The God of the Bible, however, is neither depicted, there, as “people,” nor “from the sky.” This is a thoroughly modern, atheistic caricature.
When contemplating the presence of God, David said, in Psalm 139:7-10:
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
This vision of God conforms to the omnipresence the Abrahamic faiths have traditionally assigned God as fundamental to Him.
In 1 Kings 8:27, David’s son, Solomon, reiterates his father’s conception of God during the dedication of the temple: “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!”
Then, in 1 Kings 19:11-13, when God appears to a terrified and exhausted Elijah, He does so not as a cataclysm, a hurricane, or an inferno, but, instead, as a quiet presence reaching inside the prophet, and counseling him to do what He commands.
All of these depictions of God congrue with how He is typically depicted in the Bible. Paul Kinsella’s 2017 cartoon never grapples with these subtleties. But…
In other words, the Paleolithe in the first panel reverentially contemplates a piece of atomic matter…perhaps distinct from the ionic form the modern homo sapien — no doubt representing Mr. Kinsella — reverentially contemplates in the last one.
But these objects are, in essence, the same thing: protons. Indeed, contemporary theories say both the rock and the sun came from an earlier structure: a gaseous cloud which was subsequently compressed by gravity into the present configurations we observe.
If so, how does this final panel then depict any kind of advancement, or “growing up”?
Well, I used to think that as well, but then a started listening to biblical scholars who know a thing of two about such things. An excellent way to find out what the ancients believed is to learn what scholars, especially Jewish scholars, know about their past cultural beliefs and their scriptures. And their god, Yahweh.
The god of the bible, Yahweh, was a local tribal god, a storm/sky god who first became the Israelite’s primary but not only god, and over time theironly god - at least according to the teachings of their priests and scribes. And then later he became theonly god as far as they were concerned. Over time he inherited many of the properties and talents of first El, originally his father, and also of El’s wife Asherah, Ba’al, and probably a few others.
Many clues to this are left in the bible, showing how the beliefs of the the Israelites-then-Jews changed over time. There are also clues as to the different beliefs of the kingdoms of Israel to the north (more polytheistic) and Judah to the south (where monotheism was promoted). Judah’s ideas became dominant after Israel was concurred. Monotheism became the normative teaching probably first in the second temple period after the return of the elite from Babylon and the rebuilding of the temple.
Here’s an informative video I really like:
Matt Baker of Useful Charts also touches on this in his series, Who Wrote the Bible?:
I appreciate the response and the links, and the good spirit with which you present them.
I look forward to considering the materials.
A) How does what you’ve posted refute, or what part of it refutes, my charges, here:
The God of the Bible is neither depicted, there, as “people,” nor “from the sky.”
This is a thoroughly modern, atheistic caricature.
Said another way, I’m not bound to developing Jewish religio-philosophical concepts, nor citing them. I’m certain Jews, through the millennia, held a lot of ideas I’d take as abhorrent. (Indeed, a large part of Christ’s documented revelation was refuting Jewish views which had held, even unto the 1st century CE.)
What I’m saying is, and have said, is that by the time the Bible was concretized, God was neither depicted, there, as “people,” nor “from the sky.” (This is a very specific and limited critique, responsive to the satirical art you posted.)
B) Would you please kindly respond to my charge — more emphatically stated here — that the artist has, in the last panel, in a key sense, merely repeated the first one; i.e., that these reverenced objects are, in essence, the same thing: protons?
In your original post, you spoke of you own experience, stating, “I made it to the last box.”
Would you please kindly tell me what this statement means, particularly in light of my closing comments from my previous post?
Well, Yahweh was thought of as a sky/storm god. I’m not sure about from the sky, but he was pictured as riding his winged chariot in the clouds, to summon thunder and rain, and also to dominate other gods and peoples.
The “my god is more powerful that your god” theme is presented in several bible stores - not because the other gods were thought to not exist, as then there would be no actual contest - but as a matter of pride and chest-thumping.
Well I think the evidence suggests he was thought of in both of those ways:
The oldest of stories in the bible hint that the general belief system included a pantheon of gods, of divine beings of various stature. The Job story includes a “heavenly court” of divine beings. The Genesis one story has god saying “we will” as he creates. The constant admonitions in the bible for the people to stop worshiping other gods, or at least not elevate other gods to a rank higher than Yahweh, make it clear they were rather constantly doing just that. As do the stories of destroying the high places of other gods that were being worshiped by the people. As does including trees and poles and art in the temple, the symbols of Asherah, Yahweh’s consort or wife.
As far as thinking of god as “people”, again that is how many of the gods were pictured - at least those that weren’t snakes or leviathan or other creatures (and even they usually had a human form). They were thought of as super-people. We were created in their image, and if we appear in of the image of god then god can be seen in our image as well. It goes both ways. The gods look like us because we look like them. God is pictured in the bible doing people things: Walking in the garden. Resting from exhaustion. Conducting wars. Smiting enemy states. Competing with other gods to show his power. Protecting the clan from outsiders and other threats. He is described in human terms: Jealous. Patient. Loving. Angry. Revengeful. Even petty, when you think about it.
These ideas did change over time as the people moved toward monotheism. But the full-scale adoption of monotheism within the Jewish culture was apparently not complete directly after the exile when the elite Judahites returned from Babylon. They returned with the scrolls they had compiled and redacted and the new belief that their god Yahweh did not live only in his temple, as the other gods did, but could in fact be with them in exile.
And what did they do when they got back? They build another temple for their god to live in, to tabernacle in - in the most holy of places. Which was just like the other gods in the area, which had similar temples. Their god needed a place to live, with the people, just like the gods of their neighbors did.
For an excellent review of they way people thought of their gods in bible times, focusing especially on El & Yahweh, this is a mind-blowing read:
The teaser on Amazon reads: "The scholarship of theology and religion teaches us that the God of the Bible was without a body, only revealing himself in the Old Testament in words mysteriously uttered through his prophets, and in the New Testament in the body of Christ. The portrayal of God as corporeal and masculine is seen as merely metaphorical, figurative, or poetic. But, in this revelatory study, Francesca Stavrakopoulou presents a vividly corporeal image of God: a human-shaped deity who walks and talks and weeps and laughs, who eats, sleeps, feels, and breathes, and who is undeniably male.
“Here is a portrait—arrived at through the author’s close examination of and research into the Bible—of a god in ancient myths and rituals who was a product of a particular society, at a particular time, made in the image of the people who lived then, shaped by their own circumstances and experience of the world. From head to toe—and every part of the body in between—this is a god of stunning surprise and complexity, one we have never encountered before.”
This makes sense to me. Consider that every author of the books of the bible, with the possible exception of one or two books of the NT, was either an Israelite or (later) an second-temple Jew. Second temple Judaism continued to be a temple based cult religion of animal sacrifice - sacrifice to please their god, who enjoyed the smell of burning animals - presumably from within the most holy place in his temple. Jesus and all of his disciples belonged to this religion. They went to temple and participated in these practices, which informed their view of their god, Yahweh. As did the early Christians in Jerusalem, who thought of themselves as a sect of Judaism, until the temple was destroyed in the 70s.
Consider how utterly foreign that cultic temple religion is to both modern Christians and modern Rabbinic Jews. It is only logical to infer that their view of their god was also quite foreign to us.
My sister once said something pithy which I’ve never forgotten: “You can never say another person is not worshipping.”
You say the 2nd person is “observing” the sun.
I mean, is he Donald Trump? Is he a heliophysicist? If the latter, he’d know one should not look at the sun with unprotected eyes.
Why is he doing so? It’s not for scientific purposes, clearly; the person in the cartoon is, based on his action, scientifically ignorant.
Is he doing so because “it feels good”? Does looking at the sun move him to reflect on how good his life is? If so, why, objectively?
Or is his action empty of meaning? If so, why potentially damage one’s eyes for an action empty of meaning?
If my sister’s statement is correct — it may not be — I also hold as a truism you can never say another person is worshipping.
Said another way, how do we know the man in first panel isn’t merely acknowledging the majesty of protonic matter?
I’m not saying the Paleolithe knows there are such things as protons. I’m saying how do we know his feeling about the rock isn’t identical to that of the man “observing” the sun? Because he kneels and extends his hands? When he does that, he may get exactly the same feeling the modern man does when “observing.”
If so, what is the difference, and what is the “growing up”? Suppose, in the future, we learn the objectively correct posture, relative to the sun, is to merely ignore it? What will we make of his “growing up,” then?
The beauty and challenge of art is that once it is made, the artist no longer is in control. The art is open to interpretation. I of course think my interpretation is “correct” in the sense that I believe my interpretation is what the artist intended and I happen to agree with it. Others may offer a different interpretation.
As opposed to an orgy of “pride and chest-thumping,” it describes the prototypical biblical contest — the submission of Canaan — as
the story of the kingdom of God breaking into the world of nations at a time when national and political entities were viewed as the creation of the gods and living proofs of their power.
Thus the Lord’s triumph over the Canaanites testified to the world that the God of Israel is the one true and living God, whose claim on the world is absolute. It was also a warning to the nations that the irresistible advance of the kingdom of God would ultimately disinherit all those who opposed it, giving place in the earth only to those who acknowledge and serve the Lord. At once an act of redemption and judgment, it gave notice of the outcome of history and anticipated the final destiny of humankind and the creation.
Said another way, the conquest of other nations was God speaking to those peoples in their ideolect; the way they would understand the act as one of the Divine, given their own perspectives.
I’m not clear what you’re saying these statements prove or support.
What do you mean?
God is, clearly, not human. Since He is not, describing Him in human terms is, obviously, and merely, a literary device; an explanatory one, in order to make Him legible to humans.
So, for example, God is described as all-powerful. But he’s also described as having an “arm.” (Deut. 4:34, Isa. 53:1, Ps. 89:10, etc.) But why would an all-powerful God need an arm?
No doubt the author’s is a fascinating review. It certainly sounds that way.
Is hers a theological study, or a literary one? Would Francesca Stavrakopoulou hold that, exegetically, the God of the Bible is depicted, there, as “people,” or “from the sky”? Would she affirm this is not a thoroughly modern, atheistic caricature?
Would you please kindly respond to my charge that the artist has, in the last panel, in a key sense, merely repeated the first one; i.e., that these reverenced objects are, in essence, the same thing: protons?
In your original post, you spoke of you own experience, stating, “I made it to the last box.”
Would you please kindly tell me what this statement means, particularly in light of my closing comments from my earlier post?
I agree with you, @Pierrepaul. This is, indeed, part of the richness of art, and what makes it so universally compelling to human beings.
I’ll venture, however, that Mr. Kinsella might argue his art — his actual drawing, or skill as a craftsman — is secondary to his intellectual analysis, and even, maybe, that the former is merely a vehicle for the latter.
If so, my questions, and protests, remain, as does my initial conclusion: The God of the Bible is neither depicted, there, as “people,” nor “from the sky.” This is a thoroughly modern, atheistic caricature.
The only thing I would add is, in my response to @Pierrepaul’s though-provoking post, I did not address the idea of “observing nature as it really is.” (You echo this with your phrase, “facing reality without a shield of faith.”)
I would contend there is no scientific definition of “observing nature as it really is,” or even “reality.” The best and greatest scientists would admit that all observation of nature is relentlessly subjective.
If true, it remains to be seen if, actually, the best way to “face reality” is “with faith,” or “without faith.”
What is the object of faith? (rhetorical). See the box “People who claim to speak for people in the sky”. You simply can’t evade the fact that faith is exercised in those who make extraordinary claims. That is, taking someone’s word for the veracity of the claim. Even worse, in most cases the identity of those persons is unknown. Even yet worse, most of them just told stories and made no claims as to where they got their information; unknown persons coming along later decided which claims were believable and which were not, using unknown criteria.
On the other hand, examining evidence, discovering causality, proposing hypotheses, making corrections, and defining theories as to how the universe functions would seem to be better method for gaining knowledge.
My comments were given, Bart, in the context of your statement that “facing reality” is a desirable, even, optimal goal.
Among other responses, I asserted there is no mutually agreed upon scientific definition of “reality.” If you asked the average scientist how to view “reality,” she would probably say something to the effect of, “For ‘reality,’ talk to an epistemologist. All I do is measure phenomena.”
Given this, it’s impossible to say, yet, what’s the best way to access “reality,” because it’s difficult to know what it is. You haven’t refuted, or even addressed this, in your response.
This statement reminds me of a 1998 debate, moderated by William F. Buckley, in which British biologist and overcommitted atheist Peter Atkins asked theistic philosopher William Lane Craig if he denied that science could account for everything.
“Yes, I do deny that science can account for everything,” replied Craig.
Fantasy, myths and legends, where the action is nonstop and delineation between good and evil is as different as night and day, are infinitely more appealing than the ennui of facts and drudgery of real life.