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Last modified 07/01/2008

 Introduction
 

 

Our understanding of the Old Testament is in crisis. The tide of Biblical Criticism and archaeology has eroded our sense of divine action, or of divinity acting in history. Traditionalists are frozen in biblical literalism, and heading over a cliff oblivious to their situation, while arrogant Darwinian reductionism only compounds the confusion by offering no insight into religion beyond the Social Darwinist vulgarity of the cadres of scientism.

 One of the most remarkable aspects of the study of the eonic effect is the perspective given on the riddle of the Old Testament. Suddenly the pieces of a puzzle fall into place and we see the context, moment, and significance of that mysterious document that tradition takes for granted, but whose historical basis is increasingly challenged by the rise of Biblical archaeology. In fact in our account those challenges actually come into their own as the interaction of historical fact and mythology begin to clarify themselves. And then we see something remarkable, from a secular perspective, an incident in the 'eonic evolution of religion'. 

And yet the account recorded in the Bible resists the standard secularist treatment. The resolution to the enigma lies in seeing the chronicle given in light of the eonic effect. Our approach is neither theistic, atheistic or agnostic. We simply stand back and perform periodization analysis, based on the eonic model (itself a periodization framework), on the incidents that constitute the core history. The result is an elegant wonder of systems analysis, and clarifies at once the puzzle left to us by its redactors.  

There is something odd about this approach. Systems analysis applied to Biblical history?  It seems rather there is nothing like a good old narrative tale to induce conviction, and the Bible was a smashing success with this set of tactics, but the clock is ticking on epic sagas, and in the end, a series of abstractions from systems analysis might release us from the mesmerizing quality of such a narrative. Neither a mechanical nor a design argument will succeed with this stubborn data of an 'age of revelation' stubbornly recorded by observers and agents of that period. A new kind of model can help us to see the data as if for the first time. A discrete-continuous model applied to one of history's most famous chronicles thus seems at first a strange approach to the question of religion. But in fact the model seems almost tailor-made for the data, and the result is a kind of 'time and motion'  analysis of one of the enigmas of world history. We can adopt a secular stance, we have no other option, and the study of the eonic effect does, subject to a clarification of what we mean by the term 'secular', demand that, but it must be admitted that after all of the mythology has been stripped away, what is left is still enough to leave our secularist with something that 'doesn't compute' in the agenda of scientism. It doesn't quite add up, and the redactors of the 'holy book'  were on to something, the strangeness of the history they could but look back upon in wonder. Their account, streamlined in a dynamical abstraction, faithfully reflects the findings of the eonic model, the more so since they had no conception of the eonic effect. The result, if we compensate with a judicious pruning using the rapidly emerging data of archaeology, is almost more remarkable than the epic tales of the miraculous that have entered just as surely as they entered the Greek epic's (purported) tales of the Trojan war. 

Basically the redactors of the Old Testament were saying that a 'funny something in the sky' induced a social transformation in a particular region in Canaan. We wouldn't quite put it that way, but they were right to see that something had derandomized historical stream history. Those redactors further knew the dangers of theistic reference and attempted, with zero success, to stem the tide of theistic gibberish with abstract tokens in a glyph of austere reference, at the threshold of spoken terms, IHVH. We should take due note of that  honorable hope, and consider that systems analysis might do the job better at one stroke. So be it. The age of gibberish 'god talk' ought to come to an end. 

A nice feature of the eonic model is that it leaves the data alone, so to speak, and one way to unlock the riddle it models is to see the isomorphism with the Greek Axial transition, and then a similar analysis of the Indian Axial, which is unfortunately less well documented. But that still leaves the considerable effort involved in arriving at that data! We can't map the data suggested in the Old Testament onto the model, unless we can verify its historicity. We can cite a work such as The Bible Unearthed, by Silberman and Finkelstein, as one recent summary of the emerging picture of the histories of Israel/Judah. The point is that the Old Testament gives the game away for us in the rough overall architecture of periodization implied in its account, and we can see that this does approximate the known facts. 

The basic point is the context of the Axial Age and the appearance of a new branch of cultural tradition in that context. Thus the mystery of the Old Testament and the people it describes is transferred to that of the Axial phenomenon, thence of the eonic effect itself. The core issue is the sudden transformation that occurs in the indicated time interval of the Axial Age, as against the lead up period prior to that, and the follow up period in its wake.  Once we analyze those separate pieces, the riddle begins to resolve itself, although not completely. 

It thus becomes possible, although the obstacle course of traditionalist protest might prove considerable, to reconsider the Old Testament in its new interpretation, as a chapter in a greater universal history of the emergence of civilization and the 'evolution' of religion.