Re: The forgotten verses

From: Don Winterstein (
Date: Tue Jun 17 2003 - 06:26:01 EDT

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    Peter Ruest wrote in part:

    >The "further words" you ask for are not needed:
    apparently God didn't feel they were.

    I agree they weren't needed, but for a reason different from yours: Scriptural inspiration is not a pipeline kind of thing, where God dictates and someone writes it down. Inspiration is much looser than that. By way of this looseness God is leading us to see that he's a different kind of authority figure than many Christians have thought.

    >In A. Held & P. Rüst, "Genesis reconsidered", PSCF 51/4 (Dec.
    1999), 231-243;, we
    showed that there are quite reasonable harmonizing interpretations which
    take both the biblical text and modern science seriously. The "utter
    irreconcilability with huge volumes of scientific evidence" is bogus -
    suggested by the mythologizers, cf. below.

    You make many good points, and I agree with much of what you say in your paper. Unfortunately, I regard the overall thrust as just another desperate (pardon the word) attempt to make the first two chapters of Genesis compatible in detail with the scientific view of the world. Your logic overall is good but, in my opinion, contorted; and there are still a few glaring loose ends.

    Your making "day" mean "age," of course, removes to first order the "utter irreconcilability" of the Genesis creation accounts with the scientific evidence. But I suspect none of the original audience interpreted "day" as anything other than the usual 24 h thing. And what would be a reasonable meaning of "evening" and "morning" for an age-day? How would you distinguish one such "day" from the next?

    Initial darkness: The cloud cover was so thick there was _no_ light even with the sun out there? If the darkness was so complete, I'd guess it would have resulted from dust clouds (from meteor impacts, say), not water clouds; and in such case there would probably be no waters on Earth at that time for the Spirit to hover over.

    Fruit- and seed-bearing plants (day 3) existed on land before the water "teemed with living creatures" (day 5)? Fish and land plants emerged in quantity in the Devonian, but even then the plants weren't seed- or fruit-bearers. My (admittedly weak) references indicate the earliest seed plants were ferns that arose in the Pennsylvanian (late Carboniferous to you Europeans), and fruiting plants didn't arrive until the Mesozoic.

    Sun, moon, stars just "appeared," weren't made, on day 4? That's not a big stretch, but it assumes all kinds of things that aren't stated in scripture and, I suspect, have questionable scientific basis; and no reader of Moses' (or Josiah's) time would likely have made that interpretation.

    The "birds" of Gen. 1:20 were actually flying insects? That's a stretch, because the Hebrew /oph/ in almost all other OT instances refers to birds of one sort or another; and the text reads, "........._every_ winged /oph/........." (emphasis mine).

    God formed Adam separately from all the other humans of the time by way of some special miracle? That strikes me as a really inelegant solution to a very important problem. If Adam hadn't sinned and instead tasted of the Tree of Life and lived forever, what would God have done with all the other mortal humans? Would an immortal Adam or his immortal offspring have mated with mortals? The logic is basically OK, but the picture is contorted.

    Like other "solutions" to the Genesis problem I've seen, yours gets a passing grade on logic but fails on grounds of forcing unlikely meanings onto a simple narrative. It's vastly more intellectually satisfying to me to interpret these creation accounts as local myths modified by inspired writers to be compatible with what God wanted people at the time to know. Spiritually this mythological interpretation is compatible with God as I see him according to my new paradigm, where his primary role in the world is husband rather than father (cf. Is. 54:5; Jer. 2:2; 2:32-3:14; 31:32; Ezek. 16, 23; Hos. 1-3).

    >I am casting doubt on your statistical claims.

    I made no claims. What I was asking is (partly), what's the likelihood that any large, random collection of sentences might include one or two members with interesting "numerical structures"? This is probably a very difficult question to answer, but it's one that Vernon or Iain will have to address satisfactorily before I'll assign any significance to their work.


      ----- Original Message -----
      From: Peter Ruest
      To: Don Winterstein
      Cc: Vernon Jenkins ; Iain Strachan ; D. F. Siemens, Jr. ;
      Sent: Sunday, June 15, 2003 7:02 AM
      Subject: Re: The forgotten verses

      Don Winterstein wrote to Vernon Jenkins:
    > ... By "not believed" I assume you mean "not taken as literally true in a =
    > scientific sense." The words of the creation accounts are indeed not =
    > believed in that sense precisely because they are utterly irreconcilable =
    > with huge volumes of scientific evidence. As indicated previously, I =
    > (and many others) would have a much different attitude towards the Bible =
    > and its inspiration if in some small way the inspired texts acknowledged =
    > the scientific evidence. In other words, such further words would have =
    > made a huge difference, would have done a huge amount of "good." The =
    > fact that they're not there has had a huge impact on my personal =
    > theology, on my view of the kind of person God is. =20


      may I suggest to you a much better way of approaching the question of
      biblical inspiration? The "further words" you ask for are not needed:
      apparently God didn't feel they were.

      There are worlds between "not taken as literally true in a scientific
      sense" and "utterly irreconcilable with huge volumes of scientific
      evidence". In A. Held & P. Rüst, "Genesis reconsidered", PSCF 51/4 (Dec.
      1999), 231-243;, we
      showed that there are quite reasonable harmonizing interpretations which
      take both the biblical text and modern science seriously. The "utter
      irreconcilability with huge volumes of scientific evidence" is bogus -
      suggested by the mythologizers, cf. below.

      Armin Held and I don't "take the Bible as a scientific textbook". We
      don't draw any scientific conclusions out of the creation account, and
      we don't claim the author or his contemporaries knew any modern science.
      We take the main emphasis of the text to clearly be theological. But we
      claim to show that the text, as it stands (Massoretic Hebrew) - although
      also interpretable in the contexts of ancient Near Eastern worldviews -
      is just as easily capable of being interpreted in the light of modern
      science. Of course, we see in this God's careful guidance of the
      prophet's thoughts and choice of words and expressions - a
      non-mechanical, but spiritual inspiration. The text was designed (by its
      ultimate author) to be for people of _all_ ages - without turning off
      any of them, us included.

      Paul Seely has tried to dispute the legitimacy of such an approach. Our
      reasoned refutation of his charge has been published in A. Held & P.
      Rüst, "Taking Genesis as inspired", PSCF 52/3 (Sept. 2000), 212-214. In
      essence, he claimed that in no text there can be any information unknown
      to its author, that the only "cosmological" information he had was the
      Babylonian myths of the 6th century BC (and other ancient near eastern
      ones), and that therefore the early Genesis chapters are myths being
      used by God as vectors (in the sense of gene therapy) for his spiritual

      Paul recommended to me an introductory source-critical book describing
      how the OT should be interpreted. After studying that book (by an
      apparently non-believing Jew), I explained to this list that the book
      confirmed my previous conclusions about the arbitrariness of the whole
      source-critical approach (including the late dating of Gen.1), which
      destroys virtually the entire history of ancient Israel.

      Armin and I reject YEC just as definitely as this kind of
      mythologization of Genesis. We accept the big bang, an old earth, even
      biological evolution (including that of humans) as fully compatible with
      the text of Gen.1-2, if this text is taken even more "literally" than
      YEC (because YEC is still too much steeped in some erroneous traditional
      interpretations - as are the mythologizers).
    > ... Overall, there is no way a reasonable, =
    > intelligent, open-minded person who knows the data could conclude that =
    > the world is young except by saying that God tricked us by making =
    > something young look old...
    > Therefore the reality of the Earth's _distant_ past is as =
    > firmly established as anything in any science. =20

      Here, I fully agree with you.
    > ... How many key biblical texts don't have any such numerical structures? =
    > We're talking about really simple declarative sentences. What are =
    > chances that these numerical structures are statistical accidents? =
    > Given the large number of sentences in the Bible, is it not likely that =
    > one or two would exhibit such numerical structures? ...

      Here I must partially side with Vernon. I reject YEC, and I am in doubt
      about numerology (tending to ignore it), but did you back up your
      statistical claim with any estimates and calculations? Some time ago, I
      questioned this list about Vernon's calculations of pi from Gen.1:1 and
      e from John 1:1. After having checked these claims with my own computer
      program, I asked mathematicians (and others) on the list about their
      take on the statistical significance. I got no answer but Iain
      Strachan's, who indicated that a straightforward test might be
      impossible. That's why I am casting doubt on your statistical claims.

      Dr. Peter Ruest, CH-3148 Lanzenhaeusern, Switzerland
      <> - Biochemistry - Creation and evolution
      "..the work which God created to evolve it" (Genesis 2:3)

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