Tag Archives: Young-Earth

Part 7: The Religion vs. Science War

This is an article in a series written to create an unambiguous, complete understanding of Genesis 1:1-1:19, and continues from Part 6: The World of Genesis versus the World of Science.

The religion versus science debates of today

There is currently a war of sorts being waged between Theism and Atheism, both in forums of the people and in forums of philosophers, where both sides are trying to point to fallacies in the theories of the other; to crush the faiths and foundations of either. While wars have no winner, it seems this is one golden age of questioning established knowledge and doctrine. It is one in which a wealth of knowledge about the world has crystallized and solidified, many disciplines have been backed up by evidence, and where this knowledge and evidence is instantly available.

I originally intended a short article to wage a war in the same manner; I had found the fallacies that would weaken the faith and foundations of religion, and it was quite clear to me that I had truth on my side. Instead, the very few sentences of knowledge that these few verses represent became weeks of analyzing sources from all camps with the intent to destroy my original article, interspersed with pauses of reflection and introspection. This may not sound like fun to some, but for me, it was a summer holiday well spent. Regularly finding time to find this philosophical mood I get in sometimes trigger something in me that makes me more happy, calm, and confident; more contented about life — even pondering something depressing such as death, when I do it in this mood, it is helpful to me.

If I had the power to influence the warring sides, I would like them to fight their battles this way instead. They might find that that prohibits them from fighting the war as forcefully, but that the small battle won without losing the understanding of the other side is more permanently won, and that they haven’t sacrificed a part of themselves in order to win it.

Taking both sides

In this series then, I have taken both sides in the Religion vs. Science debate of today, and in the previous part, I tried my best to defend the attacks on this part of Genesis and hopefully clarified what arguments will not further the debate. I’ve done this to show that there is an alternative to the polarized debate with both camps attacking the opponent and supporting their own. I think there needs to be more philosophers who write in this way in order to create a better debate climate. Not because I think it too much of a fight or because I shy away from fierce argumentation, but because I’ve discovered that not only seeing both sides but actively taking both sides “kills your bastard darlings”; rids you of arguments that the opponent sees clearly are wrong but that you mistakenly see clearly as being valid. In doing so, it does leave your remaining arguments all the more solid, it gives you a deeper understanding, and your opponent sees this deeper understanding in you.

While much harder work, I found that the act of doubting yourself leaves you not with self-doubt, but with a stronger, tempered self-confidence. It also helps in predicting counter-arguments of opponents; not that you couldn’t predict them almost as well before, but in responding to them you will convey thoughts that speak to the opponent in way similar to how they speak to himself. It will lend you the leverage to perhaps convince some of the already convinced.

Conclusions

There are some conclusions (as they apply to the debate on topic) that can be drawn even from summarizing these relatively few attacks and their attempts at reconciliation:

Reconciliating the understanding of the texts to reality can break your heart. It requires of the believer the same burden of proof amassed by tens of thousands of self-critical, rigorous scientists that is found in thousands of books, already peer-reviewed, revered, and attacked over the centuries, with the believer himself only having a few texts and scholars available to develop a reconciling theory. This exposes him to a debate climate in which he finds himself attacked skillfully on all sides, and the pressure of this may make him feel like he’s fighting a war that is over before it’s begun. It would take a stronger man that I think exists to fight such a war and not cave in under this pressure.

A few reconciliations are impossible to maintain. Many reconciliations were possible, but the remaining few suggests that an inordinate amount of time will be spent on developing the required new reconciling theories of the meaning (text) and knowledge (understanding of what the text claims) that does not yet exist and which does not match mainstream beliefs, even within your own faith. These new theories will be perceived as “tailor-made to make the holy texts work”, which will bring suspicion of their level of accuracy and intent. Science hasn’t worked to understand the world to undermine religion, but simply to understand the world. In this educated age, new religious interpretations of the texts and what they say will be said to not have been developed to understand the world better, but to stop religion from losing credibility, and will at the same time fall short of undermining well-supported scientific theories.

Intermediate explanations to reconcile texts with reality takes you out of the frying pan and into the fire. If these show the texts describe reality as well as scientific theories, but only after scientific theories had been developed that say how things really work or came to be, the explanation will be perceived as a construction after the fact; after its inventor had been educated to the point where he saw that the text posed a contradiction to Science. By believers it may be seen as an attempt to “validate scripture through Science and not through faith”. However, these are the insincere intermediate explanations. Certainly, intermediate explanations that are found or developed that do not fall into this category are highly interesting and of the same worth as scientific explanations, but that does not mean they won’t meet the same fire of criticism from your peers and opponents both.

Yes, parts of this summary are unnecessarily generalizing. The reason is that it’s intended as general advice to guide debaters into fertile areas of discussion that have a chance of reducing polarization and producing new truths.

Descriptions in Genesis 1:1-1:19 that contradict reality

These are the statements of knowledge that were attacked and which could not be reconciled in order to keep the text as a true description of the creation of the world:

In Genesis, we are not told that land was formed by God, but instead that God somehow gathered the water into seas to make land “appear”. That’s simply not how it works, and you don’t have to be a geologist to show that. Moreover, there is no reason why it should be mentioned as an act of creation, since this process is ongoing.

I’d love to see a classroom experiment in which this is demonstrated!

Yes, barring removal of water such as by evaporation or ice or snow forming on land, it is only the transformation of the Earth’s crust that can make surface water gather and form seas, both if the Earth is covered with water and if it isn’t.

It’s simply a description that demonstrates a misperception of reality that could not be the word of God.

If you wish to accuse Genesis of not being a holy text, but simply the ignorance of the Bronze Age put in writing by scholars doing their best, this is one of the strongest arguments.

If you wish to defend Genesis as a holy text, you must somehow make the removal of this demonstrably false description not seem insincere editing of the Truth.

The Moon doesn’t rule the night, it sometimes isn’t even in the sky at night! In some parts of the world, it’s below the horizon for months at a time!

It’s a mystery to me why scribes would write such a description, when surely they could see, as could any other man in the Bronze Age, that there were moonless nights and even that the Moon was in the sky during the day. Therefore, this does not point to ignorance on the part of the scribes, but a human, if perplexing, mistake or embellishment.

The Sun and the Moon aren’t in the sky under the rainwater and above the earth! They’re in space, far from the Earth and its sky.

This is an even stronger argument for Genesis not being the word of God but descriptions written by the best scholars of the age who yet were ignorant of, in this case, Astronomy.

Implications of the unsuccessful reconciliations

It would seem to me it’s immensely hard to defend not only these verses as the word of God, but by the fact that the rest of Genesis 1 is written as a part of the same creation account, to defend that Genesis 1 as a whole is the word of God.

Considering that there are 3 errors in these mere 19 verses, perhaps the best recourse for believers intent on keeping their holy books unassailable would be to deem Genesis not one of the holy books, as we know has been the fate of other books once considered holy accounts of events in the Old and New Testaments.

Implications of the successful reconciliations

For non-believers, I hope I’ve shown which types of attacks reveals crudeness and ignorance on their part, and also in what way other types of attacks will not appear convincing to believers.

For believers, I hope I’ve given you valid defenses for many of the attacks on holy scripture that non-believers commonly wage.

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I realize that the detail of this analysis might have caused some believers to doubt their faith. Even though I’ve never found any of the mainstream religions persuasive despite my interest in spirituality, and therefore never lost my religion, I think I can yet understand the very human questions that would arise.

Religion has given me so much — faith in what I do and the future, and a sense of worth and belonging. How do I keep my faith?

If you feel all those things are dependent on you subscribing to certain religious ideas, first consider why that should be so.

The answer I’ve arrived at is that those things are very human and common to all of us, and that religion has arisen naturally as an attempt at fulfilling those needs in us. Should you suspect yourself of wanting the answers and everything else religion offers in place of finding out for yourself how to have faith in what you do, the future, that you are valuable, and how to belong?

Perhaps you fear that if you do lose your religion, you will be in the same place that Man found himself in ancient times, looking up at the stars in awe of the mystery, and on all the parts of the world, both the wondrous and the horrifying, and at human behavior, both inspiring and despicable. And there is only you, wanting, needing, to make sense of it all.

Certainly, this is the abyss of a lonely feeling you share with philosophers and scientists who through the ages attempted to make sense of it all.  But you perhaps feel that gaining enough knowledge to do the same is out of your grasp. The most knowledgeable among us feel the same way. The good news is that the times have changed, and today there are so many sources of established knowledge to learn from that the world will seem even more wonderful and at the same time less of a strange place. There are more senses in which you can belong, and we are more in control of our future, than ever before.

This leaves the spirituality side of us that I think we all possess: what is this sense of awe and wonder that this world evokes in us in different forms? I wish I had an answer to that. My personal experience is that this comes naturally to us in reality, dreams, ideas, poetry, music and art; everywhere except in religion, where it for some reason requires to repeatedly be externally imposed on you. This is just my experiences from taking part of three religions, but if you can remember feeling this same way, you should not fear losing your religion and try to discover for yourself whence comes your spirituality.

Assuming it were even possible at this stage to change what is commonly taught in religion, how can we change the religious text to better match reality?

I can see two recourses:

1. Edit out or somehow create new interpretations of these descriptions to match reality.

2. Not consider Genesis an answer to the ageless and very human question of how the world and Man came to be.

For Young-Earth movements and Creationists, revisions are already taking place. Hopefully, my views are useful for you to revise more carefully and perhaps successfully.

I am a scientist and believer. Can I hold holy scripture true even if parts of it contradict science?

It’s a difficult question. While this poses no problem in some sciences, when claims of knowledge of holy texts overlap established knowledge in hard sciences, it would seem to me it’s a question of being honest with yourself. For myself, this is a hypothetical question, since I rely on science in my work but do not work as a scientist. But where conflicting knowledge overlaps, there can’t be two truths; it seems to me that while it’s certainly possible to take two views into consideration for a while, eventually you will have to make a choice.

You can tell yourself that the problem is restricted to the areas of Astronomy, Biology, and Geology pertaining to the three errors in Genesis and any scientific truths they build upon, but in the light of that these are the disciplines that offer scientific explanations that clash even more severely with the larger account of the entire holy texts, I really think it would be staving off the inevitable, that is, in order to keep your faith you must dismiss the foundations of these scientific disciplines.

If you rely on these foundations in your daily work, I think this must eventually cause you to ask what you are doing, holding them as true and yet favoring another world view which has no bearing on your work.

If you do not rely on them, there is naturally no conflict. But you may yet ask the question, suspecting that one is more well-founded than the other.

One option is attempting to disprove or develop alternative explanations for the conflicting descriptions. This is what we see Creationists and others doing today. I wish that all such attempts should be met with welcome as well as sincere criticisms by the scientific community, even though they and I might ask of you whether you develop the arguments to really find the truth or just in order to be able to cling to your faith.

What do you hope to achieve with this analysis targeting Abrahamic faiths?

The original analysis or the withheld precursor to this article series was foolheartedly intended to cause doubt in those who considered this text the word of God and the true account of creation.

While that might have been the eventual outcome, I started this series with the opposite – to destroy the original analysis. In the process, the articles grew into finding ways for more productive debates in the current “religion vs. science war”. I hope you agree that this at least, is a good intent despite of the results of the analysis.

I hope to suggest to Atheists, Christians, Jahwists and Moslems which battles can be left out of the debate wars as either impossible to win (for either side), are losing battles (for Theism), will not convince (for Atheism) or have no bearing on issues previously considered conflicts between science and religion.

I hope that this will lead to less polarization of debate and a movement toward a desire to understand the opponent.

I hope to have shown Young-Earth believers, Creationists, and other revisionists that newly developed theories weaken faith if they serve as intermediate explanations, especially if they show signs of being developed in response to or as a consequence of scientific findings that expose conflicts between scripture and reality.

I hope to have shown that reading Genesis symbolically is untenable, and that hard sciences have a bearing on some of the claims.

I hope my method of a partisan trying to take the opponents’ side for a temporary yet extended period of time and sincerely exploring the knowledge the other has to offer catches on. It has many merits, not the least of which is sincere intent.

While mine might not be a new kind of dialectic, I hope this two-sided process will become the preferred method to prepare for debate, to:

1. Weed out “waste of time” arguments: the indefensible, the untenable, the irrelevant, and the pertinent but equally valid,

2. To almost automatically lead the debater to such deeper understanding, and in this persuade him to form debate topics as earnest questions into the others’ knowledge.

Where do you stand on religion and science and the current war being waged?

I’m a non-believer who currently do not identify myself completely with Atheism or Antitheism. I think Science has brought the greatest knowledge and understanding of this and previous ages and think Science, rational thought and logic will eventually guide us to the great truths, whether or not they are truths that we need, want or like.

I think religion has filled these needs in the past, but are starting to not be enough, now that Science has expanded into the realm of what used to be metaphysics and as education makes people see that Science is a solid source of truths. I think religious world views and doctrine are beginning to show signs of the age in which they came about and as a natural consequence are becoming increasingly irrelevant to modern life. Secular law has now shown us that it works as a generic moral code for a society of independent citizens in a complex world on a level that religious authority alone could not hope to reach.

I think I see the signs of an emerging danger that since the conflict between Science and Religion is becoming so apparent, debate will become even more polarized, and even though we all are educated, knowledgeable humans with the potential of compassionate, rational thought, this conflict will instead bring out the stubborn child in us; the achieved scholar (on either side) who just wants the other to concede and admit he’s right about everything he says.

As we have to grow up in the Universe, I think we have to grow up in the arena of debate and make them arenas of sincere curiosity instead of arenas of attack and defense. As we ask of others intellectual honesty, we should see in our new claims the foundations for them that we have not yet built.

What books inspired you to write this?

While proper references will be added for the sources I consulted for the translation, I have purposely not read any analytical attacks on religion by established philosophers on the topic of my series, in order to not subscribe too eagerly to established arguments. Now I can, and if you have particularly excellent book recommendations, please mention them to me :)


Part 5: Knowing the Origins of the World

This is an article in a series written to create an unambiguous, complete understanding of Genesis 1:1-1:19, and continues from Part 4: Reconciling the Analyzed Literal Translation,

This part goes from understanding the account to understanding what it states about the origins of the world.

Standing on the shoulders of many researchers, I have perhaps been able to make the account of Genesis universally comprehensive. If you have persevered with me through this series, you have seen that after a barrage of attacks and reconciliations, what I have ended up with is very nearly identical to the modern, widely accepted account.

The original text has stood up well against the attacks, and the reconciliations have become understandable, elucidating, and specific, rather than poetic, vague, or smoothed over. All through the analysis and etymology, the big picture of what God has created has remained the same as what is believed generally.

It would seem that the only ones who manage to deviate from this common meaning of Genesis to make the word of God serve their own purposes are desperate Creationism and Young-Earth advocates. Even the most vicious Atheists gets the same meaning from this text as do the vast majority of believers.

I think this points to the stability of the ideas in the text. The few uncertain terms we’ve found haven’t shaken the big picture.

Examining the text is one thing, but how does it stand up when we examine the actual knowledge about the world that the account passes to Man? Can we make an attack of sorts and write down the creation account simply and tersely to convey the precise knowledge? (That is to say, the where, when, and why of the creation of these things.) Perhaps when we write down the creation account simply and tersely, we will find some weak points, not in the meaning of the words but in the knowledge the words convey.

I made two attempts and found that weak points do exist, and that I therefore can attack the knowledge. This means that I must prematurely specify some things in the text, something I would have liked to save for the next article. But it must be concluded that if you want to understand unambiguously exactly what is created, you must point out a thing in our world that God created (only worldly things are created up to day 4), and be able to produce a concise and concrete version of its creation in Genesis, or admit Genesis is simply a vague poem that praises rather than explains our origins. That is not very reconciliatory, in fact it removes the foundation of belief from Abrahamic religions. Allowing this to happen is to shrug and not think your religion is important for knowledge.

This, then, is my Terse Comprehensive Creation Account:

In the beginning, God created the sky and the earth
On the first day, when the Earth lay in darkness and was covered with water, the spirit of God moved above it, and God created light.
On the second day, he created the sky to split the water-cover into seawater and clouds.
On the third day, he gathered the seawater that covered the land into seas, and in the earth that appeared, he created plants that reproduced.
On the fourth day, he created the Sun and the Moon and put them in the sky under the clouds, to shine on the earth and to be able to tell signs, festivals, days and years — the Sun to rule the day and the Moon to rule the night and the stars.
Summarizing it like this, in clear language, reveals a few hurdles to overcome:
Rule‘ is vague
Firstly, an attack on what is meant by ‘ruling’ the day, or the night. Reading this again and again, a notion arises of this being as a way of associating the Sun with the daylight, and the Moon with the light of the night, and to explain what they’re for, as a sort of strengthening of the knowledge of origins.
While certainly the Sun “rules the day” (that indeed the Sun’s daylight is the only source of light and defines what we mean by day) the Moon is often up at night, but sometimes not, and sometimes up during the day.
It would be all too easy to jump ahead of ourselves and grab the scribes’ intended meaning: the day is the Sun’s domain, and the night belongs to the Moon and the stars. This describes roughly what we see in our world. But this is the word of God. He would not pass a roughly correct account to Man. What we’re after is what relationships he is describing “through” the scribes.
Now, if we were to assume that 6th Century BC Man didn’t know that the Moon is sometimes up during the day, that would weaken the account; it would then not be the word of God, but a vague attempt at explanation by someone who reveals the lack of knowledge in those times.
I don’t like that, because that would indeed mean that the account is vague and poetic. Surely God would know that the Moon sometimes isn’t in the sky at night. God would surely not resort to a vague word to describe the where, when and why of his creations! We must face this contradiction bravely and conclude that using the vague word goes against the word of God.
Upon revisiting the original translations, there is an AI of rule: regulate. This more specific words suddenly makes the meaning less vague and charged, and gets support by the surrounding verses in that the Sun and the Moon are part of a clockwork, regulating the passage of time. Certainly, this is how the celestial bodies have been used by Man throughout the ages and still are; as clocks and calendars.
This different translation inevitably creates an attack on my previous translation: the perplexing appendix “the stars” in 1:16. This verse now ends with “…and the small light to regulate the night and the stars.” Ruling the stars with relative light intensity is one thing, but now that we have found that this point must be relinquished, we face a world where the Moon regulates all the stars, surely an absurd world in the light of all we’ve learned of the world to this day.
Again revisiting the original translations, there are alternative glue words for and: with, together with. Using with ends 1:16 with “…and the small light to regulate the night with the stars.”
While we are now rid of the vague wording, we are faced with something of a dim proposition: “The day belongs to the Sun, and the night belongs to the Moon and the stars.”
I’m trying my hardest to not see this as an error on the part of the scribes. But I cannot find any explanation for not recognizing that the Moon is sometimes up in the day and sometimes not up in the night, without accusing them of inserting a mistaken world view of 6th century BC Man in a divine account.
What can we do to stave off attacks on religion and keep the word as written as the word of God? The answer is not pleasant. To stave off attacks on the correctness of the word of God, we must deny errors on the part of the scribes, or else face questions of the type, “what else did they get wrong?’. And to do this, we must go back to the vague word, ‘rule’. To stave off scientific attacks on the word of God, we must then choose the most reconciliatory meaning of rule, the vague ‘relative brightness’ meaning.
This, in turn, forces us to admit that some passages are vague and not to be understood fully by Man. This is the recourse that we are left with, until someone proposes a new original meaning of the verse or the word ‘rule’.
I had hopes that analysis might clarify the verse, but it has not. While this means the attack was fruitless, and that the Comprehensive Translation stands, we’re not really better off. It’s the most wretchedly disheartening conclusion I’ve found in this analysis.
Clouds‘ is not what it says in scripture!

That is true, but at the same time, saying so is nonsense. It is what is meant by ‘water above the sky’, and translators have known it to mean ‘rainwater’ for as long as the text has existed. Below the sky is the sea, and above it, rainwater. Certainly I see this account as the explanation of how water could fall from the sky. If we would look at it from a planet-dweller’s perspective, it’s certainly wondrous that something could fall from the sky, when difference we see is just some gray clouds where there used to be clear sky. They would perhaps wonder, “The gray isn’t falling, and what is falling is vital to our plants and our own survival, so what could cause it; how does it work?”

‘Light’ is not light itself

We can’t know the above from the way it is written, but an omnipotent God can certainly create light itself, as he would create the matter for the water-earth. In this account, he certainly creates light and sees that it is good. This, to me, is not related to any previous creation of conditions for electromagnetic radiation in the visible spectrum being emitted by the processes in the stars. We are already told that he created the Sun; anyone who can create a body that emits light can surely create light itself. The important thing that the account conveys is that God created light in 1:3 to shine on the earth until the Sun was created and put in the sky, or else no vegetation could sprout on the third day.

In summary, then, it can be concluded that while settling on the ‘rule as in relative light intensity’ leaves us wanting for the reasons stated above, the Terse Comprehensive Creation Account, too, stands scrutiny.

What about the even bigger picture?

Arguments over the purpose of the account (such as imagining it was expressed through concept that 6th Century BC Man could understand, and we must only see it as an “approximate” creation account) is wholly unrelated to the understanding of the knowledge it can be said to convey,, for this reason:

Certainly, if you believe in God, you must believe that the Genesis account is knowledge of creation passed to Man from God, and not merely a poem scribes composed to praise God’s glory. If we’re told how God created the world and Man, and the account cites God and describes his acts of creation, what room is there for merely accepting it as a hymn; a Psalm? Poems and songs choose rhyme over reason every time, so no believer would want Genesis to be one such mere composition.

No, if you believe in God, you believe in him as the answer to “Why are we here?” — as an originator of the world, Man, and religious ideology — and Genesis is the answer to that first question. If someone else made the world, he’s the God you would believe in, and any omnipotent later God would be an impostor in your opinion.

Certainly, you wouldn’t consider a religion an alternative to science if it didn’t answer this very human and basic question, “Why are we here?”

Thus far, science gives answers that attempt to answer this question a very long way, but currently falls short of the very final one; how could the Universe come about?

As we have seen, this part of the Genesis account certainly doesn’t answer this, or indeed the Atheist’s favorite cheap shot question: “Well, who created God then?”

Genesis 1:1-1:19 tells us of the creation of light, the sky, plants, the Sun, and the Moon, and their purpose — but not where matter and light itself, or the stars, or the Earth came from. Is it important? I certainly would think it intriguing and awe-inspiring to know the answer, even though it can be argued we might not have a worldly or spiritual use for a ‘final answer’ to get along in this world. Ask yourself: must you know?

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In this part, we have summarized the acts of creation in Genesis 1:1-1:19 and seen that the summary holds up under scrutiny and agrees with what is believed to be the origins of the world of Man by the vast majority of believers.

The attempt to put it in terse, clear language did not cause any changes to the Comprehensive Translation.

In the next part, we put the summary in the background, as the big picture, while investigating whether the Comprehensive Translation accurately describes the world we live in. In other words, we are going from understanding what the account states about the origins of the world to determining whether those statements are accurate about the world.


Part 4: Reconciling the Analyzed Literal Translation

This is a continuation of Part 3: Attacking our own creation (Day 2-4)

(Here, too, the term AI is an abbreviation of Alternative Interpretation.)

We saw the advantages of literal translations made to be neutral. Without extraneous words, inferred meaning or externally predetermined assumptions (religious, common-sense, made to support new or existing theories, or otherwise), we really could read and understand the true meaning of the verses as written, with only minor changes to three verses.

Now that we have a precise wording free of contradictions, we have a solid foundation to build from. We will leave arguing about the meaning of words and individual verses behind, and talk about their implications on a macro level.

To do this, we must first remove any “glue” words that might influence the text, the big picture, or ourselves, and later, rebuild them into sentences that make sense. We will group the verses together into sentences that are the acts of God, and remove all the “glue” words, to form a “terse overview”:

Day 1
In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. The earth was unformed and empty, and darkness on the face of the deep. The movement of God-spirit above the face of the waters.
God said, “Be, Light”, and light! God saw the light, that good, and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day”, and the darkness called “night”.
The evening existed and the morning existed, one day.

Day 2
God said, “Expanse, the severance of the waters – and separate the waters from the waters!” God made the expanse, and separated the waters under the expanse from the waters above the expanse. God called the expanse “heaven”.

The evening existed and the morning existed, second day.

Day 3
God said, “The waters under the heaven, gather at one place, and dry show.” God called dry “earth”, and the gathering of the waters “seas”, and God saw good.

God said, “earth, yield grass/herb, sow seed, and fruit-tree making fruit of kind which seeds earth.” Earth brought forth grass/herb, sowing seed of kind, and the tree making fruit, seeds of kind, and God saw good.

The evening existed and the morning existed, third day.

Day 4
God said, “Lights the expanse the heaven, separate the day from the night and signs and seasons/appointed, and days and years. Lights the expanse of heaven, light earth.” God made two big lights, the big light to rule the day, and the small light to rule the night, the stars. God gave the expanse of the heaven to light the earth. To rule the day and the night and separate the light from the darkness, and God saw good.

And the evening existed and the morning existed, on four day.

This is a regress to ancient Hebrew, in a way. From this more exact but in places hard-to-read account, can we now write it out correctly in plain, unambiguous English in the light of the last analysis? That is, make it read well in English and still retain the meaning of the verses and the bigger picture from previous translations? Let’s try it:

Day 1
In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. The earth was unformed and empty, and darkness was on the face of the deep. The spirit of God moved above the face of the waters.
God said, “Light, exist!”, and light existed. God saw the light, and that it was good, and separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day”, and called the darkness “night”.
There was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Day 2
God said, “Expanse, exist! And be the severance of the waters, separate the waters from the waters!” God made the expanse, and separated the waters under the expanse from the waters above the expanse. God called the expanse “heaven”.

There was evening and there was morning, the second day.

Day 3
God said, “The waters under the heaven, gather at one place, and let dry land appear.” God called the dry land “earth”, and the gathering of the waters “seas”, and God saw that it was good.

God said, “Earth, produce grasses/herbs that sow seeds, and fruit-trees making fruits of their separate kinds that seed the earth.” Earth brought forth grasses/herbs sowing seed of its kinds, and the trees making fruit with seeds of its kind, and God saw that it was good.

There was evening and there was morning, the third day.

Day 4
God said, “Lights in the expanse of the heaven, be for separating the day from the night, and for telling signs and seasons/festivals, and days and years. Lights in the expanse of the heaven, light earth.” God made two big lights, the big light to rule the day, and the small light to rule the night and the stars. God put them in the expanse of the heaven to light the earth; to rule the day and the night and separate the light from the darkness, and God saw that it was good.

There was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

Now, we shall need to make this even more concrete, but we’ll take it in small steps and save that for later. This, again, was just a language adaptation. It was quite trouble-free, but, nevertheless, we must now analyze this.

On Day 1, there is of course this mysterious word, “deep”. But it works in a sentence, so I’ve kept it. We’ll have a look at this later.

On Day 4, I reflected on the insistence of the definite article of heaven. This points to “the heaven” not meaning “Heaven” where God reigns. I hadn’t dared decide this before, but it became apparent to me as I wrote it, and does lend point to the many original Hebrew translations using “the sky” instead. I now feel confident I can specify this word’s meaning as “the sky” in future versions and will do so.

Here also, the perplexing mere appendix (and ambiguously appended at that!), “the stars”, made me stop and think. After considering the alternatives, I became convinced that no, since the stars were never mentioned before, and are here mentioned without the “incantation-appearance-baptism” pattern as for the others, it must be decided they were not created in 1:16. Certainly, creation of the stars (and the planet Earth) is surely not beyond the powers of an omnipotent God, but it isn’t mentioned in or before the account of the forming of the dry land or creation of the sky in Genesis. (And also, while not within the scope of this article series, according to scholars Job tells us that God created, or at least placed, and also named every single star before the creation of planet Earth.)

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Now, can an argument be made that this filtering and sentence-forming corrupts the meaning of my previous translations? I’ve gone through it again and have found none, but if you spot something along the lines of, “This sentence can be said to not imply what your previous translations do”, please share your thoughts.

Speaking clearly

The acts of creation can be read well enough and their meaning perhaps gleaned fairly well, but they’re a bit too poetic and vague, or at least not concrete enough to make sure one knows exactly what is being created. It seems to me that an account passed by God to Man would not have been muddled and inexact.

In other words, we must presume absolutely that what the scribes wrote made perfect sense to themselves. Now, if perhaps the language lacked certain terms at the time of its writing, we might discover them. Nevertheless, the scribes would certainly have been able to explain what they meant by “the deep”, “the sky”, etc – in other words point to the things God created in the world of Man.

We are after a text that speaks clearly to us of God’s acts. And therefore, we must reconcile the text, yet again,  to the world of Man before continuing.

According to Strong’s Concordance regarding tehom, AIs of deep are abyss, sea. In this verse, God is above the face or surface of the waters; he of course cannot be “above the deep” language-wise, but above the surface certainly makes sense. Now: the deep is mentioned in the same verse, and at the very start of the verse, the water-earth is mentioned (and nothing else). Certainly, if earth was really an unformed, empty water-earth, it would make sense if that surface was that of the waters, and that the deep was the deep waters of the water-earth. Deep sea would be wrong, because seas have not yet been created, but it seems certain that deep can specify nothing but deep waters.

While I have no problem understanding face of the waters as the surface of the waters, is it correct? Again, we are succumbing to fitting in words where no others seem to fit. The Hebrew word certainly means face, both a human face and the face or outer bound of an object. Certainly, phrases like “something facing a certain way” (meaning an outer part of something turning towards something else), and “on the face” (meaning superficially) have survived through Greek and Latin to our modern languages to mean this. I would judge surface to be accurate — and with really no other contenders for this word.

In the light of the above, the earth in 1:2 should be specified, to tell the difference in meaning from the dry land which God will later form and name “earth”. Two options are: the water-earth (which seems confusing to many, I would think), and the Earth (which I think clearly establishes that this verse is instead about the unformed planet covered with water). Surely, the Earth reconciles the translation the most.

We have established that the big light is the Sun, and the small light is the Moon. But here, the specified terms for Sun and Moon are not used; they are written as the big and the small light to tell us about the two big lights in the sky. It mustn’t change, and it must be (and surely is) automatically understood by the reader.

Lastly, there are the two Hebrew words representing concepts that we have no collective word for today. While festivals has been used  in modern times for religious and pagan/traditional appointed times, it has ambiguous connotations. Replacing grasses/herbs with vegetation is surely to generic! I must leave them as is, or resort to the Hebrew terms and supply a footnote. If you can think of apt English words, please suggest them!

What remains to be reconciled? If we accept that God created light itself on the first day — nothing. It certainly seems very plausible that he did,  because it would be resorting to illusion to read verses 1:3-5 as anything other than, “God created light, lit the earth, saw that it was good, and called light “Light”.

Here, then, is my Comprehensive Translation:

Day 1
In the beginning, God created the sky and the earth. The Earth was unformed and empty, and darkness was on the surface of the deep waters. The spirit of God moved above the surface of the waters.
God said, “Light, exist!”, and light existed. God saw the light, and that it was good, and separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day”, and called the darkness “night”.
There was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Day 2
God said, “Expanse, exist! And be the severance of the waters, separate the waters from the waters!” God made the expanse, and separated the waters under the expanse from the waters above the expanse. God called the expanse “sky”.

There was evening and there was morning, the second day.

Day 3
God said, “The waters under the sky, gather at one place, and let dry land appear.” God called the dry land “earth”, and the gathering of the waters “seas”, and God saw that it was good.

God said, “Earth, produce grasses/herbs that sow seeds, and fruit-trees making fruits of their separate kinds that seed the earth.” Earth brought forth grasses/herbs sowing seed of its kinds, and the trees making fruit with seeds of its kind, and God saw that it was good.

There was evening and there was morning, the third day.

Day 4
God said, “Lights in the expanse of the sky, be for separating the day from the night, and for telling signs and seasons/festivals, and days and years. Lights in the expanse of the sky, light earth.” God made two big lights, the big light to rule the day, and the small light to rule the night and the stars. God put them in the expanse of the heaven to light the earth; to rule the day and the night and separate the light from the darkness, and God saw that it was good.

There was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

Can we go further to understand this better? I can see nothing that remains. I find this translation completely understandable. If you see an omission, please explain your findings.

In the next part, we will look at exactly what knowledge about our world’s origins can be said is passed from God to Man in this text.