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The Beginning of the Bible
2008/03/03 05:44
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     Some person has no interest in Christianity because several years ago he or she read the beginning of the Bible and didn’t believe it. Since then, he or she has not believed in or even given himself or herself a chance to read the rest of the Bible.
     Maybe he or she will find that Christianity is true and that the God who gave the Bible will do something bad to him or her after his or her death because of his or her unbelief. Nevertheless, he or she has a chance to plead for himself or herself. God will ask him or her, “Why don’t you believe me and the Bible? Will you say anything about that?” The answer is, “I read several chapters of Genesis and considered that they are impossible things. I paid no attention to Christianity all my lifetime because of those first few chapters in Genesis. It’s your fault that you lied to me in the book you wrote, so I am not responsible for my unbelief.”
     Maybe God will answer, “On your own words, they are impossible things. However, I am the one who put them there. Those chapters are Hebrew mythology, and I use them to symbolize what really happened. Of course, I know every detail about how the world came into existence and the early story of human beings, but I chose to write the Bible in this way. You are still responsible for your unbelief.”
     The making of the Bible suggests a possibility that the stories in the beginning of the Bible are Hebrew mythology and merely some kind of symbolization. According to the tradition, Moses wrote Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, the first five books of the Bible. He was educated in the palace of Egypt, so he was able to accomplish this feat. The last four of those five are stories about what happened during Moses’ lifetime; thus, they are firsthand accounts. However, one-fourth of Genesis is about the events in the distant past, and three-fourths of Genesis is about the stories happening four hundred years before Moses. It is very likely that he wrote Genesis by rearranging some preliminary works and incorporating them with what he had heard since his childhood. That’s why these stories look like legend or mythology. Besides, many accounts written at that time are in this form. All nations around the world had mythological stories during those days. Homer wrote Iliad and Odyssey several hundred years after the time when Moses wrote Genesis.
     The Bible uses eleven chapters to talk about what happened from the beginning of the universe to the dawn of human civilization. These chapters make up 1 percent of Bible. This small portion should not be a clear explanation of how everything began. It suggests that perhaps God doesn’t want to make a clear explanation of these things in the Bible. The scientific explanations of the history of the universe and life on earth are expected to be discovered by people with our talents endowed by God.
     People who keep saying that Christianity is unscientific always use the first 1 percent of the Bible to support this idea. This 1 percent of the Bible really looks mythological. However, they should feel tired of doing so after a certain point. Although the other 99 percent has many miraculous events, too, these events were supposed to happen in solid historical settings, and no scientific law can give a proof showing that they couldn’t happen.
     The viewpoint here is called theistic evolution, proposed by some Christians. This book takes such an approach on this issue because personally I accept it. Besides, this viewpoint fits the big picture of this book.
     I have some questions about the beginning of the Bible, too. In Genesis, “Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah. Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play the harp and flute. Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron.” How could a person create an area of knowledge during the days when there were supposedly only hundreds of people on earth? After then, a flood wiped out all human beings except Noah and his family — his wife, three sons, and three daughters-in-law. Did the eight members of Noah’s family learn those technologies and deliver them to their descendants so we should still recognize Jabal, Zillah, and Tubal-Cain as great founders of human civilization, or did some other people after Noah reinvent all things again? However, we know there are similar stories in the mythologies of other races. For example, in Chinese mythology, a long, long time ago, a person taught people how to use fire, a person taught people how to build houses, a person taught people how to fish and to tend to the animals, and a person taught people how to distinguish between edible or poisonous plants and taught them agriculture.
     The flood itself is also a questionable event to me. A flood covering the earth simply contradicts our knowledge about the global system. The water needed for covering the highest mountains on earth is absolutely far more than all water we have. Where did this water come from and where did this water go? Strangely enough, besides the Bible, folklores of many races around the world, including South America, Africa, North Europe, China, India, etc., contain similar accounts. Maybe these similar stories originated from the memory of a big disaster of our common ancestors. But if there really was a flood covering parts or all of the continents, the delicate ecosystem of our world would be terribly damaged, and there would be some traces left behind. However, we don’t have enough geologic evidence about a global flood as we do about the meteorite impact that eliminated the dinosaurs. I heard some people say that it was the flood that killed all of the dinosaurs. This statement is not helpful to turn the heart of an atheistic biology major to Jesus Christ.
     As Christians, if the beginning of the Bible is merely mythology, maybe we should not care too much about it. We should pay more attention to the other 99 percent of the Bible. Besides, 75 percent of the Bible is called the Old Testament, which is about the history of Israel, and 25 percent of the Bible is called the New Testament, which is about the life and teachings of Jesus. The New Testament seems more important to us. However, this issue should not be simply treated in this way. The first 1 percent of the Bible is very significant in some sense. It contains essential Christian philosophy.
     According to the Bible, it’s God who chose the Hebrews for the salvation of the entire world. If our suggestion above is true, God also did an amazing work in that he put very important messages in the mythological stories of the Hebrews. We will see that they contain many metaphors and they are distinctive among all ancient legends. It is unlikely that elders of the Hebrews created such stories simply by themselves. These stories have affected people all over the world for thousands of years.
     The following are some important philosophical implications of the first several chapters of Genesis:
     1. There is only one God. Unlike mythologies of almost all the other tribes, the stories in the Bible mention only one God.  The Hebrews are the source of monotheism in the world.
     2. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” God created everything in the universe. No matter by what methods God created them, God is the final reason for why our world exists. The whole universe is God’s masterpiece and not a single atom in the world is not because of God.
     3. “God created man in his own image.” We can regard this verse at an abstract level. God is an existence having his own will. We human beings are also beings having free will. God has wisdom, and we are able to think. God is powerful, and we possess some abilities to manage the physical world. God takes moral concerns seriously, and more or less we have consciences.
     4. God let people rule over the earth. Human beings are the noblest among the creatures. Christianity respects the dignity of human beings. We are the most important creatures in the world because God gave us such an honor. Each human life is so precious because it possesses the image of God. All other animals and plants are not so important.
     5. Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and were driven out of the Garden of Eden. This story implies the most important Christian philosophy regarding good and evil. Originally everything God created was good. However, God gave people free will, and with that free will, people chose to disobey God. The world was perfect and God saw it was good, but sin entered the world, defiled everything, and brought forth death. This philosophy can be applied to almost everything to explain why pain, sorrows, diseases, troubles, deceits, and violence exist in our world if there is a good God in charge of it. It makes a sharp difference from some other dualistic philosophies regarding good and evil.
     6. All human beings are descendants of Adam and Eve. This implies that all human beings are one family. It is a truth that can also be verified by our biological knowledge. Although we are of many different races, people of any two races can have healthy and productive children. In biology all human beings belong to the same species. All men are created equal.
     7. After the fall, God said to Eve, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children,” and to Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.” Our society is depicted in these words. Family and work are elementary activities in everyone’s life. The world is corrupted because of our rebellious acts, but God still set the issues of family and work for us. Christianity regards them highly.
     If we want to give a detailed explanation of the history of the universe and life on earth, we need a modern astronomy textbook and a modern biology textbook that are as thick as the Bible. The portion of the Bible regarding these issues suggests that these writings are unlikely to be literally true. However, it does not mean that God lied and put something not literally true in the Bible. God never lies. Perhaps it is exactly what God wants to give parabolic stories in the beginning of the Bible and use them to illustrate the central ideas of Christianity. It’s God intention to tell the truth in this way. God gave us some clues to discover it by putting in them many statements that contradict our scientific common sense and making them similar to mythologies all over the world.
     There are many problems in paleontology for which we don’t have scientifically satisfactory answers. All life organisms on earth are extremely complex. The key of life on earth is the DNA sequence. A cell reads its DNA sequence in order to carry out appropriate chemical reactions for supporting its life and finishing its missions, just as a modern computer reads programs to compute desired results. A cell is far more complex than any modern computer system. All biological literature combined can’t clearly explain how it works at the dawn of the twenty-first century. How the first cell formed automatically is a mystery that no one can explain. Some scientists imitated the assumed conditions of the early earth and successfully synthesized amino acids in a laboratory. They claimed that they proved that life can emerge naturally. This statement is as unreasonable as saying that the discovery of pure silicon in some special conditions in nature implies that computers are natural products.
     However, I tend to believe that even the first life on earth was generated by chance, without any supernatural interference. (It is a commonly adopted assumption of mainstream science.) God designed suitable natural laws and created the universe. Since the big bang, everything has followed these laws if God didn’t specifically intervene. Not a single event, during billions of years of the history of the universe, has contradicted our scientific knowledge. The sum of mass and energy in the universe that spans billions of light years has been the same for billions of years. There is a tiny chance that some complex system may emerge during certain extremely good conditions according to the rules set by God. Because there are an exceedingly great number of stars and planets in this universe, self-replicable chemical machines happened. After many consecutive lucky events, they changed into systems using DNA to control chemical reactions. After billions of years, their offspring became a gorgeous and fantastic living world mainly because of the principle of natural selection. Almost everything in the whole universe follows the laws which are instituted by God, including the process of how our body was built out of elements of the periodic table. God didn’t have to interfere with this process or use some miracle to create various species, because he already knew that living things would rise and evolve in the kind of universe he created. He already computed all events in this universe beforehand, and nothing would be out of his control. He began to interfere with the physical world by giving a special kind of animal, Homo sapiens, souls so that they can be aware of their existence and have free will. He also supernaturally sent Jesus Christ to earth and supernaturally resurrected him after death. These happenings were real miracles that violated natural laws. The suggestion that all life forms came into existence naturally makes the miracles of Jesus more special, precious, and significant. The central doctrine of Christianity is that God will absolve those who believe these miracles.
     From the above, we suggest that the beginning of the Bible, the first eleven chapters of Genesis, is a symbol of things happening in the distant past. If this proposal is correct, we can see an amazing correspondence of the beginning and the ending of the Bible. The beginning gives a metaphorical story of how the world began, and the ending gives a metaphorical story of how the world will end.
     Maybe I will be able to face God after my death at the end of the world, and I will have a chance to ask a question, “You are the holy God, and what you say should be true. Why did you tell us through the Bible that you created the world in six days, but the world is full of evidence supporting that life on earth has evolved over billions of years and we human beings are one of the species which are the products of natural selection? What will happen for those people who don’t want to read the Bible again simply because they read the very beginning of the Bible and don’t believe that and all of the rest?”
     Perhaps God will answer, “All words of the Bible are absolutely literally accurate. I created the world in six days, let human beings live hundreds of years a long time ago, and sent a flood that destroyed all the world except Noah and his family. Sometime after that, I relocated all human beings to another planet and I placed a lot of fossils on the new world, so it looks like the evolution of species happened before. None of them are hard for me, and I finished those re-creation and relocation events in less than one second. Nobody felt a thing at that moment. For those who don’t believe the Bible, let them keep doing so.” Then I will say, “Praise the Lord. You are the almighty and wonderful God. You are the true God. The words you gave us are absolutely right.”
     Perhaps God will answer differently. He might say, “The theories proposed by scientists for explaining the formation of the universe and the history of life on earth are generally correct. I created the world in this way, but I used metaphorical descriptions in the Bible for these things. I chose this method because it is the best way to tell people about prehistoric events.” Then I will say, “Praise the Lord. You are the almighty and wonderful God. You are the true God. Your plan is amazing and your wisdom is beyond our perception. The words you gave us are absolutely perfect and adorable.”
      What will you ask at that time if you find out that God is real, but you have ignored him and his words all of your life? How will God answer you? Maybe God will tell you, “You are responsible for your unbelief, although the beginning of the Bible looks untrue to you. I don’t take that into account. Besides, I warned you not to ignore my words simply because of a portion of Genesis by letting you read Science, World, and Faith and some other books.”

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