The Human Fossil Record, Part 2: Bipedality

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January 5, 2011 Tags: Human Origins

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

This is the second part of a series by James Kidder on the human fossil record. The first part can be found here.

One of the most fruitful and exciting areas of research in palaeoanthropology is the search for the last common ancestor to the higher apes and humans. This question is inextricably tied to concepts of what separates humanity from the animals around us. This is a question that has spiritual as well as physical ramifications. In this set of posts, we are dealing with what makes us human from a biophysical perspective.

Traditionally, paleoanthropologists have considered the hallmark of humanity to be habitual bipedalism. While we share many characteristics in common with the higher apes, this trait alone is practiced by no other animal. Some animals practice facultative bipedalism, allowing them to go short distances on two legs when necessary, but only humans use it as their only form of locomotion. Put a man on all fours and even a squirrel can outrun him. Bipedalism is a skill that we learn early in life, before we are sentient and even understand what makes us different from the animals around us. It is programmed into us.

Bipedalism is marked by a number of anatomical modifications to the standard primate body. These center on the pelvis and involve changes in the head (cranium) and the rest of the body (postcranium), reflecting a shifting of the center of balance from the abdominal cavity to the hip. In mammals, the hip is composed of three mirrored sets of bones: the ilium, the ischium and the pubis (Figure 1). The top part of the leg fits into the bottom-rear portion of the ilium, into a round socket called the acetabulum. It is one of two ball-and-socket joints in the body, the other being where the arm fits into the scapula at the top of your shoulder.

Where the two pubis bones fit together in the front and the two ilia meet in the back with the sacrum forms the birth canal. In chimpanzees and gorillas, the ilium is narrow and tall (Figure 2). Consequently, the connection to the upper leg bone, the femur, is straight up and down. In humans, the ilium is flat and flared, creating an outward bowing of the top of the femur, which allows for the balance necessary for walking upright (see Figure 1). This, in turn, creates what is known as the valgus knee, where the bottom of the femur meets the top of the large lower leg bone, the tibia, at an angle. The fact that the two bones meet at an angle provides for a better balance of the body mass for upright walking. In contrast, when higher apes such as gorillas and chimpanzees stand, the femur and the tibia are both perpendicular to the ground, resulting in a straight knee joint. Consequently, when chimpanzees walk upright, they swing side to side in an ungainly fashion to simulate the balance that is inherent in human walking.

Other changes are present above the hip, as well. Because they are quadrupedal, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans have a straight backbone, or vertebral column (Figure 3). In humans, the vertebral column resembles a double “s” shape, which balances the torso above the hip (and creates the back problems we suffer later in life). At the top of the spinal column, the top vertebra, the atlas, has facets that balance the head and the second vertebra, the axis, has a prong that fits directly into a hole in the skull. This hole, which is called the foramen magnum, is at the back of the skull in higher apes, as in all quadrupedal animals. This allows the animal to keep its head up while it is trotting along the ground. In humans, the foramen magnum is at the base of the skull, allowing us to look forward as we walk. It also makes it hard to look forward when we crawl on all fours. Each of these modifications is diagnostic of humans and easily recognizable in the fossil record in specimens for which these anatomical areas are present.

Ardipithecus ramidus and the Origins of Bipedality

The origins of bipedality have traditionally been understood as having evolved at the end of the Miocene epoch, around 6 to 8 million years ago (Crompton, Sellers and Thorpe 2010) when the climate began to dry out and cool. Unfortunately, there are only scattered presumed hominin remains from this time period, all of which are taxonomically controversial and fragmentary and none of which have diagnostic postcranial remains. It has also been thought that the transition to bipedality likely did not happen all at once but in mosaic fashion (as evolution often proceeds) and this has recently supported by the fossil record. Up until a few years ago, the most widely-accepted model was that bipedality originated among a group of large-bodied hominoids that had adapted to the savannah-jungle fringe. The jungle, itself, was ceded to the precursors of the modern chimpanzees and gorillas and the savannah to the precursors of the modern baboons and other terrestrial monkeys. As a result, some workers (Crompton et al. 2010) suggested that both arboreal (tree-dwelling) and terrestrial locomotion might have been present in our earliest ancestors. Recent evidence has corroborated some parts of this model, but not others.

In 1994, the remains of a remarkable hominin, dated to 4.4 million years ago, were unearthed in the Afar Triangle of Northeastern Ethiopia. Examination of the surrounding deposits, however, yielded a conclusion that this hominin lived in a woodland environment, rather than a savannah/forest fringe environment (White et al. 2009a). Requiring over ten years of extrication from the surrounding rock and painstaking reconstruction, this fossil form, Ardipithecus ramidus (now represented by 110 individuals) yields diagnostic parts of the pelvis (Figure 4), as well as sections of the arms and skull (Figure 5) (White et al. 2009b). Although the base of the skull is not preserved, one striking aspect of humanity is present in the teeth. The canine (eye tooth) does not extend beyond the tooth row. Humans are the only hominins for which this is the case. In all other ape species, fossil and extant, the canine projects well beyond the tooth row.

Biomechanics specialist Owen Lovejoy and colleagues (Lovejoy et al. 2009) write about this species:

“The gluteal muscles had been repositioned so that Ar. Ramidus could walk without shifting its center of mass from side to side. This is made clear not only by the shape of its ilium, but by the appearance of a special growth site unique to hominids among all primates (the anterior inferior iliac spine). However, its lower pelvis was still almost entirely ape-like, presumably because it still had massive hindlimb muscles for active climbing.”

Figure 6 shows the intermediate nature of the pelvis of Ardipithecus ramidus compared to later hominins (Homo sapiens, Au. Afarensis) and chimpanzees (P. troglodytes).

Ardipithecus, then, represents a shift away from the primitive locomotion employed by the last common ancestor of our line and that of modern chimpanzees. Here is a hominin that maintained a link with its tree-dwelling past and yet had progressed toward the bipedal future. This evidence is striking because it firmly demonstrates that a species had arisen that was advanced in the human direction. Whether or not it led to the hominin forms that followed is not known but it clearly represents a phenomenal example of a transitional form in the human fossil record.

From this point on, the forms become noticeably more human in appearance, leading eventually our own species some four million years later. In his infinite wisdom, God had set us on a path toward our eventual communion with Him. That this path took such a long period of time and through so many varied forms of humanity is a testament to His creative power and patience.

Next, the successors to Ardipithecus and true human walking.

Sources

Crompton, R., W. Sellers & S. Thorpe (2010) Arboreality, terrestriality and bipedalism. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 365, 3301.

Lovejoy, C. O., G. Suwa, L. Spurlock, B. Asfaw & T. D. White (2009) The Pelvis and Femur of Ardipithecus ramidus: The Emergence of Upright Walking. Science, 326, 71, 71e1-71e6.

White, T. D., S. H. Ambrose, G. Suwa, D. F. Su, D. DeGusta, R. L. Bernor, J.-R. Boisserie, M. Brunet, E. Delson, S. Frost, N. Garcia, I. X. Giaourtsakis, Y. Haile-Selassie, F. C. Howell, T. Lehmann, A. Likius, C. Pehlevan, H. Saegusa, G. Semprebon, M. Teaford & E. Vrba (2009a) Macrovertebrate Paleontology and the Pliocene Habitat of Ardipithecus ramidus. Science, 326, 67, 87-93.

White, T. D., B. Asfaw, Y. Beyene, Y. Haile-Selassie, C. O. Lovejoy, G. Suwa & G. WoldeGabriel (2009b) Ardipithecus ramidus and the Paleobiology of Early Hominids. Science, 326, 64, 75-86.

Figure 1: http://www.bikemonkey.net/2010/01/3-series-tune-up-checking-the-pelvic-girdle/

Figure 2: http://www.boneclones.com/KO-303-P.htm

Figure 3: http://www.fixscoliosis.com/entries/13-The-Human-Spine-and-Idiopathic-Scoliosis

Figure 4: Bone Clones

Figure 5: National Geographic Images

Figure 6: from Lovejoy et al. 2009


James Kidder holds a Ph.D. in Biological Anthropology from the University of Tennessee (UT). He currently employed as an instructor at UT, and as a science research librarian at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He has been involved in the Veritas Forum at UT and runs the blog "Science and Religion: A View from an Evolutionary Creationist/Theistic Evolutionist."

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Rich - #47382

January 15th 2011

Martin Rizley:

“I believe it is grossly irresponsible, and in some cases, heretical, to relegate to the realm of symbolism what is clearly to be understood as historical fact.”

Well, who disagrees with that?  The question is whether Genesis is “clearly to be understood as historical fact.”  This is where you disagree with many others here, and with the great majority of world-class Biblical scholars, students of comparative literature, etc.

You make a great deal out of Paul’s use of Adam.  Yet the Adam/Christ parallel is discussed or alluded to in only a handful of verses in Paul.  And you do not seem to grasp the character of midrashic exegesis, and therefore seize upon Paul’s application of the Adam story without considering the genre of such interpretations.  Those of us who have had the good fortune to study with Jewish teachers are more alert to the interpretive dangers here.

You also presume that the occurrence of a theme in a few verses of Paul makes it a central Christian doctrine.  This is a dubious presumption.  The Gospel writers never discuss the Fall or any sinfulness inherited from Adam.  If these things were central to Christian theology, why would the Gospel writers omit them?


nedbrek - #47386

January 15th 2011

Hello Adam, I don’t believe I’ve met you before.  Are you are Christian?


Martin Rizley - #47403

January 15th 2011

Rich,  The Adam/Christ parallel is treated in a fairly elaborate manner in Romans 5:12-21, a passage that sheds a great deal of light on Paul’s understanding of the whole scheme of redemption.  It is clear that Paul’s entire theology is built on the understanding that man, in his natural condition (1 Cor. 2:14) is fallen; he is a being who does not accept spiritual truth, who cannot understand spiritual things, because he is dead in his sins, without spriitual life (1 Cor. 2:14, Eph. 2:1-3).  His mind will not and cannot subject itself to the law of God, because he is ‘in the flesh’ and is, therefore, incapable of pleasing God (Roimans 8:7-8).  He is ‘by nature’ a ‘son of disobedience’ and a ‘child of wrath’ (Ephesians 2:3).  And he is in this terrible spiritual condition, not because God created man like this originally, but because sin entered the world through one man, so that sin now reigns over all men outside of Christ, enslaving them as a power from which Christ alone can set them free (Romans 5:12,21, 6:17).  That is the doctrine of the Fall.  It is indeed central to Paul’s theology, and clearly taught by Jesus, as well, in the gospel of John, for example (John 3:3-8, 6:44, 8:34-36)


Rich - #47409

January 15th 2011

Martin (47403):

Did you really think I wouldn’t check your proof-texts?

None of the passages you cite from Paul, except for Romans 5:12-21, discuss the theme I was talking about, i.e, the Adam/Christ parallel and a sinfulness inherited from Adam.  They discuss human sinfulness, yes, but not an inherited sinfulness coming from the deed of Adam, or any sort of metaphysical transaction by which the action of Jesus counteracts the action of Adam.

As for Romans 5.12-21, that’s a grand total of 10 verses out of nearly 8,000 in the New Testament.  I leave it to you to do the arithmetic, which indicates to what extent the Adam/Christ parallel preoccupied the minds of the New Testament writers.

Regarding John, none of the verses cited discuss Adam/Christ or sinfulness inherited due to Adam’s action in the garden.  The doctrine is completely unknown to the Gospel writers, at least two of whom (John and Matthew) are traditionally thought of as disciples of Jesus, and who therefore would presumably have had access to this teaching before Paul did.  Odd that they never mentioned something so important.

Ten verses in the whole NT; none in the Gospels.  It seems your theology is driven by an extra-scriptural agenda.


Martin Rizley - #47416

January 16th 2011

Rich,  The Scriptures do not yield their meaning to a superficial reading.  You need to ask yourself such questions as, “Why does Jesus tell the Jews that they must be ‘set free’ from sin’s bondage by the Son”?  Did God create human beings in a state of bondage to sin?  Obviously not.  How then has this come about?  Well, you might say, each individual puts himself in bondage by the misuse of his totally free will.  If so, why does Jesus say “that which is of flesh, is flesh” and elsewhere “the flesh profits nothing.”  It is because men are “by nature” flesh that they cannot even come to Christ unless the Father who sent Christ into the world “draws” them.  Why is it necessary for us to be born again to enter into the kingdom of God?  All these passages rest on the truth that man is by nature fallen and sinful—but not because God originally created man that way.  . This is fully explained by Paul in the ten verses you mention—which despite their brevity are central to Paul’s theology, like 1 Cor. 15:1-11.  The centrality or importance of a biblical truth cannot be determined simply by counting the number of times it is explicitly mentioned (continued)


Martin Rizley - #47420

January 16th 2011

That’s far too superficial and ‘mechanical’ a measure for determining importance.  Moreover, because the Scriptures were all inspired by the same Holy Spirit and reveal to us the mind and truth of God, the writings of Paul can be used to shed light on the teaching of Jesus by elaborating upon it.  Yes, Paul wrote with his own vocabulary, expressed himself in his own distinctive manner, but the gospel he preached and the truth that he taught was not his, but was revealed to him directly by Jesus Christ—the same Christ whose teaching is revealed in the gospels.  So the gospels and the epistles all contain the teaching of Jesus Himself, who invested His apostles with infallible authority to teach “the word of truth, the gospel” in His name as His official spokesmen and mouthpieces (Galatians 1:11-12).


Martin Rizley - #47421

January 16th 2011

Rich,
One more thing.  You’re forgetting the doctrine of progressive revelation.  The gospels do not contain the same ‘systematic’ presentation of theology that we find, for example, in the book of Romans, for the work of redemption had not yet been completed.  The ‘last Adam’ had not yet died and risen again.  So naturally, one does not find an emphasis in the gospels on explaining the whole scheme of redemption in a ‘systematic’ manner, as we find in the writings of Paul—especially Romans and Galatians.  Jesus told his disciples that further teaching would be given to them after His departure from them, teaching which by its very nature could not be presented until the work of redemption had been accomplished (John 16:12-14).


Rich - #47432

January 16th 2011

Martin (47420):

It’s amusing to hear a literalist inerrantist accuse me of employing “superficial and mechanical” methods of interpreting Scripture.  People who live in glass houses ...

It’s not mechanical to infer that a teaching which is only mentioned by one NT author, and only briefly by him, is not central to the thought of the NT overall, any more than it would be mechanical to infer that an idea found in only one scene in one play by Ben Jonson is not central to the thought of Elizabethan drama as a whole.  It’s just common sense.  But for the sake of argument, let’s unrealistically grant that *every word* of Paul is implicitly about inherited sinfulness from Adam and the Adam/Christ parallel.  And let’s give you all 13 traditional letters of Paul, a generous assumption, since he probably wrote no more than 7 of them.  Even still, that makes just a fraction over 25% of NT verses devoted to that theme, because in the rest of the NT the theme is nonexistent.  So even under impossibly generous concessions, the Adam/Christ business is not central *to the New Testament as a whole*.  At the most (and that’s saying too much) it’s central to Paul.  (And really it’s only central to Romans, if even that.)


Martin Rizley - #47438

January 16th 2011

Rich,  If God is not mentioned explicitly even once in the book of Esther, does that mean the book of Esther of God’s providence is not about God’s providence, or that the theme of HIs providential watchcare is not central to the book?  I disagree with your method for determining what is central and important.  It is often the case in literature that central or key themes are largely implicit, hovering continual over the narrative and explicitly stated only late in the novel in some passing remark made by a character.  The fallenness of mankind in Adam is a theme that ‘hangs heavy’ over the whole of Scripture.  It is the unspoken presupposition of countless statements made by the prophets, Jesus, and the apostles.  The fact that it may only be stated with systematic clarity late in biblical history and in one or two passages in no way diminishes its importance or centrality.  The theme is presently implicitly throughout Scripture, for example, in David’s statement in Psalm 51:5:  “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.”  Adam and the fall are present in that statement, though neither is explicitly mentioned.


Martin Rizley - #47439

January 16th 2011

The garbled first sentence above should read:  “If God is not mentioned even once in the book of Esther, does that mean the book of Esther is not about God’s providence, etc. “


Rich - #47468

January 16th 2011

Martin (47421):

The Gospels were all written *long after* “the work of redemption had been completed,” probably between 65 and 95 A.D.  The writers of the Gospels therefore had time to reflect upon the meaning of the life and teaching of Jesus.  In fact, they had more time for reflection than Paul did; the writings of Paul—most if not all of them—preceded the earliest Gospel.

Paul’s theological writing may at points be more systematic in form than the theology of the Gospels, but it doesn’t follow that it is deeper, fuller or more correct in its contents, as your word “progressive” implies.  Christ himself taught unsystematically.  Paul’s midrashic speculation about Adam and Christ may be helpful for some readers, but it is not something that Christians need to know in order to be followers of Jesus.  Unfortunately, the Church chose to magnify such speculations in importance, and fossilize them as binding metaphysical propositions—the doctrines and dogmas of a system.


Rich - #47484

January 16th 2011

Martin (47438):

I never denied that themes can be implicit, and I never said that a notion has to be repeated out loud frequently to be important.  I agree that human sinfulness is a theme implicitly present throughout the entire Bible, even when the word “sin” is not explicitly mentioned.

However, you are confusing a broad proposition about human sinfulness—which is what all your proof-texts pertain to—with the *narrow and specific doctrines* of *inherited sinfulness* and *a metaphysical transaction involving Adam and Christ*—which none of your proof-texts (except the Romans passage) teach or endorse.  You are over-reading the passages because you are eager to read the Bible along the lines of your preferred Reformation-Pauline theology.

I don’t begrudge you your theology, but if you are going to claim that this is *the* Biblical teaching, you are going to get resistance from me.  From my perspective, you take a single bright idea from one New Testament writer and impose it as a conceptual straitjacket on the rest of the Bible.  Of course, you have famous company—Augustine, Calvin, etc.  But as you know, I don’t bend the knee to Darwin, so why should I bend it before your mentors?


Jon Garvey - #47497

January 16th 2011

@Martin Rizley - #47359

Martin, Isaiah 11, like the later analogous passage in Isaiah, does not address the natural world’s state but the security of humanity. Note that the predators all cease to threaten not natural prey, but livestock or infants. As to the underlying assumptions of the writer, he is just as likely to be addressing (a) an inexpressibly better creation (which in NT becomes the “spiritual” opposed to “natural” or, perhaps better, (b) the creation as it should have been tamed had man not fallen and failed in his “subduing and ruling” task. “Curse” is not mentioned or clearly implied.

As for natural disasters, we are dealing with human death. With access to the tree of life, as per God’s intention, would an ebullient nature need to be tamed, or just used as a surfer uses a violent wave in Hawaii? Apart from God’s sending of specific disasters as judgement, Scripture says nowhere that tectonics or weather became deranged by the fall. Just as it lays out quite clearly how the ground was cursed, that is in relation to food production - to read more than that into the text is unwarranted. Walton has a good section on the curse in his Genesis commentary.


Martin Rizley - #47518

January 16th 2011

John,
I’m wondering how you understand the curse on the ground ‘in relation to food production,’ as well as the increase in the woman’s birth pangs.  How would either of these have come about without some change taking place in the physical realm?  They definitely seem to point to a before/after scenario.  Before sin, the process of giving birth would not have been as painful as it now is for women; before sin, the earth would have brought forth its fruits more readily for man; the labor involved in cultivating the earth would not have been as ‘grinding.’  How could this before/after scenario take place without some ‘physical’ changes taking place in the world itself?  Also, what is your view concerning truth’?  Do you believe that there is such a thing as a ‘supreme’ arbiter of truth?  Do you believe that science is supreme when it comes to physical reality and Scripture is supreme when it comes to spiritual reality?  Or is Scripture true in all that it teaches, even when its teaching impinges, for example, on matters of history?  Should we read the Scripture with the implict trust that, “What Scripture says, God says”?


Martin Rizley - #47530

January 16th 2011

Rich,  I think the difference in our understanding of the centrality of the Adam/Christ motif to the Bible is rooted in a different view of what the Bible IS.  It seems to me, Rich, that you view the Bible as a disparate collection of books by different writers with sometimes contradictory perspectives, whose teaching cannot be equated ‘in toto’ with divine revelation.  God may speak through the Bible, but the Bible cannot be EQUATED with God’s Word.  It certainly cannot be viewed as ONE book with ONE unified message from ONE author.  By contrast, I look at the Bible as essentially ONE book originating in the mind of ONE divine Author, who moved different human agents to write what they did.  He ‘superintended’ the whole process so that what they wrote can be regarded as the very Word of God.  Their different perspectives are always complementary, never contradictory, so that what one writer says sheds light what another writer says.  Therefore, what Paul says about Adam is not merely the teaching of Paul, but the teaching of God Himself through Paul, and yes, it does govern our understanding of everything the Bible teaches on sin and salvation.


Jon Garvey - #47562

January 16th 2011

@Martin Rizley - #47518

Walton’s analysis is helpful here (though too long to précis adequately). Relating the curse to the creational promises of fruitfulness (1.28) and plenty (1.29) is key.

Regarding the curse on the woman, he does a lot of work lexically to conclude that the word is more general than pain, “trouble” (or “anxiety” being his word). It is closely connected to the damaged gender relationships, and basically means fruitfulness will be hard won - barrenness, marital strife, death in childbirth etc are all included.

Both that and the curse on the ground in food production (hard labour, uncertian outcomes) are executed by the same punishment as death is - exclusion from the garden of God’s presence. There were always weeds outside Eden - man had never had to cope with it. There was always death apart from the tree of life - but man had always had access to it.

The supreme arbiter of truth is, of course, God. But I believe he has made the universe the revealer of itself (and a minimum of knowledge about him) and Scripture the revealer of himself, and of the way for us to return to him, because being beyond creation he cannot be known apart from revelation. (...)


Jon Garvey - #47564

January 16th 2011

(...)

Whether Scripture “ought” to teach truth in the area of the worldly is actually more moot than it seems. The God of truth won’t tell lies, but he may well use metaphors or even accommodation to people’s ideas (the old Copernican/Galilean chestnut) if that’s convenient for the role he has given to Scripture. We can learn science, farming, photography, psychiatry, music etc from the world - why waste salvation space on such matters?

When I was a doctor I had no qualms about oversimplifying explanations of the actual medical situation in the service of the patient’s better understanding of how they could get better. Would I lie? No - though strictly a simplified explanation is a lie. If the patient clearly had a scientifically wrong notion that still looked like it gave them a useful handle on their condition and what to do, would I leave them with it? You bet - I’d save the pharmacokinetics and neurophysiology for the medical students.


Rich - #47599

January 16th 2011

Martin:

You’re quite right that our differences are rooted in different views of what the Bible is.  And I don’t begrudge you your view of the Bible as a unitary, seamless body of truth coming directly from God.  I respect you and any other Christian who holds this view, as I respect Jews, Hindus and Muslims who hold analogous views about their respective sets of holy writings.

What you are not seeing, however, and seem to be unable to see, is that your view (of the unified character of the Biblical message) does not come from an empirical study of the Biblical writings themselves, but rather is a presupposition within which you read those Biblical writings.  An empirical approach would be:  “Let’s read all these individual books, learn the teaching of each, compare and contrast, and *then* decide if the teaching of all of them is compatible.”  The faith approach is:  “Since knowledge has been *given* to us that these writings are all one great Truth conveyed by God, let’s read them in such a way that when we seen apparent contradictions or incoherences, we constantly adjust the meanings of the various writings until they all harmonize.”

(continued)


Rich - #47600

January 16th 2011

Martin (continued from 47599):

Now a scholar of religion, when acting in that capacity, *cannot* take the second approach.  The scholar of religion is writing for a global, cosmopolitan audience of Christians, Jews, atheists, agnostics, Hindus, Wiccans, Sikhs, and who knows what else.  The members of this audience are not willing to take, as a working assumption, that the Bible is unitary, seamless, and a direct pipeline to divine truth.  Even those scholars of religion who are Christian do not all accept that premise; and as I’ve already pointed out, they don’t even agree on which books constitute the Bible.  If the scholar of religion wants the learned world to believe that Paul understood the story in Genesis correctly, the scholar must (a) master the Hebrew text of Genesis, and all ancillary learning (ancient history and religion, comparative religion, comparative philology, literary theory, etc.) and (b) in light of his textual study, critically analyze what Paul does with the story—without making any prior assumption that Paul understood it correctly.  The scholar can be *open* to the conclusion that Paul read Genesis correctly, but cannot *assume* it as a starting point.

(continued)


Rich - #47603

January 16th 2011

Martin (continued from 47600):

When I’m conversing with you, Martin, I’m writing with my scholar of religion’s hat on, not my faith hat on.  I do this because you represent your opinions (or so it seems) as if they logically follow from the plain sense of the Biblical text.  What I’ve been trying to point out to you all along is that your views *don’t* follow from “the plain sense” of the text, *unless you supply some other working assumptions*.  And I’m not criticizing you for supplying those other working assumptions, *as long as you admit they are assumptions of faith*, and don’t pretend that they are just the natural thing to think (and that any intelligent, literate person would automatically think in that way based solely on the contents of the Biblical stories, unless they were wicked, stubborn, ungodly, etc.).

If you are entirely honest about your own procedures, you will realize that your assumptions *about* the Bible do not come *from* the Bible.  Yes, I know, you believe that once read, the Bible confirms the initial soundness of your assumptions.  And maybe it does.  But you did not first take those assumptions from the Bible; you brought them to the Bible.

(continued)


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