The 24 hour "evening and mornings" ???

Dave Washburn dwashbur at
Wed Aug 30 11:41:54 EDT 2000

> Dave,
> 	Comments below...
> I might also remind members paticipating in this discussion that we must
> stick to the text and not let our emotions run wild as is often the case
> in discussing this exact text.  I sense this discussion heading in that
> direction.  If things get out of hand-as it appears that it is
> becoming-including name calling, straw-man arguments, etc, I will no
> longer respond on this thread.

Nice job of setting yourself up as the good guy...I don't know where 
you're seeing this, but it sure isn't from me.  In fact, I find the 
naivete in many of your assertions (e.g. Ugaritic) amusing if 
anything.  I appreciate what you're trying to do, but really, it's not 
necessary.  I'm an unabashed inerrantist myself and have no 
problem with these "days" being something other than solar days.

>  On Tue, 29 Aug 2000, Dave Washburn wrote:
> > Michael,
> > > Dave,
> > > 	The sun and moon are simply God's time pieces.  
> > 
> > So what?  Assuming this statement is correct, which is 
> > questionable, before these "timepieces" there would have been no 
> > such discerning of time, so I don't see what this adds to the 
> > discussion.
> I am summarizing my view by this statement, it doesn't add to it.

In that case, how about expanding on that statement for me so I 
can follow your reasoning about these "timepieces."

> > Evening and
> > > Morning existed before the sun and moon were created.  
> > 
> > How?  That's the whole question.  Simply saying it is so isn't 
> > enough. 
> > 
> I am simply stating what the text says.  If I am to understand what the
> author is presenting in Gen 1, I must understand that for him, evening and
> morning existed before the sun and moon.  You *must* understand that that
> is what the author is *saying* whether or not that makes sense to us.  
> The language is clear.

But that's just the problem, isn't it?  The language isn't clear, 
because any reader, ancient or modern, would have seen the 
problem of "evening and morning" 3 days before "sun and moon."  
So it seems to me we're not getting very far with this line of 
reasoning.  Yes, the text "says" evening and morning.  I have a 
text in my library that says "he kicked the bucket."  The question 
is not what the words themselves say, but what the writer was 
trying to convey.

> > Evening and
> > > morning exist if it is cloudy in our present day.  You may argue that the 
> > > sun and moon are despite the clouds in the way, but you are not
> > > understanding the phenominality (is that a word?) of the text.  
> > 
> > I don't see how one follows from the other.  Of course cloudy days 
> > have evening and morning, because these phenomena are caused 
> > by the rotation of the earth in relation to the sun and moon, which 
> > is exactly my point.  As concerns the text, whether we speak of 
> > earth's rotation or of heavenly orbs rising and setting, the 
> > phenomena of evening and morning still owe their existence to the 
> > presence of those orbs, however limited their visibility may be at 
> > times.  I have no idea what you mean by "phenominality (is that a 
> > word?) of the text."  Literal evening and morning without at least a 
> > sun is an absurdity.
> According to what the author writes in Gen 1, morning and evening existed
> before the sun and moon.  The text does not speak of the rotation of the
> earth.  And, BTW, there was *light* before the creation of sun and moon.  
> This is what the text states.  "Literal evening and morning without at
> least a sun is an absurdity" only if you take the point of view outside
> that of the author.  Obviously, he did not think it was absurd.  He was
> well aware that he was presenting the sun as created after the creation of
> light.  The point of view is that of one on the earth.  If you see light
> coming, the appearance would be like morning, its leaving like evening.

Once again, this does not deal with the problem.  Yes there was 
"light."  What was the nature of it?  We don't know.  I am not 
taking a point of view outside that of the author, I am trying to 
understand what the author had in mind.  You seem to think there 
is only one possibility; I disagree.  You say it's literal, I say it's 
metaphorical, and I find several indicators in the text that hint at 
use of extended metaphor in this passage (sun and moon being 
just one such indicator).  I still haven't seen a sound argument 
against the text's use of metaphor, unless you also insist on 
saying that the other author I mentioned wants me to think the 
character literally slammed his foot against a pail and then went on 
about his business.  Metaphor is common in the Hebrew Bible, and 
we have to deal with it even when it shakes our tree a little.

> > The text
> > > describes things as one would view it from earth.  
> > 
> > Oh, of course.  So even without the sun, an observer on earth 
> > would be able to discern evening and morning by recourse 
> > to...what?  You're just digging a hole for yourself here.  Once again, 
> > trying to insist on a literal "evening and morning" without the sun as 
> > a reference point would be utterly absurd, especially to an observer 
> > on earth.
> > 
> > I fail to see how
> > > one should take evening and morning any other way than literal.  How would
> > > you *translate* evening and morning?  This would indicate how you
> > > understand the terms.  
> > 
> > That's easy.  "Pause, move on to the next step."
> > 
> Do you have any other passage where it should be translated that way?  If
> not, you are resorting to special pleading.

It's already been pointed out that there are no such "other 
passage" citations, so this is one of those straw men you 
mentioned in your first paragraph.  Once again, I'm looking at the 
passage and trying to understand what the author meant; in 
particular, I see indications that s/he was using metaphorical 
terms.  And as Peter pointed out, the only other passage that 
seems to use a similar formula indicates 12-hour time cycles, not 
24, so trying to resort to other passages simply digs the hole 
deeper.  Let's stick to the text at hand, shall we?

> > Would you translate them "evening and morning" with
> > > a little aside "hey that's what I said, but I really mean it
> > > differently"?  If it isn't literal (as both of the terms are used
> > > *everywhere* else), what is it?
> > 
> > The mnemonic structure of the passage has already been 
> > observed, and your reductio ad absurdum did not refute it.  I would 
> > also point to the clear poetically-inspired structure of the passage.  
> > There is no need to try and force literalness on these terms, and in 
> > fact there are many good reasons not to when we look at the text 
> > in its historic, linguistic and formal context.
> I am not sure that the structure is for mnemonic purposes nor how that
> relates to my argument.  It *is* highly structured, but for memory?  How
> does a "poetically-inspired structure" refute our necessity of
> understanding the language here as simply language?  Poetry must also be
> understood literally.  

LOL.  Poetry is the ultimate in NON-literalness, in every language 
where it exists.  Poetry is the art of word pictures.  But I guess that 
when Song of Songs says that the beloved's nose is a tower, we 
should picture a honker the size of the Sears Tower.  Or when 
Psalms says "I wither away like grass" we need to picture the 
writer literally shriveling up, perhaps curling over 2 or 3 times, 
turning brown and his body tumbling off motionless legs.  Or 
perhaps in Psalm 1, the man who delights in YHWH's law sticks 
his feet into the dirt beside the stream, holds his arms out like 
branches and waits for birds to build a nest on his head.  In Psalm 
91 we have to conclude that God has feathers and wings.  Come 
on, Michael.  I think you know better than this.

It must be understood as poetry (which Gen 1 is
> not), but still literally-or perhaps better-literarily.  That is
> understanding its poetic idioms as just that. If a text exists in poetry,
> then the language can be described in terms of clearly defined figures of
> speech.  

Now we're getting somewhere.  It's clear that you have a rather 
elastic definition of "literally."  That should have been made clearer 
at the outset.  However, you have in no way demonstrated that Gen 
1 is not poetic, or more precisely, poetically-inspired.  Again, 
simply saying it does not make it so.

What figures of speech exists in this text?  If you examine the
> terms used in Gen 1, they cannot be classified as idomatic language or
> figures of speech.  

Once again, simple assertion is not proof.  I can easily conclude 
that "evening and morning" without a sun and moon are just that: 
figures of speech.  And I suspect that an ancient Hebrew reader, 
coming upon the same phenomenon, would reach the same 
conclusion.  I strongly suggest you look again at the other posts 
on this thread, especially those related to memory devices, 
repetition etc. (repetition and restatement tend to be common 
features in Hebrew poetics) and consider them a little more 

If they could, one could put a name on the type of
> figure (for an overwhelming list of figures of speech, see Bullinger
> _Figures of Speech_, I'm sure you are aware of this work-if only to prop
> your door open!).

I'm aware of the book; I'm also aware of how severely outdated it is. 
Hardly something to hang one's hat on.  At the same time, 
dragging him into it is pointless, because I've already put a name 
on the figure of speech represented by the "evening and morning" 
formula: metaphor.  More important, though, is the question of what 
type of literature we're dealing with here.  It's not simple "history" or 
narrative; the repetition of the formula rules that out.  The "evening 
and morning" motif looks an awful lot like a refrain of the type used 
in several psalms and other poetic passages, so we can't 
legitimately give it the simplistic kind of reading that you're 
suggesting.  If you have something to back up your assertion 
beyond simply saying "this is how it is" I am interested in seeing it.

Dave Washburn
"Éist le glór Dé."

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