Genesis 1: Literary allusion

This is part 2 of Tyler Vela's paper on the polemic view on Genesis 1. Find part one here

One literary device that is vital to our understanding of the interpretation being presented presently is that of a literary allusion. Unlike explicit or didactic language, an allusion is a much more subtle and indirect form of communication that relies on the reader’s knowledge of a prior source.

 The writer will often employ allusion in order to defamiliarize a prior text to their audience, and this is especially the case in the use of polemics. The author who employs the allusion will suggest an image, phrase, theme, or motif from a prior text, but will place it in a new context, often one that is surprising, bewildering, or even discordant with how they had previously understood the concept in the prior text.

 This is commonly referred to as a Redemptive-Historical hermeneutic.

  A modern example might be the phrase “Five minutes to midnight.” If someone was to ask an expectant father when his baby is due, if that father answered, “we are 5 minutes to midnight,” anyone raised during the Cold War, or familiar with that period of history, would instantly understand the reference being made to the Doomsday Clock which was used to countdown the likelihood of a nuclear war based on threat levels. It was an iconic symbol of impending cataclysmic upheaval. The father would not need to spell out the entire history of the idiom or expressly explain the sense of impending world change that he is about to experience with the birth of a child. By employing the allusion to that one simple idiom, he can paint a whole picture replete with sentiment and emotion, and anyone who understands the context from which the idiom is drawn would get the joke. However, Biblical allusion to non-canonical texts has been a feature commonly used by critical scholars and Mythicist pseudo-scholars alike, to undermine the credibility, historicity, and reliability of the Biblical text. This is often done by scouring the text for any parallel no matter how arbitrary and this method is often rightly criticized for a kind of ideologically driven “parallelomania.”

To avoid the criticism that an appeal to allusions here in this paper is comparable to the vague, vulgar, and superficial “parallelomania” of long rejected theories like Jesus Mythicism and its failed attempt to coax a “Solar Messiah” motif out of little to no evidence, or that the author of Genesis was just thoughtlessly stealing myths from neighboring cultures, this present paper will examine and identify valid uses of allusion by employing Jon Paulien’s three basic criteria for establishing the presences of legitimate literary allusion. Paulien argues that a literary critic can be confident in their assessment concerning the positive presence of allusion in a work of literature by observing a) verbal parallels, b) thematic parallels, and c) structural parallels.

By adhering to these standards for responsibly identifying literary allusions, accusations of vague and/or superficial parallelomania can be avoided. The role of allusion in polemics will become clearer as the paper progresses.