Origins 6(1):3-4 (1979).
Brief summaries of the main conclusions of the leading presentations are given below for those who may find the complete articles too long or technical.
THE STRUCTURE OF THE GENESIS FLOOD NARRATIVE AND ITS IMPLICATIONS
In a previous issue of ORIGINS (5:9-38), Dr. Shea examined the
literary structure and content of the first two chapters of Genesis to see if source
critics were justified in claiming the existence of two antithetical accounts of creation.
His analysis revealed ample support for a unified account of God's creative acts as
recorded by one author.
Applying these same principles of literary criticism to Genesis 6-9, scholars have dissected the flood narrative into small, discrete segments. According to their analyses, these units come from two different sources, J and P, and subsequently have been woven together in a complex pattern. With a multiple authorship, separated by centuries, it would be easy to conclude that the Genesis flood account contains duplications and contradictions and therefore does not necessarily provide a factual account of the sequence of events that took place in one major episode.
Dr. Shea begins this article by dividing the flood account into eleven sections, each representing one thought or sense unit. His rhetorical analysis of the overall literary structure reveals these units to be the building blocks of a detailed, organized narrative, suggesting a single author. Further evidence against a multiple authorship is found when the author examines some of the "proofs" used by source critics. The passages citing the numbers of animals taken into the ark are usually considered to be duplications and are attributed to different sources. Here, Dr. Shea shows that these so-called duplications actually provide evidence for parallelism, a literary technique employed by the ancient Semites in their poetry and prose.
Another argument for multiple sources is found in the chronological statements of the flood account. Source critics have attributed statements about time periods to J, while assigning the more precise chronological data of Noah's life to P. The writer of this article believes them to be inconsistent in applying this methodology and offers a scheme for all the data in which the patterns for both the periodic and specific chronological data contribute to the literary structure of the narrative. This harmonious integration makes multiple authorship seem unlikely.
In the final section of his article, Dr. Shea discusses certain chronological elements from four Mesopotamian flood stories. Though these stories are similar in literary construction to the flood account, no Assyriologist would see any reason for separating the stories into multiple sources. This shows a definite dichotomy in methodology between biblical and ancient Near Eastern studies, and Dr. Shea suggests that biblical literature should be evaluated in comparison with the literature of the ancient Semites who were contemporary with the biblical Hebrews.
THE INTERPRETATION OF C-14 DATES
This article by Dr. R. H. Brown discusses the basic principles and
assumptions of radiocarbon age dating. The author points out the difference between real
time and radiocarbon age determinations which have to be adjusted to agree with
Bristlecone Pine chronology or biblical chronology. Also, a variety of models for the past
history of the earth that might affect the accuracy of radiocarbon ages is evaluated.
Variation in the intensity of cosmic rays which produce C-14 is not considered by the author to be a significant source of discrepancy, since evidence indicates that in the past there has not been a significant change in the cosmic ray intensity. Changes in the geomagnetic field which diverts cosmic rays might make C-14 dates appear as much as 11,000 years too old. The influence of changes in the magnetic field of the sun on cosmic rays produces a negligible effect. Higher upper atmosphere water vapor content in the past would produce little effect, since a model based on our present knowledge of molecular relationships would allow for only limited changes. The author suggests that the most significant change in the relationship of C-14 dates to real time could come from a dilution of the C-14 by a significantly larger biosphere in the past. An increase of more than two orders of magnitude in this biosphere could make C-14 dates appear 51,000 years too old.
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