Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Baruch Halpern discussion

Tonight the Jewish Studies lecture was entitled "Method and Disenchantment: The Birth of Science and Religion," delivered by Baruch Halpern.

I didn't have time to go, but I'm glad I went anyway.

He argued that an intellectual revolution occurred in the 8th/7thc BC in the Near East and in Greece, in which elites defended local identity by rejecting markers of foreign culture.

Halpern pointed out a historical pattern we're already familiar with: Renaissance --> Reformation --> Enlightenment and then applied it to the writing of the Pentateuch.

We tried to figure out the astronomy of Genesis 1. It was basically crazy, but in the end, he showed us that despite how crazy it sounds to us, there is a logic to it. It's logical, and it becomes more and more complicated with each "there was evening, there was morning." He drew diagrams on the board and explained the logic with Greek philosophers and steam and fire and light and evaporation and domes. I can't replicate it, but oh it was nuts...

In the end, he'd made quite a case...the rational, logical, methodical creation story involving a highly rational God was created to support the beliefs of an intellectual elite, who were trying to prove that their creation story was correct. "Science" and "religion" and the birth of "western thought" against pre-existing, traditional polytheistic religions.

The Bible, in other words, played the same role we now grant to science in debunking other myths.

I wish I could explain it better, but all I can say is that when he finishes his book, I've got to read it.

1 comment:

Sammy Finkelman said...

>> when he finishes his book, I've got to read it. <<

Does that book by Baruch halpern have a name?

From: http://www.eerdmans.com/Interviews/halperninterview.htm

<< No, really, my current project is a history of Biblical Israel, from a non-Jerusalemite perspective. >>

Is that done?

<< But after that, I'm going to do the astronomy of Biblical books, and its connections to Assyrian and Babylonian astronomy and pre-Socratic philosophy. The fact is, Greek philosophy has its roots in the ancient Near East, and is closely related to classical Biblical prophecy. >>

The Gods they had are certainly the same idols they had in Babylonia - in fact all over the world (The Druid trees are the same as the ashereh)

<< It's time to nail the connections down carefully and responsibly and to show how both the Israelite and the Greek perspectives contributed to the birth of our civilization. >>

He's going to come up with a lot of idiosyncretic ideas.

>> We have more narrative about David than about anyone else in the Bible, Moses included. <<

Someone once said that Jacob - maybe he is the closest competition. There is not that much personal detail about Moses I guess you could say.

>> In fact, the biography of David in 1-2 Samuel is probably the best biography, literarily, ever produced in antiquity. >>

Halpern seems to like saying things like that - talking about the Bible as ordinary literature - but saying it is better.

<< First of all, a team of revisionist scholars has spent the better part of two decades now publishing the claim that David never existed. >>

They don't like anything before Alexander the Great and they really don't want even a First temple. But a Babylonian exile nd return they have to admit, and that's already a strange thing.

<< the claim that David never existed. >>

This idea shows you how dishonest the skeptics are. Because you would think a skeptic would say David has to exist and the facts have to be accurate because he is the first person mentioned with a lifespan like ours.

They should argue that this could only be gotten "right" if someone was in possession of the actual facts.

I don't see Bruce Halpern making this argument. But he makes other arguments.

<< Think of Bill Clinton's claim to have balanced the federal budget. It was mainly smoke and mirrors, >>

It was economic growth. The lie was claiming that his 1993 budget plan did that. Clinton actually arranged I think for it to pass with one vote but no Republicans, on purpose. Of course the Democrats lost control of Congress because if his health care plan and the fact he made them look non-independent. But there is no reason to accuse David of lying like that. Was he really trying to kill Saul? Or was Saul crazy?

Halpern sort of apologizes for that and says he is actually trying to lay out the worst case against David.

<< The heart of my argument is that his enemies accused David of those killings, and that should disturb no one. >>

Is that the reason he thinks they are mentioned at all?