Re: BIBLE/ORIGINS: seeking feedback

From: Denyse O'Leary (
Date: Mon Jan 27 2003 - 11:08:06 EST

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    Hi, I am Denyse O'Leary, a Christian who is science writer, new to this
    discussion. Just wanted to comment that Jan is surely right in pointing out
    that the concept of "truth," as it was understood three millennia ago, is
    simply not the same as the concept of "inerrancy" today. People were not
    asking the same questions then. What we call the Bible today was not often
    written down, and most of it did not exist yet.

    Consider: Accuracy WAS important in those days. Accurate oral recitation skills
    were very important, because few people had access to manuscripts. (At one
    point, even the copy of the Torah got lost in the Temple, and nobody had read
    it for some time. See 2 Kings 22:8.)

    However, while accuracy was considered necessary for truth, it was not an
    emotional focus (apart from curses on anyone who tampered with it -- See Rev.
    22, 18-19).

    The big emotional focus was on predictive power. You knew that a prophet was a
    true prophet if his words "came true." In that respect, the biblical focus is
    like the focus in science. Being a false prophet was much more dangerous back
    then than it would be today, by the way ....

    Ancient people assumed that the Biblical worldview regarding the Earth, sun, et
    cetera, was true because there were no reasonable alternative views available,
    and the Bible was already accepted as a source of truth. But the truth it was a
    source of was a prophetic truth. Its words would come true. It explained
    people's experiences accurately.

    There were many UNreasonable cosmologies available in the ancient world, of
    course, involving gods with hippo heads, et cetera, but it took no great brain
    to see that they were ridiculous. The few reasonable non-theistic cosmologies
    (Lucretius, for example) were largely unknown except among the philosophic

    Inerrancy could only become a focus when reasonable alternative cosmologies
    became widely available during the modern period. I personally believe it is a
    dead end, because it places a weight on the Biblical literature that it was
    never designed to bear, and puts it in conflict with forces that it was not
    designed to be in conflict with.

    By the way, I am writing a book, due out this fall, called By Design or By
    Chance?: The Growing Controversy Over the Origin of Life in the Universe
    (Castle Quay Books, Oakville). It is an examination of the controversy between
    evolution, creation, and intelligent design. I also post interesting links at
    my book site, Has anyone here seen Paul Davies' recent
    article in the Guardian, trashing Bertrand Russell's view of the cosmos?


    Jan de Koning wrote:

    > At 09:58 AM 25/01/2003 -0700, John Burgeson wrote about inerrancy. It
    > strikes me that in most of these discussions people forget that God (in the
    > Bible) in a language they understood. In the first place our concept of
    > "truth" is different from what is often called "truth" in the Bible, but
    > more importantly, at the time the Bible was inscripturated people had
    > another culture, another language, another way of living, etc.. To expect
    > that what we call "truth" in scientific sense (if there is unity on that)
    > and in biblical sense is the same, does not take into account the
    > differences when we talk about issues, is in my opinion really
    > un-scientific. Many people who take the Bible to be God's "inerrant" Word,
    > take into account the culture, language etc. of the people God used when
    > the Bible was first written. It does not make any sense that God would
    > talk to the Israelites in 21st century scientific language.
    > I do believe that the Bible is God's Word, and that studying it life long
    > does not clarify all difficulties we find in translating, copying,
    > understanding etc., but if we take ourselves as the judge of what is
    > acceptable in the Bible we are on a dangerous road.
    > Jan de Koning

    My next book, By Design or By Chance?: The Growing Controversy Over the
    Origin of Life in the Universe  (Castle Quay Books, Oakville) will be
    published Fall 2003. Meanwhile, check out free resources at

    To order, call Castle Quay, 1-800-265-6397, fax 519-748-9835, or visit (CDN $19.95 or US$14.95).

    Denyse O'Leary 14 Latimer Avenue Toronto, Ontario, CANADA M5N 2L8 Tel: 416 485-2392/Fax: 416 485-9665

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