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.

Examples:
• 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.

Examples:
• 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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18 Comments:

Blogger sattvicwarrior said...

such sweeping romantic generalizations.
such nonsense.
you have WAY to much time on your hands. .

May 04, 2007 7:26 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Why is it nonsense?

May 05, 2007 4:07 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

What is it about the post that upset you enough to write a comment on it?

May 05, 2007 4:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Jason, your blog is awesome and it's so encouraging to me to see how well you've been able to answer all the questions people have asked.

I have a completely presumptuous favour which of course you are quite free to ignore - but in your next post is it possible for you to discuss the role of women in the ecclesia and in subjection to man? I have some people asking me about this lately and want to have all my facts straight before I answer...

May 08, 2007 2:35 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

I can certainly give it a go - I'll try not to make any enemies in the process :)

May 10, 2007 11:20 PM  
Blogger Brucker said...

When discussing important issues, if you're not making enemies, you're probably not doing the subject justice. ; )

Good to see your own blog instead of just reading your comments on Steve's blog. I think I need to give you a link, if you don't mind.

June 08, 2007 2:50 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Sure thing.

June 08, 2007 3:29 PM  
Anonymous Gloria said...

This is probably one of the more interesting, and possibly more obscure, theologies I've read in awhile. Enjoyed it. It was nice to see something a little different, yet still apparently founded.

October 19, 2007 2:25 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

Thanks :)

October 19, 2007 8:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it possible that the name [8034] refers to Adams deciding personality traits for the beasts and not the traditional cow, chicken, pig...

[8034]mark of implied honor, authority or character. This is the same "name" that is used when Abram and Sarai names are changed. (And also all the lists of names)

I am no scholar.

Mark

January 18, 2008 12:23 AM  
OpenID thegeckosspleen said...

Wow, this is weird. I've been a Christian for 14 years and this is absolutely the first time I've ever even heard someone mention that Adam named all the animals in one day. I just went to google to try and see people's thoughts on how God made Adam name the animals before he created Eve and all of a sudden all these websites pop up trying to prove Adam did it all in a day.

The strangest thing about this whole situation is, I was sure that wasn't even in the Bible. So I ran, got my Bible and flipped to Genesis and, to my surprise, I was right. The last instance of specifically stating what happened in each of the first seven days of Earth is Genesis 2:2(or maybe 2:3 but I don't think that quite counts)whin it says God rested on the seventh day. In Genesis 2:19-20 there's no "and the evening and the morning was the sixth day" or "and that was all before God rested" or "Adam's a speed-namer". . .at least not in the KJV. What it does say is:

"19 And out of the ground the Lord God formed every Beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found a help meet for him."

Maybe I'm blind--to certain words--or maybe I'm loopy or something but I don't see any one-day indicators; and trust me, upon seeing your claims I read that section quite a few tomes to try and make sure I didn't miss it. It seems to me like it could have been years before he finished or it could have been years afterward before God decided it was time to tear his rib out. (from my personal experience it seems as though God likes to make people wait. . .but I could be the only one. . .but then again he did make Adam wait five whole days to even exist)

Right now I'm hecka curious as to where so many people got the idea that it only took a day. I'm not saying it's not possible, (anything's possible with God, right?) I just don't see a reason to think it actually happened. Maybe you can help me out if I missed it.

January 25, 2008 8:04 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

thegeckosspleen,

Thanks for your comments. The 'one-day indicator' is in Genesis 1. God made birds and aquatic life on Day 5 and land animals and man on Day 6. Since Eve was also created on Day 6, the naming must have occurred on Day 6, prior to her being created.

January 25, 2008 8:20 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

Mark,

Is it possible that the name [8034] refers to Adams deciding personality traits for the beasts and not the traditional cow, chicken, pig...

That's a fair observation and while it certainly is possible, I'm still apt to side with a literal naming due to the fact the same Hebrew word (shem) is used earlier in this chapter in the naming of the rivers. It's also used in Genesis 3:20 ("...called her name Eve...") and Genesis 5:2 ("...called their name Adam..."). In other words, the main players in this chapter are given real names, not a personality trait.

January 25, 2008 8:25 AM  
Blogger Ismael Gonzalez-Silva said...

Greetings from Puerto Rico!!!!
Just one comment regarding the names of the animals. It is obvious, to me, that when G-d talked to Adam about death, Adam knows what G-d means because in the names of the animals we can find predators. Does this mean that death was already present at Eden and that G-d let Adam know what will happen to the humanity and the clue is revealed in the names of the animals??
Thank you for letting me share my opinion.
IGS

September 06, 2008 4:31 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Hi Ismael,

Thanks for your comment.

Death wasn't present in the Garden as Romans 5:12 tells us that death entered the world only after the first sin.

In regards to the names of predators, as with the snake, animals were changed after Adam's sin in the same way they will be changed back in the Kingdom age. For example, in the Kingdom age, a "wolf will dwell with the lamb" (Isa 11:6) and so I believe there's good reason to believe this non-predatory instinct was common in every animal in the Garden.

September 07, 2008 1:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read your information on June 1, 2013. It is totally bogus.
I've been a bible reader for much of my 77 years. And, it was from reading, and researching it that I ultimately became and Atheist some 50 years ago.
So be it!

June 01, 2013 2:14 PM  
Anonymous Jason said...

Thanks for your comment. Can you explain why you think it's "bogus"?

June 06, 2013 10:32 AM  
Blogger jablko said...

I just came across your blog for which thanks. I have to say that I think we have to be acreful how literally we take the statements in Genesis 1 and 2. This section of genesis is trying to state timeless truths in a way which is comprehensible to men and women throughout time. I teaches that the universe began, that it had a creator, that there was order and method in the way it was created. It talks about purpose rather than the detail of mechanism. Gen 1:28 tells us that mankind should "Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.". I think that the naming of the animals is actually God asking man to examine his creation and see what it is like; to understand it; to categorise what is to be seen and to relate the categories. In fact this verse could be seen as the instigation by God of what we now call science. It is good to examine the detail of the text but we should be looking at the core things it is trying to tell valid for all time and try o express them in the language of our time.

June 23, 2013 2:05 PM  

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