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Poor Scholarship: Bruce Waltke

September 1, 2010

So I’m sitting in the library doing some research and I actually just read this from Genesis: A Commentary by Bruce K. Waltke.

The best solution is to combine the “angelic” interpretation with the “divine king” view. The tyrants were demon possessed. Gispen avers: “The text presents us with men who are controlled by fallen angels.”

Hmmmm… of course he is talking about Gen 6:1-4, but I think it ironic that he loses his job for what he writes on Gen 1, however, this didn’t get red-flagged.

The use of the adjective ‘best’ here, is perhaps the ‘best’ example of how it can be used improperly!

I thought the most ridiculous things on that passage had been written in the 20th century. Apparently not.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. September 1, 2010 3:03 pm

    What commentary would you suggest for understanding that passage aright?

  2. September 1, 2010 3:17 pm

    I haven’t come across it yet. Source criticism has made it too easy to dismiss this pericope as a truncated version of some cultural myth that the author/redactor of Genesis was almost embarrassed to include in his narrative.

    • September 1, 2010 6:46 pm

      I’m curious about why you think it’s “too” easy to attribute this odd story to an unevenly incorporated cultural myth. For what it’s worth, I don’t think that this narrative is just especially subject to the source critic’s knife, but its “sore thumb” uniqueness was surely an important pointer that first suggested source criticism.

      It’s certainly tantalizingly interesting, isn’t it? 🙂

    • WenatcheeTheHatchet permalink
      September 1, 2010 7:03 pm

      If the redactor was almost embarrassed to include it wouldn’t the redactor have simply not included it? I don’t quite get how source criticism would lead scholars to skip digging into this one in OT studies. Is it possible NT scholars have had to do more wrestling with the material just to account for why it’s such a linchpin (with 1 Enoch) in Jude? I’m not nearly as familiar with OT scholarship but I am surprised to read you say that source criticism has made the pericope easy to dismiss as somehow not germane to the larger whole.

      Would you say, agathos, that some of the work on Luke’s apocalypticism is an attempt to shed light on interpretative traditions surrounding Gen 6 in reverse, re-approaching that textual tradition from the NT appropriation and understanding of it in an attempt to work back to how that tradition may have started? That’s been my impression reading through that series so far.

  3. September 2, 2010 8:30 am

    Let me give you a small taste of what scholars have to say:

    The father of the Documentary Hypothesis (DH) Julius Wellhausen famously described the passage as a “cracked erratic boulder.” Commentators following him have generally followed his perplexed lead. Speiser declares the undisguised mythology of the isolated fragment “puzzling and controversial in the extreme. Its problems are legion.” Hermann Gunkel suggests bluntly, “This piece is a torso. It can hardly be called a story.” Ultimately, because of its strangeness some have suggested that “the narrative must not be pressed too far because we do not understand it,” and “so full of difficulties as to defy certainty of interpretation.”

    • September 2, 2010 8:51 am

      That’s not too helpful, is it? I’m going to go with WenatcheeTheHatchet and assume that whoever compiled Genesis put that bit in that place for some reason that actually contributes to the whole of the theology he was weaving. “Embarrassment” doesn’t seem to me to be a primary motivator for the compiler of the Torah, and it’s an even further stretch to suppose I could figure out very much of what would or would not have embarrassed him. I don’t think Wellhausen’s, Speiser’s, and Gunkel’s confusion is an adequate criterion.

      I do, however, agree with the last quote you posted, depending on how “certainty” is defined. But I admire any commentator who is at least willing to give his best shot at interpreting difficult texts, which, based on what you’ve quoted, Wellhausen et al. declined to attempt. Assuming, for the sake of argument, Genesis 6:1-4 was included for some intentional reason contributing to the whole, how do you interpret it?

      • September 2, 2010 9:40 am

        Adam, currently, I am working on my MA thesis and my goal of a couple of chapters is to understand this passage as being consistent with the material that surrounds it in Genesis and the Pentateuch.

        • September 2, 2010 9:43 am

          That’s encouraging to hear. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts on it, as it still perplexes me. 😉

      • WenatcheeTheHatchet permalink
        September 2, 2010 7:38 pm

        Seems like the irony of Gen 6 in light of Gen 3 is pretty straightforward. In Gen 3 a serpent tempts Eve to disobey and in Gen 6 humanity is so wicked (and human chicks are so hot) that the members of the heavenly court are tempted and abandon their posts (per Jude/1 Enoch). We humans end up being so bad that we tempt the sons of God to marry us. This temptation humanity presents to the heavenly court reduces the world to the primordial chaos of Gen 1. It may well be the things that make the pericope embarrassing were the most compelling reasons to include it.

        If all this seems embarrassing for polytheistic overtones or because it depicts humanity as such a big deal it messes up the heavenly court would it be less controversial to consider what God says about humanity as they work on the tower at Babel? It would seem that both narratives include the observation that humanity can make life miserable for God in ways that could be considered embarrassing but one seems to be considered more problematic than the other.

  4. WenatcheeTheHatchet permalink
    September 2, 2010 7:39 pm

    Thesis sounds awesome, by the way. 🙂 Would love to read the finished paper since it’s dealing with stuff I’ve been curious about for years.

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