Friday, December 31, 2010

Genesis 1-3 In the beginning...

"Call me Ishmael", "Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time", "It was a dark and stormy night".
Great books have a great opening and the Holy Bible is no exception.  "In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth."  It introduces you to the protagonist and gives you his mission in one sentence!
As we start into 2011, My question to you is a big one: "Did the Bible predict what is now the accepted scientific theory of the creation of the universe or are Apologetics force retro-fitting modern day beliefs to fit."

57 comments:

  1. Genesis is the easiest part of the Bible to make fun of, because it is the part we are most familiar with, isn't it? Whenever we decide to read the Bible we can get through the first few chapters before we get too bored and decide to go clean the toilets instead.
    I do not think you can say Genesis is predicting any future scientific explanations of origin. The sequence doesn't match up, and what the he'll is a firmament anyway?

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  2. I think it's an ex post facto attempt to interpret the Bible literally in light of scientific thinking. I tend to side with Joseph Campbell and the rest of the Perennialists and say that stories of the divine are at least filtered through the cultures that spawned them. In other words, this is a very Jewish creation story and trying to force it into a literal and scientific interpretation is going to be at best awkward (plants before a sun? really? how did they photosynthesize?) and also miss things in the text. Why does the text have things in the order it does? What does darkness and light mean in the absence of known sources for it?

    Just thoughts.

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  3. "Did the Bible predict what is now the accepted scientific theory of the creation of the universe or are Apologetics force retro-fitting modern day beliefs to fit."

    I'd have to see the specific examples that are leading you to even ask this question, but I'm going to have to say no unless I see some pretty compelling evidence. Maybe this is something we can keep in mind as we read--- is your question implying that some/many Christians try to press this idea?

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  4. Genesis was not at the time it was composed, was not at the time it was recorded, and is not now a science text book. Incredible to me that it might seriously be asked of the speculations of shamans of nomadic bronze-age goat herders whether they "predicted" modern scientific theories about the origins of the universe.

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  5. As a mythology, the Bible is a swell piece of our culture. As a historical document, it blows large chunks. I have no problem appreciating it as the former, but the sad part is that far, far too many accept it as the latter.

    I have no problem picking it apart in a literal interpretation because that's the way a huge portion of the populace want it interpreted. You can't complain if we meet them on the same level playing field and utterly destroy their arguments.

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  6. It was not and is not science (or history); however, it is an interesting piece of literature.

    Note chapter 1 to chapter 2:3 uses parallels.
    Nothing exists
    Day 1 - light and dark separated
    Day 2 - waters above separated from waters below and the air created
    Day 3 - land created and land plants created
    Day 4 - Sun and moon created (inhabitants of what was done on day 1, day and night)
    Day 5 - water creatures and air creatures created (inhabitants of what was done on day 2, water and air)
    Day 6 - land animals and man created (inhabitants of what was created on day 3, the land).
    Day 7 - All has been created, God rests

    Also note that God is referred to as God (Elohim) in this section. In the next, the second creation account, God is referred to as Lord God (Yahweh Elohim)

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  7. This loooks like an interesting project. If I might make a suggestion, how about including a link to the appropriate verses online, for people who don't have a KJV lying around? For example: http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Genesis-Chapter-1/

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  9. I'm in chapter 3 and enjoying the surreal setup of the mythos (It's kind of like what mythology would be like in an already mythological world.), but can someone explain to me why God is able to start a sentence with a conjunction? Every other freaking sentence starts with "and".

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  10. "...can someone explain to me why God is able to start a sentence with a conjunction? Every other freaking sentence starts with "and"."

    Hah! Perfect :)

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  11. I think the answer is that apologists are retrofitting whatever they can to fit these creations myths. What I find interesting is trying to imagine how these bronze age writers were attempting to explain the world around them. It must have been terrifying to live during these times. I can understand the urge to try and give explanations to what must have seemed unexplainable. Why are there oceans there and dry land here? Why is childbirth so painful? Why? Why? Why?

    Of course today we can look upon their attempts with bemused superiority, but I'm sure these myths brought some semblance of comfort and order to a seemingly chaotic world. What is alarming to me are those who, even in light of all that we've learned about the world around us, still cling to these stories.

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  12. 'Every other freaking sentence starts with "and".'

    Wasn't it Richard Dawkins that asked why God would make Shakespeare an infinitely better writer than himself?

    As mythology, this creation story is pretty cool. I mean, you clearly have epic intentions when you start from nothing existing. I also like the parallels pointed out by Erp. What a monumental challenge of credulity for people who try to read this as divinely inspired! Even if God is not trying to teach scientific fact, why would he purposely get things wrong (flat earth, firmament, moon as a light, stars an afterthought)?

    I also like comparing the two versions of creation here, the older one from Gen 2-3, and Gen 1 which I believe was added during the Babylonian captivity (6th cent. BCE). One thing that stands out to me is that the older version is more sexist, with woman created after the fact from Adam's rib specifically to please him, whereas in the later version the sexes are created simultaneously in God's image, "male and female created he them."

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  13. 'can someone explain to me why God is able to start a sentence with a conjunction? Every other freaking sentence starts with "and".'

    This is a grammatical feature of Biblical Hebrew. The 'wayyiqtol' form, constructed similarly to the conjunction (va-) plus the inflected Qal imperfect stem (-yiqtol), is used in connected narratives. Sometimes a more nuanced translation is possible than 'and [past tense]', but generally it's just how Biblical Hebrew stylistically rolls.

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  14. I just finished the RSV a few months back, it being the one I was raised with. Managed to catch a typo and was able to check it because the histories are duplicated. Good luck sloshing through some of it! I started with the NT because I had been reading about that from Bart Ehrman and wanted to test his propositions.

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  15. It is difficult to understand, and really digest a text, without going back to the original language it was written in. Though I guess most Christian churches don't really go into it at this depth. However, if you see a problem with something I have written, and know the original words and their context, PLEASE point it out to me.


    One thing that bugged me when I was a Christian, and still makes me wonder: Why did God create the Earth first to be "void and without form?"


    "1:16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: [he made] the stars also."

    This is the first thing I see, that is directly at odds with science, as well as evidence for earthly authors. The moon is not a light.


    "1:28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth."

    I don't like this verse. I guess in mythology it is common for man to be the pinnacle of creation. Though I would argue that the laws of physics have much more control over every living thing, including us.


    Chapter two seems to review a bit of chapter one, and elaborate. Perhaps an afterthought? The description of the location of Eden does not lend itself to the theory that the Bible can be used as a geographical text. We also have the bits about where women came from (man).


    So from chapter three we learn that God does not want us to have knowledge of good and evil. I still don't understand why that is. I tend to like the allegorical theory, put forth in “Ishmael.” Where's it is an adaptation of a cultural story. Though I wholly accept that is a work of fiction.


    So mankind is given to the world, with Eve being the “mother of all living.” Which leads to a bit of an incestuous family tree when taken literally. When I was a Christian, I took this mostly as allegorical. There was no Adam or Eve, there was a culture, and eventually they sinned, and were kicked out. I think the Catholic church takes a similar view.

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  16. What about 2:17? (But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.)

    Would death have been meaningful to the first human(s)? If you're marching around in a paradise, presumably sinless, what reason do you have to fear death? Or even know what it is?

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  17. Something I picked on this read through is kind of a "Han shot first" moment where the serpent did not in fact deceive Eve, God did. Eating from the tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil did not kill her.

    I'm also puzzled by the Tree of Life in the story. God didn't say not to eat from it, yet cast them out before they had a chance to and become immortal like "us." Did God put it on the do-not-eat list somewhere else? And who is "us" he is talking about?

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  18. It is difficult to understand, and really digest a text, without going back to the original language it was written in.

    One of the (many) things I liked about R. Crumb's Genesis was that he pointed out all the Hebrew puns. My annotated Bible does this as well, and it's incredibly revealing. The Bible's text (well, certain sources within it) use puns extensively. "Adam"=earth is just one example. Pretty much every story in the Bible that seeks to explain how something has come to pass uses a groan-worthy Hebrew pun.

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  19. I also like comparing the two versions of creation here, the older one from Gen 2-3, and Gen 1 which I believe was added during the Babylonian captivity (6th cent. BCE).

    The dating of P (the Genesis 1 source) is disputed (well, as are all the sources). I'm leaning towards the Babylonian captivity/exile, but some people (like Richard Friedman) likes to place it much earlier. (Or maybe he's alone on that?)

    This is why it bugs me when people say the Genesis creation account contradicts itself. No it doesn't! It's two accounts, written hundreds of years apart, by different people. Of course they don't mesh.

    Most of the "contradictions" in the Bible are simply the result of unrelated works being smushed together by editors.

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  20. Great idea - I will play along throughout 2011.

    My first concern is always Gen 1:1. Three problems: "God" - the proposition "God" is not proven or established; 2) "created" - the need for creation is not established (the cyclic (eternal) universe is not a dead issue, nor is the hypothetical multiverse); 3) "heaven and earth" - this actually troubles me a lot. It's WAY out of order with what the observations show. The "inerrant word of God" assertion is immediately called into question before we ever get to the self contradictions, many translations and versions of the Bible.

    Other than that ... no problem!

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  21. Barbara and Adam, I moronically answered two grammatical questions for you guys on the "introduce yourself" thread. Sorry. Will watch carefully in future.

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  22. If anyone's interested - there's a side-by-side comparison of several Bible versions at Biblos.com. Very easy to scroll forward and back through it.

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  23. betterthanesdras Thank you, that is exactly the type of insight I am looking for.

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  24. '"Adam"=earth'
    That makes sense now. I was wondering why they spontaneously stopped referring to him as "the man" and started referring to him as Adam without establishing that was his name.

    Also, back in my Sunday school days we were taught that the serpent was the manifestation of Satan. I don't know if that's retconned in later chapters, but I haven't read anything suggesting that the snake was anything other than a snake. That could talk.

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  25. @Alex Russelberg: My bible story book growing up drew the serpent as an effeminate-looking (as I recall now) skin-skinned man with horns but a snake body below the waste, so I had similar remembrances.

    '"Adam"=earth' is interesting insight, enough that I'm going back to read it one more time.

    And hear I thought since I've read Genesis over and over in previous attempts to do a Bible read that this would be the boring part.

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  26. Sorry: "Skin-skinned" = red-skinned

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  27. Regarding contradictions, I think it is acceptable to say the bible contradicts itself - if you're reading it from a literal point of view, which most of the people with whom you have the "it contradicts itself" argument are. Genesis 1 and 2 are clearly two different stories, but most modern Christians don't read them that way.

    The snake was just a snake. I can't even remember when Satan makes an appearance. Job?

    In any case, I'm loving this. Great project!

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  28. On the subject of the Tree of Life, I've heard the argument from Christians that Adam and Eve WERE immortal, and so the Tree of Life wasn't forbidden, until they ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, so God punished them by taking away their immortality. That negates the idea that God lied about them dying if they ate from the tree - because now they WOULD die, eventually. And then he had to protect the Tree of Life so that they wouldn't be able to eat from it and regain immortality.

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  29. Regarding the snake as Satan thing, I remember learning that the character of Satan is one that developed and evolved over time. I'm not sure the authors of Genesis had a concept of Satan.

    I think the Satan in Job is supposed to be more of a member of God's heavenly host or council that plays the defense attorney/"devil's advocate" type role so to speak. Maybe somebody knows more about this and maybe we will discuss it when we get to Job. I think the modern concept of the Satan/Lucifer/the devil comes from John Milton (Paradise Lost) rather than anything Biblical (I seem to remember, could be wrong). The version of the story we all heard as kids where the serpent is Satan was probably a retrofitting of the modern Satan into an ancient story.

    If anyone is interested, there is an excellent series of lectures by Christine Hayes on the Old Testament at Yale Open Courses: http://oyc.yale.edu/religious-studies
    I also have a very good lecture series by Robert Oden on mp3 and one on the New Testament by Bart Ehrman (who is awesome) that I will be happy to share if anyone would like.

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  30. @hdauria RE: The Tree of Life. Thanks, that triggers similar catechism memories for me. Reading this today, the Tree of Life seems to be a background player, not crucial to the story. If that is so, I'd find God's being vague if not coy, with his instructions to Adam.

    FYI: The Why Evolution is True blog has an entry today about an Adam & Eve model that tries to be more "historical" but at first reading I wouldn't bet would satisfy any believer...

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  31. Brian, I would love to have those lectures. How do we accomplish that?

    I'm Helene, by the way. I can't figure out how to make my LiveJournal ID give my display name instead of my user name . . .

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  32. Brian H - thanks for the link to Yale Open Courses - much appreciated!

    Chasia - the "Homo Divinus model" article you mentioned was a piece of work. I can't understand why someone would be compelled to make that up. The "Bible as allegory" stance is much more defensible than the "let's make stuff up out of whole cloth" stance.

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  33. Hello. I got here via FriendlyAtheist, and this sounds like a great idea. I'm actually already reading the Bible (New International Version) and I'm at Ephesians right now. I've been planning to read the KJV as soon as I'm done with the NIV, so I'll try to hurry up and finish it.

    "Did the Bible predict what is now the accepted scientific theory of the creation of the universe or are Apologetics force retro-fitting modern day beliefs to fit."

    I tend to favor the latter explanation. There are so many different religions and it's possible to reinterpret their different creation stories as a metaphor to make them fit with the science.

    This is a great idea, and I look forward to reading more of your thoughts as you read!
    -Ani

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  34. Helene, I'm putting the lectures on a file hosting site. Anyone who would like them, send me an email at brian-hitt@fsm.northwestern.edu and I'll send you the info when it's set up. They're really worth listening to, IMO.

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  35. Most of us may be familiar with the Christian take on the Bible, but, the Jewish take on the Tanakh can also be interesting. The books are arranged somewhat differently (though the first five books, the Torah, are the same). The ancient rabbis speculated on the gaps and contradictions and some of those can be interesting (one of which was the man created in the first tale was both sexes and the taking of the rib in the second tale was more a complete split of this single person into a male person and female person). Search on 'midrash' and 'genesis'.

    Also in the first tale man is given dominion and in the second tale God makes him the gardener not the owner: "And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it".

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  36. The test for whether any particular text "predicts" something is whether or not people prior to the prediction coming true can accurately understand what is being predicted.

    Using the Quran as an example, it's all well and good to point to a passage that, in modern translations, seem to be very clearly describing an accurate cosmology, but you then also have you demonstrate that a) Muslims were able to derive from this passage an accurate cosmology prior to its deduction through scientific means, and that b) interpretations of the passage were the same prior to our injecting of current knowledge.

    When apologists try to claim that the Bible is accurately predicting later scientific theory, they tend to fail this test. It betrays that they are reading into the text, trying to force it to say what they want it to say.

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  37. G1:26 "Let us make man in our image"

    Is there more than one god at this time?

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  38. @Brian Hitt: I listened to the first two lectures so far from the Yale Old Testament class taught by Christine Hayes, and it was really fascinating. Thanks so much for mentioning it!

    About Shakespeare being a better writer than God, I think it was Sam Harris who wrote that in End of Faith. "The belief that certain books were written by God (who, for reasons difficult to fathom, made Shakespeare a far better writer than himself) leaves us powerless to address the most potent source of human conflict, past and present." (paperback, p. 35)

    When I first attempted to read the Bible in middle school (which turned out to be an unsuccessful attempt) my first observation was that the book couldn't be written by God, since God had to be better writer than this.

    @Erp: I've always wanted to learn more about the Bible from a Jewish perspective. Too often, it seems like some Christians dismiss the Tanakh by explaining away everything by referring to Jesus.

    -Ani Sharmin

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  39. @Ani...

    We refer everything to Jesus b/c it is the New Testament to which Jesus himself tells the Jews of all of their wrongdoings. All Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God so of course we will quote the Son often.

    Also...try to read a more reader friendly Bible than the one attempted in middle school. God did inspire writers to write the Bible. I am sure your reading level has improved since 6-8 grade.

    And finally...the Jewish faith does not practice the NT since they do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God. so you will only learn OT from the Jewish side.

    -Tom, the new guy

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  40. @Tom:

    That was back in middle school. Since then, I've actually tried to read the Bible again, and I'm currently in Ephesians. (I'm reading the NIV, but I thought that I might try to follow along in the KJV as well, if I can get finished with the NIV quickly.)

    The reason I wanted to learn more about the Jewish take on the Bible was because I know that it may be different, since they don't include the New Testament. I've mostly heard about the Christian take, so I think learning about it from a Jewish perspective might be interesting, to compare and contrast.

    I can understand why the Christian interpretation would be focused on Christ, of course. What I mean is that that there are those who try to side-step questions about the Old Testament by referring to Jesus.

    -Ani Sharmin

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  41. On the quality of the actual writing, I'll add this. Shakespeare's never been a problem for me, and I've thoroughly enjoyed it even in high school (Although some of the innuendos at the beginning of Romeo and Juliet went over my head. For some reason, now my mind's even dirtier and I find that scene hilarious.). The bible isn't difficult to read because it's more complex. It's difficult to read because the grammar is clunky. Maybe that's just an issue with this translation, but shouldn't it be just as divinely inspired as the original Hebrew version? Or was God purely hands off this round?

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  42. One thing I've always wondered is how would people from that time period interpret a modern scientific explanation. For example take the story of Eve's creation which has parallels with the process of asexual reproduction of single cell organisms. If you had no understanding of biology wouldn't you infer a very literal translation of taking part of one body, say a rib, and using that to create a second person.

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  43. God is. Which is to say something is. God is the universe. It happened this way. The light is separated from the non light. Order is separated from chaos. the noise floor is separated from the signal. God is. Which is to say the writer, perhaps hundred of writers, orators, story tellers, self aware beings announce they are. They are different than the animals. They are different from the water and air. They are different than the land. They are different from what brought this to be. They are. The universe is. There is some creative force at work. For all this is. The nature of it is it started and is progressing. The water surrounds them. The water which is unknowable at the time is in the sky, under the ground, all around. It contains them and is unknown to them. It holds life and death. In the sphere of water that surrounds them only in the middle can they survive. These are the symbols they have to write about universe. Divinely inspired or not this is all they have to convey the truth they feel and see.
    What is the process of that truth? How do they derive meaning? To understand the words we must understand them at the beginning. Not a simple task.

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  44. Ishmael by daniel quinn blew me away . To me, his story of finally answering the question, what is the "Worlds oldest profession"? Opened up the Bible as a historical document filled to the gills with TRUTH, it's just our sorry assed laziness for not recognizing it soon enough. Where were you all !!!! As a moment of reflection it is not too late for us to change. Change of this magnitude has to impact everybody atheists and agnostics . fools and sages. Do we have this courage?

    The Bible would have us sing "Don't worry be happpy" Believe in us and all is forgiven.

    Atheists would have us sing " It's the end of the world and I know it". If you didn't believe in them we wouldn't be in this mess.

    Who is taking responsibilty?

    I'm glad I found your site

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  45. As a recovering creationist, I have to say that for a long time I did find the genesis account as a passable euphemism for our modern understanding of the universe's beginnings. Specifically in comparison to the more exotic pantheistic creation myths of the Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Norse religions, this idea of the universe starting with a flash of light, the creation of solid matter and the heavenly bodies, and then the (roughly) gradual appearance of life on the planet.

    I held this idea for a long time, throughout my journey through a kind of christian-leaning agnosticism, and frankly I still don't think I've ever heard a convincing argument against it's content. It gets some details wrong, it's hazy on the details and uses terms that we don't recognise today, but in broad strokes, it still seems to me to be more or less plausible if you wanted to reconcile belief in the bible with scientific understanding of the origins of the universe.

    The killing blow for me was finding out that not only was it not unique in telling this narrative of nothing-to-something in the creation of the world, it's thought to be largely built out of the Enûma Eliš (the Babylonian creation myth), and concommitant with that discovered the Documentary hypothesis model of the old testament. I actually have to put that down as the moment I became an atheist, too.

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  46. "Accepted Scientific theory" about the shape of the earth 500 years ago was that the earth was flat. And so your question about "Accepted scientific theory" regarding origins assumes man has all the answers (like he did about the shape of the earth). A vote of scientists about something that can't be measured/tested is more about what they put their faith in (materialism) than about anything testable/repeatable. As for me, right here in the middle of an infinite universe, my Faith is in the infinite God-Elohim. Here is how Genesis 1:1-3 touches upon science. Light being mentioned before the creation of the Sun means that God is speaking of the creation of time itself. This is logical when you consider that God was creating the space-time-matter universe from nothing (literally). Genesis 1:1 records the creation of space (“the heaven”), of time (“in the beginning”), and of matter (“the earth”), the space/time/matter continuum which constitutes our physical cosmos. Light was not created, since God Himself dwells in light. On the other hand, He created darkness (Isaiah 45:7). Credit for this goes to the late Dr. Henry Morris of www.icr.org

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  47. "Accepted Scientific theory" about the shape of the earth 500 years ago was that the earth was flat. And so your question about "Accepted scientific theory" regarding origins assumes man has all the answers (like he did about the shape of the earth). A vote of scientists about something that can't be measured/tested is more about what they put their faith in (materialism) than about anything testable/repeatable. As for me, right here in the middle of an infinite universe, my Faith is in the infinite God-Elohim. Here is how Genesis 1:1-3 touches upon science. Light being mentioned before the creation of the Sun means that God is speaking of the creation of time itself. This is logical when you consider that God was creating the space-time-matter universe from nothing (literally). Genesis 1:1 records the creation of space (“the heaven”), of time (“in the beginning”), and of matter (“the earth”), the space/time/matter continuum which constitutes our physical cosmos. Light was not created, since God Himself dwells in light. On the other hand, He created darkness (Isaiah 45:7). Credit for this goes to the late Dr. Henry Morris of www.icr.org

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  48. If this is the 3rd time I land this post then I am terribly sorry!! My response - "Accepted Scientific theory" about the shape of the earth 500 years ago was that the earth was flat. And so your question about "Accepted scientific theory" regarding origins assumes man has all the answers (like he did about the shape of the earth). A vote of scientists about something that can't be measured/tested is more about what they put their faith in (materialism) than about anything testable/repeatable. As for me, right here in the middle of an infinite universe, my Faith is in the infinite God-Elohim. Here is how Genesis 1:1-3 touches upon science. Light being mentioned before the creation of the Sun means that God is speaking of the creation of time itself. This is logical when you consider that God was creating the space-time-matter universe from nothing (literally). Genesis 1:1 records the creation of space (“the heaven”), of time (“in the beginning”), and of matter (“the earth”), the space/time/matter continuum which constitutes our physical cosmos. Light was not created, since God Himself dwells in light. On the other hand, He created darkness (Isaiah 45:7). Credit for this goes to the late Dr. Henry Morris of www.icr.org

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  49. Glad I found this site, via RealClearReligion. A few points: Adam's name is a pun with "earth," but it's not exactly the same word - "earth" is "Adamah." "Adam" simply means "man" (or "human"), so it's really up to the translators when they decide to translate it as "man" or as "Adam."

    I've always been a little puzzled by thinking that "it's several sources mashed together" does away with questions of things that seem to contradict. It seems to assume that the editors were mindless clods who were too stupid to realize that they were telling two different creation stories, which is blatantly obvious when you read Genesis 1 and 2. Whoever was putting the stories together must have had SOME idea of a way that they could both be true. It's only in the last hundred years that literalism became entrenched; and there are Christians who believe that it is the Divinely inspired Word of God AND that not all of it is intended to be taken literally. Me, for one. (Although, to be fair, I'm a New Church (Swedenborgian) Christian, and plenty of other Christians would say that means I'm not Christian at all).

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  50. Bruce: Did my earlier post get removed? If it posted twice, that was an error. I have not done this before and was confused.

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  51. Watchful, I haven't removed any post from this blog.

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  52. "Accepted Scientific theory" about the shape of the earth 500 years ago was that the earth was flat. And so your question about "Accepted scientific theory" regarding origins assumes man has all the answers (like he did about the shape of the earth). A vote of scientists about something that can't be measured/tested is more about what they put their faith in (materialism) than about anything testable/repeatable. As for me, right here in the middle of an infinite universe, my Faith is in the infinite God-Elohim. Here is how Genesis 1:1-3 touches upon science. Light being mentioned before the creation of the Sun means that God is speaking of the creation of time itself. This is logical when you consider that God was creating the space-time-matter universe from nothing (literally). Genesis 1:1 records the creation of space (“the heaven”), of time (“in the beginning”), and of matter (“the earth”), the space/time/matter continuum which constitutes our physical cosmos. Light was not created, since God Himself dwells in light. On the other hand, He created darkness (Isaiah 45:7). Credit for this goes to the late Dr. Henry Morris of www.icr.org

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  53. I think it is important to mention here, in Genesis chapter 3, the account of the fall. Most Bibles have a section heading for this chapter called just that and it sets up a most critical doctrine: original sin. The question of what is man is answered here and will inform everything you read in the Bible after this point. If we do not have this radical corruption in our own natures then Jesus, as the focal point of Scripture, and his rescue mission make little sense.

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  54. Several people have commented on the fact that there appear to be two versions of the creation myth in Genesis, but no one has explicitly mentioned the Documentary Hypothesis. Quoting from Wikipedia: "The documentary hypothesis (DH) (sometimes called the Wellhausen hypothesis[1]), holds that the Pentateuch (the Torah, or the Five Books of Moses) was derived from originally independent, parallel and complete narratives, which were subsequently combined into the current form by a series of redactors (editors). ... The hypothesis developed slowly over the course of the 19th century, by the end of which it was generally agreed that there were four main sources, combined into their final form by a series of redactors, R. These four sources came to be known as the Yahwist, or Jahwist, J (J being the German equivalent of the English letter Y); the Elohist, E; the Deuteronomist, D, (the name comes from the Book of Deuteronomy, D's contribution to the Torah); and the Priestly Writer, P." (Note that one posting on this blog referred to "P", so evidently that poster is aware of the Documentary Hypothesis.

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  55. Further to my posting on the Documentary Hypothesis, this theory of the authorship of the Pentateuch (first 5 books of the bible) is even accepted by Conservapedia: "The great majority of Bible experts accept one or another version of the Documentary Hypothesis. However it is rejected by some Fundamentalists." One of the two versions of the creation myth in Genesis appears to have been written in the Kingdom of Israel, and the other in the Kingdom of Judah. (For a period of about 50 years these two kingdoms were united under King David, and then under his son King Solomon.)

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  56. "The sequence doesn't match up, and what the hell is a firmament anyway?"

    The word "firmament" comes from the Latin root word "firmus," meaning durable, solid, steadfast, strong. In other words, a SOLID object. In ancient cosmology, the sky was seen, not as a gaseous envelope surrounding a ball-like Earth, but as a solid dome over the Earth, like an inverted bowl. There were windows or gates that could be opened to let out the rain water, which was inside a great reservoir inside the dome. Above the dome is where God lived. The dome separated the "waters above" (the reservoir) from the "waters below" (seas, rivers, and the primal ocean).

    This is the view that Fundies would have us all believe has a scientific basis.

    "If we do not have this radical corruption in our own natures then Jesus, as the focal point of Scripture, and his rescue mission make little sense."

    You would think Christians would wonder why Jesus never talked about Adam and Eve and original sin. It is never mentioned once in all the gospels.

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