In response to my blog yesterday, a reader and friend responded with some thoughts of his own.
One struck my attention…it seems obvious, but I had never really thought about it before.
The observation is that truth always functions as a polemic against what is false.
That is not to say that a particular teaching of truth is written as an intentional polemic. That is a different thing…
Example: Some think Genesis 1 was written for the express purpose of being a polemic against pagan ideas.
However, for that to be true in its most technical sense, it must have been written after the documents which it polemicizes. Indeed, much of biblical scholarship today is on the side of this thinking.
One could, it seems, hold that Genesis 1 is written in a way that polemicizes other pagan accounts of origins, though.
Mosaic authorship would allow for the writing of the Torah to be after the Exodus and Babylon’s emergence as spiritual opposition to Yahweh (Genesis 11). Thus, Moses—a very well educated former Egyptian—would have the intellectual tools to retell the stories of creation and the flood as they truthfully happened…while also taking shots at “the bad guys.”
P.S. Awhile back I did a series on the podcast discussing polemical theology. I think it’s an important aspect of theology we should learn about…while not drifting into the theological black holes some use it to prop up. Here’s the first episode of that series: https://www.steveschramm.com/076-2/