Archive for the ‘Bible’ Category

How many days did it take for God to create the earth?

June 15, 2009

1:1 “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

Skip to verses 3 and 4.

“3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.”

Right from the very start we see that a day consisted of a period of light and darkness, a day as we understand it. Keep this in mind. It is relevant in the coming paragraphs. I’d also like to point out that the sun was not created until day four. Don’t get caught up in this. Light as a mechanism, property or whatever quantum mechanics defines it as today, was created on day one. The period of time did not change after day four when the sun and moon came into being. The same word is used for all six days of creation and the seventh day of rest.

I don’t want to go into all of the scholarly language theories of this, but the basic point is that the Hebrew word for day, “yom”, refers to a literal twenty four hour day. This is the word used to in Genesis to describe the days of creation. God created the earth and everything on it in six literal days.

I have heard many Christians ask, “How do we know what a day is to God?” And then they go on to quote a verse that says a day with the Lord is as a thousand years. This is from 2 Peter 3:8 and is not referring to how God defines time. Rather Peter is telling the church that just because scoffers mock us by asking where Jesus is in his return, we shouldn’t lose faith. What is it to God if he waits a thousand years for Jesus’s return? It’s going to happen because he said it would. This is why proof-texting is a bad idea. Every verse must be taken in context. In this case, simply put, the passage is telling us that God does things on his schedule regardless of our whims.

Another thing to consider, and this is purely a logical argument, is that God knows how to communicate to us. What kind of pathetic God wouldn’t be able to communicate with his creation? Certainly, that is not the God of scripture. Our God knows what words to use so that we understand him. It is obvious from the passge in 2 Peter above that 1st century individuals understood the concept of a thousand years. We know that ancient Egyptians understood the concept of millenia and Moses was raised in the house of Pharoah (Moses being the writer of Genesis). The point is that God could have explained the creation of the earth over vast amounts of time if he had indeed done so and they could have understood it. The fact that he chose a specific word that means a literal twenty four hour period speaks volumes. The gap or day/age theory doesn’t make sense in light of the context of scripture and what it reveals to us about the God we worship.

To rebut the carbon dating method or other radiometric systems that are used to date the earth (their inherent flaws aside), you need only consider that the earth was created with the appearance of age. God made a tree and then it was given the ability to reproduce after its own kind. The chicken came first and then the egg. There is no reason to believe that Adam started out as a baby and then grew to manhood. The earth as it was created was full of all the variety of geographical features. Mountains, valleys, and rivers were all brought about in the same instance as if they were there forever. It doesn’t take an artist years to create a mountain river scene with a brush and paint. Why would it take an all powerful God thousands of years to create a planet with the word of his mouth?

Some interesting things to think about.

Adam and Eve:

  • probably didn’t have a belly button
  • were never awkward teenagers.
  • didn’t go through puberty.
  • never had to find a date.

It makes you wonder how they were able to parent at all. I guess like us they relied on the grace of God.

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Where did Cain find a wife?

March 18, 2009

Cain is the first born of the first humans, Adam and Eve. His story is familiar to most. He offers an unworthy sacrifice to God and is chastised, while his brother Abel offers an acceptable one and is praised. In a jealous rage Cain murdered his brother. As a consequence he was punished by God, sent away and “knew” (had sex with) his wife.

There have been all sorts of crazy theories about where Cain’s wife came from, and most of them come from an improper reading of the scripture. Genesis 4:16 states that after Cain was punished by God, he left and dwelt in the land of Nod and there the Bible states in Genesis 4:17 that Cain “knew” his wife and she bore a son named Enoch. The assumption that most people make is that there were only 3 people on the earth at that time, Adam, Eve, and Cain, but this may not be the case at all.

According to Genesis 5:4 Adam and Eve had many other sons and daughters and it does not specify when these children were born. Obviously the most logical answer from scripture is that Cain’s wife was one of his sisters or one of his sisters or a niece. As weird as that sounds to us now, keep in mind that God did not pronounce that as sin until the time of Moses. Genetic flaws began to bring about severe birth defects when the parents are too closely related. There are other reasons as well, but I won’t get into those here. The fact of the matter is that for humans to have continued as a species inter-marriage with close relatives was necessary.

In closing, to add to a previous point, the Bible does not say that Cain found a wife, only that he had sex with the wife he already had, who must have been a descendant of Adam and Eve.

Jews and Gentiles – Where do they come from?

March 5, 2009

This is one of those questions a new Christian might be afraid to ask when surrounded by those of us who have been well churched. Like me some believers did not attend sunday school at an early age much less receive a Christian education. In most cultures older individuals are generally considered to have more knowledge, but when it comes to spiritual matters age has little to do with it, and so I think that it is easy for believers and congregations to forget that newcomers may not have as great a handle on the basics that we do even though they are middle aged. Now to the question at hand. Where did Jews and Gentiles come from?

From Adam to Abraham there were no Jews. They are the direct descendants of Abraham and Sarah, his wife. God brought Abraham out of a city called Ur and promised to make a great nation out of him with children numbering more than the stars in the sky (I’ll get to that in a minute).  As the story goes, Abraham and Sarah were both well beyond child bearing years, but God miraculously helped them conceive a son, Isaac. Now Isaac had a son named Jacob, who was also known as Israel, and he had twelve sons that became the twelve tribes of Israel. So, Jews came from Abraham. Gentiles are everyone else who is not a direct descendant of Abraham. The question is why did God purposefully create a new nation from Abraham?

The simple answer is that he set aside a specific group of people for himself through which and for the purpose of bringing forth the Messiah, Jesus Christ. I mentioned earlier that Abraham was promised more children than there are stars in the sky. All those who believe in Jesus Christ are in fact the spiritual children of Abraham because of the faith we share in God. As the bible says, “Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness”. Followers of Jesus, a descendant of Abraham through the flesh, believe he is the savior and so righteousness is counted to us as well, though most of us are still gentiles.

One more interesting note. Abraham had a son previous to Isaac through a servant given to him by his wife. Ancient cultures were weird that way. That son, Ishmael, eventually gave rise to Mohammed and the faith of Islam. We don’t sin in a vacuum. Sinning does affect those around us. Abraham’s indiscretion still causes problems today between Jews and Arabs.

In conclusion, Jews are from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Gentiles are from everyone else, but all those who have believed upon the name of Jesus are members of the family of God.

Which Bible Should I Read?

February 9, 2009

 

If you visit the local Christian bookstore or other book retailer you are likely to find several different translations of the Bible. The most popular are the KJV (King James Version), NKJV (New King James Version), and the NIV (New International Version). Others include the ASV (American Standard Version), RSV (Revised Standard Version),  and somewhat newer in this same line of translations, the ESV (English Standard Version). So which one do you choose?

First, let me say that all of the translations above are valuable in my opinion. None of them are heretical and the same is true for some other versions not mentioned above, so don’t freak out if yours wasn’t mentioned. The test for any good translation is does it faithfully translate from the original languages: Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic. I know that some of you reading this are well versed in one or more of these languages and could find fault with any or all of the versions I have mentioned, but for those that aren’t you should know that those versions are widely used by very conservative theologians and you can trust them too. The variations between them are mostly instances of either using the word “boat” or “ship”. This isn’t to say that there aren’t bad versions out there because there are, but you really can’t go wrong with any of the above.

The KJV is by far the most popular and wide spread, but sadly it is also the most intimidating to read. Seventeenth century British English is not the easiest to read for most people and although there are many Christians and churches who fear a modern English version and claim that the KJV is somehow blessed beyond others ignore the fact that it is only a translation written six centuries after the fact. If we really wanted to be a stickler for absolute authority we’d all have to learn at least three ancient languages and even then we would fall short because we don’t have an original letter inked by Paul, just copies. I will give the KJV some credit in spite of its archaic language and admittedly poor translations at times (unicorn – look it up). It is the most beautiful to memorize.

The NIV came around in the 70s and does a pretty good job. You just have to realize that it translates using a method called dynamic equivalency. It translates the originals idea for idea and not quite literal word for word, which means that it interprets as it goes. Still, as I said, it isn’t awful or filled with heresy.

The “standard” versions, ASV, RSV and ESV are written in modern English and are very easy to read. For my personal devotions and study, I use the ESV. The precedent for reading the Bible in the current language comes from Jesus himself, who often quoted the septuagint, a Greek version of the Hebrew Old Testament.

Within each version there are numerous types, such as devotional, study, men’s, women’s. These attributes merely reflect the extra bottom or side margin commentaries. The best advice I can give is find something you are comfortable with and read it.

Bible Presumptions

January 19, 2009

Over the years I have met many Christians, both new and “mature”, who don’t quite know how to approach and handle the Bible and so they avoid it. Several years ago in a Bible study class at a church I no longer attend, a man tried to convince me that the Bible isn’t all that important after giving your life to Jesus. It wasn’t the first time I had encountered such a person and it was definitely not the last.

Everyone comes to the Bible with a certain attitude or presumption.  To some it is a compilation of moral platitudes that although nice to live by, do not constitute a sophisticated world view. To others it represents a dangerous level of dogma that promotes ignorance and intolerance. More still come to the Bible as if it were a buffet where you take what you like and leave the rest. None of these views can satisfy the need we have to understand the God we claim to serve.

We need the Bible to:

  • Understand the price of sin and the sacrifice to redeem us
  • Give us strength to persevere when times are difficult
  • Teach us to praise God when there is victory
  • Fight temptation with its words.

The Bible is the primary source for Christian living and the best reminder of the great love coming from our savior, Jesus Christ, for the times when we don’t feel like He is there at all.

 

It is His word without error or contradiction that we can trust and use to build our faith.

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

Romans 10:17

“Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?”

Galatians 3:2

“Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law or by hearing with faith—“

Galatians 3:5