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Friday, June 6, 2014

The Real Noah, Part 4, Why the Ark Story, and a Short Bio of Robert MacAndrew Best

Having looked at the Genesis account and compared it to the Ziusudra Epic, what are we to do with it who live by the Bible and acknowledge its inspiration? I suggest we try to walk in the shoes of the earthly author and try to understand what his motivations may have been. He lived in the era of the kings of Israel. No, Moses did not write the book of Genesis. The phrase, …such and such happened when there were no kings in Israel is oft repeated. That is a clue that the book was written when there were kings in Israel.

He lived in a polytheistic world with goddesses, ghosts, snakes, sacred gardens, and sacred trees [beneath which blasphemy and unholy arts were practiced]. Our author knew beyond all shadow of a doubt that participating in those customs brought spiritual death to the worshiper. Many of his own people followed those very gods. The Canaanites legends of Baal and the monstrous world of Mesopotamian deities were well-known all throughout the Ancient Near East. The story of Ziusudra and Gilgamesh probably kept little children fearful of every thunder storm, wondering if another flood would wipe out their world.

The Genesis story is about monotheism. Only Yahweh/Elohim decides. He alone is Lord of the weather. He doesn’t make capricious decisions pertaining to mankind. We are not a half-baked experiment. We walk in sacred Covenant with the Creator and we are important to Him.

In the Mesopotamian stories, the gods don’t give a good reason for the destruction of the human race. In Genesis human life is precious because it reflects the Creator, but wickedness brings death and judgment. Violence, corruption, and consorting with fallen angels defiles the very planet. But it’s also about redemption. God hears, forgives, cleanses, renews, promises. The author wanted us to see an echo of divine mercy and hope whenever we see a rainbow. He wanted his people to see Yahweh, not Baal or Marduck.

The author was a man who lived the Law of Moses. He revered the sacrifices, but he wanted to point out that Yahweh did not smell the sacrifice as something to eat, something he needed to sustain his strength like the gods in the former stories. They buzzed around the sacrifice on the ziggurat like flies. Yahweh was never compared to a fly. The author removed all reminders that the former stories took place in the Tigris-Euphrates Valley. Perhaps he put the ark in the mountains of Ararat/Urartu on purpose. Perhaps he didn’t want any association with the ziggurats of Sumer.

The Genesis Noah story upgraded the world view of his day. He put Yahweh in the center of all of it. He connected the story to the Garden of Eden. He celebrates the renewal of agriculture, the cycles of the seasons, the extreme importance of virtue, righteous, and right worship. I believe the story is inspired. It is full of divine truth. I do not believe that it is inerrant history.

A brief biography of Robert MacAndrew Best

He was born in 1937 and is still alive. He asked me to not put his contact info out. He states that he particularly does not want to hear from bloggers. I tried not to remind him that I am a blogger. You didn’t hear this from me, but if you scour the internet, you might find a contact address for him. Below are some facts he graciously offered about his life, for which I am very grateful because I was curious.

I received a BS degree from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh. When I was working for a living, I was a computer analyst and programmer for King County government in Seattle, department of finance. I don't have the time to respond to bloggers, so do not put my email address in your blog. But if a blogger says something very interesting, please let me know. I am especially interested in any published articles in Bible journals that mention my book or theories.

I am also an inventor and was granted 22 U.S. patents, mostly for security devices and video game systems. If you have ever used an ATM, you have used one of my inventions called a "secure cryptoprocessor". See the Wikipedia article "secure cryptoprocessor". Each ATM has this security chip in it to prevent people who service ATMs (and have access to its internals) from altering its programs or intercepting its data. A consultant, who worked for the company I sold my patents to, said these processors are used in ATMs all over the world. They are also used in TV set-top boxes, police radios, and probably in military systems.

How long did it take you to write the Noah book?

After graduating from Carnegie-Mellon U. in Pittsburgh in 1959, I started gathering material in the 60's, but just for my own curiosity. I had no intention of writing a book. After I retired in 1993, I wrote a short article (which became Chapter 7) analyzing Genesis 5 for publication in a Biblical journal, but it was rejected by several editors who did not say why. One editor said that it had too many pages. And that did not even include the material I had not yet drafted. I had too much to say for a journal article, so I started to think of a book-size monograph.

I was quite amazed that a man with a BS in physics and whose career was in computer science could write a self-designed and self-published book with such a credible bibliography, advanced linguistic information, a correctly formatted bibliography, and good editing. He sounded like a semi-conservative Old Testament scholar. Unlike many self-published books, I only one noticed one typo in the whole book, which was in the bibliography. So I asked him what libraries did he used to access so many scholarly articles?

After I retired, I and my family traveled a lot and I visited several libraries in several countries and states. In Hawaii, for example, the library on Oahu has massive amounts of publications on volcanoes and tsunamis, including material on Thera (Santorini) in the Mediterranean. I wrote Chapter 1 in Hawaii after finding a library book on the Santa Claus myth. [Those comments reflect an interest in the Exodus and in myth making itself.] Another book I found in the Oahu library was "King Arthur" by Norma Goodrich, who takes a third point of view on the Arthurian legends and points to Gaul/France as the source of the Arthur legend (but are ignored by scholars because the king is not named Arthur. She has been criticized for having a third point of view.

I noted French and German articles as well. Did you do your own translating?

No. The only foreign language in which I have formal training is German, aber Ich kann nicht Deutsch sprecken.

When I needed Hebrew expertise, I contacted a Hebrew professor and sometimes paid him for his time. Some were hostile to my efforts and I never went back to them. Most gave me their time for free. One professor was happy to accept $100 in cash. I focused on certain words and phrases and did not attempt to master the language. One professor said "you haven't paid your dues" by which I think he meant "you have not mastered or even studied the language." One page of my analysis of a Hebrew phrase is on page 281. I sent a Hebrew professor a rough draft and he responded with critical comments, teaching me a little Hebrew in the process. I incorporated his comments in my draft and resubmitted it to him. After 3 rounds of this, he replied "Yes, I would accept that from one of my students."

I did most of the illustrations in my book using Photoshop on my computer. I hired a professional artist who did parts of the front cover: the bricks, the wool skirt, the priestess, the fire pit and cow, and the background buildings and river. I created Noah's body from digital pictures of my body. I added the words. The right arm of the priestess holding the blue amulet is from a picture of my wife holding a bar of soap which I carved into the fly shape which I computer painted blue.

All in all, I think this book should be on every fundamentalist scholar’s shelf. Chapters 2, 8, and 14 are worth the price of the book. The academic world will react with ire, admiration, or “meh,” but the above chapters need to be faced and addressed in one way or another. The evangelical churches need to pull their heads out of the sand.