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Old Testament Essays

On-line version ISSN 2312-3621
Print version ISSN 1010-9919

Old testam. essays vol.23 n.2 Pretoria  2010


Magic, myth and monotheism when reading Genesis 30:37-39



Peet J. van Dyk

Department of Old Testament and ANES, Unisa





Genesis 30:37-39 may be interpreted in various ways by modern readers, depending on the assumed underlying cosmology (world-view) of the text and how the scientific cosmology of the modern reader interacts with the ancient cosmology. In this process of interpretation the main sources of errors are either that the cosmology of the text is constructed incorrectly (e.g. in the case of Tylor and Frazer's idealistic scheme of religion), or because modern readers may mistakenly assume that the biblical cosmology is identical to their current scientific one. Five different cosmologies (i.e. magical, magico-mythical, monotheistic, deistic and atheistic) are discussed and their assumptions (regarding the mechanisms of the cosmos) applied to elucidate the Genesis 30 text. Finally, it is concluded that the most appropriate cosmology against which Genesis 30:37-39 should be interpreted, is the monotheistic cosmology, while recognising that the magical layer is especially prominent in the immediate context of Genesis 30.



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Prof. Peet van Dyk
Department of Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern Studies
University of South Africa
P.O. Box 392, Unisa, 0003

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