Monday, September 17, 2012

Anyone out there good at the Bible?

I have a couple of questions you might be able to help with.

Is there any indication, (genealogies, etc) how long Adam and Eve were in the Garden before the fall? Are there any reliable scholars (ie. saints) who have written about the state of man before the fall? Thomas, I think, right?

Apart from the Protestant fundies and creationists, are there any Catholic scholars who have thought about the time frame for the existence of the world? When it all happened?

I ask because I was discussing with someone on email the theories being put forward by some rather interesting, and rather odd, Egyptologists who say that the pyramids and the sphinx and temples built in the time of the Old Kingdom were in fact a great deal older than the academic consensus would have us believe. Someone has said, for example, that there is irrefutable evidence of water erosion on the base of the Sphinx, the sort that could only be made by many hundreds of years of heavy rain. Well, the Sphinx is in a desert... no rain. At least not for a very long time. Much longer than academia thinks is possible. But there it is.

There were lots of other things this person told me that I didn't read the details of much, but sounded damned interesting. Things about astronomy, the placement of temples to look at star patterns that are no longer in the right place. Meaning, the temples have been there so long that the star patterns they were built to map have shifted in the sky (or the world shifted under them, I guess is more accurate). Meaning the temples were built a hell of a lot longer ago than, again, academia wants us to think.

Another thing was the incredible tale, which is the academic consensus, that the pyramids were built with no tools more complex than rocks, copper tools and plumblines. Like they made millions of huge stone blocks, hauled them up the side of a man-made mountain, all within 20 years. According to modern engineers, we would have a hard time doing it in that time now, with our modern stone-cutting techniques and heavy cranes. But we're supposed to believe they did it with stone mallets and hemp ropes?

I went through my Egypt phase at about eight, the usual time, and never heard anything about this. I vaguely knew that the temples lined up with the sun rise at the equinoxes, and that some of them had something to do with astronomy. But these guys are saying that they are complex pieces of, essentially, stone machinery, technology, and that the Egyptians were way past stone tools by the time they were built, which was way before anyone thinks. Someone said just after the last ice age.

The trouble is that the people making these claims then go off all wild and wiggy about mystical energies and stuff, and totally lose all credibility (to me, anyway), but it's incredibly interesting nonetheless. And even if we don't think that the planet was once ruled by a race of super-smart space hippies, or giant-headed warring Nephilim from Planet Nibiru, some of the things they said about the age and mathematical complexity of the temples and pyramids, certainly sound plausible to this unschooled ear.

Now, I'm not up much on paleoanthropology other than the stuff I read as kid in National Geographic, but I have had the impression, from other things, that the current academic consensus actually kind of blows. I know that it does on a variety of other scientific things (pregnancy starts at implantation because we damn well say it does!) and the arrogance of the materialist Darwinians does not match the rigor of their arguments. We're just supposed to believe it because they say.

Not being a fundamentalist protestant, or still less a young earth creationist, or a biblical literalist, I don't have a pressing need to prove that the world is only 4000 years old, according to the genealogies in the old testament. So I wanted to consult the more reliable sources. What do Catholic biblical scholars, especially the ones, as Philip said, whose names start with an S, say about the time scale?

And the millions of years the world is supposed to have been capable of sustaining life is a really, really long time. If civilisation has only existed since the times of Çatalhöyük and the neolithic and chalcolithic, how do we explain a thing like Gobekli Tepe? a large stone temple complex built during what is supposed to be the paleolithic, predating pottery, metallurgy, writing, the wheel, agriculture and animal husbandry?

I've read a few books recently, not by gnostic Egyptologists, but by perfectly respectable archeologists and geologists, that suggest human civilisation is not only far older than we thought, but is actually cyclical, that is, that not just individual civilisations like the Egyptians, but the whole human endeavour of civilisation itself, everywhere, comes and goes. That we go through periods of civilisation and primitive tribal societies, every few tens of thousands of years.

So, anyone have any idea how this idea could be reconciled with the biblical accounts of the creation? (I mean anyone sensible, that is, neither a Protestant fundamentalist, a young earth creationist or a dedicated materialist Darwinian).

I don't know what relevance it has for us now, what it has to do with any of our pressing problems, but wouldn't it be cool to think that there were ancient civilisations running around building flying pyramids before the ice age?

And isn't it just a bit of a modern conceit the idea that history is a natural progression from primitive to sophisticated societies? That we're doing nothing but get better, taller, smarter and more sophisticated? That it could never ever go the other way? Or be in any way cyclical? The modern historical theory of uninterrupted progress is bollocks on the face of it. We've seen societies decay, morally, economically, even technologically. They go up; they go down. Peoples learn things and forget things collectively. Technology waxes and wanes.

Ours certainly is. It's an observable fact that a large portion of the manufactured goods available today are less useful, less enduring and less functional than the same things as they were produced 50 years ago. Right now, for example, I would not buy a new domestic sewing machine. They're crap. I'll regret to my dying day that I didn't manage to retain my mother's sewing machine, made of metal, with beautifully machined parts, weighing about a half a ton, that was never, ever going to break down. We might have fancier technologies, cell phones, but can you drop one and have it still work? Is it going to last 70 years? Or will it die if you splash your latte on it? The 1937 bakelite rotary dial phone in my room still works just fine, thanks.

I have no doubt whatever that the accounts in Genesis are true. That God made the universe out of nothing, made the earth for the animals, plants and man to live on, that we had two genetic parents who transgressed and undid their original state of primal grace, were taught to fend for themselves in a transformed creation after the Fall. I've got no problem at all with any of that. But I would like some thoughts of scholars on the exact when. How long ago are we talking about.