Re: Mortenson, etc

Date: Thu Feb 07 2002 - 15:01:38 EST

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    Ted wrote,

    << unlike Mortenson, I hold (with Calvin, Augustine, Silliman, and
     Hitchcock) that the Bible is not a scientific text: as Calvin said
     concerning Genesis, let him who would learn astronomy and other recondite
     arts, go elsewhere. >>

    Calvin is very clear on this. But, what are you looking at in Augustine that
    makes you say he did not regard the Bible as a scientific text? In at least
    one instance he seems to so regard it. Quoting from my recent paper on the
    Tower of Babel,

    As late as the end of the fourth century, Augustine, after raising the
    question whether the stars were really very large but a long distance off or
    whether they were really as small as they appeared, concluded that they were
    as small as they appeared. In his commentary on Genesis, when he considered
    the same question in the early fifth century, he continued to believe they
    were as small as they appeared, and he cited Gen 1:16 as evidence that the
    sun and moon really were larger than the stars, saying, "We do better when we
    believe that these two luminaries are greater [in size] than the others,
    since Holy Scripture says of them, And God made the two great lights."

    Given the fact that people as late and as sophisticated as Augustine
    understood Gen 1:16 literally, there can be no question that the original
    hearers of Gen 1:16 understood the words literally. The verse cannot be
    interpreted within its historical context as merely a reference to
    appearances, but rather as a reference to conclusions drawn from the
    appearances. To the original hearers, who believed the stars really were as
    small as they appear, the sun and moon really were literally "the two great
    lights." And if they had thought, as Augustine did, that this inspired
    statement in Gen 1:16 reflected God's omniscient knowledge of astronomy, it
    would have misled them, as it misled Augustine, into believing that God
    thought the sun and moon really were larger in size than the stars.

    Calvin's understanding of the fact that modern science is not being revealed
    in Gen 1:16 is a significant advance on Augustine's understanding. And,
    although Calvin's own limited knowledge prevented him from seeing that Gen
    1:16 is not a reference merely to appearances but to conclusions drawn from
    those appearances...


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