Torah Study Notes 10-5-13

October 5, 2013
p. 59 The story of Noah
There are clearly two recognized creation accounts but some attempt to rationalize them into one consistent account. This is typically done by the ultra-orthodox. In assembling the Book of Genesis one wonders at the motivation of having two different versions of creation. What is being signaled? LL: Isn’t the story of Adam and Eve intended to explain the presence of evil in the world? CL: Literary scholarship at the beginning of the 20th C argued for the presence of two politically different tradition that were satisfied by the presence of both accounts. See: Albrecth Alt’s work: He wrote God of Our Fathers: A Contribution to the Prehistory of the Israelite Religion.
PG: The inclusion of two creation accounts for political reasons would be a compromise unlikely to satisfy either side. The difference is in the image of God that is being presented. In the first account He is a creator; there is no indication that He will be present in the affairs of men. He is not a “hands on” God in that sense. Midrash would suggest that both accounts are acceptable as different ways of looking at the same thing. Consider the parable of the two cards: In one pocket the card says “I am the height of creation” and in the other pocket “even the lowly mosquito is before me.” LL: Perhaps this challenges our notion of what is a “book.” A book is not necessarily a continuous account from beginning to end. It can be in the nature of an assembly of “gleanings.” PG: That is true but there is something else going on here in terms of posing the question “where did everything come from?” This is the first time that this powerful religious and philosophical question is being explored via a single deity. Other religions before and at the time had multiple gods and the creation of the world was an accident. Here creation is purposeful and there is an assumption that the purpose will ultimately be revealed and fulfilled. The assertion here is that we as humans can have an impact on that outcome by our behavior. SF: We are in partnership with God – we have a place in the world and moral responsibility for it. PG: The second story creates the relationship with God. The sequence is a presentation first of transcendence and then of immanence. This takes us to the story of Noah.
6:9 There is a suggestion that this generation of the flood already knew Torah and the laws of Sinai. Note the use of the word “corrupt.” The Midrash makes the argument that the corruption was not technically a violation of the law; it was the accumulation of many minor sins. Note that virtually every ancient culture has a flood story.
6:17 The first appearance of the word “covenant.” Notice that Noah is silent and does not challenge God’s justice as does Abraham subsequently.
7: 1 Take seven pairs of every pure beast… Notice that the name of God has changed here to “the Eternal One.” The pure animals were for sacrifice as needed. This is very similar to the Gilgamesh epic from Babylonian culture.
7:6 This goes back to referencing God – not The Eternal
7:10 A combination of ways that a flood can occur. CL: there is an association with a volcanic event from 1260 BC that could have caused a major flood in the eastern Mediterranean. PG: This is part of the search for biblical verisimilitude. In fact there have been major floods all over the world and it is very difficult to pin-point one. LL: But there was likely one in the eastern med that gave rise to this story. From the viewpoint of the writer/redactor this was their world. SF: We need to remember that they were between the Tigris and Euphrates river. Probably an area that flooded frequently. PG: Bibical verisimilitude is interesting but it does not tell us what this means or was intended.
7:13 “some of every species” here compares to the phrase “each true to its type” in the first story. Note that God closes the door – this is the immanent God who is present as distinguished from the transcendent. PG: There is still a group trying to justify all of this as true and have built a one-tenth replica of the ark for demonstration purposes.

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