Ten Things a Christian Should Know About Bible, Science and History
With Scripture as a basis and by factoring in data and evidence readily available from other sources both scientific and historical, we can arrive at certain conclusions that may test time-honored explanations from theological sources, but are "time-honored” explanations sufficient for 21st Century Christians?
1. Our universe began in an immense explosion, commonly called the "Big Bang,” perhaps from nothing, about 13.7 billion years ago, earth time. There are no known laws of physics that can account for this as a purely "natural” event. For deists, theists and Christians this was an act of a Creator God.
2. Our sun is a second or third generation star that began to accrete roughly 4.6 billion years ago. The earth is dated to the same age by using radiometric decay rate techniques. Moon rocks brought back from the Apollo missions were dated by three labs, using six different measures and the average age calculated was similar to the earth. Meteorites that have been measured with similar radiometric techniques have yielded similar ages to the earth and moon, indicating that our solar system likely resulted from a dying star that exploded roughly 5 billion years ago.
3. Organic, replicating life began on planet earth three billion years ago beginning a long chain of plant and animal species linked by common ancestry culminating in human beings who branched off the higher primate limb about six million years ago beginning with bipedalism as the first identifiable demarcation. The amount of divine action or inaction in the process of change with modification that occurred throughout eons of time resulting in the creation of new species and the extinction of others is a subject of current debate with no convincing data on either side to date.
4. Although at least four different species of humans lived in different locations on the earth 100,000 years ago, all became extinct with the exception of our own species, Homo sapiens, who can be traced back as far as 200,000 years ago. As implied by our genetic code, currently existing humankind shares mutual common ancestry with all other previously existing human species and all precursors to humans. Humans are connected to the phyletic tree of life and are not the result of a special act of divine creation with no chain of ancestry.
4. Early humans left no written records until the Sumerians invented writing using the cuneiform technique beginning about 5,500 years ago. Akkadians living in the same area of southern Mesopotamia learned to write from their Sumerian neighbors and recorded their own version of history in an early Semitic language. Since the Akkadian language precedes other Semitic tongues; Ugarit, Canaanitish-Babylonian, Assyrian, Aramaic and Hebrew we can deduce that the Akkadians were a founding culture including the named patriarchs starting with "Adam” identified first in Genesis 2 and referenced throughout both the Old and New Testaments.
5. The dating and authorship of Genesis 1-2:4 have long been in dispute. It appears to be a standalone, disconnected from the Genesis 2:5-10 narrative. Exegetes throughout history including Origen, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin have weighed in with opinions as to its genre and intended meaning, however, with a few caveats the narrative is in rough agreement with Big Bang cosmology and the fossil record. The sequence of "days” can be interpreted as long periods of indefinite duration in agreement with Psalm 90:4 and 2 Peter 3:8. The fourth "day” can be seen as a day of appointment or commissioning of the heavenly bodies as timekeepers - not their coming into existence through an act of special creation. The Hebrew op has been translated "fowls” or "birds” in Genesis 1:20, 22, 26 whereas "flying creatures” such as insects satisfies the Hebrew and may have been what was intended originally. Other small corrections in the translation consistent with the original Hebrew bring Bible and science into closer alignment. Resorting to allegory, poetry, mythology or tradition as a harmonizing device is totally unnecessary.
6. Although a spiritual component cannot be denied in the Genesis text beginning with Gen. 2:5, most of the persons, places and events can be corroborated with the documented history of the ancient Near East beginning in southern Mesopotamia, present-day Iraq, around 7,000 years ago. Although the period of history from Adam to Abraham has been considered true human history by some and fallacious human history by others, it can be believed as the legitimate history of the Semitic race beginning with the Akkadians.
7. Adam as the named founder of the Semitic race has historical ties corroborating his existence as a living, breathing human being. The names "Atum” and Seth appear in Egyptian inscriptions that predate the Exodus. The Legend of Adapa contains numerous parallels to the biblical Adam. The name "Adamu” appears frequently in Akkadian legends. As the first named individual in human history Adam has further status as the first man to have a covenant relationship with his Creator. Adam was the first man held accountable for his actions, the first to "sin,” and the first to suffer the consequences of divine retribution. Although some living today may have ancestral roots that lead back to Adam, all of us have roots that extend back in time to the first living life forms to appear on planet earth.
8. The biblical flood was restricted to a region along the Euphrates River in southern Mesopotamia. It has been dated to roughly 2900 BC and can be seen as judgment upon the Adamic race that had become polytheistic through the corruptive influence of the nearby Sumerians who lived far enough east of the primary flood zone to survive. In addition to the Bible, parallel flood stories from that region corroborate the event. The Sumerian King List, states, "Then the flood swept thereover.” Atrahasis, Ziusudra, the Eleventh Tablet of Gilgamesh, and Berossus all contain words and phrases found also in the Genesis 6-9 narrative.
9. The dispersion of the sons of Noah is detailed in Genesis 10. Almost every named descendant and tribe has been identified taking up residence with the indigenous cultures in the Middle East, northern Africa, and along the Mediterranean basin. Displacement, cohabitation, assimilation and annihilation occurred in various degrees in various locations. The Tower of Babel incident involved the descendants of Arphaxad living in Babylon who were caught up in a ziggurat building contest with neighboring Mesopotamian cities. These mud brick platforms began to be constructed after the flood to survive future floods, but in time became massive structures containing altars dedicated to pagan city gods. The biblical event has been misconstrued as the place where languages began, however, even the Akkadians and Sumerians living in the same region spoke unrelated languages prior to the event.
10. It is easy to find explanations contrary to these coming from non-Christian and Christian sources alike. Some of these are based upon biblical tradition, some are advanced by liberal theologians, some come from credentialed scientists, some involve space aliens, and some are touted by creationist organizations that may have good intentions or may have an agenda. Check out the facts for yourself. If you are satisfied that these explanations have value in advancing the case for biblical integrity and can help remove at least one impediment to the gospel message going forward, then please pass it on colleagues, family and friends.