Archives for posts with tag: literalness

[Lengthened]Here is a hard thing:

Darby Bible Translation
and to every animal of the earth, and to every fowl of the heavens, and to everything that creepeth on the earth, in which is a living soul, every green herb for food. And it was so.

For more:

Where you can read several translations, and commentary.

My point is the use of the word soul.

I hold, and I understand it as orthodox in Christianity, that we humans have souls, something within that is transcendent, a supernatural aspect to us breathed into us by God.

This scripture plainly states that all living creatures have souls, and plants are provided as food. Hmm…

It is more evidence that strict literalism just doesn’t work.

Pulpit Commentary

Quite interesting. I kinda think it is ridiculous that commentators could wonder if carnivores, with no anatomical capacity to eat vegetation, from their teeth and claws to their digestive tract, and their enzymes, could have eaten only vegetation, especially from such a generic statement about why plants were made (rather than what living critters were allowed to eat).


The interlinear shows us two words in the Hebrew for life.

Obviously soul.

Also can be translated soul, including of humans, but rare.

So, figure it out for yourself.

It is literalist support for vegetarianism.

In my view, it is a simple, poetic statement as to the reason God created vegetation, that reason being for food, for supporting the base of the food chain. Of course, had the original author known about oxygen, I’m sure he would have included a comment along the lines of:

English Standard Version
And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food, even for the very breath of life within them.” And it was so.

Note my addition.

I find it significant that the scriptures address subsets of only two of the biological kingdoms of life. It makes clear to me that Genesis and the scriptures in their whole CANNOT be taken overly literally and CANNOT be taken as statements of science.

Scripture is given for spiritual reasons, lessons for life, not lessons for science class.

English Standard Version
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,


Update (added):

Isn’t it interesting that Carl Linnaeus came up with two kingdoms of life? I suspect it was influenced by his faith and understanding that the bible describes two kingdoms of life, animals and plants, though rather selectively. Still, the division is about as ancient as we can look at with documentation, so, not surprising at all.

I got to wondering if the bible does mention anything that isn’t plant or animal. (Not counting references to mythological entities. I don’t really count the unicorn, though. It seems to be a mistranslation. Rhinoceros or wild ox seems more consistent for a translation. It seems uncertain regardless.)

I find it does reference fungus, particularly mildew and yeast. I should have remembered that. I don’t think I can find scripture that would justify claiming the bible anticipated the difference between fungi and plants. A quick search gives me no idea what ancients thought of yeast. Fermentation was figured out at least 5,000 years ago, and leavening shortly thereafter. I wonder if they thought yeast part of some plants, or as something distinct?

I’d be happy to have comments, questions, or objections on this topic.

In this implementation of a WordPress blog, you need to click the title of the post to have the reply (or comment) window at the bottom. This link should get you there too:


Regarding Jesus statements regarding creation.

Mike listed, “Mark 10:6: Mark 13:9; Luke 11:50-51; john 5:45-47 links Jesus to Moses- Exodus 20:11 plainly says God created the world in 6 days. Pretty strait forward teaching by our Lord and savior.”

But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’

but from the beginning of the creation, a male and a female God did make them;

6 ἀπὸ δὲ ἀρχῆς κτίσεως ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ ἐποίησεν αὐτούς

2And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3He answered them, What did Moses command you?” 4They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” 5And Jesus said to them, Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife,a 8and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Context here has hardly anything to do with creation. It is about divorce. It is about the hardness of their hearts. It is about submitting ourselves to the order God establishes. There is no hint of Jesus sanctioning some interpretation of the creation hymns over some other.

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible
But from the beginning of the creation,…. Of the world, or of man: , “from the beginning of the creation of the world”, is a way of speaking often used by the Jews (r): the phrase “of the creation” is left out in the Syriac and Persic versions; and so it was in Beza’s most ancient copy, and it is only read, “from the beginning”, as in Mat_19:4,8; see Gill on 
Matthew 19:4, See Gill on Matthew 19:8

As Gill points out, the creation reference is simply “beginning.” It seems unlikely Jesus added more than “in beginning, God.” No elaboration regarding how or what.

Seem to have missed something with Mark 13:9. Seems more of a Freudian slip. Perhaps the reference is to verse 19.

I’m not quite sure how this apocalyptic statement applies to “creation,” but:

For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be.

for those days shall be tribulation, such as hath not been from the beginning of the creation that God created, till now, and may not be

19 ἔσονται γὰρ αἱ ἡμέραι ἐκεῖναι θλῖψις, οἵα οὐ γέγονεν τοιαύτη ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς κτίσεως ἣν ἔκτισεν ὁ Θεὸς ἕως τοῦ νῦν καὶ οὐ μὴ γένηται.

The language is hyperbolic, not making any commentary on creation. Mike, I certainly hope you understand that I hold God as creator.

from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation.

from the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, who perished between the altar and the house; yes, I say to you, It shall be required from this generation.

What am I missing here? How does this have anything to do with commentary on some interpretation of the creation hymns?

45Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

Again, what am I missing? Jesus believed in Moses. I believe in Moses. How does this enlighten us regarding some interpretation of the creation hymns?

I’ll throw in this: I find Mr. Francke a bit hard to take at times, but I generally agree with him.

The symbology of the creation week in the first creation hymn of Genesis is not in question. I do wonder how someone can take this particular bit of the story and make it literal while ignoring such assertions about a firm dome that separates the waters of the heavens from the waters of the earth. Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but there is nothing firm up in the sky, and there are certainly no waters up there for such a dome to keep from falling on us.

One can pretend the word just means “expanse,” but it clearly indicates the firm separation of waters above and below the earth. The notion is elsewhere in the bible, including

Don’t forget the fact that the first three chapters of Genesis contain two separate hymns. The two are different in so many ways that asserting they are somehow the same, by the same author, is simply disingenuous. I suspect that if Moses were around, he’d tell us that the two creation hymns were the stories of his people, God’s people. I further suspect that if Moses were to deny such an obvious and simple explanation and attempt to prove in a court of law that he was the original and sole author of the two stories, he could not convince a jury, especially if Shem and Ham were able to speak up and claim authorship of one each before Moses.

So, Mike, for the record, I agree with Jesus. I cannot find evidence that Jesus ever said anything about creation that could help us know how to interpret the creation hymns. Any assertion regarding Jesus’ teaching about creationism is simply wrong.

The clear teaching of Jesus was to love one another.

I consider this a central tenet of Jesus, “28And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29Jesus answered, The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

I consider Jesus’ addition of “mind” to be significant, and I choose to love the lord with all my mind. My mind includes the knowledge that several different, independent disciplines in science confirm the usefulness of the aspects of biological evolution day in and day out.

I routinely post information related to evolution, and the weight of evidence, the breadth of evidence, the practicality of the evidence is overwhelming. I could not honor truth any other way than accept that evolution is a theory is as established and as useful as the theory of gravity.

As a closing thought, consider ebola. It is big in the news right now. Please review this article:

(I reblogged that blog article previously.) Consider that virus DNA sometimes gets mixed up into animal DNA, and it goes along for the ride through the generations. The Natural Historian discusses an example of such with regard to ebola and hamsters and voles. Do hamsters and voles fit your definition of “kinds”?

Consider this:

That set of articles goes in-depth explaining what we know of biological evolution in genetics.

Regardless, there are plenty of confirmable examples of speciation. It takes a determined, a predetermined, mindset to ignore the evidence and keep asking for more. Jesus had it happen to him, and he replied that the only sign would be his resurrection. Well, I can’t and won’t make such claims, but I find it insulting to be badgered about examples of speciation when a simple Google search can find many, many examples in the published literature in seconds.

Further, evolution does not depend on confirmation of a common ancestor for all of us apes. In fact, the practicality of evolution doesn’t depend on any aspect of it being proven. The fact remains that it is useful. It is probably the most useful and most beneficial theory in all of science, in all of history.

Finally, let’s go so far as to suppose some knowledge and evidences are discovered that are so profound that all of biological evolution is “disproven” and abandoned and replaced by new theories that work even better. Then what? Would it prove God? Would it lend any support to creationism? No. It would not. God would still be approachable ONLY by faith. The railers would still rail. No new thing would be under the sun.

Accordingly, I close with a question: Why fight me and others who accept the obvious? Why tell me I’m wrong to acknowledge evolution? Why badger me for evidence you won’t accept? Why pretend some society or organization will give me money if I “prove” evolution? You know good and well that no one will ever collect on such an “offer.” The criteria set are simply impossible. Why not admit that such offers are only grandstanding? Admit that such offers are disingenuous.

Obey Jesus and love.

4-1 ds

When confronted with awkward examples of literalism, biblical literalists like Ken Ham point out that some biblical passages are literally poetry and artistic imagery, and that is certainly true.

There are still significant problems that are always ignored, though.

RJS (rather than Dr. McKnight) of Jesus Creed posted this article, where he discusses the tendency of biblical literalism to be more along the lines of philosophical foundationalism, which he asserts is often the same for strident atheists.

Flat earth? It is hard to claim artistic speech or poetry with the four corners of the earth. Revelation 7:1, while it is a vision, it is hard to assert it is merely figurative. Revelation 20:8, where the revelator likens the army to the sands of the sea, but at least he indicate that is simile. Isaiah 41:8-9 can hardly be seen as God speaking metaphorically. There is textual uncertainty in that one though. Isaiah 11:12 is a pretty straight forward statement of four corners.

There are enough references to corners, and other references indicating the ability to see all the earth from great height (or vice versa), that it is easy to argue for a flat earth, yet nearly all Christians reject the notion. We know good and well it is spherical and has no corners. That is a problem generally ignored by biblical literalists.

The bible indicates the earth is firmly established and cannot be moved. The Psalms assert it twice. While obviously poetic, the statement is clear, not presented with an apparent intent of artistic licence. It is reasonable to suppose the Psalms are remembering David’s song when the ark of God was returned, as recorded in I Chronicles 16. Again, poetic, but not presented as metaphor in any way. It seems obvious the biblical writers understood earthquakes, so they could not have been intending to mean the ground never trembles. They seem clearly to have meant the earth was on a stationary foundation that couldn’t be kicked over or disrupted. Again, no one supposes this means what it seems plainly to mean. Another ignored issue among biblical literalists.

There is, also, the use of the word for heaven. The bible regularly uses it to indicate the air, where the birds fly, and the sky where the celestial bodies are, and for the abode of God, and then there is the heaven of heavens reference. Real hard to get literal with that much variability in one word.

While many of the biblical assertions about heaven, such as where God stores snow, hail, and lightning, can be justifiably taken as figurative, it is quite hard to get around Genesis 1:6-8 when one insists on strict literalness in the rest of the first chapter.

These links open each verse with several translation in parallel. Clicking a version heading for a verse will open the chapter in that translation. Note the tool bars toward the top of the pages. The interlinear shows the Hebrew and transliteration, with ready links for the word or (more informatively) Strongs’ rendering of it.

Obviously the only way to take these statements literally is with this graphic:

4-1 ds

I’m not sure I’ve ever even heard of anyone espousing that concept. That is, there are still a few people, typically claiming backing from their sacred writings, that the earth is flat, or that the earth is actually stationary with all the universe revolving around it. (Not only Christians do this.) But I’ve never heard of anyone trying to claim this graphically depicted view that so closely matches the statements in the opening chapter of Genesis. No one in modern memory asserts the universe is filled with water and that the sky is firm enough to separate out some air for the earth to sit in within.

I also have trouble seeing how to take literally the waters gathering together in a single place, yet the very next verse refers to seas (plural). It is verifiably obvious that all the water is not gathered in just one place, and the fact is confirmed right there in the remainder of the statement using the plural for large bodies of water.

Check it.

I’ll close by quoting RJS’ closing:

“The foundationalist approach to knowledge is the root of many errors. We need to read Scripture for all it is worth, from beginning to end. But the foundation of our faith is in God and in the person of Jesus Christ, not in the “plain” reading of Genesis 1.”

Science wants $20 before I can read the full article. Perhaps I will remember to look at it at the library.

Anyway Popular Archaeology has a nice write-up, 

When one accepts that God didn’t actually say the earth was created just 6,000 years ago, and God doesn’t lie to us in nature, then one can propose good working theories that help explain the awesome diversity we see around us and within ourselves.

Starting around 25,000 years ago, our North American forebears found a fortuitous “green” zone in the Bering Straight, which was then well above sea level, and the area supported short shrubs. The key here is that wood is indispensable in the cold. They used the brush to ignite large bones (with marrow and fat within that would burn and keep the fire going).

This warm zone, that would have been the result of some particular arrangement of ocean currents and weather patterns (and probably the geography), allowed these ancients a workable place to live, but it was also isolated. They didn’t mingle with their progenitors in the rest of Siberia.

Thus, the native Americans  have approximately 10,000 extra years of divergence from those Siberians than we can explain if they just came over the Bering land bridge 15,000 years ago when the ice finally started retreating in our current geological climate epic. (Global warming is good stuff, huh!)

See, this makes good sense, and it gives us a good working understanding of why things are the way we find them today. Read the rest of this entry »

Orthodox bishop Metropolitan Nicholas:

“Research that is done to challenge God, has the disease of prejudice. Research is done to discover scientific truth. What problem is there with someone wanting to broaden the horizons of their thoughts and knowledge? God is approached better this way. God is not an ideology that we should by all means defend, but we believe in Him because He is Truth. In this sense, even scientific truth reveals Him. If He is still questioned, it is time to find out about Him. A believer who fears scientific research, fears the truth. Perhaps he is a believer who does not believe.” is an excellent resource.

On Valentine’s Day, they posted this love note regarding the #hamonney debate:

I’ll second this one:  Read the rest of this entry »

C-SPAN reran the #HamOnNey debate on 22 February 2014.

I watched. Caught it all this time. The family watched most of it with me.

Ken Ham and young-earth-creationists (YEC) love to assert that the ark was big enough to hold all the kinds of animals if “kind” is defined as family, two classifications up from species.

Ken Ham et al. claim to be defining kind and other words according to the bible, but can anyone tell me where he gets this definition of “kind”? Please? I understood him to indicate his current definition is based on science rather than the bible—on research his scientists are doing. What’s up with that?

Check it for yourself, the bible uses “kind” and synonyms with some variability, from what we call breeds to a basic generic category such as “bird”. However, specifically, Leviticus 11:22 gives us a very good definition of “kind” as used by the bible itself. New American Standard Bible: “These of them you may eat: the locust in its kinds, and the devastating locust in its kinds, and the cricket in its kinds, and the grasshopper in its kinds.” This appears to be at least as restrictive as species.  Read the rest of this entry »

The article below caught my eye, but while I was thinking of the title, I remembered the two Adam Again reference of my past. An album by the great Michael Omartian, but of course also the group fronted by the late Gene Eugene. Gene worked Swirling Eddies and Lost Dogs with Terry Scott Taylor, who is absolutely one of the greatest musicians of all time.

The Economist printed this article,, under the by line “Lexington.”

The article is worth reading. I highly recommend it for any fundamentalist or evangelical.

A couple of quotes:

“After they hit 18, half of evangelical youngsters lose their faith; entering a public university is especially perilous. As a generation, millennials (those born between the early 1980s and 2000s), are unimpressed by organised anything, let alone organised religion. Many young adults told the Barna Group, an evangelical research outfit, that they felt stifled by elders who demonised secular America.”

“The seeming paradox of a strong faith in crisis is explained by rigidity: that which cannot bend may break instead. The danger is keenly felt in conservative Christian circles, where a debate has broken out over the long-term outlook for the movement.”

“A trickier controversy has been triggered by findings from the genome that modern humans, in their genetic diversity, cannot be descended from a single pair of individuals. Rather, there were at least several thousand “first humans”. That challenges the historical existence of Adam and Eve, and has sparked a crisis of conscience among evangelical Christians persuaded by genetic science.”

Lexington closes with a snide comment about denying science. I don’t approve.

Commit to truth. Hold fast to the truth. Don’t deceive yourself into supposing you cannot be proven wrong.

I accept our first parents by faith. I make sure I don’t read into the first two chapters of Genesis, and I figure that the day before “the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” there was no visible, testable difference. That is, it seems scriptural and consistent with daily experience to suppose that natural processes were how God formed man of dust, and at some point, God did a miracle that made man godlike. (That’s from the first chapter.) I see that miracle as being spiritual, not natural.

So, was Adam historical? I think so. I don’t think I really understand it. I certainly will not try to build a model of how it all worked out, considering natural and spiritual factors. It would be untestable at best. I understand it well enough to believe God is good. I’ll leave it at that.

When the Focus on the Family organization produced their Truth Project DVD set, I was optimistic. Then I started hearing things. Then I started researching. I few friends looked into it. I heeded their opinions, and some of them worked through the lessons in small groups. Most were quite positive about it. Most of my friends are not particularly worried about exactness in scientific matters. I am. Most of my friends are not engineers. I am.

I quickly realized I could not let my children participate in the viewing in a small group setting, unless that small group was limited to only our family. It was clear that the Truth Project played fast and loose with the truth on occasion. While I think there may still be value in the series for my children, I wouldn’t consider sanctioning their viewing without me in control of the pause button and able to redirect, clarify, and correct. I may not be right, but I am daddy. My girls are all of age now, and I’ve deliberately and conscientiously taught my children to think and act for themselves. I don’t want them to be clones of me, but I am unwilling to let them hear something from authority that I disagree with unless they also hear my disagreement.

BioLogos presents an article by  Dorothy Boorse, here, where she reviews the lesson-5 DVD in the Truth Project series.

Dr. Boorse presents a very clear case regarding the lack of truth in the lectures reviewed.

Perhaps I shouldn’t say lack of truth. Perhaps it is more a lack of commitment to THE truth; to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.

The simple fact is that evolutionary theory is a tool. It is not a religion. It is not theology in any sense, but it is a good and useful tool. It works, and it works in an amazing variety of applications related to the biosciences. I’m not convinced it is useful in social sciences, but that might be more a failing of the social sciences in general rather than any particular tool utilized therein. It also might be an indication of my dislike and distrust of all things called “social science.”

Truth above all.

I follow Jesus, and He said He is the way, the truth, and the life. With that, truth becomes pretty much the most important thing in life. If I cannot stay absolutely committed to truth, I cannot see how I am committed to Jesus.

Regarding evolution in general, I find no incompatibility with the biblical assertion that God created man out of the dust of the earth and what Darwin’s theory has become. Dr. Boorse mentioned Howard J. Van Till and the fully gifted creation. I find his views are very similar to my own. This reference,, is a good summary.

I can recommend this book:

I read it while taking an online course from Dr. Hugh Ross’ about creation and evolution.

I wrote on this subject previously here,, dealing with insistence on literalness as being, perhaps, idolatrous.

Here I’m looking at the assertions in Deuteronomy and pointing out that it is either an absurd error or isn’t meant to be taken literally. Moses could not comprehend the number of stars, but God knows, and knew just as well then.  Read the rest of this entry »

This is good. Dr. Neil Gillman writes here:

He concludes, “Theological literal‑mindedness is idolatrous, not because it claims to describe the transcendent God in human and natural terms–what other terms can we use?–but rather, because it insists that these descriptions are literally accurate and true. […] The assumption that God’s nature can be conveyed in a literal way by our natural language is as idolatrous as building a golden calf.

We must speak about God, and we must also recognize that all of our God‑talk is built on a skeleton of metaphors, constructs, models, paradigms, or, more technically, “symbols.””

What is it with literalness and the Bible? I am committed to truth. I’d rather be corrected than wrong 100% of the time, no matter how embarrassing or painful. I agree that when something is written, we need to expect the author was intelligent and intentional, and that he meant what he wrote. We need to expect the most plain meaning first. We must carefully take into consideration context and condition. A 10th Century BC oriental writer had very different context that seems quite foreign if we do not understand it. Likewise a 1st Century Jew, or even a 1st Century Roman. But, some people insist on literalness regardless, until they are presented with something absurd like God’s promise to Abraham to make his descendants as numerous as the sands of the sea and the stars of the heavens. They want to backpedal and emphasize the use of the word “as”. Well, go look it up. It is hard to get around.

Gen 22:17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore.

There are other verses that reiterate, and Jer 33:22 specifies it to David’s and Levi’s descendants. The statement here though stipulates the similarity in the immeasurableness, rather than the actual count.

Of course, Heb 11:12 asserts the task is accomplished, a statement written nearly two thousand years ago, “Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.” Read the rest of this entry »

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