Genesis Question
Mon, 11 Jan 1999 23:28:21 EST

Dick said,

>>Birds can be excluded in Gen 1:20 because it is out of order. Also "great
whales" would be out of order, but "large sea creatures" would fit. So
interpret the way that works. What is your problem?<<

My problem is that I do not believe the word 'op in Gen 1:20 should be taken
out of context. In its anthropological, historical and grammatical context it
refers to birds. Flying insects and bats may well be included, but birds are
the primary referent. Birds cannot be excluded--if you leave the word in

In Gen 1:20 the 'op are said to fly above the earth _"across the firmament of
the the heavens"_. Any serious commentary will tell you that this means you
see the sky as a background to the 'op. It is a common experience to see
birds with the sky as a background. It is a rare experience to see flies,
bees and fleas with the sky as a background because they usually are not over
our heads; and when they are, they are too small to see. The phrase is
clearly a reference to birds.

Dozens, perhaps even hundreds of translations of Genesis have been made by
Hebrew scholars. None of them have understood 'op in Gen 1:20 as referring
exclusively to flying insects, excluding birds. I venture to say no biblical
scholar has understood it that way.

Rather than supposing that the universal scholarly consensus can or should be
overthrown because translating 'op as "bird" is out of order compared to the
fossil record, one ought to allow the biblical text to correct the mistaken
theory that Scripture because it is inspired will always agree with the
scientific facts. It is that unbiblical and rationalistic theory which has
driven Christians to distort either the Bible, science or both. Concordism,
as I showed in my paper, "The First Four Days of Genesis in Concordist Theory
and in Biblical Context" (Perspectives, June, 1998) does the same thing to
biblical data that the YEC's do to scientific data. Changing birds into
flying insects is just one more example.

A more biblical approach was outlined by John Jefferson Davis in his recent
paper, "Is "Progressive Creation' Still a Helpful Concept," (Perspectives,
December, 1998) particularly on page 251. Genesis 1 is a polemic against
false theologies. And he quotes J.I. Packer, making the observation that
interpreters must draw distinctions between "...the subjects about which the
Scripture speaks and the terms in which it speaks them."

The revelations in Scripture are packaged in the "ordinary opinions of the
writer's day."