Is Baraminology Even Scriptural?

While a literal ‘plain’ reading of the Genesis creation and flood accounts might reasonably supply a theological foundation for YEC, such an approach sidelines the applicable ancient near east [ANE] context. I contend here, however, that YEC has gone from Biblically based to what has bloated to an extravagant sanctum of dogma which eclipses and at times conflicts with scripture. Among these unjustified extra-Biblical assertions has established a conception of ‘created kinds’ which would be foreign to the original authors and audience, as well as most of church history.

YEC needed some way to deal with the number of animals in the modern global catalog, which is orders of magnitude larger than what would have been experienced by anyone living in the ANE. This represents a logistics problem for YEC, in terms of stuffing such a menagerie on the ark. The workaround concocted by YEC has been ‘created kinds’, followed by ‘ark kinds’. The notion is that modern species have radiated from a much more restricted number of kinds - a ferocious hyper evolution, although YEC prefers other terms. Scientifically or historically, this is not a serious proposal, but the question here concerns the validity of YEC’s Biblical interpretation.

There are plenty of YEC word studies attempting to adduce support for a taxonomic meaning to Biblical kinds, for example: this paper from Rahel Davidson Schafer, and this article from AiG. What is telling is that this preoccupation with kinds as ancestral seems to have entirely escaped the notice of theologians and thinkers through the history of the church until modern times. YEC castigates scholars who deviated from historic Biblical interpretations to accommodate the relatively recent discovery of geological age, but they have proven as open to novel interpretation of scripture in introducing manifold species as descended from created kinds. On this count, YEC is just as unable to appeal to any historical figure or church father. The whole idea is a recent invention.

I would contend that the Hebrew allows for nothing like created kinds as promulgated by YEC, based on both lexical and cultural considerations. Language expresses concepts germane to a people’s life and thought. Ancient people did not coin words for our benefit; there is no ancient Hebrew for neutrino or wifi. Speciation was outside the domain of their experience; kinds just referred to a bunch of animals that were always there. When they read the command to be fruitful and multiply, the plain reading would be that when horses mate, fouls result; and when cattle mate, calves result. When lions mate, the offspring are lions, not leopards, cheetahs, or housecats.

The lion, and not some ark kind, features in Jacob’s patriarchal blessing of Judah in Genesis 49:9

You are a lion’s cub, Judah;
you return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down,
like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?

Similarly in the same passage, the donkey is distinguished from the horse, and Benjamin is described as a wolf. The point to this is that, apart from the abundant scientific and historical evidence, from the onset the Bible itself recognizes modern species throughout its entirety, always as distinct animals with Hebrew names. Specifically named creatures which are the same supposed ark kind include lions and leopards; horses and donkeys; foxes, wolves, jackals and dogs; osprey’s, eagles, and falcons; addax and antelope; four species of antelope are distinguished. Even allowing for some looser identifications, it is evident that closely related species are routinely called by name through the Old Testament. And the very opening act of Genesis provides the source of all these animal names as Adam himself.

YEC conveniently brushes off the original Adamic names as probably lost at Babel, so the Bible would not record what Adam called the protocat or other weird creatures which feature in their ark encounter, but the ancient Hebrews were familiar with pre-Babel proper names because their roots are related to common Hebrew words. This goes all the way back - Adam relates to earth, Eve to being the mother of all living, Peleg to divide - even names which are not necessarily relevant to the bearer’s character generally incorporate Hebrew roots. It is doubtful that the ancient Hebrews took these names to be fake, and there is no reason that they would have thought any differently for Adam’s naming of the animals.

YEC likes to claim the plain reading, literal high ground, but if the Hebrews, church fathers, and theologians down the centuries, thought that Adam named all the animals, there goes scriptural impetus for the baramin model. The whole arduous enterprise, with its central place in YEC apologetics, creation journal papers, theorizing on heterozygosity, and routine references like some accepted gospel truth, is all to protect YEC and not burst the ark with animals alive and extinct. It is an extraordinary anachronistic hermeneutic claim, made without any explicit scriptural or historical support.


Even now, I’m still impressed by the amount of effort YEC proponents have put into this “extravagant sanctum of dogma.”

As a young believer I picked Hugh Ross’ The Genesis Question at the local Christian bookstore and never looked back. I’ve come a little further to what is my understanding of the creation account today, but I still hold to what he wrote about the Spirit hovering over the waters as a reference point to interpret the darkness that covered the earth as due to an opaque atmosphere.

And I’m also open to reading in an entirely different way if the scientific data supports it. I know Walton and Longman have described a different reading which I haven’t quite got to yet.

What is of paramount importance for me, is what’s written about the Spirit of God giving the breath life to dust, or determinate matter, and thus the puppet becomes a real person capable of acting without being acted upon.

I’ve never studied the Hebrew, but I would tend to agree with you just based on what I’ve seen from YEC apologetics.

Exactly… “after its kind” means certain types of animals can mate with each other, while others can’t. The attempt to make one little word into the impetus for a massive theory of life is similar to how the flood story is treated – as if it’s a scientific journal. And the implication is that taking scripture “more seriously” is more or less the same thing as reading it scientifically, as if a modern, Western, scientific approach is the only acceptable way to handle scripture “seriously.” I believe John Walton would call that cultural imperialism.


Good point.


It’s a good question, and for me, I am pulling from a book called Before Nature: Cuneiform Knowledge and the History of Science by Francesca Rochberg. There we find a summary of research from the ANE where Rochberg summarizes (p.99-100):

"Veldhuis provided a vivid illustration of the nature of lexical classification and organization in the lexical lists with respect to the category pigs (sah). He noted that while the separation of the categories domestic and wild animals was made in the earliest version of Ura from Nippur, a problem arose for the pig because the domestic and the wild pig were not differentiated in the language. He said that "the list does not represent (biological) taxonomy, but follows an ordering system that is based on cultur’l and linguistic principles. Thus am (wild ox) is not found in the section gud (ox), but rather with ami-si (elephant) and am-si kur-ra (camel). For (domestic) pig and (wld) boar, however, there are no separate words in Sumerian, so that all the pig terminology (wild and domestic) is found in one place among wild animals.’ The Nippur text of Ura put pigs together with rodents, turtles, and lizards. Velduis noted that both rodents and pigs were kept, or raised, in the ancient Near East as food. Turtles and lizards, while not “farmed,” were no doubt also regard as comestibles, as they are still in many cultures. The content of the pig section equally reflects considerations not biological in nature. The Nippur list, for example, includes pig, wild pig, daily pig, fattened pig, Magan pig, pig of the Oath(?), pig owned by a lord, piglet, and sow. The criterion for membership in the group of pigs, therefore, are what people did with pigs, and what pig were for. These criteria are specific to the context in which the list was made, that is, an administrative one, and as such did not employ principles of organization aimed at a universal description of things in some universal order of things. As a result, the choice of words to be used as determinations reflects similarly the context of their first use, decidedly not that of a universal taxonomy, but a convenient marker for the words organized within lists useful to the scribes producing administrative texts.

Thus for me, arguably, taxonomic lists in the Bible likely follow the same sort of pattern and I would argue that unless anyone has a very strong case otherwise, they organized animals or considered “baramins” just like others in the ANE, as a reflection of the context of their first use and a convenient marker for the words organized within lists useful to the scribes producing administrative texts.

All in all, the book has a lot of helpful perspectives for how ancient people thought about the world and science as we know it today. Reader beware though it’s super dense and academic.


The “kinds” enumerated in Genesis 1 are flying things, aquatic things, domestic animals, big wild animals, and creepy crawlies. Even the most ardent baraminologist does not claim that any of those categories are one “ark kind”. As already noted, through the rest of the Bible, “kinds” usually correspond about as well to modern concepts of biological species as is typical for a non-scientific setting (often generic terms for groups of little direct importance to the culture but pretty close match for the species of importance). The kinds recognized indeed relate to context and do not seem to reflect any effort to systematically describe biology. Plausibly Solomon’s taxonomic work might have aimed at a more scientific classification, but we don’t have a copy of that. Instead, kinds of organism are mentioned either as a specific situation, where a roughly species-level name is appropriate (e.g., an encounter with a lion, caring for one’s sheep, the swallow nesting at the Temple), or relatively generically, where a broad term covers the idea (e.g., trees in a forest, flowers in a field).

More broadly, creation science is an example of trying to impose a pattern on something that does not follow that pattern and call it science, analogous to Marx’s “scientific” history and many other ideas. It’s imposing that “scientific” approach on Scripture rather than being scriptural.


I agree with these statements. ‘Kinds’ are not intended as taxonomic rigor whether mapping to species or genus. Linnaeus is not an old testament prophet. The Hebrews were familiar with a bunch of animals which reproduced in kind, which God made and Adam named and were saved on the ark. It appears to be no more complicated than that.


I’ve only heard of “baraminology” in the last few years, since I’ve been round the Forum. My heart breaks for kids who are subjected to this stuff as if it were real scientific knowledge they need to know. All the pointless work, memorizing, trying to make the pieces fit, which don’t, and all the while being taught that learning this stuff will bolster their faith.

This type of “apology” is going to, if it hasn’t already done, do ever more damage to faith in Jesus — more than anything coming from the anti-christian camps.


John Walton is far more polite than my Hebrew professors were!


To be precise, it’s imposing scientific materialism onto scripture, as that is the source of the idea that in order to be true a thing must be 100% scientifically and historically accurate.

They don’t even realize that the foundation of their view of scripture arose from a human philosophical view that is inherently atheistic.

Are you pondering something or just publishing a position paper? I don’t know Hebrew or what it does or does not allow. YEC is following a certain way of thinking — not one I find useful. But there are degrees of it. And some of those “degrees” do make good points. It just did not have to have happened in six literal days 10,000 years ago. Various alternate perspectives do exist.

I contend that the predominant YEC interpretation of a number of Biblical passages is unsound, even by the standards of a literal approach. Nobody in church history has proposed that created kinds were ancestral to a greater number of species, because there is nothing in the text to suggest that. It is simply not there, and the idea only arose in recent times due not to Biblical exegesis, but as a reaction to modern scientific and logistic criticisms of the flood narrative. The concept would have been completely foreign to the original audience of the Pentateuch.

The issue is that it is not acceptable to just read anything into scripture because it is grammatically “allowed”; that is eisegesis.

That way of thinking has built a vast edifice completely untethered from reality. AiG places the flood at half a millennium after the historical first dynasty of a united Egypt. To make matters worse, after disembarkation, the ark kind pair had to sire offspring which differentiated to the lions, leopards, cheetahs, and domestic cats, which are clearly depicted in ancient Egyptian art, even mummified, and are specifically named in the Old Testament. It confounds me that this stuff gets taken seriously.


Thanks for the thoughts. I have begun reading a book that discusses some aspects of the influence of Protestantism on the development of scientific thought — and was reading (last night) about some of the speculation that arose when it was discovered that there was an entire other half of the world (Antipodes did not exist!! Aristotle was wrong!! no, it really CANNOT snow upside down) and there were people on that other side of the world who were–what? sons of Noah? unrelated to Adam and Eve?did they run away from the Garden before the Fall etc.

How to explain what we see and know — including new discoveries – in light of what we once believed — whether Pliny or Aristotle or Alexander the Great or the existence of Antipodes or Adam and Eve – has been an ongoing thing. throughout history. At the moment, it is interesting to see how people developed their ideas about the relationship between biblical reports (related to the creation of all things) — and how those morphed with new discoveries.

So I suppose that the relationship between what it says in Hebrew and what YEC or others take it to mean — is an ongoing thing. And if something is grammatically (and culturally etc) allowed, then I suspect that there is always someone who is going to go that route.

From what I have read, the modern YEC developed out of one particular Christian denomination’s desire to affirm the “visions” their founder claimed to have received in the mid 19th century. That then would involve more than just biblical exegesis – or whether such exegesis is/was done properly. .


On the topic of the elaborate castle in the air world of baraminology, a Jean Lightner article Created Kinds vs Ark Kinds, Implications for Creation Research was recently make available as a web article. Joel Duff responds with a YouTube here: Are Created Kinds Equivalent to Ark Kinds? Big Implications for Young-Earth Evolution

It is true that the historical development of YEC has some sketchy associations. It has undoubtedly grown considerably past that and become established in much of the evangelical church. Apart from the development of the movement, it is the present teachings espoused by the major YEC organizations that are wildly inconsistent, ad hoc, and contrary to evidence, and as I also contend here, without scriptural basis. With regards to kinds, they are forcing fitting their model into the Bible.

Here is how Adam’s naming of the animals was envisioned from the simple reading of Genesis, back in the 1800’s. Note no dinosaurs, but at least three species of cat in the foreground.

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“Kinds” also becomes utter nonsense in regards to fossils: modern species are completely recognizable as such (ignoring what Ed Petuch* et al. have to say) in deposits alongside similar extinct ones.

*notorious for giving every variety and each layer’s inhabitants their own species names, thus temporal ranges defined by him are unreasonably short.


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