16 April, 2007

Naming the Animals - Genesis 2:19-20

God tells us that Scripture “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” (2 Ti 3:16) Based on this, we know then that there is a reason why some details aren't included in Scripture: God has decided these particular details or stories aren’t important or necessary to our salvation.

• Mat 27:52-53 "And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many."
• Luke 3:18 "And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people."
• John 20:30 "And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:"

There are some Bible topics that come up in discussion where it's important to note (and agree) that we’re given only a finite amount of information to work with. Claims and opinions will abound in these circumstances but they should always be taken with a grain of salt. A lack of evidence isn’t evidence in itself.

Such circumstances revolve around many of the accounts in the book of Genesis. How long was each day of creation, where do dinosaurs fit in, how did all those animals fit on the ark, etc. etc. A Bible skeptic will often use these questions as a means to disprove Scripture because from a "logical" 21st century point of view, many of the events in Genesis don't have a logical explaination. We would say first that the primary difference between a Christian and a skeptic is faith and it's certainly worthwhile remembering that ultimately, that is the gulf that will always separate the two sides. But as if faith is an inadequate basis for belief, a skeptic will demand to see tangible evidence, assuming (and often hoping) that none exists. And for this we should be thankful so as not to rely on the "I have faith" conclusion to end a discussion we were weren't properly prepared for in the first place. In other words, questioning Scripture is the best way top find your answers.

In summary, while there may not be enough information required to unequivicolly settle a debate, there's almost always enough available to disprove a specific criticism.

• We don't know what the precise sin of Sodom and Gomorrah's inhabitants was, but we know they weren't destroyed for a simple lack of hospitality (as certain modern Bibles suggest).
• We don't know when laws against intermarrying were implemented by God, but we know no one was ever punished prior to Moses for marrying their sister or brother.
• We don't know how different races (white, black, asian, etc) were created in Scripture but we do know Noah had three sons who went to Europe, Asia and Africa respectively.

And so onto the topic of discussion:

How many animals did Adam name in the Garden of Eden and how long did it take him?

There's no way anyone knows precisely how the animals were named (i.e. were they in a line, did Adam walk around and see them, etc.), but based on Genesis, we do know that Adam did so in the span of 24 hours. The criticism then is this: If we use current estimates of the number of animals in existence, it’s impossible for Adam to have taken less then the day God provided him with. How do Bible students explain justify the account in Genesis in light of this criticism?

When considering the land and time in which Adam was created along with supporting Biblical evidence (and in some cases, the lack of evidence), strong and reasonable assumptions can be made to help fill in some of the gaps. Ultimately, it is the hope that this examination of Genesis 2:19-20 will provide enough information to either springboard an individual into further study or be an effective tool in answering Bible critics.

1. Genesis tells us that animals were created according to their “kinds”, rather than their species. This word indicates limitations of variation. Note the definition of the Hebrew word “kind”: Groups of living organisms belong in the same created "kind" if they have descended from the same ancestral gene pool. Therefore “snake” instead of “python”, “corn snake”, “eastern coral snake”, “cottonmouth”, etc.

2. There were less species in Genesis. For example, there were no domesticated dogs which means “wolf” would have been the “kind” that Adam named instead of the as-of-then-non-existent “Irish Wolfhound”.

3. It's often pointed out that Adam alone wouldn't have had time to name the hundreds of thousands of insects that currently exist. This is a bogus argument. While it looks impressive and certainly lends itself to the impossibility of the situation, the fact is Adam didn’t name insects or sea creatures. Genesis 2:20 says he named "cattle", "birds" and "beasts of the field".

5. There is no suggestion in Genesis 2 that the naming was meant to be comprehensive. It would make more sense if Adam simply gave a set of general names to a selection of animals rather then providing scientific taxonomy. The former and not the latter would have been of greater benefit to the humans who would come immediately after him (see below).

6. Cattle: There are several species of cows (at least five) but there’s no indication in the Bible that a breakdown beyond the generic "bos" (the genus of wild and domestic cows and oxen) was ever required or indeed ever implemented, especially when one considers the broad use of the word “cow” in Scripture without there ever being a distinction between a dairy cow, a meat cow or an ox (an animal which isn't actually referred to until the days of Jacob in Genesis 32). Likewise, the same naming structure could easily have applied for animals such as horses, snakes, birds, etc as we'll see below.

7. Birds: When examining the naming of birds, the same possibility applies. For example, there are 300 species of parrot today. Instead of Adam naming them all, the word “parrot” would legitimately have applied. While we don’t know if all parrots are descendants of one created “kind” or several “kinds” which had enough similar characteristics to label them as “parrots”, in either instance, the naming process would have been quick. There are between 17 - 20 species of penguins but they're all legitimately called "penguins". There are approximately 200 species of owls, all of which are a "kind" of owl. There are around 180 species of woodpecker, all of them legitimately labelled under the single kind of "woodpeckers". And so on...

8. Beasts of the field: Firstly, what animals are considered to be “beasts of the field”? The Hebrew word translated ‘field’ has the meaning of a flat plain. Using the Bible to form our description of the word, "beasts of the field" include animals that move in when humans move out (Exodus 23:29), ‘wild asses’ (Psalm 104:11), ‘dragons and owls’ (Isaiah 43:20), animals that prey on sheep (Ezekiel 34:8), and a range of carnivores (Ezekiel 39:17). Therefore, we can conclude that beasts of the field were probably animals that today live in open country and/or who venture close to human habitation. Further, we can conclude that animals living exclusively in forests, jungles, mountains, wetlands, deserts, etc. wouldn't have been named as they don't meet the "field" criteria.

9. Conclusion: Adam spent far less time naming animals then most critics would like to suggest. When one excludes insects, animals living in the sea and all relevant animals on the basis of habitat, it would seem generous to allow for the naming of a thousand or so “kinds” of animals. For sake of argument, if there were a thousand animals to name and Adam named one every 30 seconds or so, the process would have been a relatively leisurely event, taking a little over 8 hours. All in all, a pleasant, normal day’s work in the Garden of Eden.

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14 April, 2007

What the Bible says about "being tormented in hell"

I've had the distinct privilege in the past few weeks to be condemned to eternal torment in hell by Christians and atheists alike for nothing more then defending my beliefs. I thought it was high time to take a look at this rather ineffective sentence of torture by people who should know better.

That there is a place called "hell", there is no doubt, but no where in the Bible is there any claim that it is to be a place of eternal torment for certain people (wicked Christians or atheists alike). As many are aware, in the Old Testament the word translated "hell" is the Hebrew word "Sheol" ("the world of the dead") and in the New Testament the Greek language shows "hell" to be "Hades" ("the grave").

There is no record in the Bible of God ordaining a place of eternal fiery torment for the wicked
God condemned the Children of Israel for their dreadful crime of burning their children in the fire; which, said God, "I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind." (Jer. 7:31) How then, can any teacher or critic accuse God of a worse crime: burning people for eternity in an imaginary place of torment?

A few Biblical references to hell:
• King David was certain that the wicked went to the grave (sheol): "let the wicked be ashamed and let them be silent in the grave" (‘sheol’, grave, hell, world of the dead) (Ps. 31:17). King David was just as certain that when people die, their thinking process ceases, so they cannot suffer torments: "put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man….his breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth, in THAT VERY DAY HIS THOUGHTS PERISH." (Ps.146:3-4). To be tormented anywhere, one has to be able to understand what is going on , BUT, if his thoughts perish on the day he dies, then so does his understanding. How effective is torment if the person being tormented doesn't know he's being tormented?

• Job knew that ‘the grave’ (hell) was a place where people are at rest and not tormented. "There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest...when they can find the grave." (Job 3:17,22) Job is contradicting the popular idea that the wicked go to hell to be tormented eternally by claiming that ‘there the wicked cease from troubling’.

• Solomon wrote of the state of the dead, "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten" (Ecc. 9:5). Nothing could be more final and comprehensive: the dead KNOW NOTHING . How can they be tormented if they know nothing?

Hell is the Grave
In the entire Old Testament, there is not one mention of the ‘hell-fire’ taught for generations by misguided Christians and non-Christians alike. In the 31 references to "hell" in the Old Testament, the word will be found to refer to the grave, or a covered place.

• Jonah referred to his ordeal of being in the belly of a ‘great fish’ for three days, "…out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice". To Jonah it was certain this was to be his grave, unless saved out of it.

• Amos the prophet wrote, "Though they DIG into HELL (sheol, the world of the dead…grave….pit.) thence shall mine hand take them." ( Amos 9:2), showing that the grave was meant.

• Again, David was adamant that he believed hell was the grave, for he wrote "..if I make my bed in HELL behold, thou art there." (Ps.139:8)

• The Apostle Peter assures us that David is not in heaven (Acts 2:34), and as there is no evidence he was one of the wicked who was to be tormented in hell for ever, then the only place David can be, logically, is in the grave.

• Isaiah the prophet writes of the death of the King of Babylon, saying, "Yet thou shalt be brought down to HELL, to the sides of the pit" (Isaiah 14:15) Verse 19 refers to the GRAVE, confirming that Isaiah was speaking of hell as the grave

What are all those people doing in hell?
• Daniel answers this question so simply: "And many of them that SLEEP IN THE DUST OF THE EARTH, shall awake, SOME to everlasting life, and SOME to shame and everlasting contempt." (Dan. 12:2) Daniel is describing many who are in the grave as sleeping and some of them are raised from the dead to eternal life, BUT, some of them that sleep experience judgment in the ‘second death’. Thus Daniel shows that righteous and wicked are in the same place, the grave.

• Jesus speaks of many who sleep in the grave: "…the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice." (John 5:28) Jesus is speaking of resurrection and thus shows that all, (or all manner of) the dead in the grave are ‘sleeping’, waiting for the call (from the Lord Jesus), to ‘come forth’.

• Paul writes of the ‘saints’ at the time of the coming of the Lord Jesus, "We shall not all sleep…the dead shall be raised…." (1 Cor. 15:51-52) What he is saying is that some of the saints will be alive at the time of the Lord’s coming, but those in the grave, who are asleep, shall be raised from the dead (e.g. these saints aren't in heaven).

Does it matter what we believe?
Revelation 18:23 shows so clearly that a great number of people were to be deluded by the ‘sorceries’ of the latter day Babylon: "By thy sorceries were all nations deceived". This is an appeal all thinking men and women to study God’s word and learn the truth of all things and reject the false teaching of hell torment.

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07 April, 2007

Easter: It's The Thought That Counts...

Easter's finally coming to a close and for many Christians, it signifies the last time they'll step foot in a church until Christmas.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26
"For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "Take, eat; this is My body which is *broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me." In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes."

The Pope, along with the vast majority of churches worldwide, chose to use Christ's death and resurrection as a soapbox to focus on the plight of mankind, from the nuclear standoff in Iran to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to the explosion of AIDS in Africa (which is ironic considering these same churches believe the people in these guilty nations are all going to hell anyhow - why cry over split milk). Perhaps of more benefit would be to avoid global diversions and use the time to actually, specifically, remember Christ's sacrifice and the importance of doing it a little more often than a single long weekend in March or April. But it's probably not great for business. See, the beauty in using Easter as a global fixer-upper is that for a brief, feel-good moment, anyone and their not-so-religious mother can pretend to be concerned with fixing the world's problems, tell their neighbour to be concerned as well, and then quietly, softly, slink back into religious inaction. Job done for another year. William S. probably said it best himself: "...it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Spiritual mouthpieces missing the stomach to do the work. Bible students uninterested in the Bible.

Hebrews 10:24-25
And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Part-time Christians, surface believers and proud of it, encouraged by church "elders" and the spiritually "educated", have decided that a few days each year is all God and His son require. There's no provocation to do good works (save perhaps going out and buying a nice, new shiny necklace complete with cross). There's no assembling together, there's no exhorting one another, there's no approaching day, there's no religion after Easter.

Matthew 23:27
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.

Time for God has been relegated to 48 hours each year and a few brief guilty thoughts during another Sunday morning sleep in.

Luke 18:8 Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

Only if he returns on the March/April long weekend when everyone's good and ready...