Re: Accepting Genesis 1 as scientific truth
Sat, 29 May 1999 03:09:02 EDT

Vernon wrote,

<< When the 7 Hebrew words/numbers which constitute Genesis 1:1 are
observed to total 2701 - a large triangular number with many other
interesting associations - shouldn't all seekers of truth sit up and
take notice?

I finally looked at the triangle and the triangle within the triangle, etc.
which the first verse of Genesis is supposed to contain below the surface.
The almost miraculous triangular pattern with further embedded triangles,
rhombi, etc. reminds one of the recent "Bible Codes" and earlier numerical
works of Ivan Panin and others. These "discoveries" which are supposed to
show that the Bible really was divinely inspired testify to the human desire
to rest Christian faith in something more tangible and scientific than the
work and works of the Holy Spirit. I think this takes Christianity in the
wrong direction.

Further, it is evident that these numerical "discoveries" have no objective
foundation--for the simple reason that they are all built upon a late form of
the biblical text which does not represent the original text with sufficient
accuracy to be the foundation for these "discoveries."

This is not to suggest that the OT text which these "discoveries" are based
upon is radically different from the original, but it is different enough
that the "discoveries" lose their foundation--for the loss or change of even
one letter destroys the "discovery." Even with a fundamentalist approach
which denies any serious editorial revision of the OT text, there are still
several reasons why the OT text upon which these "discoveries" are based is
too far from the original to be a firm basis for the "discoveries"

First of all, unlike the NT, the original text of the OT cannot be
established with any high degree of accuracy. Although the Masoretic text
seems to be more reliable than others such as the underlying Septuagintal
text type, Wurthwein in his standard work on the Text of the Old Testament,
notes, "Its relationship to the original form of the text, however, is quite
another matter. This becomes apparent from a comparison of texts which have
a double transmission." (Eg. 2 Sam.22 = Ps. 18; 2 Kgs 18:13-20:19 = Isa.
36-39, etc.) In other words, the Masoretic text upon which the numeric
discoveries are based cannot be equated with the original text.

Secondly, the Hebrew language as we have it in the OT is a language which did
not exist in the time of Moses, albeit his language developed into Hebrew.
Cf. the language of Chaucer developing into English. In other words the
grammar of the text upon which the "discoveries" are based is different from
the original.

In addition and perhaps most importantly, the _spelling of the words has
changed._ One might think of the English Bible as a parallel. Six hundred
years ago, the Wycliffe Bible spelled the word "beginning" differently than
in our modern texts, writing "bigynyng." The time from Moses to the OT text
upon which the numerical "discoveries" are based is twice as long as between
our times and Wycliffe. In his book, The Variable Spellings of the Hebrew
Bible, James Barr, one of the greatest Hebraic scholars of our time, writes:

"It cannot be sufficiently strongly emphasized: there is no part of the
Hebrew Bible, as represented in the traditional text [upon which the
numerical "discoveries" are based], that spells in the way in which they
spelt in the time (say) of Isaiah. And that, after all, is not a very early
time for the Bible: the same would, no doubt, have to be said even more
strongly about parts of the Bible which originated centuries before Isaiah."

The changes in spelling and grammar are evident partly from extra-biblical
inscriptions, and partly from comparing OT prose with incorporated poetical
accounts, such as Ex 15:2-18, which are older.

What this all means in general is that one cannot build upon the current OT
text with the assumption that it represents letter by letter the original
text. What it means additionally and specifically for Gen 1:1 is that one or
more of the plurals may have been written without the yod, as writing the
vowels "defectively" was more common in earlier Hebrew and secondly that the
accusative particle "eth" , which is used twice in Genesis 1:1, was probably
not in the original since it rarely occurs in poetic passages (like Ex
15:2-18, Dt 32); and poetic passages represent the language as it was written
in earlier times.

The "Bible codes" etc are wonderful displays of the power of the human mind
and thus indirectly testify to God's power in whose image we are made; but,
they can be found in any book, are not divine revelations and prove nothing
about the divine inspiration of the original text of the Bible.

Jesus taught that one could know if Christianity is true simply by following
a course of doing the will of God as best one knows it (John 7:17). He
frowned upon seeking a miraculous sign as a road to truth (Matt 16:4).

Paul S.