Discussion about concordism, Genesis as a polemic against Egyptian religion, and Day Age Theory

(Marty) #1

Note to moderator: this may be a new thread…

Now hold on thar! And this is not directed at George, but at a number of commenters dismissive of the scientific content which just happens to be there. None of what follows is definitive, but you’ve got to admit the correlation is startling:
Verse 1, the Big Bang.
Verse 2, hovering over the waters, and scientists are just now discovering the early Earth was wet.
Day 1, light, the sun ignites.
Day 2, the atmosphere and Van Allen Belt
Day 3, continent formation
Day 4, Newton first suggested maybe the luminaries became visible at the surface of Earth.
Day 5, sure looks like the Cambrian Explosion. Yes, flying things are a speed bump here.
Day 6, Land animals and mankind.

The Bible is not a science text, but by golly, Genesis 1 got a shocking amount right! These are all important events, and (except flying things) in the correct order. I’m surprised by people who would push 21st century scientific scholarship requirements on the passage, then use great imagination to come up with alternatives. How about we use our imaginations on what is there that matches the science?

And there is not only one lesson in this passage. It’s a polemic against pan- and polytheism. It establishes the human work week. It’s in an interesting form (framework - like a musical form). But it’s all these things, not one or the other.

Until someone can explain why it’s just wrong to see all this incredible correlation with Earth and life history, I’m gonna continue to admire that. It’s the most astonishing passage ever written.

The Language of God gives evidence for an intelligent designer, so why is BL anti-ID?
(Mervin Bitikofer) #2

Points taken, Marty, and thanks for directing that more widely than all on me even though I probably deserve it too.

But meanwhile I have a quick favor to ask before I leave to run lots of errands. Those words you quoted above were actually George’s words, and I will not own them in any way or form, nor did I agree with their tone … hence my reaction back to George. So could you edit your post and insert that it is George you are quoting there? Thanks in advance.

I’m probably less of a concordist than you might be, but far be it from me to dampen anybody’s excitement about how God’s word reaches and teaches them. I celebrate such things right along with you.

(Marty) #3

Sorry, Merv! George now held responsible for the quote! :innocent: Thanks for pointing that out.

And BTW - I’m aggressively in the “soft concordism” camp, and would stay away from “hard concordism” cuz I agree that it’s not a science text.

(Phil) #4

Sort of with you there. I sometimes marvel at what might be, but remind myself not to take it too seriously when things seem to line up. Of course, some would perhaps say that is denying the reading, but I tend to think more along the lines as avoiding reading my interpretation into a text that does not carry that meaning.

(Richard Wright) #5

Hi Marty,

Anyone can look at Genesis 1 as they please, and I’m not going to wreck someone’s faith by trying to prove them wrong, but knowing you, I don’t think there’s much of a risk of that! So, here goes.

Verse 1
Serious believing scholars make a good case about verse 1 not meaning that, but I’ll let that go and concede it to you, since I like to think it refers to the Big Bang as well.

Verse 2
It was at least 100 million years before water covered the earth, and it was not, “deep” at that point. The surface of the earliest earth was hot and molten with volcanoes spewing lava everywhere and meteors crashing into it.

Day 1
Yes, I believe that the light mentioned is from the sun, or more accurately from the sun and moon (from day 4). However, we know that the sun came into being and was alight before the earth formed.

Day 2
Now THAT is a modern, 21st century scientific world view forced into scripture! As Jon has said, they didn’t have a concept of an, “atmosphere” in those days, so it wouldn’t have made sense for God to inspire that. I’ll have more to say on this below, but what is being explicated is a structure (solid or not), that separates the, “above” and, “below” waters.

Day 3
Could be continent formation, but that was a process that lasted about 1.5 billion years.

Day 4
This is fashionable to say these days, but it creates timeline problems.

Day 5
The Cambrian Explosion didn’t have any of the things that are mentioned in the text. Body plans developed, yes, over the 20 million years of the Early Cambrian.

Day 6
This is the least problematic aspect of your concordance, but since the rest of Genesis 1 seems to be a phenomenological view of the world, it would make sense for the most complex biological beings to come last.

I happen to feel strongly that we are not to concord Genesis 1, that is to attempt to harmonize science with it (or the whole bible really), since an honest and plain reading of the text won’t allow it.

There was much more I could have pointed out in your concordance quest, but you could read about it in my recently presented 39-page paper on Genesis 1, which compares the Framework Theory and the Day-Age Theory, but is really about why concordance attempts at Genesis 1 fail at every turn. If you, or anyone reading this is interested, that paper can be found here.

I’ll provide for you a little trailer: people have been making serious attempts at concording Genesis 1 and science for about 300 years now, and no two concordance attempts are the same, partly because scientific interpretations of the data constantly change. But even concordance attempts created at around the same time and using the same data don’t agree with each other, one of the reasons why believing geologist Davis A. Young gave up on it.

(George Brooks) #6


A) First there are fish … then there are birds. What? Speedbump for sure.

B) light, and the sun ignites? It could [edit: left “not” out!] not have ignited if it isn’t visible until Day 4.

C) Then there is the pouring of molten “rock” (translucent rock) to make the firmament, that transmits the color of the heavenly ocean.

D) On that Continent formation, where are the T-Rexes?

(Marty) #7

Hi Richard. Better watch out… As soon as you accept the Big Bang in verse 1, it’s a slippery slope to concordism from there! :wink: But given that no other ANE creation story has a beginning, it is compelling.

I understand your concerns about various concordist attempts, and the different features they choose at different points. And I look forward to reading your paper. From your link, apparently your professor was concordist yet has the integrity to post alternative views. Outstanding!

One of the big problems I have with the framework view is that it’s new. It’s only, like, 100 years old, and I have trouble accepting that God is that bad a communicator that no scholar in thousands of years caught it. To me, it’s interesting to see a form there, but similar to music, the form is not the thing: the music is.

As to your comments on the Days, we could get technical on details. I’ll only push back on Day 5 where “let the water swarm with swarms of living creatures…” From a phenomenological view, isn’t that what the Cambrian would look like?

I think we have to watch out for phrases like “honest and plain reading of the text.” Some people use that same language to justify seven 24 hour days. What I see “plainly” when I read it “honestly” is along the lines of what I wrote, though I might argue with myself about some details. And if we are not to concord Genesis, why are multiple approaches so easy to concord, and why have so many people thought it’s the honest and plain thing to do with the text? That’s just not true with other ANE creation stories.

(Chris Falter) #8

Hi Marty,

I want you to know that I greatly appreciate your irenic tone and willingness to listen as well as to share. As you said of someone else: outstanding!

That point is not entirely true, but it’s certainly worth investigating. In the 5th century, Augustine adopted an approach to Genesis quite close to the framework view: he proposed that God created everything in its current state in the twinkling of an eye, and that (here’s the framework part) the six days of Genesis 1 operated purely symbolically. It’s too bad he did not go on to state whether or not Adam had a belly button; he could have settled a lot of arguments before they even occurred! :slight_smile:

It’s worth noting that if we ought to be wary of an interpretation that is less than 100 years old, then the first idea that might come under a cloud would be the concordance of Genesis 1:1 with the Big Bang, which is clearly quite novel in the history of Biblical interpretation.

The problem with equating the fifth day with the Cambrian era is that the waters of the earth were teeming with creatures long before the Cambrian. The great new feature that emerged in the Cambrian was skeletal structures which could be fossilized, hence the appearance of an explosion to those who equate the lack of fossil skeletons with a dearth of critters. But the seas were in fact teeming with life well before the Cambrian.

I do find the idea of concordism interesting and worthy of exploration. However, on close examination it seems to die a death of a thousand small cuts. Light without the sun on day one. Birds before land creatures on day 5. The Hebrew verb tense in Gen. 1:1 lends support to a translation of “when God began creating the heavens and the earth, the earth was formless and void, and waters covered the face of the deep.” That’s not the full extent of the problems, but it’s a representative sample. With enough energy and special pleading the case for concordism can survive, I reckon; it does not really inspire my confidence, though. The case for the framework hermeneutic just seems much stronger to me, and it yields key insights into the truths that God was revealing to the ancient Hebrews as well as to us, their spiritual heirs. So that’s the approach that has won me over.

I do appreciate the fantastic work that Hugh Ross and Reasons to Believe does with respect to astronomy, physics, and fine-tuning, and I pray you find great success in presenting the case for faith in New England (if memory serves correctly).

Grace and peace,
Chris Falter

(Chris Falter) #9

Hi Marty -

I still find myself unconvinced by the DAT.

Hebrew grammar.

Lack of rigor is a problem is a problem when you’re dealing with science. Interpreting a parable is an inherently multivalent endeavor; ordering events scientifically is not. To keep with the DAT, I need to say to myself, “I’m interpreting this passage in a scientific way, except when I’m choosing not to interpret it in a scientific way because the scientific way would fail.” Like I said previously, the approach doesn’t inspire confidence, IMO.

But my well wishes in my previous note were sincere, and I reiterate them here. Have a great day, and great success in your endeavors!


(Marty) #10

Hi Chris. Thanks for the well wishes, and for your pushback! I do enjoy learning how others see it. That also helps me clarify and give better language to how I see it.

This is probably a nitpick. But if you accept that reading in verse 1, then Day 4 can read, “For God had created…” I’m not an expert, but I know there is a lot of latitude in the Hebrew. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that “when God began” is by no means the required reading.

True … if we were dealing with science as 21st century scientists write. But we’re dealing with it in phenomenological language. It’s mentioned, not rigorous. But I see your point about not inspiring confidence in the approach. A single speed bump can be, for some, one too many.

(Jay Johnson) #11

First, my apologies to @Richard_Wright1 for not replying sooner. Second, we need to remember that Gen. 1 was not written concurrently with the events it describes. The seven-day week predated both the writing of Genesis 1 and the establishment of the covenant at Sinai. Third, the Day-Age Theory has more than a couple of speed bumps to reconcile. Consider Poythress’ own reconciliation:

Granted all these qualifications, a tentative correlation between a scientific account and Gen 1 is not that hard, once we allow each side to tell its story in its own way. The whole scientific account of the history of the universe up until the creation of the earth corresponds to Gen 1:1. Light in day 1 could correspond to the time when the condensing sun begins to give off light because of heating through gravitational contraction. Or, more likely, it could correspond to the initial penetration of light to the surface of the new earth, after an earlier period in which the earth was covered with an opaque atmosphere, encircled by interplanetary debris.

The separation in day 2 could correspond to the establishment of a weather cycle involving the rising of clouds and the coming of rain. Day 3 corresponds to the origins of continents and earlier forms of life. Day 4 corresponds to the oxygenization and clearing of the atmosphere (oxygenization presupposes plant life), so that from earth the heavenly bodies are visible and take on the same appearance that they have at present. Day 5 corresponds to the origin of larger sea animals (fish), and day 6 corresponds to the origin of land animals and mankind. These events are in the same order in Genesis and in a current scientific chronology.

The problems start on Day 1 and continue to Day 6. As Poythress argues earlier in the same essay, the author of Genesis has used an example from common experience – that of seasonal flooding and the reappearance of the earth as the waters recede – to communicate God’s creative act in bringing forth dry and productive land from the primeval chaos of the waters. This makes perfect sense. But when you try to extrapolate the first three days into the beginnings of a weather cycle and the origins of continents, you run into all sorts of conflicts with science.

For example, in 1:2 the earth is formless and void, an early point in its creation, according to Poythress, yet water is present, presumably in the oceans. As far as the science goes, the NOAA puts it like this: “After the Earth’s surface had cooled to a temperature below the boiling point of water, rain began to fall—and continued to fall for centuries. As the water drained into the great hollows in the Earth’s surface, the primeval ocean came into existence.” Thus, the earth began as a hot rock with plenty of water vapor but no water, and the “weather cycle” created the oceans as the earth cooled and water collected on the ground. Even from a phenomenological perspective, an observer would not have seen dry land emerge from the oceans, but the opposite – water collecting where once there had been only dry ground.

And then, skipping over the controversial day 4, day 5 tells of the origin of sea creatures and birds, which Poythress doesn’t mention because they appear before the land creatures on day 6. As we all know from science, birds did not appear before land animals.

Thus, on every single day of the sequential Day-Age Theory, there are problems. It’s not just a few speed bumps.

This is interesting to me. Unless I am completely off base, the implication is that every step along the way, both Jewish and Christian interpreters have been reading Genesis in light of currently accepted cosmology. In other words, Jews in the Hellenistic era of the Septuagint translators accommodated their culture’s prescientific cosmology, Jews and Christians in the first century did the same, Christians in the Copernican era did the same, Christians in the 19th century did the same, and Christians today are doing the same. So, why the outcry?

(Jon Garvey) #12

My answer to that is firstly scientism - the idea that if a thing is not right scientifically, it’s wrong, so it becomes an issue of Scriptural reliability. Secondly, and related, this is the first generation of “orthodox believers” for which there wasn’t an assumption that Scripture was telling God’s truth in God’s words even when it was hard to understand, in need of spiritual interpretation etc.

There’s certainly an interesting project for someone in looking at the way the NT and the early Church actually dealt with these texts in a hellenized context. Certainly nearly all of the Patristic apologists were Greek-educated, and held that the Scriptures were entirely truthful, without having to reject Greek natural philosophy; the sole exception in this period being Lactantius, whose disllusion with Greek philosophy probably had particular causes.

(Matthew Pevarnik) #13

How far should we go with this? Obviously we can at least agree nobody who saw the first copy of Genesis knew anything about such Cosmology. I’ve enjoyed Kyle Greenwood’s account of theologians wrestling with the cosmology of their day (first with Aristotelian Cosmology and then with Copernican Cosmology). Aristotelian Cosmology was much easier for them to integrate into their reading of Scripture (i.e. the sun stopping and descriptions of sunrise and sunset make perfect sense in this cosmology). Copernican Cosmology eventually was integrated into Theology but took some more effort as it did not come naturally to the Scriptures. This is to be expected because the Scriptures were written from the standpoint of an ancient cosmology anyways.

I think my hesitancy with any concordism is that it is never absolute nor can be. I see your concordism, then Hugh Ross with Reasons to Believe has another (I can’t seem to find one too easily), then I came across the book The Genesis Enigma by Andrew Parker which highlights his version of concordism. I snagged a book from the library called ‘The Origin of the World’ written in the 1877 by J.W. Dawson which has his version of concordism in the late 1800s. Some even go quite far today with things, squinting at the Scriptures and finding General Relativity contained in the firmament. Is any or all of this wrong? Well it’s not necessarily a bad thing and I do scratch my head when we ponder what might have occurred knowing that the best ‘concordism’ of today is an incomplete picture of reality.

I actually turn back to Dawson for an interesting reason for our ability to do such concordism as he marvels that the Biblical writers had such constraint in writing the Bible compared to other creation myths. He remarks that the writers largely do not seek to explain physical phenomena but instead limit their commentary to the theological point (i.e. God is the Creator and in control of nature). He refers the reader to other creation myths about gods forging lightning bolts and praises the Scriptures for not seeking to explain the acts of God. Ironically though, I personally would hold that looking to other creation myths actually teaches us that the Biblical writers just wrote in accordance with the Science of their day. And lastly, I personally would go as far as to say that Genesis is not really polemical, but it is an apologetic written to defend their right to inhabit the promised land.

(Jon Garvey) #14

Hi pevaquark. I reply since your post is addressed to me, but with respect I don’t think I’m pushing for concordism. Quite the reverse (and with respect to Babylonian and Egyptian texts as well as the Bible). I don’t think there’s a need to adapt Genesis to modern science because there#s precious little ancient science there.

My belief is that in all three literatures of creation the primary concern is theological. In the biblical case I think that is painted against the background of a pretty basic phenomenology. It may be in the other ANE literature too, but the complexity of their polytheism, particularly in Egypt, makes the phenomenology harder to distinguish.

So to me, showing a tomb-painting of the goddess Nut and saying it shows that the Egyptians believed in a solid sky totally ignores why it was painted - so that the goddess would bring the deceased to herself among the stars.

However, I totally agree with you about the astonishingly restrained tone of the biblical material. But to be fair, some of the New Kingdom literature closest in time to, at least, the Exodus (let’s leave aside the date of Genesis itself) also has a similar simplicity, because at that time the worship of Ptah, I gather, took the form of near-monotheism. Monergism encourages simplicity, it seems - and I would include in that the absence of much need to include “ancient science”.

(Matthew Pevarnik) #15

Oops didn’t mean to reply to you specifically, I meant to reply to the original post! Still getting used to the forums…

(Jon Garvey) #16

No worries! I accidentally reply to myself all the time…

(Phil) #17

If you start responding to your replies, we will start worrying…

(Mike Toreno) #18

Because you’re generalizing to get it to work, and there’s no way to make it work. Verse 1 has a pre-existing earth covered with water, dark, with a wind sweeping across the waters. I disorganized chaotic, mass, which is what God sets out to put in order. Your sequence has the earth just following the big bang, how do you get that to work? Day 2 isn’t “the atmosphere”; it’s a metal dome with windows in it, and it holds up part of the water that was formerly on the earth. This is the separation of the waters above from the waters below.

You’re mushing the text of the Bible around to make it fit what you want it to fit - the parallels with the Enuma Elish are clear. And this helps, it doesn’t hurt, because the presence of Utnapishtim and his ark makes the animal-gathering and tending easier (though still not feasible).

(Christy Hemphill) #19

Hi, Mike, welcome to the forum. You might like this other thread where people are discussion this very thing: All the arguments you ever wanted to read about ANE raquia, firmament, sky, cosmology

(Jon Garvey) #20

Doctor: Do you hear voices in your head?
Patient: No, of course not - and you lot can shut up, too.