Stress-testing the
mind of Christ

Where a recovering ex-atheist rams the Bible into other worldviews to see what breaks (note: Scripture cannot be broken)


series
Prelapsarian predation, part 2: the provision of plants for food

Were animals bitey before the fall? Or did they only start munching on each other afterwards? In the second part of this series I assess what we can infer from God’s provision of plants for food in Genesis 1.

Continued from part 1, on the meaning of “very good”

Updated Wednesday, June 3, 2015: I completely forgot to include perhaps the most crushing problem for creationism—the existence of clean and unclean animals in Noah’s day.

If there is one place the Bible seems to come down hard against predationism and in favor of creationism, it’s in Genesis 1:29-30, in conjunction with Genesis 9:1-4:

1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 and God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that scurries on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.

9:1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. 2 The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that scurries on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.

On the face of it, this certainly seems to imply very strongly that God gave plants for food in the original creation, and only gave meat after the flood. If that is the implication, then we have to weigh it against the evidence for predationism which I’ll be presenting as I develop this series. If the evidence pulls in different directions, then we need to make some tough calls. But is this the case?

High-context exegesis

One of the pesky things about exegeting the Bible is how it was originally written by and for people who had very different ways of expressing themselves than we do. And one of the peskiest of these differences is that our society values what you might call numerical precision in discourse—the kind of thing you see in journalistic reporting, or even more in legalese. We want to be certain that when we say something, we state it very carefully and very accurately, and that we qualify it very carefully and very accurately. To overstate or understate, or fail to mention an exception or qualification, is often seen as untruthful.

This is called “low-context” discourse. We like to spell everything out so there can’t be any misunderstanding. We don’t like to take things for granted or make assumptions. We like to be explicit about exceptions or qualifications that attenuate our position. Blanket statements and hard rules are not kosher.

Because we write this way, we expect other people to write this way. Even if they lived 3,500 years ago in Israel and spoke Hebrew.

But low-context discourse is not some kind of moral imperative—it is simply a social agreement. It is etiquette. This becomes quite apparent when we think about how we talk versus how we write. When we talk to friends or family, we very often abandon a lot of these rules and adopt a “high-context” mode of discourse. Because we know each other, and we have a lot of established beliefs, opinions, expressions and the like to rely on, we may make statements that sound much less guarded and much more unequivocal than we would if we were writing them for a mixed audience. To take a very basic example, I might tell a friend that a movie sucked and it’s not worth watching; but in a written review I would be more careful and rely on more objective measures.

What’s rather interesting is how social media is changing this. For instance, memes are extremely high-context: they make very simplistic, exaggerated statements for the sake of rhetorical effect. They are funny precisely because of their oversimplified nature—it is the hyperbole, the lack of nuance, the deliberate way they ignore exceptions, the studied indifference to qualifying conditions or extenuating factors, that makes them amusing. If you tried to qualify or explain them, they would lose their rhetorical effect. And even people who lack the contextual knowledge to understand the punchline of a meme are still intuitively aware that the format itself is not intended to be journalistically accurate or balanced.

I’m not suggesting the Bible contains statements on a par with internet memes. Rather, I’m pointing out that even in our own culture, not every statement everywhere is a low-context, journalistically-reported, carefully-qualified, scientifically accurate one. There are many occasions for high-context statements where exceptions are overlooked, qualifications are ignored, and balance is not the point. We often use high-context discourse when we want to create some rhetorical effect—we deliberately oversimplify or overstate for the sake of driving home our point. And there is nothing illegitimate about doing that if the point itself is one worth paying attention to.

Hebrew culture was much more universally high-context than ours. They spoke and wrote in high-context ways. People were expected to fill in the blanks for themselves, based on a shared pool of background knowledge that everyone assumed. Hence we have statements like:

The relevance of all this to God’s provision of food in Genesis should be obvious: in high-context discourse, exceptions are often assumed without being mentioned. Indeed, one aspect of an event may be deliberately omitted in order to emphasize another, depending on the thematic intentions of the author. This goes a long way toward explaining what look to us like discrepancies between Genesis 1 and 2, or between events like the withering of the fig tree in Matthew 21:10-22 and Mark 11:11-26.

So the question is…

Is there a thematic factor that would motivate Moses to exclude the provision of meat in Genesis 1, even if meat was on the menu for animals and/or humans?

Well, actually yes, there are at least three…

1. A universal provision

Just as the point of the creation account is not to exhaustively enumerate everything God made, but rather to summarize his ordering it into a habitat for man, so the provision of food is not intended to exhaustively enumerate every kind of food God gave, but rather to summarize his bountiful provision. The language is by no means exclusive; it does not say God has given only plants. Rather, the point is that he has given every plant, so that every creature will have plenty to eat.

This doesn’t imply that he did not give other foods; rather, he is illustrating the sweeping scope of his provision by appealing to a “lowest common denominator”—to something that every animal can eat. Even carnivores can, and sometimes do eat plants—and we have no reason to doubt they ate them more prior to the fall (I’ll discuss speciation and evolution in more detail another time). But not every creature eats meat. So if the point is to emphasize God’s general provision, it makes sense to focus on plants.

2. An orchard context

God is speaking to Adam and Eve, who he created in an orchard (or garden) sanctuary, where they would have eaten plants. Now, that isn’t to say they couldn’t have eaten meat just because they were in an orchard—but certainly the main thing one would tend to eat would be vegetable products. And if you were introducing someone to the orchard you had made for them to live in, that is what you would naturally focus on.

If you wished to then add that your provision of food extends to all terrestrial creatures, doing so would naturally reflect the initial context of your provision. Yet this wouldn’t in any way imply that other kinds of foods were not available.

Moreover, given the orchard context, we shouldn’t assume that God is speaking about all terrestrial creatures in the first place. “Every animal” that Adam and Eve would know about would be every animal God placed in the garden. To suppose that he placed lions and bears in the orchard simply begs the question in favor of creationism. It presupposes that predationism is false by assuming that lions and bears ate plants. But if predationism is true, God would not have placed such predators in the sanctuary of the orchard—and so his provision of plants for food would not have extended to them in anyway. Again, this seems awkward to us because we are unaccustomed to high-context literature—but notice how such an interpretation meshes cleanly with God’s lack of a provision for sea creatures. Why does he not mention them? Not because he has not provided food for them. Rather, because he is speaking to Adam and Eve about every animal in the orchard—and you don’t find sea creatures in orchards. But you don’t find predators in them either.

3. A contrast between provision and prohibition

There’s a big, giant, honking, obvious thematic element running right the way through Genesis 2 and 3—chapters which, incidentally, come right on the heels of the provision of food in Genesis 1. Compare Genesis 1:29 to Genesis 2:16-17:

And Yahweh God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

This reiterates the provision of food in order to set up a contrast with the one thing Adam cannot eat. The gift is compared with the ban, so we can see how extremely small a thing it was for God to reserve one tree—one tree—out of the whole garden. “You can eat aaaaaall of these—just not this.”

Now since the prohibited item was a fruit, if he wished to establish a contrast between the provision and the prohibition, it would make thematic sense to couch the provision in terms of plants as well. Not only is it natural to speak this way, but it creates a rhetorical balance.

For example, if I am going out with my daughter and I don’t want her to wear a particular dress, I might say, “You can wear any dress in your wardrobe except the one with the stain on it. That one is not appropriate for going out.” Yet my reason for saying it in this way is not to imply that she cannot instead wear pants, but rather to naturally match what is allowed to what is disallowed. I am formulating how I state what is allowed by first considering what it is I wish to disallow.

So if we take Genesis 1 and 2 as thematically linked—as I believe we should—and if a major theme that links them is provision versus prohibition—as I believe any Christian must agree in view of what happens in Genesis 3—then there is good reason to think the provision is deliberately couched in vegetarian terms to emphasize that contrast, rather than to imply that meat is off the menu. In high-context discourse this would be implicitly understood.

Genesis 9:1-4

The natural question arises at this point: If meat was on the menu prior to the fall, or even prior to the flood, then why would God tell Noah, “as with the plants, I now give you everything”?

And that’s a very good question. God establishes a comparison between the way he gave plants, and the way he is now giving animals. It’s natural to read that similarity—especially if creationism is on your mind—as follows:

“I originally gave you all the plants; now I give you all the animals.”

But this is not the only way, or even the most plausible way, to read it. We could equally understand it as:

“I originally gave you all the plants; now I give you all the animals.”

I have supplied “all” here in my paraphrase to emphasize that the question is about the manner in which the provisions are compared, and there are two very plausible manners God might have in mind. Is the comparison a contrast between the contents of the provisions—plants versus animals—or is it a similarity between their extents—all plants and all animals?

How can we adjudicate between these competing interpretations? Well, again, we should look for thematic links across the text. The former interpretation makes the provision of meat seem like a standalone comment, unrelated to what came before. But the latter links it explanation-wise to a theme which has been important in the flood account:

Unclean animals

In Genesis 7:2, God instructs Noah to take pairs of unclean animals, but seven pairs of clean ones. Now watch carefully—I have nothing up my sleeve: it is not Moses who says to his reader that Noah took different numbers of clean and unclean animals. It is God who says to Noah to take different numbers of clean and unclean animals.

Then Yahweh said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation. Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate, and seven pairs of the birds of the heavens also, male and female, to keep their offspring alive on the face of all the earth.” Genesis 7:1-3

The existence of the clean/unclean distinction in Noah’s time is a critical problem for prediluvian vegetarianism, and by extension a serious blow to prelapsarian vegetarianism. Because what does it mean that an animal is unclean?

Well, to a Hebrew reading the text it primarily meant the animal could not be eaten. Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14:3-21 are both about which animals a Hebrew can eat. You might think cleanness is related to sacrifice—that Noah took extra clean animals to sacrifice them. And certainly some clean animals are also sacrificial animals. But where the Bible talks about the clean/unclean distinction, it is not in terms of sacrifice, but in terms of diet for the sake of cultic holiness. Conversely, where it gives guidelines for sacrifice, such as in Leviticus 1, it does not talk about the cleanness or uncleanness of animals. It presupposes the animal will be clean, because it presupposes that it comes from one’s flock—and of course you wouldn’t own animals that made you ritually unclean by eating them! But while the sacrificial and dietary categories overlap, they are nonetheless distinct. A fish was clean to eat—yet it was not a sacrificial animal. An antelope was clean to eat—yet it was not a sacrificial animal.

So cleanness is simply not a sacrificial category in the Bible. Sacrificial animals were clean—but they were only a subset of all the clean animals. Cleanness was a dietary category.

Now, Genesis 7 clearly indicates that there were animals which were clean and unclean to Noah. But if cleanness is about which animals you can eat, then Noah was eating animals. Or at the very least, it was commonplace for people of his day to eat animals. But this makes the creationist reading of Genesis 9:1-4 nonsensical. God cannot be giving meat as food for the first time if people were eating meat already. Rather, the provision must be about which animals Noah could eat.

God is giving the animals “as” the plants in the sense that Adam and Eve could eat all the plants, and now Noah can eat all the animals. So Genesis 9:1-4 is a removal of the clean/unclean distinction.

This links the initial provision and the second provision in a thematically satisfying way, while doing justice to the text. It is also a logical provision, since meat would be scarce after the flood. The creationist view lacks any strong thematic linkage, and can’t make sense of the existence of clean and unclean animals in Noah’s day.

The Genesis 9 provision is linked to man’s creation mandate

Another issue which bolsters the previous point is how creationists assume that meat being given after the fall is significant. But this is a presupposition brought to the text; it is not stated in the text. There is nothing in Genesis 9 that requires us to understand this provision as being an accommodation to a fallen world. In fact, the implication is to the contrary because this is a renewal of the creation mandate to have dominion over the animals—and it is because of this dominion that the animals shall fear us and we shall eat them.

So rather than linking carnivorism to the fall, Genesis 9 is linking it to the creation mandate. This being the case, what reason do we have to think that eating meat is inconsistent with the creation mandate prior to the Fall? The only way to make that connection is by assuming the very thing which Genesis 9 is supposed to prove.

If eating meat is consistent with the creation mandate, then even if man did not eat meat prior to the fall, there’s no particular reason to think that was never going to change. Adam and Eve were well looked after in the orchard—but if they had not fallen, and had instead ventured out to fulfill their mandate of ruling the world, their situation and needs would have changed.

This brings us to a third problem:

Even if man did not eat meat prior to Genesis 9, the text says nothing about animal predation

This is a fairly notable problem because the creationist claim is much stronger than “man did not eat meat before the fall.” I can tentatively agree with that claim, yet thoroughly disagree with the creationist view in general, which is that there was no prelapsarian animal death whatsoever.

The fact that Genesis 9 doesn’t speak to the provision of food for animals demonstrates that the creationist case is built on some notable assumptions, rather than on what can be definitively exegeted from the text. The common assumption that Genesis 9 is also implicitly referring to what animals may eat is much like the common assumption that Romans 5:12 is also implicitly referring to animal death. The text simply doesn’t say that.

Disconnects between Genesis 1 and 9

There is an obvious parallel between the end of Genesis 1 and the beginning of Genesis 9. But there is also an obvious dissimilarity, and that is in which animals are omitted in Genesis 1 but included in Genesis 9.

Fishies.

Apparently, in the original provision, fish didn’t get anything to eat. And in the renewed provision their lives got even harder as they became food for man. In a later installment I’ll discuss how sea creatures present a monumental challenge to the creationist view, but here my point is somewhat more modest—and returns me to my central thesis, which is the illegitimacy of exegeting a strict, exclusive view like creationism from a high-context text which often assumes unstated exceptions, and expects the reader not to treat it strictly or exclusively:

If the original provision of plants for food excluded the largest group of animals on the planet, then the creationist argument is simply not airtight (or watertight, as the case may be). It has a gaping hole in it. Because even if all terrestrial creatures had a vegetarian diet prior to the fall, there is no textual basis for saying that all creatures whatsoever had such a diet. But this completely undermines the assumptions which drive so much of the creationist exegesis: namely, that prelapsarian predation is simply not on the cards; therefore we must interpret the provision of food in exclusive terms. If the original provision contains such a notable omission, it simply cannot be taken as the kind of exclusive provision that creationists read it to be.

Continued in part 3, on the wildness of Genesis 1-2

17 comments

  1. Tomek

    It looks very interesting. Do you have something biblical to say about diet of animals in the Ark? What was in their menu?

  2. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Updated to fix some obvious mistakes.

    I don’t have much to say because the Bible doesn’t have much to say. Genesis 6:21 is the only place that mentions food for the animals, and it simply says, “every sort of food that is eaten” by people and animals.

    Interestingly, it doesn’t follow the same formula as that used in Genesis 1; it doesn’t say “every fruit and every seed” or something like that. It is not as restrictive or specific as the Genesis 1 provision. So on the face of it, I think the phrasing here lends support to viewing the Genesis 1 provision as rhetorically motivated.

    There’s also the fact that the clean animals vastly outnumbered the unclean ones. Now, I haven’t done the math here, but did Noah need that many sacrificial animals? Or were they intended for another purpose as well?

    In fact, the unclean animals are a serious problem for prediluvian vegetarianism. Because what does it mean that an animal is unclean? Well, to a Hebrew reading the text it means the animal cannot be eaten or sacrificed. But the only reason to make such a distinction is if you are eating or sacrificing animals. Now, the text clearly indicates that the animals were unclean to Noah. So…Noah was eating and sacrificing animals.

    Now, it could be that people never ate the meat of sacrifices. But that seems strained. If you’re killing them, why not eat them?

    In fact, that casts a completely different light on the provision in Genesis 9. “As I gave the plants, so I give the beasts” would then mean, “As I gave all the plants, so I give all the beasts”, rather than, “As I originally gave the plants, so I now give the beasts.”

  3. bethyada

    I buy a few things here, such as low/ high context. But as a whole I am more sceptical.

    You allow for exceptions (which I do) but exceptions are notable for being limited. If the exceptions for divorce included 300 individual reasons then the initial claim seems false. Further, exceptions often make sense, eg. divorce causes one to commit adultery is exempted by adultery because adultery has already occurred. A law to give money to a spouse on death obviously exempts those who do not get married; or the widowed.

    So the exemption of meat when veges are given is both a major exemption and not an obvious one. Whereas seaweed may be an exemption because it is not a land plant but seems to parallel plants.

    Which leads onto your Genesis 9 comment which seems strained because everything is not contrasted with clean meat, it is contrasted with plants.

    And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall not eat flesh with its life

    You argue that Genesis 1 gives plants (mentioned) and clean meat (unmentioned). Then Genesis 9 gives all meat not just plants and clean meat. But Genesis 9 does not read like this even high context. If they are to be given all meat not just clean meat why is clean meat not mentioned?

    There is no problem with meat being clean for sacrifice. While is was for eating in Leviticus, that is postdiluvian. The antediluvian example is Abel and there is no mention of Abel eating the lamb or, for that matter, of Noah eating the sacrifices after disembarking the Ark.

    Nor have you addressed the future state of carnivory in Isaiah (which you may be coming to). Whatever your eschatology, the new creation is associated with the wolf and lion portrayed as eating plants and not eating meat.

  4. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Which leads onto your Genesis 9 comment which seems strained because everything is not contrasted with clean meat, it is contrasted with plants.

    This begs the question. If the thematic context of clean/unclean meat has already been established, then the contrast is not with the provision of plants per se, but with the extent of that provision—namely, every plant.

    Moreover, the clean/unclean distinction is very hard to understand in Genesis 7 if you interpret Genesis 9:1-4 the other way, but still want to treat the Pentateuch as a unified work. It puts Genesis 7 at odds with Leviticus 11.

    There is no problem with meat being clean for sacrifice. While is was for eating in Leviticus, that is postdiluvian. The antediluvian example is Abel and there is no mention of Abel eating the lamb or, for that matter, of Noah eating the sacrifices after disembarking the Ark.

    Again, this is question-begging. To say “this is a postdiluvian distinction” assumes the exact thing these passages are meant to prove. At best there is an argument from silence here; but at worst, we know from the Mosaic law that sacrificing an animal involved eating parts of it. Why would an ancient Hebrew assume that hadn’t happened in the case of Abel or Noah? It’s not as if it is usually mentioned in postdiluvian accounts of sacrifice. Such an assumption would drive a wedge between different parts of the Pentateuch, without any clear reasons to do so.

    Nor have you addressed the future state of carnivory in Isaiah (which you may be coming to).

    I am indeed. I actually think this is the most embarrassing, inept part of the creationist’s case. When you exegete Isaiah 11 and 65, they’re neither talking about the new earth, nor about literal animals! But I still have some more work to do in Genesis before I move there…

  5. bethyada

    I am not assuming the question, I am stating what the text says which was before plants, now everything. But the everything is in part referencing meat because of moving thing and the exception clause—no blood.

    The passage says

    Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.

    Your implied translation (correct this if I haven’t got it right)

    Every moving thing that lives [all animals not just the clean animals] shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants [and the clean animals], I give you everything [every animal: every unclean animal, every clean animal; and all plants]. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.

    I think this is strained compared with

    Every moving thing that lives [animals] shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants [alone], I give you everything [plants and animals]. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.

    The second translation contrasts animals with plants. Your translation contrasts every animal with the unmentioned clean animals. Contrasts are either explicit or implicit. You are arguing for an implicit contrast even though an explicit (different) one is given in the text.

    As to the sacrifice issue, again I am not assuming the question, nor am I putting it at odds with Leviticus. I am looking at the first occurrence of an event. Adam antedates Leviticus. So sacrifice can start being an offering to God (like a burnt offering) and later be developed into several types of sacrifice. That Noah and Adam only used burnt offerings whereas Leviticus has burnt, fellowship, sin etc. doesn’t put the Bible against itself. If we only find burnt offerings early in scripture this would explain clean and unclean. That offerings latter included the person (or the priesthood) consuming part of it (in some situations) doesn’t drive a wedge in scripture.

  6. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Your implied translation (correct this if I haven’t got it right)

    Every moving thing that lives [all animals not just the clean animals] shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants [and the clean animals], I give you everything [every animal: every unclean animal, every clean animal; and all plants]. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.

    No, that’s not right :)

    Here’s how I’d put it:

    Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And in the same way that I gave you all the green plants, I give you all the animals. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood [much like Adam was not to eat from the tree in the midst of the garden].

    The second translation contrasts animals with plants. Your translation contrasts every animal with the unmentioned clean animals.

    No, as I said very explicitly in the original post, my translation compares the extent of the provisions, rather than their general contents:

    “As I originally gave you all the plants, so I now give you all the animals.”

    “As I originally gave you all the plants, so I now give you all the animals.”

    So sacrifice can start being an offering to God (like a burnt offering) and later be developed into several types of sacrifice.

    But postulating such a development is exactly what is in question. Moreover, even if sacrifice did develop, that does absolutely nothing for your case, because “clean” and “unclean” are not sacrificial categories, but dietary ones.

  7. bethyada

    Bnonn, that is helpful. Yet I am not certain where you put in the animals. You are saying that God gave the clean animals with the plants (implied not stated) so in order to understand what is given I have bracketed it. You are contrasting all the plants with all the animals. Yet we still have the word “everything” (which implies animals and plants) and I am not certain there is an all before plants in the Hebrew (you may know). If not, you are contrasting what is not written in the text (“all”) over what is specified.

    Don’t know if this will help? Business owner says we are going to sell all types of motorcycles except Triumphs (ie. every brand except). He intends to sell several brands of cars and trucks but this not mentioned because he wants the staff to focus on the Triumph exclusion.

    Later he says: before you could sell motorcycles but now you can sell any type of vehicle, except those powered on biofuel.

    The contrast isn’t there. Shouldn’t he say: before you could sell every brand of motorcycle, now you can sell every brand of car?

    What it appears to me is that there is a natural contrast in the text, you are arguing for a different contrast (and that the apparent one is not meant at all), yet your contrast does not have the words in the text. It does not (? may not) have all before plants, and it does not have “animal” but has “everything” (implying plant and animal).

    I do get the parallel exemption. I think this parallel to the tree of knowledge is probably significant. But the rest of your contrast does not seem present.

    As to the clean/ unclean, I agree that these are dietary categories in Leviticus. But are they clearly so in Genesis? (Gen 7:2,8; 8:20) If not, and clean and unclean in Genesis is always sacrifice, then one cannot argue that the dietary came first. It is possible that the dietary is based on the sacrifice not the sacrifice based on the dietary.

    Cheers

  8. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    You are saying that God gave the clean animals with the plants (implied not stated)

    Well, no, I’m not saying that. I’m not taking a position on whether God gave any animals to Adam and Eve in Genesis 1. Perhaps he did and it is unstated; and if so, perhaps he gave them all or perhaps he didn’t. Or perhaps he only mentioned plants, but animals would have been added later, consistent with the creation mandate. All I am saying for sure is that you can’t get a denial of carnivory from Genesis 1, and that it is strained to get an initial provision of carnivory from Genesis 9.

    Yet we still have the word “everything” (which implies animals and plants)

    I don’t see why it must. Why can it not be referring back to the antecedent clause—moving things?

    and I am not certain there is an all before plants in the Hebrew

    Why would there need to be? The statement is that in the manner God gave the plants, so he now gives everything. If the manner that God gave the plants was that he gave them all, why would he add “all”? That’s redundant. This also deals with your analogy.

    It is possible that the dietary is based on the sacrifice not the sacrifice based on the dietary.

    It’s possible, but is it plausible? Crickets are clean animals. Yet they are not sacrificial animals. I’m not aware of anywhere in the Law that speaks of sacrificial animals in terms of cleanness. If that’s the case, why would a Hebrew reading Genesis make such a tenuous connection—a connection that runs against the grain of the fact that he is allowed to eat far more animals than he is allowed to sacrifice?

  9. bethyada

    I assumed that only clean animals could be sacrificed. When the firstborn animals are redeemed the cows and sheep are offered but the donkey is exchanged for a lamb. I assumed this is because the donkey is unclean. Further, people who become unclean are not allowed to eat at the sacrifices until they become clean.

    God accepted freewill offerings. I see no reason why crickets could not be given as a freewill offering (will have to go back and see if freewill offerings are prescribed) but not certain why someone would offer a cricket.

    An observation on your last comment which I think explains part of our difference here. Moses wrote the entire Pentateuch (we both agree) but you see him writing Genesis for the Israelites circa the exodus which you assume altered how he wrote (correct?). Whereas I see him writing for the Israelites based on material that was already extant. Thus I read Noah as given to Noah (with editing by Moses) not this is what you Israelites need to understand about God’s interaction with Noah. I don’t think that such a difference alters the facts. But it may sway why one thinks things are written as they are. So I see the animals being clean based on what God said to Noah and because there where 7 of some and 2 of others, then “cleanness” must have meant something at the time of Noah. You appear to be saying the Moses used the term “cleanness” for the sake of his contemporaries whose concept of cleanness was based on something in their culture.

    I don’t think either is correct and I wouldn’t say this is an example of an anachronism. But I guess I am more likely to read a first example in Scripture as definitional than a latter example.

    As to your question on everything
    I don’t see why it must. Why can it not be referring back to the antecedent clause—moving things?

    Because the form of the statement is expansive not contrastive.
    as I gave you the green plants,
    I give you everything.
    To be contrastive “moving things” would need to be included here. Because “everything” can include plants (in the context of food) you cannot arbitrarily exclude it.

  10. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    I guess I am more likely to read a first example in Scripture as definitional than a latter example.

    The problem is that reading the first example as a sacrificial category rather than a dietary one is precisely to beg the question! The text doesn’t say that.

    As regards expansive versus contrastive, I don’t see it. Your reading just seems wooden to me.

    But either way, I’m not claiming that this is an airtight case. What I’m claiming is that there is a plausible or reasonable way to read the provisions otherwise than creationists do; in a way that presupposes both prediluvian and prelapsarian animal death, rather than presupposing the opposite. I think that view is more plausible even on its own terms—but even if you think otherwise (which is legitimate), when we add in the weight of evidence I’ll bring to bear in the rest of this series, you might start to think differently :)

  11. bethyada

    By first example I mean the fact that Noah sacrificed clean animals. Ie. the first example of clean animals is the Flood and Noah sacrifices clean animals. Whatever clean means here (and latter) it presumably is associated with acceptability for sacrifice. You may not find this definitive, but it is a reasonable inference from the text. It is not that I am begging the question: assuming sacrifice is (logically) prior to consumption. It is rather that the first mention of clean is associated with sacrifice which may say something about what clean implies. First mentions may be a hermeneutical construct, but it is not without precedence.

  12. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Fair enough.

  13. Ryan Name

    I’m struggling to understand the importance of Noah in all this. The argument that a YEC’ist makes is that blood being spilt (death) did not occur prior to sin entering the world (fall). So if Noah was able to eat certain types of animals (clean) post-fall, I don’t think that would necessarily surprise the YEC’ist, right? Adam and Eve eating meat post-fall wouldn’t necessarily surprise them either, right? Or do I have a faulty understanding of the YEC position?

    I simply think I’m not fully following the argument so help me understand what your point here is.

    I’d also be interested in knowing about the cricket, for instance. It doesn’t have blood, per se, but hemolymph (it’s certainly not red). The issue is that life is “in the blood.”

    Plants are considered living, yet clearly plant death occurred before the fall, so death in total was not absent pre-fall. Would some animals like crickets be considered edible pre-fall because there was no distinguishable red blood (that culture certainly wouldn’t have known of hemolymph’s close association with blood, so all meaning there would have been lost).

    I other words, you speak of themes, but a rather important theme regarding blood hasn’t been mentioned that would seem an awfully important one in this discussion.

    Would love your thoughts on these things, Bnonn.

  14. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Hey Ryan, I’m going to talk about the question of blood in another post, although in some respects it’s probably a red herring (at least to a sophisticated YEC view).

    In regards to meat being eaten post-fall, it’s not a problem in an of itself, but the YEC view tends to treat the provision in Genesis 9 as being the first time meat is permitted. If you remove that beam of the YEC view, the whole structure starts to sag.

  15. Ryan

    Sounds good. I’ll look forward to reading it.

  16. Jeremiah

    I’ve really enjoyed reading through this series, but there is one question I have about this particular part of the argument.

    If Genesis here is meant to be read as “I originally gave you /all/ the plants; now I give you /all/ the animals,” giving Noah both the clean and the unclean animals to eat. Now, assuming this is correct, why then does the clean/unclean distinction still exist beyond Noah? It seems the very text we’re using here to prove the point (Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14:3-21) also serve to counteract that very point, demonstrating that God isn’t removing that distinction (since it’s present at that point, which is after Noah).

    Does your argument assume that God did this only for Noah? That is was temporary measure? Or am I just overlooking something?

  17. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Hey Jeremiah, what I’m assuming is that the clean/unclean distinction was in some way established prior to the Flood. I don’t think it has to have been by divine mandate—it only has to be a sufficient tradition that Noah considered it normative and that God worked within that framework when instructing him.

    After the flood, God does away with this framework.

    Later, when he covenants with national Israel, he re-establishes the framework as one way of emphasizing the importance of sacred space, and modeling the concepts of purity and defilement.

    Later still, when he abrogates the Mosaic covenant, he does away with the framework again (as per Peter’s vision).

    There doesn’t seem anything contradictory about this, and indeed it seems internally consistent: during the times that we see God covenanting with the world at large, the clean/unclean distinction is abrogated; during the times when God is covenanting with specific groups, the clean/unclean distinction is in force.

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