Stupid Things People Think the Bible Says, Which It Doesn’t

Despite all the good the Bible’s done in the world, people love to find fault with it. It’s easily the most criticized, most censored book of all time. While it’s true that people often hate the things the Bible really teaches, to find something manifestly ridiculous to lampoon and hate about it, people have to make it up. I’m going to give six examples of stupid things people believe the Bible says when it clearly teaches the opposite.

To start at the beginning, there seems to be a growing belief that the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in Genesis 3 had something to do with sexual knowledge. I heard a rabbi, who should have known better, propound that that’s what the original Hebrew refers to, and the Star Trek TOS episode “The Apple” used the idea as a large part of the plot. I don’t know much Hebrew, but I know that calling it the Tree of Sexual Knowledge flies in the face of common sense. At the same time that Adam and Eve are forbidden to eat of the tree, God tells them to, “Be fruitful and multiply.” Since He’s talking to the first husband and wife, there’s no reason to suppose He has anything in mind other than sexual reproduction. Besides, it’s only after they eat from the tree that Adam and Eve no longer want to be naked in front of each other.

This attempt to make the Bible more prudish than it really is is even more widespread in the Catholic religion, which teaches that its clergy has to be celibate. This is a gross distortion of Paul’s teaching in I Corinthians 7. What he actually says is that, while it would be great for every Christian to be like himself and able to devote all their time to the Lord without the distraction of a family, the normal human sex drive makes this the exception rather than the rule. In fact, he says, “Let him do what he will. He sinneth not; let them marry” (verse 36, KJV). The Bible is more than happy to have married clergy. In fact, Israelite clergy had to marry to perpetuate the priestly line, the Pastorals call for elders and deacons to be evaluated based on their relationships with their wives and children, and Peter himself is said to have a mother-in-law whom Jesus heals. To have one of those, he had to have been married. In fact, Paul says in I Timothy 4:3 that forbidding marriage is the teaching of demons.

One huge misconception is that the Bible permits the imposition of Christianity by force. Any skeptic worth his salt knows all about the Crusades, the Inquisition, Charlemagne’s slaughter of the pagan Saxons, etc. and knows they’re unethical. Well, they’re also unscriptural. What happened is that the later Roman emperors, medieval kings, and Popes realized that the Christian God is more powerful than anyone else they could pray to, so they decided to try to harness that power for their own worldly pursuits. If you read the book of Acts, you know that the Apostles did not convert by the sword.

But, wait, the skeptic says! He doubles down by pointing to the multiple commands to Israel to massacre its foes in the Old Testament. The practice of herem, or putting under the ban, is clearly an Old Testament principle no longer applicable today. It was important when God’s Kingdom was a political one. Israel was the sole nation of God, surrounded by pagans hateful to its existence, and thus had its purity as well as its security to consider. By the way, while the other nations of the Ancient Near East could be barbarously cruel in the name of their gods, there’s no Old Testament command to blind, mutilate, or torture prisoners, unlike, say, the infamous Assyrians. Under the New Testament, God’s Kingdom is not tied to any political entity and is supposed to spread its love to every nation. In fact, Jesus told Pilate, “My Kingdom is not of this world. If My Kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews” (John 18:36, KJV). While Christians are to hold their governments accountable for basic moral standards of justice, they’re not to use it to impose religion on others. (By the same token, it’s not how Progressives are to impose their secularism on others either.)

Anyone who has heard about the exclusivity of Christianity will demand, “But what about innocent people who’ve never heard of Jesus? How can God send them to Hell for rejecting Jesus when they’ve never heard of Him?” Well, He doesn’t. It’s the difference in what theologians call General versus Special Revelation. General Revelation, according to Romans 1, is what everyone instinctively knows from Creation and conscience. They know, even if they won’t admit it, that they are a created being made to conform to certain moral laws by their Creator. Everyone, Paul tells us at length, is guilty before God of rebelling against this knowledge. Special Revelation is the Gospel message telling people how they can be reconciled to God. To reject this is a serious sin, but God obviously is not going to condemn you for rejecting something you’ve never heard of. The point is that General Revelation rules out anyone being innocent; all are under sin, as Paul says.

One grievous error is the belief that the Bible teaches hatred of homosexuals. Now, the Bible makes it quite clear that this is a serious sin of which they must repent, but it nowhere says to treat them differently from any other kind of sinner. Both sides should take a lesson from Paul when he writes, “Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind (and here the KJV is trying to delicately describe passive and active homosexuals), nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners shall inherit the Kingdom of God. And such were some of you, but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (I Corinthians 6:9-11, KJV). From this, we can see that (1) the homosexuals could and did repent of their sin (though no one said it would be any easier than the drunkard giving up his wine) and (2) that Paul extended his ministry to them as lovingly as to anyone else.

Some people think that because the Old Testament is full of saints who practice polygamy that the Bible teaches that it’s okay. Well, anyone familiar with those stories should see that the Bible does not endorse that practice. It just reports the facts as they occurred, and universally they tell of the unhappiness and conflict that polygamy brings. In the Old Testament, in fact, the principles of the king in Deuteronomy forbid him practicing polygamy. In the New Testament, Paul explicitly says, “Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband” (I Corinthians 7:2, KJV). No one in their right mind should want to practice polygamy after they read the Bible.

The list is really endless all the stupid things people think the Bible teaches when it in fact says the opposite. It’s like they’re trying to find excuses not to believe, which is in fact what they’re trying to do.

My Choice of Apologetics, Part IV: What Do You Suppose about That?

So, by now you’ve figured out Presuppositionalism is the one I have a problem with. I suppose part of it is that my first encounter with it was the video series How to Answer the Fool, which it seemed the producer was trying to present in the most confusing manner possible. He had the film cutting back from scene to scene in a most disjointed manner. I think I got the gist of it well enough, though, and I didn’t like what I understood. The basic premise, I believe, is that subjecting God to the kind of objective human analysis involved in Classical apologetics and Evidentialism is an affront to His dignity and sovereignty and that your senses are too unreliable to base any conclusions off of them anyway. The answer, they say, is to start with the assumption that God exists, and then everything makes sense and you have a 100% sure basis for your knowledge.

Now, I respect that the Presuppositionalists want to uphold the glory of God. I also agree that, once you start off with the premise that God is good and man is evil, everything starts to make more sense. What they do, though, is, I think, different from the way Scripture does it. First of all, I don’t think it’s demeaning to God to try to reason with others based on evidence and logic. What then is the point of all the signs throughout the Bible? Dr. Sproul would have stood me down that the miracles in the Bible are to validate the prophet’s authority rather than prove God’s existence, which is already assumed in the Bible, and that’s true for many, if not most of them, but there are some signs that are clearly for God proving Himself. Just looking at Isaiah, God welcomes Ahaz to request any sign he wants to prove His promised deliverance. He gives Hezekiah at least two signs of that deliverance, which is clearly not to validate Isaiah since Hezekiah knows he’s a prophet already. Most importantly, He challenges the idolaters in Chapter 41 to pick their God/gods based off of whose prophecy comes true in a manner very pleasing to an Evidentialist. And let’s not forget that the whole point of the sign in Elijah’s contest with the prophets of Baal is to show Israel that the Lord is their God and Baal isn’t. Granted God gets very angry at those who demand more proof than He has given them, but He doesn’t seem to mind giving us reasons to believe.

In what I think is Presuppositionalism’s biggest flaw, though, take Romans 1. Paul says that we know God exists by seeing Creation and reasoning back to a Creator. That’s what Classical apologetics and Evidentialism do, but not only do Presuppositionalists refuse to do that, some of them say the others are ethically wrong to. Paul also refers to God writing His law on humanity’s heart in Romans, so the Moral argument is also Biblical.

As far as sensory perception goes, I agree it’s not 100% reliable. I will also point out, however, that the Apostle John makes his apologetic defense in the first verses of I John based off of his senses: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled of the word of life.” That’s three of the five senses right there! John is giving his senses as one of the reasons he believes. In other words, they’re usually reliable enough to form reasonable opinions based on.

Not only that, but this approach is a logically flawed theory that rests on circular reasoning. Circular reasoning, from a logician’s point-of-view, is where you start with your conclusion as one of the premises. Basically, Presuppositionalism says, “God exists. This further premise. That further premise. Therefore, God exists.” You haven’t proved anything because you assumed what you were setting out to prove from the get-go!

I don’t know how effective Presuppositionalism is in practice (if it converts souls, never mind my objections!), but it’s not nearly as logically sound as Classical Apologetics, Evidentialism, or the Moral Standard. I take strong exception to the claim that those three are sinful methods because I can find them in the most apologetic chapter in the Bible (Romans 1). Presuppositionalists are of course right when they point out that the Bible assumes the existence of God on page 1 of Genesis and works from there, but consider the context. Moses was writing to a nation whose fathers had worshipped God for centuries and who had just seen miracle after miracle performed by them. He didn’t have any reason to go into proving the existence of God! When Paul is writing to Gentiles who are the first in their family line to believe in God, however, he takes a few words to explain how they know who He is, and it’s not with Presuppositionalism.

It’s worth pointing out that the man behind the series How to Answer the Fool admitted he himself was converted by Evidentialism. The Moral Standard was the method preferred by one of the great apologeticists of all time, C.S. Lewis. And Classical Apologetics is called that because it used to be the standard apologetics used by the Church’s influential thinkers like Augustine and Aquinas. I hope you found an approach you can use in these posts and urge you to follow through with it with the sources I’ve mentioned so that you can “give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.”

My Choice of Apologetics, Part III: The Moral Dimension

The moral argument for God comes in its classic form from C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. Dr. Sproul liked to trace it back to Immanuel Kant, who rejected the Classical Apologetic view and inserted this one instead. I would recommend Lewis, who didn’t blatantly contradict Romans 1 like Kant did.

Lewis pointed out that humans everywhere have a moral compass. Every culture has values that it calls good and vices that it calls evil. Everyone, in other words, has a conscience with a standard of good and evil. That is, at least as far as everyone else goes. We all expect others to behave with certain propriety towards us even if we don’t feel like reciprocating. Even Hitler felt he had been badly wronged when Himmler tried to desert to the Allies. To feel wronged like that, you need a rule of good and evil.

Lewis agreed that there were variations between what behaviors cultures would accept or not. He did not see this, as some do, as indicating that there is no fundamental moral standard, since if you drill down far enough you eventually get to some common ground. His example was that, in the West, we mandate monogamy, whereas other societies have no problem with polygamy. He couldn’t name a culture, however, where you could sleep with just anyone you wanted without moral censure of some kind.

Many people believe good and evil are just concepts built into the human race as a survival mechanism, but Lewis had answers for that too. He said that when someone wrongs us by accident, we aren’t as angry with them as we are with someone who tries to wrong us on purpose and fails. Didn’t the accidental person do more real damage? Or consider a soldier who falls on a grenade to save his buddies. I don’t think anyone with any heart would consider that anything but a good action, but that person has just terminated all possibility of passing on his genes to the next generation, and that’s what the survival mechanism in animals is all about. They’re so craven about risking the slightest injury that a handful of wolves can put a herd of buffalo, each many times their size and armed with powerful hooves and sharp horns, into panicked flight. When humans desert their comrades, however, we view that as a morally reprehensible action. That’s not the way the survival mechanism works in nature.

Lewis and Kant pointed out that, if this moral standard is to mean anything, there have to be rewards for good behavior and punishments for bad. We know that life tends to do that, but it doesn’t always. Hitler went one country too far when he declared war on us and wound up having to shoot himself, but Stalin and Mao, who actually killed more people, died with their supreme power over Russia and China still theirs to enjoy right up to the end. Evidently, in order for us to say they were wrong when they in the end got what they wanted, there’d have to be some kind of punishment for all the evil they’d done after their deaths.

That would require there to be a judge over the human race. He needs to be omniscient so that he knows what we do, he needs to be omnipotent so he can enforce his judgment, he needs to be incorruptible so he can’t be bribed, and he needs to have created the human race so he has the authority to judge them. In other words, you need the Christian God. Indeed, without a perfect God to set the standard for good and evil, you can’t have a standard at all. No human has the authority or infallibility on earth to lay down perfect rules for how humans should behave. Without God, there’s no reason someone should be a Martin Luther King rather than a Joseph Stalin.

My Choice of Apologetics, Part II: The Rules of Evidence

Evidential apologetics you’ll find most clearly in the works of Lee Strobel in his “The Case for…” series. I get the impression this is more popular than Classical apologetics even though Dr. Sproul didn’t like it and disavowed the common conception that he was an Evidentialist. Basically, evidentialism looks at all the unlikely circumstances and events that have developed in the history of the universe and the trend that they point towards being deliberate and conclude that a personal, omnipotent God is directing them. AKA the dreaded Intelligent Design. (For the record, Dr. Sproul didn’t like evidentialism because he felt it leaves a 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000… chance that all these things are coincidental, whereas he felt Classical apologetics is airtight and irrefutable.)

Evidentialism draws heavily on science. A particular favorite is the fine-tuning of the constants of the universe. If you remember your high school science classes, these constants are the numbers in the equations that you have to memorize (or not, depending on if your teacher was nice enough to give you those with the test questions themselves) because they’re the same each time you run the equations. There’s a gravitational constant of the universe, specific heat for water, the speed of light, and many other things that don’t change. What impresses the evidentialists is how these constants have to be set to an extremely precise value in a relatively very narrow range to support life in the universe. To use an example from Strobel’s The Case for a Creator, if the gravitational constant were to increase just a relatively little, the earth would be compressed too small to maintain any real life, and anything that did live on it would be practically stuck to it because it wouldn’t have the strength to lift itself. The list goes on and on from there.

Taking Chance as our straw man here, as in Classical Apologetics, the evidentialists ask, what’s the likelihood of all these fine-tunings being coincidental? We don’t know of any reason why the universe had to spit out these values, which presumably could have been set at any of an infinite array of numbers, at the precise setting for life, so did Chance rig them all? Well, running all those probabilities, The Case for a Creator points out, leads to a decimal so small it takes more zeroes to write it out than there are atoms in the universe. Many Christian scientists conclude the logical explanation is an omnipotent being intending to make life in the universe set it up that way.

Life itself is another angle of the evidentialists. The cell, the most basic unit of life, is extremely complex. They’re so complex that it would take millions of coincidences to create one just by natural causes. There’s, say, 150 amino acids in the simplest protein times twenty amino acids for each spot in the chain, all having to be exactly right for the protein to function, times hundreds of proteins in each cell times three base pairs of DNA per amino acid times the billions of triplets of base pairs in DNA, all needing to be in the precise order to get even one working cell. Chance must be really lucky to get all those probabilities right (and quick since the product of those all occurring exceeds the number of milliseconds since the Earth began).

Once you get a cell and then higher-level organisms, the problem multiplies because of a concept called irreducible complexity. Most organisms have adaptations that are very complex. They require all the pieces to be there in working order, or the whole thing doesn’t work. The eye and the flagellum motor in bacteria are the examples most often cited. If one of those components is missing, the feature is a useless liability, the kind of thing natural selection would select against. Chance had to get all those mutations right on the first try!

The Cambrian explosion is linked to this concept. The Modern Synthesis of biology maintains that mutations in DNA lead to different characteristics that make organisms over the course of time better suited to their environment, which traits they pass on. The process takes time, presumably a lot of it since you’re going one or two mutations at a time. At the opening of the Cambrian period, though, you have every phylum of animal suddenly coming into existence without intermediate species in a space of time so short it would require mountains of coincidences to produce them. Darwin himself admitted that the fossil record didn’t bear him out, and something the scale of the Cambrian explosion in the big picture far outweighs the rare finds evolutionists later got ahold of, like Archaeopteryx.

Personally, I would add history to the mix of evidence. Is there any more unlikely religion to have spread worldwide than Christianity? Through centuries of onslaughts and oppressions including three Holocausts (massacres by the Assyrians/Babylonians, Romans, and Nazis), the Jews have survived as a nation long enough to produce a Messiah with the possibility remaining that they will one day turn back to Him like Paul predicted. The Church has grown in size and influence against all odds. In its beginning, after being founded by an executed convict followed by uneducated fishermen, it ticked off both the religious leaders of its parent religion and the most powerful empire of the day, but neither could destroy it. No one else has succeeded in stomping it out either despite all the attempts. Basically, every evil empire in history has wanted to wipe out Christianity, and yet it has still grown.

It always seems that some miracle saves it. When barbarians brought down the civilization Christianity had built in the Roman Empire, Clovis experienced a sudden turnaround in battle just in time to bring the Franks to convert. When the Church was languishing in superstition, the printing press came into existence just in time to disseminate the Reformation’s writings. When Suleiman the Magnificent came to conquer a Europe divided by the Reformation, remarkably heavy rains deprived him of his heavy siege guns outside of Vienna. And even when the bad guys win, they can’t take out the Church. Coincidences, all, or intentional, all?

Since I have decided to make my posts shorter, I can’t go into all the evidences for God’s intervention in the universe. In my faith, we believe that everything points to the glory of God since He directs it all to Himself (Romans 11:36). I think you’ll find this paradigm helpful when you drill down into it to try to win over your friends who for all their lives have been told science disproves God’s creation. Please refer to my very first post for a list of the giants of science who have believed in God. We match their appeal to science with a bigger appeal to science.

My Choice of Apologetics, Part I: Brushing Up on the Classics

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear,” Peter wrote in his first letter (3:15, KJV). Thus, apologetics is a duty for every Christian. Every Christian should know why they believe in God and have answers for those who don’t. I would like to discuss in four posts the four schools of apologetics I am familiar with: Classical, Evidentialist, the Moral Standard, and Presuppositional. It’s impossible to go into the full details of what proves the existence of God (because that would involve discussing everything in the universe), but I’ll direct you to the sources I found on them for your further study. In short, I think all but one of them are Scripturally sound. First, Classical Apologetics.

I encountered Classical apologetics while studying the works of R. C. Sproul, but I believe he said it goes back to Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. (He elaborates on his views in Defending Your Faith: An Overview of Classical Apologetics and Not a Chance!) True to Dr. Sproul’s philosophy background, Classical apologetics looks at the question from logic. Starting with the premise that the universe had a beginning, it says that, since the universe had a beginning, it is not self-existent and something self-existent must have created it.

The key concept is creation ex nihilo(out of nothing). An old scientific principle maintains, “Ex nihilo, nihil fit”- “Out of nothing, nothing comes.” Nothing is the absence of any conceivable thing. The minute you go beyond that with “Nothing is such and such,” you’ve just described something, which is by definition not Nothing. So, if you can say, “Nothing is able to create such and such,” that nothing is no longer nothing. Thus, the universe could not have been created from Nothing.

Nor could it create itself. To create itself, it has to be something (because Nothing can’t do anything), so it had to be something before it created itself. So it exists before it exists (i.e., while it does not exist). That’s a contradiction more glaring than anything the critics think they have on the Bible!

The cop-out that everyone knows is that the universe was created by Chance. Basically, Chance is assumed to be this chaotic force of some kind (dare I say magical?) that causes events to happen with no natural cause. I hope you can see the duplicity of atheists who maintain that scientific laws are so established and immovable that a supernatural force never intervenes to overrule them, but Chance can intervene whenever they need it to, to balance the equation.

Dr. Sproul believed in probability and forming expectations even though we don’t know for sure what’s going to happen, but that’s different from assigning the result to some injection of chaos. The fact that we don’t know why something happened doesn’t mean there’s no natural explanation. Somehow, a culture devoted to rationalism and empiricism has convinced itself that there’s this magical force going around performing miracles. Chance apparently determines which way dice roll, cards are shuffled, or coins are flipped, as if the laws of physics were suddenly suspended just because we can’t predict the outcome. Chance is powerful enough to account for every attribute of every living thing (through mutations that get naturally selected), but still we study laws of biology, which seem to apply so consistently in spite of the fact that it owes so much to random Chance.

In reality, it’s not like those base pairs in the DNA are moving around chaotically. We know that the laws of physics and chemistry operate at the minutest levels. Textbooks say gas is a state of matter where molecules are moving at random, but somehow they never defy scientific laws like Pascal’s or changes in their state of matter when the variables change. When you flip a coin, it goes where all the interactions of the physical forces direct it, not where Chance takes over and directs it based on its whim.

To people not wanting to believe, Chance is the new god. He’s pretty capricious, but at least he’s not going to judge you or demand any commitment. He’s a funny fish. He can create an entire universe and an astonishing variety of life, but he can’t do miracles like suspending a scientific law. He’s omnipotent but hamstrung.

Classical apologists like Dr. Sproul say Chance can’t create anything because it isn’t anything itself. It’s just a figment of our imagination, an omnipotent impersonal force rather than an omnipotent personal being. Is that any more scientific than creationism?

I like Classical apologetics, but I’m not sure it’s for everyone. After all, it relies heavily on philosophy. Your listener would have to comprehend the absoluteness of the term Nothing and reject the idea of Chance as a force that impacts things, which is practically second nature to most of us. I found it tricky to put all the references in this post to Nothing, something, Chance, existence, etc. into phraseology I thought would make sense to someone who hasn’t listened through Dr. Sproul’s lecture series, so I think a better approach to the current culture is my next topic: Evidentialism.

The Surprisingly Scientific Bible

Welcome to my blog! I will be exploring topics from my four great intellectual passions: history, biology, mythology, and Christianity. That last one is much more to me than just an intellectual pursuit, but there’s plenty there to delight the mind with. The blog’s name, of course, derives from Norse mythology. It was where Odin sacrificed an eye for a drink to attain more wisdom, but I will be approaching these things from a Christian perspective (much like Paul used pagan accolades to Zeus to preach the Gospel to the Athenians at the Areopagus). Let’s start with a post that looks at all four, namely, how scientific is the Bible? I contend that, in contrast to the current popular view, the Bible is reliable in science and actually points to its divine origin in the way it transcends its time and culture with modern science.

Does it teach that there is a supernatural world and a God governing the universe? Of course! But it also shows that, in the normal course of events, God governs His universe through ordinary scientific laws. Anything unscientific in the Bible is either vivid symbolism not meant to be taken literally or a direct intervention of the supernatural. In addition, many believe that Paul in I Corinthians 13 predicted that miraculous these supernatural interventions would become less frequent once the canon was closed and God’s Word was available to all the world, as has happened. As Dr. R.C. Sproul is so fond of explaining, the purpose of a miracle is to act as God’s seal of approval for His representative speaking His words. Now that we have the Bible, we don’t need prophets anymore, so there are no more miracles.

I actually began thinking about this topic back when I had the delight of watching BBC Earth’s Planet Earth. This fascinating series glorifies God by showing how he can create the harshest of environments and still tailor organisms to inhabit it or create the most beautiful of environments and adorn it with amazing creatures. For those of you who haven’t seen it, the episodes are arranged by biome. Each one looks at a different type of habitat (mountains, forest, ocean, etc.) and how animals are adapted to live there.

Interestingly enough, this is actually the approach Genesis 1, supposedly the least scientific part of the Bible, uses to depict creation. Poetically, the first three days set up the environment, and the last three days fill it up. Day One creates light for day and night; Day Four provides specific sources of light: the sun, moon, and stars. (I personally believe the sun was created first and that what Day Four is referring to is early plants’ photosynthesis clearing out enough carbon dioxide from the atmosphere that the sun could actually be seen.) Day Two produces sky and sea; Day Five fills it with birds and fishes. Day Three creates dry land; Day Six creates terrestrial animals. A vastly more rudimentary approach than modern science, but a clear indication that God made habitats and then adapted creatures to them. Mythologies typically portray animals existing before the creation of the world; usually they’re involved in it. In Scandinavia, for example, the Norse posited that a primeval cow licking primordial ice was responsible for the creation of the first god, and the Finns believed that an eagle laid eggs on a goddess’s knee in the middle of a vast ocean that she broke to become the universe.

While we’re discussing adaptations, the Bible remains true to genetics while other ancient cultures did not. It depicts plants and animals in Genesis 1 as reproducing “according to their kind.” Jacob doesn’t understand genetics when he tries to make the goats produce speckled or spotted kids by showing them streaks of white when they mate, but in the next chapter God takes credit for intervening on Jacob’s behalf in making them speckled and spotted. There is no need to read a naturalistic violation of genetic principles here, just a supernatural direction of them. There are no historically presented fantastical creatures in the Bible such as you’ll find in other mythologies. No hybrids or one-of-a-kind monsters that defy genetics like the Sphinx or the Chimera. Of course, the Bible has mythological creatures like Leviathan, Behemoth, and Rahab, but these occur in the context of poetry or apocalyptic prophecy and were clearly intended as figurative symbols rather than an actual depiction of life on earth. Almost every animal the Bible presents “as is” is known to science; for the rest we just don’t know how to translate the Hebrew. But no Jewish hero in the historical books makes a name for himself by slaying a gorgon or a dragon like you’ll find in mythology. There are no magic amulets in the Bible like you’ll find in most mythologies. Whatever Raiders of the Lost Ark said, using the Ark in battle did not magically grant the Israelites victory; instead, they lost the battle and the Ark itself for a time.

This is even more surprising when you consider that the Jews and Christians actually did believe in mythological creatures. Extrabiblical works feature them, such as “Bel and the Dragon” (where Daniel kills a dragon during the Babylonian Captivity) in the Jewish Apocrypha. Clement of Rome uses the Phoenix as an analogy for the resurrection in I Clement. The books that claim to be presenting literal facts from a divinely inspired perspective do no such thing.

The Bible also does not personify what we now know to be inanimate objects. In Norse and Greek thought, the sun and moon were chariots driven by horses. Heaven and Earth were husband and wife in the Greek creation myth. The Chinese legend is about a monster holding back Yin and Yang and being transformed into the world in the struggle. The constellations in Greek mythology are likewise the remains of heroes and monsters. The Egyptians and Mesopotamians linked their gods with heavenly bodies, and the planets all bear the names of Roman gods. Psalms presents a metaphor of the sun running a race, but it is only that. Genesis portrays everything as inanimate that we know to be so, despite what modern critics try to read from the text.

The Bible portrays animals acting the way modern biology shows them to. You don’t find legendary depictions of hares going mad in March or lemmings jumping off of cliffs, at least not when the Bible intends to be taken at face value. God’s depiction of the ostrich in Job 39 actually taught me things I didn’t know about it. It does say in the Psalms that the moon won’t hurt you, which implies that the Hebrews believed that the moon could cause insanity (i.e., you’d be “moonstruck”), but notice the Bible says that won’t happen. The exceptions would be the talking serpent in Genesis 3 and Balaam’s ass in Numbers, but, again, this is clearly the supernatural. Well, it’s also strange for the lion to attack the man of God in I Kings 13 but to just stand beside the unharmed donkey, but this just proves that God was judging the man of God through the lion. Normally lions in the Bible attack livestock.

The Bible also presents humans in normally human terms (at least after the astounding lifespans early in Genesis, which it portrays as highly unique and a regression of the world from perfection to the decay we’re familiar with). There are no demigods or innately superhuman heroes. Yes, the Bible has people achieving incredible feats, like Elijah outrunning Ahab’s chariot or Samson’s stupendous strength, but it almost invariably states (and where it doesn’t, it implies) that this is a direct intervention of the supernatural into the natural world (usually the Bible notes that the Spirit of the Lord comes upon the hero) and would not otherwise happen. When God departs from Samson, he’s no stronger than anyone else. No Hebrew hero sighs so powerfully he bursts his mail coat like Sigurd in Norse mythology. No Hebrew hero makes wings and flies like Daedalus and Icarus. The one possible depiction of an innately superhuman character, Goliath of Gath, is still possibly portrayed as a supernatural intervention. Assuming Goliath was 9’9” (it’s possible the scribes copying the Masoretic Text made a clerical error and that he was closer to 6 feet), it was probably because of a union like the one between demons and women in Genesis 6.

Genesis 1 confirms what science has recently figured out about the universe- that it had a beginning. Those are the first words of the Bible. Mythologies don’t do that. Norse mythology has Muspelheim and Niflheim, and the cow and giant they produce, preceding the earth. Mesopotamian mythology, which Genesis is supposedly a Hebrew ripoff of, presents Marduk killing Tiamat the dragon and fashioning the world out of her. Every mythology I know of has a creation story where the universe is made from preexisting physical material. The Greek philosophers believed the world was eternal. The Bible, in contrast, posits a Big Bang like modern science does; it just presents it as intentional rather than spontaneous (that will be the subject of a later blog, if the Lord wills).

Moving on from Genesis 1, we find something rather surprising in another story critics love to lash out at: Noah’s ark. If placed in water, Noah’s ark would float. In fact, it has similar dimensions to an oil tanker. What’s surprising is that this comes from a most land-lubbing people, the Hebrews. The Israelites feared the sea and made it a symbol of disorder and evil; they generally did not venture out into the Mediterranean (or used someone else’s ships when they did, like Jonah). How did they just “make up” this well-designed ship? They certainly didn’t get it from the Babylonians, whose flood story the Bible supposedly ripped off as well. The craft that is to preserve life on earth in the Epic of Gilgamesh is a cube that would sink in water.

There’s a lot of discussion as to how vast the Flood was because we don’t have any evidence of a worldwide deluge in the geological record. Hugh Ross does a good job explaining how it’s probably not meant to be taken as a global flood but as one that wipes out everything man’s world consisted of at the time. Presumably, in a few generations, he had not spread very far from Mesopotamia. Moreover, there’s no way an ark Noah’s size could hold two specimens from every species that inhabits the globe. We’re used to the story of the ark floating above Mount Ararat, but the Hebrew word does not have to mean a mountain. A hill will do, and Ararat was a region as much as a mountain at the time (near Mesopotamia, I should add). Many mythologies, like the Greeks and Babylonians, portray a flood brought by divine agents, often with an ark saving creatures. That’s an interesting tale to show up so widely in the human consciousness.

These are the main examples I can think of. There are other little tidbits where the Bible was potentially centuries ahead of its time in terms of science. It’s possible to interpret verses like Job 36:27-28 and Psalm 135:7 as depicting the Hydrological Cycle centuries before scientists understood it. Matthew Fontaine Maury was inspired to study currents from Psalm 8:8 (“whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas”). Circumcision on the eighth day of a child’s life is the safest time to do it because the child has a rush of prothrombin, which helps with blood clotting, that would keep him from bleeding too badly. Circumcision on any of the days preceding or following this rush is much less safe. Notice also how the clean animals in Leviticus that Israel was allowed to eat are also the safest animals to eat before modern food preparation. The pigs they were forbidden to eat are notorious for carrying trichinosis.

What about the “unscientific” aspects of the Bible? Doesn’t the account of creation in Genesis 1-2 contradict the commonly accepted scientific account of the origins of the universe, life, and humanity? Well, to be frank, I still haven’t figured out exactly what to affirm with regards to this question. I can, however, recommend two excellent books on the subject: The Genesis Question by Hugh Ross and Seven Days that Divide the World by John Lennox. I personally lean towards a belief in events more in accord with the modern scientific theory than in the traditional Christian reading that takes the simplest approach to interpreting Genesis as a literal week of creation. Hugh Ross focuses on the science and how Genesis 1-11 can be interpreted as saying the same thing as modern scientific theory while John Lennox focuses on the Hebrew grammar and vocabulary to see what things we are required to believe from the text and where there are grayer areas.

A few notes on the subject. Genesis can be read to depict the evolution of life on earth as science posits it developed. You do kind of have to interpret the “creation” of the sun and moon like I did above with them becoming visible on the fourth day rather than coming into existence altogether, but the Hebrew word allows for this, as it does not necessarily mean “created” (“worked on” will do). Fish and birds did evolve before mammals (if one counts the dinosaurs whom the birds are believed to have descended from). This tension between the Bible and science, of course, is only a problem to you if you are committed to macroevolutionary theory. Hopefully a future blog will present some of its rather glaring flaws.

The weakness in interpreting Genesis with modern science is that it requires predation and death in an explicitly good creation. If the Isaiah says there will be no predation and death in the world restored to perfection, why would there be predation and death in the original perfect world? Of course, this assumes predation is inherently evil. Psalm 104:21 says lions seek their prey from God, which indicates that feeding on other animals is not necessarily bad. Moreover, just because something is true about the new Paradise doesn’t mean it was true about the first. God created marriage in Eden, but Christ refuted that it would have a role in the New Jerusalem.

Also, the Hebrew in Genesis 1 is subtler than to require six 24-hour days one right after another. We don’t need to be hidebound by the simple reading of the King James Version. The original Hebrew uses the definite article only for the Sixth Day and the Seventh Day. It’s perfectly possible to translate the first five days as ‘a First Day,’ ‘a Second Day,’ and so on. Further, note how Day Seven doesn’t have a “and there was morning, and there was evening” appended to it. Maybe that’s because Day Seven, when God has ceased creating because He has finished His work, is still going on today.

Personally, I thought one of the strongest arguments in favor of the single-week theory was the presentation of it as standard Christian dogma until the modern era. Would God give us an account that all His people for millennia would interpret to mean what is actually false? Well, the truth is more complicated than that. Lennox actually observes that heroes of the faith like Augustine, Justin Martyr, Clement, and Irenaus all thought that the six days could have been otherwise than six twenty-four-hour periods in one glorious week.

Speaking of traditional Christian interpretations that have been wrong, let’s briefly discuss the notorious Geocentric Theory of the universe that has so embarrassed Christianity. Based on a few texts like “Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed forever” (Psalm 104:5), many Christians resisted Copernicus and Galileo for saying the earth revolved around the sun. The Church has long since come to realize the Geocentric Theory is not what the Bible is saying at that point. It is making a general statement about the stability of the world such as God promised after the Flood, as the following verses indicate by referring to floods over mountains. The Jews seem to have feared deep down that the ocean would one day surge over the world and drown everything again. They make reference to that possibility in Psalm 46 as something extreme that devout Jews would not allow to shake their faith, which means probably a lot of people feared it when they shouldn’t have. Anyway, the Bible depicts earthquakes and states that there will be an end to this world, so it’s not saying there will never, ever be any movement of dry land. It does, however, depict a general stability of the human habitat that has been borne out for millennia.

I’d like to point out one last thing. While many in modern science seek to disprove God’s being and deride those who believe in Him as unscientific, have they ever stopped to consider that the Scientific Revolution they are so beholden to took place in the most heavily Christianized part of the globe at that time? If you do a search on Wikipedia for a list of scientists who were also Christians, you get a long and distinguished collection of some of the greatest scientific minds ever. You have to make allowance for the fact that Wikipedia is overly broad in their definition of what makes a person a Christian, but, still, it at least proves that people can easily believe in God and pursue science at the same time. For the sake of credibility, I’ll leave Wikipedia’s comments aside and just give you examples I know independently. Besides Maury mentioned above, Robert Boyle, who transformed alchemy into chemistry, was passionately devoted to missionary efforts and bequeathed some of the money he made from his chemistry to fund lectures defending Christianity. Johannes Kepler and Galileo, the great astronomers, believed they were studying heavens made by God’s hands. It’s a little unclear as to whether Sir Isaac Newton was actually a Christian (from what I’ve heard, he was probably an Arian), but there is no doubting that he was at least a theist and creationist. Carolus Linnaeus, who invented the taxonomy system we still use in biology in the 18th century, believed he was classifying creatures according to God’s design. Evidently, Christianity actually leads to good science as men of faith who believe that God created the universe seek to explore the glorious details of His handiwork and discover the laws by which He governs it. As James Maxwell, the great physicist, had inscribed above his laboratory at Cambridge, “The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein” (Psalm 111:2).