Inspiration and Incarnation (2)

As I continue to read Enns (Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament), it occurs to me that he has allowed two key terms to go totally undefined and undiscussed which must be carefully defined before any meaningful progress on Genesis 1-11 can move forward.

1. The meaning of “myth.” Enns correctly points out that the popular connotation of “myth” is “something that isn’t true,” when many scholars use it in the more technical sense of “a foundational story which defined the praxis of a culture or nation.” This is helpful progress, but he does not discuss the manifold understandings of myth and what each dimension might mean when brought into contact with the narratives of early Genesis. A simple consultation of Myth: A Very Short Introduction displays over seven schools of thought on what ancient mythology was. No engagement of this sort is even attempted by him. This does not even include the understanding of myth given by literary critic Northrop Frye or famed scholar Rene Girard, both of which shed a great deal of light on how Genesis both participates in and is distinguished from myth in the wider sense.

2. The meaning of “history.” This subject he does not even breach in his book (thus far, and it seems unlikely that he will). Even a cursory glance at a dictionary will give many different definitions of history. He does not deal with the fact that most of the scholars who tell us that we can’t bring a modern viewpoint with us when we come to ancient texts like Genesis are themselves actually dependent on modernist categories of “myth” and “history.” The highly modernist views of Comte and Hegel were influential in the founding of the JEPD Hypothesis and the later form-critical method, and in the last fifty years the neo-Kantian split of “secular history” and “existential meaning” or “theological history” has been predominant in the assumptions of many scholars. The whole narrative of the development of religion from loose polytheism to monotheism and priesthoods is rooted in a Darwinian view of historical development from less to more complex. He does not discuss the fact that hermeneutical scholars actually know that, at least when it came to Hebraic understandings of their own Scriptures (typology), there was considered to be an essential unity between event and meaning. That an event was presented with theological meaning intact was a sign that the proper interpretation was being linked to the very real event it was intended to communicate and interpret. Beginning with the sacramental conflicts of the Middle Ages these two things, fact and meaning, began to be seen as separate categories, a division finalized by Spinoza during the Enlightenment.

Enns includes no examination of principles at all in this regard and how they might influence his reading. I think this is a pity, because they would greatly assist the discussion.


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