Jan de Koning (
04 Jun 96 21:36:07 EDT

First I have to introduce myself. Jan de Koning is my name. I am
retired from the Mathematics Department of the University of Toronto, where I
was cross-appointed to St.Michael's College and Victoria College. I have been a
member from the CSCA for many years, and wrote book-reviews in Perspectives on
Faith and Science. I am a member of the Willowdale Christian Reformed Church
(CRC), and was part of the study committee of the CRC on "Creation and
Evolution" that reported to its 1991 Synod. We did study Gen.1-11 thoroughly.
Yes, I know we should have studied three life-times to cover all the stuff
written about it, but we were only ten persons. So, our study was not
exhaustive. I hope to meet many of you in July here in Toronto, though likely
not on the first day of the conference, as that is my 45th wedding anniversary.


The ongoing discussion on Adam, Ish, Flood etc. leads me to write the
following remarks on inerrancy. I hope it will help the discussion. Somehow
the word "inerrancy" rubs me the wrong way, mainly because I do not know what
the person I talk with means when using this word. The concept of "Truth" is
very much part of a discussion on inerrancy. The word does not have the same
meaning for everybody. Still, all members of ASA should listen to the Lord,
when he says: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life," John 14:6. Even talking
about "objective" truth is not possible, as objectivity is always based on a
particular theory. Lakatos writes in "Proofs and Refutations", p.44, that any
observational result is completely determined by a theory. See also
M.D.Stafleu, "Theories at Work", p.113, where he states that testing a theory is
subjective. Hermann Weyl in "Philosophy of Mathematics and Natural Science"
claims that objectivity means invariance in a particular theory, p.74. In other
words, we as humans, do not know "objective" truth. Complete "objectivity" is

So, what is "truth"? When Pontius Pilate asked that question, he
certainly did not ask that qestion as a believer. He was a Roman living in a
completely different surrounding than the Jews did. Jewish thought was far
removed from the thought climate of the ruling Romans. For the Romans it was,
most likely, a climate very much influenced by Greek philosophy, especially when
theories were involved. "Truth" is related to the English word "troth",
faithfulness. It is not strange that the words often translated in the KJV with
"truth" are in the NRSV translated as "faithfulness", Gen.24:27, Ex.34:6 for
example. But in Gen.42:16 both have "truth". Why? (A concordance like
Strong's and different translations help.) It seems that the main emphasis of
"truth" is "faithfulness". For that reason we did not hesitate during the war
in Europe to answer the occupiers: "We don't know where so-and-so is" even when
we did know. We knew that telling the so-called truth would not only mean, that
we would go to prison, but also that we would be forced to tell much more, and
that our whole surrounding area would become suspect. Being faithful would mean
not to let anyone in your neighbourhood know.

It is clear, that preconceptions of translators had an influence on how
they translated. I mentioned some words in the OT. In other texts in the Bible
the same word is translated with two different English words: in John 3:8
"pneuma" is translated as "wind" and as "spirit"; in Mark 4:39 wind is the
translation of "anemos". Or look at Gen. 1 and 2. In Gen.1:25 "nephesh chaim":
"living creatures" in NRSV, which were cattle, creepers, and beasts of the
earth. In Gen.2:7 "nephesh chaim" again "living creature" in NRSV, "living
soul" in "A Literal Translation of the Bible", by Jay Green. He translates
Gen.1:24 "the soul of life." In other cases "nephesh" is translated as "soul",
see for example Psalm 42. In all these cases translators were making decisions,
which are not necessarily correct. In their (our) judgments we are often
deciding what the Bible ought to say. Our preconceived ideas influence when we
read the Bible. From these examples it is already clear, that translators had
most trouble which have a philosophical background.

We all come to the Bible with preconceived ideas, influenced by our way
of looking at the world. Our world of thought is coming to us via the
Enlightenment, Late Mediaeval Aristotelism, Early Mediaeval Neo-Platonism from
Greek philosophy. That same worlds of thought influenced our Bible translators.
An "inerrant" bible translation is simply impossible. Of course, it is even
more complicated that the original writings atre not available. Also, the
original writings were often copies of speeches. So our English bible is a
translation of copies of written down original speeches. All ASA members should
be able to do at leasy some of this research when talking about certain texts.
It does lead me to another difficulty I have with the word "inerrant."

Many, who insist on having an inerrant bible, want to read God's Word as
if it is written in our times as an academic text. I even discover that in this
forum in the discussions about Adam, the Flood etc.. Obviously these stories
were written down many years after they happened. That does not make them
untrue. However that fact, and the fact that these stories were told from
generation to generation, indicates that they had a meant a lot to those who
listened. They lived in a totally different time than we do. Their way of
thinking was not scientific North American thought. God was talking to them in
a way they understood. These stories were recorded for our instruction. We
should, however, realize that the stories were first written in a certain
context. We will not understand them, unless we listen to them as the first
hearers did. That is especially difficult for scioentists, but our Lord told us
that we had to become like little children when we listen to Him and his Word.
In this post I show already how difficult that is for me, but I still maintain
that in order to read what God wants us to know for our daily life about, for
example Genesis 1-11, we should listen as the first descendants of"Noah" did.

That means, that certain facts are sure for me. For example, on the
basis of the letter to the Romans, I believe, that all of mankind descended from
Adam. I love the Lord and look to Him for direction in my life. I accept the
Bible as the book of Truth, because God can be trusted. If someone else
believes the same, I accept him/her as sister/brother, even if we cannot come to
agreement of what the bible (translated from another language, and another
culture) says.

Jan de Koning
20 Crispin Crescent
Willowdale, Ont.
tel.: (416)222-3464