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  • The Bible: a questions thread

    I thought i'd put this in the boiler room as it's about religion, but I'm not intending this as a discussion thread, just an opprotunity to sneakily get you theologically-informed people to do my work for me. So, this isn't about whether the Bible is true or not, just about what's actually in the Bible/how the Bible is interpreted and translated. Exegesis, not ontological argument

    Had a few questions to start off...

    1) What's the most popular interpretation (or the interpretation you think has the solidest basis in the text) of the "Sons of god" who father the nephilim in Genesis? Fallen angels? Great men?

    2) During the flood, could anyone explain the various movements of the birds that Noah sends out in relation to the level of the water/weather at the time....that is, I'm trying to work out if I've got the order correct....

    Rain stops...Noah sends out raven...raven doesn't come back (why??)...noah sends out dove...dove comes back....earth still flooded....mountains start to emerge...noah sends out another dove, dove brings back olive branch....but earth still a bit flooded so they have to wait a while before disembarking...?

    Is that the right order? Have I missed any important bits?


    -- Robofrakkinawesome BANNER BY FRANCY --

  • #2
    I'm none too sure about your questions Wolfie, but I think very highly of Robin Lane Fox's book, "The Unauthorized Version: truth and fiction in the Bible." Fox is a very distinguished Oxford classical historian and an unbeliever so far as religion goes. Yet his study of the Bible is illuminating and sympathetic and readable. He is particularly good at explaining how two quite different creation stories are knitted together in Genesis.

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    • #3
      Wolfie - I'm not totally sure about your second question, so I'll just state my opinion on the first one. I think the "Sons of God" who father the nephilim in Geneisis are indeed fallen angels. For one, because great men would not be considered sons of God, anymore than a regular human being. Also, because the fact that they layed with 'human women' is described as an abomination. This happened shortly before the flood, so if they were the spawn of fallen angels - a mockery of man made in God's image - they would be wiped out.

      There isn't a lot of information out there on the nephilim, though. They are only mentioned twice in the Bible. But that is my interpretation, from the word choice used there.
      I have loved you. - Ser Jorah Mormont

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      • #4
        Thanks very much guys - for the rec, Michael, and for your interpretation, BloodyHell. Much appreciated. I'm going all out for the OT....can't decide which bit to read next. Where's the story of Joseph's dreams?


        -- Robofrakkinawesome BANNER BY FRANCY --

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        • #5
          The story of Joseph and his dreams and his coat of many colors is Gen. 37 to 45. And also a musical.
          Last edited by KingofCretins; 31-03-09, 02:28 PM.
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          • #6
            Originally posted by KingofCretins View Post
            The story of Joseph and his dreams and his coat of many colors is Gen. 37 to 45. And also a musical.
            Damn you, now I have "I closed my eyes....drew back the curtain..." stuck in my head.

            But also thankyou for the ref


            -- Robofrakkinawesome BANNER BY FRANCY --

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            • #7
              According to the Catholic Encyclopaedia, "son of God" is a Hebrew expression meaning that somebody is holy and righteous, or that they hold power because of God's will (a priest, prophet or king). It doesn't mean that they're a literal son. Similar expressions - "son of wickedness", "son of strength", son of lightning" were also widely used. By this interpretation, Genesis 6:1 is a warning against the sin of miscegenation: the righteous descendants of Seth and Enos ("sons of God") interbred with the wicked descendants of Cain ("sons of Men") , leading to the evil which God had to destroy in the Flood.

              Fallen angels is another popular interpretation. So too is the more modern idea that this is evidence that the Jews were originally polytheists, and Yahweh was their god rather than the God.

              As for the flood: Genesis 8 (Authorised Version):

              (6) And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made: (7) And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth. (8) Also he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground; (9) But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth: then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark. (10) And he stayed yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark; (11) And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth. (12) And he stayed yet other seven days; and sent forth the dove; which returned not again unto him any more. (13) And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth: and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dry. (14) And in the second month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month, was the earth dried. (15) And God spake unto Noah, saying, (16) Go forth of the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons' wives with thee.

              So the raven was just flying backwards and forwards for two weeks without ever landing. Clearly ravens are strong birds - or maybe it was sneakily perching on top of the ark where Noah didn't see it. Also, it could have fed off carrion floating in the water, and didn't need to return for food. It sounds as if Noah released the dove at the same time as the raven, and it did come back. A week later he released the dove again, and it brought back an olive leaf, showing that trees were starting to poke up above the floodwaters again. And they still had leaves on them despite being submerged for 40 days. After another week he released the dove a third time, and it didn't come back at all - presumably it found enough dry land to settle. Even then, incidentally, Noah stayed in the Ark for two more months until God told him it was safe to leave.

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              • #8
                Addendum: I just looked up the Jewish interpretation of Bereishit (Genesis) Chapter 6 as well.

                Here, the words that in the Christian Old Testament are translated "Sons of God" are translated "sons of nobles" or "sons of princes", although there is an acknowlegement that it might also refer to "the princes who go as messengers of the Omnipotent", ie angels. This verse is interpreted as a warning against men marrying whomever they want to marry instead of a decent unmarried woman of their own social class. 'Nephilim' is explained as "those who caused the fall of mankind" (through their wickedness) rather than "giants".

                As for the story of the dove and raven, Torah commentators suggest the raven just flew in circles around the ark rather than go out and hunt for land as Noah wanted it to, because it had a grudge against him. They also explain that there must have been a 7-day gap between the raven and the first dove mission, because this is implied (but not stated explicitly) in the text.

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                • #9
                  You don't want to be without The Oxford Atlas of the Bible. It is a marvelous production and will keep you happily absorbed for hours. Only slightly less essential, I find, is Metzger and Coogan's The Oxford Companion to the Bible.

                  The Old Testament stories, together with Greek mythology, form the two "myth pools"--to use Wagner's expression--which have nourished Western culture over 2000 years.
                  Last edited by Michael; 31-03-09, 08:26 PM.

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                  • #10
                    My Bible's study notes on the Nephilim says that though they were considered "great men and noble" etc. etc., that they were only seen that way in man's eyes, and not God's. Also, it says that Nephilim means "fallen ones" in Hebrew.
                    I have loved you. - Ser Jorah Mormont

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by stormwreath View Post
                      Fallen angels is another popular interpretation.
                      Definitely the most fun one.

                      I like the polytheist idea too though.



                      So the raven was just flying backwards and forwards for two weeks without ever landing. Clearly ravens are strong birds - or maybe it was sneakily perching on top of the ark where Noah didn't see it. Also, it could have fed off carrion floating in the water, and didn't need to return for food. It sounds as if Noah released the dove at the same time as the raven, and it did come back. A week later he released the dove again, and it brought back an olive leaf, showing that trees were starting to poke up above the floodwaters again. And they still had leaves on them despite being submerged for 40 days. After another week he released the dove a third time, and it didn't come back at all - presumably it found enough dry land to settle. Even then, incidentally, Noah stayed in the Ark for two more months until God told him it was safe to leave.
                      This is what I'm finding really hard to work out - exactly how much the waters have fallen by the time the raven and the dove go out. Good point about the leaves... I'd always assumed that the trees had had time to grow new leaves... but the salty water must've played merry hell with the trees.

                      The dove that doesn't come back strikes me as rather rude. After Noah had saved its life and all


                      -- Robofrakkinawesome BANNER BY FRANCY --

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Wolfie Gilmore View Post
                        The dove that doesn't come back strikes me as rather rude. After Noah had saved its life and all
                        This is where reading the annotated Jewish Torah is actually more revealing than the Christian version of Genesis. They make the point that the language used when Noah sends out the dove is not "Go on a mission for me and come back", but rather the Hebrew equivalent of "Fly! Be free, my pretty!" So Noah wasn't expecting the dove to come back; it did came back twice because it had nowhere to land the first two times.


                        So the sequence is:

                        F day: the flood starts.
                        F+40 days: The rain stops. Noah sends out the raven. It flies around in circles.
                        F+47 days: Noah sends out the dove. It comes back.
                        F+54 days: Noah sends out the dove again. It comes back with an olive leaf, showing the treetops are now above the water.
                        F+61 days: Noah sends out the dove a third time. It doesn't come back, showing there's now enough dry land for it to land. Noah opens the Ark's windows and sees the "face of the land is now dry"... but it's presumably still soggy and waterlogged just under the surface.
                        F+116 days: after two more months in the Ark, Noah sees that the ground has thoroughly dried out and is back to normal. God tells him to get his ass (and his goat and his sheep) off the Ark.

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                        • #13
                          One of my guilty pleasures is a liking for the Hollywood hokum versions of Biblical stories. One of my favorites is Solomon and Sheba with Yul Brynner and Gina Lollobrigida. Another "good" one is David and Bathsheba with Gregory Peck and Susan Haywood. One should not overlook The Robe with Richard Burton and Jean Simmons and the much underrated Victor Mature. What these films lack in taste,refinement, and scholarship they make up for in other ways.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by stormwreath View Post
                            Here, the words that in the Christian Old Testament are translated "Sons of God" are translated "sons of nobles" or "sons of princes", although there is an acknowlegement that it might also refer to "the princes who go as messengers of the Omnipotent", ie angels. This verse is interpreted as a warning against men marrying whomever they want to marry instead of a decent unmarried woman of their own social class. 'Nephilim' is explained as "those who caused the fall of mankind" (through their wickedness) rather than "giants".
                            And here we go again... a society trying to make people stick to its rules by means of religion.
                            Sorry, couldn't resist throwing that remark in.

                            It seems interesting to me, if you interpret thse nephilim as the children of fallen angels and humans, that God would want them wiped out - are they some kind of soulless monsters, then? And even if they were, how is it their fault who their parents were? Why should they not be judged by their own deeds (or is it explicitly said somewhere that they are entirely evil?)?
                            Sin is what I feast upon
                            I'm forging my crematorium
                            Your tomb is waiting here for you
                            Welcome to my ritual

                            -Judas Priest, Death

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Bloodsucker View Post
                              It seems interesting to me, if you interpret thse nephilim as the children of fallen angels and humans, that God would want them wiped out - are they some kind of soulless monsters, then? And even if they were, how is it their fault who their parents were? Why should they not be judged by their own deeds (or is it explicitly said somewhere that they are entirely evil?)?
                              Yahweh is a jealous God; he doesn't like the idea of mortal beings acquiring divine power and possibly challenging his position. That's why he threw Adam and Eve out of Eden - they'd eaten the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and he was scared that if they also ate the fruit of the tree of life they'd become dangerous rivals to him:

                              And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.
                              (Genesis 3.22-23)

                              But even then, mankind continued to do things God disapproved of, and the children of the gods and humans were the most powerful and dangerous of them all. So he decided to wipe out the entire human race, along with all the animals and birds (but not, apparently, the fish. God must like fish.):

                              There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.
                              (Genesis 6:4-7)

                              Luckily, God realised that Noah was a decent bloke, and decided to spare him and his family, and gave him detailed instructions on how to build an Ark.

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                              • #16
                                This is very odd - I've just read a book:

                                Tess Gerritsen's The Mephisto Club.

                                The nephilim are involved. The author has done some research, so I will steal from her.

                                "From that complex of caves emerged seven fragments of The Book of Enoch (Noah's greatgrandfather), written in Aramaic. Within the pages of this long lost text lies a mystery that continues to puzzle scholars. It is the story of the Watchers, fallen angels who had sexual congress with women, producing an unholy race that would forever plague mankind:

                                Evil spririts have proceeded from their bodies; because they are born from men and from the holy Watchers is their beginning and primal origin; they shall be evil spirits on earth, and the evil spirits shall they be called.

                                These mixed-race creatures, also known as Nephilim, appear in yet another ancient text, The Book of Jubilees. Here, also, they are described as evil and malignant. According to Jubilees, most Nephilim are destroyed during Noah's time, but God allowed one tenth of their number to survive as subjects of Satan. Through their line, evil would continue ot afflict the earth.

                                Angels and women mating to produce hybrid monsters? This is a fantastical tale indeed, and some biblical scholars suggest quite reasonably that these matings were, in truth, simply forbidden marriages between different tribes. That the "angels" were men from the lofty line of Seth, and the women came from a much lowiler tribe, descended from Cain."

                                Obviously, none of that is from the Bible though...I'll wiki you up:

                                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noah
                                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noah%27s_Ark

                                "At the end of 150 days the Ark came to rest (on the seventeenth day of the seventh month) on the mountains of Ararat. For 150 days again the waters receded, and the hilltops emerged. Noah sent out a raven which "went to and from the Ark until the waters were dried up from the earth". Next, Noah sent a dove out, but it returned having found nowhere to land. After a further seven days, Noah again sent out the dove, and it returned with an olive leaf in its beak, and he knew that the waters had subsided. Noah waited seven days more and sent out the dove once more, and this time it did not return. Then he and his family and all the animals left the Ark, and Noah made a sacrifice to God, and God resolved that he would never again curse the ground because of man, nor destroy all life on it in this manner. Man in turn was instructed never to eat any animal which had not been drained of its blood.[9]"

                                Erm....does any of that help? Watcher...out!
                                Last edited by Bubblecat; 19-04-09, 01:12 PM.
                                A Bear! You made a Bear! Undo IT!!!

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