Sunday, 14 October 2007

Are There Mistakes in the Bible?

Joel Kontinen

Skeptics are fond of pointing out that the Bible contains errors or inconsistencies. As an example of this kind of thinking, I will focus on the views of Donald Morgan. In his list of purported biblical inconsistencies, he admits that some of them might not be contradictions at all. I would agree. If, as I believe, the Bible is the inerrant (Ps.119:160; John 17:17) and inspired Word of God (2 Tim.3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21), it should not contain any inconsistencies or discrepancies.

I have chosen two examples from Morgan’s list – one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament.

1) Gen. 1:26-27 and Gen. 2:7,21-22
Morgan states that in Genesis 1:26-27 “man and woman were created at the same time.” He then mentions Genesis 2:7, 21-22 and interprets it as saying, “Man was created first, woman sometime later.” This is part of the classical myth of two discrepant creation stories. The late Finnish theologian Uuras Saarnivaara, who had two earned doctorates, explains that this is a false claim that advocates of Wellhausen’s documentary hypothesis often use. They speculate that the accounts are from two different documents, P [the priestly document] and J [the Jahwist document]. However, there is actually no discrepancy between these two accounts, since Genesis 1:27 describes the creation of man in general and 2:7, 21 presents a more detailed account (Saarivaarna 1985, 149).

Wellhausen and other liberals postulated that Pentateuch was put together from four different sources, J (Jahwist) E (Elohist), D (Deutronomist) and P (Priestly), for the most part in the 7th century B.C. (Bray 1996, 303-305). However, Jesus himself stated that Moses wrote about Him (John 5:46) and that the Pentateuch was the “book of Moses” (Mark 12:26).

As Batten (1996) explains, the toledoth statements [“This is the account of”] of Genesis suggest strongly that Moses edited the text using earlier eyewitness records in writing. Batten adds that since the toledoth statements of Genesis 2: 4 and 5:1 are different, this affirms that what follows from 2:4 on is a more detailed account of what had already happened in 1:27. Moreover, the wording in Genesis 2:4b (“the earth and the heavens) differs from that in 2:4a (“the heavens and the earth”), thus the two accounts are from two different perspectives: first an overview, and then a more detailed account from man’s (or Edenic) perspective.

2) Acts 16:6 and Acts 19:8-10
The purported discrepancy between Acts 16:6, “The Holy Spirit forbids preaching in Asia” and Acts 19:8-10, “Paul preaches in Asia anyway” turns out to be no discrepancy at all but an example of God’s perfect timing. Morgan errs in believing that Paul was forbidden to ever preach the gospel in the Roman province of Asia. In Acts 16 The Holy Spirit does not allow Paul and his companions to preach in Asia and Bithynia because He wanted to guide them to proclaim the gospel in Europe (Gilbrant 1982, 271), where they were badly needed. Sometimes God’s Spirit leads believers by hindering them from pursuing the course they have chosen. Paul could probably never have gone to Philippi, Thessalonica, Athens and Corinth if he had gone to Asia and Bithynia instead (Bernspång 1983, 291).

Witherington (1998, 478-479) suggests that Paul “was not clear in advance of the beginning of this journey what direction God had in mind for him to go once he completed the circuit of the already founded churches in Syria, Cilicia and southern Galatia.” Many people, such as Lydia and the jailor at Philippi and those who were saved at Athens, will be forever grateful that the Holy Spirit guided Paul to reach out to them with the good news of the risen Christ.

Later, however, Paul was allowed to preach in the Asian centre of Ephesus – and it turned out to be a very powerful and effective ministry. He preached there for two years. The consequences were tremendous: “All Jews and Greeks, who lived in the province of Asia, heard the word of the Lord” (Acts 19:10) and God “did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even hankerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them” (Acts 19:11-12).

Sources

Batten, Don. 1996. Genesis Contradictions. Creation 18:4, 44-45. http://www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v18/i4/genesis.asp


Berspång, Erik.. 1983. Apostlagärningarna: Kommentar för bibleläsaren. Herrljunga, Sweden: InterSkrift.

Bray, Gerald. 1996. Biblcal Interpretation Past and Present. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Gilbrant, Thoralf (ed.). 1982. Novum: Uusi testamentti selityksin. Vol. 3. Vantaa, Finland: Raamatun Tietokirja.

Morgan, Donald, n.d. Biblical Inconsistencies (Biblical Contradictions?) http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/donald_morgan/inconsistencies.html


Saarnivaara, Uuras. 1985. Voiko Raamattuun luottaa? 3rd ed. Suolahti, Finland: Ev. Lut. Herätysseura.

Witherington, Ben III. 1998. The Acts of the Apostles. A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI.William B. Eerdmans.


Links:

Home page: http://personal.inet.fi/koti/joel.kontinen/

Blog (in FInnish): http://bwanajoe.blogspot.com/

Blog (in English): http://joelkontinen.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

THE HISTORICAL RELIABILITY OF THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES

Joel Kontinen

I. Introduction

The 19th century witnessed a remarkable rise of scepticism towards biblical inerrancy. German scholars such as W. de Wette and F.C. Baur doubted the historical reliability of Acts. Baur’s successors at Tübingen regarded Acts as a fictitious work of a Paulinist writing after AD 100. More conservative scholars, however, were not persuaded by their arguments, and men like J.B. Lightfoot and Sir William Ramsey[1] restored belief in the reliability of Acts with considerable success (Bray 1996, 567–576).

Although few present-day scholars share the scepticism of the Tübingen school, the genre of Acts is still being debated. Scholars have attempted to classify Acts into various ancient Greek and Roman literary genres (Palmer 1993, 1–2).

This paper examines the historical reliability of Acts. The genre of the book has a decisive effect on this issue. Section II discusses the views of some scholars about the genre of Acts. Section III examines Acts on the basis of first-century Greco-Roman writings and artefacts as well as biblical sources. The final section assesses the evidence.

II. The genre of Acts

The author of Acts uses the word logos ("word”, “speech”, “message “or “story” according to Gilbrandt 1984, 494, vol. V), [2] to describe the first part of Luke-Acts.[3] Nonetheless, this categorisation does not settle the genre.

Scholars have suggested various genres for Acts. It has been classified as a novel, biography, scientific treatise, and historical monograph.[4] G.E. Sterling proposes that the genre of a book should be defined by analysing the “content, form, and function of a text” (1992, 14, quoted in Palmer 1993, 15).

A. Acts as a novel

R. Pervo classifies Acts “among the historical novels of antiquity” (Palmer 1993, 3). While Acts is full of adventure, this does not necessarily nullify its historical reliability.[5] Although a novel is usually understood to be fictional, “the novel in antiquity is in fact a form of history” (Gabba 1983, 15, quoted in Palmer 1993, 3). It would be almost impossible to conclude that the author’s primary objective was to provide entertainment.[6] Luke 1:4 seems to rule this out: Luke is writing, “that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”[7]

B. Acts as a biography

C. Talbert has compared Luke-Acts with Diogenes Laertius’ Lives of the Philosophers. He suggests that the work is mostly a biography (Alexander 1993, 31–63). While the Gospel of Luke might to some extent resemble a biography,[8] the author does not mention Jesus or the word bios (life) in the preface. Greco-Roman rhetorical conventions necessitated the announcement of the topic at the beginning. Acts seems to be more concerned with deeds than with lives. The stories involving the main characters (Peter, Stephen, Philip and Paul) begin in medias res with few biographical details.[9] Biography does not seem to be a plausible genre for Acts.

C. Acts as a scientific treatise

Having compared the prefaces of Luke and Acts with ancient works written e.g. by Galen and Hero of Alexandria, L. Alexander argued that Luke-Acts resembles a scientific treatise (Palmer 1993, 21; Witherington 1998, 14–15). [10] Witherington suggests that since Luke[11] is said to be a physician in Colossians 1:14, he was probably conversant with the style of contemporary scientific treatises (1998, 15).

‘Scientific treatise’ is not the best choice of genre for Acts. As its name implies, Acts is concerned with certain kinds of deeds and not with the “study of medicinal plants, diseases, and the like” that ancient scientific treatises dealt with. Moreover, scientific treatises did not employ historical narration (ibid., 15).

D. Acts as a historical monograph

The term ‘historical monograph’ is a modern invention. It refers to an ancient work examining a particular issue, often during a certain period, either of any length or of limited length (Palmer 1993, 4–5). Acts fits this description, as it describes the geographical expansion of Christianity within some thirty years.

Luke 1:1–4 suggests that the ensuing narration (diegesin) is a historical work. Aristotle defined history as “the investigations (historiai) of those who write about the deeds” (Rhetoric 1.1360A.35 quoted in Witherington 1998, 13). A sequel to the “former book” dedicated to the same high-ranking official (Theophilus), Acts is a historical monograph. Both Luke and Acts meet the requirements for Greek history writing laid down by Herodotus (Witherington 1998, 13).

Contrary to the assumption that ancient historians freely fabricated data, some Greek historians seemed to have been meticulous with their facts and use of sources.[12] “For the Greek historian the hallmark of true istoria was personal observation (autopsia) and participation in events, travel, inquiry, the consultation of eyewitnesses” (ibid., 27). Luke meets these requirements. He followed the example of the more assiduous Greek historians such as Polybius and Thucydides.

One of the criteria for classifying a work as a historical monograph is a “selective focus of writing”, an item mentioned by the Roman historian Sallust (Palmer 1993, 11). Acts meets this criterion well. It would probably not be too far-fetched to conclude that we would expect the historical monograph to be historically more reliable than the other genres discussed above.

III. Acts and first-century evidence

The main evidences roughly contemporary with Acts are Greco-Roman texts and artefacts and Paul’s writings. The works of Josephus will be discussed within the first category.[13]

A. Greco-Roman evidence

First-century Greek and Roman sources corroborate much of the geographical, religious and political[14] details mentioned in Acts. Luke knew the roads and sea routes; he was aware of details, e.g. that Lycaonian was spoken at Lystra and that Philippi was a Roman colony. He knew which cities had a Jewish synagogue and what the titles of the local officials were in each city. Luke used the correct title for the magistrate at Thessalonica (politarkhes)[15] and chief magistrate at Ephesus (grammateus ). In some instances he even knew local slang words: spermologos (babbler) in 17: 8 was Athenian jargon,[16] eurakylon (northeaster)[17] mariner-speak in 27:14 (Hemer 1989, 108–158).

Luke was aware of the proper way to address a procurator; kratistos in 24:3 is the correct form of address. He seems to have known the privileges of a Roman citizen and that since the time of Nero the emperor was referred to as ó kurios. The description of the voyage to Malta and the shipwreck reflects first-century conditions, which speaks in favour of the we-passages being eyewitness reports. The use of the word barbaroi (28:2) reveals that he was aware of the cultural distinctions within the Roman Empire (ibid.).[18]

In a few instances Luke’s account departs from other historical works, especially Josephus.[19] Some expositors favour Josephus’ version in the Theudas episode (Acts 5:36). According to Josephus, Judas the Galilean (Acts 5:37) rebelled before Theudas, whose insurrection occurred some ten years after the events described in the fifth chapter of Acts.

Nikolainen suggests that Luke could not have known the precise details of Gamaliel’s speech, as the apostles were put outside when he spoke (1985, 55–56).[20] However, some scholars give Luke the benefit of the doubt and believe there were two different Theudases.[21]

B. Paul’s writings

Some scholars have questioned the Acts narrative on Paul’s early post-conversion years as Galatians 1 and 2 seem to provide a slightly different view.[22] Wenhan (1993, 226) nevertheless points out: “There is no significant, proved discrepancy between Acts and the Pauline epistles.”

The minor differences are basically comparable to the varying viewpoints chosen by the evangelists in depicting Jesus’ ministry. [23]
Wenhan concludes that the scholars who doubt the veracity of the portrait Acts paints of Paul “must appeal to general impressions rather than to proven discrepancies with the epistles. Other scholars will judge that the cumulative evidence suggests that Acts is a well-informed historical narrative” (ibid., 254).

The differences between Paul and Luke have to do more with emphasis than with substance. While Paul wrote ad hoc letters to address problems in churches, Luke was writing church history, resulting in a different viewpoint.

IV. Conclusion

The preface of the Gospel of Luke promises that the ensuing narration will be a well-researched “account of the things that have been fulfilled among us” based on eyewitness reports. The “second book” is a meticulous rendering of the spread of Christianity from Jerusalem to Rome. Many details attest to its accuracy. Not all facts can be corroborated by external proofs. However, so much has been seen to be factual that there is no reason to doubt the historicity of the rest of the book (Keener 2002, 16).

The facts speak for themselves. Sir William Ramsey (1851–1939) began his investigation into the reliability of Acts as an advocate of the Tübingen hypothesis. However, the more he studied the issue, the less he trusted his premise. He eventually concluded “that Luke was one of the most accurate historians who ever lived, and that his account of events in Acts was entirely trustworthy” (Bray 1996, 575). This should not be a surprise, as we would expect Scripture to be inerrant. After all, Jesus says that God’s “word is truth” (John 17:17).

V. Reference List

Alexander, Loveday. 1993. Acts and Ancient Intellectual Biography. In The Book of Acts in its First Century Setting. Vol. 1: Ancient Literary Setting, ed. Bruce W. Winter and Andrew D. Clarke, 1–29. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Bray, Gerald. 1996. Biblical Interpretation Past and Present. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Feldman, Stephen and Nancy E. Roth. 2002. The Shorter List: The New Testament Figures Known to History. Biblical Archaeology Review 28, no. 6: 34–37.

Gabba, Emilio.1983. Literature. In Michael Crawford, ed. Sources for Ancient History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Quoted in Palmer, Darryl W. Acts and the Ancient Historical Monograph, 13. In The Book of Acts in its First Century Setting. Vol. 1: Ancient Literary Setting, ed. Bruce W. Winter and Andrew D. Clarke. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993.

Gilbrandt, Thoralf, ed. 1980–1984. Novum.Uusi testamentti selityksin. Edited in Finnish by Matti Liljeqvist, Valtter Luoto and Pekka Nieminen. Vols. I–V. Vantaa: Raamatun Tietokirja.

Hemer, Colin J. 1989. The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History, ed. Conrad H. Gempf, 108–158. Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr.

Keener, Craig S. 2002. Acts as History and Theology. Graduate Study Guide. Springfield, MI: Global University.

Nikolainen, Aimo T. 1985. Apostolien teot. Jyväskylä: Kirjapaja.

Palmer, Darryl W. 1993. Acts and the Ancient Historical Monograph. In The Book of Acts in its First Century Setting. Vol. 1: Ancient Literary Setting, ed. Bruce W. Winter and Andrew D. Clarke, 1–29. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Sterling, Gregory E. 1992. Historiography and Self-Definition. Josephos, Luke-Acts and Apologetic Historiography. Leiden: Brill. Quoted in Palmer, Darryl W. Acts and the Ancient Historical Monograph, 13. In The Book of Acts in its First Century Setting. Vol. 1: Ancient Literary Setting, ed. Bruce W. Winter and Andrew D. Clarke. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993.

Tenney, Merrill C. 1985. New Testament Survey. Rev. ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Wenham, David. 1993. Acts and the Pauline Corpus II. The Evidence of Parallels. In The Book of Acts in its First Century Setting. Vol. 1: Ancient Literary Setting, ed. Bruce W. Winter and Andrew D. Clarke, 1–29. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Winter, Bruce W. and Andrew D. Clarke, eds. 1993. The Book of Acts in its First Century Setting. Vol. 1: Ancient Literary Setting. ed. Bruce W. Winter and Andrew D. Clarke, 1–29. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Witherington, Ben III. 1998. The Acts of the Apostles. A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.


Notes

[1] Ramsey has occasionally been dismissed as a ”mere” apologist. Bray (1996, 577) admits that Ramsey ”sometimes stretched the evidence in ways which were unhelpful.” However, on the whole Ramsey seems to have been a scrupulous scholar. He began examining Acts as a liberal and only changed his view after being confronted with the evidence. See the discussion at the end of this paper.
[2] Several modern Bible translations render it simply as “book”.
[3] He uses the expression Ton proton logon… in Acts 1:1.
[4] The word limit set for this paper prohibits the discussion of apologetic historiography, which resembles but is not identical to the historical monograph. See Palmer 1993, 15–21.
[5] Lord Byron (1788–1824) wrote, “Truth is strange, Stranger than fiction.” (The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, s.v. “Lord Byron”).
[6] We should keep in mind that while different authors might have different goals in mind, the primary function of a novel is to entertain.
[7] As most scholars accept the unity of Luke-Acts, this obviously also applies to Acts.
[8] After all, it deals with the life of Christ. However, it is mostly concerned with a very limited part of that life, viz. the rather brief public ministry that is described in chapters 4–24.
[9] The readers are told almost nothing about the early years of the characters.
[10] Her work is mainly on the preface in Luke 1:1–4. However, as the preface in Acts 1:1–2 points back to the Gospel of Luke, this suggests similarity of genre between the books.
[11] It is assumed in this paper that Luke is the author of both the gospel bearing his name and Acts. Although Acts does not disclose the writer’s identity, both internal and external evidence suggest that he is the most probable candidate. Tenney (1985, 176–179) mentions the following evidences for Lucan authorship of Luke-Acts: the “we” passages in Acts point to a travelling companion of Paul, both works are addressed to Theophilus, the author was well versed in Greek and was obviously a Gentile, and the early tradition holds Luke as the author. Witherington adds that the “earliest extant manuscript, p75, of the first volume of Luke-Acts has at its end the ancient title Euaggelion kata Loukan“ (1998,56).
[12] Polybius, for instance, criticised a colleague for inventing speeches (Witherington 1998, 33). Although Roman historians did not value observation as much as the Greeks, they also eschewed the fabrication of data. Cicero pointed out that history’s first law was “that an author must not dare to tell anything but the truth” (De oratore 2. 62, quoted in Witherington 1998, 25–26).
[13] The word limit prohibits a discussion of Jewish religio-political writings, such as the Maccabees.
[14] A good example of this is a first century stone with the inscription Sergius Paulus and his title proconsul. The stone was found near Paphos in Cypros (Feldman and Roth 2002,37).
[15] This has been corroborated by writings found at Thessalonica (Gilbrandt 1982, 291, vol. 3).
[16] Aristophanes, for instance, uses the word in Birds (Hemer 1989, 117n39).
[17] Although some scholars have erroneously suspected the genuineness of this word, the Latin term euroaquilo has been found in a North African wind-rose (ibid., 141).
[18] Punic inscriptions have been found on Malta (ibid., 152), verifying Luke’s observation that the islanders were non-Greeks.
[19]However, Luke and Josephus agree on the marriage of Felix and Drusila and the name of Felix’ successor Porcius Festus (Hemer 1989, 130).
[20] However, as Witherington writes, ”Josephus should in all probability not be seen as a measuring rod or as a source for Luke, especially in matters of chronology” (1998, 239). He states that Josephus had a “track record on rearranging episodes and on various chronological matters ” (ibid, 238).
[21] After all, Theudas was a rather common name and Josephus, for instance, mentioned “four Simons within forty years and three Judases within ten years as instigators of rebellion!” (Witherington 1998, 239).
[22] It is basically a question of how much time passed between Paul’s conversion and his introduction to the apostles at Jerusalem and the date of Paul’s visit mentioned in Galatians 2:1, “Fourteen years later…” Probably the best solution is to regard this visit as the one mentioned in Acts 11:30, a suggestion first proposed by W. Ramsey in 1895 (Bray 1996, 575.)
[23] Paul’s letters shed more light on his missions itinerary and his fellow-workers described in Acts. Moreover, Paul’s outreach strategy in Acts resembles his statement in Romans 1:16. In each new city he began his preaching at the local synagogue (cf. Wenham 1993, 244).

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Why I believe in a six-day creation

Joel Kontinen


In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them.
(Exodus 20: 11,. NIV)

The supreme authority for my belief in a supernatural creation that occurred approximately 6000 years ago is the word of Jesus Christ, who believed in a recent creation (Mark 10:6). This is no wonder since He Himself is the Creator (Col. 1:15-17), the Word (Gr. Logos; John 1:1-3) through whom everything was created (Heb. 11:3). Jesus also believed that Moses wrote the Pentateuch (John 5:46), and that the Old Testament was real history (Matt. 23:35; Luke 17: 26-27). The genealogies of the Bible (Gen. 5, 1 Chron. 1; Luke 3:23-38, see also Jude 14) do not seem to have gaps; this would put the creation at approximately 6000 years before present.

I believe that the creation days were ordinary 24-hour days. The Hebrew word yom (“day”) appears some 2300 times in the Old Testament. While this does not always necessarily mean an ordinary day, the qualifiers “morning” and “evening” and number in Genesis 1 rule out all other possibilities: the creation days were ordinary days (Sarfati 2004, 67 – 105).

The Bible does not prove the existence of God but assumes that He exists. Indeed, Paul assures us that the creation itself is evidence for God’s existence (Rom. 1:20). The earth seems to be fine-tuned for life; it “stands unique in all the planetary bodies yet discovered. Its distance from the sun, temperature rage allowing liquid water, and diverse range of organic life point to an Intelligent Designer who created the world as an ideal place for life” (Sarfati 2006, 43). As Louis Pasteur demonstrated, life cannot form spontaneously from non-life. Much in our world is so complex that it cannot be the result of chance. The information that is coded in the genes of every living being points to intelligent design. Moreover, information requires a sender (Gitt 1997).

According to the creation model we would expect biological systems to be irreducibly complex. The neo-Darwinian paradigm, i.e. a step-wise accumulation of the different constituent parts, fails to explain the origin of biological systems like blood clotting, the immune system or the bacterial flagellum (Behe 1996). Irreducible complexity points to an omnipotent Creator.

Pond scum to people evolution that relies on mutations and natural selection is a weak view, since there are no known examples of mutations that would increase genetic information. Even “beneficial” mutations, e.g. the loss of the ability to fly in island beetles, amount to a decrease in information (Wieland 1997). In addition, natural selection can only select from existing genetic material.

The curse (Gen.3:7) following the fall of man rules out any upward development in living beings. (Morris 2003, 18). We can see that the trend is just the opposite to what molecules-to-man evolution would require.

Evolutionists are fond of arguing for “bad design” as proof of the non-existence of God. They often claim that the panda’s thumb and our “inverted” retina are examples of bad design, but on closer inspection both turn out to work perfectly. The “vestigial organs” argument, i.e. that we have leftovers from our non-human past is based on a priori views and not facts since such organs are fully functional (Bergman and Howe 1993). We do not have evolutionary leftovers or “junk” in our DNA (Walkup 2001). Even in our fallen world we see marks of God’s brilliant design.

The Bible clearly teaches that God created all living beings “after their kind” (Gen. 1:21, 24-25). While the biblical kind (Heb. baramin) does not correspond exactly to “species”, as a Genesis “kind” can include several modern species, the fossil record does not support the Darwinian view of molecules-to-man evolution. Ape men are figments of the imagination (Gish 1995; Lubenow 1992) and purported “transitional fossils” like the Archaeopteryx turn out not to be transitional at all. “Living fossils” like the Coelacanth are an enigma for evolutionists but understandable in a biblical framework of 6000 years.

Compromise views such as theistic evolution and progressive creationism cannot answer the problem of pain or the theodicy problem (see Goring 1995, 524 for a detailed definition of the term), i.e. if God is good and omnipotent, why is there suffering in the world? Why is nature “red in tooth and nail”? Belief in millions of years distorts the true nature of God. It would mean that there was death before the fall, since the fossil records shows that animals were killing each other millions of years before Adam’s fall, and, for instance, dinosaurs suffered from cancer. At the end of the creation week, God declared everything to be very good (Gen. 1:31). Skeptics ignore the fall (Gen. 3) that resulted in the whole creation groaning as a result of sin. Death and suffering are the consequences of Adam’s sin (Rom. 5:12-14). Animals only began eating each other after the fall, because in the beginning, all beings were vegetarians.(Gen. 1:29-30).

The global flood of Noah’s day provided ideal conditions for the formation of fossils. Compromise positions, such as progressive creationism, have to argue for a local flood, which is absurd, since it disregards the clear teaching of Scripture and the rainbow sign makes God a liar (Mortenson 2006). Marine fossils on mountaintops, huge fossil graveyards and flood legends from around the world support a global flood (Riddle 2003). The flood is the best explanation for the geological column, which has too many anomalies for uniformitarians, such as polystrate fossils and the fact that tens of millions of years are missing between strata in many places. Moreover, at some places the different strata seem to be bent while still hot (Silvestru 2004).

The mass extinctions that most secular scientists accept are more logically interpreted as being caused by one universal catastrophe, viz. the biblical flood (Silvestru 2001).

Evolutionist and other long-agers lack a mechanism for producing an ice age. However, the volcanic dust and gases that erupted during the global flood of Noah’s time probably brought about cooler summers and heavy snow during the post-flood centuries, thus making the ice age possible (Oard 2004).

The recent discovery of soft tissue in dinosaur bone (Wieland 2005) and the very existence of comets which have a maximum age of 100 000 years which supposedly were all formed 4.6 billion years ago (Lisle 2005) also support the biblical (6000 year) age of the world.

The eruption of Mount Saint Helens in 1980 was proof that valleys and geological formations can form very quickly (Morris and Austin 2003). The recent RATE project has shown that radiometric dating methods cannot be trusted, and radiocarbon has been discovered in coal and diamonds (DeYoung 2005). This should be disturbing news for evolutionists who believe diamonds are millions of years old and radiocarbon (C-14) has a half life of ca. 5700years. In addition, it would be difficult to imagine that they could somehow be “contaminated” by C-14 many miles below the surface of the earth.
The fall of Adam explains why we have severe moral problems such as violence, criminality, racism and homosexuality in society. Sin has marred the world in which we live. Paul taught that the rejection of God’s revelation leads to dire consequences (Rom. 1:18-32). It is probably no exaggeration to conclude that belief in evolution amounts to exchanging “the truth of God for a lie” (v. 25).

These are some of the reasons why I believe I can trust that the biblical view of origins, i.e. a creation in six literal days approximately 6000 years ago as well as the subsequent fall and curse and the flood of Noah’s time, is the best explanation of the reality we see around us today. While there are some questions that as yet have not been satisfactorily solved, such as the distant starlight problem that Humpreys (1994) has attempted to address, these issues pale when compared with the multiplicity of inconsistencies in evolutionary theory and in compromise positions that rely on millions of years. Compromise positions have to explain away clear biblical teaching, such as the global flood and death being the consequence of sin, but the biblical view results in a logical and consistent worldview: I can thus truly take God at His Word and be sure that He means what He says.


Sources

Behe, Michael J. 1996. Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. New York: The Free Press.

Bergman, Jerry, and George Howe. 1993. “Vestigial Organs” Are Fully Functional. Kansas City, MO: Creation Research Society.

DeYoung, Don. 2005. Thousands … Not Billions. Green Forest, AR: Master Books.

Gish, Duane T. 1995. Evolution: The Fossils Still Say No! El Cajon, CA: Institute for Creation Research.

Gitt, Werner. 1997. In the Beginning Was Information. Bielefelt: Christiche Literatur Verbreitung.

Goring, Rosemary. 1995. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Beliefs and Religions. Ware: Wordsworth.

Ham, Ken. 1999. The God of an Old Earth. Creation 21:4, 42–45. http://www.creationontheweb.com/content/view/508.

__________ . 2001. Did Jesus say He Created in Six Days? http://www.answersingenesis.org/us/newsletters/0801lead.asp

Humpreys, D. Russell. 1994. Starlight and Time: Solving the Puzzle of Distant Starlight in a Young Universe. Green Forest, AR: Master Books.

Lisle, Jason. 2005. What Does the Bible Say About Astronomy? Answers in Genesis.

Lubenow, Marvin L. 1992. Bones of Contention: A Creationist Assessment of Human Fossils. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Morris, Henry. 2003. Biblical Catastrophism and Geology. El Cajon, CA: Institute for Creation Research.

Morris, John and Steven A. Austin. 2003. Footprints in the Ash. Green Forest, AR: Master Books.

Mortenson, Terry. 2006. Noah’s Flood: Washing Away Millions of Years (DVD). Answers in Genesis.

Oard, Michael. 2004. Frozen in Time. Green Forest, AR: Master Books.

Riddle, Mike. 2003. Creation/Evolution: Does It Matter What We Believe? (DVD)

Sarfati, Jonathan. 2004. Refuting Compromise. Green Forest, AR: Master Books.

_________________. 2005. Genesis: Bible Authors Believed it to be History. http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs2005/1101genesis_history.asp

_________________. 2006. Our Earth is ‘Too Special’? Creation 28:3, 42-44.

Silvestru, Emil. 2001. The Permian Extinctions: National Geography Comes Close to the Truth. TJ 15:1, 6-8.

_________________. 2004. Rocks & Ages. Do They Hide Millions of Years? (DVD). Answers in Genesis.

Walkup. Linda. 2001. ‘Junk’ DNA: Evolutionary Discards or God’s Tools? TJ 14:2,18–30. http://www.answersingenesis.org/tj/v14/i2/junk_dna.asp

Wieland, Carl. 1997. Beetle Bloopers. Creation 19:3,30. http://www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v19/i3/beetle.asp

_______________. 2005. Still soft and stretchy. http://www.creationontheweb.com/content/view/3042.

Monday, 28 May 2007

Animal Death Before the Fall?

Joel Kontinen

Progressive creationism with its belief in millions of years of earth history has to postulate that animals were dying for eons before Adam and Eve were created. Lee Irons, though he claims to represent the framework interpretation of the days of Genesis 1, nevertheless seems to agree with the tenets of Reasons to Believe. In his article Animal Death Before the Fall: What Does the Bible Say? he argues biblically for Adam’s fall resulting only in the introduction of death for mankind. He quotes four Scripture passages (Rom. 5:12-14; Rom. 8:18-21; Gen. 1:29-30, 9:1-4 and Isa. 11:6-9; 65:25) that he claims young earth creationists have misunderstood. He also quotes two passages that in his opinion support the view that animals died before the Fall.

I will discuss these six Scripture passages,[1] hoping to show that they can validly be used to support a biblical (i.e. ca 6000 years) view of earth history with no death before the Fall. I will also touch on some other views mentioned by Irons in his article, as I think that they contradict both what the Bible says and what we known from operational science.[2] I will also address the view that in addition to the Bible there is “the book of nature”. While Irons does not explicitly elevate “the book of nature” to the level of the 66 books of God’s revelation, this is a view often promoted by Dr. Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe organisation (Sarfati 2004, 41).

· Romans 5:12-14

12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned — 13 for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.

Irons makes two assumptions: 1) Death (Gr. thanatos) does not necessarily refer to the “cessation of biological life”, and 2) the world (Gr. kosmos) does not necessarily mean the world but “the world of humanity”. He points out that Adam did not die immediately after eating the forbidden fruit, although eventually he did die. It thus started the process leading to physical death. Paul is quite explicit that sin leads to death (Rom. 6: 23). Irons claims that eternal life (Rom. 5:21) does not mean biological life, so death cannot be the opposite of life. This seems to be a very odd interpretation. Eternal life cannot be an illusion. The risen Jesus was not merely a spirit (John 20: 27) and Paul speaks of the resurrection of the body in 1 Corinthians 15. Moreover, the basic meaning of thanatos is death.[3]

There is a similar difficulty with the interpretation of “world”. Irons seems to think that the Greek word kosmos only refers to mankind in Romans 5:12, since in his view sin cannot be in the “non-human realm”. However, Paul explicitly says that the entire created world is groaning because of sin (Rom. 8:22). While I would not say that animals are capable of sinning, the consequences of sin are obvious in the animal kingdom. It no longer is the original “very good” creation.

According to Strong, kosmos refers to “the world (in a wide or narrow sense, incl. its inhab., lit. or fig…)” [4] Paul and the other New Testament authors repeatedly use the word kosmos in its wider sense. Thus, there is nothing in the Greek meaning of the word that excludes its more comprehensive use, i.e. the world includes people, animals and everything else on this planet.

Irons also equates plant death with animal death, a favourite strategy of RTB: “For if ‘world’ means the entire creation (both human and non-human), then Rom. 5:12 would logically imply that death entered the plant kingdom as a result of Adam's sin. But no one denies plant death prior to the entrance of sin.” This fails to make a distinction between animals, who have nephesh or life, and plants that do not. Plants do not have the breath of life that animals have. They do not have emotions, muscles or a blood circulation system. Scripture says that the life of living creatures is in the blood (Lev. 17:11- 14). Thus plants are never alive in this sense (van Bebber and Taylor 1994, 44-45).

· Romans 8:18-21

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

Irons quotes Meredith G. Kline’s view of a metaphorical description of a mourning earth in Isaiah 24:4, saying that Paul must have had this scene in view when writing Romans 8: 18-21. However, this is mere speculation. Moreover, Isaiah uses the word erets, which can also be translated as “land”, thus weakening this argument even more.

Irons even presents the straw man argument that some YECs claim that the second law of thermodynamics (the law of entrophy) began with the Fall. The Creation Ministries International website has an article warning against using this argument, so this claim is not really valid.

Genesis 1:29-30, 9:1-4

1:29 Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food." And it was so.
9:1 Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. 2 The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. 3 Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. 4 "But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.

Irons says that Genesis 1:29-30 does not explicitly forbid the eating of meat. He says that basically Genesis 9:1-4 merely repeats that what has been said in Gen. 1: 29-30, since both mention the commandment to be fruitful. This, however, amounts to reading more into the text than it explicitly says, a clear case of eisegesis. Genesis allows the eating of meat only after the Flood. Contrary to his claim, there is no support for the view that Gen. 9: 1-4 merely repeats Gen. 1:29-30 and thus the latter passage should include the mention that eating meat is allowed. He draws on Meredith Kline’s suggestion that Gen. 9:3 is merely a removal of the prohibition of eating unclean animals that was forbidden in the ark. Once again, this is not supported by any biblical facts. The word “now” in this verse should make it obvious that eating meat was not allowed previously.

Irons also says that since God set man to rule the animal world, man could naturally use animals for food. Even this is an argument that lacks any biblical support. While God obviously killed an animal to provide clothes for Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:21), this was a special case that has nothing to do with eating animals. [5]

· Isaiah 11:6-9; 65:25

6 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.
7 The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest.
9 They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
25 The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the LORD.

Irons believes that YECs have misunderstood the connection between Eden and the coming world. He uses the Reformed doctrine of the fourfold state of man to state his case. According to it, man has lived or will live in the following states (in chronological order):
1) the state of innocence
2) the state of sin and condemnation
3) the state of grace
4) the state of glory

Each state differs from the previous one and at least states 2-4 are in some way improvements on the preceding states. Thus, he argues, since state 4 is higher than state 3, state 4 must be much higher than state 1. Therefore, the final state should not be restricted to what the pre-fall conditions were. While this is true, it in no way speaks of animal death before the Fall. The most logical interpretation of “very good” in Genesis 1:31 is the absence of bad things, such as death, which the Bible calls the last enemy(1 Cor. 15:26). It is significant that the mention of very good comes immediately after God’s promise to give the animals “every green plant” for food.

· Psalm 104:19-28

19 The moon marks off the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down.
20 You bring darkness, it becomes night, and all the beasts of the forest prowl.
21 The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God.
22 The sun rises, and they steal away; they return and lie down in their dens.
23 Then man goes out to his work, to his labor until evening.
24 How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.
25 There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number— living things both large and small.
26 There the ships go to and fro, and the leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.
27 These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time.
28 When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.
Irons sees a connection to Gen. 1-2 in this passage. He claims that verse 21 says that God sanctions predators to kill their prey and that this is His gift to them. However, using a post-fall poetic passage to interpret the historical narration of Genesis 1-2 is an example of very poor eisegesis. In Genesis 1:30 God explicitly promises “every green plant” as food for animals. There is not even a hint of red meat.

· 1 Timothy 4:1-5

1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

Irons claims, “ If marriage was a pre-Fall ordinance given to man in his innocence and, on that ground, is not to be rejected, there must also have been a divine permission before the Fall to partake of ‘every creature of God.’ ” However, this passage does not address pre-fall animal death at all and every attempt to make it do so is doomed to fail.

Other considerations

In this section I will briefly deal with some other aspects Irons mentions in his paper.

Science proves that the earth is millions of years old.

At the beginning of his paper, Irons states, “I find the empirical evidence for an old earth and universe to be compelling, if not incontrovertible.” This cannot be deduced from Scripture, since even those who hold to a old earth view, will admit, “ From a superficial reading of Genesis 1, the impression would seem to be that the entire creative process took place in six twentyfour- hour days. … This seems to run counter to modern scientific research, which indicates that the planet Earth was created several billion years ago.”[6]

Creation scientists have come up with many evidences supporting a young world. D. Russell Humpreys (2000) mentions the following: Galaxies wind themselves up too fast, comets disintegrate too quickly, there is not enough mud on the seafloor, not enough sodium in the sea, the earth’s magnetic field is decaying too fast, many strata are bent too tightly, injected sandstone shortens geological ‘ages’, fossil radioactivity shortens geological ‘ages’ to a few years, helium is in the wrong places, there is not enough stone age skeletons, agriculture is too recent and history is too short. We could add the recent sensational find of blood cells and soft tissue in T-rex bones as well as the discovery of carbon 14 in diamonds to this list. In other words, the evidence against an old earth is rather substantial.

The fossil record speaks of a nature “red in tooth and claw”.

However, if we interpret the fossil record from a YEC perspective and accept a catastrophic Fall and a year-long global flood in Noah’s days, the evidence does not speak of pre-Fall animal death at all.

Creation is progressive, taking millions of years

Irons writes that new kinds appear repeatedly in the fossil record. However, Genesis teaches very clearly that God created everything in six ordinary, 24-hour days. As James Barr, Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford University, has admitted,

As far as the language of Genesis 1 is concerned, so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Gen. 1–11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience, (b) the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story, (c) Noah’s Flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguish all human and animal life except for those in the ark. [7]

There is a strong case for regarding the creation days of Genesis 1 as ordinary days (see Sarfati 2004, 67-105). Extra-scriptural influences are needed to produce interpretations that encompass millions of years.

“The Book of Nature” is the 67th book of Scripture

RTB teaches what Sarfati (2004, 59) calls the Dual Revelation Theory, i.e. that nature is the 67th book of Scripture. However, if General Revelation were sufficient for salvation, there would be no need for Special Revelation. Moreover, RTB fails to make a distinction between facts and interpretations, which are often based on fallible theories. It is thus not valid to equate the infallible Word with subjective interpretations based on observations of the present state of nature.

Summary

The Bible clearly shows that the Fall of man was a catastrophe for both man and the entire creation. Attempts to make the Bible sanction pre-Fall animal predation are not based on sound hermeneutics but rely on the fallible views of man who is often in rebellion with His Maker. It would thus be wise to heed what the Bible clearly teaches and not attempt to re-interpret Scripture to make it compatible with man’s opinions.

Sources

Creation on the Web. Arguments We Think Creationists Should NOT Use. http://www.creationontheweb.com/content/view/2996.

Ham, Ken, Jason Lisle, Terry Mortenson, Paul S. Taylor and Mark van Bebber. Exposing Progressive Creation: Serious Biblical & Scientific Errors that Promote Billions of Years. Answers in Genesis booklet

Humpreys, D.Russel. 2000. Evidences for a Young Earth. Answers in Genesis booklet.

Irons. Lee. n.d. Animal Death Before the Fall http://www.reasons.org/resources/apologetics/other_papers/animal_death_before_the_fall.shtml.

Sarfati, Jonathan. 2004. Refuting Compromise. Green Forest, AR. Master Books.

Strong, James. 1996. The New Strong’s Complete Dictionary of Bible Words. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Van Bebber, Mark and Paul S. Taylor. 1994. Creation and Time: A Report on the Progressive Creationist Book by Hugh Ross. 2nd ed. Gilbert, AZ: Eden Productions.

Footnotes

[1] I will use to New International Version (NIV) translation since it is the version I am most familiar with.
[2] I would make a distinction between operational science, i.e. that what can empirically be seen happening in our world, and origins science, which is mostly based on interpretations of what is thought to have happened in the distant past.
[3] Strong 1996, 631. Although thanatos can also be understood figuratively, it means literally death. That Paul speaks about spiritual death (e.g. Eph. 2:1, 5; Col. 2:13) does not mean that physical death is an illusion.
[4] Item 2889
[5] Abel seems to have understood the deeper meaning of sacrificing animals to God (Gen. 4:4), but the Bible does not say that he ate the sacrifices.
[6] Archer, G. 1994. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, Moody Press, Chicago, pp. 196–197. Quoted in Ken Ham, Jason Lisle, Terry Mortenson, Paul S. Taylor & Mark Van Bebber.
Exposing progressive Creation: Serious Biblical & Scientific Errors that Promote Billions of Years.
[7] Letter to David C. C. Watson, April 23, 1984, quoted in Ham and al.