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A Scientific Commentary on Genesis 7:11

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February 5, 2013 Tags: Adam, the Fall, and Sin, Biblical Authority, Christianity & Science - Then and Now
A Scientific Commentary on Genesis 7:11
Noah's Ark, oil on canvas painting by Edward Hicks, 1846 Philadelphia Museum of Art (Wikimedia)

Today's entry was written by Rolf Bouma. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of BioLogos. You can read more about what we believe here.

Note: Today’s blog post, which first appeared on the Ministry Theorem website, references views held by John Calvin (1509-1564), an influential French theologian and pastor during the Protestant Reformation, who was a principal figure in the development of the system of Christian theology later called Calvinism.

Genesis 7:11: In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened.

Genesis 8:1: But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and all the domestic animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided; 2 the fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, 3 and the waters gradually receded from the earth.

The Flood narrative of Genesis 7-9 has played a prominent role in science and religion debates for over three hundred years and gave rise in earlier centuries to geological theories such as old earth catastrophism. While literary studies have uncovered the chiastic structure of the Flood story (see Gordon Wenham, “The Coherence of the Flood Narrative” Vetus Testamentum 28 (1978):336-48) and with it the theological pivot point of the entire narrative (Gen. 8:1 – “And God remembered Noah…), much of the popular attention remains on the questions regarding details (Is there THAT much water in the world to cover ALL the mountains to a depth of 15 cubits? Could you really fit two or seven of every animal species in an ark that size?)

Looking at a smaller matter, we find at the beginning and the middle of the narrative indications of an ancient Near Eastern worldview. As the story is told, the flood was not merely the result of excessive rain, but actually the convergence of the waters above the earth with the waters below the earth. It is, as one translation puts it, as if the sluice gates at the deep and of the heavens were thrown open and water poured in from above and below. This is a consistent picture from the Old Testament of a three-tiered universe—a dome above the earth holding back the heavenly waters, a flat earth with water on its surface, and water under an earth which is held up by pillars.

That the story is told using the cosmology of its time should not be unduly unsettling, nor that the story is reinterpreted as new understandings of the universe come into favor. By way of example, consider John Calvin and his understanding of the structure of the universe. Although committed to the principle of sola Scriptura, Calvin recognized that the Bible would have been written in terms its original recipients would have understood.

Calvin inherited the medieval cosmology of his time, a way of viewing the world heavily influenced by Greek thought and one which was about to receive shocks from astronomers such as Copernicus and Galileo. But not just yet. Calvin still subscribed to the common conception of his day in which the four elements—earth, air, fire, and water—comprised the earthly sphere and possessed unique characteristics. The nature of air and fire was to rise, while the nature of earth and water is to sink. Earth, being heavier than water, should sink to the center of the cosmos and water should compose the next layer. Both earth and water are spherical, i.e., naturally form spherically around the cosmic center. Thus the heavier spherical element of earth should be encased entirely within the lighter spherical element of water.

Notice what this does to the flood story. For Calvin, the amazing thing is that the world isn’t constantly under water and subject to flooding. In the cosmology of Calvin’s day, it does not take an act of God to cause a universal flood, but rather an actively present and restraining hand of God to keep the waters back in everyday circumstances and make inundation by water something other than universal.

Obviously, Calvin was wrong. Or perhaps we should say that medieval cosmology was flawed and justifiably gave way to new conceptions of the universe. The answer is not to return to an ancient Near Eastern cosmology, but to reinterpret cautiously within new and better cosmologies and to pay closest attention to the text and the theology of scripture.

The geological and planetary sciences bring their own unique contributions and are of more interest than the latest expedition to discover the ark on Mt. Ararat. Is the flood story a universalization of a catastrophic regional event that burned itself into the psyche of ancient cultures in the Mediterranean basin? Various theories regarding a Black Sea venue for a catastrophic flood event are still in process of being sorted out. It’s intriguing. Or the question where the water on Planet Earth comes from? Was it always here as an emanation of vapors from the earth’s crust in its early formation, or has it accumulated over eons through the steady bombardment of earth by small, icy comets? It’s an intriguing scientific question that is in the midst of determination through testing.

Preaching Suggestions

When preaching on the story of the Flood, it is easy to get lost in the debates over particulars. As mentioned elsewhere, to tackle all the peripheral issues threatens to turn a sermon into a geology lecture. Other settings are better suited to addressing those questions, and those are best addressed open-endedly.

A brief explanation of ancient Near Eastern cosmology can be helpful to contextualize the story. If there are those who are tempted to think that a cosmology embedded in the Bible must be inspired and definitive, one can note that cosmology has changed by the New Testament. The Bible itself isn’t wed to a particular structure of the universe.

What is important is to keep the theology of the text front and center, and in that theology there are at least three non-negotiables from the flood narrative. First, human sin and violence threatens to undo a good creation (the flood is a de-creation event, a return of the waters mentioned in Genesis 1:2). Second, God remembers Noah, and never forgets his promises. Third, the end of the flood is a covenant with the whole earth regarding the stability and endurance of the natural order.

Dr. Rolf Bouma is the Pastor for Academic Ministries at the Campus Chapel and directs the Center for Faith & Scholarship, a Christian study center at the University of Michigan. He received his Ph.D. from Boston University in the field of Systematic Theology. In addition to thesis work on biotechnology and a theology of nature, he also has been extensively involved in science and religion dialogue. Rolf teaches environmental ethics and environmental values/public policy as part of the University of Michigan’s Program in the Environment. He has taught theology at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan

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FirstL - #76343

February 5th 2013

I am confused as to why water both above and below the earth is an ancient cosmology. Isn’t one of the most commonly known facts about our universe that there is water both below the earth (which is why we drill wells for water) and water above the earth (which is why it rains)? It seems the most difficult interpretation to attribute this to ANE cosmology, doesn’t it? Why wouldn’t we just take the simple explanation that completely comports with modern science about water in our universe?

Merv - #76346

February 5th 2013

Hi, FirstL;  when the ancients referred to water above the firmament, they meant ... way above!  The firmament or “expanse” is the sky which included all the things in the sky like the sun, moon, and stars.  Birds populate this expanse.  The most plain or natural reading of Genesis 1 uses this cosmology.  God uses the expanse to separate the waters above from the waters below.  Those below would include the oceans, lakes, rivers, and your well water. 

As an intersting side note, ancient peoples didn’t have a well-developed concept of empty space as a vacuum.  They thought of all the heavens as being filled with air; (which helps one realize how ridiculous a moving earth sounded when it was proposed—if the earth was moving through all this sea of air, it would make unbearable wind and flying birds wouldn’t be able to keep up with the earth!) 

So the sun, moon, stars, birds—all of it were in this sea of air or the firmament with the upper waters above that.


FirstL - #76348

February 5th 2013

Thanks, but not sure that helps. You think they meant “way above.” But that’s not necessarily what the Bible meant. You are imposing that meaning on the text.

I also think you are confusing things. The ancients recognized that the birds and the stars and God did not all inhabit the same heaven.

IMO, it seems that your answer is extremely simplistic and does not do justice the either the text or science. I don’t see how we simply impose our thoughts about their understanding on the text in that way.

Merv - #76355

February 5th 2013

You are right that “way above” is my phrasing. All the text says is that the higher of the two waters is *above* the firmament (that is the same firmament containing the sun, moon and stars).  I guess you can decide for yourself whether or not that qualifies as “way above”. It’s just what Genesis says.

It is when we try to make ancient cosmologies fit with modern science that we start doing violence to the text.  I appreciate the emphasis of many essayists on this site on letting ancient writings be what they are and letting modern science be what it is instead of trying to force both of them into some strange “in-between” state that fails to do justice to either.


beaglelady - #76391

February 6th 2013

Don’t confuse water below the earth with water below the surface of the earth.

Merv - #76344

February 5th 2013

...one can note that cosmology has changed by the New Testament. The Bible itself isn’t wed to a particular structure of the universe.


What examples can can the author or anyone else reading give for this?  It’s an intriguing claim, but I’m at loss as to any examples of such differences.


beaglelady - #76350

February 5th 2013

Concerning the firmament:  it isn’t an expanse or the sky. It refers to a hard metal-like dome!  Let me quote Denis Lamoureux, an Old Testament scholar:

The creation of the heavens in Gen 1 states that God made a firmament, Hebrew rāqîa‘, to separate a heavenly sea overhead (Gen 1: 6-8); and He then placed the sun, moon, and stars in the firmament (Gen 1:14-17). Most Christians are not aware that rāqîa‘ refers to a hard dome. Some evangelical Bibles translate this word as “expanse,” giving the impression that it refers to outer space.i But this is not the meaning of rāqîa‘ and its cognates. The verb rāqa‘ means “to flatten and hammer out” and it appears in the context of pounding metals into thin plates (Exo 39:3; Isa 40:19). The noun riqqûa‘ refers to a “wide metal plate” (Num 16:38). Rāqa‘ even appears in a passage that assumes the sky is like a hard metal surface. Job 37:18 asks, “Can you join God in spreading out [rāqa‘] the skies, hard as a mirror of cast bronze?”ii


Merv - #76351

February 5th 2013

I’ll gladly accept correction from Denis or any O.T. scholar.  What do you make of this, though? Genesis 1:20 has birds flying “in the open expanse of the heavens” (NASB).  Is the same Hebrew word for ‘firmament’ used there too?  It’s kind of hard to think they imagined birds would be flying around in a flat metal plate!


beaglelady - #76356

February 5th 2013


Other translations have “firmament”  for “expanse.” (NIV, KJV).    It’s my guess that it means birds are flying under the dome/firmament.     I’ll ask Denis L. and get back to you.

beaglelady - #76395

February 6th 2013

Denis Lamoureux has replied to my question. The Hebrew here is literally

“let the birds fly above the earth
Emphasis added
FirstL - #76353

February 5th 2013

The raq’ia as a hard dome argument doesn’t make a lot of sense. It strikes me more as a conclusion in search of a premise.

That the ancients conceived of some sort of space or barrier between the waters above and waters below is clear. And why did they think that? Because there is. We call it the atmosphere, and there are all kinds of complexities to it. But what is clear from the Bible, and everyone agrees, is that in the space birds fly, the stars appear, etc. Only the most literalistic, fundamentalistic reading of that would conclude something similar to a dome theory. That doesn’t seem to comport with the evidence of Scripture nor the evidence of science.

IMO, we have made this way more difficult by searching too hard for explanations. Occam’s Razor seems appropriate here. Just take the simple solution. Don’t treat the ancients like idiots. They weren’t.

FirstL - #76354

February 5th 2013

BTW, you can look up commentators like Wenham, Mathews, Hamilton, and others to see a variety of explanations and to see that the hard dome theory is not necessary, nor does it really make sense.

Merv - #76358

February 5th 2013

I started composing a reply above before getting called away—and now finally posted it without having seen your last posts.

The ancients definitely were not idiots.  On that I fully agree with you, and I revolt at the modern arrogance that often gets directed at origins issues—often in the name of science.

But don’t confuse adherence to a cosmology of the time (that made perfect sense of all that was asked of it in that time) as idiocy even if we have a different cosmology today.  The complications get introduced when we try to impose our modern sensibilities onto ancient cultures and their writings.  Then we get contorted interpretations attempting to find modern ideas in Scriptural accounts.

John Walton’s “Genesis through ancient eyes” series on this same site is an excellent series about these questions.



Merv - #76359

February 5th 2013

It also seemed to me that there was an essay series here in which terms like “firmament” were addressed, but my brief perusal has failed to produce that.  It could be that it came up in Walton’s videos that I linked above.  I’ll have to watch those again to know for sure.


PNG - #76370

February 5th 2013

If there isn’t a hard dome, how does it keep the “waters above” out?

beaglelady - #76390

February 6th 2013

Exactly, PNG.  That was the purpose of the firmament—to separate the waters above from the waters below.  And it had windows in it for rain (which sure came in handy for our spacecraft later on!)

Merv - #76361

February 5th 2013

Ahhhh—here it is, FirstL;   (and beagle lady this essay from Pete Enns back in January 2010 confirms your correction to me—thank you.)     All the questions I and firstL have been raising are addressed directly in this.  Read it, firstL, and see what you think.



beaglelady - #76363

February 5th 2013

I always did like Pete Enns!  Merv, you should “like” him on facebook and check out his blog:


Eddie - #76365

February 5th 2013

Hey!  Where are all the comments on Enns’s column?  When I click on the link, only the column shows up, not the comments.  And when I go to Enns’s page, while all the columns show the number of comments at the side, clicking on the columns or the comments icon doesn’t bring up anything but the columns, sans comments.

More than half the benefit of the BioLogos columns is the discussion they generate.  Often the comments are more insightful than the comments, and even when they aren’t, they add other dimensions to the discussion.  

I hope BioLogos hasn’t just trashed all the old comments.  What’s the point in keeping your old record player if you’ve thrown out your record collection?

Merv - #76366

February 5th 2013

Good question, Eddie.  I notice that comments are still there to about 3 months back, but by 6 months old comments seem to be gone.  I guess if you want to publish a polished tome here for posterity, you better keep a copy of it for yourself!

Thanks, Beaglelady, for the reference to Enns’ blog.  I’ll have to read him a bit more.  What he said about the firmament question made a lot of sense.

I’m still wondering if anyone here can answer my original question above.  What might this author have been thinking about when he claimed that N.T. cosmology was different than O.T. cosmology. 


Eddie - #76372

February 5th 2013


I can’t answer your query with specifics because I can’t read the author’s mind.  But I can make some general comments, based on my familiarity with Biblical scholarship.

Biblical scholars (who as a group tend to feel much less bound by denominational or confessional understandings than the systematic theologians) tend to study the Bible book by book, and they tend to notice local differences amongst the books—differences not only in literary style, vocabulary, etc., but also in theological emphasis, political contexts, etc.  

Thus, it has been often noted that the Old Testament is silent or very near silent about life after death, whereas the New Testament speaks about it frequently.  Again, the Old Testament cosmos is almost bereft of beings intermediate between man and God (there is a heavenly host that hangs out with God, but they aren’t much involved in Biblical stories); the angels seem like transitory and impermanent beings, and demons seem absent.  In the New Testament, on the other hand, the universe seems peopled with permanent demons and spiritual powers of all kinds.

Now the latter example, if we take “cosmology” in the broad sense (as opposed to the modern narrow sense, which focuses on physical objects), would constitute a difference in cosmology.  The “world” (cosmos) of the NT is a different world than that of the OT because it is the stomping ground of angels, demons, principalities, etc.  It is filled up with spiritual beings all the way from man to God; man does not face God alone as in the OT, but sometimes has to work through or around intermediaries (including evil ones) to get to God. 

Is that what this author means by a different cosmology?  Or does he mean different arrangements of the sky, earth, planets, etc.?  I don’t know.  I’m just giving a suggestion.  But if he does mean different physical arrangements, he ought to provide passages for examination.

PNG - #76369

February 5th 2013

The content of the comments on old posts seems to be still present on the server, because you can search on keywords that occurred in the comments and it will find the post under which they were present. It just won’t show you the comment section.

I wondered about the same thing that Merv did. The Greek cosmology was prevalent by N.T. times, but I don’t know of any sign of it in the New Testament.

GJDS - #76373

February 5th 2013

This presentation is titled, “A Scientific Commentary on Genesis 7:11”; I am not trying to be unduly critical, but I have to say, the article shows how it is not possible to do just that. On ancient views, (if I am not completely mistaken) only the Greeks had something that may nowadays be considered as ‘attempted scientific’, with a model as earth as its centre and so on. The assumption seems to be that because people spoke of the earth, heaven, sky, water, etc. in a particular way, they were indulging in something scientific. I suggest we reconsider this type of approach, and instead seek to find meaning in the text that may be similar to that understood by the writer(s) and Israel. The suggestion that God sees the evil done by human beings and would wish to see it (and humanity) disappear, is in the text, just as His Merciful response to the righteousness that a human being (Noah) would display before Him. The fact that He wanted Noah, his family, and the animals, to live in a world in which evil had been removed, is also a meaningful statement. We also see that in spite of this, humanity began the ‘new era’ by committing sins that were as foul as anything done before the flood. I think these matters are in the Bible for our understanding, and scientific (or otherwise) commentary seems to distract from this. I too cannot understand what…. “a cosmology embedded in the Bible must be inspired and definitive, one can note that cosmology has changed by the New Testament”, means. However I generally agree with the conclusions made in the last paragraph; when reading the story we are left with a distinct feeling that details were not important with the exception of things dealing with Noah and God – e.g. Noah had just enough animals to replenish the earth, but this he did not prevent him from (Gen 8:20) sacrificing a great number of the clean animals, and this sacrifice provides a response from God (Gen 8:21). I cannot accept the notion that the Hebrews were so illiterate and language deficient that they would not notice these matters in their scared text.

Bilbo - #76386

February 6th 2013

Besides the question of what was meant by the firmament, there’s the question of whether there was just a local, catastrophic flood, or whether there was something more global.  It’s my understanding that flood stories are not just confined to the Ancient Near East, but can be found globally.  If we rule out a global flood, could the explanation be global melting at the end of the ice age, which would have impacted communities world-wide?

FirstL - #76387

February 6th 2013

I haven’t found Walton engaging on this, and Enns has significant problems, worse than even Walton. There’s too much unreasonable asks from their positions. As I said before, I think their arguments came out of necessity becuase of predetermined conclusions. There’s nothing either in the text or in the material creation that even suggests their arguments are plausible.

Having kept up on this since the days of Hugh Ross in teh mid 90s, I have yet to find compelling reasons, either biblically or scientifically, to adopt this. And my guess is that in a few years, these positions will also have gone by the way side, just like the positions of the past have.

Merv - #76397

February 6th 2013

We all do have our presuppositions; one of mine is that all truth when fully and correctly understood will be a consistent (and probably seamless) whole.  I.e.  If somebody suggested that Scriptures teach that the earth is flat, and we are certain from other sources that it is not, then something has to give.  We all here agree (I imagine) that the expositor pulling a “flat earth” teaching out of the Bible is trying to make the Bible teach something that it isn’t.  So our shared presupposition in this is that where there are contradictions, something must give.

I’m guessing that you (FirstL) accept the scientific view today that there is no hard dome in the sky holding up waters above it.  So you conclude that the Bible can’t possibly teach that.    I agree.   But here it seems we part company.  You conclude that passages referring to such an alleged structure must in fact really mean something else (and your proposed ‘something else’ happens to be consistent with your own modern understanding.)  Whereas I ask “what is this passage teaching us?”  My conclusion is that the message isn’t about cosmology, but is only using the cosmology of the day as its vehicle.  I’m more interested in the passengers (teachings) carried by that vehicle, so it doesn’t bother me if the vehicle used is an ancient model.    Jesus teaches us things like “all those who take the sword will die by the sword”.   Swords were one of the weapons of his day, but not ours.  But if we think he was giving a teaching about “swords” then we miss his point entirely.  It matters not what type of weaponry is used, since that was only the ‘vehicle’ for the deeper point Jesus was making.  It applies to guns and missiles today, and we dare not miss His point just because his language and stories were based in His day. 

I don’t know what sort of ‘problems’ you refer to for Enns—you weren’t specific, and I certainly can’t claim he has none.   But I don’t defend Enns—I defend the point he is making on this particular issue because it matches with Scriptures so well.   You disagree; so I invite you to show me (from Scriptures) any that are being twisted and why you think so.  We need not refer to Enns—- his argument here will stand or fall on its Scriptural merit.  That’s what I’m interested in.



beaglelady - #76400

February 6th 2013

Good comment, Merv.  The message of faith is what is important and true, and the ancient science is incidental. (But the ancient science is still there.)

FirstL - #76437

February 7th 2013

Well, Merv, you have worded this issues in way that certainly prejudices the outcome towards your view. But is that legitimate? Hardly.

First, you say, <i> You conclude that passages referring to such an alleged structure must in fact really mean something else (and your proposed ‘something else’ happens to be consistent with your own modern understanding.)<i>

But do the passages refer to this alleged structure? That is your presupposition. You haven’t shown that to be the case. I can equally argue that it doesn’t refer to this structure, and the “something else” is actually what actually exists; you have created the “something else” with the dome theory. In the end, you have smuggled your conclusion into the premise. I reject that.

<i>Whereas I ask “what is this passage teaching us?”</i>

You assume I don’t ask this. But I do. The passage is teaching us something about God using cosmology to do it. It is also teaching us something about cosmology. If we can’t the cosmology, then how can we trust what it teaches us? We are all familiar with untrustworthy testimony. A person who lies all the time is more trustworthy than a person who lies half the time, simply because you never know when to believe the parttime liar.

There is simply no reason to assert this strange cosmology as the meaning of the text. You and others are reading that back into it, and forcing it on people who aren’t here to defend themselves. You are taking as a matter of faith that you are correct about that. Which reminds me that a bulk of this science/faith conversation is not about science or faith, but about two different kinds of faith. In this case, it is far easier simply to read what it says and not force some ideas back onto the text from our modern world.

The point is that ra’qia doesn’t necessarily mean a hard dome. When you stake your interpretation on a meaning that isn’t legitimate, you no longer have an argument. So that means the argument is over, at least in this part. 


PNG - #76451

February 7th 2013

You are doing exactly what you are accusing other people of doing. This “strange cosmology” is clearly implied by the Genesis account. As I pointed out above, anything other than a solid some won’t keep the waters out.

FirstL - #76442

February 7th 2013

In addition, Merv, it’s not about the vehicle for teaching being an ancient vehicle. It’s about whether you have rightly understood the ancient vehicle. In this case, there’s no reason to think that Moses thought in your terminology.

You use the example of swords and quote Jesus. But we all recognize that Jesus was speaking proverbially, with a truth that applies to a type of activity. That is not the case with the cosmology. So it was a bad comparison.

Merv - #76469

February 8th 2013

What you refer to as “strange cosmology” has been the norm for most of human history until just a few hundred years ago.  It is our new materialistic views of the universe that are the strange new kids on the block that we try to impose back on Scriptures, (as I was doing when I forgot about the solid aspect of the dome and wanted to re-interpret that as only an expanse since that matches our modern view of atmosphere and sky so much better.) 

You refer to the untrustworthiness of a part-time liar—which is a fair warning for all of us to heed.  In that vein, please don’t so tightly bind all scriptures to one modern literalistic understanding which may then take the whole enterprise down with it should the modern literalism prove faulty.  You can imagine the tragedy if someone declares “if the Bible is not trustworthy in its teaching that the earth does not move, then how can it be trustworthy in anything?”   You and I are on the same side of that very declaration now (we both agree, I’m sure that the Bible really teaches no such thing as we now know), and yet others in history could have confronted us with the very same challenge you bring here: 

The passage is teaching us something about God using cosmology to do it. It is also teaching us something about cosmology. If we can’t the cosmology, then how can we trust what it teaches us?

Just substitute “earth” for your word “cosmology” above and you would switch sides in this argument as you tried to reason with ancient (and not-so-ancient!) theologians in exacly the same way I’m trying to reason with you now.

It isn’t that I have such a stake in trying to convince you of this, but young people need to know that the moment their studies and inquiries lead to questions, problems, and inconsistencies with modernized understandings of Scripture,—they need to know that they need not abandon their faith, then as some untrustworthy facade.  It is the modern way of trying to read Scriptures that they need to be willing to rethink.  Otherwise you will be forever trying to stop your children from reading, inquiring, studying, investigating creation lest they see things that don’t mesh with their received traditions.  Christians need not (should not) fear any truth.


Merv - #76482

February 9th 2013

One more parting observation I will make:

It’s been said that he who marries the spirit of his age will soon be a widower.

I think, FirstL, that you and I would both heartily agree with that sentiment.  Where we disagree is over which of us it is that has fallen into just such a marriage on these issues.  I wish you the best as you continue to read, study, and patiently interact in forums like this.  Mutual prayers for each other are always appropriate and I welcome them.


Bilbo - #76399

February 6th 2013

I’ve been doing a little bit of research, and yes, my understanding that there are world-wide legends of a global flood has been confirmed.  That would suggest something more than just a local flood, unless it happened before Homo sapiens dispersed.  I found some interesting information on the supposed Burkle crater, which is hypothesized to have been created by a large meteor 2800-3000 BCE.  Here, for example:


Not sure if it’s been confirmed or falsified, yet.

Bilbo - #76403

February 6th 2013

Here’s a longer secular article on it:


Fascinating reading.

Bilbo - #76459

February 8th 2013

Ah…somebody has already “proven” that we’ve mistranslated Genesis 7, and that now that we “know” that the flood was caused by comets, we know the right way to translate the passage.  Of course.


PNG - #76486

February 9th 2013

It’s amazing how many “prophets” there are out there who have each found a different one-true-solution to it all. They mostly each have a congregation of not much more than one. I wonder if they were out there before the internet, or if the internut spawned them all.

beaglelady - #76499

February 10th 2013

One thing is for sure—having the internet sure doesn’t hurt a wingnut spread his/her  message.

Jon Garvey - #76537

February 12th 2013

I’ve just read a book on a particular aspect of nineteenth century science/faith discussions - details don’t matter here, but the distance gives some perspective. What’s clear is

(a) That there was plenty of opportunity for “wingnuts” to get their message across in print;

(b) that if what they said gave support to a popular prejudice, their bizarre arguments from scripture or science didn’t stop them getting a good following;

(c) that what now appears in retrospect to be insane rambling might at the time have been either on the fringe or well in the mainstream.

Brief example: Fringe idea but very popular in certain parts of America - the serpent in Genesis 3 was a black soulless pre-adamite, and the fall was the sin of racial intermarriage. Message - get those ex-slaves back in chains or export them back to Africa.

Mainstream: Cranial capacities clearly show the differences between superior and inferior races, and firmly-based research proves the intellectual and moral superiority of whites (and just look at these pictures from Dr Haeckel proving it beyond doubt). Message -  get those ex slaves back in chains or export them back to Africa. And come to think of it, take a look at the Jews, too…

Because both writers (and one could cite fringe ideas in science and more mainstream ideas in Scripture interpretation instead) accorded with what nearly everybody “knew” was the case (ie the inequality of the races, even amongst those opposing slavery), they both found strong followings. Even their opponents, with hindsight, were concentrating so much on refuting the details of their evidence that they mainly missed the central lie in both. There’s a lesson for us there, but we may not be able to learn it for another century.

Darwin Guy Dan - #76567

February 13th 2013

Bouma wrote:

“The answer is not to return to an ancient Near Eastern cosmology, but to reinterpret cautiously within new and better cosmologies and to pay closest attention to the text and the theology of scripture.”

beaglelady wrote:

“One thing is for sure—having the internet sure doesn’t hurt a wingnut spread his/her message.”

Jon wrote:

“I’ve just read a book on a particular aspect of nineteenth century science/faith discussions [….].What’s clear is [….t]hat there was plenty of opportunity for ‘wingnuts’ to get their message across in print;”

One wonders how you all might characterize 21st century M.I.T. physicist and theologian Gerald L. Schroeder. I have had Schroeder’s THE SCIENCE OF GOD: THE CONVERGENCE OF SCIENTIFIC AND BIBLICAL WISDOM (1997) for some time and have just recently been reading his earlier book, GENESIS AND THE  BIG BANG (1990).   I find it fascinating that Schroeder is able to associate (?—-he explicitly states he is not a Day-Ager) pre-Adamic time into the cosmology consistent with Einstein’s relativity theory and cosmology and post-Adamic time into Newtonian cosmology.  Fascinating!

Schroeder seems to make a lot of sense except that I am not sure that I yet quite understand his thinking in regards to what it is the writers of Genesis actually knew and couldn’t possibly have known. Schroeder wrote (1997; p.7):

“Actually, the Bible, properly understood, can be a handmaiden of science (and vice versa).  As such it is instructive to note that Ussher’s and Kepler’s calculations of an approximately six-thousand-year-old universe are infinitely closer to our current estimate of time since the big bang than was either Aristotle’s opinion or that of two thirds of the leading U.S. astronomers and physicists, who in a 1959 survey agreed with Aristotle.”

Note that Aristotle, and some modern cosmologists, “observing that nothing comes from nothing,” assume an eternal universe.  Off hand, it would seem that view also, while seeming to contradict the now standard view,  could nevertheless also be reconciled with the first Greek letter of Genesis 1:1.  More study might be in order.


Darwin Guy Dan - #76589

February 14th 2013

ERRATA:  Rather than “Greek,” I ought to have written “The first letter of the first word of the Bible is the Hebrew letter [.....].” ——- Schroeder (1990).

Schroeder (1997) attributes the idea of the dual cosmology as being appropriate to two verses of Genesis:

Gen. 2:4.   “These are the GENERATIONS of the heavens and the earth when they were created in the DAY that the Eternal God made earth and heavens.”

Gen. 5:1.  “This is the book of the GENERATIONS of Adam in the DAY that God created Adam.”

Note that Einstein expressed dissatisfaction about the singularities, i.e., the big band and black holes, that his equations of relativity point to.  In my own view, I find that Godel’s theorem in mathematics to be cosmologically relevant and satisfying.  That is, while the so-called “wave function of the universe” also points to the singularity that has come to be known as the “big bang,” a mathematical equation in and of itself surely is not all that there is. Godel tells us that we need to go beyond mathematics for justification of mathematics.


lancelot10 - #76972

February 28th 2013

Surely it is easier to believe that God created - in six days- the universe as we see it than believe that all the matter in the universe popped out of a tiny dot - just like that - as Tommy Cooper used to say .  People will believe anything rather than take God at his WORD.

Noah’s flood - the waters above the firmament are now in the oceans and in the earth - the plates rest on these waters.  If we look at the geologic column it appears exactly as it should if there had been a worldwide flood.  Sediments encrusting killed creatures.  The fossils do not go from simple to complex - all creatures are complex beyond the imagination - there are no simple creatures - the trilobites were not simple but were at the bottom of the sediments (sometimes at the top of everest)  because thats where they were when engulfed by flood sediment.

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