What did the Bible writers know? What was their perspective? Did they believe the Earth was flat or not? Did God adapt His speaking so that we could understand?
Did God create the world in six days - and if so: why?
Bible scholars and scientists have been pondering on this for ages.
What was the perspective of the Bible writers?
The perspective of the Bible writers
What did the Bible writers know? What was their world view? Did they believe the Earth was flat or not? Did God adapt His revelation to our level of understanding? Different answers are given to these questions:
Both views basically have the same problem, thinking that factually right also means stated in the right scientific language. But that's not how it goes in everyday life. We still speak about sunset and the like That's the perspective of the observer and it doesn't mean you think the Sun orbits the Earth. Your observation isn't wrong and can be used in court eg..
The observer's perspective
The Bible writers wrote from the observer's perspective. The goal always was to convey a certain message (not all factual details are important for the message), but the facts mentioned are right. The Bible always writes historically correct, but not complete and of course not in scientific language: the Book is written for all people, in language than can be understood by all. But the message of the Bible (the theological content) is closely connected to and anchored in the facts.
That's very clear in the NT: without a real resurrection our faith will be void, states Paul (1Cor.15:16). In the book of Acts the disciples always preach about the resurrection, because the Lord really has risen - He wants to be touched after the resurrection to make clear He is not a ghost (Luke 24:39).
In the same way the book of Genesis should be considered historical: it tells us how God chooses Abraham, Izak and Israel and shows us how the people of Israel landed in Egypt. In Exodus we read about the exodus, in Joshua how they enter Canaan - the whole religion of Israel is based on these historical facts. The first eleven chapters of Genesis explain where Abraham came from, the history and dispersion of all nations, the origin of sin: Genesis 12-50 roots firmly in Genesis 1-11 and the language, the way things are told, doesn't change: it remains the same throughout the whole of the book.
How do scientists read the Bible?
It would be weird to suppose Gods Word speaks scientific language. If we read about ‘all kinds of birds’, have to ask the question what is meant. Think of ‘all kinds of birds’ and rabbits and hares being called ruminaters (see pictures with explanation).
Similar to this is the use of expressions as 'sunrise' and 'sunset': we even use these expressions while we 'know' that the Sun only seems to rise or set - due to the rotation of the Earth. Don't blame Joshua for saying "Sun, stand still" - God didn't blame him, because he acted as anyone would do.
The Bible being written in the (everyday) language of the observer doesn't make it unreliable or less true: it is revelation. But it isn't always easy to translate Biblical facts info science. If we read in Genesis about the Flood as a worldwide phenomenon, we should be able to find traces of this Flood in the strata. But how we should interpret the ‘fountains of the great deep’ and ‘the windows of heaven’? Which strata do and which don't belong to the Flood? We can try to translate the Biblical data into a scientific flood model - which will be open for debate and which has all the limits each scientific model has. This model will inevitably be less true than the Genesis account: all flood models are fallible works of men - with all errors you might expect of any model.
Above a good example of the language of the Bible being that of the observer (not of the modern scientist).. In the OT rabbits and hares are called ruminaters. They produce to kinds of faeces: the green ones are eaten again (so they do chew the cud so to speak) and they drop the brown ones..
Another exampla is the fact that the OT classifies bats as birds - which is logical if you know that it just reads 'winged'. Clearly a question of perspective ...
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