"THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES" Wisdom To Endure Life's Vanities - I (8:1-9:18) INTRODUCTION 1. The Preacher (Solomon, 1:1) has been sharing with us counsel for dealing with life... a. Counsel gleaned from his own search for meaning - 7:27 b. Counsel guided by wisdom given him by God - cf. 1:16; 1Ki 3:12; 4:30 2. In previous lessons we have noted that the Preacher offfered... a. Counsel For Better Living - 7:1-14 b. Counsel For Balanced Living - 7:15-29 -- Helpful to taking a proactive approach to improving one's sojourn "under the sun" 3. Yet no matter what we do, there are things... a. We cannot change b. We cannot escape -- Things which certainly add to the vanity of life "under the sun" 4. Two such things are "death and taxes"; in other words... a. We cannot escape the inevitability of death b. We must endure the governments of men [Wisdom can help, however (8:1), and so as the Preacher continues, he shares "Wisdom To Endure Life's Vanities". Beginning with...] I. ENDURING THE GOVERNMENTS OF MEN A. SUBMIT TO AUTHORITIES FOR GOD'S SAKE... 1. Obey the king's command - 8:2-3 2. Respect his power, and you will be unharmed - 8:4-5a 3. A wise man will understand that judgment will come in it's own time, so don't resort to wickedness (i.e., rebellion) to alleviate misery - 8:5b-9 -- Compare this counsel with that given to Christians - Ro 13: 1-7; 1Pe 2:11-17 B. ANTICIPATE WICKED RULERS... 1. There will be times when men rule to their own detriment - 8:9 2. But they will soon be forgotten after their demise - 8:10 3. Why do some persist in their evil rule? Because their judgment does not occur immediately - 8:11 4. Even so, it is still better to fear God - 8:12-13 C. EXPECT TO BE PERPLEXED... 1. Sometimes the righteous suffer, and the wicked prosper - 8:14 2. One cannot always understand why things happen the way they do (remember Job?) - 8:16-17 D. ENJOY LIFE... 1. Delight in the fruits of your own labor - 8:15 2. Which is the advice given throughout this book - 2:24-26; 3:12-13; 5:18-20 [There is little value in getting all worked up about the inequities in the governments of men. As long as there are imperfect men, there will be imperfect governments. It is better to simply obey the laws, do good, trust in God, and enjoy the fruits of one's labor. In chapter nine, we find wisdom for...] II. ENDURING THE INEVITABILITY OF DEATH A. DEATH HAPPENS TO ALL... 1. It happens to both the righteous and the wicked - 9:1-3 a. While the righteous are in God's hands b. And the sons of men are full of evil 2. While we live, there is hope (9:4); when we die... a. We know nothing of what goes on here on earth - 9:5a,6 b. Others' memory of us soon fades - 9:5 -- We cannot escape death B. ENJOY LIFE... 1. While death is inevitable, we should still enjoy life - 9:7-8 2. Live joyfully with the wife God has given you - 9:9 3. Work diligently while you are here - 9:10 -- While we cannot escape death, there is no reason to give up on life! C. EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED... 1. Time and chance happens to all - 9:11 a. Being swift and strong does not mean you will always win b. Being wise, understanding, and skillful does not always ensure that you will be fed, rich, and the recipients of good favor 2. Sometimes death will come unexpectedly, like animals caught in a trap - 9:12 -- Anticipating the unexpected, we are less likely to be overwhelmed when it occurs D. APPRECIATE THE VALUE OF WISDOM... 1. The Preacher saw how wisdom saved a city - 9:13-15 a. Even though found in a poor man b. Even though the man was soon forgotten 2. Therefore he praises the value of wisdom - 9:16-18 a. As better than strength b. As better than weapons of war -- Though often despised when it comes from a poor man, wisdom spoken quietly is better than the shout of a ruler of fools CONCLUSION 1. We may not be able to escape all of life's vanities... a. There may be times we find ourselves under wicked governments b. Unless the Lord returns in our lifetime, death is inevitable 2. But we can endure life's vanities with the aid of the Preacher's wisdom... a. Enduring the governments of men by: 1) Submitting to authorities for God's sake 2) Understanding that wicked rulers will occur 3) Expecting to be perplexed at times 4) Enjoying our life as God gives us opportunity b. Enduring the inevitability of death by: 1) Remembering that death happens to all 2) Enjoying family and work 3) Expecting the unexpected 4) Utilizing wisdom that is available to us In our next study, we shall consider more from the Preacher on the value of wisdom and diligence in enduring life's vanities. In the meantime, let's not forget that we have another "Preacher" who has established the perfect kingdom, and delivered us from the fear of death: Jesus Christ!
"THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES" Counsel For Balanced Living (7:15-29) INTRODUCTION 1. In our previous study (7:1-14), the Preacher provided counsel for a better life... a. Honor is better than luxury b. Your deathday is better than your birthday c. A funeral is better than a party d. The end is better than the beginning e. Patience is better than pride f. The present is better than the past g. Wisdom is better than wealth h. Resignation is better than indignation -- Such counsel is designed to make the best of life, especially since life "under the sun" is vanity 2. As we consider the latter half of chapter seven... a. There are rather challenging and difficult statements b. Which should be understood in their context, and the context of the Bible as a whole [It appears the Preacher is counseling against extremism, especially in the first section, where we find advice to...] I. DO THINGS IN MODERATION (7:15-22) A. EXTREMES CAN CREATE PROBLEMS... 1. One of life's vanities is that the righteous don't always prosper, nor do the wicked always suffer - 7:15 a. Here the Preacher saw that which Job's friends did not 1) They reasoned that righteous never suffer, only the wicked - cf. Job 4:7-8 2) Yet Job, like the Preacher, knew that was not always the case - cf. Job 21:7-9 b. Of course, both Job and the Preacher knew the ultimate end of the wicked 1) The wicked are reserved for the day of doom and wrath - Job 21:30 2) It will be well for those who fear God - Ec 8:12-13 2. One should avoid extremism in seeking to be righteous and wise - 7:16 a. There is a righteousness to be avoided (i.e., "self- righteousness") 1) Righteousness born of pride and arrogance - e.g., Lk 18: 10-14 2) The Pharisees were a classic case of being "overly righteous" - cf. Mt 23:1-33 b. There is also a wisdom to be avoided 1) Wisdom of this world - cf. 1Co 3:18-20 2) It too is born out of pride and arrogance 3. One should also avoid extremism in wickedness and foolishness - 7:17 a. Not that "a little wickedness and folly" is ever acceptable to God! b. But God may be longsuffering and provide opportunity to repent for some - 2Pe 3:9 c. While His anger and wrath might be moved to cut off those who arrogantly and openly despise Him - e.g., Ac 12:21-23 B. DON'T REFRAIN FROM TRUE RIGHTEOUSNESS AND WISDOM... 1. One should still fear God - 7:18 a. Understanding the dangers of extremism is important b. But the fear of God remains the key to true knowledge and pleasing God - cf. Pr 1:7; Ec 8:12 2. Wisdom does have its place - 7:19 a. Better than ten rulers (or mighty men) of a city! b. Better than strength - cf. Ec 9:13-18 3. Yet no one is perfect - 7:20 a. Even as the Psalmist declared - Ps 14:1-3 b. As the apostle Paul taught - Ro 3:21 C. DON'T BELIEVE EVERYTHING PEOPLE SAY... 1. You may sometimes hear others say bad things about you - 7:21 2. You have said things that were unkind about others - 7:22 -- So don't take what you hear too seriously (i.e., don't be so "righteously" indignant) [The sense of this section seems to be one of being "balanced", not over-reacting that you overshoot your true goal, which is to please God. Along the same vein, one should also remember that as valuable as wisdom may be...] II. WISDOM ALONE IS NOT THE ANSWER (7:23-29) A. SOME QUESTIONS WISDOM CAN'T ANSWER... 1. The preacher had proved some things by wisdom - 7:23a 2. But others things were too deep and far off - 7:23-24; cf. Isa 55:8,9 B. A WICKED WOMAN IS CERTAINLY TO BE AVOIDED... 1. He applied his heart to know wisdom and folly - 7:25 2. What he found more bitter than death was the wicked woman - 7:26; cf. Pr 5:3-5; 7:21-27 C. GOOD PEOPLE ARE HARD TO FIND... 1. Seeking for a good man, he found only one in a thousand - 7:27-28a; cf. Ps 12:1 2. A good woman was even rarer - 7:28b a. Perhaps the Preacher (Solomon) was reflecting upon his experience with his 700 wives and 300 concubines; certainly not a good sampling! - cf. 1Ki 11:1-3 b. Even King Lemuel thought a good woman was hard to find - Pr 31:10-ff 3. Of course, the problem is not with God... a. He made man upright - 7:29a b. But they have gone after many evil things - 7:29b; cf. Jer 4:22 CONCLUSION 1. Man's pride tends to propel him to go to extremes... a. Those not content to obey His Word often seek out many sinful deeds b. Even those seeking righteousness can go too far (e.g., where "righteous indignation" becomes "self-righteous indignation") 2. Of course, the solution is not to refrain from righteousness and wisdom... a. But to seek after it humbly - cf. Mt 5:3-6 b. And to apply gentleness, patience, and humility in all things, even toward those who are opposing God! - cf. 2Ti 2:24-25; 1 Pe3:1-4 Such I believe is consistent with the Preacher's "Counsel For A Balanced Life", and which if followed, helps any man or woman be that "one in a thousand"...
What Good Things Can You Say About Islam?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
Q:“There are 1.3 billion Muslims in the world. Islam can’t be all bad. What good things can you say about Islam?”
A:Truth is not determined by the number of people that accept or reject it. Nor is any religion, ideology, or philosophy totally evil, false, or bad. No doubt Satan himself has some attributes that some may consider “good.” But this observation misses the point. If a religion is false, it must be rejected—even if it possesses some positive qualities. If the central thrust of an ideology is out of harmony with what both the Bible and the American Founders called “true religion” (i.e., Christianity), then ultimately it will be harmful and counterproductive to American civilization. Philosophies and religions impact life and society. If America loses its Christian moorings, dire consequences will follow—consequences that we are even now seeing in the form of increased crime, the breakdown of the home, and the dumbing down of our educational institutions. Christian principles are responsible for elevating America to the envy of the nations of the world. Remove or replace the Christian platform on which the Republic is poised and disastrous results will follow.
Is there some good in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam? Certainly. But that is a superfluous observation. The real question is: what has been the impact of those ideologies on the countries where their influence has prevailed? Answer: Poverty is rampant (except where the Western Christian nations have given assistance and technology—such as drilling oil wells), women are abused and mistreated, children are treated as chattel, the lower classes are treated with contempt, etc. Simply look at one of the premiere atheistic nations of the last century—Russia. Look at the most prominent Hindu nation on Earth—India. Consider the Buddhist countries of the world, from Thailand to Cambodia to Vietnam. Examine the premiere Socialist nations from Cuba to Central and South America. Look at the major Islamic nations of the world, from the Middle East to North Africa to Indonesia. Even a cursory examination of the societal conditions that prevail in all these nations causes the traditional American to shrink with horror and disgust, shocked at the extent of man’s inhumanity to man.
In stark contrast, what has been the result of Christianity’s influence on America? Christian influence has been responsible for the abolition of slavery, and the construction of hospitals, children homes, and the benevolent societies of our nation. Christian influence has created an environment that is conducive to human progress. Hence, America excels other nations in a host of categories of human endeavor. Indeed, where else in all of human history has a greater percentage of a nation’s citizenry achieved a higher standard of living? (Most “poor” in America do not even begin to compare with the poor of other nations and history.) America has orchestrated an unprecedented amount of progress—achieving what one author styled a “5,000 year leap” of technological advancement and progress in just 200 years (Skousen, 2006). Only one explanation exists for this extreme disparity: God has blessed America (Psalm 33:12).
Please give sober consideration to the words of Founding Father, Jedidiah Morse (father of Samuel Morse who invented the Morse Code), who cogently articulated the thinking of the Founders and most early Americans regarding the importance of Christianity to America’s survival:
To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom, and political and social happiness which mankind now enjoy. In proportion as the genuine effects of Christianity are diminished in any nation, either through unbelief, or the corruption of its doctrines, or the neglect of its institutions; in the same proportion will the people of that nation recede from the blessings of genuine freedom, and approximate the miseries of complete despotism (1799, p. 14, emp. added).Whatever “good” might be acknowledged concerning Islam and all other non-Christian religions is, in fact, irrelevant and diverts attention away from the real issue: Is it true, i.e., of divine origin, and if not, what fruit will it produce in a nation? Abundant evidence exists to know the answers to these questions. [NOTE: See the author’s book The Quran Unveiled and DVD on “Islam, the Quran, and New Testament Christianity” at apologeticspress.org].
ReferencesMorse, Jedidiah (1799), A Sermon, Exhibiting the Present Dangers and Consequent Duties of the Citizens of the United States of America (Hartford, CT: Hudson and Goodwin), http://www.archive.org/details/sermonexhibiting00morsrich.
Skousen, W.C. (2006), The 5000 Year Leap (Malta, ID: National Center for Constitutional Studies).
Does Genesis 4 Indicate that God Specifically Created Others Besides Adam and Eve? by Eric Lyons, M.Min.
Does Genesis 4 Indicate that God Specifically Created Others Besides Adam and Eve?
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
If Adam and Eve were the only human beings that God miraculously created, where did all of the people come from who were of great concern to Cain? After God sentenced the murderous Cain to be “a fugitive and a vagabond” on the Earth (Genesis 4:12), recall that Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear” (4:13). Cain then said: “Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me” (4:14, emp. added). God then responded to Cain, saying, “Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him seven-fold.” So, “the Lord set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him” (4:15, emp. added). Do the references to “anyone” and “whoever” in these verses suggest that God specially created others besides Adam and Eve?
Before answering these questions, one must keep in mind that Genesis chapters 1-11 cover approximately the first 2,000-plus years of human history (Butt, 2002; cf. Lyons, 2002). The following 1,178 chapters of the Bible tell us about the next 2,000 years. Although the first 11 chapters of Genesis are undeniably literal, historical language (cf. Thompson, 2001), God chose to reveal to man only a few important facts about the first 2,000-plus years of man’s existence—and most of this revelation is about Creation, the Fall, and the Flood. What’s more, Genesis chapters 4-5 likely cover a period of more than 1,400 years. Thus, a lot of time can pass between events without the text specifically expressing exactly how many decades or centuries elapsed.
How much time elapsed in Genesis 4:2? Immediately following the announcement of Cain and Abel’s births (4:1-2), the text says, “Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground” (4:2). Most likely, at least 20 years had passed by this time, and it could be that several more decades had expired before Cain and Abel finally settled on their respective vocations. (How many people today do not settle on a profession until they are 35 or 40 years old?)
How much time transpired when the Bible says, “And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord” (4:3, emp. added)? How long was Cain angry with Abel before God spoke to Cain about his anger (4:6)? How long was it before Cain spoke with Abel (4:8)? (Have you ever known people, even family members, to hold-in feelings of resentment for years or decades?) Genesis 4:8 says, “It came to pass when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him” (emp. added). Again, we cannot know exactly how much time transpired between the conversation that Cain had with Abel and the day that he actually murdered Abel (4:8).
The fact is, Cain could have been 100 years old or more by the time he killed his brother. [Keep in mind that since the patriarchs often lived to be several hundred years old (e.g., Adam died at the age of 930), being 100 in that day, was somewhat comparable to being 20 today.] What’s more, Adam and Eve may have had 50 children or more by the time Cain killed Abel (cf. Genesis 5:4). They may have had 300 grandchildren by then. There could have been three or four generations of Adam’s descendants on Earth by the time God sentenced Cain to be “a fugitive and a vagabond.”
How many children, and possibly grandchildren, did Adam and Eve have when God said, “Whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold”? How many people had descended from Adam by the time God “set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him”? Who were the “whoever” and “anyone” that both God and Cain mentioned? They were the dozens, hundreds, or possibly thousands of people on Earth by that time—all of whom were descendants of Adam, “the first man” (1 Corinthians 15:45) and Eve, “the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20). In no way does reason or inspired revelation forbid a literal interpretation of Genesis; on the contrary, it demands such.
REFERENCESButt, Kyle (2002), “The Bible Says the Earth is Young,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=9&article=885.
Lyons, Eric (2002), “When Did Terah Beget Abraham?” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=13&article=624.
Thompson, Bert (2001), “Genesis 1 thru 11—Mythical or Historical?” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=451.
Considering Our Cosmic Home: Reflections from the 2012 Venus Transit
|by||Branyon May, Ph.D.|
Time lapse image of the
2012 Venus transit
Astronomically, the Sun and Venus are the brightest and third brightest celestial objects in Earth’s skies (the Moon being second), and historically are two of the most studied celestial objects. Ancient records dating back to the Babylonian civilization around 3000 B.C., reference this bright celestial object, and other civilizations such as the Chinese, Egyptian, and Greek civilizations include observations and cultural lore about Venus. Interestingly, historical references sometimes called Venus the “morning star” or “evening star,” and specifically the ancient Greeks called Venus by two names (Phosphorus and Hesperus) supposing it to be two different objects (Squyres, 2012). The two-object idea isn’t completely unreasonable, since for a portion of our year Venus precedes the Sun in the sky and for the other portion of the year it seems to follow the Sun across the sky. In fact, Venus is never more than about 48 degrees from the Sun in the sky (termed its greatest elongation, and is due to its orbit being inside Earth’s orbit). In fact, 2 Peter 1:19 makes reference to the “day star,” which is translated from the Greek word for phosphorus.
Commonly called “Earth’s Twin” or our “Sister Planet,” Venus is not only the planet that travels in its orbit closest to Earth’s orbit, but has such nicknames because it is nearly identical in size and mass. (Actually, the time of the transit of Venus represents the period of time for closest approach to Earth). When we consider this comparison it brings to mind the question, “What would an Earth transit event look like?” If we were to step outside of our own orbit and align ourselves looking back toward Earth, similar to the alignment we have seen with Venus and the Sun, then based on the similarity between Earth and Venus we actually have our answer. An Earth transit would basically provide the same stunning sight—a single distinguished planet, a fraction the size of the Sun, slowly crossing the wide, intensely bright solar landscape. Earth, too, is more than 100 times smaller in diameter than the Sun and approximately one million times smaller by volume. Therefore, this rare event of Venus’ transit affords us an interesting self-reflection to consider our own planet’s size, scale, design, and place in the Solar System.
Consider: as we watched Venus traverse the Sun’s disk, we were watching Earth’s closest planetary neighbor pass in front of Earth’s nearest stellar companion. Likely the most obvious observation from this event was the size comparison. Venus’s dark silhouette against the Sun’s surface portrayed such a small planet, but the truth is that the actual physical size comparison is even more extreme than what was observed. At the time of the 2012 transit, Venus’s angular diameter was approximately 58 arcseconds while the Sun’s was approximately 1,890 arcseconds, a factor of 32.6 times greater (Odenwald, 2012). However, since Venus was much closer to Earth than the Sun it appeared larger than if it had been at equal distance. This fact means the size of the Sun versus Venus is even more dramatic than the transit view appeared. In actuality the Sun is greater than 100 times the diameter of Venus and greater than one million times the volume, providing a perspective for the true scale of our Solar System. Sometimes the statement is made, “The Universe just has too much wasted space to be the result of an intelligent creator” (see Miller, 2003 for an article addressing that subject). However, this incredible scale of size and distance within our Solar System illustrates (1) the infinite nature of the Creator, and (2) an important aspect to God’s design for our life-sustaining planet. The following considerations should help illuminate some of the usefulness and purpose for the scales we see.
How does Earth compare to our nearest planetary companion? Although Venus and Earth are approximately equal in size and mass, Venus is an interesting case study in planetary characteristics, since in actuality, it is extremely different from Earth in most ways. From a distance we first notice that Venus is enshrouded in a thick atmosphere of clouds. This atmosphere is far thicker than Earth’s, mostly composed of carbon dioxide (CO2), and has an atmospheric surface pressure 90 times greater. To experience an equal amount of pressure on Earth you would have to travel nearly one kilometer below the surface of the ocean (“Venus,” 2012). Venus’s carbon dioxide dominated atmosphere, along with solar irradiance being double that of Earth’s (caused by its closer proximity to the Sun), results in Venus having the hottest average surface temperature in the entire solar system, over 860 degrees Fahrenheit (464 degrees Celsius). Such an incredible temperature means liquid water is not present on its surface, compared to more than 70% coverage on Earth’s surface, and incredibly, even metals such as lead and zinc would melt on its surface (Bentor, 2010). Another major contrast between the two planets is the presence of a strong magnetic field. Earth’s rather fast rotation is thought to drive a dynamo effect that maintains a steady and sufficiently strong field to provide a finely tuned cocoon of protection from the dangerous streams of charged particles flowing from the Sun through the inner Solar System. By contrast, Venus has an extremely slow rotation, which causes its day to be longer than its year, and lacks any magnetic field and associated protection from the solar wind. When we consider our “Sister Planet,” we find that it is not a “Twin” where we would want to or could live. These observations lead to the simple acknowledgement that Earth’s position in the Solar System is well-tuned and finely designed for life to thrive. The Earth shows itself to differ from all other planets in that it possesses all the necessary constituent elements to make it suitable for human life.
Observations of Venus have been linked to prominent times in history and have served to mark events and history, as many major celestial observations and events have. Examples of such help to illustrate just how important the view of our Universe is, and how the created purpose specified in Genesis has been demonstrated: “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years” (1:14). The consistent, unwavering behavior of the motion of the planets—behavior which allows scientists to predict precisely when Venus will transit in this way again decades in the future—is not a characteristic that would result from randomness, mindlessness, and accidental processes as evolutionary theories suppose. Rather, such behavior points to the existence of laws governing the Universe and its planets—laws which could not have written themselves, but rather, were written by the Great Lawmaker of the Universe (Job 38:33).
1) NASA video:
2) National Geographic Images: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/06/pictures/120606-venus-transit-2012-pictures-sun-planet-nasa-space-science/#/venus-transit-pictures-2012-sdo-yellow_54600_600x450.jpg
3) NASA Image of the Day Gallery: http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_2271.html
4) Sky and Telescope viewing from around the globe: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/home/2012-Venus-Transit-ST-Reports-157500315.html
REFERENCESBentor, Yinon (2010), “Periodic Table: Melting Point,” Chemical Elements, http://www.chemicalelements.com/show/meltingpoint.html.
Espenak, Fred (2012), “Six Millennium Catalog of Venus Transits: 2000 BCE to 4000 CE,” NASA Eclipse Web Site, http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/transit/catalog/VenusCatalog.html.
Miller, Dave (2003), “The Universe—A ‘Waste of Space’?” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=1207.
Odenwald, Sten (2012), “The Cultural Impact of the Transit of Venus,” 2012 Transit of Venus—Sun-Earth Day: Shadows of the Sun, http://venustransit.nasa.gov/2012/articles/ttt_76.php.
Squyres, Steven W. (2012), “Venus,” History.com, http://www.history.com/topics/planet-venus.
“Venus” (2012), Nine Planets, http://nineplanets.org/venus.html.
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
Near the end of Moses’ life, when the children of Israel were soon to enter the Promised Land, Moses instructed them to teach the younger generation: “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7, emp. added). In this passage, Moses stressed the importance of teaching children continually the words of the Lord. Why is it that we have not followed the example that Moses set for the Israelites? If we love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37), the priorities given 3,500 years ago should not have changed. In the New Testament, Paul instructed Timothy to “give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:13). Peter commanded Christians to “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). The noble Bereans set a worthy example to follow in that they “searched the Scriptures daily” (Acts 17:11). However, it seems that in recent times we have failed to teach our children, and ignorance has become an epidemic.
In their book, The Gospel According to Generation X, David Lewis, Carley Dodd, and Darryl Tippens revealed the results of a survey they conducted in the early 1990s. Four thousand adolescents from churches of Christ throughout the United States were questioned. A number of the statistics were encouraging, however, the responses to some of the questions revealed there is much that young people still need to know. For example, 45% of those surveyed indicated that they either did not believe or did not know whether it is possible for any adult to be saved without being baptized (p. 17). Only 20% of the 4,000 questioned thought that divorce and remarriage for reasons other than fornication would cause all parties involved to be lost (p. 18). Just 19% of those surveyed thought the use of musical instruments during a church service was sinful (p. 18). And finally, of the 4,000 young people polled, 81% indicated that those who have not heard the gospel still have a hope of salvation (p. 18).
Why are we surprised when so many young people never are baptized, or think very little about its necessity if they want to be saved (Mark 16:16)? Why are we shocked when a young adult marries, then divorces and remarries for reasons other than fornication (Matthew 19:1-9)? Why are we surprised when people show little interest in sharing the good news of Jesus? After all, only 19% indicated that one who has not heard about Jesus is lost (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).
Mothers and fathers cannot rely solely upon the Sunday school instructor to teach children everything thing they need to know about the Bible. Young people never will have a good knowledge of God’s Word if they are taught the Bible for just a few minutes on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. They need to hear it on a consistent basis. When you see monkeys at the zoo, take the time to teach your children that they did not evolve from animals. When you take a quarter out of your pocket, show them the image of George Washington and then teach your children that they were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). When you see a body of water, remind your sons and daughters of the Ethiopian eunuch’s question, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36).
Religious education should take place in the mornings and in the evenings, inside and outside, while sitting and while walking (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). It is time to confront ignorance “head-on” by giving attention to God’s Word on a daily basis.
The Da Vinci Code and the Uniqueness of Christ
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
Among the many unsubstantiated accusations that author Dan Brown made in his bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code is one regarding the “unoriginality” of Christianity. Allegedly, “Nothing in Christianity is original” (Brown, 2003, p. 232). As “proof” of this statement, Brown’s fictional character, Sir Leigh Teabing, asserts:
“The pre-Christian God Mithras—called the Son of God and the Light of the World—was born on December 25, died, and was buried in a rock tomb, and then resurrected in three days. By the way, December 25 is also the birthday of Osiris, Adonis, and Dionysus. The newborn Krishna was presented with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Even Christianity’s weekly holy day was stolen from the pagans” (p. 232, italics in orig.).Supposedly, the Gospel was nothing new 2,000 years ago when Jesus was born into the world. Stories that resemble “the Good News of Jesus” circulated centuries earlier. Pagans had previously worshipped and idolized god-like heroes who in some ways resembled Christ.
How can Christianity be “original” if stories that predate the time of Christ speak of gods who were born on December 25, presented with gold, frankincense, and myrrh, called the Son of God and Light of the World, and buried and raised only a few days after their deaths? As with so many things in The Da Vinci Code, this accusation is erroneous and terribly misleading.
First of all, the Bible nowhere indicates that Jesus was born on December 25. There are no Old Testament prophecies about Him being born on this date, nor does any New Testament writer suggest it. On the contrary, Luke hints that Jesus was most likely born in a month other than December. In chapter two of his gospel account, Luke wrote that Jesus was born when shepherds were “living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night” (2:8). It is highly unlikely that shepherds would have been “living out in the fields” with their sheep during the winter months. “Jews sent out their flocks into the mountainous and desert regions during the summer months, and took them up in the latter part of October or the first of November, when the cold weather commenced” (Barnes, 1997). Late December simply was not a time when flocks were in the fields at night. Thus, as Adam Clarke concluded, “On this very ground the nativity in December should be given up” (1996).
The early church did not celebrate “Christmas” on December 25, since the inspired apostles and prophets never commanded its observance as a religious holy day. “Christmas” was not observed until the fourth century A.D. (see “Christmas,” 1997, 3:283), and even then it was most likely adopted “to coincide with the pagan Roman festival marking the ‘birthday of the unconquered sun’” (“Christmas,” 3:283). In short, a December 25 “holy day” originated as a pagan feast, and true Christianity is not connected to this date in any way. Thus, the fact that history records stories of mythical gods being born on December 25 in no way diminishes the deity, superiority, or virgin birth of Christ.
Second, similarities between Christ and the stories of mythical hero “savior-gods” from the past are to be expected. Centuries before the time of Christ prophets foretold of the coming Savior of mankind Who would be “from everlasting” (Micah 5:2), yet enter the world miraculously by being born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). He would be of royal blood (Isaiah 9:6-7), reign over a kingdom (Psalm 110:1-2) that will never be destroyed (Daniel 2:44), and wear names such as “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Finally, at His death He would be pierced (Zechariah 12:10), and yet His body would not see corruption (Psalm 16:10), i.e., He would be raised from the dead. Considering prophecies about the coming Messiah were being foretold since “the foundation of the world (i.e., since the fall of man—Genesis 3:15; cf. Luke 11:49-51) to both Jews and Gentiles (see Lyons, 2004), stories of various “savior-gods” who might sound similar to the true Messiah are to be expected. [NOTE: For further information, see Butt and Lyons, 2006, pp. 35-74.]
Third, although there are some parallels between the Gospel of Jesus and the “hero-god” stories that circulated centuries before Christ came to Earth, many of these professed similarities are untrue. For example, in hopes of casting doubt on the story of Jesus, Dan Brown asserted that, like Jesus, Krishna was presented with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Yet, according to Amy Welborn, “There is not a single story in actual Hindu mythology of Krishna being presented with gold, frankincense, and myrrh at his birth” (2004, p. 87). Brown may well have obtained this information regarding Krishna from Kersey Graves’ 1875 book The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors. Not surprising, neither Brown nor Graves provided any documentation for their comparisons. Furthermore, as Carl Olson and Sandra Miesel observed: “The stories of Krishna’s childhood recorded in the Harivamsa Purana (c. A.D. 300) and the Bhagavata Purana (c. A.D. 800-900) don’t mention gifts at all. Even if they did, these latter works were written after the first century, making Graves’ claim absurd” (2004).
Finally, Christianity’s weekly “holy day” was not “stolen” from pagans. Since there are only seven days in a week, there was a one in seven chance that Christians would assemble on someone’s “holy day.” If Jesus had been raised on Saturday, and Christians assembled for worship on the seventh day rather than the first day, the Jews would have cried foul play. Were early Christians to meet on Monday, they may have been accused of worshiping the moon. In truth, Christians have been meeting on the first day of the week to worship God for 2,000 years because God set aside this day for us to worship Him, including eating the memorial feast (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:17-26). Christians know nothing of Sun-worship, but much of Son-worship. As Tertullian wrote 1,800 years ago in his “Apology,” Christians “devote Sun-day to rejoicing” for a “far different reason than Sun-worship” (XVI). To say that Christians “stole” their “holy day” from the pagans is an outright lie.
Sadly, Satan has used The Da Vinci Code and other popular writings and movies to deceive millions of people about the uniqueness of Christ and the originality of Christianity. Thankfully, however, even Satan cannot stop the power of the Gospel (Romans 1:16) from pricking the hearts of those who are open to the Truth (Matthew 13:1-23; cf. Acts 2:36-37; 16:14). May God help us all to distinguish between Truth and error, and obey that which God’s Truth teaches.
Brown, Dan (2003), The Da Vinci Code (New York: Doubleday).
Butt, Kyle and Eric Lyons (2006), Behold! The Lamb of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
“Christmas” (1997), The New Encyclopaedia Britannica (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Brittannica).
Clarke, Adam (1996), Adam Clarke’s Commentary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Lyons, Eric (2004), “Resurrected ‘Savior-Gods’ and the Prophets of Old,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2858.
Olson, Carl E. and Sandra Miesel (2004), “A Da Vinci De-Coder,” [On-line], URL: http://www.carl-olson.com/articles/tca_tdvc_apr04.html.
Tertullian (1973 reprint), “Apology,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Welborn, Amy (2004), De-coding Da Vinci: The Facts Behind the Fiction of The Da Vinci Code (United States: Our Sunday Visitor).
Alleged Discrepancies and the Flood
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
Name a Bible subject that has been scoffed at or ridiculed more than the account of the Noahic Flood. Name a topic that has borne the brunt of more jokes, or that the unbeliever has used more often to poke fun at the Bible, than Noah’s ark. Likely it would be difficult to find any Bible subject that has received more derision in modern times, or has been the subject of more mockery than the story recorded in Genesis 6-9.
The biblical account of the great Flood is one of the more prominent stories in Scripture, with more space allotted to it in the book of Genesis than to the creation of “the heavens, and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them” (Exodus 20:11; Genesis 1-2). Four of the first nine chapters of Genesis are devoted to the record of Noah, his immediate family, and the Flood. We know more about the Flood than any other event (recorded in Holy Writ) from approximately the first 2,000 years of man’s existence on Earth. What’s more, there are several New Testament references to Noah and the Flood (Matthew 24:37-39; Luke 17:26-27; Hebrews 11:7; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5). Yet, the account of Noah, his ark, and the great Flood has been, and still is, a favorite target of Bible critics.
More than a century ago, renowned American agnostic Robert Ingersoll penned his infamous book titled Some Mistakes of Moses. Regarding Noah’s ark and the Flood, he wrote: “Volumes might be written upon the infinite absurdity of this most incredible, wicked and foolish of all fables contained in that repository of the impossible, called the Bible. To me it is a matter of amazement, that it ever was for a moment believed by any intelligent human being” (1879, p. 155). In more recent times, evolutionist Douglas Futuyma asked: “Can you believe that any grown man or woman with the slightest knowledge of biology, geology, physics, or any science at all, not to speak of plain and simple common sense, can conceivably believe this? (1983, p. 203). In that same year, skeptic Dennis McKinsey, the one-time editor of the journal Biblical Errancy (touted as “the only national periodical focusing on biblical errors”), argued that there is a “large number of contradictions between biblical verses with respect to what occurred” in Genesis 6-9 (1983a, p. 1, emp. added). Furthermore, McKinsey has alleged there also exist a “great number of difficulties, impossibilities, and unanswered questions accompanying the biblical account” of the Flood (p. 1).
Before answering some of the alleged problems with the Flood and Noah’s ark, one must first recognize that we are addressing four chapters of the Bible that involve the prevailing power of an omnipotent God Who performed various supernatural feats. Although a skeptic might consider any mention of the miraculous in connection with the Flood as an untenable defense by a Bible believer, the simple truth is that Genesis 6-9 makes it clear that God worked several miracles during the Flood. Just as God worked miracles prior to the Flood (e.g., creating the world and everything in it—Genesis 1-2), and just as He worked miracles after the Flood (e.g., confusing the language of all the Earth—Genesis 11:1-9), He performed wonders during the Flood. As John Whitcomb noted in his book The World That Perished: “A careful analysis of the relevant exegetical data reveals at least six areas in which supernaturalism is clearly demanded in the doctrine of the Flood” (1988, p. 21). What are these areas? “(1) [T]he divinely-revealed design of the Ark; (2) the gathering and care of the animals; (3) the uplift of the oceanic waters from beneath; (4) the release of waters from above; (5) the formation of our present ocean basins; and (6) the formation of our present continents and mountain ranges” (p. 21; cf. 2 Peter 3:4ff.). The fact is, “one cannot have any kind of a Genesis Flood without acknowledging the presence of supernatural powers” (Whitcomb and Morris, 1961, p. 76).
Thus, certain “difficulties, impossibilities, and unanswered questions accompanying the biblical account” (McKinsey, 1983a, p. 1) of the Flood may be explained sufficiently simply by acknowledging God’s supernatural involvement. However, apologists do not have to appeal to an “endless supplying of miracles to make a universal flood feasible,” as Bernard Ramm suggested (1954, p. 167). In truth, many of the alleged contradictions and proposed absurdities involving Noah and the Flood are logically explained by an honest and serious study of the Scriptures.
ADEQUATE ARK OR DEFICIENT DINGHY?
|Adapted from an Image courtesy of Vance Nelson, CreationTruthMinistries.org|
Second, supposing that the cubit in Noah’s day was 17.5 inches (a most conservative “cubit” considering the Egyptian cubit, the Mesopotamian cubit, and the “long” cubit of Ezekiel 40:5 all exceeded this measurement by two inches; see Free and Vos, 1992, pp. 38-39), then Noah’s ark would have been at the very least 437.5 feet long, 72.92 feet wide, and 43.75 feet high. “[T]he available floor space of this three-decked barge was over 95,000 square feet,” the equivalent of slightly more than 20 standard basketball courts, “and its total volume was 1,396,000 cubic feet” (Whitcomb, 1988, p. 25), which means “the Ark had a carrying capacity equal to that of 522 standard stock cars as used by modern railroads” (Whitcomb and Morris, 1961, pp. 67-68). What’s more, “if 240 animals of the size of sheep could be accommodated in a standard two-decked stock car,” then 35,000 animals could be housed in less than 150 such cars (p. 69), which is less than 30% of the ark’s total capacity. Suffice it to say, “[T]he dimensions of the Ark were sufficiently great to accomplish its intended purpose of saving alive the thousands of kinds of air-breathing creatures that could not otherwise survive a year-long Flood” (Whitcomb, 1988, p. 25). [NOTE: God likely allowed Noah to take young animals into the ark, instead of those that were fully grown, in order to save space and reduce the amount of necessary food. It also would have meant that, on average, the animals would have lived longer and produced even more offspring after the Flood.]
THE “WINDOW” OF THE ARK
Questions regarding the “window” on Noah’s ark and the problem of ventilation have escalated largely because the Hebrew word translated window (tsohar) in Genesis 6:16 appears only here in the Old Testament, and linguistic scholars are unsure as to its exact meaning (see Hamilton, 1990, p. 282). Translators of the KJV and NKJV use the word “window” to translate tsohar; however, according to Old Testament commentator Victor Hamilton, they “do so on the basis of the word’s possible connection with sahorayim, ‘noon, midday,’ thus an opening to let in the light of day” (p. 282). Hebrew scholar William Gesenius defined tsohar in his Hebrew lexicon as simply “light,” and translated Genesis 6:16 as “thou shalt make light for the ark” (1847, p. 704). He then surmised that this “light” represented, not a window, but windows (plural). The ASV translators also preferred “light” as the best translation for tsohar. Still more recent translations, including the RSV, NIV, and ESV, have translated Genesis 6:16 as “[m]ake a roof” for the ark, instead of make a “window” or “light.”
Such disagreement among translations is, admittedly, somewhat discouraging to the person who wants a definite answer as to how tsohar should be translated. What is clear, however, is that the word translated “window” two chapters later, which Noah is said to have “opened” (8:6), is translated from a different Hebrew word (challôwn) than what is used in Genesis 6:16. Challôwn (8:6) is the standard Hebrew word for “window” (cf. Genesis 26:8; Joshua 2:18). Yet, interestingly, this is not the word used in 6:16. One wonders if, in 8:6, Noah opened one of a plurality of aligned windows that God instructed him to make in 6:16.
Another assumption often brought into a discussion regarding the “window” (tsohar) of 6:16 is that it was one square cubit. Although many people have imagined Noah’s ark as having one small window about 18 inches high by 18 inches wide, the phrase “you shall finish it to a cubit from above” (6:16, NKJV; cf. RSV) does not give the Bible reader any clear dimensions of the opening. The text just says that Noah was to “finish it to a cubit from the top” (NASB; “upward,” ASV). The simple truth is, the size of the lighting apparatus mentioned in this verse is unspecified. The text indicates only the distance the opening was from the top of the ark, rather than the actual size of the window. Thus we cannot form a definite picture of it. But, we do know that nothing in the text warrants an interpretation that the “window” was just a “small opening” (as critics allege). A more probable theory, which aligns itself appropriately with the text, is that the opening described in Genesis 6:16 extended around the ark’s circumference 18 inches from the top of the ark with an undeterminable height. According to geologist John Woodmorappe, such an opening would have provided sufficient light and ventilation for the ark (1996, pp. 37-44). [For further reading on this subject, see Woodmorappe’s book, Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study.]
It is important to remember that many details about biblical events are not revealed to the reader. So it is with the plans for Noah’s ark. As Henry Morris commented, “It was obviously not the intention of the writer to record the complete specifications for the ark’s construction, but only enough to assure later readers that it was quite adequate for its intended purpose...‘to preserve life on the earth’” (1976, p. 182). Truly, absolute certainty regarding the openings on the ark cannot be determined. We know of an opening mentioned in Genesis 6:16 (tsohar), as well as one mentioned in 8:6 (challôwn). And, since Noah, his family, and the animals on the ark survived the Flood, it is only logical to conclude that God made proper ways to ventilate the ark in which they lived during the Flood. Although nothing in Scripture demands that those living millennia after the Flood know how it was ventilated, lighted, etc., it is very likely that God used the opening mentioned in Genesis 6:16.
HOW MANY ANIMALS OF EACH KIND DID NOAH TAKE INTO THE ARK?
The biblical text, however, is rather easy to understand without giving up on the inspiration of Genesis, or the authorship of Moses: the clean beasts and birds entered the ark “by sevens” (KJV), while the unclean animals went into the ark by twos. There is no contradiction here. Genesis 6:19 indicates that Noah was to take “two of every sort into the ark.” Then, four verses later, God supplemented this original instruction, informing Noah in a more detailed manner, to take more of the clean animals. If a farmer told his son to take two of every kind of farm animal to the state fair, and then instructed his son to take several extra chickens and two extra pigs for a barbecue, would anyone accuse the farmer of contradicting himself? Certainly not. It was necessary for Noah to take additional clean animals because, upon his departure from the ark after the Flood, he “built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar” (Genesis 8:20). If Noah had taken only two clean animals from which to choose when sacrificing to God after departing the ark, then he would have driven the various kinds of clean beasts and birds into extinction by sacrificing one of each pair. Thus, after God told Noah to take two of every kind of animal into the ark, He then instructed him to take extras of the clean animals. Similar to how Genesis chapter 2 supplements the first chapter of Genesis by giving a more detailed account of the Creation (see Lyons, 2002), the first portion of Genesis 7 merely supplements the end of the preceding chapter, “containing several particulars of a minute description which were not embraced in the general directions first given to Noah” (Jamieson, et al., 1997).
One translation difficulty, which should not trouble a person’s faith, revolves around the actual number of clean animals taken into the ark. Through the years, various Bible students have wondered whether this number was seven or fourteen (Genesis 7:2). The Hebrew phrase shibb’ah shibb’ah is translated somewhat vaguely in both the King James and American Standard versions. [According to the King James Version, clean animals were taken into the ark “by sevens” (Genesis 7:2). The American Standard Version has the clean animals taken “seven and seven.”] Newer translations are worded more clearly, but there is general disagreement among them. The New King James and New International versions both agree that Noah took seven of each clean animal into the ark, whereas the Revised Standard Version, the New English Bible, and the English Standard Version all translate shibb’ah shibb’ah to mean “seven pairs” of clean animals. Although some believe that “there can be no certainty on this point” (Willis, 1979, p. 171), H.C. Leupold argued that the Hebrew phrase shibb’ah shibb’ah “would be a most clumsy method of trying to say ‘fourteen’ (1990, 1:290). Comparing similar language within Genesis 7, Whitcomb and Morris persuasively argued: “The Hebrew phrase ‘seven and seven’ no more means fourteen than does the parallel phrase ‘two and two’ (Gen. 7:9,15) mean four!” (1961, p. 65).
Still another allegation skeptics make concerning Genesis 7:2 is that “[c]lean and unclean animals were not delineated until the eleventh chapter of Leviticus. The Mosaic law arose 600 years after the Flood. There were no Jews, Israelites, or clean/unclean animals in Noah’s time” (McKinsey, 1983b, p. 1). Thus, regardless of how one answers the question concerning the number of animals on the ark, this second allegation still lingers in the minds of skeptics. Supposedly, instructions regarding clean and unclean animals were not given until hundreds of years after the Flood (see Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14).
Skeptics refuse to see, however, that simply because Moses made laws concerning clean and unclean animals at a much later time than the Flood, does not mean that such rules concerning animals could not have existed prior to Moses—yes, even prior to the Flood. As commentator John Willis noted: “A law or a truth does not have to have its origin with a certain individual or religion to be a vital part of that religion or to be distinctive in that religion” (p. 170). Jesus, for example, was not the first person to teach that man needs to love God with all of his heart (cf. Deuteronomy 6:5), or that man must love his neighbor (cf. Leviticus 19:18), and his enemies (cf. Proverbs 25:21-22). Yet these teachings were central to Christ’s message (cf. Matthew 22:34-40; Matthew 5:43-48). Similarly, simply because God chose circumcision as a sign between Himself and Abraham’s descendants, does not mean that no male in the history of mankind had ever been circumcised before the circumcision of Abraham and his household (Genesis 17). What’s more, Moses wrote in the book of Leviticus years after Abraham lived: “If a woman has conceived, and borne a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as in the days of her customary impurity she shall be unclean. And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised” (12:2-3, emp. added). Moses, however, was not laying down a new law. On the contrary, he knew very well what was expected from God concerning the matter of circumcision, even before he included this sort of instruction as part of Mosaic Law (read Exodus 4:24-26).
For skeptics to allege that differentiation between clean and unclean animals was nonexistent prior to Moses, is totally unsubstantiated. Mankind had been sacrificing animals since the fall of man (cf. Genesis 3:21). That God had given laws concerning animal sacrifices since the time of Cain and Abel is evident from the fact that the second son of Adam was able to offer an animal sacrifice “by faith” (Hebrews 11:4; Genesis 4:4). Since “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17), Abel must have received revelation from God on how to offer acceptable animal sacrifices. Such revelation easily could have dealt with which sacrificial animals were acceptable (“clean”), and which were unacceptable (“unclean”). Furthermore, more than 400 hundred years before Moses gave the Israelites laws differentiating clean and unclean animals, God made a covenant with Abraham concerning the land that his descendants eventually would possess (Genesis 15). Part of the “sign” that Abraham was given at that time involved the killing of a heifer, a female goat, a ram, a turtledove, and a pigeon (Genesis 15:9). “It just so happens” that all of these animals were later considered clean under the Law of Moses (cf. Leviticus 1:2,10,14).
Without a doubt, the distinction between clean and unclean animals existed long before the Law of Moses was given. Although this distinction did not include all of the details and applications given by Moses (prior to the Flood the distinction seems only to have applied to the matter of animals suitable for sacrifice, not for consumption—cf. Genesis 9:2-3), animal sacrifice to God was practiced during the Patriarchal Age, and it is apparent that the faithful were able to distinguish between the clean and unclean. Noah certainly knew of the difference.
HOW DID NOAH’S ARK REST ON THE MOUNTAINS OF ARARAT?
Although the ark was a huge vessel, it obviously did not rest on more than one of the mountains of Ararat. So why then does the text literally say “the mountains of Ararat?” The answer involves the understanding of a figure of speech known as synecdoche. Merriam-Webster defines this term as “a figure of speech by which a part is put for the whole (as fifty sail for fifty ships), the whole for a part (as society for high society)...or the name of the material for the thing made (as boards for stage)” (2008, italics in orig.). Just as Bible writers frequently used figures of speech such as simile, metaphor, sarcasm, and metonymy, they also used synecdoche. As seen above (in the definition of synecdoche), this figure of speech can be used in a variety of ways (see Dungan, 1888, pp. 300-309):
A whole can be put for the part.
A part may be put for the whole.
Time might be put for part of a time period.
The singular can be put for the plural.
And the plural can be put for the singular.
Another apparent example where Bible writers used “the whole for the part” or “the plural for the singular” is found in Matthew 27:44 and Mark 15:32. In these passages, Matthew and Mark claimed that “the robbers” (plural) who were crucified with Christ reviled Him. Luke, however, mentioned that “one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed” Christ (23:39, emp. added). Luke then went on to document the humble attitude of the penitent thief. So why did Matthew and Mark indicate the “thieves” (plural) reviled Jesus? Although the penitent thief could have reviled Christ earlier, it is feasible that Matthew and Mark were using the plural in place of the singular in their accounts of the thief reviling Christ on the cross. The emphasis, once again, would be on a particular category, and not the number of a noun. Just as other groups reviled Christ (e.g., passers-by [Matthew 27:39], Jewish leaders [Matthew 27:41-43], and soldiers [Luke 23:36]), so did the “robbers” (Matthew 27:44; Mark 15:32)—not necessarily a plurality of robbers, but the category known as “robbers,” which included at least one thief who reviled Christ (Luke 23:39).
Although skeptics may dislike the Bible writers’ use of figures of speech, if critics are honest, they must acknowledge the possibility that Moses, Paul, and others occasionally used figurative language (just as people do in modern times). Once a person recognizes the use of figures of speech (e.g., synecdoche) in Scripture, he cannot deny that a very plausible explanation for the use of “mountains” in Genesis 8:4 is that it is written in the plural form, even though it is referring to a single “mountain.”
WHERE DID ALL OF THE FLOOD WATERS GO?
First, the Bible is more specific about Who caused the waters to subside, than where exactly all of the waters went. Moses wrote: “God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters subsided.... And the waters receded continually from the earth” (Genesis 8:1,3). Years later, the prophet Isaiah recorded how Jehovah compared a promise He made to Israel with His promise “that the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth” (Isaiah 54:9). Although these passages do not tell us exactly where the waters went, for the person who believes that God worked several miracles during the Flood, it is reasonable to conclude that God did something with the Flood waters.
Second, the skeptic’s assertion (that there presently is not enough water on the Earth for there ever to have been the kind of flood described in Genesis 6-8) is based upon invalid assumptions. The truth is, no one knows the height of the mountains or the depth of the ocean valleys in Noah’s day. Thus, one cannot know how much water was on the Earth during the Noahic Flood. Psalm 104:6-8 indicates that, at some time in the past, God established new heights and depths for the Earth’s mountains and valleys. Directing his comments to Jehovah, the psalmist proclaimed:
You covered it [the Earth—EL] with the deep as with a garment; the waters were standing above the mountains. At Your rebuke they fled, at the sound of Your thunder they hurried away. The mountains rose; the valleys sank down to the place which You established for them” (NASB, emp. added).Just as God miraculously altered the Earth’s topography during the Creation week (Genesis 1:9-13), and just as He miraculously sent flood waters upon the Earth, God miraculously caused the waters to subside. In all likelihood, the antediluvian world was vastly different from the Earth of today (cf. 2 Peter 3:6). It is reasonable to believe that the mountains of Noah’s day were much smaller than such peaks as Mount Everest or Mount McKinley that are so well known to us. Thus, the Flood would not have had to rise to levels of 29,000+ feet to cover everything on the Earth. According to the Scriptures, the waters rose above the mountaintops; however, we simply cannot know the heights reached by the antediluvian mountains. (Interestingly, marine fossils have been found in the Himalayas; see “Mt. Everest,” n.d.)
In an attempt to defend his criticism of the Noahic Flood, and to discredit anyone who would argue that the Earth’s topography after the Flood was likely very different than it was before the Flood, Butler suggested the following. First, he emphatically states that, since “[t]he Tigris/Euphrates valley existed in its present form before the flood,” the topography of the Earth could not have changed that much during (and after) the Flood. Second, he argued that “the text specifically states the flood covered ‘all the high mountains.’ If the mountains were low at this time, the word ‘high’ would not be used” (2002).
Notice, however, the faulty reasoning involved in both points Butler made. First, there is no proof that “The Tigris/Euphrates valley existed in its present form before the flood.” In fact, according to Genesis 2:10-14, there was one river that went out of Eden that then parted and became four rivers. The Tigris and Euphrates rivers of today, however, do not branch from a common source, but flow from separate sources in the Armenian mountains. The rivers of the same name in Genesis 2 are different from those that exist today by the same name. (It is very possible that the people who left the ark, as well as their descendants, used familiar names for the new rivers they found.) Second, simply because Genesis 7:19-20 stresses that the Flood waters covered “all the high hills/mountains” (emp. added), does not mean these mountains could not have been somewhat lower than the mountains of today. Butler stated: “If the mountains were low at this time, the word ‘high’ would not be used” (emp. added). On what basis does he make such an assertion? If in a particular class of dwarfs, some were taller than others, could we not speak of certain “tall dwarfs” in his class? Who is to say that we could not use the word “tall” when speaking of a few particular dwarfs who might be much taller than the rest of the class? Similarly, just because Genesis 7:19-20 uses the word “high,” does not mean that the antediluvian mountains were at their current height. Truthfully, however tall the mountains were before the Flood, some were “higher” than others, and thus could be referred to as the “high mountains.”
Third, Butler wrote: “Water is less dense than the rock of the earth’s surface. Thus it would not drain down below the surface. Even if you forced it down, where is it? No oil or gas well has ever hit a subterranean ocean 29,000+ feet thick” (2002). As is often the case with Bible critics, time is not their friend. Repeatedly throughout history, time has helped exonerate Bible writers. Whether it is archaeologists finding remains of a particular biblical people, which critics once alleged never existed (e.g., the Hittites; cf. Butt, 2002), or scientists finally learning why the eighth day of a child’s life would have been the perfect day to perform circumcision (cf. Genesis 17:11; Holt and McIntosh, 1953, p. 126), again and again time has turned out to be a friend of the Bible and a foe to the ever-changing theories of man (cf. Harrub and Thompson, 2002). Consider Butler’s comments. He confidently asserted that the Flood waters would be unable to “drain down below the surface.” He then asked, “even if you forced it [the Flood water—EL] down, where is it?” Apparently, in 2002, no one knew about great amounts of water below the crust layer of the Earth. With the passing of time, however, scientists have learned differently.
Livescience.com staff writer Ker Than reported that “[s]cientists scanning the deep interior of Earth have found evidence of a vast water reservoir beneath eastern Asia that is at least the volume of the Arctic Ocean” (2007, emp. added). “The discovery,” Ker Than added, “marks the first time such a large body of water was found in the planet’s deep mantle” (2007, emp. added). Butler criticized the biblical Flood account because the Flood waters supposedly “would not drain below the surface” of the Earth, yet a large amount of water has been discovered “in the planet’s deep mantle.” What’s more, “researchers estimate that up to 0.1 percent of the rock sinking down into the Earth’s mantle in that part of the world [eastern Asia—EL] is water” (Than).
Once again, time has become the foe of the Bible’s critics. Although no one can be certain what happened to all of the water that once flooded the Earth, it is very possible that God sent some of it to reside “in the planet’s deep mantle.” Regardless, it is unreasonable to reject the Genesis Flood account because one assumes the Flood waters could not have relocated beneath the Earth’s crust. One wonders how Flood critics will react to news of a “vast water reservoir beneath eastern Asia.”
Where did all of the Flood waters go? The most logical answer in light of the Scriptures appears to be that God made room for the waters by adjusting the Earth’s topography. Much of the water from the Flood likely has retreated into the deeper ocean trenches—valleys that, in places, are over seven miles deep. What’s more, some (or perhaps much of it) may very well be under the Earth’s crust.
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