Ecology is the branch of biology that studies the interactions of organisms with each other and their environment. The animals and plants around you are living in relationship with each other and the environment, including yourself. Around your home you may have considerable control over the environment – moisture, nutrients, lawn-mowing, week control, pest removal – and thus you are probably the most important ecological factor in determining the diversity of life in that environment. But take a walk in the woods or a grassy field and you will witness a far more complex world. The organisms there are involved in an intricate pattern of interactions that would take a lifetime to fully explore and understand.
An appreciation of the complexity of ecological relationships and variables is best discovered by repeated observations of the same place over time. As a simple example, I frequently visit several nature parks near my home usually with a couple of kids in tow. The place we most frequently visit is a small Summit County park called the Springfield Bog Metro Park. Opened in 2011 this park consists of several hundred acres of former farmland and cranberry bogs. It is slowly being restored to a grassland prairie and wetlands. I have made frequent visits during this process and been able to witness how the communities of plants, insects and vertebrate life in the park have changed over time.
Below I share a few pictures I have taken at this park over several years and write about one of the big changes that occurred Spring of 2016. That change include an event that resulted in the death of thousands of toads and it got me thinking about the ecology of the Garden of Eden and the portrait that young-earth creationists paint of a perfect paradise.
Above are a few members of my family walking through the prairie restoration at Springfield Bog Metro Park in 2015. Over the years the sunflower perennials have become more established resulting in a carpet of flowers four to five feet above the ground. In the first years of restoration it was easy to look out over the plants because smaller annual plants and weakly established perennials were the norm (below).
A carpet of color in July, 2014, at the Springfield Bog Metro Park near Akron Ohio.
In the center of this preserve is a small pond.
This pond doesn’t have any fish. It is home to some large bullfrogs and has become a breeding pond for thousands of American toads. Below is an American toad from my backyard. In the spring toads make their way from their winter homes to ponds where they mate. Then they return back into the woods and surrounding neighborhoods.
About the third week of April the past three years thousands of American toads have come to this pond to mate. Last year the pond was absolutely full (probably more than 10,000) of toads. My kids could catch them to their heart’s content and then throw them back. This year there were about half as many toads as the previous year for reasons that will become clear below. I estimated between 2500 and 5000 adult toads were in the pond this year.
Despite half the number of toads, the entire pond was rimmed with egg masses about 1 week after the picture of the toads above were taken.
Above and below are pictures from early May after the eggs hatched. Hundreds of thousands of tadpoles fill the pond along with the a number of bullfrog polliwogs.
In the image above you can the tadpoles are finding sustenance on the carcass of a toad that died before leaving the pond.
As impressive as the above images might be, last year there were far more toads than there were this spring in the pond. Why is that? There could be many reasons including disease, especially harsh winter conditions, etc.. but I think I know the primary reason: fire!
This year the Metro Parks did a control burn of the large amount of dead plant material – called standing vegetation – that remained into the spring. That burn was undertaken just as the toads were making their way from the winter homes to the pond. Below is a picture of what the preserve looked like – behind my son learning to use a camera – in early March. There was a tremendous amount of plant material from last year and even the year before that still standing on the preserve. While this is good cover for small birds it inhibits plant growth and locks up nutrients in an inaccessible form.
Below is what the same area looked like in late March. All of that dead material is burnt away along with the first leaves of the new spring growth.
Many organisms met their demise the day of the fire. Millions of adults and eggs of dozens of species of insects were likely lost but most vertebrate animals were spared because they were able to flee either by going underground, running away or flying away from the flames. Had the fire occurred later when thousands of birds had laid eggs in nests the destruction to life would have been much greater.
But through destruction there is new life. The fire releases nutrients trapped in dead plants tissues back into the soil. Those nutrients will allow the plants to flourish which will provide even more food for birds and many other animals. The fire also removes underbrush that was choking some new plant growth. It also kills tree and shrub saplings that had been slowly establishing themselves in the preserve. Without fire those samples would grow up and shade the ground causing the herbaceous plants, and the communities that depend on them, to die. Many birds depend on the thick grasslands for survival and so the maintenance of these open grass and other herbaceous plants results in an increased diversity of organisms that can be maintained in Ohio. So, without fire, the beautiful fields of flowers and the birds that they support would be gone in a decade. That some organisms are killed or driven off temporarily is more than compensated for by the overall increase in productivity of the land for future generations.
The only vertebrate animal that seems to have been directly impacted by the fire were american toads. Below is a section of the field just adjacent to the pond. I did a survey of a 50 by 100-foot portion of this area and counted all of the burnt toad carcasses. I counted 49 dead toads in that small plot. I observed no other dead animals among the burnt plant remains.
Here (above and below) are a couple of unfortunate toads. Both of these pictures were taken no more than 30 feet from the pond. In addition to the methodical survey that I did, I also walked several 200 foot transects in each direction from the pond to see if there was a particular side of the pond where more toads met their fate than any other. I wondered where most toads were migrating from. What I found was that there were similar numbers of toads all around the pond. Much further – 500 feet or more – the density of dead toads was much lower.
Many toads, like the one below were full of eggs ready to be fertilized but they never made it to the pond. But many were already there and they were able to mate resulting in hundreds of thousands of tadpoles and surely tens of thousands of new adults.
How many toads didn’t make it? I took the number of toads in the area I surveyed and did a quick calculation of the total area around the pond and estimated that between 4000 and 10,000 toads probably died in the fire on the preserve that day. Since I estimated that there were maybe 5000 toads in the pond it seems likely that 50% of the adult toad population in this area was lost to the fire.
Two weeks later we visited the park to find a lush carpet of new growth.
By this fall we will be able to wander among the grasses and sunflowers that are nurtured by the replenishment of the ground with nutrients released by the fire.
Reflections on the Death of Toads and a Perfect Paradise
Looking at a landscape with scores of dead toads I could not help but ask myself: Is this death necessary? As a Christian and growing up in a community of Christians that were and still are disposed to approaching the creation from a young-earth perspective, the first response I am told that I should have is that toad death is unnatural. The original plan of creation did not include the death of toads. Rather it was a “good” creation. Not only that, but the “good” creation is usually understood as a perfect paradise. A place where death and suffering of any kind did not exist.
This is a foundational principle that flood geology and young-earth creationism is built upon. Death did not occur until after the Fall of Adam and Eve into sin. Therefore all death in this world which includes present day death and past death, witnessed in the fossil record, must have occurred between the Fall and today. Noah’s flood therefore becomes the only possible physical explanation for the evidence of past death in fossils.
What was life like before death? We are led to believe it was a perfect paradise in which all organisms lived in complete harmony. In other words, they lived under a completely different set of ecological rules or principles. Virtually nothing we understand today about biology must apply to that world. The Eden ecology would have been vastly different that anything we could imagine.
How different must the ecological rules been? Consider these toads and the ecology of this park. First of all, Ken Ham and his followers have defined “living things” as those that contain the sense of the biblical term nephesh. There is no universal agreement as to what organisms alive today have this nephesh but certainly all vertebrate animals such as birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish are included. What aren’t included are plants, microbes, insects and fungi. These organisms are not alive and thus they could “die” prior to Adam’s sin. So the Edenic rules of ecology would have been quite different. Animals were commanded to reproduce but could not die. They would have used resources but never have contributed substantially as a resource themselves. At the same time, bacteria, plants and insects could essentially have competed for resources the way they do now.
Bring in the toads…
How would a toad pond in the middle of a field of flowers work in a perfect paradise? Just look at the pictures of the toads above. They are clearly “designed” to reproduce with all species having internal structures perfectly suited for production of thousands of eggs. Look at the hundreds of thousands of tadpoles. Does anyone doubt that only a small fraction will survive to become adults? But in the perfect paradise every tadpole is a living thing that could not die. This pond would produce a hundred thousand toads. But where would they have gotten the resources to survive? It seems there must have been some special biological rules must have been in operation in Eden that we can’t identify today.
Or is the YEC characterization of a perfect paradise in error. Must the death of a tadpole represent the consequence of Adam’s sin? I don’t believe it is necessary for us to accept this interpretation of scripture. The creation was “good” and is still “good” as testified to by scripture. The YEC concept of perfection is not a Biblical concept but rather a man-centric definition of perfection that imposes conditions on the creation that God must follow.
Continuing with toads…. if the tadpoles all lived to maturity and then were to have lived forever, what about all the creatures that are adapted to eating tadpoles today? Herons, some ducks, fish, water snakes, etc.. benefit to varying degrees from tadpole protein in their diet. But in the YEC perfect paradise these animals had only plants – and maybe insects – to eat. So they also must have lived by radically different ecological rules.
Many creationists will concede that insects may not be living and thus stepping on one in Eden would not have caused death though even that point isn’t always conceded (see: Did Adam Step on an Ant Before the Fall?). It is one thing to argue over insects but tadpoles are “living” by any creationists’ measuring stick. How could ducks eat water plants and dinosaurs step into the water without accidentally squashing a tadpole? And even if there was some special protection such that they just would not die, how could there be enough resources – including living space – for all the tadpoles to grow into adults?
The Edenic rules of ecology must have been so strange that it seems senseless for Ken Ham or anyone for that matter to describe in words or pictures how the original creation would have worked if death of any animals before Adam was not possible. One simple way to see how exotic this world would have been is to think about one basic ecological principle: nutrient cycling in the biosphere. Take any nutrient such as nitrogen, phosphorous or even an essential building block like carbon and follow what happens to it as it moves through the environment. Plants accumulate nitrogen from soil, animals like tadpoles eat those plants and then use that nitrogen to construct their own DNA and proteins. Some of that nitrogen may return to the ground in urine and feces but the majority would be kept by the growing tadpole and toad. If the toad did not die that nitrogen would be permanently stored in the living animal. If animals did not die nitrogen, phosphorous, sulfur, and even all carbon would inevitably become trapped in animals and those resources would become very scare in the environment making more plant growth very difficult. In other words, growth would come to a grinding halt. This “perfect” world would seem to lack the ability to continue as a perfect place where the command to be fruitful and multiple could be carried out. Constant miraculous fertilization would appear to be the only solution to the unidirectional flow of nutrients. Even then, animals would fill the Earth at such a pace that they would eventually have filled every square inch within a few months.
One response might be that God foresaw that man would fall into sin and thus bring death – and a radical new ecology – into his creation. But this would imply that His original creation was never intended to function over long periods of time because the rules he had made to govern the world would not work with the creatures He had made and commanded to be fruitful and multiply. It was simply a temporary state of being awaiting man to usher in an ecology that necessitates death for its proper execution.
It is interesting to notice that Ken Ham and company have tacitly accepted this view of history. They are advocating that the diversity of species and their adaptations to a fallen world are the result of God having pre-packaged massive genetic variation including all the deadly abilities of predators and skills such as avoiding being killed by fire etc.. into the original created kinds in Eden. Those features would have had no useful purpose in Eden, the ecology of the creation was non-functional and only after Adam’s sin did God’s created creatures find their purpose in the features he planted in their genomes.
I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg with a toothpick with respect to this topic of the nature of nature in Eden and the theological ramifications. These aren’t solely my ideas. They are partly inspired by an excellent book, Peril in Paradise, by Mark Whorton that examines the theological problems with the YEC view of Eden. For much more on this topic I highly recommend this book at a good starting point.
*In all such scenarios the YEC could always invoke miracle and just say that fire happened but didn’t kill anything but non-living things just like they could say that an elephant could step on a dung beetle but couldn’t kill it.
Addendum: I should be clear that I am not denying that vastly different ecological rules are not possible. Surely Heaven is a place where the ecological rules will be quite different but just because heaven will be different doesn’t mean the original creation obeyed those same rules. Heaven is not the re-creation of the Garden of Eden. We don’t look forward to going back to that state that although “good” was not the intended end state of God’s creation. What I am suggesting is that the YEC understanding of the original ecological state of creation is flawed.
So as a Christian, how do you deal with death? Has there always been death? Was that part of God’s plan. When I was a Christian I leant towards the Irenaean theodicy as formulated by John Hick in “Evil and the God of Love” as an explanation.
I’ve also never heard creationists propose a mechanism for this event that radically altered not only the fundamental principles of ecology but also redesigned countless vertebrates at the DNA level to create a new food chain based on predation. Eating a fruit is not a magical act that can accomplish this. Either you have to come up with a scenario in which God carried out a second creation that was not good like the first (Why? Out of spite toward humans?), or you have to blame Satan — in which case, Satan and not God is the true creator of our planet’s magnificent biosphere.
Interestingly, those who read the Bible closely may have noticed that God himself chooses to corrupt the world in Genesis 6:13 (the same word is used to describe both man’s corruption and God’s, though translations try to avoid this implication). However, this event is associated with the flood and not with Eden. (Those who know their biblical history may realize that before Christianity invented Original Sin theology, Jews tended to associate the fallen angels in the time of the flood, and not Eden, with the corruption of mankind.)
Hello Paul. I read your post and believe you are mistaken about at least one point. I am unclear about your reference to Genesis 6:13. This verse is where God proclaims that He is about to destroy the earth because of the evil thereon. I do not see where this exemplifies God corrupting the world. Seems He is actually trying to cleanse it. Your remark is vague and your reference to translations gives no examples or linguistic qualifiers, so one has no idea what specifically you are referring to.
And as a student and teacher of biblical theology and literature, the association with the flood and the fallen angels was more prevalent during the second temple period, from which we get Enoch, Jubilees, etc. The Jews (or this particular group of them) believed that the “sons of God” were, as you say, fallen, having had sexual relations with human beings. This led to the spread of evil throughout mankind. I know of no particular branch of Christianity or any other religion that specifically associates the Flood of Noah as being the consequence of the Fall in Eden. If that is what you were trying to imply, your information is faulty.
Also, your conclusion, in which Satan would be to blame, would NOT make Satan the creator of anything. Your statement is a non sequitur. Wondering if you could clear these points up for me.
Chuck, allow me to clarify what I meant. The Hebrew word in question is שׁחת , meaning “corrupt” or “spoil”. It occurs three times in Genesis 6:11–13:
Allow me to cite a recent academic article by David Clines, an esteemed Old Testament professor with whom you are undoubtedly familiar:
Regarding the spread of evil, my point was that the Eden story was not originally understood to represent the introduction of sin into the world, i.e. the Fall. It was the flood story where Jewish exegetes first proposed that sin entered the world; 1 Enoch, for example, has the angels teaching men and women the art of war, herbology, cosmetics, and so forth, thereby corrupting humankind. In other words, turning the Eden story into a watershed event that corrupt humanity with sin is a much later (Christian) imposition on the text.
My point regarding Satan is this: in conversations with young earth creationists that I have had, many claim that it was Satan who turned vegetarian animals into carnivores, created disease pathogens and parasitic organisms, and so on. Since predation, parasitism, and death are fundamental and necessary elements of all ecosystems on earth, whichever entity (under the YEC model) was responsible for engineering them is the de facto creator of the only natural order we have ever known.
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thanks for your reply. With all due respect to the good professor, i see no conspiracy or squeamishness involved here. The word can mean “to corrupt, spoil, ruin, mar, or destroy” (Vines exp. dict. of old and n.t. words) and again, “to destroy, to ruin,…to corrupt, to pervert” (the new wilson’s old testament word studies pg 97) (pg. 59 for vines). The word can mean either to corrupt or to destroy. Seeing as how neither the good prof. nor you or I know what the translators were thinking, we can only surmise. I’m not sure they were valiantly trying to protect Gods’ reputation (as if He needs us to), esp. a God who will destroy the earth or 180,000 assyrian soldiers, not to mention Sodom and Gomorrah. Seeing as how the meaning can vary (and it’s not quite identical in all three instances which an interlinear will show you, perhaps they were trying to contrast what humans were doing with what only He would have the divine perogative to do so. I ususally find that liberal scholarship loves to find juicy little tidbits in scripture to make big issues. Destroy. Corrupt. Either one is a completely acceptable translation. Only imaginary issues here. Even if you use corruption, God is only finishing what mankind started. God decided it was beyond redemption. The fault lay with man, not God. Let’s not blame Him. As to your second point, the concept of the first original sin being in Eden did NOT begin with christians. The jews were quite aware that the original sin of man occured in the Garden of Eden. The writings that you referred to, as did I, are from the second temple period, roughly from 400 B.C. to the first century. Many were found at Qumran, more than likely by the essenes, or copied by them. The concept of sin starting at the flood is NOT a christian invention. Now if you want to quibble over the words “original sin”, they might well be of christian origin. But the concept of the first sin being in the garden did not have to wait for christians to come along.
And (3) Satan has no power to create anything. As to what he could or couldn’t “manipulate” what he could or couldn’t do to DNA, well, unique and interesting theories aside, all comes under the purview of a sovereign God. Seeing as how scripture does not give us any such information, i myself would be hesitant to put forth such theories. All this aside, what exactly is your point? I am unclear as to your overall argument. I may just be slow, but i don’t know where you were headed. But thanks for the reply none the same.
Okay, lots of issues brought up here, I will try to address them as briefly as I can:
1. Chuck, your claim about the days is untrue on two accounts. The day-age interpretation does have historical merit (st, Augustine for example). Nobody is arguing that Yom translates to billions of years, but that it means an indefinite period of time that by the definition of indefinite, is consistent with billions of years (or any amount of time, for that matter). No offense is intended, but the claim about being used with a number is utter nonsense made up by YEC “scholars”. There is no legitimate grammatical reason why this is true. The best defense these YEC “scholars” have to back their claim up is that (they claim) every other time Yom is used with a number in the old testament it means a 24-hour day. Many OEC have cited examples where this is not the case however. And even if it were the case, it does not validate the arguement. This is just not how language works. (The same goes for “Evening and Morning”)
2. “The genre of the early chapters of Genesis are almost unanimously, among experts in Hebrew and/or biblical genre, agreed to be historical narrative. Or historical prose. It has no hallmarks of poetry. There is no symbolism. Just flat out historical genre.” Although I would agree that Genesis is a historical narrative (though not with the wooden literalism you imply) the idea you present that there is a near-perfect consensus is blatantly untrue. There is near consensus among YEC “scholars”, but OEC, TE, and Secular scholars regularly adopt the “Polemic View” or the “Framework Hypothesis”. Although I do not hold to these views, they are quite common among scholars. Not that it really matters, which leads me to point three…
3. I’m sorry, but I refuse to accept a poll of people with degrees having a consensus (no matter how great) on point X as overwhelming evidence in a debate that point X must be true. You have to actually argue for your position, an academic consensus is not evidence to me, at all. Once tiny minority positions often rise to majority positions. What the consensus of scholars is right now is not evidence. You can quote their arguments and use that as evidence (and I will respond), but simply saying “smart” person A says Y, therefore Y must be true, is nothing but an appeal to authority.
4. With regard to your claim about Christians and Science…not sure I get you here. There was only ever one history. If you think the bible contradicts science (which I do not) one has to be wrong and one has to be right. They are mutually exclusive.
5. The age of the earth and evolution are totally separate issues. I told you, I am an Old-Earth Creationist, NOT a Theistic Evolutionist. I do believe God creates species of life supernaturally, not through evolution. Despite the misguided claims of various YEC ministries, how old the earth is has NOTHING to do with evolution. If the evidence actually indicated the earth was only a few thousand years old, secular scientists would still probably accept it and find a way to make evolution fit into such a narrow timeframe. Darwin thought it would take quadrillions of years, but they still find a way to squeeze it into billions. There are hundreds of independent evidences for the age of the earth, none of which have to do with evolution. Your claim that I and others are manipulating the text to accommodate evolution is simply misguided. I simply think the earth really is billions of years old, and think that YEC’s are wrong about the days of Genesis 1 and the geneologies. (Again, the day-age interpretation predates the enlightenment)
6. Paul D, your statement “So Arpachshad’s distant descendant was born when he was 35 years old? That makes no sense.” misunderstands telescoping. Arpachshads DIRECT descendant was born when he was 35 years old. But Shelah wasn’t actually that direct descendant, he was a distant descendant. I recomend you read this article by Dr. John Millam on Godandscience.org about the genologies: http://www.godandscience.org/youngearth/genesis_genealogies.html
Thanks for your reply. i’ll try to be concise. My claim about the Hebrew word for day is actually quite true. I was referring to it’s etymological meaning. I am well aware that different people have interpreted the word differently, but if languages are to mean anything, words have to have some consistent referent meanings. As i pointed out to you, day by itself can mean a day or a period of time. But in the bible you are being quite anachronistic to put a recent meaning into a thousands of years old word. And i have no idea where you get your refutation from. I honestly don’t care what an yec, oec, atheist, anyone, says the word can mean. My specific reference was to Hebrew biblical or extrabiblical scholars. I would challenge your assertion that my argument is a yec argument made up. This consistent claim that someone made up something, etc. gets tiring. Prove it. Go find a Hebrew scholarly source that tells you, say, that “fifth day” could mean millions of years. I know you won’t, because there aren’t any. I’ve looked for decades. And i’ve known this about the word for day before Henry Morris, et. al first recognized it. Your mere claims that it is utter nonsense or there is no grammatical reason, etc. is, to use your phrase, utter nonsense. Quit relying on the “the other guys are making it up” excuse and do the research. Merely claiming something doesn’t make it accurate. That would apply to me also, which is why i gave you information and not an excuse. I know the biblical languages. What i said is accurate and remains so until you or someone else with ability and skills refutes it.
Your statement to the effect that even if it were true, it still wouldn’t be true (this is what your words actually mean) is non sequitur. Language does work that way, now, and thousands of years ago. I suggest you take some time off from worrying about the age of the earth and study the biblical languages, especially if you intend to reference them.
2) I made no reference or alluded to any “wooden literalism”. If you know what prose is you would know it allows for freedom of expression. Nonetheless, the intent of historical narrative is to report history, at least from the point of the author. It’s irrelevant what a yec or oec or anyone wants to “read into it”. It is intended to accurately report details or events, with a certain amount of flexibility allowed. Historical narrative is not written to convey error, intentional or not. I really don’t care what yec or oec scholars think or how they interpret. They are often trying to squeeze scripture into their respective scientific paradigms. I only care what the text says, and sorry, 6 days has never meant nor can it mean 600,000,000 years, or whatever.
3) It is ironic that you don’t care what a consensus of scholars believe when you simultaneously refer to a consensus of scholars to back up your point. I have made no argument to the consensus. But if you think you can read millions of years into the word day and ignore the consensus of language experts on what the word means, well, doesn’t that smack just a bit of arrogance? It’s like taking a college course and not caring what your instructor teaches. You better at least know what he teaches, or you will fail, both the course and in this instance, valid reasoning.
4) I certainly never stated that science and the bible were totally exclusive of each other. The study of both are disciplines, with different approaches and intentions. The aren’t used to interpret each other, which is exactly what you are doing, per my above example. You need millions of years so you read it into the word “day” from a perspective thousands of years beyond the usage of the word. That’s what i mean. Certainly science and the bible do not have to be in conflct but are often forced into it by their perspective interpreters. The book of Genesis isn’t interested in telling us the exact date of creation, and science can’t tell us how it was made except by hypothesis, or why it was made, in any sense. the ‘day-age” theory may be from the enlightenment, even sooner. That, however, has no bearing on what the author meant by the usage of the word day. Again, that reasoning is anachronistic.
5) And finally, as i have stated in previous posts, i have no interest in how old the earth is. Don’t matter to me. It does matter, however, to correct theology. If Christ used the 7 days as an analogy for the work week, but the 7 days actually referred to millions of years, was Christ ignorant? Was He wrong when He said that His father created the earth and heavens in 6 days? Did he know better but just not tell us (this would be lying, or deviousness at best). This is only one example of where millions of years will bring you into conflict with the new testament. Just saying. But thanks for the reply.
1. As I said, a “Yom” is can mean an indefinite period of time. An indefinite period of time can be millions of years. I am not claiming the ancient hebrews read Genesis an thought “yep, millions of years”. Rather, they would have recognized these “days” as indefinite periods of time of an unknown length. There is no reason why said indefinite periods cannot be hundreds, thousands, millions, billions, quadrillions, googles, googleplexes, etc. Yom can mean an indefinite period of time. This is fact.
What I was saying YEC’s made up is the rule that somehow being used with a number means it the “indefinite period of time” definition cannot be used. You (nor anyone else who makes this claim) can give a legitimate reason for this rule. There is no grammatical reason why being used with a number is connected with the definition of the word.
2. Scripture is inerrant. The record of nature is inerrant, therefore they must be harmonized. It isn’t that complicated.
3. As I said, citing the consensus of scholars is not evidence for anything in a debate. You have to give a real arguement not just “This guy with a degree in B says X, therefore X must be true and your arguments are invalid”.
And I never used the consensus of scholars to argue for my position, I don’t do that. I was simply pointing out what is going in with scholars to correct your incorrect idea that the overwhelming majority of scholars believe Genesis is a historical narrative and Yom cannot mean an indefinite period of time which could potentially be millions (or any other length of time) of years long. This is incorrect, there are a large number of scholars who do not view Genesis as a historical narrative and a large number of OEC scholars who think Yom CAN mean an indefinite period of time in Genesis 1. I am not using this to support my claims (after all, I DO think Genesis is a somewhat poetic historical narrative) but simply to correct you.
4, There are legitimate reasons to suggest that the days in Genesis 1 are not 24-hour days, and refer to long epochs of time (which the word Yom does allow), Such as the arguement from the timing of Adam and Eves creation in Genesis 2, the hebrew terms for the growth of plants on “day” 3, how “day” 7 is implied to be ongoing even when the text was written (which would at least be thousands of years), and cross-referencing with Pslam 104. This is not a view simply invented to be in accord with modern science (although it does solve the issue of the age of the earth quite well), but rather an interpretation grounded in a logical interpretation of the text.
5. God structured the “days” of Genesis 1 to align with the human work week, not because he actually created over 6 literal days, and only rested for one, but to create an analogy by which we could relate. But the Genesis “creation week” is an analogy to the work week, not a straightforward copy. Much like how the 40 years in the wilderness were analogous to the 40 days they scouted (Numbers 14:33 – 35). It doesn’t mean they are literally an equal amount of time.
Wow, are you dodging the issue or have i not communicated it to you well. Yes, everyone agrees that the word “day” CAN mean an indeterminate period of time. Why keep repeating this? That fact that it can does not mean it does in any random context. Context always determines. And as i have repeated over and over, when the word yom is found is found with the numeric all contexts of such usage make clear that the intent of the word day (24 hr. period) is intended. 40 days means forty days. 3 days means three days. 100 days means 100 days. It is also true that days can be used to stand in for a period, such as a year, often used in prophetic passages or passages of judgement. Even here, however, if, let’s say, 40 days didn’t mean 40 actual days, then it would render the 40 years parallel meaningless. 40 days don’t symbolize 40 periods of indeterminate time. We aren’t talking poetry or apocalyptic meanings in Genesis. It is historical narrative. And yes you were arguing from consensus. You seem impressed that “alot” or “many” scientists interpret something a certain way. That is exactly what a consensus argument is. I find it ironic that the 6-day interpretation of Genesis was just fine for about 1800 years, and only began to be attacked after evolution became the reigning paradigm. Now please note, we didn’t discover new meanings for the word day. Evolutionist and oec HAD to change the meaning to conform scripture to science.
And yes wow, we can give a legitimate reason for it. It is called biblical hermeneutics. When one attempts to change the clear meaning of a word from it’s understood usage for thousands of years, i believe it is incumbent upon THEM to explain why the change is justified. You keep throwing out the empty charge that there is no proof, etc. Try reading a book on biblical interpretation. You will learn that if a word can mean anything, then in reality it means nothing. You mentioned that “some” oec scholars found a couple of exceptions to the rule i stated. Where are they? Claiming something is not proof of it. I haven’t seen a single exce
ption to this understanding in over 40 years of study. I would love to see one. But i do hope you understand that your very wording of that claim verifies mine. That only a “couple” of exceptions have supposedly been found proves my point, don’t you think? So what if there are a “couple” of exceptions. Aren’t we still saying that out of the hundreds of examples of yom being used with a numeric, only a couple of exceptions have been found? So then we would want to interpret a passage using meanings of words that only rarely occur, This doesn’t sound like solid practices of interpretation. I am not, however, allowing your point. Find these exceptions (you won’t). It;s not a rule ‘”made up” by yec. It was used as an interpretive method for thousands of years before there even was such a thing as a YEC. It’s an understanding that tens of thousands or more of biblical scholars have had over the centuries. You can’t (or shouldn’t) keep relying on the appaitrently always handy “the yec’s made that up” line of arguing. It is banal and lazy. Are you a language scholar? Are you degree in any area of biblical study. You must be, i assume, based on your ability to make unsubstantiated claims and just whisk away millenia of biblical understanding.
And please wow, nature is not “inerrant”. Are you trying to reify it? We understand nature, it doesn’t make claims for itself. And if you don’t know the history of error and hoaxes involved in “doing science” i fear you have sold your soul way too cheaply. Honestly, do youself a favor, stop posting, and go buy Thomas Kuhns the Structure of Scientific Revolutions. He is a lover of science and desired to write a book that would help all scientists do science better. Instead he almost singlehandidly brought research to an intellectual standstill. He left a proposed 14 volume tome on science moribund, dead on arrival. You, and any one else reading this, should not even think you are knowledgeable about how science and scientists work. One of his most significant contributions was the revealing and understanding of how the prevailing “paradigm” causes all to view their science throught it only and to resist anything not comforming to it, until anomalies force science to adjust (an anomaly such as ID, for example). If you haven’t read it, then you haven’t read one of, if not perhaps THE most important book on science in the last century. SCIENCE IS NOT INERRANT, Wow. Than’t nonsense. I don’t think you’ll even get a scientist to agree with you on that. And your statement about the bible and science being inerrant is, again, another non sequitur. Think about what you said, even if you didn’t mean to. You’ve put the mind and abilities of man on equal footing with that of God. Sounds a little like idolatry to me.
None of the reasons you give, plants, Adam and Eve, are reasons for interpreting day as anything other than day, unless you desire to conform scripture to your scientific paradigm. The words mean what meant when the author of Genesis wrote them. Any attempt at cramming evolutionary thinking into those chapters is doomed to be unsuccessful and at best is anachronistic. You DONT interpret an ancient document from a 21st century perspective. To do so does violence both to the Bible and to your science. Or will you just say that someone made that up?
Finally, are you telling me that God “structured” 4 billions years of evolution to give us an analogy we could relate to? Maybe it’s just me, but 6 indefinite periods of time equal to about 4 billion years just doesn’t quite give me an analogy of a six day work week with a seven day (what, another 750 million years) of rest. None of what you are saying makes the least bit of rational sense. Read your own words. Perhaps, if you have a child, you could explain the chapters of Genesis to him or her that way and see if they get it. Even a 5 year old can grasp 1-6 followed by a seventh day. Your interpretation, i am not so sure. And about the forty days you are correct. They were corresponding. Exactly as i said above when we are talking about prophecy or judgement. Nonetheless Wow, they didn’t wander around for 400 million years to “correspond” to the forty days. In that passage of scripture, it’s the bible, not your or my wisdom, the TELLS us how and why they correspond. In other words, scripture interprets scripture. You and I would have no basis whatsoever for thinking either of those 40’s meant anything other than 40. Scripture is inerrant. Science is quite fallible. And that’s okay. We are all fallible. Which is why we should be OOOOOOOHHHHHHHHH so careful when we starting playing with the word and reinterpreting it to suit our fancy. Just an exhortation.
Let me be as brief as I can here:
As I keep telling you, there is no logical connection between a number and “Yom”. There is no reason why a number means that it MUST be a 24-hour day. (Example: The history of stone tools is divided into THREE EPOCHS, lower paleolithic, middle paleolithic, upper paleolithic, a long period of time can be a plural, in Ancient Hebrew and English)
Again, stop bringing up evolution, it has nothing to do with this. I do not believe life evolved from a common ancestor.
Your arguement regarding science is committing the fallacy of an arguement from the future.
The 40 days are analogous to the 40 years, yet you say this is a false equivalence because “Nonetheless Wow, they didn’t wander around for 400 million years to “correspond” to the forty days.” but how much time it actually is = irrelevant. The point is, the amount of time is just analogus, it’s not equal.
God divided the 4.5 billion years into seven “Yom”s (in this case being an epoch) to correspond to our work week, what is so hard about that?
Nature IS inerrant, we just don’t have a perfect understanding of it. Nature can’t be “wrong”, what would that even mean?
” Even a 5 year old can grasp 1-6 followed by a seventh day. Your interpretation, i am not so sure.” This arguement is not remotely legitimate. You commit Kent Hovinds (frankly absurd) fallacy of assuming the bible MUST be fully comprehensible to a child. It isn’t. It is quite complex. That is the problem with the YEC interpretation, it is childishly simple.
You essentially say the same thing most popular YEC’s say, “Mans word VS. Gods word”. This is wrong, our interpretation of the bible is equally fallible to our interpretation of nature. One does not trump the other. It is, in fact “Mans interpretation of God’s word VS. Mans interpretation of God’s creation”.
and thus we go on into eternity. How can I make it clear to you. No, the word day with a number does not inherently mean that day can only mean a 24 hour period. Yom still means what it means. Numbers or not. What will determine the meaning will be the context. And in the OT, whenever yom is used with a numeric it clearly means x number of days, which were to be considered all or part of a 24 hour period. The only, and I repeat only, exceptions to this were phrases such as “day of the Lord”, which were often found in prophecy, imprecatory psalms, or judgement passages, such as x days for Elijah to lay on one side for each year of Israels disobedience. And those judgement passages do not change the meaning of the word “day”, it is still a day. When God said to Elijah, lay on your side for x days (for ex. 30) to represent years of Israels disobedience, he didn’t mean for Elijah to lay on one side for, oh, let’s say, 30 thousand years. Or 30 million. Day still meant day. And the Hebrew word yom was never used in the sense you ascribe to it, such as an epoch, definitely not according to your meaning of thousands or millions of years. That is nonsense, and I invite you to find a Hebrew lexicon that will substantiate such a claim.
And did you not say you were a theistic evolutionist? Other than squeezing in God, whats the difference. You still need billions of years.
Argument from the future? Do you know what a fallacy is. You were committing an anachronistic fallacy, i.e. interpreting past documents in light of current thinking or paradigms. Not the way to do it, putting 21st century ways of interpreting (ie. days might mean billions of years) into the mind of someone writing three thousand years ago. It’s not good interpretation. And it shouldn’t be done. If you need billions of years, find it somewhere else. They’re not going to be found in the first chapters of Genesis. What Augustine thought is irrelevant to the issue. I am familiar with his writings and the writings of most of the church fathers, and nowhere in them did he imply he thought days could mean billions of years. They just didn’t think that way. Besides, though a smart man and defender of the faith, he had an unwelcome proclivity towards “symbolic” interpretation, always trying to find a hidden spiritual meaning in addition to the plain meaning. It often made him a poor exegete, and such tendency is viewed by most biblical scholars today in a negative way. Not that there isn’t symbolism in scripture, but one musn’t “read into” the bible what isn’t there. And that’s my whole point with Genesis. there is nothing there, except the imagination of those who desperately need to find it, to suggest that the six days were intended in any other way than 6 days. IT’S JUST NOT THERE. Search elsewhere. Or just accept science as a superior revelation than scripture and believe what you will. There are biblical warnings about messing with the words and meanings found in the bible. I don’t think it’s worth the potential risk. Let the bible say what it says, whether it embarrases you or not, whether it conforms with your science or not, and stick with your information from your higher source.
Again, you are reifying nature (look it up). Nature is not inerrant. Nature has no clue what that means. Even if it was, as you agree, WE aren’t. We may well be misinterpreting what nature is manifesting. Science has done it over and over again. Or should I say scientists. That’s not a condemnation. Just the truth. And yes, scientists, sinners like the rest of us, can be quite fallible, even liars at times. Even Einstein, to avoid an expanding universe, purposely fudged one of his calculations to get the result he wanted. He later admitted it as the biggest mistake he ever made, a mistake in the sense of being devious. If you study the history of science (and please, quit blogging and buy and read Thomas Kuhns book. It will give you a healthier view of doing science. That’s what I meant by you believing nature is inerrant. Nature isn’t something that can be inerrant. Perhaps you mean another word. What you and I know about nature is what we are told by other men and women, and if we are scientists, by our research. And humans are NOT inerrant. Not a plea to give up science, but to be a bit more cautious about buying into everything you read or hear.
And I am quite capable of committing my own errors. I don’t need to borrow anyone else’s, Hovind or any other. Yes, I do believe that a child who can read and hear can glean enough from the bible to understand the most important basics. God’s holy, we are not. God loves us, without his help we don’t and won’t love him. Jesus died for our sins. And certainly, six days equals six days. No, I wasn’t saying a child would be proficient at reading and interpreting Hebrew and Greek. And you know exactly what I meant. And about the “frankly absurd” statement. You realize that just using those two words doesn’t make his argument frankly absurd. You actually have to correctly state and accurately refute his argument to make your point.
YEC.YEC.YEC.YEC.YEC.YEC.YEC.YEC. There, tired of reading those three letters? So am I. Get over it, and them. You make like they are the only ones who disagree with you. Do you realize Wow, there are atheists who disagree with you? Not just the ones who reject all you say just because you try to include God in your theory (these would be materialistic naturalists), but there are atheists who reject the theory of evolution altogether (I mean, of course, Darwinian and Neo-D) You want to know why most of those who do so do? Because the probablility of living matter coming from non-living matter is so prohibitive( think of 10 followed by tens of thousands of zeroes) that they don’t believe THE UNIVERSE IS OLD ENOUGH for it to have happened even once!!! Did you read that? The universe isn’t old enough (this same issue is why many became ID). So you finding billions of years in Genesis still doesn’t make ANY kind of evolution possible. Secular scientists will definitely NOT buy into your God of the gaps philosophy.
So please, quit committing the genetic fallacy by constantly bringing up YEC. Yes, I am YEC. I am also OEC. But that involves quantum physics and relativity. I won’t bore you. It’s obvious we aren’t communicating. I don’t know how else to make my point. I’ve used Hebrew, linguistic methods, hermeneutical principles, and you still think 6 days is billions of year, with nothing to back it up except you and some others are pretty sure that it could possibly mean that But you can’t give any examples of where else in the bible days obviously means billions of years (and believe me, neither can ANY oec adherents. I know, cause I’ve looked for over 40 years). And you can’t give any exceptions to the interpretive principle I gave you. You said you “heard” or “read” of a couple. Well, properly understood, there are no exceptions to that principle (aside from cases I mentioned, none of which mean billions of years). So we are at a loggerheads. Sorry for writing so long, but I wanted to clearly state my position before moving on. We have nothing else to share. I wish you well. As I said, this is not a salvific issue, unless it is screwing up your theology about God and Christ. I hope it isn’t, and I know that if you really are God’s child, he will preserve and protect you. Take care.
Two last points I feel the need to make before we end this discussion:
1. You never gave a legit reason for a number being used with “Yom” mattering as to the meaning of the word. You just kept repeating that it can’t mean billions of years over and over. (again it doesn’t, it means an indefinite period of time which by definition can be any length of time, including billions of years) And saying it must mean a 24-hour day when used with a number over and over.
2. I explicitly told you I WASN’T a theistic evolutionist. i am an old-earth creationist. I think God created life on earth over billions of years supernaturally. I do not think life evolved from a common ancestor. The age of the earth has NOTHING to do with evolution.
That cleared up? Good, you take care as well…
Well, we come to a sad parting. I’ll respond one last time. to your point 1) interpretative rules in scripture don’t have number and letter codes, such as “well, as you see rule 6a applies here.” You have hermeneutical principles that apply linguistically and contextually. I gave you no such number or letter code because there are none. You use rules (at least I hope you do) every time you interpret a passage of scripture. Protests to the contrary, you gave not one example that disproved my reference to interpretative principle. I knew you couldn’t, because there are none. So please, don’t try to comfort yourself from my end, because you didn’t disprove the principle.
2) You are certainly welcome to apply whatever your term is (old earth creationist). Then I will often wonder to myself, “why does he need billions of years”. I know, you will say you don’t, you just believe science on this one. Do you mean to say that God created life here billions of years ago? What has he done since? Has he purposefully intervened off and on to promote advancement (God of the gaps). Well, the evolutionist does not consider you his compatriot if you (believe in God, and/or believed he had anything to do with the process of evolution). Do you believe in evolution in any sense? If not, why do you need billions of years? And when did Adam and Eve show up? Do you believe in them? Were they real? Did God just show up ten or a hundred thousand years ago, take two primates, and make them fully human. I can honestly say I’ve never met an old earth creationist. They seem quite contradictory, based on present usage of the words. The fact is, if you believe in any evolving of any sort, the you are indeed a theistic evolutionist. If you don’t believe God intervenes, then you are a deistic evolutionist. I’ve never heard of or read of someone who accepts the full creative powers of God, believes He created the earth and ALL (you seem to say he created) in it, yet needs billions of years to do so. You state he “created over billions of years”, Well, if He used evolution in any way, you ARE INDEED a theistic evolutionist.
Just wanted to clear that up for you. You know how I am about those darned definitions for words.
Cherio, old chap(chappess?). Be safe.
Nowhere in the Bible–Nowhere–does Scripture actually say that the physical Creation is a lousy 6000 years old. That is just an assumption.
Also, nowhere does it say that Eden/edenic state was everywhere on Earth. Rather, that God planted a garden in the land of Eden, to the East of Eden. In other words, a very special place, a small subset of Creation.
The YECers seem to me to be dilettante readers of the Word. They seem to spin broad fantasies out of a dabbler’s level of scholarship or understanding. It is not as if we in this community pretend to know it all, but we do know our own levels of professional study in our chosen fields.
Not in as many words. But the genealogies give very specific ages of all the patriarchs and ages at which they begat their next in line, so if you believe the Bible is an inerrant history book (as creationists do), then you’re stuck with an approximate date of 4,000 BC for the creation story, and mid-3rd century BC for the flood story.
Not true, like many ancient geneologies, the Genesis geneologies are telescoped, meaning names have been “cut”. The genealogies just give a minimum. Also, as a Day-age creationist, I (unsurprisingly) take the view that the days of creation are long epochs of millions/billions of years.
So when Genesis 11 says:
And so on, you agree that the Bible is not literally correct? Shelah was not born to Arpachshad when he was 35 years old? There’s no room in such a genealogy for “telescoping”. It’s not merely saying that Shelah was the distant descendant of Arpachshad.
I may have to go with Paul D here, even though I am yec/ouc. The first two chapters in genesis, of course, are not genealogies but accounts of creation. And while other toledoths in Genesis can allow for generations to be representative rather then literally consecutive. there is no instance or even the insinuation that thousands or millions of years are being passes over. And you will NOT, I repeat NOT, find any Hebrew scholar/specialist who would approve of the “day” in the creation account being interpreted as millions or billions of years. While the word “day” can be used to refer to an indeterminate length of time, such as “the day of the Lord”, whenever that same word is used with a numeric, it ALWAYS is to be interpreted in reference and deference to the number. I hope no one believes that Noah’s flood lasted millions of years. Or that the Sabbath day rest was premised on God’s 60 million years of labor. When day has a number, it means exactly that, x number of literal days. How much clearer can the author of Genesis be. He uses day (1st,2nd,3rd,4th,5th,6th and 7) and the words “evening” and “morning”. There is no other way, linguistically, to interpret this than literal days.
the genre of the early chapters of Genesis are almost unanimously, among experts in Hebrew and/or biblical genre, agreed to be historical narrative. Or historical prose. It has no hallmarks of poetry. There is no symbolism. Just flat out historical genre.
So while one may feel the freedom to “read into” the biblical passage what one wants, they are not correctly interpreting said scripture It is purely a case of trying to squeeze scripture into one’s scientific paradigm. Scripture is not a science textbook. It may refer occasionally to something relating to science, but teaching science is not it’s purpose. And science textbooks are not inspired revelations from God. Science should not be “squeezed” into scripture nor scripture into science. I do not believe they are in necessary conflict, in and of themselves, but each involves a different paradigm and needs to learned and interpreted through their own lens.
I am not saying that Christians can’t learn from science or scientists can’t learn from Christians. I think they can, and in fact they do. There are many thousands of Christians who are also scientists and see no conflict. I may not agree with all their scientific (or biblical) conclusions, but I respect that they respect the “boundaries”, so to speak.
So no, the creation days, in spite of Hugh Ross and other day-age theorists, do not even allow for that reading. You are free to do it. Many have and do. But it is not accurate scholarship, and I’m sure most agree it would not even be considered a possible interpretation but for evolutions requirement for billions of years. Just read the chapter again. What do you think the author meant? What could he have even understood it to mean several thousand years ago.
Nope wow, though I am a yec/ouc, I am with Paul on this one. He is seeing the true implications of that passage. And we do no one any good by manipulating the text solely to comply with evolution. My 40+ years in biblical scholarship and competence in biblical languages demand I be honest to the text I claim to be from God. And though it doesn’t give a start date, Paul would be in agreement with the text were he to interpret it as implying that creation took place some 6,000(some literalists allow for 10,000) years ago.
Actually the hebrew does allow for it to mean a distant descendant. You can note many times where “father” just means male ancestor and “son” just means male descendant.
So Arpachshad’s distant descendant was born when he was 35 years old? That makes no sense.
If I may add to what Chuck said, the names and numbers in the genealogies are meant literally by the author, and ancient Jewish exegetes really did believe that the earth was created roughly 4,000 years before their time. However, the biblical authors did not necessarily regard genealogies and dates as immovable historical data like we do. They freely manipulated it for their purposes — theological, nationalistic, etc. It gets quite apparent if you delve into the various genealogies of Genesis and Chronicles what is going on.
To give one example, there is clear numerology involved in the Genesis genealogies. If you add up the ages of all the patriarchs from Adam to Moses in the Masoretic text, you get exactly 12,600 years — a number related to the luni-solar year of 360 days and the multiplier 3.5 (a half-week, which you encounter in the numerology of Daniel and Revelation as well). For some reason, it was important to the final redactor of Hebrew Genesis to make the overlapping ages add up to this significant number. (Some of the figures vary in other manuscript traditions, like the Greek Septuagint.) Actual history obviously does not work this way.
Tomorrow I can dig out my 2013 Noah story starting 6121 BC, the Flood 6001-6000, with 45 characters including names & dates for 16 grandsons & 16 granddaughters. Point here is that I needed 40 unknown patriarchs between Noah & Abram – so that Peleg came along a long time after Babel, with at least 10 or 12 “unknowns” before him, so there’s no sudden drop in years. (This was when off-river water projects had to start.) Unbelievers who helped Noah pre-Flood trace their line maybe 7 generations back to Naamah, and before her maybe a dozen to Cain. You don’t want use of bronze (tin mine 60 miles north of mesolithic Tarsus) until maybe 200 years before Flood, run by Cain’s people (returning from Egypt) south of Dead Sea – so that Noah could use up total production by trade, also meteoric iron for tools. Noah needed strong “bay” horses (and spotted, as on cave walls), and not some generic “horse kind” that would have done nobody any good at all. If Hebrews 11:3 applies to generic Ark “kinds,” then this verse would contradict Ken. But if species SEEN TODAY were part of “creatio ex nihilo” (as I believe), who needs dinosaurs on Ark? GLL