RE: [biblicalapologetics] Genesis genealogies, old-earth creationism, and the Big Debate
Messagecomments below.-----Original Message-----
From: Robert Bowman [mailto:robertbowman@...]
Sent: Thursday, September 30, 2004 9:54 PM
Subject: [biblicalapologetics] Genesis genealogies, old-earth creationism, and the Big DebateJeff,
<< The structure in all other biblical genealogies leaves room for some
gaps, but the structure of Gen. 5 and 11 appears not to. Each should be
interpreted according. >>
I have already explained why the structure of Genesis 5 and 11 does “leave
room for some gaps.” The logic of my argument has run something like this:
a. Gaps are possible.
b. Evidence of gaps exists.
c. Therefore, gaps are likely.
To establish (a), all I need to do is show that any apparent proofs that
there are no gaps fall short of actual proof. I think I have done this. The
one proof that you have mentioned of no gaps is the fact that the
genealogies give the age of each patriarch when he “begat” the next
individual in the chain. To refute this, I have shown why this does not
necessarily refer to a father begetting his immediate son; I have pointed
out evidence in the genealogies that distinguish immediate sons from others
in the genealogies; and I have given a plausible explanation for the
inclusion of this information in the genealogies. What more could be needed?
To establish (b), I have pointed to internal evidences from the genealogies
themselves (the evidence of literary arrangement and selectivity) as well as
the external evidence of historical inquiry (some of which you acknowledge
as a difficulty for your view).If you think a,b,c is a sound syllogism, I would beg to differ. c does not follow from a and b. All that follows from a and b are that gaps are possible. the fact that there is evidence or support for a proposition (a) doesn't make it likely.when we have a text with two possible interpretations, we just need to list the reasons supporting each to see which interpretation is better (more likely correct, what the author intended). going deeper, we would consider counter-reasons (responses to the various arguments on the other side). and also we'd have to consider whether the two interpretations are really both "possible." For instance, we might have a rule of interpretation that say: when a possible interpretation of a doubtful text is inconsistent with a clearly established doctrine that is important and supported by many texts, then that doubtful interpretation should be rejected, even if, viewing the two interpretations in isolation that interpretation seems to have stronger support.What you have done is provide some arguments in favor of interpretation a. I've given arguments in favor of interpretation b. Maybe we've given some responses to the reasons proposed by the other. No one has "proven" anything. I tend to thing that, leaving aside the historical evidence suggesting no flood could have happened before say 3000 BC or maybe 10,000 or 20,000 BC, focusing solely on the bible, the b interpretation is the better one, more likely correct. In my view, you have only shown that the a interpretation is possible, which is nice, since if the history turns out absolutely to preclude a flood at 2500 BC I'd rather have a difficult interpretation and a clear contradiction in the Bible.
<< Suppose that my interpretation happened to give, say, 6,000 years between
flood and Abram. Wouldn't you accept it then? I think the extrinsic
concerns are driving your interpretation. The most natural interpretation
is no gaps. >>
The most “natural” interpretation, or at least what many people think is the
most natural interpretation, is often wrong. Besides, I think the most
natural interpretation of the Genesis genealogies is that they are not
intended to tell us how many years passed from the Flood to Abram (or from
Adam to Abram).By default, I tend to favor the most "natural" interpretation of any text. I'll go for a less likely interpretation when necessary (i.e., when there are strong reasons for thinking the less natural interpretation is correct, such as extrinsic doctrinal constraints).
If interpreting the genealogies as having no gaps happened to coincide with
a reasonable estimate of the actual time that passed from the first to the
last generation named, then, of course, I would conclude that the genealogy
evidently has no gaps, or at least few if any gaps. The fact that I expect a
sound interpretation of the biblical text to cohere with the physical and
historical facts does not embarrass me in the least.So, finally, you agree that "of course" you would accept a view close to mine (no gaps, or just a few) but for the extrinsic considerations (physical and historical facts, as you put it). As discussed in this email, though, we have to consider how strong the physical and historical facts or "science" on the point in question to determine how much weight should be given to them in support of interpretation a or b (for any text). hence, the "weight" of carbon dating might be mitigated somewhat if there are serious questions about its accuracy. if the fact of continuous secular history since 3000 without a flood is super-solid, that would weigh heavily for the gap interpretation of Gen. 11. This still fits into my schema of two possible interpretations with competing "reasons" with various weights.
When Joshua 10:12-13 refers to both the sun and the moon stopping in the
sky, this implies if taken literally that both the sun and the moon are
normally moving around the earth. It just so happens that this is literally
true of the moon but not of the earth. So I conclude that the statement can
be literally true of the moon but not of the earth. Does this mean that
“extrinsic concerns” are “driving” my interpretation? Putting it that way
would be prejudicial. What drives my interpretation is my desire to do full
justice to both the internal evidence of the text and the external evidence
of the facts of nature and history. In this instance, I assume you will
agree with me. That’s why I asked my third question (see further below).
Where you have decided to accept external evidences as overturning certain
literal, “natural” interpretations of the Bible, you use the same
hermeneutical approach that I do.I don't think the Joshua text is a good example for the type of issue we are dealing with. the natural interpretation is that the text is speaking phenomenally and not even addressing the issue of how the solar system is organized. perhaps it may be viewed as a "difficulty" that we would want to explain, but my approach would not be to show that the text is scientifically accurate. there is no real need for that, since the text is not is not talking about the solar system. the literal, natural interpretation of the text is that the sun stood still in the sky, didn't set when it normally would have, gave them extra time to mop up the enemy. now, knowing what we know now, we can see that this was a miracle that involved stopping the earth from turning, rather than the sun from going round the earth. no problem with explaining that to someone. but it is not the kind of interpretive problem we have been dealing with in Gen. 11.
<< I don't know enough about ancient history to be certain that there is no
possibility of a flood in 2500 B.C. But lets suppose it is out of the
question. Then I would accept your interpretation as the best one
available, but recognizing that it is not the most natural interpretation of
the text itself (apart from extrinsic considerations). Similarly, suppose
it is certain that the earth is millions or even billions or years old.
Then I would accept that the days in Gen. 1 are ages, or perhaps a
"framwork" literary interpretation, but recognizing that the literal 24-hour
day interpretation is the most natural. >>
I’m happy to hear this, since once again it shows that we agree on the basic
hermeneutical issue. At least, I *think* we do. Later in your post, I become
unsure; see below.
Regarding my reasons for thinking the genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11 have
gaps, I had said that you “dismissed” them. You replied:
<< I'm not just dismissing what you have said. I've stated my reasons for
thinking that the no-gap interpretation is the most natural. I suppose I
could talk about some of the points you've raised that I haven't addressed,
e.g., the number of names on the lists in Gen 4 vs. 5, similarities of
names, patterns, etc. >>
These are precisely the points that you said were “weak” and that I wanted
you to address. You continued:
<< But I'm still entitled to my opinion. >>
Of course you are! No one suggested otherwise.
<< Like the rest of Genesis, I think the genealogies are intended to be
taken literally. >>
The issue is what one means by “literally.” I think we can interpret
Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus “literally” without denying that it has gaps,
as long as what we mean by “literally” is sound grammatical-historical
interpretation. In that sense, I take the genealogies in Genesis
<< The things you point to can be explained in other ways without resorting
to a literary/non-historical interpretation. Gen. 5 doesn't "feel" to me
like a poem or something other than straightforward history. >>
“Literary” is not the same thing as “non-historical.” I have never denied
that the genealogies are historically accurate. Nor did I characterize the
genealogies as anything “like a poem.” I simply asserted that they have
gaps, which all or nearly all genealogies in the Bible have.
<< If the ages of the fathers when their sons were born were not given I'd
have a lot less trouble viewing the genealogies somewhat like Matthew,
accurate, but not necessarily complete, opting for literary symmetry over
completeness, etc. >>
You wouldn’t accept it if someone described your interpretation of Matthew’s
genealogy as non-historical and poetic, would you? If not, why are you
characterizing my view of the Genesis genealogies in that way?Because the Matthew text does not give the ages of each father when each son was born, and make clear that in several of the cases there could not possibly be gaps, and occur in the context of a book or pair of books that gives enough numbers of years to allow counting back from the exodus exactly to the birth of Abraham, without any gaps, mainly by giving the age of a father at the time his son was born (plus 430 for the sojourn in Egypt), and occur in a book that purports to explain the creation and origin of the world and the links between the first man and Abraham, etc.From what I know of it, the framework view of Gen. 1 is not really literal. More like a poetic interpretation. the successive days are not viewed as literally the order of the creation, even though that is what Gen. 1 purports or seems to teach. I'm willing to accept gen. 11 with some gaps as a "literal" interpretation, but based on the text of gen. and exodus, the no-gap interpretation seems far more likely. as noted above, I'll accept the less natural, less likely interpretation in a pinch.
<< But the ages are there, and for a reason. My comment that your reasons
are weak is my conclusion, based on a good deal of analysis, not just a bare
dismissal. Don't take it personally. >>
I’m not taking it personally. I’m simply pointing out that you have yet to
*show* how any of this analysis refutes the arguments I presented. If you
don’t wish to do so, that’s your decision. You are free to think what you
want and to address what you want.
“3. So I can understand your approach to biblical interpretation in matters
like this one, please tell me how you would explain why the Bible does not
teach that the sun (normally) moves, though God supernaturally stopped it on
one occasion (Josh. 10:12-13; Eccl. 1:5), while the earth stands still and
never moves (Ps. 104:5; 119:90; Ecc. 1:4).”
<< I'd take the sun standing still and phenomenal. That is how it appeared
to the author and/or the witnesses. We would use similar expressions today
to describe such an event even knowing more than the author of Joshua knew
about the solar system. Same with poetic statements about the earth being
firm or unmoved. Those are no problem. I don't take a hyper-literal
Is it not true, though, that “extrinsic concerns” are “driving” your choice
to construe these statements non-literally?I don't think so, since I don't think the author intended to say anything about the structure of the solar system or whether the sun and moon were revolving around the earth or anything of the sort. he was just saying the sun hung there in the sky and didn't set as usual, a miracle.
<< Suppose there were some texts that could be interpreted as supporting a
geocentric system. Those texts, though, were also amenable to alternative
interpretations (that they were figures of speech, not meant to address the
structure of our system, phenomenal, etc.). While the science was in doubt,
I'd take the view that the texts are equivocal. (If Galileo turns our to be
right based on further observation, then our prior interpretation of those
texts must have been wrong). As the science became more clear, I'd move
over to the correct interpretation. I'd try to avoid reading my
presuppositions into the text. >>
I worry, then, that you would have opposed Galileo during his lifetime.
After all, you could have claimed that most astronomers disagreed with
Galileo (they did during his lifetime) and that the images seen through the
telescope fell short of removing all doubt (which was true, since so many
I would have said that the texts in question are unclear, so let Galileo and his pals continue there investigations. If they wind up proving the sun is the center (or centered on the focus of an ellipse) then we'll know our prior interpretation was incorrect. In the process they'll help discovery the wisdom and power of God. Nothing to fear, since God's word is true. If there is an apparent contradiction, then our interpretation of the word might be off, or the "science" might be off, or some combination.
<< But I'm not sure that this approach woudl apply across the board. There
is a big difference between observational facts, like the earth being a near
globe and revolving around the sun, etc. and much more speculative putative
verities of science (like biological evolution, the big bang, 14.5 billion
year old universe, etc.). I don't think we're anywhere near being sure
enough about the age of the universe or evolution to warrant opting for a
very unnatural interpretation of Gen. 1. And I doubt we'll ever be in that
position by the nature of the case (since science can't observe the big bang
or the billions of years in the same way it can observe the earth revolving
around the sun). >>
I didn’t bring up these issues here, but since you did, I will address them
briefly. When you look through a telescope with the proper filter at the
sun, you are directly observing the sun as it was eight minutes previously.
When you look at Pluto, you are directly observing it as it was over five
hours ago. When you look at the nearest star (other than the sun), you are
directly observing it as it was four years ago.
Now, our own Milky Way galaxy contains hundreds of billions of stars. We
know this from direct observation. We have also observed enough of the
galaxy to know that it takes the relatively flat spiral shape with which we
are all familiar (and that is similar to other galaxies that we can see
through very powerful telescopes). We can observe, and we know this must be
so, that the stars are fairly well spread out at distances similar to those
in our region (that is, stars typically are a couple of light-years or more
away from each other). And we know that our own sun sits toward the outer
edge of the galaxy. From this information alone, we can deduce what
astronomers observe to be the case, namely, that the stars farthest away
from us in our own galaxy (let alone in other galaxies) are more than
100,000 light-years away. That means that when we look at stars at the far
side of the galaxy, we are directly observing them as they were 100,000
years or more ago.I'm with you till the word "deduce." Before that, you're talking facts of observation. But the "deduction" you make has some built-in assumptions that might be wrong. Could be light traveled faster at some time in the past, so the stars are not as old as they appear. Or could be God created the photons in transit (though that opens to an accusation that God created in a way to deceive us). I personally doubt that the galaxy is that old. I think God created it in an instance, only a few thousand years ago, based mainly on the text of Gen. 1, and on the speculative nature of the "deduction" you make and similar deductions by others (re the big bang). There is a big difference between such "deductions" and actual observational facts.
Is this the same thing as directly observing the big bang itself, or knowing
from direct observation that the universe is 14.5 billion years old? No. But
it is the same thing, in principle, as directly observing that the earth and
the other planets move around the sun in elliptical orbits. And what we
directly observe as to the stars even in our own galaxy flatly contradicts
the belief that the earth is only six thousand years old.So I take it you view the days as ages in Gen. 1. Are you a fan of Hugh Ross? Have you read Sarfati's polemic? Do you take the flood also to be local, or worldwide?
<< Another consideration is how clear the teaching of scripture is on the
point in question. If there were just one or two vague, ambiguous or
equivocal verses in the bible about God having created the universe, it
would be much less of a problem to interpret those verses in a way that is
consistent with current scientific consensus (allowing for the possibility
that the consensus could change). But instead we have a lot of verses,
Jesus quoting from Gen. 2, etc., so the weight of the science would have to
be much more to force a possible but non-natural interpretation. >>
We “have a lot of verses” that show that God created the world, that he
created humans in his image, and so forth. We do not have even one verse
that says that God created the world six thousand years ago. That is an
inference from a few passages in Genesis 1-11 and one or two later
references to the “six days.” The church in Galileo’s day had more biblical
passages that seemed to support more explicitly a geocentric system than
young-earth creationists have to support a thousands-of-years old creation.My statement was on hermeneutics, not specifically whether the best interpretation of gen 1 - 11 is a young earth. again, i don't accept your analogy to verses suggesting the sun revolves around the earth.
<< I don't think my arguments re Gen. 11 are really the same as or on a par
with arguments for an earth-centered system based on a couple of equivocal
poetic verses. There is a lot more reason to take Gen. 11 literally, based
on the internal structure. Some very intelligent people have come to the
same basic conclusion re the age of the earth, based on the text (including
Luther, Melanthon, Newton, Ussher, Wesley etc.). Saying that the passage in
Joshua supports a geocentric system is just silly. But interpreting the
genealogies as providing a chronology of the earth is not. >>
I have not questioned the intelligence of those Christians; I have not
questioned anyone’s intelligence. But at least one of those same men thought
that the Bible taught geocentrism. Luther, most famously, ridiculed
Copernicus. So, intelligent Christians can be seriously mistaken in such
matters.Their interpretation helps us see what is the most natural interpretation apart from attempts to reconcile the test with the supposed findings of modern geology, which didn't exist yet when they considered the text.
Nor have I suggested that your view of the genealogies is silly. I simply
disagree with it.
<< Part of what is driving your interpretation of the genaologies is your
view that there were cities occupied since 8,000 BC continuously. I'd be a
lot more sceptical about that, since the dating schemes, using C14,
comparisons of pottery schards, etc., have a lot of room for presuppositions
that could be wrong, guesswork, etc. >>
Let’s face it: if the evidence supports human beings living on the earth
before about 4200 BC, we have to conclude that the genealogies have gaps
(assuming we stick with the ages given in the Hebrew text). One can quibble
with the dating methods only so much. I sympathize with you; in college (at
a secular university), I wrote papers defending the young-earth position,
including one that tried to poke holes in the dating methods. But the fact
is that the general shape of the conventional ages for the different periods
of human history is well established. Scientists have at their disposal a
variety of methods for measuring geochronology and human prehistory.
Scientists correlate carbon-14, dendrochronology, and other methods with one
another and find them confirming the overall picture of human beings living
on earth for well over ten thousand years. Again, I once disputed the
validity of these dating methods, just as you do, but eventually I
understood that the criticisms I was repeating from young-earth advocates
like Morris and Gish simply do not hold up.Going back to about 3000, we're talking history. Before that pre-history. The history involves the remnants of actual civilizations, lists of kings, ruins of buildings, etc. The pre-history dating is based more on Carbon 14 dating, matching up pottery shards with other cites, etc. The certainty level seems far lower to me.
<< Part of what is driving people like Hugh Ross to opt for a local flood
and day-ages in gen. 1 is the supposed verities of science, but much of the
science in question is highly speculative, not observational. Meanwhile the
texts he is re-interpreting are quite clear (e.g., Moses'
almost obsessive reiteration re universality of the flood, Peter's and
Jesus' references that clearly assume a worldwide cataclysm, etc.). I think
Ross probably is putting science (speculative science) above scripture. >>
You’re expanding the discussion far beyond our original topic of the
genealogies. I have already given you an example of the observational basis
for the old-age view of creation. And I would remind you that even renowned
young-earth creationists like Henry Morris have acknowledged gaps in the
genealogies. Hugh Ross is doing exactly what you do when faced with passages
that seem to teach geocentrism: rethink their meaning. You can disagree with
his conclusions, but he is not putting science above Scripture.You seem to be basing too much on a faulty analogy (the gen. 11 issue vs. earth-centered-system verses). Ross is re-interpreting texts that are much clearer (i.e.,there are very strong reasons for thinking the flood was worldwide, based on the text, and that the days were literal 24-hour days). Also, he is motivated by science that is very speculative (like string theory, the big-bang, 14 billion year old earth, etc.). There is a big difference between accepting the possibility of some gaps in Gen. 5 and 11, maybe stretching out from 4100 B.C. to 10,000 or 20000 BC, and stuffing in billions of years (most of them presumably before the creation of Adam).
<< Some of his conclusions are even based on the very most speculative
theories (like string theory). I think it is silly, and wrong, to attempt
to re-interpret the doctrine of the trinity or God on the basis of
such farout speculations. It is likely to lead to serious error. (William
Lane Criag has pointed out that Ross' doctrine of God based on string theory
is heterodox). I understand that there have been some direct discussions at
ETS involving Craig and Ross, my source telling me that it was evident that
Ross was placing science above scripture. I've looked at one of Ross' book,
and Sarfati's polemic, and found the latter far more convincing. >>
I have known Hugh Ross for twenty years. Your source is mistaken. Hugh views
the facts of nature and the teachings of Scripture as both fully reliable
sources of information. He rejects the view that science should take
precedence over the Bible.I think his respect for the speculations of modern science has led him into error in his interpretations re Gen. 1 and the flood. I don't recall all the details of his speculations about the nature of God based on string theory, but I recall agreeing with Craig's critique. I may be wrong about how long ago the flood was, but I think the bible is well nigh unequivocal that it was a worldwide cataclysm that covered the mountains and killed every human. This is based on the Gen. text, and largely on what Jesus and Peter said about the flood.I don't think science and the Bible are on a par. Much of science is highly speculative. Even the observational things that seem solid may turn out to be inaccurate. If the Bible is clear that the world was created in a week, then Carl Sagan's speculations to the contrary carry little weight. Not even in the same ballpark, until his views are established with certitude (which I think is just impossible). Where the text is clear, and the science is highly speculative, I go with the text. Taking an even steven approach in those circumstances is bound to lead to error.
Where Scripture is ambiguous or open to more than one interpretation, and
the evidence from nature or history is very strongly against the more
“literalistic” interpretation, I will go with the interpretation that
coheres with the physical facts. Earlier in your post, you said you agreed
with this approach. I understand that you don’t see or accept the scientific
or historical evidence against a 6,000-year-old creation. That doesn’t mean
that those of us who do find such evidence are putting science over the
Bible. For example, I reject evolutionism, even though most scientists
accept it. Hugh Ross, likewise, rejects evolutionism, and he focuses his
efforts on defending creation against naturalism.
As for Hugh’s explanation of the doctrine of the Trinity, you are confusing
an analogy with a doctrine. Hugh’s doctrine of the Trinity is orthodox. His
analogy or theoretical construct for understanding the doctrine can be
interpreted in a heterodox way, as I have personally told him. This was
essentially Bill Craig’s point as well, as I recall. Hugh is sensitive to
this concern. I do not think you would be attacking his explanation of the
Trinity as “silly” if it were not for his old-earth creationism.I think it is a little silly (or worse) to think that speculations about string theory should be given any weight against what the Bible teaches about the nature of God, or even to help understand what God has revealed in Scripture about his nature. I'm too tired right now to dredge up his book and Craig's article to refresh on just how "off" his statements might have been.Why assume that I'd be unfair with Ross, that I'd attack his explanation of the Trinity just because I disagreed with his old-earthism? Fact is I bought his book after a fellow I know recommended him, but thought his stuff about string theory and the trinity was off, so found Craig's article on the internet. I'm not a Ross expert, since I've only read one of his books, and the Sarfati polemic, but judging from the doubtful things he said about the trinity based on string theory, and his view of the flood and day-agism, I think he is giving too much weight to speculative science, and throwing over well-supported interpretations of the bible too lightly. 1,000 years from now, when the big bang is passé and speculative cosmology has morphed into who knows what, Ross' attempt to harmonize Christianity and science by accepting strained interpretations of the Bible's texts re creation and the flood, may indeed look silly. But who knows, maybe Christ will return and we'll find out that the seemingly unlikely interpretations were correct, and that the universe really is about 14 billion years old. I doubt I'll change my view on the six-day creation or world-wide flood till then. And if I turn out to have been wrong, at least I'll be vindicated in my view that Christ will only return at the end of the tribulation and establish a literal 1,000 year kingdom.
In Christ's service,
Robert M. Bowman, Jr.
Center for Biblical Apologetics
Jer. 31:35 Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day, And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name: 36 "If this fixed order departs From before Me," declares the LORD, "Then the offspring of Israel also shall cease From being a nation before Me forever."
Jer. 33: 20 "Thus says the LORD, 'If you can break My covenant for the day, and My covenant for the night, so that day and night will not be at their appointed time,
21 then My covenant may also be broken with David My servant that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and with the Levitical priests, My ministers.
22 'As the host of heaven cannot be counted, and the sand of the sea cannot be measured, so I will multiply the descendants of David My servant and the Levites who minister to Me.'"
23 And the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, saying,
24 "Have you not observed what this people have spoken, saying, 'The two families which the LORD chose, He has rejected them'? Thus they despise My people, no longer are they as a nation in their sight.
25 "Thus says the LORD, 'If My covenant for day and night stand not, and the fixed patterns of heaven and earth I have not established,
26 then I would reject the descendants of Jacob and David My servant, not taking from his descendants rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them.'"
I think these verses 31:35-36, 33:25 should be read together and with Gen 1.
In v. 25, I think the "covenant" for day and night refers to God's decree re the continuial day/night cycle. It is a fixed pattern. I'm not certain exactly what the "fixed patterns of heaven and earth" means. I'm not convinced it refers to the laws of nature in general. It could simply be restating the first part of the verse, without much change in meaning. If so, then the day/night cycle is the same as the fixed pattern of heaven and earth (sun rising/day, moon and stars rising/night). The point is that this order is fixed, the cycle and pattern continues unchanged by God's decree. So He is saying, in effect, if the fixed day-night cycle/pattern should cease, then I would reject Israel, but it won't cease and so I won't reject Israel.
The reference in jer. 31 is similar. He gave the sun for light by day, the "fixed order" of the moon and the stars by night. He causes the sun to rise, giving light in the day, and at night he governs the rising and setting of the moon and the stars. If this "fixed order" should end, then Israel will cease to exist as a nation, but it won't cease, and so Israel will continue to exist.
I checked the hebrew word translated fixed pattern/order. it is
<02708>hQ'xu (chuqqah) (349d)
Meaning:something prescribed, an enactment, statute
Origin:fem. of 2706
Usage:appointed(1), customs(5), due(1), fixed order(m)(1), fixed patterns(m)(1), ordinance(5), ordinances(1), statute(25), statutes(62), statutory(2).
In mosty cases, it just refers to God's revealed statutes/ordinances. In only a few cases does it refer to fixed patterns/order. The usages in Jer. 38:33 and Jer. 5:24 are the only ones close to this.
The word translated "by day" or "for the day" or "for day" is (yomam), which is close to yom/day in Gen.1.
you say "its pretty hard to reason from Scriptures, and everything else
God designed, and conclude that day cant e interpreted as day in
This is garbled ("e" means "be" I presume), but you seem to be agreeing with me that day in Gen. 1 can mean a 24-hour day. Others are contending that they can't, in part, because the stars were created on day 4, and it would take long ages for the light from them to reach earth to serve any purpose there. They are saying that "laws" of nature preclude such an order to the creation. I'm only arguing that whatever the current "fixed" laws of nature may be should not be viewed as a constraint on God's initial creative activities, which established those laws and the rest of the universe. If the bible indicates that God created the world in six days, and the stars on the fourth, and implies that the stars were shining in the sky soon after, then I think he could have done it, regardless of the current fixed pattern of nature.
The "light in transit" idea is just that if the stars were created on day four, and visible immediately, then perhaps God created the light from the stars, streaming to earth (photons, whatever) at the same time, so that the stars appeared in the sky immediately, rather than there having to be a long delay till the light reached the earth. Some have said it would be deceptive for God to have done that, since it would give people the misimpression that the light actually travelled from the stars over millions of years, and that the stars were at least that old, when in fact the light was created at the same time as the stars, and the stars aren't that old.
You say we know pretty well that light and matter were created at the same time, presumably as part of the big bang theory. But I'm not sure that is consistent with gen 1, which speaks of the creation of the universe in vs. 1, including the earth and waters on the surface of the earth (v. 2), and "then" (after some short time) God created light (v. 3). I'm not certain that the stuff created in v. 1 included light, which according to v. 3 was added to the initial creation (part of a six day process of filling the empty world and fitting for habitation by man).
I'm just arguing that creation in six literal days, with stars being created on the fourth day, is possible. You advert to things we know about relativity and galaxies, etc., to suggest something is impossible. Again, I don't see why the current fixed patterns would limit God's mode of acting in the initial creation. In any event, I was only suggesting a list of possible explanations, not asserting that they would be in perfect accord with the current patterns of nature.
I've also floated another possibility, that the stars were created on day one, not day four, and that on day four God just caused them to start functioning in a certain way (for signs). This is Sailhamer's interpretation:
The second step is a consideration of the syntax of v.14 (see Notes). When the syntax of v.14 is compared to that of the creation of the expanse in v.6, the two verses have a quite different sense. The syntax of v.6 suggests that when God said, "Let there be an expanse," he was, in fact, creating an expanse where there was none previously ("creation out of nothing"). So clearly the author intended to say that God created the expanse on the first day. In v.14, however, the syntax is different, though the translations are often similar in English. In v.14 God does not say, "Let there be lights … to separate," as if there were no lights before this command and afterward the lights were created. Rather the Hebrew text reads, "And God said, "Let the lights in the expanse of the sky separate.'" In other words, unlike the syntax of v.6, in v.14 God's command assumes that the lights were already in the expanse and that in response to his command they were given a purpose, "to separate the day from the night" and "to mark seasons and days and years." If the difference between the syntax of v.6 (the use of hayah alone) and v.14 (hayah + l infinitive; cf. GKC, 114h) is significant, then it suggests that the author did not understand his account of the fourth day as an account of the creation of the lights; but, on the contrary, the narrative assumes that the heavenly lights have been created already "in the beginning."
If that is correct, then there is no problem to solve about the time it would have taken light to travel to earth on day four. But, it might just push the problem back to the first day.
I don't know enough about thorium in the stars to tell whether that means the starts are a certain age. I don't consider scientific interpretation of data to be on a par with Scripture. The interpretation of such data, and speculation about how old stars are based on such interpretation, could be wrong. I think the bible is clear that the universe was created in six days, and that it was not billions of years ago. The data you refer to is not a message written in a foreign language. It is not a revelation from God saying, e.g., "this start is 14 billion years old." It is just data, to be interpreted, correctly or not. I'm not going to accept such interpretations when they contradict what appears to be the clear teaching of scripture. The evidence is not unequivocal for an old universe. There is other contrary evidence. For me, the issue comes down to interpretation of the bible, not scientific evidence. Assuming the thorium data you refer to correct, the interpretation could be wrong. That would not be God deceiving us (making us think the universe is older than it really is); it would just be a misinterpretation of data.-----Original Message-----
From: astrophysicsbaybee [mailto:LithiumH2O@...]
Sent: Saturday, October 30, 2004 10:22 AM
Subject: [biblicalapologetics] Re: Starlight Travel Time. Was: Genesis genealogies, old-earth creationism, and the Big Debate
I felt I must share.
The "fixed patterns" in Jeremiah 33:25 is what it says it is,
the fixed patterns. The modern laws of nature that are expressed in
mathematical form is what has been developed by scientists to explain
those fixed patterns. The law of gravitation (i should call it theory
but eh) applied to stars and other such things describe, to a great
degree of accuracy, whats going on up there. Im actually convinced
that these "fixed patterns" set up by God are described by the laws
of nature that weve developed over the past few hundred years.
In that same verse you mentioned the day and night bit might
hint at solar/lunar cycles, or other things. I think it might refer
to the idea of day and night, like 24 hours. The reason i think so is
because (to me at least) it seems like God is pointing out obvious
things. "If day and night isnt the way i set it up to be, and I wasnt
the One who set up the universe the way it is, ... then i would
reject so and so" (paraphrased of course). I did a word study to make
sure what im saying is what im saying. The definition for the word
day here is different than the definition for day in Gen. 1. That
should be verified though.
Neither Genesis, nor Jeremiah give a time when the laws of
nature are set into motion (unless im missing something). I strongly
believe God left that to the scientist to have fun with. Now, our
primary responsibilty is to uphold Gods word (mainly Gospel), but
when God leaves details out of His word, i believe its fair to start
reasoning apart from Scripture (since it chooses to remain silent)
that God designed things a certain way based on the huge clues he
left us with (the heavens and the earth). We dont exactly know HOW
God designed the universe when we look at Genesis 1 (mechanism), but
when we begin to search the heavens and the earth, we realize that
things are different than we may have interpretted, and this causes
people discomfort. People keep mentioning that the laws of nature
that scientists come up with tie down the hands of God. Why would
anyone think that? They merely explain how wonderfully Gods hands
moved about the universe, at least thats the way i see it.
Given more research (theological and scientific) and given more
time, we might find out what the universe was like. But from the
looks of things right now, from how accurate our models say they are,
and how beautifully they predict the way nature is behaving (thus
far), its pretty hard to reason from Scriptures, and everything else
God designed, and conclude that day cant e interpreted as day in
Jeff, you said:
"The problem is creation of stars so far away that light from
them would not reach the earth for a long time, when the text
suggests that the light from them was available right them. There
are multiple possible explanations, creation of the light in transit,
stretching of the distance between the stars and earth after they
were created, a miracle, etc"
When we have theories that are so well verified, why speculate
and assume creation of light in transit and other such things? What
does that even mean? We know (pretty confidently) that light and
matter were created together, and that matter decayed into light
(actually just in the nick of time to have us here, or else the
universe would be too cool for us to exist). And the stretching of
space between stars and earth is described by cosmology so well, its
the reason why light from stars "red-shift" when they get to us
(verified by relativity theory). If the universe expanded so fast so
as to prevent light from reaching us, that would mean one of two
things (maybe more), but neither is good: 1) the universe (and
everything but the Solar System) expanded at or near the speed of
light (direct violation of almost everything we know about
relativity, galaxies, stars, you name it) 2) there would be far too
great an enegry density in the universe, and wed be torn apart by now
(i think its called the Big Chill followed by the Big Rip, not
entirely precise). (I really hope someone is verifying what im
saying, not that i think im wrong in what im saying, but just
because). Possibility 1 isnt true because there are stars nearby,
theres matter nearby, etc..., and possibility 2 is obviously not the
You also said:
"Maybe if there were a tag in the sky that said "all this stuff
is billions of years old" when in fact it was created in six days, we
could say God was deceiving people. But there is no such tag."
This might seem funny but i beg to differ. That tag you speak
of, its there. Its called radioactive thorium and its located in
stars. Its date is written in the tag, its just in a different
language. I believe it was this year January (i dont know for sure)
that astronomers dated some high red-shift pulsars (really old,
really far away stars) with thorium (which is found to be more
accurate than dating with uranium) and the age of the stars turned
out to be on the order of 10 billion years old (if memory serves me
well). Now is that God having a sense of humor or what? God would not
deceive us. And like i said earlier, if God doesnt explicitly tell us
what happened (processes), i think were free to reason and decipher
that language that stars speak in. Sound fair?