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The Meaning of Creation: Genesis and Modern Science [Paperback]

By Conrad Hyers (Author) & M. Conrad Hyers (Author)
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Item description for The Meaning of Creation: Genesis and Modern Science by Conrad Hyers & M. Conrad Hyers...

Conrad Hyers offers a welcome respite from the counter-productive effects of extremism that surround the creation issue. Focusing on the creation texts from the book of Genesis, Hyers interprets the biblical account in light of its relationship to its culture, context, and purpose.

Publishers Description

Conrad Hyers offers a welcome respite from the counter-productive effects of extremism that surround the creation issue. Focusing on the creation texts from the book of Genesis, Hyers interprets the biblical account in light of its relationship to its culture, context, and purpose.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Westminster John Knox Press
Pages   216
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.58" Width: 5.56" Height: 0.55"
Weight:   0.63 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Dec 1, 1984
Publisher   Westminster John Knox Press
ISBN  0804201250  
ISBN13  9780804201254  

Availability  93 units.
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More About Conrad Hyers & M. Conrad Hyers

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Hyers is Professor and Chairperson of Religion, Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota. He received his Th.M. and Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary.

Conrad Hyers currently resides in the state of Minnesota.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Commentaries > Old Testament
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > General
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > Creationism
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > General
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > Philosophy
7Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > Science & Religion
8Books > Subjects > Science > History & Philosophy > Science
9Books > Subjects > Science > History & Philosophy

Christian Product Categories
Books > Theology > Theology & Doctrine > General

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Meaning of Creation: Genesis and Modern Science?

Excellent  Jan 3, 2006
A refutation of "scientific creationism" from a Christian standpoint with integrity towards the text.
Syncretistic, modern approach throws out too much  Jul 27, 2004
Conrad Hyers's slim volume, *The Meaning of Creation*, attempts to put an end to the Creation / evolution debacle by offering a fresh but purportedly conservative approach to Genesis 1 and 2.

According to Hyers, the actual conflict is not between Creation and evolution (both of which can be and are true), but between two ideologies, both of which are false : atheistic evolutionism («dinosaur religion») and «scientific» creationism («religion as dinosaur».) Though it is «neither good Bible nor good science» (p20), the latter has sought to impose itself as *the* orthodox approach to Genesis, outside of which lies heresy. Its literalist demands have thereby been «brought to the text, confused with the text, given the authority of the text, and absolutized along with the text, requiring the same allegiance as the text itself.» (p23)

Even though they may seem to be diametrical opposites, these two ideologies share the same premise : a projection of modern science onto Scripture. Both substitute «certain modern categories and concerns for those actually present in the biblical texts, and imagine ... that these contemporary problems are what the texts are about.» (p8.)

Instead, Hyers offers what he considers to be a truly conservative approach to Scripture, one which actually tries «to conserve ... the primary and original meaning of the text, in its own terms and historical milieu» (p8.) Seen in this light, Genesis does not contradict science because it is shown to «belong to a different literary genre, type of knowledge and kind of concern» and therefore to have «little to do» with science : it is not concerned with what arch-Creationist Henry Morris ludicrously calls God's «methods of creation», but with «the ultimate source of ... being, meaning and direction» (p33.)

Quite perceptively, Hyers remarks that under a show of strict adherence to the text, literalism actually «misses the symbolic richness and spiritual power of what *is* there» (p29), a flaw one encounters even in solid old-earth creationist writers like Glenn R. Morton.

To access that richness, we must understand Genesis as a «*theological* picture of the universe, and the respective places of nature, humanity and divinity within the *religious* order of things» (p38), a picture which attacks idolatry by demythologizing nature and showing the creatureliness of the sun, moon and stars deified by the Pagans.

Both scientific literalism and scientific symbolism must therefore be rejected in favour of religious symbolism. Genesis is a cosmological account, interested in God's imposition of order on chaos through the separation of entities from one another (p89.) In particular, it uses numbers numerologically, not numerically ; the six days are neither 24-hour periods nor geological eras, but «a liturgical-calendrical model based on the sacred division of the week and the observance of the sabbath» (p75.)

Hyers does not seek to reduce the Genesis accounts to a set of legends or fairy tales. He considers them to be myths, i.e. «vehicles of supreme truth» (p107), figurative expressions of «the most basic and significant truths of all, which give meaning, purpose and value to existence» (p104.) He does claim that «stories such as Cain and Abel, the Flood, and the Tower of Babel ... have a strong historical base» (p125), but when he actually spells out that base however, it turns out to be less than strong. For instance, «Eve's first eating of the tree of knowledge, which led to farming and eventually to urbanization, may have some historical basis in the probable origins of agriculture in simple plantings by women» (p101.) « Similarly, the flood story... is based in the flood experiences of the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys... It is quite possible that some people escaped into boats and took animals with them» (p102.)

The serpent itself is seen as a personification of the Baal-worshipping Canaanites, leading Hyers to a far from Catholic interpretation of God's promise about Eve's seed : «While Israel bruised the head of the Canaanites in conquest, the Canaanites continued to bruise the heel of Israel in corrupting its pastoral faith and desert virtues» (p123.)

As for Biblical inerrancy, little is left of it after Hyers' remark that «the Cannanites and their agricultural rites are given a long and dubious history» (p124) as the descendants of Cain.

Much is made of the opposition between Genesis 1 (the Priestly account), which Hyers believes was composed in the 6th century BC (p51) and Genesis 2 (the Yahwist account), which is said to be from the Solomonic period (10th century BC) and is therefore much earlier. The latter reflects pastoral, nomadic values and is critical of the abandonment of the ways of the Patriarchs which followed settlement and urbanization, and more especially the corruption of monotheism through the cosmopolitan polygamy of the «royal and palatial» Solomon (p142.)

By combining the Priestly and Yahwist worldviews, «Genesis... offers contrasting portraits of human existence : the urban and pastoral Adam and Eve, the royal couple and the servant pair... This very juxtaposition suggests that to acknowledge both sides of our Adamic nature is to be whole, to be fully human» (p151-2.) The resulting text therefore avoids both cynic and promethean extremes. Indeed, «the Priestly author, though positively related to civilization, is not a radical progressivist ; and the Yahwist, though critical of civilization and its evils, is not a radical primitivist» (p162)

The last chapter of the book tries to defend a vision of Creation as a «controlled accident», God using chance as part of the very process of Creation rather than controlling every single step. Creation is thus redefined as an artsy, avant-garde mix of «design and arbitrariness» (p181), a kind of jam session where God lets things happen as much as He makes them happen (p175), almost as if He wanted to be surprised by His Creation.

It is at this point that Hyers departs most from conservative positions, as he falls into some frankly blasphemous sort of feministic theology : «Divine foreknowledge, let alone divine predestination, would have no absolute place in this vocabulary. These are masculine concerns, attributed to a masculine god» (p175.)

*The Meaning of Creation* is at its best when trying to recapture the mindset of the inspired writers of Genesis, but it errs on the side of modernism in the interpretations it offers. It should therefore be read not as a final answer to the problem, but as an introduction to a more empathetic exegesis for all those whose minds are entrapped in scientific literalism.
towards a exegetical solution in the creation evolution mess  Feb 10, 2003
it is one of those drop everything and read now type of books. very much appropriate to a discussion of gen 1 and 2, and the extended discussion of creation evolution, with attention to the relationship of religion and science.

his thesis is that the first two chapters of genesis are polemic against the neighboring cultures of the hebrews. simply put genesis has nothing to do with modern science at all. we impose our catagories of thought, but more importantly we impose what we want to hear onto these chapters.

just a few quotes will help:
it is quite doubtful that these texts have waited in obscurity through the millennia for their hidden meanings to be revealed by modern science. it is at least a good possibility that the "real meaning" was understood by the authors themselves. pg 3

and in response to henry morris who wrote "the creation account is clear, definite, sequential and matter-of-fact, giving evey appearance of straightforward historical narrative"

---hyers writes on pg 23 "this may indeed be the way things appear to certain modern interpreters at considerable remove from the context in which the texts were written, living in an age so dominated by scientific and historical modes of thought. It may also be the way things appear to those for whom modern science and historiography offer the criteria by which religious statements are to be understood and judged to be true or false. Yet it is by no means obvious that this represents the literary form or religious concern of the Genesis writers"

the problem of the debate over origins from genesis is like pogo said in the widely quoted cartoon "we have met the enemy and he is US".
the reason we have so much smoke over genesis is that we forgot the first rule of hermenutics. approach the text as the first readers did, with their assumptions, their world and life view. with the issues they were interested in understanding in the forefront. NOT OURS. the extension of scripture to all times and ages is done after this culture and historic criticism. not before.

therefore genesis is a religious not a scientific document addressed to the questions of that time. polytheism, and sacralization of the physical world. this is in alignment with _battle for god_ by karen armstrong and her analysis of logos and mythos. our problem is that we so depreciate mythos as being NOT TRUE that we very much miss the point of the first two chapters of Genesis....

Good read for everyone  Jun 6, 2002
This book presents the argument that Genesis 1 and 2 should not be taken as scientific or historical fact. Instead these two passages should be viewed within the context they were written. For example, Genesis 1 is not an historical account of creation but a polemic against the gods of other nations. The author's arguments are convincing. If everyone accepted this view of Genesis 1 and 2 there would be no creation/evolution debate.
Probably the finest book ever written on this topic  Sep 4, 2001
Probably the finest book ever written on this topic. Hyers points out the hermeneutical dilemmas associated with the reading of the Genesis creation accounts. The Creation/Evolution controversy should never have arrived at a scientific level, and Hyers wants his audience to understand why. This well written work separates itself from the hodgepodge of works that have come out the past several years attempting to integrate theology and science. Hyers' work does not add another trumpet to that redundant performance. Rather, he looks at the literary genre and how it is being violated by the literalists. He also examines how our modern literalistic culture places a harmful interpretive shade over our eyes as we read ancient texts written during a time rich with allegory. And he explains the neglect of authorial intent in the Genesis creation accounts--texts which appear to be more of a response to one or both of the ancient cosmologies neighboring the Hebrews.

Hyers is sensitive to those who cling to traditional interpretations of the creation accounts in Genesis, and is careful not to insult the intelligence of anyone. Hyers is a conservative theologian, but his definition of conservative is to conserve the original meaning of the text, as opposed to conserving a traditional interpretation of the text.

While the copyright date is 1984, don't let the older date make the book appear to be irrelevant to a resurging 21-century topic.


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