What is a biblical 'kind?'

(Lynn Munter) #1

After I wrote this on another topic, I went googling to see what others had to say about what it means that the Bible says God created animals after (or according to) their kinds. I found this from BioLogos:

…but although it mentions fixity of species in the intro, I found myself wanting more. Next I found this one (I’m still not clear on theistic evolution vs. the Biologos position):


So what’s going on? Is fixity of species an extra-biblical ‘doctrine?’ What makes something a real doctrine, or not? It seems to me like it might just have been interpreted one way without ever being an important point until Darwin came along. Does that make it a legitimate ‘tradition?’

Are there any other good discussions of this topic I should be looking at?

Otangelo has questions about the age of the earth
(Phil) #2

I’ll be interested to hear our more learned posters opinion, as I was tempted to post a similar question. To me it seems that the “plain reading” of “kind” in the English translation means “variety of” or “sort of” and the twisting of the word into meaning some scientific designation of related animals is not true to the text. I think that is consistent with the link you posted as well as common sense.

(Lynn Munter) #3

I think I want to go even farther than the articles talk about, though, and say that even if you do take it to be talking in some sense about related animals, how does that in any way contradict common descent? The whole point of common descent is that the animals are all related! It’s this idea that somehow the creation of animals is not an ongoing process, that the number of kinds or varieties God created is finite rather than expanding, that seems to be the sticking point.

Do literalists get upset when astronomers talk about stars being born, under the impression that because God made the stars on the fourth day, that that means all the stars that are or ever will be? Do they think that because Adam gave names to all the animals under God’s watch, that only those names are valid, and nobody should ever invent new animal names?

Because God created the dry land and the seas, does that mean new islands cannot appear, or that new seas can’t form on what used to be dry land?

(Jon Garvey) #4

It seems that in lists of things in cuneiform literature, and notably animals, there was no concept in mind of natural kinds at all. One of the most basic divisions was into “domestic” and “wild”, and further sub-divisions were a matter of convenience and, particularly, of function.

For example, wild oxen were classified with elephants and camels rather than with oxen as such. My source (Rochberg 2017) also describes a motley range of things classified under “pigs” which she interprets as indicating “what people did with pigs, and what pigs were for.”

Now Genesis isn’t a Babylonian list, of course, but the above is interestingly parallel to John Walton’s assertion that the creation account is functional, rather than scientific, in purpose, and especially with respect to its function for mankind. As far as the kinds actually mentioned for land animals in Genesis go, there are only three: wild animals, domestic animals and “creeping things”, which Walton makes a good case for saying represents “wild herd animals used as prey” (and also, cf the Noachic covenant, those hunted for food, ie game animals).

So my suspicion is that Genesis is basically showing God’s abundant continuing provision of those three kinds (ie after the wild, the domestic and the wild-herding kinds), though perhaps also implying all the different beasts known to its original readers as making up those kinds, eg lions, leopards, crocodiles, snakes and maybe scorpions etc under “wild”; cattle, sheep, domestic rodents, etc under “domestic”; and ibex, wild cattle, hyrax, maybe even locusts under “herding creatures”.

Even if all that were not so, the use of “min” for any assertion beyond the obvious fact that life comes from life and breeds true and abundant in very diverse forms seems to me one of the more illogical tenets of late-20th century Creationism, since it makes a very sensible literal understanding of a Genesis word into a speculative and contentious one with no parallel in the ancient world of that time.

(George Brooks) #5


Once we agree that the three rabbit populations came from the same original population, we can see how the idea of “kind” can be treated!!!

What has developed amongst these populations is at the very core of the Speciation discussion.

We know that rabbit “A” and “B” must represent a “kind” … because they can bring forth (after their kind) new generations.

We know that rabbit “B” and “C” must either be the same “kind” or a different kind… because This intersection can bring for new generations too!

But what about Rabbit “A” and “C”? They cannot bring forth anything… so, by Biblical definition, they cannot represent a kind of any thing. << This is a wonderfully elegant Biblical proof!

So the mystery, it turns out, is not about A & C … it’s about B!!! - - if A and C are not of the same kind, what does this make “B”? It makes B into a larger Kind than either A or C. Because it can promote either (smaller) kind!!!

(Lynn Munter) #6

It also occurs to me that medieval Christians had no problem believing simultaneously in the Bible and in spontaneous generation, or life popping up out of non-living things, like meat breeding maggots and water producing pond scum. So maybe this insistence on everything descending from the original life—whether it is the LUCA or ‘created kinds’—is itself a fairly recent development of thought.

Certainly a worldview in which flies are born from meat—which certainly existed if not dominated prior to Pasteur—is not consistent with the modern YEC interpretation of Genesis!

(Phil) #7

Interesting observation. It is difficult to put ourselves in the minds of those in the prescientific world. I was reading about the view of miracles, and where we see them as supernatural, the ancients had no such division of reality, and viewed them as part of what we would think of as the natural world, as a manifestation of power, but not separate from physical reality. Their division in different kinds of animals likewise would not correspond to our biologic divisions as noted by Jon.

(Lynn Munter) #8

Yes; @Jon_Garvey made some great points. It is so tempting for us to look at the word ‘birds’ or ‘fowl,’ for example, and think it means what we mean when we say ‘bird;’ but no, it means any creature with wings. Birds, bats, insects, even pterodactyls: they are defined by flying in the sky, not as we would define them in a single genetically similar (monophyletic) group.

I’ve seen various guesses for what the category of ‘creeping things’ refers to, including insects, or land creatures which are not mammals or birds, or ‘stalking’ animals i.e. predators, or now game animals. I don’t have any idea personally which one is right, at least not yet! If anything, it is interesting that yet again it seems to be a category defined by locomotion or function.

(system) #9

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