Re: Physical Models in the NT (Something from Nothing)

From: Will Wagers (
Date: Thu Feb 22 1996 - 02:42:13 EST

David L. Moore writes:

> He says, in part, "[The interpretation of the creation narrative]
>is the point at issue in the debate between a philosopher and R. Gamaliel.
>The philosopher grants that the Jewish God is a great artist ([Heb.]
>tsayar) but claims that He had good materials to help Him .... Gamaliel
>proves from Gn. 1:1 that their creation (BRY'H) is narrated in Scripture"

With regard to the Standard Model, the Hebrew God of the Pentateuch
is more akin to Jesus than to the NT God, because both play the role of
Demiurge, e.g. a carpenter, an artist: they do all the creatin' 'round here.

Regarding my attempts to apply the Standard Model to the OT, my argument
really doesn't depend upon Rabbinic opinion, although it certainly might be
edifying on the development of the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo. The reason
is the presumed time gap between the authoring of the Pentateuch and the
rise of the rabbis. By the time, they dig into it, the Jews have already been
exposed to Greek (and Indian?) philosophy. They may have, according to various
considerations, have mapped Greek science onto Genesis or not: either being
long after the fact.

I don't have the period at hand, but Rabbinical opinion is all over the map
on this one: several map Plato straight onto Gn 1:1 (with variations in the
assignments of the elements). I think it's fair to say that Gamaliel's opinion
won out (?).

> This latter seemed
>especially interesting in the light of what Paul says about the role of
>the Son in the creation of all things "whether thrones or dominions or
>rulers [ARXAI] or powers - all things have been created through him and
>for him" (Col. 1:16).

These terms all refer to immaterial realms, rather than physical domains.
Thus, they fit quite neatly into Greek ideas. Bultmann relates ‘dominions,
principalities, and powers’ (Rm 8.38; Cl 1.16, ...) to Gnostic terms for the
elements which lord over the cosmos (Bultmann, Prim. Christ.,p. 190),
elements being the immaterial powers in Greek philosophy, e.g.
Empedocles' Love and Strife. Acc. to Vincent, Word Stud. on NT, Cl 1:16,
"the primary reference is, no doubt, to the celestial orders". So, Paul is
placing all subsidiary organizing principles under Jesus, the demiurge.
This is perfectly consistent with _Timaeus_. (It is also a standard
political tactic when trying to replace an old order with a new one.) I
haven't researched all these terms, but in Greek science, "rulers" (archai)
is a term for sources or first principles, "powers" (dunameis) is a word for
forces or potentials, elements (stoicheiai) can refer to either organizing
principles or unformed matter. (Can't wait for my new big, LSJ.) In other
words, it's got Greek science written all over it.

>For all the aculturation Paul had relative to the
>Greek world, it would seem to me that his convictions about the created
>order would have more in common with these aspects of Rabbinic Judaism
>than with Pagan philosophy.

What I would expect is to see Saul of Tarsus subordinate Rabbinic ideas
to Greek ideas (and mystery religion) as part of the syncretistic new wave.
Were he to have identified with Rabinnic ideas, why not join James' church?
Why not convert Jews, rather than Gentiles? (rhetorical questions - forget
I said them).



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