Re: Genesis Question
Thu, 7 Jan 1999 18:06:16 EST

Dick wrote,
<< Here's what I said on page 178.

"...the Hebrew word ‘op that has been translated “fowl,” is a “flying
same basic word for “insect” which probably would have been a better
Flying insects date to 300 million years ago in the Carboniferous period, and
useful for pollinating some of the vegetation springing forth at about that
time. Also,
why would “fowls” be mentioned three times in three consecutive passages
(Gen.1:20-22)? If birds had been intended in all three instances it would
be a

curious redundancy."

I still stand by this. Plus, keep this in mind. No one observed what
Whoever originally penned Genesis one, under inspiration, put down the words.
This doesn't mean that the human writer even knew what was intended. The
put down the right word, whether he was aware or not is immaterial.

Some background can be helpful here. Proto-scientific peoples, such as the
Hebrews were, organize biological kinds into 3-5 basic categories: FISH, BIRD,
SNAKE and later WUG (worm + bug) and MAMMAL. The OT has FISH, BIRD SNAKE and
MAMMAL, but not WUG (Gen 1:26, I kg 4:23; Ezek 38:20). The BIRD category is
represented by the Hebrew word 'op, which Dick rightly understands as "flying
creature", thus bats are part of that category (Lev 11:19).

But, although flying insects could conceivably have been placed in the same
category with birds, the term 'op cannot be applied to insects which do _not_
fly and hence 'op cannot be the same basic word as "insect." Further even if
flying insects were placed in the category of 'op, birds cannot be excluded.
BIRD is the basic underlying category; flying insects would be secondary.
There is no escape from the fact that birds are created at the same time as
fish in Gen 1.

Nor can I see any curiosity or redundancy in the three mentions of "bird" in
Gen 1:20-22. The author also mentions water creatures three times in these
same verses without it being curious or redundant; and he mentions the
firmament three times in vv. 6-8. This is simply the writer's style.

The fact that bats are classed as birds in Lev 11:19 and probably whales as
fish in Gen 1:21 should alert us not to be seeking modern science in the
Pentateuch. And if one is not trying to avoid the clash with modern science's
discovery that birds were not created at the same time as fish, Gen 1:20-22
can be accepted in a straightforward way.

There is nothing unbiblical about God accomodating himself to simple people.
In Gen 1, he simply becomes "all things to all men" -- in this case to simple
ancient Near Eastern peoples. We must not forget that Jesus understood Deut
24:1-4 as an accomodation to simple people (Mark 10:4,5); and if Scripture in
the realm of faith and morals can be an accomodation, as Jesus taught, then
how much more can mere natural matters be an accomodation? I might add that
if we begin to think this way about the Bible, which is biblical, instead of
in terms of a rationalistic definition of the nature of Scripture, most of the
obscurantism which Glenn recently noted in Hugh Ross's new book would be
unnecessary and probably avoided.


If anyone is interested further in the topic of "kinds" in Genesis, you can
find further discussion in my paper "The Meaning of Min, 'Kind'" in Science
and Christian Belief (1997) 9, 46-56. the article includes extensive
reference to ethno-biology as well as to the biblical material.