Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Saturday, January 5, 2019

A Southern Location for Eden? Only if we have Noah's Landing Spot Wrong

I am convinced that the Garden of Eden was a real place, but I don't know where it was. In Early Genesis the Revealed Cosmology I gave the four best possibilities for a northern location of the garden, along with some reasons why I supported a northern location somewhere in this region. Others have made a respectable case for a southern location for Eden. Reasons to Believe for example, has laid out evidence supporting a location for Eden which was covered in water about 8,000 years ago and is now under the Persian Gulf.

The text of Genesis says that when they were expelled from Eden a guardian was placed "at the east" which indicates that they were driven eastward. When Cain was driven from the presence of the LORD and his family he went further east to the "land of Nod". During the flood, the wind blew from the east, which if anything pushed them back west.

So all of the directional motion given in the text is east-west motion. The one possible exception: The text also says that the waters returned to where they came from. In the case of a Mesopotamian flood the waters would drain south. An ark landing at the mountains of Ararat, but on the Mesopotamian side, on the extreme north end of that region doesn't make sense. You can't get there using east-west, and possible south motion from a starting point of an Eden in the Persian Gulf.

However there is one thing that might save the hypothesis of a southern location for Eden: A mistaken location for "the mountains of Ararat". The word used for Ararat is not Hebrew. It is a loan word from another language, likely Assyrian and used by them to identify the land of Uratu. It is difficult to know what it means but I've heard one linguist suggest that it means "the highest lands" or country. The region around our present day Mount Ararat is the highest land relative to the people of Assyria, but what if Noah was in another region, with another "highest land" when the account was compiled?

There was another ancient kingdom with a similar-sounding name, Aratta, probably located somewhere on the other side of Elam. What if the original account said that the ark landed on "the highest lands" which happened to be near a land later named "Aratta" and the name Uratu just happened to mean "highest land" in a local language? Over time it would be easy to see how Noah's "highest lands" got confused for the highest lands of the surrounding area.

Since I have a two-population model for early Genesis the descendants of Adam don't have to be the whole human race. The Reasons to Believe position is that the whole human population lived in the region of Mesopotamia at the time of the flood. I don't think the evidence supports that this was ever true, nor does it need to in my view since the target of the flood was the descendants of Adam, not the rest of the race Adam (humanity). The clan of Adam could have just lived in the large basin in the Kerman and Baluchestan provinces of what is now Iran. Under this scenario that basin was flooded, wiping them out, and the ark of Noah would have landed in the high ground on its western edge. From there, they journeyed east and attained a plain in the land of Shinar. That part would be a good fit with the text of Genesis chapter ten where it describes cities that were in southern and central Mesopotamia as being the start of the kingdom of Nimrod, with the clan of Asshur struck out from there to build more northerly cities.

Again, I still support a northerly Eden based on all the evidence available at this time, but I can see that there are circumstances where a southern location makes sense.




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Sunday, December 30, 2018

Critiquing Hugh Ross Video/Model on Noah's Flood

In my opinion Dr. Hugh Ross is a fine Christian gentleman. His ministry sustained me in earlier decades and I have bought and read a number of his books. Before I was shown the Christ-Centered model for early Genesis I guess his model was the closest to what I believed for many years, although as data was coming in which negated it I was getting my doubts.

All that said, I have been asked to critique his video on the flood, shown above, since I have been saying that his model is not really feasible. If one just listens to the video, it seems pretty compelling, especially if the video is from eight or nine years ago before certain evidence started coming in.

I  now hold to a different Old Earth model. The Christ-centered model is a different way to look at Genesis, and it takes a lot of "unlearning" of theology which isn't really in the bible to "get it". So I am not trying to sell you on that here so much as to get people to see that the RTB model is increasingly untenable. If you are looking for a model that is still tenable, you may want to take on learning the Christ-centered model. Now on to the break-down:

Most of the first half hour Dr. Ross was making the case that the flood did not cover the whole physical globe and that the account did not really teach that all the earth's animals were on the ark - just those most associated with man. I agree with both points and in fact on point #2 I have gone into much further detail about the text of early Genesis to show the same thing. So for the first part there was nothing to critique. I hope and pray that Reasons to Believe adopts the Christ-centered model and that there is nothing to disagree about period. Until then...

The first point of disagreement is small potatoes. At about 28:05 he talks about the visual horizon from the ark. He thinks that in verse 8:5 Noah was on the top of the ark and had a more distant view of the horizon than the dove which failed to find a place to land (that he released in verse nine). That is why Ross thinks they report that "the tops of the mountains were seen" yet later the dove could not find them.

I don't think current depictions of the ark, with a nice row of windows on top, fits the text at all. The ark was just left open on its top center 1.5 cubits to let in air, but this was covered with what we would call today an awning.  This was the "cover" mentioned in verse thirteen and the text acts like they didn't really get a good look around until this cover was removed. That makes sense because if they were able to get a good look around prior to that then why release the birds to try and find land? I conclude that the earlier report of Shem, Ham, and Japheth that "the high hills were covered" (7:14-15) at the height of the flood was based on the fact that their ship had a draft of 15 cubits and did not run aground for months, plus they saw no mountains in the very limited distance they could see under the awning which covered the top of the roof of the ark.

So when verse five reports that "the tops of the mountains were seen" it is not talking about distant very high peaks- in fact the word for mountains there does not contain the same modifier which specifies "higher" peaks found elsewhere in the account. The tops they saw were not the tops of the highest peaks. They were the ones closest to their ship, visible through very shallow water. That is, they saw that some hills were close to poking out of the water and they wondered "is there dry land just beyond what we can see?" So they let a bird out to find out. They really didn't know much about what the surrounding countryside was like until they removed the "cover" or awning in verse thirteen, and the text conveys that. This allows for a smaller and more highland flood. If they had really had a 40ft high crow's nest, they may have seen distant mountains even at the height of the flood, but they didn't have that.

At around 34:58  and in time 58 in the video he talks about the whole world living in the region of Mesopotamia. He has a model where humanity is in this region, the flood destroys this region, and Noah's ark lands at the edge of the region (see 106:20 to see better where he thinks the ark landed). Does anyone want to explain to me how the ark, driven either east by the wind from the east that the text talks about, or south by natural drainage from the highlands into the gulf, still winds up landing at the northern edge of this region? Besides that, the best translations say that after the flood they journeyed from the east and found the land of Shinar. That is, the Ark landed east of Mesopotamia and they had to journey from the east to get the plain. Where he says the ark landed does not make sense on any level.

But that is a quarrel from the text. If what he is trying to do is Concordism then the model falls flat when it suggests that the entire human race lived in his proposed flood region 45-55K years ago. For example...

85,000 year old human finger bone found in Al-Wusta Arabia (outside proposed flood zone).

At least 70,000 year old teeth and tools from South Africa see also here.

In Egypt 55K ago...

In Northern Australia at least 59K ago....(paper here)

In China at least 80K ago.....(this is the most controversial of the bunch)

In Libya, a modern human mandible from 73KYA. See abstract & paper here.

From Israel, 55K ago....

There are probably some I missed, but even if I didn't this list is just going to grow. So far as we can tell at no time was humanity restricted to the area Dr. Ross says was subject to the flood. And that doesn't even take into account the DNA evidence. There is a lot about this field that we still don't know, but it is highly, highly unlikely that humanity was reduced to a single Y-chromosome only 55,000 years ago, which would be the case if all men except Noah and his sons perished in a flood at that time.

Add to all that the case from the scriptures that when they went to Mesopotamia after the flood, the text of Genesis suggests that it was already inhabited when the families of Noah got there. Don't worry, the Christ-centered model has text-based explanations for all this....but back to the Hugh Ross video:

Around 50:45 he connects the land being divided in the "days of Peleg" to the Bering Straight opening up. Peleg can mean "stream" or "channel" but it makes a lot more sense that Peleg was named this because of what was happening in his home region of Mesopotamia, not something happening thousands of miles away. It could have been referring to the dividing of the land referenced in Genesis 10:32. That is, a political division of territory which could have been marked by streams. It could have been speaking of the scattering at Babel, which might have occurred during his days. From 3-4 thousand B.C. they also began digging irrigation canals in southern Mesopotamia, so it could even be a reference to that. These are things that occurred much more recently than the end of the ice age of course, and I think his timeline is as much of a reach as the idea that Peleg got his name from the Bering Straight opening up.

Also around minute 58 he talks about snow melt being the source of the flood waters. This is in an effort to push the age of the flood further back in time. But the text of Genesis tells us where the water came from (rain and the fountains of the deep breaking up) and it's not from snow melt. At time 102 he talks about how the "timing is wrong" for the Black Sea flood to be the flood of Noah. Well maybe so but it is a lot closer to any rational reading of the genealogies than the RTB model is.

At around 106:50 he talks about Nineveh being close to where he thinks the ark landed and then points out that building Nineveh was something that they did soon after they got off the ark. Well, not exactly. They first found the plain in Shinar after coming from the east, and then Asshur went from the land of Shinar and built Nineveh. So I have already mentioned some of the problems the RTB model has with paleontology and genetics, but here are some problems it faces with archaeology in light of what the text of early Genesis says that the first few generations from the flood did......

1) Genesis 10:22 says that Shem was the father of Asshur, while in verse eleven we learn that Asshur founded several cities including Ninevah. The location and period of habitation of Ninevah is known. There was surely no city there prior to 8,000 years ago and probably much more recently than that. Thus the flood was not much earlier than 8,000 years ago and probably more recent than that. So the model is untenable- unless one wishes to postulate tens of thousands of years worth of skipped generations between Shem and his son Asshur.

2) Cush was the son of Ham (10:4) and Cush "begat" Nimrod (10:8) who was apparently a contemporary of Asshur mentioned above, since verse 11 also states that Asshur went out from the land it previously said was controlled by Nimrod in order to found Ninevah. Therefore it is difficult to attribute a huge number of generations from Cush to Nimrod. And Nimrod is also described as controlling several cities, at least one of whom (Erech) we can locate in historical time. Again, these cities don't go back tens of thousands of years in the past. We can tell roughly when they were founded.

3) The text indicates that Adam and Eve's descendants did not live as hunter-gatherers but were immediately guided into civilized practices like agriculture and animal husbandry. Gen. 4:2 says that Cain was a tiller of the soil, and Abel a keeper of sheep. It is extremely unlikely, to put it mildly, that sheep have been domesticated for 70,000 years. The very first ones were more like 10-15 thousand years ago (and the location and timing of the first domestication of most major livestock is a stunning confirmation of the Christ-centered model). The same is true with agriculture. The Reasons to Believe model must postulate that civilization was lost right after the fall and not recovered until recently. But the text does not indicate that. Gen. 4:20 describes Adah, seven generations from Adam, as the "father" of those who live in tents and travel with flocks. This would not be true if the practice died out immediately afterward and was rediscovered by unconnected individuals tens of thousands of years later.

In the same way, his brother Jubal is described as the "father" of those who play the harp and the organ. And Tubal-Cain (4:22) is described as an "instructor" in metallurgy. Thus the text contradicts the idea of lost arts.

4) In Gen. 5:29 Lamech the father of Noah references the curse on the soil and the associated toil therein. In other words they were still working the soil. In 8:22 God promises that seedtime and harvest will remain, indicating further that they were agricultural. Noah plants a vineyard (9:20) after landing.

5) Cain himself is described as founding a city (4:17). Is it realistic to think that men were building cities 70,000 years ago but there is no evidence for them until the last 12,000 years or so?

6) While a case can be made for a skipped generation here or there in the genealogies, the dates for humanity and its near-global dispersal have been pushed so far back that it makes the genealogies useless and even pointless. If the flood was 50,000 years ago how is it that the sons and grandsons of Shem, Ham, and Japheth were constructing/ruling cities whose place in history we know to be less than 8,000 years ago? If the flood was more recent, then how does it square with the overwhelming genetic and archaeological evidence that most of the old world not covered by ice sheets has been more or less continuously occupied for more than 40,000 years?

**********

Look, scientists change their model when the evidence starts going the other way. The evidence has gone the other way here. It is time to look at things differently. It is time to look at the text of Genesis differently. The Christ-centered model resolves all of these issues, but it means doing something that fallen human beings have a very hard time doing- admitting they were wrong about ideas they previously held. Nevertheless, doing so is one of the fundamental values of the Christian faith. We are not perfect, just forgiven. 



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Sunday, December 23, 2018

Evolution Rates: Stark Contrast Between Observed and Postulated


I have on more than one occasion had a dialogue with my friends who accept evolution which goes something like this: They point to a small difference which doubtless could occur by known processes and postulate that all change we see occurred via similar mechanisms. I counter that it is unsound to extrapolate that data so far as to be an explanation for great differences. I then try to show that evolution has a rate problem. That is, even if given enough time unguided nature could do everything they say it did, the question is really whether or not it is plausibly for it to be done in the time available. I point to evidence that known natural mechanisms don't operate at the rate required to explain the changes observed, even if you grant an old earth.

A perfect example showed up in the news this week. Scientists have been able to get what they think are more accurate dates on the period of vast change sometimes called the "Cambrian Explosion". They think the transition from Ecidarian to Cambrian occurred over less than 410,000 years, a much narrower window than the 5-10 million they were previously able to narrow it down to. That is just outrageously fast considering that life on earth went from animals with the complexity of sponges to pretty much every phyla of life on earth showing up right then- including some no longer with us. How did all that diversity occur so fast? By known evolutionary processes? That's absurd. 

If you want to see how fast known evolutionary processes work, see this article about speciation released the same week. The bottom line is that over the course of three million years a population of howler monkeys seems to have split into two "species".  The "split" is far from complete as they are still so close that hybridization occurs where the two populations mix. After three million years one population of Howler Monkeys has had an incomplete split into two populations. That's an example of how fast natural selection works in the real world. And while there are faster examples available they are always or almost always the result of a shuffling of existing genes, not the accumulation of new ones as would be necessary for the sort of macro-evolution my naturalist friends think happened. 

So there you have it. They can document an incomplete split of populations of Howler Monkeys over three million years and they think the same processes are responsible for what we see in the Cambrian- where dozens of new phyla appear in a mere fraction of the time. My protests that there must have been something else going on there- an unseen hand operating in the past which is no longer doing that now, are met with irritation and indignation. Which I guess would be OK, if it were paired with real answers. It's not.

Macro-evolution has a rate problem. Taken across the broad expanse of time (538 million years since the Cambrian began) it is noticeable. When you zoom in on the periods of greatest change it is glaring. The most often-used tactic of my more naturalist-leaning friends to my protests is to focus on the human-chimp differences and stress how that genetic gap is not so large given the supposed time between purported ancestors. Then they assume that if the observed naturalistic rate of change is within parameters for that particular example then can minimize or ignore the large picture I am pointing to.

I find this baffling. If I might give an analogy, it would be like my claiming that a certain species of worms had help travelling based on my observing repeated instances of them showing up thousands of miles away in a short period of time. Maybe humans took them there, maybe a migrating bird stored them in their gullets. I don't know, I just know the idea that they crawled to their new locations on their own is negated by the rate problem. They simply don't move fast enough to have made that trip on their own. My evolutionist friend replies by giving an instance where the worm populations are spotted only half a mile away a year later. In that instance it is quite possible they did make the trip under their own power. Not proven mind you, but possible given the short distance between the two points and the speed of the worms. My evolutionary friend then considers his case to be won.

Of course it isn't won. He or she is simply pointing to an instance where the "naturalistic" explanation is possible and then assuming that this establishes it as true. This is done whist ignoring all the instances where the rate problem suggests that their hypothesis is implausible. This is terrible reasoning but I have seen it done by brilliant people. In actuality the instances where the "naturalistic" explanation is plausible don't at all change the facts that there are instances where it does not. Even if we have more precise measurements available on the case where the worms stay close it doesn't change the fact that the other measurements still present a problem for their case which should be addressed rather than waived off. In particular since just showing that it is possible that the worms got from "A" to "B" on their own power in some instances does not at all prove that is how they got their in all such instances. 


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Thursday, December 6, 2018

Sodom Found?

It appears as if they have found the remains of Sodom and Gomorrah, complete with the layer of salt and sulfate as described in Genesis. They give a date of the disaster, which looks to them like a meteorite airburst event, as 3700 years before present. This is somewhat more recent than my date for Abraham. I would place him in is prime at about 4,000 years before present. Still I am sure there are error bars on their date calculations.....  Article here. Paper here...

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Baptism and the Flood


What is baptism supposed to represent? Most evangelical churches, in particular the ones who immerse, would say that it is identifying with the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Since I am obviously a big fan of Christ-centered teaching on scripture, that's the kind of view I could get behind and I do- at least as part of the picture. Romans chapter six verses one through four point to this view of baptism. 

While that is true, that passage is not the only verse in scripture which speaks about what baptism represents. Jesus Himself was baptized in water before His death, burial, and resurrection. He wasn't doing it to identify with His future death, burial, and resurrection. He was doing it to identify with us. John was preaching "the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins" (Mark 1:4). But what is it about being washed in water which allows for sins to be forgiven?

Water in scripture has represented several things, but nothing more than judgement. Judgement itself can destroy, but can also bring life. The Holy Spirit is a particular type of water, living water. That is, the Spirit produces God's judgments which bring life, as when the Spirit convicts us of sin which we then turn away from. In passing through the water of baptism we are submitting to God's just judgment and asking Him to send His life-giving Holy Spirit to convict us of whatever sin still clings to us and needs to be washed away by said water. 

Without faith that God is just and His judgments right, baptism produces no salvation. It is not the act of passing through water which delivers, but the repentance with which the act is done which can deliver, when co-joined with faith. Repenting of sinful works by itself does not make them less sinful. One who murders is still guilty of murder, even if he later repents. So we dare not submit our lives to His just judgement without faith in Christ, that He has taken the wrath due us for love's sake. This is the only basis with which we can repent in confidence that we will be saved in the repenting. It is not enough to repent of dead works- as Judas did. That's not a saving faith. Repentance must go together with faith in Christ and His completed work.

Now I write most of what I wrote above based on the other main passage of scripture (besides Romans chapter six) which addresses the question of "what" baptism is supposed to be. That is First Peter 3:19-22. This is the passage on the "what" of baptism which I believe is under-preached for the simple reason that it is not comprehensible outside of the Christ-centered model for early Genesis. Indeed many versions now mis-translate this verse, and I think its because they can't comprehend what it actually says so they mis-translate it to speak of what they think it must mean instead. I will use the New King James here, which along with the KJV and a few others retain the original sense of the Greek...
19 by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, 20 who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. 21 There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
Notice it says the eight in the ark were saved in the ark but through the water. That too is a little unclear because "through" can mean "passing through" or "by means of". Is it saying they were saved by means of the water, or by the ark through the water? The original King James is better here, because it says "by water." It is saying that the water saved them who were in the ark. Though the translators have since tried to emphasize the "through" part while leaving out the sense of "through the means of" if you go look at the Greek and how the word translated "through" is used it is clear that it is saying "through means of" or "by".  They were saved by the water, in the ark.

If you have any doubt that the text of verse twenty is saying that they were saved "by" water then simply keep reading to the next verse. The waters of the flood are considered a type of baptism, the waters of baptism being the anti-type. Not that the water can save us in itself- without the protection of being in the ark it would have destroyed Noah and without our protection of being in Christ the waters of God's judgement would also destroy us. Nevertheless, the water in some sense saves, though it is not the washing of the water which does the saving but the answer to the waters of judgment- which is to say Christ. Recognizing that we are evil does not in itself save us, it is faith and accepting that Christ paid the penalty for our sins in Himself that is necessary to complete salvation. And of course, faith is a gift of God, not a work of man. All we can do without God is feel miserable about our sins. We cannot answer for them in ourselves, but as the verse above says, He is our answer.

What I have written above is a limited view of what baptism does. It is as far as one can take that passage without a proper view of early Genesis. Yet we know that baptism is not just about taking us as we are, but the beginning of that which is impure in us being washed away by the Holy Spirit. It is the typical start of sanctification. Yes we are saved, but our flesh, that which is impure in us, dies. That in us which separates us from God is put to death. We are saved to be new creatures, not just the old version of ourselves escaping God's wrath, but the beginning of being a New Creature in Christ. 
This comparison does not work if just Noah and his family are the church and those destroyed are the unbelievers. The picture fails.

The picture which God is painted with the flood, and baptism as the anti-type of it, does not fit well with this misunderstanding. Baptism is not when unbelievers are submitted to judgement and are destroyed, but rather what is sinful in believers is subjected to judgement and destroyed. It is a purification of God's people, not those who are not His people. As it is written "judgement begins with the house of God." (1 Pet 4:17). The flood works better as a picture of baptism if the line of Adam does not represent all of humanity, but rather those who are supposed to be God's people. It is they who are "saved' by the flood by what is ungodly in them being put to death.

This also explains why, from the perspective of Shem, Ham, and Japheth, the destruction of the flood had to be seen as total. As an adherent of the tablet theory, I believe that the last part of chapter seven is describing what they saw in the flood. To them, the eradication was total. This is in contrast with scriptures before and afterward which indicate there were other people in the world, outside the clan of Adam, who survived the flood. But to them, the destruction was total.

In the same way, baptism is to be seen by the initiate as the total destruction and giving up of the sin nature. Not of the world outside of course because it is about believers. In practice the sin reappears and the struggle continues, but ultimately the old man is dead and all that remains is in Christ, even as it seemed to the sons of Noah that all that remained was in the Ark. By the way, this also answers the question of "why a flood". God told Noah "with thee I will establish (set up) my covenant" (Gen. 6:18). He was going to use these events to point to baptism so that no other means of wrath or of deliverance would do. Leaving the area wouldn't do. They had to pass through the judgement, not avoid it. Just like we stay and submit to the waters of baptism, not because they are worldwide and we can't avoid them, but because we accept that they are just. This is another reason why the flood had to be local or regional rather than world-wide. It fits the picture of baptism better if Noah could have avoided the judgement, but instead passed through it protected by God's grace.

In the Christ-centered model for early Genesis Adam is a figure of Christ, not the father of the human race. He fathered the line of Messiah in a world already full of those who were not yet His. The line of Adam represents God's chosen people, they were the original chosen people. Like those later chosen people the children of Israel, they went astray. The rest of mankind was not a target of the flood. They are the unbelievers in this scenario and are not a part of the picture of baptism. The flood was aimed at the descendants of Adam, not all of humanity. It was a picture of judgement beginning with the house of God, and meant to point to baptism. The waters "saved" the chosen people in that God's judgment was purifying, destroying what is wicked in His people. God's judgment is purifying in our lives, condemning that in us which leads to death. This is the result of the flood, the result of baptism, and the result of the Holy Spirit. The water saves us, as the judgement of God which we submit to saves us, when combined with the Ark of Christ.

For more about the scriptural support of the Christ-Centered model for Early Genesis see.....



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