyming with another.
Similarly, Hebrew poetry seldom, if ever, rhymed words. Ancient Hebrew poetry utilized eight different patterns to rhyme thoughts.
Psalm 91:1-4 is an excellent example of rhyming thoughts in Hebrew poetry:
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."
Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge...
No one interprets this passage literally. We all know that God is not a bird; He does not have wings and feathers. He is a spirit. This passage is poetry.
Rhymes are all over this passage. Shelter, as a concept, "rhymes" with 'fortress,' 'refuge,' 'feathers' and 'wings.' Each passage also rhymes with others. The lyric, "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High," rhymes with "and under his wings you will find refuge."
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