Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Myth/Moshol or Non Literal?

A debate is raging in some of my prior posts about whether one can say Breishis 1-11 is Mythology. It's an interesting debate, because I think all sides basically agree that a literal interpretation of Breishis is obviously incorrect, and that the world is clearly very ancient.

The position of the 'Non Literal' crowd is that we must save the basics of the stories, even while reading most of the words non-literally. So for example we can switch around the Breishis account to accord with the facts, but Adam & Eve must be real people. They insist on this for the following reasons:

1. Chazal always assumed that Adam & Eve were real
2. It's a slippery slope once you start mythologizing

However neither of these reasons hold up. Chazal also assumed that Breishis was a factual literal account in many places, and that the flood was global (execpt for Eretz Yisrael according to one authority) so the Non Literal crowd are going against Chazal's assumptions anyway. And 'Non Literal' is just as much a slippery slope as Mythology. Maybe the 10 commandments are non literal?

No, I don't buy into these reasons. The real reason is as I have stated: They are emotionally attached to the idea of Adam & Eve being real. So if it makes them feel better, lets assume that there really was a couple called Adam & Eve Horishon, who lived in a nice garden in Iraq 6000 years ago. Oh, and they had a pet snake, who did tricks!

Seriously though, taking things 'Non Literally' approaches 'Mythology' very, very quickly. Remember, Mythology does not mean Fairy Tales. It means important truths wrapped up in story form.

In order to fit Adam & Eve with the facts, the Non_literal crowd have to say that there were other people around, but only A&E had some special kind of neshamah. But that gets you into all sorts of problems as to whether Aboriginees have neshamot. So then they say, maybe all people got neshamot at the same time as A&E. So what was so special abut A&E? So then they say, maybe A&E were not literally individual people, but really were representative of mankind as a whole, maybe its the story of modern man replacing neandertahl man. By the time you get to this point you know where you are?

Its called Mythology.