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Jesus: right on Genesis!

Published: 15 June 2019 (GMT+10)

Thomas M. responds in response to Genesis as history: a discredited interpretation?:

Jesus and the age of the earth

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, more important to me than the truth. Therefore some of my favorite Scriptures are:

John 8:31. Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples;

John 8:32. and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

John 14:6. Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.

And because there is nothing more important to me than the truth, I study the Scriptures in the languages in which God chose to give them to us, making good use of the best and most recent textual, lexical, and grammatical scholarship.

My favorite book in the Bible is Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, and my favorite portion of that book is chapters 5–8. In order to aid me in my study and teaching of Romans, I have acquired 263 commentaries on all or parts of that epistle, and many hundreds of additional works on Paul and his epistles. Therefore, I am familiar with Paul’s teaching on Romans 5:12–19. However, I am also familiar with the fact that all literature reflects, to one extent or another, the languages and cultures of the men and women who penned the literature.

The Apostle Paul was raised as a Jew but in a Hellenistic culture, and his writings strongly reflect his cultural upbringing. He was raised loving the Old Testament Scriptures, which he regarded as being inspired by God, and he apparently interpreted Genesis 1–11 as being an accurate, historical narrative. Jesus, in His humanity was fully man—including his finite brain!—and therefore He was far from omniscient. Like Paul, He apparently interpreted Genesis 1–11 as being an accurate, historical narrative. His Father, of course, knew better, but the Bible does not at all suggest that His Father taught Him differently; and if He had, nothing good but only confusion would have been the result. The four gospels reflect essentially the same culture, and therefore we read, for example,

Matthew 4:8. Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor;

This is obviously not an accurate description of an historic event! Rather it reflects the cultural belief that the earth is flat—a belief that is taught in Genesis, especially in Gen. 1:6–7:

ויאמר אלהים יהי רקיע בתוך המים ויהי מבדיל בין מים למים׃

ויעשׂ אלהים את־הרקיע ויבדל בין המים אשׁר מתחת לרקיע ובין המים אשׁר מעל לרקיע ויהי־כן׃

Genesis 1:6. And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.”

7. So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. (NRSV)

To persons who are not familiar with the history of the translation of the Hebrew word רָקִיעַ (rā·qî·a‘), translating it using the English word “dome” rather than “firmament” or “expanse” may seem absurd. The 1395 edition of the Wycliffe Bible reads at Genesis 1:6,

And God seide, The firmament be maad in the myddis of watris, and departe watris fro watris.

However, the Wycliffe Bible is translated from the Latin Vulgate which reads at Genesis 1:6,

dixit quoque Deus fiat firmamentum in medio aquarum et dividat aquas ab aquis

The 1535 (and 1537) Miles Coverdale Bible reads at Genesis 1:6,

And God sayde: let there be a firmament betwene the waters, and let it deuyde ye waters a sunder.

However, the Pentateuch in the Miles Coverdale Bible is from Tyndale’s translation of the Hebrew text of the Pentateuch.

The Bishop’s Bible (1568), the Geneva Bible (1587), the King James Version 1611), the English Revised Version (1881), the American Standard Version (1901), and the Revised Standard Version, Second Edition, (1952 edition of the O.T.; 1971 edition of the N.T.) follow suit using the word “firmament.” However, the New American Standard Bible (1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995) uses the word “expanse”; and the English Standard Version (2001, 2011) uses the word “expanse” with the alternative translation, “canopy”. The New Revised Standard Version (1989) uses the word “dome,” as do the first (1971) and second (2010) editions of the New American Bible. Additional translations that use the word “dome” include the following:

Common English Bible (2011)
Complete Jewish Bible (2011)
Contemporary English Version (1995)
Expanded Bible (2011)
Good News Translation (1992)
Lexham English Bible (2012)
New Revised Standard Version Anglicized (1989, 1995)
New Revised Standard Version Anglicized Catholic Version (1989, 1993, 1995)
Revised Standard Version Anglicized Catholic Version (1989, 1993)

But what was the firmament? Merriam Webster’s online dictionary (which in print is Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary—Eleventh Edition) gives us the following definition:

: the vault or arch of the sky :heavens

The Oxford University dictionaries, of which there are several, concur. The English word ‘firmament’ is a translation of the Hebrew word, רָקִיעַ. In the Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, we find an excellent article (Vol. III, pp. 568–569 [two lengthy columns of fine print per page] on the word רָקִיעַ. Of special importance is the following from the article,

The verb רָקַע, raká, means to expand by beating, whether by the hand, the foot, or any instrument. It is especially used, however, of beating out metals into thin plates (Exod. xxxix, 3, Numb. xvi, 39), and hence the substantive רַקֻּעַים “broad plates” of metal (Numb. 16:38). (The italics are theirs).

Furthermore, the Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament by Brown, Driver, and Briggs published by Oxford University gives us the following meaning of word רָקִיעַ in Gen. 1:7, “the vault of heaven, or ‘firmament,’ regarded by Hebrews as solid, and supporting ‘waters’ above it.” (p. 956). Moreover, John Skinner, the late Principal and Professor of Old Testament Language and Literature at Westminster College, Cambridge, in his commentary on the Hebrew text of Genesis, writes,

6-8 Second Work: The Firmament.— The second fiat calls into existence a firmament, whose function is to divide the primeval waters into an upper and lower ocean, leaving a space between as the theater of further creative developments. The “firmament” is the dome of heaven, which to the ancients was no optical illusion, but a material structure, sometimes compared to an “upper chamber” (Ps. 104:12, Am 9:6) supported by “pillars” (Jb 26:11), and resembling in its surface a “molten mirror” (Jb 37:18). Above this are the heavenly waters, from which the rain descends through “windows” or “doors” (Gn 7:11, 8:2, 2 Ki 7:2, 19) opened and shut by God at His pleasure (Ps 78:23).

For further and much more extensive proof that the word רָקִיעַ is correctly translated as “dome” rather than “expanse” as some people incorrectly claim, please see this article: Seely, P.H., The firmament and the water above. Part I: The meaning of raqiac in Gen. 1:6–8, Westminster Theological Journal 53:227–240. 1991. (Westminster Theological Seminary is ultraconservative and Reformed in it theology, and it teaches the infallibility of the Bible!)

The KJV and many other translations use the word firmament which comes from the Latin word firmamentum. Firmamentum is the Latin word for ‘support’! And indeed, that support, the dome, would have had to be immensely strong to hold up the weight of the water above it—enough water to cover even Mount Everest! (Just one gallon of water weighs approximately 8.35 lb (about 3.785 kg).

If the ‘windows’ (NRSV) or ‘floodgates’ (KJV) in the dome through which “The rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights” (Gen 7:12) were real—it necessarily follows that the dome was also real. [In Gen. 1:8, God called the dome ‘heaven’ (Heb. שָׁמַיִם), and, therefore, the windows of heaven (Heb. שָׁמַיִם) in Gen. 7:11 were windows in the dome]. Believing in the flood while denying the reality of the windows in the dome, as some do, is disbelieving the historicity of Genesis 1–11. Either both are historical—or neither are historical, and the earth was not, in 2349 B.C., a flat disk covered with a dome with floodgates in it! God is not a liar, and He never said that Genesis 1-11 is an accurate account of historical events. Indeed, Genesis 1–11 is a collection of epic tales, sagas, and legends redacted and woven together by divine inspiration to teach us basic truths about ourselves and our Creator.

However, some people claim that Genesis 1–11 must be an accurate account of historic events for if not, the message of the gospel falls apart. This claim is not true for even without Genesis 1–11—and references to it in other parts of the Bible—we have the Gospel message fully intact.

Our English word “gospel’ is a translation of the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον which is found in the Greek New testament 76 times—and never in the context of Genesis 1–11. The cognate verb εὐαγγελίζω is found in the Greek New testament 54 times—and never in the context of Genesis 1-11. The bad news is that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (NRSV) the good news (the gospel) is that “they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. (NRSV)

Young earth creationism is wholly dependent upon Genesis 1–11 being an accurate account of historic events—a premise that has been shown above to be incorrect. Moreover, that premise has been known for well over a century by our Jewish and Roman Catholic friends—and nearly all Protestant scholars of the Hebrew Old Testament teaching in our very best seminaries and universities—to be severely incorrect. Furthermore, every year, hundreds of thousands of young people are asked to choose between the Bible as they have been wrongly taught it and science that has been proven to be correct, and the vast majority of these young people wisely choose to believe the truth that God has manifested to them through science. But alas! That truth, as true as it is, is incapable of saving their souls from the eternal fires of hell! The solution is to teach our young people an accurate and academically defensible interpretation of the Bible which will lead to their salvation and maturing in Christ.

“We’re not the ones bending the Bible backwards to try to make it compatible with the secular academy. As much as the secularists may call us nutters, they think those like you are shysters. Is it better to be seen as an idiot or a liar?”

Pastors and teachers of the word of God who treasure it so highly that they carefully and prayerfully invest very much of their lives studying the Scriptures in the languages in which God chose to give them to us do not deserve to be falsely accused of “bending the Bible backwards.” I have both a good secular* and a good sacred education. During my years at the university as a graduate student studying toward a Ph.D. in the biology of natural populations with a focus on evolutionary biology, I never heard anyone say, imply, or suggest that the scholars of the Hebrew Old Testament teaching in our very best seminaries and universities are “shysters.” However, I most certainly did hear young earth creationist being called such names. And in my ministry to a fellowship of atheists whom I knew over a period of a few years, I learned that the large majority of them had previously been active members of fundamentalist churches that taught young earth creationism. I also learned that none of them had been active members of churches pastored by men or women who were fluent in Greek and Hebrew and who preached and taught an academically defensible interpretation of Genesis 1–11. Furthermore, although they laughed to scorn young earth creationists, they spent many hours with me discussing the Hebrew text of the Old Testament—and freely told me that they had had no idea whatsoever that when Genesis 1–11 is studied in its cultural context, all of their objections to it were washed away.

Indeed, when the gospel is commingled with young earth creationism, the gospel becomes contaminated and unpalatable. The pure gospel, however, is the fountain of life.

*I am not using the word ‘secular’ in a pejorative manner; I am using the word ‘secular’ to express the concept of that which is not overtly religious or sacred. In young earth creationism, however, the word ‘secular’ is used pejoratively when speaking of the well over 3,000,000 scientists who have earned at least one doctorate in a science and who believe that the earth is old; whereas the word ‘secular’ is used non-pejoratively when speaking of the fewer than 50 scientists who have earned a doctorate in a science and who believe that the earth is young.

CMI’s Shaun Doyle responds:

Dear Thomas,

Thanks for your response. You and I have different experiences; I think that’s as far as we need to take your comments on your experiences. And obviously from your point of view our views are a blight on the church. As yours are from our point of view. All that establishes is that the debate matters. The only way to establish who is right is by the arguments—no other way. As such, I’ll focus on your main arguments.

Jesus, Paul, and Genesis

This is a huge admission:

The Apostle Paul was raised as a Jew but in a Hellenistic culture, and his writings strongly reflect his cultural upbringing. He was raised loving the Old Testament Scriptures, which he regarded as being inspired by God, and he apparently interpreted Genesis 1–11 as being an accurate, historical narrative. Jesus, in His humanity was fully man—including his finite brain!—and therefore He was far from omniscient. Like Paul, He apparently interpreted Genesis 1–11 as being an accurate, historical narrative. His Father, of course, knew better, but the Bible does not at all suggest that His Father taught Him differently; and if He had, nothing good but only confusion would have been the result.

You realize that for most Bible believing Christians admitting that Jesus and Paul agree with us would settle the matter in our favour, right?

But what of your pushbacks? First, Jesus’ lack of omniscience during His humiliation (or, more correctly, He did not access His full knowledge base) does not mean He taught outright error. It’s one thing for Jesus to not know something (such as the timing of His return) and acknowledge His lack of knowledge. It’s a completely different thing for Him to (unknowingly?) teach falsehood about the Bible during His messianic campaign.

Indeed, we cannot disassociate Jesus from the Father’s omniscience when it concerns His messianic teaching. Consider John 12:47–50:

“If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

Jesus is the one the Father told the disciples to listen to (Mark 9:7). But if, as you say, Jesus’ interpretation of Genesis was wrong, then His credibility as the Messiah is deeply undermined.

Nor can we make Jesus’ views on Genesis a mere sop to the culture of his day. There were Jewish interpreters in Jesus’ day who held non-historical interpretations of at least parts of Genesis 1–11, such as Philo of Alexandria regarding the days of Genesis 1 reflecting a logical rather than chronological order of creation (De Opificio Mundi 13). Nor was Jesus averse to confusing people (Mark 4:11–12). And Jesus was willing to contradict popular expectations of what the Messiah would be (i.e. a king who conquered Israel’s geopoliticial enemies and oppressors through war) and forge a different path. He confused people so much with something as crucial to His ministry as His idea of what the Messiah was to be that even His disciples didn’t properly get it until after His Resurrection, and He is still rejected by non-Christian Judaism to this day. So, I don’t think we can write off Jesus’ understanding of Genesis as a mere sop to the culture of His day. See The Kenotic Heresy and Genesis compromise for more information.

In fact, the ‘culture of the day’ argument doesn’t even work. Consider Isaiah (Isaiah 54:9), the Chronicler (1 Chronicles 1:1–27), and of course God at Mount Sinai (Exodus 20:8–11). They all treat elements of Genesis 1–11 as history. So, were they too bound by the cultures of their day? That doesn’t work, though. Either some or all of these passages were authored in the same culture that Genesis 1–11 was. This is true whether you adopt a traditional approach to the authorship of these OT passages or a ‘critical’ approach.

And think about the ramifications of this ‘culture of the day’ gambit. You would also need to say that of every culture until 18th century Europe, since practically everyone until then read Genesis 1–11 as an accurate historical narrative. Indeed, if any Christians struggled to read it that way, knowing that Jesus and Paul did likely would’ve satisfied them.

And this idea that modern scholarship agrees with you that the author’s intent in Genesis 1–11 was not to give accurate history is utterly false. See this statement from Oxford Hebraist James Barr:

‘… probably, so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1–11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that:
  1. creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience
  2. the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story
  3. Noah’s flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguish all human and animal life except for those in the ark.’

Barr made this statement in the 1980s. And he was no young-earther; he was neo-orthodox. While he agreed with us on what the author of Genesis 1–11 intended to convey, He just thought the author was wrong.

Strangest perhaps is how you employ an appeal to theological consequences to bolster your claim that Genesis 1–11 isn’t an accurate historical account:

God is not a liar, and He never said that Genesis 1–11 is an accurate account of historical events.

Can you not see that the very same theological rationale, i.e. that God isn’t a liar, cuts against you? Jesus (God incarnate) and Paul (God-inspired author of Scripture) not only agree with us on how to interpret Genesis 1–11, but employ that interpretation to make significant claims about the nature of marriage (Mark 10:2–8) and even salvation itself (Romans 5, 8; 1 Corinthians 15). If they did that, we should consider their interpretation of Genesis 1–11 (which is the only interpretation of Genesis 1–11 one will find in the Bible, BTW) correct. To do otherwise would be to count God a liar in His word, since He inspired Paul, and He commanded Jesus what to say (John 12:47–50) and told His disciples to listen to Him (Mark 9:7). I’m amazed that you are so blasé about the theological consequences of that.

Jesus and Paul should be enough reason by themselves to read Genesis 1–11 the way we do. To say otherwise is to make God a liar (directly, in the case of Jesus). But they’re hardly the only ones to read Genesis 1–11 as history. The history of interpretation, from the OT authors to the present day, agrees with us: Genesis 1–11 intends to convey accurate history. If you want to submit to Scripture, you have to submit to that fact.

Reject the cosmology, therefore reject the history?

What then, of your other arguments? I found it rather strange that, for all you wrote, your textual argument against the historical view of Genesis 1–11 basically boiled down to this non sequitur:

Believing in the flood while denying the reality of the windows in the dome, as some do, is disbelieving the historicity of Genesis 1–11. Either both are historical—or neither are historical, and the earth was not, in 2349 B.C., a flat disk covered with a dome with floodgates in it!

It conflates the setting with the sequencing and chronology, as if the literalness and historicity of one guarantees the literalness and historicity of the other. It doesn’t. Whatever we do with the cosmological language, it’s clear that ‘the windows of the heaven opening up’ refers to torrential rain. Can we believe it rained, even if we don’t believe the cosmological picture the author paints for the source of the rain is literally true? Of course! Maybe the ‘windows of heaven’ language is poetic language used for dramatic effect. Maybe the author believed in such a false cosmology, but God allowed enough ambiguity in the language so that His words in the text don’t rise to the level of an unambiguous affirmation of a falsehood. Or maybe the author really did intend to describe a physical cosmology he believes in. Whatever the case, it doesn’t affect the truth of claim that it rained. ANE expert Noel Weeks makes the same point (Problems in interpreting Genesis: Part 1):

“Sometimes it seems that those who claim that the Bible used the symbols of its day are merely trying to say that it used a naive as opposed to a scientific cosmology, or, to put it more popularly, it did not bother to correct the prevalent three-story cosmology. If we assume for the sake of the argument that this is the case, then it should be clearly recognized that all we have established is that scientific dogma should not be made out of Biblical cosmology. The argument has no relevance to other parts of the account like the creation of animals, man, etc. Unfortunately this argument is generally used without this careful delimitation. Generally it is argued that the fact that one element shows the use of nonscientific concepts proves that the whole uses naive ideas whose details may not be pressed.”

‘Ancient cosmology’ and raqîa‘

But what about all that stuff about raqîa‘? We’ve written on this before, even specifically in response to Paul Seely’s arguments: Is the raqîa‘ (‘firmament’) a solid dome? and Is the ’erets (earth) flat?. Indeed, they engendered several exchanges between the author and Seely himself (Is the ‘erets (earth) flat? and Is the word ‘earth’ (’eretz) equivocal?). Please search our website in the future.

On ‘ancient cosmology’ more generally, I might also recommend reading some more recent articles in WTJ from an ANE specialist who agrees with our views, Noel Weeks.1,2 There are reasons to be skeptical of Seely’s sweeping claims about the ubiquity of his ‘ancient cosmology’ in the Ancient Near East.

Historical narrative, or tapestry of tales?

In my previous response, I almost begged for a way to make the Bible compatible with deep time. Let me be clear: I was looking for a positive way to read Genesis 1–11, not an abortive attempt to undercut our view. The only overture you give to this suggestion is a single sentence:

“Indeed, Genesis 1-11 is a collection of epic tales, sagas, and legends redacted and woven together by divine inspiration to teach us basic truths about ourselves and our Creator.”

No evidence or argument for your view. And there’s no way the meaning of one word can justify this interpretation of 11 chapters of text. For more evidence (I provided plenty of ‘history of interpretation’ evidence above), please see Genesis as ancient historical narrative.

Gospel and Genesis

I agree with you that people can believe the Gospel without reference to Genesis (Do I have to believe in a historical Genesis to be saved?). The problem is that the Bible doesn’t present our sin problem as a mere existential crisis untethered to the history of humanity and the world (The good news without the bad news is no news at all!). History grounds theology; that’s not true just in the New Testament, but also in the Old, from which the New Testament got its concern for history (Redemptive history and evolution don’t mix and Remembering God’s mighty acts: The Bible calls us to read its narrative in ways that contradict ‘deep time’). The issue isn’t that Genesis is a part of the gospel; the issue is that playing fast and loose with the history of Genesis can lead people to distort or disregard the gospel. Why? The Gospel is not so easily removed from its redemptive-historical context as long-agers would like (for a book-length treatment of this, see Creation, Fall, Restoration).

Conclusion

To admit that Jesus and Paul agreed with us really is the death knell of your view. A lack of omniscience on Jesus’ part doesn’t mean He taught error. Indeed, the Father told Him what to say! And the ‘culture of the day’ argument doesn’t work because the culture in which Genesis was written understood it the way Jesus and Paul (and we) do. And for all your bluff and bluster about raqîa‘ (which we have addressed on the website), it didn’t even matter because your operative textual ‘argument’ that used that data was a complete non sequitur.

You said your primary concern was truth. You said you want to put Christ at the centre. Then do it—listen to Jesus. After all, He is the way, the truth, and the life. And it’s what the Father told us to do!

Kind regards,
Shaun Doyle
Creation Ministries International

References and notes

  1. Weeks, N.K., The ambiguity of biblical “background”, WTJ 72:219–236, 2010. Return to text.
  2. Weeks, N.K., The Bible and the “universal” ancient world: a critique of John Walton, WTJ 78:1–28, 2016. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

The Genesis Account
by Jonathan Sarfati
From
US $24.00
Creation, Fall, Restoration
by Andrew S Kulikovsky
US $24.00
Soft cover
From Creation to Salvation
by Lita Cosner
From
US $12.00
The Gap Theory
by Dr Jonathan Sarfati
US $0.20

Readers’ comments

Graham P.
Excellent piece. Where exactly in the scriptures are we told that Jesus the Son of God was not omniscient when He came in the flesh, though?
I mean, to somebody at the level of an innocent bystander, Jesus was all-powerful: He revealed His glory to the disciples on the mountain, where He glowed like the sun. He was able to summon legions of angels, to create thousands of bit of bread and fish apparently from nothing.
To the person uninfluenced by modern church points of view, Jesus displays supernatural knowledge: He saw Nathaneal under the fig tree, without being there. He knew the men who would provide the pass-over dining-room, He foresaw the fish that Peter would catch to pay the taxes. To all intents and purposes Jesus knew everything. In the gospels we never see Jesus declare ignorance of anything except the day and the hour of His second coming, which He explicitly said only the Father Himself knows.
Perhaps we should call out those who claim Jesus' earthly knowledge was limited. After all, the devil said to Him 'if you are the Son of God, turn these stones to bread'. Why would the devil say that, if Jesus' powers (including His omniscience) were limited? It is illogical to argue Jesus was omnipotent but not omniscient. Could the devil have known things the Son of God didn't?

Can we imagine our Lord telling His disciples "Ahhh, Peter old chap, I'm not sure why this lady was blind from birth...but Rabbi so and so says...." But on the contrary, the crowds were amazed at Jesus' teaching, because He taught with authority.
Shaun Doyle
Jesus certainly had supernatural access to knowledge while on earth. Nonetheless, Mark 13:32 makes it clear that, while on earth, there were some things Jesus didn't know: "But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father [emphasis added]." We have to take that into account in how we understand the Incarnation.
Terry D P.
Comment on: “Jesus, in His humanity was fully man—including his finite brain!—and therefore He was far from omniscient.”
Far from omniscient? Really? How then did he know this—
‘Your father Abraham was overjoyed to see my day; he saw it and was glad.’ The Jews pro-tested, ‘You are not yet fifty years old. How can you have seen Abraham? Jesus said, ‘In very truth I tell you, before Abraham was born, I am.’ — Jn§8:56-58
Shaun Doyle
Whether Jesus was far from omniscient while on earth, I can't say. He certainly displayed many feats of knowledge that no ordinary man could have shown. Nonetheless, Mark 13:32 shows that there was at least one thing Jesus didn't know while on earth: "But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father [emphasis added]."
Geoff C. W.
Thomas M reminds me of an excellent moment in Get Smart when The Blaster was coming into town to blow up the US Internal Revenue Building:

Max: At least we've got one thing to go on.
Chief: What's that?
Max: You remember when I was listening to the two KAOS men? One of them said The Blaster was coming into the country with "The Lover.
" I've been working on that piece of information for two days now, and you know what?
Chief: You've got the answer?
Max: No, I've wasted two days.

"A little learning is a dangerous thing" (Alexander Pope)
Perhaps in some cases, a lot of learning is even more dangerous!

There is no science that is inconsistent with the Bible. That just proves how good science is - when properly handled.
Zach S.
If raqîa truly strictly meant a "solid dome" then how would birds be able to fly inside of it? Which is what Genesis Chap. 1 also describes. BTW all those translations Thomas listed are all modern liberal translations, while if you look back at the early church fathers they clearly understood the "firmament" to be the sky of the visible "heavens". Firmament can also mean something flexible, which could also mean our atmosphere which is hard but also flexible, and we know now that water exists abundantly in the universe throughout the far edges, and many universal material is made from said water. I think Thomas may need to study a little extra harder and not rely on what liberal scholars (Westminster Theological Seminary is certainly not "ultraconservative" btw. If you've ever read their material they're one of the most liberal seminary's today) are dribbling out.
Shaun Doyle
I highly recommend our article Is the raqîa‘ (‘firmament’) a solid dome?. There's no harm in admitting that at least some early church fathers believed in an outdated cosmology, and read their understanding of cosmology into the Bible. Some of them did. The main point, though, is that the Bible underdetermines a commitment to practically any cosmology.
Melvyne C.
An excellent article. To me, the word “firmament” also means the solidity of heaven which is the true abode of God and surrounding us. In God, we live and have our being (Acts 17:28).

My understanding of Mark 13:32 - Jesus not knowing the time of the second coming, is one of obedience to the Father. Jesus could have asked the Father, but he chooses not to in obedience. Such does not detract from the omniscience of Jesus, as He and the Father are one (Jn 10:30).

Jesus then obedient to the law and will of the Father, doing something Adam could not do. Jesus thus rectifying the first major sin, disobedience to the Law.

The Law at Sinai of God/Jesus, confirms a major truth of Genesis, the Holy Trinity created in six days, only then did natural law came into operation.
John K.
Thomas M. says, 'If the ‘windows’ (NRSV) or ‘floodgates’ (KJV) in the dome through which “The rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights” (Gen 7:12) were real—it necessarily follows that the dome was also real.' Well I just googled the phrase 'The sun rose on a scene of devastation' and the first link was to The Denver Channel.com containing a news story from May 23rd on how tornadoes and floods have caused devastation in the central US. The report contains the phrase, 'The extent of that damage became apparent as the sun rose Thursday morning'. According to Thomas M.'s logic if the news report is true then so is geocentrism! This sort of use of language is not unusual in news reports (the same search brought up a story from the Washington Post employing a similar phrase while reporting on the 2011 Japanese Tsunami) and of course we recognise when idioms or metaphors are being used without in any way detracting from the truth of the news events being reported.

Reading Thomas' account of the extent of his knowledge and research (263 commentaries on Romans!) brought to mind Paul's warning to Timothy: 'For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.' Hence, 'Preach the Word!'

We all face the danger of reading our own ideas into God's word but if, as part of the local church with anointed teaching, we stick to what God has actually written, pray for revelation and ask Jesus to open our minds to the scriptures so we can understand(as he did for the disciples on the road to Emmaus) then God will give us wisdom regarding the truth.
Robert S.
Shaun- great response to Thomas. Very helpful! To Terry and Graham- Excellent thoughts as well!
Mark G.
A note for other Christians thinking along these lines, here is what Jesus said about Himself while under limitless anointing and in the presence of the Father.

Joh 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
Jesus did not only speak truth. Everything He said, did and was is truth. He is the living word of God. There is no lie in His just as there is no lie in the Father.

Accusations that Jesus spoke in error fly in the face of what Jesus said about Himself before He gave Himself willingly to die on the cross for you and for me. This sacrifice was accepted and the temple veil was rent in two. It is on this basis that we have hope for eternity with him.

Many in the body of Christ are playing a very dangerous game here.
Bill D.
Jesus did in fact "know" all things. However He did not "reveal" all things to his disciples. The Greek word for "to know" can also be translated as "to make known". Our Lord was not going to "make known" to His followers the day or the hour of His coming.

But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. 33 Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. 34 For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. 35 Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: 36 Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. 37 And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch. Mark 13:32-37

The apostle Paul also used the word "know" in this way. When he stated, "For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 1 Corinthians 2:2 Here he uses the word "to know" in the sense of revealing, explaining, or proclaiming. There is an excellent You Tube which discusses this use of the Greek word "eido".in this way. It is produced by a group called "Deo Volente" if anyone wants to search out this You Tube. The posting rules prohibit from posting the link, but those interested can Google for it.
Shaun Doyle
Mark 13:32 doesn't talk about Jesus (or the Father) revealing knowledge to others; it talks about several classes of people (humans, angels, Jesus) who He says don't "know" that day or hour. Jesus clearly lists himself among those who don't "know". Whether in Greek or English, Mark 13:32 is clear and plain: Jesus (along with angels and humans) didn't know the exact timing of His return.
RONALD M.
Just two notes. First, this was a great article and I am shocked at the weakness of the old earth arguments.
Second, concerning the previous commenters, we have to be careful to demand the reality of Jesus' full humanity just as we do his full deity. It is not always easy because sometimes the man Jesus seems to do what is impossible for mere men. Also, sometimes the language seems to have deity suffer, "crucified the Lord of glory." It just shows that no one has ever been or ever will ever be like Jesus the God-man. Even in eternity, no believer will never be "God."
If the man Jesus always knew everything, he could not have increased in knowledge and wisdom, which he did - and he and his parents clearly knew this fact (Lk 2:41-52).
Richard P.
Good article in general, Shaun. But I'm disturbed by your comment, "Or maybe the author really did intend to describe a physical cosmology he believes in. Whatever the case, it doesn’t affect the truth of claim that it rained."
The ultimate author is God, and only he could provide the information about some of the events in Genesis — such as the ultimate physical causes of the flood (as well as most of what happens in chapter 1).
It seems to me that such an intentional description that is factually incorrect would have to impact the credibility of the whole of Genesis, including even the claim that it rained. So I think this is a more important matter than you are (apparently) suggesting.
I wonder if you would be willing to provide a clarification on this point?
Shaun Doyle
My point was about textual meaning; not about a theology of the Bible. I agree that, since the ultimate author of Genesis is God, it won't unambiguously assert a false cosmology. I think either of the other options I mentioned is correct (i.e. either the 'windows of heaven' language was intended to be poetic, or it's sufficiently ambiguous to justify a poetic reading as the divinely intended meaning). But purely as a matter of textual meaning, I have to acknowledge the theoretical possibility of the third option.

I mentioned it for another reason, too: there are professing Christians who hold that the Bible can be wrong on matters of cosmology and still be regarded as 'perfectly true' (see The Bible and hermeneutics). We obviously reject such a view, and I have done so explicitly in Why biblical authority matters. However, even if one accepts such a view we can't write off one claim just because another claim in the text is false. That's simply bad reading comprehension.

Take for instance the statement the likes of which one might easily find from the pen of a Roman historian: "The divine Augustus went to Brindisi." Does the fact that Augustus wasn't divine impact the truth of the claim that he went to Brindisi? Of course not. My point is this: even if (per impossibile, since God is the ultimate author of Genesis) the (human) author of Genesis 7:11 intended to describe a physical cosmology that we now know is faulty, it wouldn't mean the claim that it rained was false. That's a non sequitur. The two claims are distinct, and need to be treated as such. The commenter made a logical leap between two elements of the text that he had no justification for.
Frank G.
It never ceases to amaze me how far someone will go to try to rationalize the Bible to fit with secular thinking -- old earth, evolutionism, etc. It's especially pathetic when one sees how scientifically bankrupt such thinking is, or when one discovers how much of it originated for the specific purpose of trying to invalidate the Bible.
Lassi P.
I was delighted to see some people who oppose biblical creation at least give some sort of arguments. Even more delighted to read Shaun's response though.

I get the impression that "the floodgates of heaven" was a common way of speaking just like "it rained cats and dogs". Now if I said it rained cats and dogs in Espoo, Finland the day before yesterday, using a common formula of speech would in no way indicate I didn't mean to convey a literal rain.

I also wonder why a truth-loving christian would write a lengthy response to CMI without even knowing that no biblical creationist believes that the floodwaters covered the post-flood mountains like mount Everest.
Lester V.
One reason Jesus came to earth was to give us an example of how man was intended to live, in relationship to God. As such, we need to have available to us every resource He had available to HIm, or his example would be meaningless, since we wouldn't be able to follow it. Jesus never did anything supernatural (i.e., miracles, healings, supernatural insight or knowledge, etc.) until after He was anointed and filled with the Holy Spirit following His baptism by John the Baptist. From that time on, everything He did was in the power of the Holy Spirit - both speaking and acting only what the Holy Spirit revealed the Father was saying or doing. The enablements were in the Holy Spirit, indwelling Jesus, not in Jesus's humanity. Everything supernatural that Jesus did, or said, or knew can be identified with one or more of the so-called "gifts of the Spirit" described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12-14. When Jesus said, in John 14:12, that His followers (including those living today) would do the same, and even greater, works He did, He was indicating that the same power of the Holy Spirit that anointed Him would enable those who believe on HIm to operate in the same "gifts" He did, just as it had the Old Testament prophets and leaders. Jesus's "access to supernatural knowledge" was from the Holy Spirit, and not from being the second member of the Trinity.
Gian Carlo B.
It’s like this guy hasn’t even bothered to read JP Holding’s assessment on erets and raquiya. And overly hyped his ‘knowledge’ on ‘reading 263 commentaries’. But more on his brave admission: it’s typical of this guy. They know that if they hold to orthodox ideas about Jesus (God incarnate and infallible), then Jesus teaching Genesis as history will haunt them. So, a lot have to say that Jesus didn't teach Genesis as history, but no Hebrew scholar nor NT scholar accepts that view or at least takes that view seriously. So I agree, Doyle. Admitting that Jesus taught Genesis as history is a death knell to compromisers. Then there are those of the like of John H. Walton; but people like Noel Weeks and even Peter Leithart (personally, when I read his critique to Walton, I was like: “Peter Leithart destroyed John Walton with facts and logic”.) have shown Walton’s methodology and premises are unsound.
JAMES V.
The Lord Jesus consistently affirmed that His very words were always and solely what the Father had given Him to speak. Therefore, any blasphemous assertion of error on the Son's part is also a blasphemous assertion of error on the Father's part.
"For I have not spoken from myself, but the Father who sent me has himself given me commandment what I should say and what I should speak." (John 12:49)
"For he whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives not the Spirit by measure." (John 3:34)
"Jesus therefore answered them and said, My doctrine is not mine, but that of him that has sent me. If any one desire to practise his will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is of God, or that I speak from myself. He that speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but he that seeks the glory of him that has sent him, he is true, and unrighteousness is not in him." (John 7:16-18)
"Jesus therefore said to them, When ye shall have lifted up the Son of man, then ye shall know that I Am, and that I do nothing of myself, but as the Father has taught me I speak these things." (John 8:28)
"Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words which I speak to you I do not speak from myself; but the Father who abides in me, he does the works." (John 14:10)
"He that loves me not does not keep my words; and the word which ye hear is not mine, but that of the Father who has sent me." (John 14:24)
"For the words which thou hast given me I have given them, and they have received them, and have known truly that I came out from thee, and have believed that thou sentest me." (John 17:8)
"I have given them thy word, and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, as I am not of the world." (John 17:14)
Egil W.
I think what confuses many is that time, the age of the world, the earth, seems to be a quite neutral subject at first glance.

I remember at Creation Mag live, the age-issue was said to be a ‘Trojan Horse’: Charles Lyell wanted to attack the authority of ‘Moses’ through a seemingly harmless field. That was geological deep time, ie alleged almost infinte past eons. This paved the way for Darwin. His ‘Origin of the Species’ and ‘Descent of Man’.
(None of them with particulary pious views of nature, reality or the human nature)

And the consequences?

For some, they never give it much thought.

For those who delve into what 500++ million years of wasteful trial & error in nature, bloodshed and pain unspeakable, the interbreeding of men with half-apes... would imply... coherence forces one to confront a very disturbing picture; if theologized, a God-view twisted out of all proportions (but many don’t seem to care, the esteem of men seems the greater attraction).

Not to mention that the usual secularistic evolutionist has no room for a lost paradise, an actual Fall of Man, the reality of Original sin or even sin as a real phenomena to separate Man from God.

Re-mythologization of Genesis is a bad, bad, bad idea.

Its the road to liberal theology; the undoing of Europe as a Christian continent.

Will the educated, semi-moderate theologian or semi-moderate lay-Christian follow... that path...?

Could be an idea to learn from the past; learn from history.

We live already, - in my opinion -, in the West, in an age of apostasy.

It seems everything is more important to many than to take to heart that the Bible is absolute true.

Absolute.

That... rules out myths and legends.
Joe B.
Thomas wrote: “Furthermore, every year, hundreds of thousands of young people are asked to choose between the Bible as they have been wrongly taught it and science that has been proven to be correct, and the vast majority of these young people wisely choose to believe the truth that God has manifested to them through science.”

If this is the case, why then have so many of our youth left the church when taught evolutionary theory (which is a direct attack on God). Repeatedly, ‘science’ has been proven to be in need of correction, and each time the corrections make it line up more and more with the Bible. In fact, the Bible MUST come first since it does not change. We can glean convincing proof that the Bible is accurate and true based on fulfilled prophecy, accurate historical accounts, and much more. Science would not even be possible without the God of order and truth that inspired the Bible. So these young people have been lied to by both the unknowing and the malevolent when taught that Genesis can only be allegory. Science is only a method (one of many) through which we can discover that the Bible is true. Some of us need convincing that the Bible is true and through scientific studies (beyond creation vs evolution); we have learned that it is indeed true.

One of my favorite Bible stories with reference to science is Jacob with Laban’s sheep. Many years ago, I was lambasted for my beliefs that this could even be true by a well-respected and credentialed biologist. Fast forward to the present, epigenetics has shown how environment can have an effect on gene-expression. While this is outside of Genesis 1-11, it well illustrates that from a scientific perspective, the Bible (and God) has been vindicated yet again.

There is so much more that could be said…

-Joe
King T.
This is simply another illustration that (secular) knowledge (so-called) puffs up. Thomas M seems not to realize where he is at. He is sitting solidly in the middle of the atheist's camp (a.l.a Psalm 1) - sitting with the enemies of God who all rubbish Genesis 1 and make a mockery of the talking serpent and the deception that led to our condition. He appeals to the masses of secular scientists for a show of force against those who believe what the bible teaches so plainly - and along with those secular scientists he calls bible believing disciples of Christ shysters and laughs them to scorn. He quotes figures of 3 000 000 against 50 as if that would establish the weight of his biblical authority. Perhaps he should take note of Jesus' words in Matthew 7:13-14
“13 Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and MANY enter through it.
14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a FEW find it."

I am glad he made the damning admission that Jesus seemed to take Genesis 1 - 11 as historical fact, thereby nullifying his whole adherence to the atheistic world view. Once you call Jesus and God liars you have to question whether you are or can be a disciple. He now knows that he is in effect calling God and Jesus liars so I wonder what his inward response is going to be.
Bobby P.
Yeah, this piece makes me sad. It casts doubt on everything else this site publishes... Jesus, while on earth, was the human (born of women) imbodiment of the Holy Spirit. With the Holy Spirit upon him, Jesus had access to what he needed, all the time. There was no error in him. I am truly sadden by this nonsense.
Shaun Doyle
Just in case it's not clear; the commenter's comments are in red, and our response is in black. We agree there was no error in Jesus, and we point out why the commenter's rejection of that is so dangerous.
Norman P.
Sorry, I'm a bit late in commenting, but as it happens, I was re-reading Genesis only this morning. And yes, I can see many open questions to the natural mind - just as Jesus' disciples often had on many things. But I am reminded of 2 Timothy 3:16-17, and even the Gospel is foolishness to the fallen mind.
Reading what Thomas writes, I am mindful of how our risen Lord would deal with the problems (as he sees them). Of one thing we can be assured: the Lord sees our hearts, and discerns our innermost thoughts and motives. Indeed, the discernment of spirits is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:10). And we know that the Spirit was given without measure to Jesus - how wonderful that He otherwise became lowly, as one of us (yet without sin). Were Thomas (and yes, all of us too) to be as good as his word concerning love of the Truth and concern for the lost, I sense the Lord would have compassion. One touch from Jesus, to effect the renewal of the mind, would be enough to elucidate everything here discussed. In short, "Be ye transformed, by the renewing of your minds" (Cf Romans 12:2). May the Lord meet with you, Thomas.
Richard A.
Regarding the firmament, I believe we can understand some basic properties of it based upon phenomenon the Scriptures relate to it. For instance, the waters that were placed (separated) above it. But even more to the point, the sun, moon and stars were placed, and still remain in the firmament, making it billions of light years deep. If these prepositions mean anything, then certainly the firmament is not thin, and the Bible's authors don't seem to care about any cosmology contemporary to their day.
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Mike D.
I am definitely a YEC & firmly plant my flag on Biblical inerrancy. If I'm challenged by a question or something I don't know or can't answer at that time. I never move my flag from inerrancy. I use sites like this etc to search for the answer. If somehow I don't find it. I keep my flag on inerrancy. Knowing someday the answer will come that confirms Biblical inerrancy.

The only thought I've ever wondered about is this. Knowing that the Triune Godhead is eternal in existence & timeless. Therefore, created time at creation of the earth etc around 6000 yrs ago. I've just wondered where in the timelessness past until Time was created at our creation did that time occur? Hope that makes sense. It doesn't matter. It's just a topic I've pondered out of curiosity. We will never know. Our eternity will be timeless like it was before our time of creation 6000 or so yrs ago. Our minds can't truly grasp that.
Praise God for it! I sometimes feel like Paul. I'd love to start my time in my real home of timelessness with our Lord. Yet in no way do I want to go early & not finish the reason for which I was created. I don't want to fail my Lord & Savior. I owe Him everything!
Shaun Doyle
Please see How does God relate to time? for some thoughts on how an eternal God relates to a world with a finite beginning.
Grahame G.
Thanks, Shaun. Excellent response to what is essentially blasphemous nonsense.
Michael H.
I am astonished at Shaun's patience with Thomas. To answer in detail the obviously flawed arguments of Thomas in such detail with such a great response is meritorious indeed. I will save this forum.
Alan C.
The argument for the historicity of Gen.1-11 is completely biblically sound. The argument against it is ridiculous sophistry.
The argument over the 'dome' or 'firmament' is exactly what we are warned against in 1Tim.6:3-4 (and several similar verses about 'foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing they produce quarrels'):
"If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, ...."
George V.
Well done Shaun! Condensed pages of self professed learnedness into a couple of paragraphs of excellent rebuttal and left the rest of the writer's verbosity in the dustbin
Dennis B.
The disciples did miracles also but that didn’t make them omnipotent, they did them through the omnipotence of the Holy Spirit as did Jesus. Jesus could have used His own Divine power but relied on the same power available to all believers through the Father and the Holy Spirit.
All language is made up of literal and figurative elements. The problem is knowing what the writer intended. I’ve noticed that while I take the days of Creation literally and there are those who want to take them figuratively they will then turn around and take expressions that I take figuratively (four corners of the earth, dome of the sky, windows of heaven) literally. So we are all “literalists”, we just pick different words as literal.
As for the devil taking Jesus on a high mountain and showing Him all the kingdoms of the world, you have to believe this never happened and someone just made it up or that the devil didn’t know the world was round which is silly. There is no literal place where you can see all the kingdoms of the world. It had to be some type of panoramic vision.

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