Pete: I am curious as to how you predict a flood date of 2900 BC.
Paul: From a biblical perspective - I take the length of time between important events, we can then avoid problem areas like adding up the Kings or Judges’ timelines, which may overlap with co-regencies and other factors.
The general consensus is that Solomon started building the temple in 966 BC. So that's a good place to start. The Septuagint tells us that the exodus happened 440 years before the building of the temple. Then, from the promise given to Abraham in the Mesopotamian city of Ur there were 430 years until the exodus occurred. So that gives us the starting date for Abraham's journey. I then work backwards from the start of Abraham’s journey using the patriarchs ages when their first child was born.
The 2,900 BC date for the archaeological geological flood deposits in Mesopotamia work out if we use the Septuagint. So we find that the Septuagint and Archaeology are in agreement.
From a geological perspective - The Sumerian deluge corresponds to flooding at Shuruppak and various other cities, as far north as Kish, the flood layer is radiocarbon dated to 2900 BC. The Sumerian King List would put the flood at about 2900 BC. William Hallo who was a professor of Assyriology and Babylonian Literature placed the flood at 2900 BC according to Mesopotamian literature. Pottery from the Jemdet Nasr period (3000–2900 BC) was discovered immediately below the Shuruppak flood stratum. Geological flood layers at the cities of Lagsah, Uruk, Shurrupak, Kish and Ur average a date of 2900 BC. Sir Max Mallowan, the prominent British archaeologist, specialising in ancient Middle Eastern history, excavated and put the flood layers he found at 2900 BC.
Pete: In response to your conclusion about the 430 years in Egypt beginning instead at the time of Abraham's promise, here is what Exodus 12:40 says,
"Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years." (KJV)
The time that the sons of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years. It seems very clear to me. Am I missing something?
Paul: Some Bibles have a footnote for Exodus 12:40 explaining that the Septuagint and the Samaritan Pentateuch include Canaan, not only Egypt.
The Septuagint reads,
"Now the residence of the sons of Israel during which they dwelt in the land, Egypt, and in the land of Canaan was four hundred and thirty years." Exodus 12:40
The Israelites didn’t sojourn in Egypt, they were static - located in Goshen. The 430 years starts from when Abraham left the city of Ur, that’s when Abraham began the journey and when he received the promise - and that’s the point Paul makes in Gal 3:16–18.
But even if we go with the Masoretic text, we ought to note that it is not said, "The sojourning of the children of Israel in Egypt was 430 years." But, "The sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt." Meaning the sojourning of the nation, who at that point, were living in Egypt.
We should note the wording, “the sojourning” of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt; that is, the sojourning of the Israelite nation. The word “sojourning” includes the first journey made by Abraham from the city of Ur, his journeys in Canaan and Egypt, his grandson Jacob’s journey to Paddan Aram in northern Mesopotamia, and the family’s final journey south into Egypt. The “sojourning” included all of these previous journeys, because in Egypt the children of Israel did not sojourn—they were given a location: Goshen. Hence, the Scripture says, “the sojourning of the children of Israel who ‘dwelt’ in Egypt.”
Let us also be careful about the phrase “children of Israel.” This was a name for them as a nation, which included their roots back to Abraham, not only the actual “children” or “offspring” of Israel (or of Jacob as he was also known), because Jacob himself went to Egypt and he can be included in the phrase “children of Israel.” The narrative is telling us that from the time Abraham left his native country and began the sojourning, to the release of his posterity from enslavement in Egypt, totalled 430 years.
The term “children of Israel” includes the people before Jacob too (i.e., Isaac and Abraham). The NIV translates the term “children of Israel” as the “Israelite people” and the Samaritan Pentateuch states, “the sojourning of the children of Israel and their fathers, who dwelt in Canaan and in Egypt, [was] four hundred and thirty years.” Both of the Jewish Talmuds agree, stating, "in Egypt, and in the rest of the lands.'' The time period of 430 years began from the promise made to Abraham, as the Apostle Paul explains in Galatians 3:17.
The root of the Hebrew word used for “sojourning” can also be used for “dwellings” or “settlements” so we could think of Exodus 12:40 meaning “The length of time throughout all the places Abraham and his posterity dwelled from when he first set out totalled 430 years.”
The text of Exodus remarks that the Israelites marched out on the “very same day,” (Exodus 12:41) which tells us that Abraham marked that day as special and told his descendants about it too. The date the Israelites left Egypt was 14th Abib (Nisan) 1406 BC, which means that Abraham first started his journey on 14th Abib 1836 BC.
Working backwards according to the Septuagint the patriarchal timeline looks like this:
Solomon begins building the temple 966 BC (Then add the 440 years of 1Kings 6:1)
Exodus 1406 BC (The law was issued 50 days after the exodus.)
Gal 3:16–18 informs us that the promise to Abraham came 430 years before the law.
Abraham received his first promise in the city of Ur. (Gen 12:1) Stephen confirms this in Acts 7:2
The sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, and Canaan (LXX) was four hundred and thirty years. (Exodus 12:40)
At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the LORD's divisions left Egypt. (Exodus 12:41)
Informing us that Abraham’s journey began on 14th Abib 1836 BC.
(This is also confirmed by the Lord who said to Abraham “Know for certain that for 400 years your descendants will be strangers…” (Gen 15:13) Starting from the birth of Isaac, who was Sarah and Abraham’s offspring there would be 400 years until Abraham’s descendants were free, which happened at the exodus. Abraham left Haran when he was 75 years old (Gen 12:4) leaving us to conclude that he was 70 when he left the city of Ur. Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born. Giving us 430 years - 30 years from the city of Ur to the birth of Isaac and 400 years from the birth of Isaac to the exodus.)
Therefore Abraham was born in 1906 BC (He was 70 years old when his journey began.)
Terah was born in 2036 BC (Terah was 130 when Abraham was born.)
Nahor 2115 BC (Nahor was 79 when he fathered his first son. This figure is taken from the Septuagint “Codex Alexandrinus,” which has the full genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11. “Codex Vaticanus,” which is the version of the Septuagint held in the Vatican, has 179 years for Nahor’s age at the birth of his first son.)
Serug 2245 BC (130 at birth of son)
Reu 2377 BC (132 at birth of son)
Peleg 2507 BC (130 at birth of son)
Eber 2641 BC (134 at birth of son)
Shelah 2771 BC (130 at birth of son)
Arphaxad 2906 BC (We need to notice that Genesis 11:10 says “Two years after the flood, when Shem was 100 years old, he became the father of Arphaxad.” Arphaxad was 135 at the birth of his son.)
Flood 2908 BC (Coinciding with the archaeological and geological flood deposits.)
Shem 3006 BC (Shem was not Noah’s first born - “Noah was 500 years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth.” (Gen 5:32) [Shem is mentioned first because he is important to the continuing story.] Arphaxad was born two years after flood when Shem was 100 so Noah was 502 when Shem was born. Noah was 600 when the flood came. (Gen 7:6) Japheth’s birth preceded Shem’s birth by two years. Japheth is called "the elder" in Genesis 10:21 and Ham is called the "youngest" in Genesis 9:24.)
Noah 3508 BC (500 at birth of son)
Lamech 3696 BC (188 at birth of son)
Methuselah 3863 BC (167 at birth of son)
Enoch 4028 BC (165 at birth of son)
Jared 4190 BC (162 at birth of son)
Mahalaleel 4355 BC (165 at birth of son)
Cainan 4525 BC (170 at birth of son)
Enosh 4715 BC (190 at birth of son)
Seth 4920 BC (205 at birth of son)
Adam 5150 BC (230 at birth of son)
Archaeologists have found no signs of warfare among the Ubaid culture based in southern Mesopotamia from 5500 BC to 4000 BC. The houses were elaborate but no overt status symbols were found. The people lived a quiet and simple life. The garden that God planted would have taken time to root and grow etc. so there’s a good margin for Yahweh to have been active from around 5500 BC in that area.
Adam was taken to the garden where he began his job of looking after the trees.
The Ubaid people designed their rectangular temple buildings to align with the cardinal points of the compass. The earliest temple at Eridu had a simple offering table or altar. Adam’s son Abel offered some of the firstborn of his flock as an offering (perhaps on that table,) which pleased Yahweh. Cain brought some fruit of his crops to offer, which didn’t please Yahweh.
Nic: I do struggle with the fact that we seem to have to accommodate the popular scientific viewpoint when interpreting the creation story. Simply because in my view it’s entirely possible that God was completely able to create the whole thing in seven literal days. And I wonder if we simply want to save face within the intelligentsia so they don't think we are nutters, maybe?”
Paul: “We can be misled by thinking there is an anti-faith "intelligentsia" who need placating. Many people working in the scientific community are Christians. In the 1930s Georges Lemaître proposed that the universe had a beginning—an observation he made from reading the Bible and his work as an astronomer and professor of physics. Now most scientists accept Georges Lemaître’s Big Bang theory. Georges saw no contradiction with faith in the Bible and science, saying, “Once you realise that the Bible does not purport to be a textbook of science, the old controversy between religion and science vanishes . . . The doctrine of the Trinity is much more abstruse than anything in relativity or quantum mechanics; but, being necessary for salvation, the doctrine is stated in the Bible. If the theory of relativity had also been necessary for salvation, it would have been revealed to Saint Paul or to Moses.”
You also made another point Nic saying:
"in my view it's entirely possible that God did/was completely able to create the whole thing with his Word in seven literal days."
Let's remember that the Bible doesn't call them "literal days". In fact the Bible does inform us that a day for God is not the same as our day. The Bible teaches us that for a reason.
Nic: I don't doubt the existence of a "scientific" trail that enables us to draw conclusions and hypothesise about the long term history of the earth, revealing and helping us understand the natural order of things but I don't see the problem with God being able to create what He wants in whatever "time" he likes. I am familiar with the scripture that says "a day is as thousand years to the Lord and a thousand years is as day" if that is what you are referring to as the Bible telling us thats God's days are different to ours. I don't believe that’s what that passage is saying. I see that as God explaining the difference between his eternal existence and out temporal one, nothing more.
I do however, see His deliberate intention to explain how long a day is in which He created the earth in Genesis by providing earthly references that the reader would relate to and understand in the form of "so the evening and the morning were the first day" etc. Otherwise why say it that way. Why can't God speak and fast track the entire "natural" process?
Paul: Thanks for your reply. Good points again.
We know now that the evening and the morning are constantly with us. Look at the earth from space and you'll see the evening and morning, present at all times. So as much time as is necessary for one of God's creative days can be taken - Genesis has that correct.
Secondly, if you want to look at the "evening and the morning" from a position of being on the earth then we should remember that "the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters." God's Spirit was "moving" so the daylight could be as long as he needed it to be. A plane travelling at 1000 miles an hour can stay in daylight for as long as it has fuel. When the plane stops the evening or morning will overtake it. God doesn't need to "fast-track" creation, he takes as much time as is needed for the process to be completed.
Nic: I still think your answers seem to be assuming the earth could not have possibly been created in 7 earthly days and therefore there has to be a more "rational" explanation. The result can often be a convoluted and easily arguable explanation that takes even more faith to accept. I don't think God wants to mess with us to that extent. Sometimes the simple face value option is the right one. Again, why is it so hard to consider the possibility that God created all this in 7 earthly days?
Is He not powerful enough?
Paul: Thanks for the reply and for pointing out that the rational explanation can be convoluted. I try to make things simple for people, so that's helpful to me. I'll work harder on making the subject simpler to grasp.
Okay, you asked "Why is it so hard to consider the possibility that God created all this in 7 earthly days? Is He not powerful enough?"
You mentioned earlier Nic regarding Psalm 90:4 (A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.) "only explains the difference between God's eternal existence and our temporal one, nothing more." That's quite a statement, "Nothing more"? Are you sure? How did you come to that conclusion? The verse does point out that God is over and above spacetime, but it also uses the word "day". Perhaps the Psalmist should have chosen another unit of time instead of "day" perhaps "month" or "year" or "week" or "hour". Isn't there a possibility that some people might equate the word "day" in Psalm 90:4 with the famous word "day" in Genesis chapter 1. Maybe the Psalmist made an error of judgement here.
No! The Psalmist was well aware that Genesis chapter 1 uses the word "day" and he explains something to us about how Scripture uses the word "day" that would later help to show the veracity of the Scriptures. Yes, the Psalm explains that God has a different frame of reference to us but it also provides the answer to sceptics who say the Bible is fairy tales and has nothing to do with reality.
Geology, Archaeology, Palaeontology, Astronomy and Genetics are currently in a state where accuracy is at a high degree, and all major scientific areas of expertise agree with each other in the main areas of their research. They have all come to the same conclusion from different angles. Therefore we are beginning to understand God's modus operandi when he created the world. Genesis doesn't use the phrase "earthly day" or "literal day", people who have a particular doctrine to promote use those phrases not the Bible. Genesis uses the word "day".
We know that God did not use 24 hour periods in Genesis 1, because God's handiwork itself tells us otherwise.
If spacetime has lots of space then it also has lots of time!
People who think the universe is only 6,000 years old must also be prepared to say the universe is a lot smaller than we realise.
Spacetime is one thing.
Asking "Is He not powerful enough?" becomes obsolete. God has already shown us through the Bible how he made the universe and science now confirms it.
Nic: Hi Paul
"Nothing more" in the sense that the context of the verse does pretty much serve the purpose of explaining to the reader the concept of God being outside of time. I think we have to be careful about adding our cleverness to something God has said that may well be quite straightforward in its fundamental presentation. There’s quite a bit of assumption needed with your various descriptions of what a "day" may be. Personally, I think it’s just a simple way of illustrating the scale difference between time and eternity and therefore, really, its just a day.
I'm not really worried about whether someone thinks it's just fairy tales or not. In fact if you are successful in gaining credibility with the sceptics on this particular matter, you are going to lose them and have to start all over again once we start talking about Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter, the beggar at the pool of Bethesda and so on because none of those events are explainable from a scientific point of view. So therefore I am not particularly desperate to let go the idea that it’s entirely possible that God created everything in 6 days. Or course he could have!
So it's not an obsolete question. It’s an honest one in the light of other miracles where He apparently enhanced/completely overode the natural processes of physics and biology. I have no problem in accepting God created everything just how you say He did but I don't have the slightest struggle to accept that He did the way I have described either.
But then I haven't had my opinion on the matter published so I can change my mind without having to write another book
Paul: Good morning Nic
Thanks for the questions and for pushing me. I always need that. I didn't ask to write any of these books, I would wake very early in the mornings, (I still do) with all these thoughts about Genesis, Exodus, through to Deuteronomy. The books all made sense to me, as if they are a hermetically sealed machine that interconnects perfectly, and science, technology and biology etc. can only confirm what the Bible has already written thousands of years before.
Okay, moving onto your points about Psalm 90:4 and the word "day" as God sees it.
You said, "'Nothing more' in the sense that the context of the verse does pretty much serve the purpose of explaining to the reader the concept of God being outside of time."
Further to this point is that Psalm 90 was actually written by Moses, who is credited with writing Genesis. It is a brave man who says that Moses wasn't trying to explain something to us about the way he had previously used the word “day” in Genesis chapter 1.
When I was a boy in church we didn't have this 7 literal day of Genesis chapter 1 doctrine. Charles Spurgeon in the 1800s (along with other people) had preached that it took God "many millions of years" to create the universe.
Okay moving onto your other point.
'"it's entirely possible that God created everything in 6 days. Or course he could have!"
Except that God has shown us through the universe that he did not. God's laws of physics are trustworthy just as he is trustworthy.
"The works of his hands are faithful and just." (Psalm 111:7)
Nic: I'm a bit disappointed you have completely ignored my main point about miracles and seem to be struggling to acknowledge the glaringly obvious point about God’s already proven track record for breaking the rules of physics. In fact you can't tell me that God didn't create everything in 6 days with all the aging properties of thermo dynamics, etc already built in, with anymore certainty than I can say He did.
Paul: Hello again Nic
When we say God created the universe we are saying that he created the laws of physics. You asked earlier if God was not powerful enough to create it all in six 24 hour periods. However, the universe that he created informs us that he did not create it in six 24 hour periods. Asking "is God not powerful enough" is the same as asking if God can make a square circle.
As CSLewis said, "You may attribute miracles to him, but not nonsense... meaningless combinations of words do not suddenly acquire meaning simply because we prefix to them the two other words 'God can.'”
Secondly, when Jesus performed a miracle he stayed in line with the laws of physics. i.e. plant a seed of wheat and it will become much wheat, Jesus did that when he multiplied the bread. He also multiplied the fish, which again is in keeping with the natural order - fish multiply in the sea all the time. He healed people, which God does all the time too, if you cut your self today, put a plaster on it and it will heal. Jesus turned water into wine, which happens naturally all the time, water comes down from the skies, the grape vine draws the water up, men pick the grapes press them and make wine. Jesus said he "can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does." (John 5:19) When Satan tempted Jesus into doing something that we don't see God doing in nature i.e. turning stone into bread. Jesus would not do it.
So when you say that "God has a proven track record for breaking the rules of physics." It’s like saying "God made the laws of physics, but actually, he didn't."
All the major sciences agree. Let's take palaeontology for example; we now know some intricate details of how ancient man used to live. The science of palaeontology has become a fine art. If we dismiss the results of the people who have researched ancient man in depth we are naive. Early modern humans have also been the study of geneticists around the globe. We know a lot about these early human beings. Indeed Genesis chapter 1 agrees with what they have found.
When all the major sciences tell you that the universe is a certain way, but that way is at variance with your scriptural slant. Guess who's misled?
Have a great day Nic.
Nic: HI Paul
When I say break the rules/laws of Physics I mean God does something that doesn't happen naturally in relation to the time it takes for a thing to happen. So yes, a cut or injury may heal naturally over many days or weeks but when God performs a "creative" miracle that process can happen in seconds. There are many biblical examples of this.
Regarding your statement that water into wine happens all the time. No it doesn't. You can leave a jar of water for a thousand years and it still won't be turned into wine unless, as was the case in the bible, God steps in and transports the ingredients to the water but more importantly accelerates the process which is completely against the natural laws. My point is that you limit God by saying He must have done something this way or that way when all the time He can and does do things in a variety of ways. Maybe there’s an interesting point emerging here that the very thing we are disputing is the amount of time something took to accomplish, which appears to be probably the biggest factor in defining whether something is a miracle or not. If it takes a normal amount of time according to our experience from a scientific point of view we don't call it a miracle but if it happens in seconds we probably do.
If what you say is correct that all miracles are just natural processes that God has sped up (which I think is still too limiting a definition and not strictly the case) then why are you so rigidly sticking to your theory that creation had no speeding up in its process at all?
Please forgive me if I seem to come across in a forthright manner. It's hard to convey one's manner with just words rather than face to face. I'm enjoying our debate.
Paul: Hello again Nic
Thanks for the reminder that you are not meaning to come across in a forthright manner. No, I know that my friend, please don't worry on that account. We are only pushing each other on to comprehend God's word. As Paul said, "Brothers, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be children, but in understanding be men."
A "miracle" is understood by the church to be an event that has no history in the chain of cause and effect. An act of "providence" does not break the chain of cause and effect. God uses miracles to show us that it is he who provides (providence) all things.
Water does turn naturally into wine through natural agents. You are right to suppose that acceleration occurred in the case of the miracles, such as when Jesus calmed the storm. A storm will naturally abate when the winds die down, or when Jesus walked on water, people walk on water often, across the Bering Straits for example, but Jesus showed he was the creator of the natural order by commanding the elements and having the wind die down, or not having the water turn into ice before it can be trodden upon. God uses the natural order to show us that it was he who created the natural order.
We know that God did not create the world in six 24 hour periods, both from a biblical point of view and from a scientific point of view.
The church is notoriously slow to accept scientific theories, but regarding the 6,000 year old universe much of the church does now seem to accept that the view point is defective. I've even noticed that the American Creation magazines slowly seem to be turning away from the 6,000 year old universe point of view, or at least they are not mentioning it so much these days. The other day I even heard Pat Robertson on TV saying that that it looks like God used aeons of time to create the universe. In a poll on Christian Today, 92% of readers think Bill Nye won the creation debate against Ken Ham. So generally, Christians are coming to terms with the fact that their view of scripture needs rectifying, just as it did when Copernicus and Galileo taught that even though the Bible appears to say that the earth is the centre, in reality, the sun is. Slowly the church changed its doctrine and that's what is happening now.
God uses Geology, Archaeology, Palaeontology, Astronomy and Genetics, don't think he doesn't. He gives skills to men.
If you are so intent in saying that God could have used six 24 hour periods to create the world through a miracle, what happened to the men who lived 50,000 years ago? Were their lives lived at breakneck speed? There are numerous examples of how we know that God did not create the universe in six 24 hour periods.
Scripturally, men have known it too. Why is there no "evening and morning" for the seventh day? God tells us in Psalm 95:11 "I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.'" His day of rest is still ongoing.
According to people who try to say that God made the world according to men's time scale rather than his own, the 6th day of creation involved the creation of all the land animals, and when that was done the creation of Adam took place, then once Adam had got his bearings and had had a meal and some drink, God took Adam on a journey to the garden of Eden and told him about his job of looking after it. He was then told to name all the animals, which he did, but then he started to feel lonely, so he looked for a companion but could not find one suitable. So God put him to sleep and then he made a woman from his side. After Adam had woken up and God had finished making the woman, God brought the woman to the man and spoke to them both. Realistically, that sounds like very poor hermeneutics. How long was the 6th day for all that to take place?
There are many other biblical examples of why God did not use man's time scale to create the word. Preachers have known it for years. Papers were written about it hundreds of years ago, when Christians didn't have the science we have now to confirm it.
Grace and peace
Nic: I was nearly convinced as I read this because I agree with you that there’s quite a lot there to pack in to one day but then I read Gen 1 again and the conclusion to the 6th day ends with "I have given every green herb for food". The discourse regarding Adam naming the creatures and Eve being made from his rib come after the 6th day not during. So they would have all the time in the world.
Paul: I'm glad that I had nearly convinced you. But I see I still have a little more work to do.
Okay, here goes:
Genesis chapter 1 tells us that "God created them male and female". When we get into Genesis chapter 2 the woman had not yet been made, so people who say that God made the world according to man's time scale, have a problem here because Genesis chapter 1 said God had already made them male and female. So they have to say that Genesis chapter 2 is a retelling of what happened on the 6th day when the woman was made. (You should know all this Nic, I'm doing your job for you!)
In reality there are all sorts of hermeneutical problems once we say that Genesis chapter 2 is a reiteration of Genesis' chapter 1's sixth day.
The early chapters of Genesis fit well with what we know from science and archaeology. Genesis chapter 1 informs us that humans were hunter-gathers, (The Palaeolithic Period,) who followed the animals and ate from what naturally grew in the ground or from trees. They were under an edict from God to “fill the earth, and subdue it,” which they did because we can see the evidence they left behind. Genesis chapter 2 informs us about humans settling down and learning how to cultivate crops. (The Neolithic Period.) The area where much of this agriculture took place was called the Fertile Crescent. The Lord God helped with some of the planting: in southern Mesopotamia he planted a garden.
Barry: I read the Genesis book through twice and found your perspective on it very interesting which raised a lot of questions in my mind. About the same time I read your book the second time, I went out to Bulgaria to visit a Baptist pastor who pulled a book out about a man’s worldwide research into the apparent abundant evidence that humans existed at the same time as dinosaurs. The book was good and very well produced - All interesting stuff for me to be taking on board at the same time as reading your book.
Paul: Thank you for reading "Genesis for Ordinary People" twice. I'm working on a 2nd edition for the book at the moment. Thank you also for sharing with me about the dinosaur research. I do enjoy reading books like that, although they are usually flawed from a scientific point of view. My dad subscribes to a magazine from America about creation and I enjoy reading the articles.
Some parts of the Christian church are a little sluggish to accept scientific theories. But the church does seem to be moving forward in this regard but there are still pockets of resistance. And the "unscientific" tar that the church is brushed with seems to have stuck with the media who enjoy "playing it up" so that the public consciousness is still fixed in "Those "Whacky Christians" mode.
However, as you will know by reading "Genesis for Ordinary People" there is far more to Genesis than its first few chapters. The Exodus book I've written continues with the theme that Genesis started, namely, God's revelation of himself to human beings.
Barry: When I get your Exodus book I will read for myself but how do you treat Exodus 20:8 - 11? Verse 1 says – ‘And the Lord God said’ and then verse 11 says ‘in six days the Lord made heaven and earth.’ I am not flogging the 6 days position but am interested how we get over things like this as indeed Jesus is cited as the Creator in the New Testament (Colossians 1). I do think that the statement at the beginning of Genesis “and the earth was without form or void” gives scope though for a vast period of time before God’s specific creative work began.
Paul: Thank you for the questions, it’s good for us to delve into the riches of God’s word.
Okay, concerning Exodus 20:8-11:
The seven day week had been lost to the young nation of Israel while they were in Egypt. The Mesopotamians still had the seven day week but most of the world did not. The Egyptians had a 10 day week. Originally, God had led by example, i.e. if God has a seven day week with one day off then perhaps we ought to too. There is no command to have a Sabbath day prior to book of Exodus's description of the manna falling. The people of the exodus were told to count six days where they could gather the manna and on the seventh they were told not to gather any manna. God had previously led by example and had not issued commands about a seven day week or a Sabbath day of rest but because the week had been lost to humanity, coupled with the fact that the early Israelites were a rebellious group of people, God commanded it.
In Exodus 20:8-11 God was once again happy to use his creative week as an example. But let's remember that the Bible also explains that a day for God is not the same as our day. The Bible lets us know that for a reason. Psalm 90:4 teaches us that God's perspective is not ours. Moses was the person who wrote the Psalm and was well aware of the famous word "day" in Genesis chapter 1 and begins to explain something to us about the way God sees the word "day". In Exodus 20:8-11 God again explains his reasoning to human beings by using himself as an example, only this time we have a command.
Leslie and Paul had some dialogue about soft tissue in dinosaurs, the proposition made by Leslie was, "Original tissues and carbon-14 can’t last millions of years, yet they are found in dinosaur fossils".
Paul: Mary Schweitzer, the molecular palaeontologist, who first discovered the dinosaur tissue, is a Christian. Some people have tried to use Mary’s data to support their view of a young universe. It may be worth saying that Mary is horrified that some people accuse her of hiding the true meaning of her data. For her, science and faith go together.
Mary has gone on to explain why the iron in the blood of the dinosaur may help to preserve it. Atoms in organic tissue may not degrade if there are no microbes to feed on the organic matter. Scientists had previously thought proteins that make up soft tissue should degrade in less than 1 million years but they are learning all the time. After the death of the dinosaur, the iron in the minuscule iron nanoparticles generates free radicals, which are highly reactive molecules. The free radicals cause proteins and cell membranes to tie in knots, they basically act like formaldehyde. Formaldehyde, of course, preserves tissue. There are other factors too, the surrounding material the fossil is buried in etc. The bones of these dinosaurs were not scattered, suggesting they were buried quickly. They are also buried in sandstone, which is porous and may wick away bacteria and reactive enzymes that would otherwise degrade the bone.
Moving on to the carbon-14 issue:
Carbon-14 has a half-life of 5,730 years, which means it is useful for dating organic remains up to 45,000 years old. So if dinosaurs lived around 65 million years ago there shouldn’t be any carbon-14 left in them. So, let's have a think about this.
There is some serious doubt about the carbon-14 found in dinosaur remains, the evidence for it seems dubious and scant. However, a similar scenario would be petroleum and coal in which the carbon-14 should have long since decayed, and yet a small amount of carbon-14 is sometimes found in them. The amount of carbon-14 dates the petroleum and coal at 40,000 years, yet scientists explain that according to other dating methods the fossil-fuels are much older than that. One reason why carbon-14 is found in fossil-fuels is because it’s very hard to keep bacteria away from specimens being dated: fungal and bacterial activity is particularly likely in warm, damp coal exposed to air resulting in the carbon-14 readings. Also carbon-14 in fossil-fuels can have crept in some other way such as underground sources of radiation - native radioactive elements can create new carbon-14.
Leslie: You make some interesting comments and I wondered during the 50s & 60s how did the Christians relate the scriptures and scientific issues? How did the Scopes trial affect that and what view of creation started appearing as a result?
Paul: In the last century Christians in the UK talked about creation, and there were several points of view; the debates were predominantly friendly. The general tone of them was, "So knowing what we know now from science and geology, how does Genesis chapter 1 relate to people?" The gap theory was mentioned for a short time, and previous races on earth were sometimes thought about but nothing concrete, they were musings. People seemed to understand that God has revealed creation in Genesis chapter 1 in an understandable way, but now that science is progressing we are beginning to understand the details of how God created the universe - His modus operandi.
As time went by the "seven solar days" theory became fairly insistent in its approach. The people who preached this message didn't always have the "give and take" that had been held in the previous decades. The magazines they wrote would sometimes intimate that unless you believed Genesis chapter 1 the way they proclaimed it, then you didn't really believe the gospel properly, or that you were being a hindrance to the gospel message.
Now the "hindrance" may be the other way round. The "hard-sell" technique of the young universe viewpoint may have caused a few young people to avoid the decision of becoming a Christian. Young people may think, "I like the Christian message, but there's no way, you can expect me to reject science." Young people can be hindered in their walk towards faith because of the public perception that Christians believe "science" has been hijacked. Some members of the public do seem to think that Christians must believe Genesis chapter 1 the way the young earth protagonists teach it. An atheist friend of mine recently apologised to me for mentioning "billions of years in the past". I was happy to explain to him that science holds true for all people, including people with faith in Christ.
I'm sure there are a number of reasons why young people are missing in church these days, but the public perception that Christians reject mainstream science may be one of them. I wrote an article for the Baptist Times recently about the lack of young people in our churches. The Secular Society has picked up on this trend of young people missing from church, and wrote about it on their web site, quite gleefully.
The Scopes trial made certain people look like they were uniformed, and a bit of a laughing stock to the rest of the world. So they came out fighting with an aggressive approach, saying they really knew all about science and that science does fit in with their scriptural slant. Of course, a high degree of manoeuvering and movement within physics, geology, archaeology and palaeontology needs to be done to get a resemblance of their view of Genesis chapter 1 with the facts.
In Karen Armstrong's book, "The Bible The Biography" she talks about the Scopes trial as being a turning point for the state we are in today regarding Genesis chapter 1. She states, (After the Scopes trial,) "The press denounced the fundamentalists as hopeless anachronisms. When fundamentalist movements are attacked they usually become more extreme. After the Scopes trial they became more vehemently literal in their interpretation of scripture and creation science became the flagship of their movement.
Jim said: "I've just started reading 'Genesis For Ordinary People' but I can't decide whether it's sophistry or cutting edge theology. If the whole universe is here for the sake of planet Earth it must be here for all of the planets in the universe whether inhabited or not."
Paul: Thanks for reading "Genesis For Ordinary People". I agree that the whole universe is here for all the planets and stars etc. However, God's area of interest is the (immaterial) human heart, and humans live on planet Earth. All the matter in the universe needs to be there to house the matter that makes up our human bodies which house the human heart.
The only reason that some people talk about a "multiverse" is because this universe is so odd, so extremely odd, they say there must be other universes because the chances of this present universe existing are too weird to be true - in order for us to exist, an exceptional amount of unimaginable events needed to unfold in exactly the way that they did.
That we are here, informs us that all the events needed for us to exist happened. People with faith in God believe that he is the architect and engineer behind the universe and that he is interested in each one of us and gave us this present universe to live in for the time being.
Jim I was surprised at your knowledge of science e.g. you quoted the actual value of the Gravitational constant. What subjects did you study at school and what qualifications did you get? How much did you get from reading books since school?
Paul: I have a great thirst for understanding how the universe ticks. I've had it since I was a boy. I always asked my teachers hard questions and if they couldn't answer them I found the answer some other way.
I didn't really want to write the books about Genesis, Exodus or Primordial People because I was busy with my music but I found it incumbent upon me to do so.
Jim: "Paul, have you ever heard of Prof John Lennox? He is the Christian who challenged Richard Dawkins in 'the God Delusion Debate' and gave him a run for his money. I e-mailed him and recommended your two books 'Genesis For Ordinary People' and 'Exodus For Ordinary People'. I said that your e-mail address is available online if he wants a chat with you about the Bible or whatever. What do you think?"
Yes, I've heard of John Lennox, I've heard him on the radio and I've read some of his writings. He wrote a book on Genesis called "Seven Days That Divide The World". He's a fine scholar, far better than me from a scientific perspective. I am happy to talk about the Bible but I must learn scientific lessons from those who know far more than I do.
I have never spoken to John Lennox but would be happy to. I have exchanged emails with Gerald Schroeder, a physicist who has done some interesting work, and has thoughts on Genesis. I've also spent an afternoon talking with a microbiologist/geneticist whose work has been important in that field. We had a long conversation about Genesis.