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Fw: BMCR 2005.04.31, George H. van Kooten, The Creation of Heaven

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  • Edward Moore
    ... From: To: ; Sent: Saturday, April 16, 2005 10:24 AM Subject: BMCR 2005.04.31,
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 16, 2005
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      Sent: Saturday, April 16, 2005 10:24 AM
      Subject: BMCR 2005.04.31, George H. van Kooten, The Creation of Heaven

      > George H. van Kooten (ed.), The Creation of Heaven and Earth.
      > Re-interpretations of Genesis 1 in the Context of Judaism, Ancient
      > Philosophy, Christianity, and Modern Physics. Themes in Biblical
      > Narrative 8. Leiden: Brill, 2005. Pp. xiv, 284. ISBN 90-04-14235-5.
      > EUR 109.00.
      > Reviewed by Pieter W. van der Horst,
      > Utrecht University (The Netherlands) (PvdHorst@...)
      > Word count: 1145 words
      > -------------------------------
      > The 14 contributions to this volume are the revised versions of papers
      > read at an international conference at Groningen University in 2003.
      > They deal with the creation of the cosmos in the Hebrew Bible and with
      > the interpretations of this story in antiquity, both Jewish and
      > Christian and Greco-Roman. The individual chapters will be briefly
      > summarized.
      > Ed Noort deals with the creation of light in Gen. 1 and argues
      > convincingly that "the first work of creation, light, is in a category
      > of its own in structure, form and content. It is set apart from the
      > creation of the luminaries" (11). Darkness is not created, it is
      > limited by God in this world. The article by Jacques van Ruiten
      > discusses the intertextual relationships between Genesis 1 and Jeremiah
      > 4:23-28 and concludes that the prophet probably drew upon the creation
      > story of Genesis for his reversed picture in which he describes the
      > creation of chaos out of order, a debatable thesis. In an illuminating
      > essay Eibert Tigchelaar investigates in which ways Gen. 1:14, about the
      > lights serving as signs for festivals, was interpreted in the
      > calendrical controversies of ancient Judaism. Florentino Garci/a
      > Marti/nez discusses the absence of an abstract term for 'creation' or
      > 'creature' in the Old Testament and traces its coming-into-being in
      > post-biblical Jewish literature, especially in the Dead Sea Scrolls
      > where such terms appear for the first time. Classicists without
      > knowledge of Hebrew will find it hard to follow the arguments of these
      > four articles due to their frequent use of untranslated and
      > untransliterated Hebrew.
      > This is not the case in the second section of the book, which deals
      > with Greek and Roman materials. Jan Bremmer discusses traditional
      > creation myths such as Hesiod, Theog. 116-138, and their background in
      > mythical traditions from the Ancient Near East; thereafter, he turns to
      > Orphic cosmogonic speculations; and finally he argues that the words of
      > Genesis 1:1 should be seen as a reaction to Darius' statements about
      > Ahuramazda as the creator of heaven and earth (in Persian inscriptions
      > from the end of the sixth century BCE), a very informative and lucid
      > study. In a short but fascinating contribution, John Dillon discusses
      > the context of Philo's interpretation of Plato's Timaeus and the book
      > of Genesis and argues "both that there had been a good deal of
      > discussion in the Hellenistic schools, in the wake of Plato's Timaeus
      > and Aristotle's response in De Caelo, as to the logical and ontological
      > status of the physical world, and that Philo was pretty well acquainted
      > with the ins and outs of this. Not only his exposition in De opificio
      > mundi , but the (hostile) account of Plato's position, and of Academic
      > defences of it, that he provides (in his persona as a defender of
      > Aristotle) at the beginning of De aeternitate mundi (Sections 13-16),
      > fully demonstrate this. He had to balance this, however, with his
      > stance as a pillar of the Jewish faith and of Jewish culture generally,
      > within an Alexandrian milieu, and this inevitably serves to obscure his
      > position" (106-7). Next, in a short but fine contribution Robbert van
      > den Berg deals with Numenius' interpretation of Genesis 1:2 ('the
      > Spirit of God was hovering over the waters') and shows how here Moses
      > was taken into the service of Greek philosophy by a non-Jewish
      > Platonist since the Jewish lawgiver was regarded by him and others as
      > an authoritative thinker from of old. Teun Tieleman writes on Galen and
      > Genesis. He argues that Galen criticizes Moses' creation account on the
      > following grounds: "First, [it] is defective in regard to causal
      > theory, notably its lacking specification of a rationally acceptable
      > material cause; secondly, it is flawed from a methodological point of
      > view: it is a mere myth we are called upon to accept on the authority
      > of Moses where proof is needed" (138). Tieleman also clearly
      > demonstrates how R. Walzer's interpretation of Galen's polemic is
      > dominated by an outdated pan-Posidonianism.
      > The third part of this volume deals with creation in some New Testament
      > writings. George van Kooten argues that, in the Prologue of the fourth
      > Gospel, John's interpretation of the creation of light in Genesis 1
      > involves a particular Greek philosophical understanding of light,
      > specifically of the 'true light' which occurs in both John 1:9 and
      > Plato's Phaedo 109E. He demonstrates how the motif of the intelligible
      > light is applied in the rest of John's Gospel (unfortunately, Van
      > Kooten uses the terms 'intelligible,' 'intellectual,' 'mental,'
      > 'conceptual,' and 'noetic' without differentiation). He next
      > underscores this interpretation by arguing that it was a distinct
      > possibility to have knowledge of Plato and the Platonic tradition in
      > first-century Jewish Palestine. Even though there is some
      > overinterpretation in this essay, especially in the attempt to
      > demonstrate the influence of Plato's cave parable in Resp. VII
      > throughout John's Gospel, it is a thought-provoking and original study.
      > Edward Adams discusses the curious statement about creation 'out of and
      > through water' in 2 Peter 3:5 and argues that the author is here
      > drawing on a characteristically Stoic view of world-formation. After a
      > sketch of Stoic cosmogony, he concludes: "On the basis of the Stoic
      > account of cosmic origins, it would be quite correct to say that the
      > cosmos was formed 'out of' water, since water, though not the
      > archetypal element, was nevertheless the immediate substance out of
      > which the cosmos was made, the malleable, corporeal stuff which the
      > divine craftsman shaped and adapted into an ordered world. It would be
      > equally correct to say that the heavens and the earth were formed
      > 'through' water, since water was not the original state of things but
      > one of the material alterations experienced by the universe on its way
      > to becoming a fully formed structure" (205). In 2 Peter 3:5 the author
      > is thus attempting to integrate Genesis 1 with Stoic physics. This is a
      > fine study. Boudewijn Dehandschutter deals with the background of the
      > statement in 1 Timothy 4:4 that 'everything that God created is good'
      > and concludes that the author fires a warning shot in the direction of
      > early gnosticizing Christian teachers who regarded the material
      > creation as evil.
      > Part IV, on creation in the Middle Ages and Modernity, will be
      > summarized very briefly. Willemien Otten discusses early medieval views
      > of Genesis and Plato's Timaeus. Rene/ van Woudenberg deals with "Design
      > in Nature: Some Current Issues," and finally Dillon presents some brief
      > but interesting comments on that essay from the ancient perspective.
      > This is a stimulating volume, with a number of very good essays. There
      > is an index only of ancient texts, unfortunately not of subjects, and
      > the list of abbreviations is lamentably incomplete. Who, outside The
      > Netherlands, knows what NBV stands for? (It is the Nieuwe
      > Bijbelvertaling [New Bible Translation] of 2004). And, finally, what is
      > sadly lacking here is a thorough discussion of the debated question of
      > whether or not the cosmogony in the opening section of Ovid's
      > Metamorphoses was influenced by Genesis 1.
      > -------------------------------
      > The BMCR website (http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/bmcr/) contains a complete
      > and searchable archive of BMCR reviews since our first issue in 1990.
      > It also contains information about subscribing and unsubscribing from
      > the service.
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