Re: Hyers' Article - Cods Wallop!

From: Dick Fischer <>
Date: Sat Feb 21 2004 - 01:35:24 EST

Ted Davis wrote:

>Dick is mistaken, to think that Hyers somehow invents this issue, it's been
>around at least 1700 years or more. I'd be very surprised, in fact, if
>Hebrew commentators hadn't also been puzzled by this before Christianity
>arrived on the scene. Someone may be in a good position to tell us about

Conrad Hyers and Roy Clouser are only the most recent. I suppose part of
any antagonism that may bleed through in my response is simply due to the
cocksure attitude they display which seems to be typical among liberal
theologians - even some on this list.

>Now as for the cloud cover and Gleason Archer, I have my suspicions that
>Archer is implicitly (perhaps explicitly, though not in the part quoted by
>Dick) invoking some version of the "vapor canopy" hypothesis that was widely
>employed by fundamentalist writers in the mid-20th century and since.

The vapor canopy idea will exist as long as the global flood
exists. Assuredly some cloud cover must have persisted over the early
earth, but how long it would have endured is anybody's guess. To say that
Genesis One is the most pondered, dissected literature that was ever
written is an understatement. The only reason I feel a little qualified to
comment on Genesis is that I studied every Genesis Commentary in the
Library of Congress - well at least from Chapter One until Abraham left
Mesopotamia and had Romulus and Remus, I think ...

>I find the point about no names on the fourth day for the chief gods of the
>ancient near east (sun, moon, and stars) quite strong, by itself. When
>combined with other puzzling features--features that are puzzling, that is,
>if one takes this story as historical and or scientific--it makes a powerful
>case (IMO) for seeing the relevant genre as something like a hymn to the

I spent many years as an Air Force navigator, flying KC135 tankers and
later F111s. In training, we spent hours studying the stars that were
bright enough to use as navigational aids. Some of these stars are located
in constellations: The Big Dipper, Cygnus the Swan, Scorpio, Orion the
Hunter, Sagittarius the Tea Pot, The Navigators Triangle, The Base Ball
Diamond with Mickey Alpheratz in left field, and so on.

Because the earth rotates on its axis every 24 hours, the stars can tell us
the exact time. Because the earth makes one revolution around the sun
every 365 days, the entire sky annually makes one complete rotation. Each
season is adorned with its own distinct array of stars. By measuring the
degrees between the horizon and Polaris the North Star, we know our line of
latitude. In essence, the nighttime sky is a splendid measure of time and
seasons and location.

The Sumerians described the planets as "wanderers" or "shepherds" because
they moved independently. One particular Sumerian picture shows a man with
a staff, and behind him is a chart of the solar system! How did they
figure that out?

There were no city lights, no pollution to obscure the sky. They spent
hours night after night dazzled by the exquisite nighttime sky. Fabled
stories and ancient myths that were conjured up from pondering the stars
and their formations simply reflect the fact that the ancients spent far
more time observing the stars than we do today. And of course, the sun and
moon, and the phases of the moon, are obvious timekeepers too.

To think of the sun, moon and stars beyond the superfluous for us moderns
is not easy to do. We're too busy, too distracted, indoors too much. So
it is easy for me to see why the fourth day is difficult to understand from
our vantage point. Some think the emphasis is to be placed on the creating
of the heavenly bodies on the fourth day, but the Hebrew doesn't fit that
interpretation. Sun gods? Moon gods? Star gods? Why not just be honest
and say, "I have no clue what the fourth day is about." That would be

It appears the writer of Genesis wanted his readers to know that the
availability of these cosmic time keepers was not an accident. It was only
through the forethought of our Creator that we have these wonderful
celestial markers. Now with that in mind, read the passages and see if
that makes sense to you.

Genesis 1:14-17: "And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the
heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for
seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the
firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And
God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the
lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them
in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth ..."

If we take "the heaven" from Genesis 1:1 to include the visible universe,
or cosmos, then it would incorporate the sun, moon, and stars. Even if we
just take the heavens to mean "sky," it would be strangely black without
sunlight, moonlight, and starlight. The Expositor's Bible Commentary reasons:

         So the starting point of an understanding of vv.14-18 is the
         view that the whole of the universe, including the sun, moon,
         and stars, was created "in the beginning" (v.1) and thus not
         on the fourth day.

In the creation account, the Hebrew word bara' means create, and always
emanates from God. That can imply an ex nihilo creation, a literal out of
nothing creation (Gen. 1:1), or the use of elements brought into existence
previously as with primitive sea life (Gen. 1:21), also a man and his woman
(Gen. 1:27). The word "made" used in Genesis 1:14-19, is the Hebrew 'asah,
a more general term, and may mean "appoint" or "accomplish" in this verse.

The Septuagint avoids confusion: "God indeed made the two great luminaries,
the greater luminary for the regulations of the day, and the lesser
luminary, with the stars, for the regulations of the night ..."

Thus, on the first day God created the sun, moon, and stars in addition to
the earth, and on the fourth day, God appointed the sun to govern the day
and commissioned the moon and stars to rule the night.

Had the sun not been created until the fourth day, we would be left to
wonder what caused the demarcation between the "day" and "night" named on
the first day (Gen. 1:5). Furthermore, from what we know about the physics
of orbital objects, it would be impossible for the earth and its sister
planets to circle a blank spot in space awaiting the sun's creation.

  A possible reason Genesis lists land plants before the luminaries began
to govern is either because there were no eyes to see light, or something
such as liquid water or dense clouds prevented the heavenly lights from
being seen. Dense vapor clouds surrounding the primitive warm earth might
not have cleared enough to enable the sun, moon, and stars to shine
through, and so they could not be used for telling time.

Is it likely that cloud cover could have lasted four billion years, until
after land plants appeared? Maybe not, but clouds are only a water vapor
barrier which inhibit terrestrial creatures from making celestial
observations. No land animals existed until the fifth day of creation.

Sea creatures also cannot make celestial observations due to a water
barrier in liquid form. So for whichever reason, the presence of an
obscuring barrier, or the lack of observers, the sun, moon, and stars
beginning to function as timekeepers on the fourth day of creation in no
way contradicts the normal, commonly-accepted, progression of natural
history found in science text books.

Dick Fischer - Genesis Proclaimed Association
Finding Harmony in Bible, Science, and History
Received on Sat Feb 21 01:37:31 2004

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