Peter, Paul, and Luke contradict science

I am struggling with reconciling a biblical worldview and science. I have read plenty of articles on here and am still struggling to reconcile Peter and Paul’s beliefs in things like a global flood and traditional Adam and Eve as significant points in their theology with the idea that science says that there was no global flood or first pair of humans.

Here are a few of verses that I am alluding to and haven’t really seen addressed on this site:

Acts 17:26 NIV
From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.

1 Timothy 2:13 NIV
For Adam was formed first, then Eve.

2 Peter 3:5‭-‬6 NIV
But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.

How am I supposed to apply these verses if those events didn’t really happen, or at least if they didn’t happen in the way Peter and Paul thought they did?

Also, Adam can’t have existed millions of years ago according to Luke’s genealogy right?

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Hi, Gabe - and welcome to the forum, though it sounds like you’ve already become pretty familiar with the site anyway.

Hopefully others will chime in with thoughtful responses, but I’ll start things off with just a thought or two here for now.

That would be correct! Most of us here would agree that there is no compelling reason (either from scriptures or from science) to postulate a “millions of years ago” Adam.

In what way are you wanting to “apply” them? Is part of your struggle that you want them to be a sort of “fact-testing” set to either showcase the bible’s alleged veracity (or alleged lack thereof)? Or is there some other significant application that is contingent on the creation verses being interpreted a certain way?

Welcome to the forum! It is good to have your voice.
My understanding continually evolves, and one concept that I am learning more about is that of divine accommodation. We often speak of “God meeting us where we are,” and I think that that is what is happening. The text is not addressing science and origins, it is addressing theologic concerns, and God is accommodating their knowledge and belief and using it to make a theological statement, revealing himself to us through our finite senses.
I have no real doubt that Paul and Peter had a literal historical concept of those things. No doubt they also believed in geocentricity, if they were well versed enough to believe in a spherical earth, though they may have accepted the description given of the cosmos in the Bible as flat and covered by a dome, or by concentric shells supporting the heavens, or whatever. But that is not the point of the scripture.

Some may have difficulty in looking past that, and say “How can we trust and have meaning in the rest of the message if those scientific aspects and historical comments are not historically and scientifically correct?” My reply is that we do the same thing all the time, speaking of fictional characters as though they lived.
We speak of Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler, of Harry Potter, of Alice. And we fictionalize historical characters like Davy Crockett, perhaps King Arthur, and even George Washington. Perhaps that is something that we are seeing here also. In the Bible, we have no real problem with many historical and scientific inaccuracies (size of the mustard seed, geocentrically, chaos monsters, etc., but are captive to our past training and teaching regarding others.

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I think the answer to the application question is asking why the authors made those allusions in the first place? What theological truth were they getting at? It seems to me that in any case where a typical first century Jewish worldview has a different understanding of reality than our own modern one and it comes out in Scripture, the communicative intent of the Scripture in question is not to teach facts about history, but to illustrate some point about redemption, judgment, holiness, grace, humanity, etc.

In the cultural context, that Timothy reference was probably countering the Roman Artemis cult in Ephesus that taught women were created first, were superior to men, and should forego marriage and childbearing. So, the communicative intent was more to point people back to the teaching of the Christian church that held marriage as sacred and good, and women as not justified in trying to lord it over men or become completely independent from them from a position of alleged created superiority.

In Adam and the Genome, McKnight gets pretty deep into the first century Jewish conception of Adam and the idea of “literary Adam” as opposed to mythical vs. historical Adam which you might find helpful. At the end of the day, it is hard to get around the fact that Paul and Peter did indeed talk about Adam as the first human.

I think a lot of these questions come down to your doctrine of inspiration-- what you believe it means that human words are God’s words and how it all works.

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As for your question at end, I guess I am struggling to see how claims based in the order of Adam and Eve’s creation could be valid if they weren’t actually created in that order (1 Timothy 2:11-13).

Thank you. This article brought up some interesting points. I think I’ll check out this book.

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It helps to become familiar with the kind of argumentation and rhetoric that was typical of rabbinical teaching. It’s a different tradition than our own. At one point in Corinthians Paul also references a legendary walking rock of water that followed the Israelites around the desert as if it is a fact too.

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What’s the difference between genetic and genealogical ancestry?

If I understand it correctly, someone can be in your lineage (genealogic ancestor) but you may not carry any of their DNA (genetic ancestor).

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Are you saying that we may need to distinguish between the human author’s intent and the Divine author’s intent?

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No, I think what the author was intending to communicate is what we need to get at because God is speaking through them. (I don’t think we should conflate the mind of the authors with the mind of God though.) But when the authors of the Gospels recorded Jesus mentioning the mustard seed as the smallest seed in the world (when it’s really the orchid) the communicative intent of the passage is to make a point about the nature of the Kingdom, not teach botany.

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That’s basically it. In the context of a discussion about Genesis and creation, one way of applying the difference between the 2 kinds of ancestry is to say that Adam and Eve could be genealogical ancestors of all humanity that existed as of, say, the first century AD/CE even if Adam and Eve are not the sole genetic ancestors of all humanity.

Might I suggest a one-word adjustment to your question, to become “between the human author’s intent and the Divine inspirer’s intent”.

Framing it this way, i.e. letting “author” and “inspirer” have different and complementary roles, might help thinking through this.

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That makes no sense whatsoever. Perhaps a real scientist, whose culture is irrelevant, could explain it?

It’s worth pointing out that the tortoise finished first to those who claim that speed is everything because the hare always wins. If they are using the story to justify their beliefs, it’s worth noting that they have the story mixed up.

Similar to what Christy mentioned earlier, I think people influenced by the Artemis cult had allowed their background to lead them into weird readings of the Jewish story of Adam and Eve that elevated woman over man and blamed man for all evil. My hunch is that they may have been helped into that reading by what Paul had said years earlier about sin originating from “one man” with no mention of the woman (Romans 5:12). But however it came about, a correction was needed.

Keep in mind that the Greek doesn’t read “one man,” even though many English translations do. Most Greek manuscripts just have “one”; some have “one blood.” So either from one nation God made all nations (using the end of the phrase to interpret its beginning), or from one blood God made all nations (using the secondary reading). Translations of “one man” probably tell us more about the theology of the translators than about the best rendering of the Greek.

You could use your own family tree as an example. Pick a set of great grandparents and map out all of their direct ancestors. Out of those descendants, how many have genes from people other than those great grandparents? Quite a few, right? Once you get to the level of grandchildren you suddenly have other sets grandparents who are contributing genes, but not all of the direct descendants share those genes.

The other factor is the exponential growth of ancestors. You have 4 grandparents, 8 great grand parents, 16 great great grandparents, and it keeps doubling as you go back. Obviously, the human population does [not] exponentially increase through history. Why? Because all of us share ancestors. We are all cousins. For example, almost everyone of European descent can count Charlemagne as one of their ancestors. In fact, you don’t have to go back that many generations to find common ancestors.

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Thanks! Your comment on Acts 17:26 was really helpful.

Yeaaah. All that’s obvious. Goes without saying. So A&E are just a pair of ancestors whose genes have infused us all, invisibly, tracelessly slid in, with perfect synthetic DNA, after hundreds of thousands of years of natural human descent, just six thousand years ago?

Very scientific.

“The natural definition of this kind of ancestry is genetic ancestry , which differs from genealogical ancestry in that it refers not to your pedigree but to the subset of paths through it by which the material in your genome has been inherited. Because parents transmit only half their DNA to offspring each generation, an individual’s genetic ancestry involves only a small proportion of all their genealogical ancestors.”
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7082057/

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