Monday, 23 September 2013

Rationalising the Genesis Account

If you hold to a literal interpretation of the Bible, the creation account in Genesis 1 is quite a problem. Let us look at how creationists attempt to surmount some of the issues.

Dumbing Down
I would first like to point out that God has not revealed the entire creation process in the Genesis creation account, but only that which is particularly relevant to mankind. Many events in the creation account of the Bible have been intentionally left out (unicellular life forms, dinosaurs, etc.), I believe, because they would have been difficult to express in the Hebrew language, and would have lead to confusion, since they would not have been understood through the vast majority of mankind's existence (i.e., only understandable in the last two centuries).

On the surface this seems perfectly reasonable, but is it?

Ancient man was not stupid. he was just as bright as we are. The difference is that we have two centuries of science behind us, educating us about how the world really is, so we know the Earth goes around the sun, we know about bacteria, etc. Clearly we cannot expect ancient man to know these things...


Why not? If God was talking directly to his chosen people, then yes, actually we should expect them to know about these things. Modern man is perfectly capable of teach children these things, surely it is not beyond an all-powerful, all-knowing God?

Long Days
Plant life was created on the third day (Genesis 1:11-13, ~1.0 x 109 years ago). These verses are probably the strongest argument for the day-age interpretation. ... Fruit trees take years to bear fruit, testifying that the third "day" could not possibly be just 24 hours long, as claimed by young earth creationists.
I wonder if the author thinks that mankind appeared in one day fully formed. Using this logic, the sixth day cannot have been a single 24 hour period - it takes nine months for the embryo to develop into a baby.

I strongly suspect that he believes Adam and Eve were created already old (perhaps no more than the equivalent of five years old, but definitely more than as a one day old embryo). And yet he dismisses the possibility that God brought forth plants in one day, making them grow rapidly to full size?

Created or revealed?
Next the translucent cloud layer was removed so that the sun, moon and stars shown through. Notice the unusual construction in Genesis 1:14 which states, "Then God said, 'Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years;'" "Let there be" is an unusual way to describe de novo creation (see also verse 1:3). I believe that at this point God removed the translucent cloud cover from the planet to allow the stars, moon, and Sun to be seen from the surface of the earth (the frame of reference of all Genesis 1). The text then reiterates what God had already done in Genesis 1:1 regarding the creation of the sun, moon, and stars. The time frame describes events over days, seasons, and years - obviously more than 24 hours long.
Creationists have a big problem with Genesis 1, with the sun created after there is already sunlight, and plants growing on the Earth. A popular dodge, as seen here, is to pretend that the text says the sun only became visible on the four day.

Here the author notes the unusual construct "Then God said, 'Let there be...'" Actually, God saying let such-and-such happen is seen in verses 3, 6, 9, 11, 20, 24 and 26 (besides the verse in question, 14). In each case God announces his intention to act, and then he acts. He says, "Let there be light", then creates light, he says "Let us make man in our image," then creates mankind. He says "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night", and two verses later, he does just that.

To fit his pet theory, the author has arbitrarily decided top pretend verse 16 refers to something done previously, while all the other creation accounts are assumed to occur when described.

The image of God

Genesis 1:27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
Man in the image of God; what does this mean in practical terms? It cannot refer to bodily, biological form since God is a Spirit and man is earthly. But while it may be true that the body does not belong to the image, since God does not have a body, yet somehow we would like to see man’s body (which is a very real part of man) included in the image. Language and creativity,—two important parts of the image, are impossible without a body.
Does this hold up? Image means what he looks like, not connected to things like language and creativity. Of course, the real question is what does it say in Hebrew?

The root word is used 17 times in the Bible; here are a select few (others are less obvious, but none of them are inconsistent with appearance; I have used different translations to make the point clearer).

Numbers 33:52 Drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places.

1 Samuel 6:5 So you must make images of your tumors and images of your mice that ravage the land, and give glory to the God of Israel. Perhaps he will lighten his hand from off you and your gods and your land.

2 Kings 11:18 Then all the people of the land went to the house of Baal and tore it down; his altars and his images they broke in pieces, and they killed Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars. And the priest posted watchmen over the house of the LORD.

Ezekiel 23:14 "Then she carried her prostitution even further. She fell in love with pictures that were painted on a wall--pictures of Babylonian military officers, outfitted in striking red uniforms.
It is worth pointing out that this is consistent with the concept of God in the Old Testament.
Genesis 3: 8 And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. 9 And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?

Genesis 18:1 And the Lord appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; 2 And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, 3 And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant:
Exodus 24:10 And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness.
The third one could be understood to be a vision,. but nevertheless shows that God was understood at that time to have a human appearance.

It all points to God having a human-like form, and that he created man in his own physical image.

Here is a rationale that I find somewhat bizarre, and yet it does make a kind of sense:
Although God is spirit (John 4:24) and does not have a body like a man, when He appeared visibly to men according to the Old Testament record, He did so in the form of a human body (e.g. Genesis 18:1-2; 32:24, 28,30).8 Dr Henry Morris writes: 'There is something about the human body therefore, which is uniquely appropriate to God's manifestation of Himself, and(since God knows all His works from the beginning of the world—Acts 15:18), He must have designed man's body with this in mind. Accordingly He designed it, not like the animals, but with an erect posture, with an upward gazing countenance, capable of facial expressions corresponding with emotional feelings, and with a brain and tongue capable of articulate, symbolic speech.'
So God has a particular form that he likes to adopt, and he chose to make man in that form. It is only a step from seeing God as looking like a wise, old man, an image rejected by most Christians, but probably what the ancient Hebrews believed.

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