Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Creation’

Hermeneutics: Understanding Genesis (and all of Scripture)

March 22, 2018 4 comments

From the Kindle deals in my 2018 Challies Reading Challenge, Jason Lisle’s Understanding Genesis: How to Analyze, Interpret, and Defend Scripture (currently $2.99) is a great resource for Bible interpretation, with detailed explanations of many different hermeneutical principles and the many textual and logical fallacies.  The first several chapters lay the groundwork, of how we approach any written text to understand it – the genre understanding of various types of literature – along with many examples from English language usage for correct understanding as well as fallacies and logical reasoning errors.  The features of Hebrew poetry are also covered – a topic dealt with in greater depth in books specifically about the poetic OT books, such as Dan Phillips’ God’s Wisdom in Proverbs, yet well summarized here.  Indeed, it is yet another wondrous point in God’s great plan, that Hebrew poetry has features that translate well into other languages:  parallelism of thought, rather than our English meter and rhyme of specific English words.

This book is also a good addition to the genre of Young Earth Creation books, as a good introduction and summary of the issues dealt with in more detail elsewhere.    Lisle applies hermeneutical principles to several errors concerning the early chapters of Genesis: old-earth progressive creation (two of Hugh Ross’ books), theistic evolution, and the Noahic flood as only a local flood (Hugh Ross again).  Several chapters include detailed interaction with the actual words from several Hugh Ross books plus one by a theistic evolution–a fascinating look at the flawed reasoning and ideas that actually border on heresy.

As with other creation science books, science is referenced, though primarily from the logical, reasoning perspective: pointing out the difference between operational, observable and repeatable science and that which is not really science but history: the one-time act of creation that by its very nature is not observable and not repeatable.  Related to this is the two books fallacy referenced in this previous post, that nature itself is a “67th book of the Bible” on the same level of authority as scripture itself.

Another interesting point developed by Lisle – and an area in which he differs from at least some other creation scientists – is the problem with thinking of the earth in terms of “apparent age.”  As he points out, we come up with ideas about age based on relative comparisons.  Due to observations of many people we know, for instance, we can conclude that a particular individual appears to be about 40 years old.  Yet people take such ideas and try to say that the earth “looks old” and “appears to be billions of years old”; yet we have no other planets for any relative comparison, to make such a claim:

People at the wedding in Cana may have assumed that the wine came about in the ordinary way, and probably believed that the wine was well-aged due to its taste. But Jesus did not create the wine with appearance of age. Rather, He made it good. Likewise, God did not create the earth with appearance of age. He made it to work. If people apply unbiblical, naturalistic assumptions to how the earth formed, and then come away thinking it ‘looks’ billions of years old, well, it’s not God’s fault

The hermeneutical principles and fallacies explained are not limited to use for the early chapters of Genesis, but apply to all other doctrinal subjects.  One such example, provided in Appendix B (about propositions and formal fallacies), concerns the error of baptismal regeneration:

Baptismal regenerationists commit the fallacy of denying the antecedent when arguing that water baptism is a requirement for salvation.

  1. If you repent and are baptized, then you are saved (Mark 16:16)

2. It is not that case that you have repented and are baptized (because you have only repented and have not yet been baptized).

3. Therefore, you are not saved.

Similarly, the meaning of words in their context, including general terms in the Bible that can mean many different things, is another area where people err, with superficial and out-of-context understanding.  The word ‘law’ in the Bible has many different meanings, as noted in this previous post; another term is the biblical definition of death, in its context for Genesis 3 and Romans 5.  The biblical definition of death does not include plant life, or anything other than animate (human and animal) life.

Understanding Genesis is an excellent reference for language comprehension / hermeneutics, and a useful guide for how to interpret all scripture.  It includes good application of these concepts to the specific issues of creation and the flood, yet the hermeneutics extend to all of our understanding.

The Book of Nature and Its Proper Use

April 22, 2016 1 comment

In my reading of Spurgeon recently, I was reminded of something I briefly blogged on a few years ago: the idea of “two books” from God, one of which is the “book of nature.”

I first heard the term “two books” a few years ago in an online discussion with an old-earth creationist (in a dispensationalist group) – and later posted an excerpt from Dr. Jason Lisle (in Institute for Creation Research’s Acts & Facts magazine) that responds to this error, of trying to claim the “book of nature” for proof of an old earth:

It is not something that is comprised of statements in human language. It is not something that a person can literally read or interpret in the same way that we interpret a sentence. … The advantage of a book is that it is comprised of clear statements in human language that are designed to be understood by the reader. The meaning of a book is the intention of the author. But that’s not the case with nature. What does a rock mean? What does a fossil mean? They don’t literally mean anything because they are not statements made by an author who is intending to convey an idea. …. a record is an account in writing that preserves the knowledge of facts or events. Rocks and fossils are not in the written form and are, therefore, not a record. … the primary purpose of nature is not to teach, but to function. Consequently, the world is not comprised of statements that are easy to understand. Moreover, nature is cursed due to sin. Therefore, God gave us a clear, inerrant account of the major events of history in writing so that we can begin to properly understand nature.

Charles Spurgeon’s sermon #633 (from the 1865 volume, no specific date) comes a much earlier reference to “two books” of which one is the book of nature.  Characteristic of Spurgeon, this usage of the term is quite different from the modern thinking regarding creation science and evidences for age in what we see around us.  Here is a great summary of how the book of nature should be thought of – looking at God’s attributes as seen in the world around us, what man knows but suppresses (Romans 1), the general revelation about the God who specially reveals Himself in His word:

if you ask me how I know it is God’s Word, I can take you in vision to Nineveh. See the excavated cities and palaces, the winged bulls and lions buried in the rubbish—all which tell us that that Book which spoke of them, before they were discovered, must have a high antiquity. And the volume which, written in the times of their glory, yet told of their tremendous fall, must have had an inspiration in it not belonging to common books.

The best proof of this inspiration is, perhaps, to be found in this—that we know that God wrote another book, the book of nature, and as the two works of one author are quite sure to exhibit some common points in which you may find out the author’s idioms, so every student of nature and revelation has been able to say that the two volumes bear marks of the same writer. And the more they have studied both books, the more they have said, “We find the same God in the one as in the other.” The God of nature is kind and good, and so is the God of revelation. The God of nature is the terrible God of the avalanche and thunderbolt, the tempest and the whirlwind; and the God of this Book is terrible out of His holy place when He comes to judge the sons of men. We find that the very same official approval which is set upon the book of nature is also stamped upon the Book of God. We would be glad, therefore, if you could believe this, and believing this you would soon, “Come and see,” for mark you, the best way of knowing about Christ is to try Him, to experience Him, and since you want to know if He can forgive sins, trust Him to forgive yours.

iTunes University: Theology Courses, Including History and Worldview Lectures

February 12, 2015 5 comments

Having enjoyed Carl Trueman’s Reformation history lectures, I recently learned about the full collections of audio lectures available from many theological seminaries — through iTunes University, a feature of iTunes software. Of particular interest: the available content from Westminster Theological Seminary, as well as Reformed Theological Seminary and Covenant Theological Seminary, cover many interesting topics: various periods of church history, Bible surveys, theology courses and more.

I have now started a “Church and the World” series, offered through Reformed Theological Seminary, with 28 lectures covering a topic I only know bits and pieces about: the history and development of liberal theology over the last few hundred years. The first messages provide general biographical and philosophical detail regarding the major figures of the Enlightenment, beginning with Descartes followed by the more radical David Hume and Immanuel Kant of the 18th century. Later lectures address such ideas as process theology, existentialist theology, liberation theology, as well as post-modernism, liberalism and fundamentalism, and the neo-orthodox reaction to liberalism, and I look forward to future lectures, to help put together more of the pieces concerning recent Christian and worldview history.

A few observations from what I’ve learned so far, and how it applies in current-day online theology discussions.

  • The Pre-Modern world (classic theism): A.D. 312 (the year of Constantine’s “conversion” to Christianity) through the 16th century – a time characterized by a theistic worldview, in which everyone understood and accepted the authority of God (and in extension the authority of the Roman Church) for understanding everything in life
  • The modern world: from 1600 to 1950, a time characterized by “a gradual but seismic shift” in understanding of human knowledge and relationship between humans and God, resulting in a worldview change. Major developments during this time included the 18th century Enlightenment and the 19th century Industrial Revolution.

These are categories we see in hindsight, not clear and sharp yet distinct gradual changes that establish themselves through a period of time. Of note, the 16th century Reformation Leaders held to more medieval-type thinking, at least to a greater extent than later Christian thinkers (here I recall Carl Trueman’s emphasis on this especially in relation to Martin Luther; Trueman saw Calvin and others as more of the then-emerging humanist mindset), and thus the “modern era” starts in the next century, though not in full swing until the 18th century. The modern era brought the ideas of rationalism and empiricism, a fundamental worldview shift in which man’s ideas dominate over the authority of God and His word, and where Christianity (and religion generally) is “proved” or disproved on the basis of man’s rational thoughts and experiences rather than from objective truth outside of ourselves.

This historical background helps in discussions regarding what past believers thought and how they expressed what they believed. As for example, in a recent discussion about the 1689 London Baptist Confession’s wording in chapter 4, regarding creation “in the space of six days,” one person suggested it was somehow of interest and special note that the confession authors “could have” specified more detail and “could have” been more precise and explicitly stated that the days were literal, normal 24 hour days – and therefore, because they did not, therefore that interpretation is left open and we can consider “six days” as meaning something other than really six days.

Such thinking of course reflects the modern and post-modern worldviews, and reading our own way of thinking into 17th century English Puritans. To see such qualifying and specific statements in 17th century documents would be an anachronism. Old-Earth views did not influence Christians until the 19th century, and no one in the 17th century thought in such terms regarding the definition of the days in Genesis 1. John Bunyan’s Genesis commentary (chapters 1 through 11)  indeed shows what Christians of that day were considering about Genesis 1 (chiliasm and the Millennial Week idea) as well as, by its absence, what they did not think about –because such ideas simply did not exist in their world.

Creation Apologetics: The Creation Ordinance Sabbath

September 2, 2014 3 comments

In studying the idea of a creation ordinance sabbath – the significance of the seven day week and setting aside one of those seven days as different from the others – I recall the value of extra-biblical historical records, for apologetics related to other events of Genesis 1-11, in support of biblical “young earth” creation, the flood of Noah, dinosaurs (dragons) coexisting with humans, and the “Table of Nations” genealogies.  Reference this post (After the Fall), related to the study of the nations listed in Genesis 10.

It is not the purpose of this post to consider all the issues related to the Christian Sabbath. One very good resource is Robert L. Dabney’s “Systematic Theology,” of which nearly a full chapter (25 pages) is devoted to the issue of the 4th commandment, available online here, and includes the historical background of the two main views throughout Christian history as well as all the pertinent scripture passages.

The issue (for this post) is related to creation, and evidences available, including early historical records.  It is often asserted by non-sabbath believers, that the Pentateuch makes no mention of Sabbath observance after Genesis 2, until Exodus 16, and thus we have no evidence of any Sabbath observance before the law of Moses.  In response: first, the seven day week itself is an unusual phenomenon, as it does not fit with any calendar system of timekeeping — a strong evidence for the biblical record itself in contrast to evolutionary ideas; see this article from the Institute for Creation Research.  (As a side note: observance of a Christian Sabbath is not a “Covenant Theology vs. Dispensationalism” issue. As acknowledged in online discussions, even some dispensationalists believe and practice it; ICR is one such example, 4-point Calvinist-Dispensational with Christian Sabbath.)  Aside from the fact that the Sabbath is mentioned in the Exodus wilderness before the giving of the law on Sinai, it is true that the references in Genesis (after chapter 2) only mention the seven day week cycle and do not explicitly mention anything of people observing a rest for one day out of each seven.  Yet consider: if the seventh-day sabbath precept did originate at creation, we should expect to find some indication of it in early pagan civilization and their written records – similar to what is found regarding the flood of Noah, dragons, and the “Table of Nations” genealogies. Interestingly enough, we do find such evidence that the sabbath (a rest day for one out of seven days) goes back to creation itself.

Ancient Pagan Religious Practices

Secular sources note that the ancient Babylonians, like the Jews, also observed a seven day week (somewhat modified for their lunar monthly calendar), and their pagan observance included “holy days” every 7th day. Such evolutionary sources, such as Wikipedia, of course try to “find” another explanation for the 7 day calendar, apart from its origin in Genesis, yet still note the following about early Babylonian practice:

The origin of the seven-day week is the religious significance that was placed on the seventh day by ancient cultures. The earliest ancient sources record a seven-day week in ancient Babylon prior to 600 BCE.[1] Babylonians celebrated a holy day every seven days, starting from the new moon, then the first visible crescent of the Moon, but adjusted the number of days of the final “week” in each month so that months would continue to commence on the new moon … Counting from the new moon, the Babylonians celebrated the 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th as “holy-days”, also called “evil days” (meaning “unsuitable” for prohibited activities). On these days officials were prohibited from various activities and common men were forbidden to “make a wish”, and at least the 28th was known as a “rest-day”.[4] On each of them, offerings were made to a different god and goddess.

And from this online article:

In their normal seven day week, the Babylonians held the seventh day of each week as holy, much like the Jews did and still do.  However, the Babylonians also held the day to be unlucky.  Thus, similar to the Jews (but for a different reason- the unluckiness of the day), the seventh day had restrictions on certain activities to avoid dire consequences from the inherit unluckiness of the day.

Early Pagan Literature

This idea can also be found in ancient extra-biblical literature. Cited in Dabney’s “Systematic Theology”, the following evidence from early pagan literature:

The assertion that the Sabbath was coexisting with the human race, and was intended for the observation of all, receives collateral confirmation also from the early traditions concerning it, which pervade the first Pagan literature. It can hardly be supposed that Homer and Hesiod borrowed from the books of Moses, sabbatical allusions which would have been to their hearers unintelligible. They must be the remnants of those primeval traditions of patriarchal religion, which had been transferred by the descendants of Japheth, to the isles of Chittim. The early allusions to a sacred seventh day may be sufficiently exhibited by citing a collection of them from Eusebius’ Preparation Evangelica(50. 13., Sect. 13), which he quotes from the Stromata of Clement of Alexandria. The latter father is represented as saying: “That the seventh day is sacred, not the Hebrews only, but the Gentiles also acknowledge, according to which the whole universe of animals and vegetables revolves.” Hesiod, for instance, thus says concerning it:

“The first, the fourth also, and the seventh is a sacred day.” (Ieron `Hmar .) Dierum, line 6.

And again: “The seventh day once more, the splendid dawn of the sun.”

And Homer: “The seventh day then arrived, the sacred day.”

Again: “The seventh was sacred.”

“The seventh dawn was at hand, and with this all the series is completed.”

And once more: “On the seventh day, we left the stream of Acheron.”

And thus also writes Callimachus the poet: “It was now the Sabbath day: and with this all was accomplished.”

Again: “The seventh day is among the fortunate; yea, the seventh is the parent day.”

Again: “The seventh day is first, and the seventh day is the complement.”

And: “All things in the starry sky are found in sevens; and shine in their ordained cycles.”

“And this day, the elegies of Solon also proclaim as more sacred, in a wonderful mode.” Thus far Clement and Eusebius. Josephus, in his last book against Apion, affirms that “there could be found no city, either of the Grecians or Barbarians, who owned not a seventh day’s rest from labor.” This of course is exaggerated. Philo, cotemporary with Josephus, calls the Sabbath eorth pandhmo”.

These references from ancient history clearly support the biblical data for a seven day week and its associated creation sabbath ordinance: a creation precept set in place in Genesis 2, an ordinance and precept unlike the later ceremonial Sabbath set forth in the law section of the Pentateuch (which was given AFTER the events of Exodus 16 and AFTER the giving of the Ten Commandments). Like other knowledge from the antediluvian era, this was passed down to the post-flood world by Noah and his sons.  As with other knowledge from that time, though, this original understanding of the true God was soon distorted among the Gentile peoples who spread out from Babel (Genesis 11), along with all other distortions of yet true accounts in their literature (i.e., the creation story and the flood), and finally forgotten by our world which looks to godless evolution and millions of years, suppressing the truth (Romans 1) that was known by our distant ancestors.

Colossians: Christ’s Preeminence in Creation, the New Creation of the Church, and All Things

January 31, 2014 Leave a comment

I’m now going through S. Lewis Johnson’s Colossians series, and enjoying it even more than I expected to.  This is a great study on this epistle, complete with many quote-worthy comments and observations, so applicable to our day as it addresses the nature and being of Christ in answer to the heresies already developing in the 1st century.

From Colossians 1:15-20, Paul’s great Christology, the following observations:

The Lord of the First Creation

This section may have been part of an early hymn, perhaps written by Paul or someone else, or even composed by multiple people in the early church.  If it is a hymn, the hymn of the beloved Son begins in verse 15 with a statement concerning the essential basis of his Lordship, “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every”, or of the whole, “creation.” 

The description here is of the Lord Jesus as the unique perfect likeness and manifestation of God, the great and final theophany.  The Greek word for “image” suggests that He possesses the Divine Attributes.  Concerning the word eikon and its usage:

There is a related word to it formed of the same root entirely, absolutely, I should say, which was used of a photograph, and further, there is a word very closely related to it, one is eikon, and the other is eikonian, a diminutive of it, a little eikon which was used when individuals signed a contract in legal terms guaranteeing certain things to others.  For example, in an IOU, it was customary for when the contract was drawn up for an eikonian to be drawn up as well.  And what that meant was certain sentences which would describe the individuals who entered into the contract were set in the contract in order that there might be evidence of precisely who entered into the contract, so that there would be no misunderstanding.  That was called an eikon, that is, a description of the individuals involved.

This text presents Christ’s essential basis of His Lordship. Then, the last part of verse 15 presents the Economic Basis of His Lordship:  He is the firstborn of the whole creation.  As Dr. Johnson well notes, this does not mean He is a creature – the Arian heresy.

He’s not a creature.  He’s the creator of the creatures.”  And Athanasius convinced the early church, properly so, that the Lord Jesus may be called firstborn of the whole creation, but not in the sense that there was a time when he entered into existence, so far as his person was concerned.  In fact, the Lord Jesus is the eternal Son, and He is the creator of the creatures.  In Him the whole created universe came into its existence.  So the term firstborn then takes on the meaning that it had in other passages in the Bible: of sovereignty over.

So we have three prepositional phrases.  “All things were created in him.”  “All things were created by him.”  “All things were created for him.”

Lord of the New Creation

Paul moves from the cosmological (the physical creation), to the soteriological, our personal salvation.  Christ is the head of the body, and thus He controls the church, He owns the church, and has authority over the church.

Of course, that has great practical significance so far as our personal life is concerned too.  We are related to the Head who is in heaven.  And if we are to live a life that is acceptable to the Lord God, we must be submissive to the Head, the Lord Jesus in a personal sense.  And as a body of believers who are under shepherds, elders, it’s most important for them and for us to be under Him and to look to Him for control and guidance and authority in the things that we do.

Preeminent In All Things

Verse 18, “that in Him should all fullness dwell.”

I don’t think that the apostle, when he says, “All fullness,” here is referring simply to our Lord’s deity.  That doesn’t make sense in the context, that is, that He should have the preeminence because He’s firstborn from the dead because He’s God.  It should relate to His saving work by which He became firstborn from the dead.  So I suggest to you …. what I mean by “all fullness” … all saving fullness, all saving power, in grace, because He’s the covenantal head of the people of God.  So he says, “For it pleased the Father that in Him should all, ‘saving’ fullness dwell.”

This point is especially important to the Colossians, in answering the heresy of gnostic Judaism, which included the idea of a God so holy that He doesn’t directly create.  Gnosticism has a series of eons, angelic type beings, that come forth from God the father, each a little less holy, and Christ is one of these beings, not a divine being but a created, secondary being, a mediator that is secondary and not god himself.  Paul emphasizes this point, that it “pleased the Father” to have all saving power reside in Christ – Jesus Christ the covenantal head and having all saving power.  So there is not a hierarchy of mediators between God and men as the heretics were saying.  But by the fact that He is raised from the dead, there is evidence that He is the one and only saving mediator between God and men. 

Isaac and Ishmael’s Genesis Toledoth, and Ishmael Among the Believers

September 27, 2013 1 comment

Reading again through Genesis in my daily readings, I’ve been more attentive to the toledoth statements (“these are the generations of”), from my recent reading through Henry Morris’ Biblical Creationism and P.J. Wiseman’s book on Genesis and Archeology.  After Genesis 11, the lengthy section on Abraham’s life ends with “the generations of Ishmael” (Genesis 25:12) followed by “these are the generations of Isaac” in verse 19.

Per the tablet understanding of the Genesis book, then, Ishmael was involved in the writing of this portion of the early history.  This chapter tells us that they were together at the time of Abraham’s death.

From Institute for Creation Research, the following “study note” on this point:

Genesis 25:12-16 seem to represent the toledoth of Ishmael, quite possibly a record kept by Ishmael which he gave to Isaac at the time of their reunion at Abraham’s funeral. At this time, Ishmael would have been ninety years old, with his twelve sons each now established in small “nations” of their own, as “princes” of those tribes. After Ishmael’s death, Isaac then added his own comments concerning them (Genesis 25:17-18), before terminating his own toledoth with his signature at Genesis 25:19. Ishmael died fifty-eight years before Isaac died; and, like Abraham, was “gathered into his people” (Genesis 25:17), indicating that he died in faith. Ishmael’s “nations,” though not all clearly identified historically, undoubtedly dwelt mainly in northern Arabia.

P.J. Wiseman’s New Discoveries in Babylonia About Genesis also notes the tablet authorship of this section of Genesis and how the events (Genesis 12 up to Genesis 25) matches the lifetimes of Ishmael and Isaac:

The series of Tablets 7 and 8 (11.27 to 25.19) were written by the two brothers Ishmael and Isaac.

The latest chronological statement (Gen 25.1 to 4) refers to the birth of Abraham’s great-grandsons, and of their growth into clans. Ishmael died forty-eight years and Isaac one hundred and five years after Abraham.

As Abraham would seem to have married Keturah soon after Sarah’s death—which occurred thirty-eight years before Abraham died—this period of thirty-eight years added to the remaining one hundred and five years of Isaac’s life, is a most reasonable period to assign for the birth of Abraham’s great-grandsons by Keturah.

This indicates that the history recorded in these tablets ceases just before the death of Isaac, whose name is given as the last writer, for Isaac survived Ishmael by fifty-seven years and records his death.

As I read the toledoth statements in Genesis 25 I also recalled S. Lewis Johnson’s observations during his Genesis series.  Dr. Johnson’s Pentateuch series (Genesis and From Egypt to Canaan) took the earlier view that Moses wrote all of Genesis himself (rather than compiling much of it from the previous tablet sources), and he may not have been aware of the tablet theory and the archeological and internal text evidences.  (The tablet compilation theory gives a much better explanation of the overall flow of Genesis, including especially the seeming contradiction in Exodus 6:3, for instance.) Yet in the description of Ishmael’s life, the statement that “he was gathered to his people,” SLJ considered the possibility that Ishmael was a believer – noting that we know Esau was quite another matter:

 And Isaac and Ishmael unite in the burying of Abraham.  Now Ishmael was excluded from the covenantal blessings, in the sense that he was rejected for Isaac so far as the seed was concerned; but he was given distinctive blessings.  It was said that Ishmael should have twelve princes and that he would become a great nation.  So God did bless him.  Furthermore, we shall read in a moment that Ishmael was gathered to his people as well; and it’s entirely possible in the light of the statement in verse 17,  “These are the years of the life of Ishmael 137 years and he breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people,” that even though Ishmael was rejected as the one through whom the seed would come, but nevertheless he did have a definite faith in the Triune God and may well be numbered among those who are the saved.  It is different with Esau as the New Testament makes plain. …. Ishmael was something of a loner, but nevertheless his life ends with the statement “he was gathered to his people.”

Hermeneutics and Creation: What Happened in Genesis 6

August 13, 2013 8 comments

A popular topic of interest is the interpretation of Genesis 6:1-4, what seems very strange to our modern naturalist minds.  Certainly some can take too much interest in the idea of the Nephilim, and as S. Lewis Johnson well observed (in his Systematic Theology series, angelology section):  Isn’t it interesting that Christians are more interested in the evil angels than they are in the good angels, because there’s just a lot of good interesting material in the Bible about Satan and his demons?  And, it’s I guess part of our human nature to be more curious about the evil than about the good. 

Still, as part of God’s word the teaching itself is worth some consideration, something we can apply good hermeneutics to and determine the basic understanding of.  From the standpoint of hermeneutics as well as the importance of the doctrine of creation and the Flood, Genesis 6:1-4 should not be neglected on the basis of what fanatics and extremists may do.

The original understanding of this passage, along with other New Testament references (in Jude and 2 Peter) and the content of the book of Enoch that Jude referenced, was clearly that the “sons of God” refer to fallen angelic beings.  Both Jewish and Christian expositors through the first 400 years of the church likewise understood this meaning.  Some hold that the angels actually took on human form (which would seem to present difficulties with the DNA of angels), while others (and here I concur; including John MacArthur, S. Lewis Johnson) see this as demons cohabiting with human men, demonic possession of human bodies.  Starting in about the 5th century this view fell into disfavor, for the alternative explanation that all it’s talking about is the godly line of Seth versus the wicked line of Cain: a view found in many commentaries since the Reformation, including commentaries from John Gill and Alfred Edersheim.

Yet both for hermeneutical and logical reasons, as well as for understanding the teaching about the creation and the flood, that explanation falls short for many reasons.  As Henry Morris points out (Biblical Creationism):

Such an idea, while more amenable to our modern naturalistic environment, is certainly not the obvious meaning of the text — Noah could easily have said “sons of Seth” if that were his intent. Such a more-than-human state of global evil, violence, and giantism, capable of being remedied only by a worldwide hydraulic cataclysm, must have had a more sinister cause than believers marrying unbelievers!

Also from S. Lewis Johnson’s Genesis series, the following exegesis of Genesis 6:1-4 (this message):

Hermeneutical problem with the “Sethite view”:  Genesis 6:1 uses the term “men” as a reference to both men and women, that daughters were born to men.  Then verse 2 also has the word “men”:  “the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive.” According to the Seth/Cain view, verse 2 is referring to the Cainites – usually in the precise local context, words have similar senses, and if we give them different senses we tend at times to make the text unintelligible.

Exegetical / logical questions and problems with this view:

  • Why are the Nephilim associated with such a natural union as Sethites and Cainites marrying?
  • Why would giants be the product of that particular kind of union?
  • Why are God’s people associated with the male sex only?  The sons of God the Sethites, they are males, saw of the daughters of men, the Cainites, they are all females.
  • If the Sethites were all godly, then why did they all perish in the flood?

When the flood came there is only Noah and his wife and his three sons and their wives and that’s all, only eight souls.  So, you can see that it’s not so easy as it sounds to say that this is the union of Sethites, godly men and Cainites, ungodly women.

The Old Testament term “sons of God” in the Bible always refers to angelic beings

the precise form that is found here in the Hebrew text is found several times in the Old Testament, but in every place in which this precise form is found, that precise form is used only of angelic beings in the Old Testament.

  • Job: three references
  • Daniel 3

The New Testament references to this event are clear:

Jude notes the similarities between the event in Noah’s day, and Sodom and Gomorrah.

He says that Sodom and Gomorrah just like the angels indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh.  Now in the Bible, we have two words for different.  In fact we have something similar in English.  Now in Greek, there is the word that means essentially “another of the same kind.”  Now, that word is not the word that is used here, but there is another word that means another but it’s another of a different kind.  It’s the word from which we get heterodoxy, for example, as over against orthodoxy, a different kind of opinion and usually associated with the wrong opinion.

Now that word in Greek is ordinarily heteros.  Not always but generally that’s the meaning, a different kind.  Well that’s the word that’s translated strange here: strange flesh.  So, what Jude is saying is that, the angels just as Sodom and Gomorrah went after strange flesh.

We all recognize what happened at Sodom: homosexuality.  Jude here is saying that the angels, likewise, went after strange flesh, different flesh.

Here we see the judgment of the fallen angels connected with the time of the flood.

  • 1 Peter 3:18-20:  The word “spirits” in only used of angelic spirits in the New Testament.  Again this has reference to the time of the Flood.

Again, and what cannot be emphasized enough, is the unique nature of whatever happened, that it corrupted the genetic pool of the human race (the second of Satan’s seven attempts to thwart God’s plan for the coming Redeemer), that it was necessary for God to send the flood to wipe out humanity and begin again with the eight people on the Ark. This unnatural union created offspring with genetic mutations such that the human race was no longer pure.  Of course we do not know the specifics of it, other than the reasonable possibility that demonic possession has the power to affect genetic structure.  As SLJ observed, we know that simple things like LSD have had strange effects upon the human body.  Epidemiology studies have even found that a person’s privations and malnutrition during childhood affect the DNA of his or her children a generation later.

An idea never thought of until the 5th century AD.,the reproduction involving humans who were godly with those who were wicked (and assuming that all the men in the Seth line were in fact godly and all the women in the line of Cain were wicked), does not explain something of such importance as to bring about the Genesis flood.

The Significance of Both Creation and Last Things (Eschatology)

July 30, 2013 8 comments

Occasionally I come across statements, such as from individuals involved with Creation ministries, from those who hold to young earth creation but are not consistent in their end-times position.  As someone well observed in an online discussion recently, “obviously Creationists are not necessarily dispensationalists when it comes to prophecy; but there are far fewer non-literal-Creationist dispensationalists than 6-day-Creationist-CT/NCT people around.”

I previously referenced this over a year ago here (this post) in reference to (Answers in Genesis) Ken Ham’s statement, that he thinks creation and eschatology are somehow different and unrelated.  His reasoning:  we also have the scientific physical evidence for creation, and the creation compromises came about from people responding to external ideas about evolution and old-earth. Whereas, he claims, eschatology is only dealing with the words of scripture themselves, apart from any external ideas.

His first point, about scientific evidence, of course overlooks the issue of presuppositions.  Unbelief will compel an old-earth scientist to come up with explanations for observed data that “fit” his own presuppositions; physical evidence does not of itself “prove” anything.  His second point ignores the clear hermeneutical issues and the history of the development of amillennialism and replacement theology through those who embraced the allegorical, spiritualizing hermeneutic instead of the literal, grammatical, historical hermeneutic.

In online discussion someone recently posted this link from Creation.com, in which the writer responds to a church-goer’s question about her pastor’s post-modern approach to God’s word.  Here the reasoning is that somehow creation is a more important doctrine than eschatology: The issues regarding Genesis are in a quite different league to those concerning prophecy, we would submit, because they are foundational to, and woven throughout the fabric of, the very Gospel of salvation itself.

Really? A closer look shows us that errors in creation and eschatology have several features in common, directly attacking central biblical teachings concerning the attributes and character of God, the authority of God’s word, and understanding of our salvation:

Concerning the Character of God:

       Doctrine of Creation

  • a liar, whose word cannot be depended on: that He did not really create the world in six literal, ordinary days as He said (even directly inscribed in stone tablets by God, on Mt. Sinai; reference Exodus 20:11, the Ten Commandments)
  • a cruel God whose idea of “very good” before the fall was actually a creation already cursed and experiencing death long before Adam fell.

      Doctrine of Eschatology / Last Things

  • A Bait-and-Switch God whose word cannot be depended on, who gave one set of promises to one group of people but later changed both the promises and the recipients.
  • A Pelagian-salvation God: Israel lost their promises due to their apostasy, and blew their chances due to their fall.  How, then, do we have any assurance that God will not also give up on us (Christians in this age) and reject us after all?

Concerning the Authority of God’s Word

The above-mentioned writer continues:   That does not mean that one can’t be terribly inconsistent and be saved in spite of disbelieving what Genesis teaches, but it has serious ramifications in church, culture, and society, and in the lives of many individuals—as well as for our effectiveness in evangelism, if the authority of the Word of God can be so cavalierly evaded in such a plain, straightforward matter.

Substitute “premillennialism” for “Genesis” above, and the meaning is the same.  Our understanding of the church (ecclesiology), and culture and society is DIRECTLY affected by our millennial view.  Errors here have brought about misguided ideas such as postmillennial dominion theology and “Christian America,” over-emphasis on the Church age (falling into the very error the apostle Paul warned against in Romans 11), and seriously hampered evangelism efforts among the Jews — and any unbelievers who read the Bible without awareness of Covenant Theology’s allegorical hermeneutic.  (Try explaining to Jews that all of their prophecies about Christ’s First Coming were literally fulfilled in Christ, BUT the prophecies about His Second Coming are instead spiritualized to mean something else, blessings to the (Gentile) Christian Church).

Creation AND Eschatology (the future), unlike all other scriptural teaching, are both areas unknown to mankind apart from Divine Revelation: we weren’t there at the beginning, and we don’t know the future.  Underlying both of these teachings are major, fundamental issues concerning the character of God and the nature of salvation.  Whether said by the leaders of various creation ministries or not, whatever “reasons” to justify the preference of one teaching over the other, the reality is that the doctrine of creation is not at all “in a different league” from the prophetic word.

Creation Material: Free Online Books

July 25, 2013 4 comments

Following up on recent posts, here are links to several good online books concerning creation:

Available in PDF Format:

Creationism.org has a Books Section page with links to many books of varying lengths and topics.  From this list I recognize one book I bought around 1990 (It’s a Young World After All), and their link to the online text “After the Flood” (see my recent review).  The titles include some from the early 2000s back to the 1980s, as well as earlier 20th century and earlier public domain books.  Especially interesting titles here include the classic “The Biblical Flood and the Ice Epoch (1966)” by Donald W. Patten. and “In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood, 7th Edition (2001)” by Dr. Walt Brown.

Available for viewing on the web, Answers in Genesis has a large collection.  A few of these books deal with worldview, or specifically address parents or college-bound students.  Some titles look at the lie of evolution, while several others focus specifically on particular topics of creation history and creation science.  Authors include creationists Terry Mortenson and creation scientists Jason Lisle, Gary Parker, plus several others.

Biblical Creationism: The Genesis Toledoth

July 23, 2013 3 comments

I’ve started reading Biblical Creationism (by Henry Morris), a good biblical commentary on all the scriptural references to the doctrine of creation: an extensive study going way beyond the obvious texts such as Genesis 1-2 and Psalm 104.  Read it free from the PDF online).

The very first chapter introduced an unfamiliar idea (to me), and thus prompted a little background study before continuing forward.  Having always heard that Moses authored the Pentateuch, the five books of the Bible, I never considered further details of how Genesis was written, but just assumed that the material was given directly to Moses by God.  Yet Morris refers to Adam writing a few chapters, and then Noah and so forth, with reference to the “book of the generations of Adam,” as meaning the previous chapters (not what follows immediately after Genesis 5:1).  The first endnote gives a little more explanation:

The archaeologist P.J. Wiseman was apparently the first to call attention to this “tablet theory” of the original writing of the records in Genesis that were eventually compiled and edited by Moses. A number of later Old Testament scholars (e.g., David L. Cooper, founder of the Biblical Research Society) have adopted it, and I consider it the only theory that fits all the facts. For a summary of the evidence for this theory, see my commentary, The Genesis Record (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1976), p. 22–30.

This online article explained the matter: the meaning and usage of the Hebrew word translated “generations” (toledoth) and the tablet theory. (See also this article for further reference.)  These articles and Henry Morris reference the initial work done by archeologist P.J. Wiseman in the 1930s.  The Hebrew word toledoth (generations) is also considered a “colophon phrase,” something put in ancient documents AFTER the material it refers to:

Many Bible scholars have long considered the toledoth formula  “the book of the generations of” to be the introduction or heading to what followed. However, in more recent years they have come to realize that the toledoth is, in fact, a colophon phrase. That is, this phrase when used in Genesis is used “to point back to the origins of the family history.” According to Damien F. Mackey this was a common practice in Mesopotamia where “It was customary for the ancient scribes to add a colophon note at the end of the account, giving particulars of title, date, and the name of the writer or owner, together with other details relating to the contents of a tablet, manuscript or book.” …”in ancient documents the colophon with its important literary information was added in a very distinctive manner.”

Learning this, I immediately thought of another of these toledoth usages that had puzzled me, that suddenly makes a lot more sense:  the statement at the beginning of Genesis 37 (which begins the story of Joseph), verse 2: “These are the generations of Jacob” (ESV) or “These are the records of the generations of Jacob” (NASB).  Referring to the previous material, Jacob’s story, that statement makes a lot more sense than saying that Jacob is telling Joseph’s story.  The first chapter of Morris’ Biblical Creationism now makes much more sense, and I’m continuing on to further chapters in this creation commentary, already learning interesting things about biblical creation — from the human means of written records from early history.

Additional resources:

P.J. Wiseman – Free PDF book “New Discoveries In Babylonia About Genesis” (4th Edition, 1946)

Other article links:

The Tablet Theory of Genesis Authorship

Review of Wiseman’s “Ancient Records and the Structure of Genesis”  (out of print; no e-book available)