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Why this Re-translating Genesis 1 – 2?

Posted in: by admin on February 14, 2009

I once was a disciple, and then apostle, of “EBP”*. I was always teaching undergraduate classes various subsets of the evolutionary paradigm. I even originated a few, and had great success in breaking the faith of young Christians. Eventually, however, the overreach of the “GTE”** crowd, (as well as exagerated claims about data, and the tautology and circularity of all-too-many analyses and explanations by evolutionists), turned me off and away from evolution. I eventually became a Christian. An evangelical. And I felt it equally incumbant on a believer in God to be fully confident of Christian’s primary data and paradigm – the Bible.

Though I was led out of Egypt, I could never get Egypt out of my mind. I knew too much science, and stayed too much a student of physics and astronomy and anthropology and paleontology and biology and astrobiology and … well, just about everything science. As scientists developed new and better methodologies, and filled in the fossil and biological gaps in the historical (prehistorical) record, I relented, somewhat, my rejection of evolution. And then became more and more challenged by Genesis 1 -2, even 3 and 4 (and more!). And learned I was hardly alone in that. Good education, higher education, popular scientific writing and TV documentaries, and the popular culture (for instance, dinosaurs – we first meet them in plush crib toys and grow up to develop practically a fixation on them!) seems to do that – challenge our confidence in Genesis 1 – 2 – to millions of Christians, even evangelicals.

I decided I had to deal with the dilemma. Science seems inexorably on the ascendancy, and the Bible in decline. I might have to settle with the “mythology” or “poetry” or “exalted prose narrative” explanation for the Creation Account, and from the getgo the most explicit definition of God we have, or resolve the contradiction. Science, for all its problems as a culture and profession of mere men (and women, of course), did not look to be very vanquishable. But the Bible, with such “prose” and odd stories as the creation of Eve, seemed to be less certain.

I started out with a Bible software package that included many “versions” of the Bible. While everybody had preferences for one another, they weren’t troubled by the fact there are so many, nor their differences. Biblical authority and inerrancy rarely specified or required one version over another. That intrigued me. And so did something else: the fact the text and accounts of creation and Adam and Eve were very much the same in all, and all so very King James.

But King James was translated in 1611. If dinosaurs were in the Hebrew source, how would those scholars had been able to know it? The idea of dinosaurs, let alone the term or words to put in the English text did not yet exist. The same shortcoming pertained almost everything we now know and study and consider essential to a record of creation. But no one, on either side of the science – religion cultural divide seemed to notice, or care.

I began to study Hebrew. Or at least an Interlinear Bible, and Strong’s Dictionary. I realized Strong’s was a rather unusual “dictionary”. It didn’t tell us what a Hebrew word meant so much as it simply listed the many things the word seemed to be translated as, throughout the Bible. The universe of a word’s connotation far exceded the simple universe of denotation we are used to in dictionaries and lexicons of modern languages. That is probably why we have so many “versions”, or translations, being done throughout history. There is so much room for interpretation, people of strong mind or theological bent, like King James, have plenty of room to “have it their way”! It just surprised me (and still does) that no one wanted to check the Hebrew (again) against the ideas of science which have moved so far beyond 1611!

After about two years of linguistic forensic (you might call it) translating, within a matrix of what seems most certain of modern science and knowledge, and I had my interpretation of Genesis 1 – 2, along with a few other bits of scripture about the Creation. I documented it all in the book, written to younger (and on the edge) audiences, but by no means limited to such, “Hey Mom, What About Dinosaurs?” (Available for purchase via the link at the right) It takes you through the linguistics, forensics, and science that makes sense of the creation history. I’ve been more than satisfied. My concerns were answered. And I’ve never met anyone who was offended or found it unacceptable, though I used to expect to face a lot of objections or rejections. My audience has been, instead, pretty positive. Usually grateful. Just smaller than I would like. Thousands have the book, but I think it should be millions. Millions have need of it, that I know.

* EBP: represents “Evolutionary Biological Processes”. Rev. Tim Keller uses the term while referring to people “believing that human life was formed through evolutionary biological processes”. ** GTE: represents “Grand Theory of Everything”. Here, Rev Keller refers to people who think of the evolution paradigm “as the explanation for every aspect of human nature.”

Citing a devotee of GTE, he says a GTE person should “ see that human beings have no ‘immortal soul, free will, [knowledge] of the moral law, spiritual hunger, genuine altruism’ based on our relationship with God…. Evolution has shown that these things are illusions. All features of human life have a natural, scientifically explicable cause. If you believe in EBP, you must believe in GTE.” Continuing, he explained, “GTE is fast becoming what Peter Berger calls a ‘plausibility structure’. It is a set of beliefs considered so basic, and with so much support from authoritative figures and institutions, that it is becoming impossible for individuals to publicly question them. A plausibility structure is a ‘given’ supported by enormous social pressure. The writings of the new atheists here are important to observe because their attitudes are more powerful than their arguments. The disdain and refusal to show any respect to opponents is not actually an effort to refute them logically, but to ostracize them socially and turn their own views into a plausibility structure.” I can only agree. That’s exactly what drove me into opposition, years ago.

See “Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople”, pp 4, 5, Rev Tim Keller. A white Paper at the 2009 workshop, ” “In Search of a Theology of Celebration”, of the BioLogos Foundation.

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