Science and the Bible
Below are some typical questions from those trying to reconcile science
to the Bible.
How Can We Reconcile Science to the Bible?
Does the Bible Imply That the Earth is Flat?
Ezekiel 7:2 and Revelation 7:1 reference "the four corners of the
earth." Similarly, Isaiah 11:12 references "the four quarters
of the earth." The Oxford English Dictionary defines "corner"
to mean "An extremity or end of the earth; a region, quarter; a
direction or quarter from which the wind blows." The word
"corner" comes from a Latin root "cornu," meaning "horn," as seen in
words such as "cornet," "corn," and "cornucopia." So, the
four corners of the earth can be interpreted as referring to the four
cardinal directions--north, south, east and west. In
addition, the "four corners of the earth" can also be interpreted as
four "horns" of the earth. One obvious example of such a
"horn" is Cape Horn, the southernmost tip of South America.
So the usage of the phrase "four corners of the earth" does not
necessarily signify a flat, rectangular earth.
Also, in general, one must be aware of the poetic language and
symbolism often used in the Bible, especially in the poetic books like
Psalm, and the prophetic books like Revelation.
Incidentally, to me, one of the stronger verses arguing for a flat
earth is Job 38:13, which says, "that it might take the earth by the
edges." My only explanation here is the use of poetic
language. i.e., A circular view of the earth from heaven
cannot be argued here, since a circle has no edges.
On the other hand, there are many verses in the Bible that do indeed
agree with what we know about science, so far. In fact, these
even make the words of the Bible more powerful, when we realize that
the Biblical writers stated scientific truths thousands of years before
astronomy, geology, or archeology confirmed them. Please
consider the following:
- The Bible does, in fact, teach the concept of a round or spherical
earth. Isaiah 40:22 says, "He sits enthroned above the circle
of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He
stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a
tent to live in." The fact that this verse speaks of the
"circle of the earth" can mean one of three things: 1) The earth is not
a flat square but a flat circle. If that is true then what of the four
corners of the earth? A flat circle has no corners. 2) The earth is
shaped in a way that is spherical but has a square cross-section
somewhere, at the equator, for example. 3) The earth is spherical in
shape. This last option is further strengthened by observing
the reference to the inhabitants as grasshoppers, implying a
perspective from on high, particularly, the outermost heaven.
This verse serves only to strengthen my faith, as it reveals God's
omniscience, in His knowledge that the earth was round, a fact that was
not discovered by man for thousands of years.
- Proverbs 8:27 says, "When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when
he set a compass upon the face of the depth..." The word
"compass" can mean a circular enclosure or a spherical envelope. Since
the verse speaks of an extended area, the spherical enclosure for
"compass" is a better interpretation than a circular enclosure.
- Luke 17:31-36 says, "In that day_, he which shall be upon the house
top, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away:
and he that is in the field, let him likewise not turn back .... I tell
you, in that night_ there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be
taken, and the other shall be left.... Two men shall be in the field;
the one shall be taken, and the other left." In regard to the
shape of the earth, these verses speak of day (verse 31) and night
(verse 34) as occurring simultaneously. The activities are
listed in the context of that global event, the rapture, which Paul
describes as occurring in the "twinkling of an eye" (I Corinthians
15:52). The simplest explanation for this simultaneous daylight and
night is that the earth is spherical in shape.
- Acts 1:8 says, "Jesus gives His commission to His disciples to be
witnesses "unto the uttermost part_ of the earth." Note here
that the word "part" is singular. A flat earth with four
corners would be indicated by the plural "uttermost parts."
However, a spherical earth would have only one uttermost part, its
opposite side. So, the Bible does not necessarily teach that the earth is flat.
What are The Ends of the Earth?
Psalm 135:7, Job 37:3, and Daniel 4:11 reference "the ends of the earth."
The above dictionary definition also explains the "ends of the
earth." Another way of saying the "ends of the earth" is to
refer to the "extremities of the earth." In this case, as is
also the case for the four corners of the earth, the word "earth"
refers to the land mass, country, or continents, as opposed to the
globe (Exodus 10:12-15). Since the word "earth" can be used
as synonymous with "land," the "ends of the earth" thus refer to the
points of land most distant from some central point. For the
Bible, this central point is the land of Israel. On a globe,
a great circle passing through Jerusalem and the north and south poles
very nearly cuts the Pacific Ocean in half and leaves four continental
"corners" or "ends," namely the Chukchi Peninsula of the Soviet Union
(opposite the Bering Straits of Alaska), Alaska, the southeastern tip
of Australia, and Cape Horn of South America. These four
geographical locations can account for the four corners of the
earth. Alternatively, since there was probably a land-link
between Siberia and Alaska at the time the Bible was written, the four
corners of the earth could be Norway, Newfoundland, Cape Horn and the
Cape of Good Hope.
Can the Whole Earth Be Viewed From a Mountain Top?
Mt 4:8 says, "Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and
showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor."
This passage implies neither a flat earth nor a mountain large enough
to oversee the earth. Even on a flat earth, a high mountain
would be a very poor place to observe the kingdoms of the world "in
their glory." Furthermore, if Matthew was implying that a
mountain existed from which all the world was visible, then obviously,
the mountain would be visible from all parts of the world. It is
invalid to suggest that Matthew believed that such a mountain
existed. Incidentally, the mountain in question was probably
Mt. Quarantania, and it commands an incredible view of the Jordan
Valley, which may be used in this passage to symbolize "all the kingdoms of the world."
What are The Foundations of the Earth?
Psalm 18:15 and Psalm 104:4 reference "the foundations of the earth."
Many verses state that God laid the foundations of the earth, but each
verse adds a little to that simple fact. Psalm 102:25 tells
us that God laid the foundations "of old," and Hebrews 1:10 echoes the
thought that God laid the foundations of the earth "in the
beginning." Job 38:4 simply states that God laid the
foundations of the earth, but Job 38:6 indicates that the foundations
are themselves fastened upon something else. Hebrews 1:3
names this "something else" as the Lord Jesus Christ who "upholds all
things by the word of his power." Proverbs 8:29 tells us that
the earth's foundations were appointed. Proverbs 3:19
indicates that the earth was founded by wisdom while Jeremiah 31:37
indicates that the foundations are not searchable. Micah 6:2
tells us that they are strong; so strong that the earth should never be
removed (Psalm 104:5).
So, the foundations themselves are fastened upon Christ, the sustainer
of the universe. Also, these foundations are located
somewhere under the earth, and they are not searchable (Jeremiah
31:37). Science would certainly agree that these foundations
are not searchable.
Whenever there is an earthquake, shock waves are propagated throughout
the interior of the earth. But there is one area which the
waves fail to penetrate. That area is the earth's core, the
very central part or "foundation" of the earth. Until
recently seismologists assumed that the center of the earth was
composed of molten iron. Scientists now believe that the core
may be rocky. No one knows for certain. Man's
concept of the outer layers of the earth's crust has significantly
changed in recent years. How much more so will his ideas of
the earth's interior change in the future?
Does the Bible Imply That the Earth is Circular?
Isaiah 40:22 says that God "sits enthroned above the circle of the
earth..." If you or I were sitting above the earth and
looking down upon it, it certainly would appear to be circular, just as
astronauts have viewed it from space. i.e., From afar, a
three-dimensional sphere has a two-dimensional circular appearance
until one gets close enough to have some depth perception.
So, "circular" does not deny "spherical."
Genesis 1:18 says that God made the sun and the moon "to govern the day
and the night, and to separate light from darkness." I see no
contradiction of this passage with what science now knows.
Job 1:7 says that Satan was "roaming throughout the earth, going back
and forth on it.” Again, I see nothing here that
contradicts science. Certainly, I can walk "back and forth"
in my office, but this suggests no implication as to the shape of the earth.
Is the Sky a Solid Vault?
Job 37:18 speaks of God "spreading out the skies, hard as a mirror of
cast bronze." Incidentally, Genesis 1:17 also refers to "the vault of the sky."
A vault can be defined as an arched structure forming a ceiling or roof
over a wholly or partially enclosed construction. I believe
that this is an apt description of the sky forming an arch above the earth.
Concerning being "hard as a mirror," this passage reminds me of my
first job as a software engineer, and my training in celestial
mechanics. I helped program the onboard computers for the
first Space Shuttle mission in 1981. My programs included
flight control during all three phases of the mission: ascent
(liftoff), orbit, and descent (re-entry). The re-entry into
the atmosphere comes to mind here. When re-entering the
atmosphere from space, the attitude and acceleration of the Shuttle
must be precise; otherwise, the Shuttle could literally "bounce" off
the atmosphere (or it could burn up). In this respect, this
barrier between our atmosphere and space could indeed be described as
being "hard as a mirror." Perhaps the Bible was speaking of
truths not discovered by science for another 4,000 years or so.
Also, by definition, the sky is indeed a vault. Genesis 1:8
says, "God called the vault 'sky.'"
Can the Sky Be Achieved?
Genesis 11:4-6 says, "Then they said, 'Come, let us build ourselves a
city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a
name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the
whole earth.' But the LORD came down to see the city and the
tower the people were building. The LORD said, 'If as one
people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then
nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.'"
I'm not sure what your question is with this verse, but I'll attempt an
answer. What the people said here is of no
consequence. Their vain and failed attempt to build a tower
that reached to the heavens doesn't matter. The only
universal truth we can discern from this passage is what God
said. God did not really address whether or not the sky can
be achieved. Technically, what God said was that as long as
all people spoke the same language, then nothing they do will be
impossible for them. As a result, in verses 7 through 9, he
confused their language and scattered them according to their various
languages. So, today, the "nothing will be impossible" clause
does not apply to us, because we are no longer united by a common
language. (Alejandro, this seems to be an apt illustration
here, just as you and I do not speak the same language.)
However, the Bible is clear that only God is omnipotent, and man, in
his sinful nature, is quite helpless in many respects. So, it
has never been "possible" for man to do anything and everything, even
before his language was confused.
However, yes, in terms of airplanes and space travel, the sky can be "achieved," with limitations.
Are There Waters Above the Sky?
Genesis 7:11 says that in the time of the flood, "... the floodgates of the heavens were opened."
2 Corinthians 12:2 speaks of the "third heaven." This implies
that there are three heavens, and these appear to be: 1) The
first heaven; the atmosphere of the earth, including the air
immediately above out heads; 2) Beyond that, the second heaven, outer
space; 3) Beyond that, the first heaven, where God abides.
Genesis 7:11 can is easily explained in that the "heavens" there refer
to the "first heaven," the atmosphere including clouds and weather patterns from which we receive our rains.
Psalm 148:4 refers to the "waters" above the skies. Psalm
104:2-3 says that God "stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters."
I cannot explain this, other than to say that perhaps there are indeed
waters above the sky, perhaps even in the third heaven. Certainly science has not disproved this.
Are There Waters Beyond the Abyss?
Exodus 20:4 says, “You shall not make for yourself an image
in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in
the waters below." This could easily be explained by seas and
oceans; i.e., waters below the "surface" of the earth. Again,
science cannot prove that waters do not exist even further within the earth's interior.
Psalm 136:6 says that God "spread out the earth upon the
waters..." Psalm 24:2 says that God founded the earth "on the seas and established it on the waters."
It would appear that this is explained by Genesis 1:2, "Now the earth
was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and
the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." Apparently,
during His act of creation, God first created the waters.
Then later, he created the "land" ("earth") and the sky.
Verses 6-7 say, "And God said, 'Let there be a vault between the waters
to separate water from water.' So God made the vault and
separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so."
Does the Bible Defy the Natural Law of Gravity?
According to the Bible, the orbits of the earth and moon can be stopped
(Joshua 10: 12-13). This seems to completely ignore the
Copernican Revolution (1543), Kepler's Laws (1609), the observations
that the Earth moves by Galileo (1632), and the Law of Universal Gravitation Newton (1687).
You have asked about a very interesting event in Joshua 10:12-13 when
the sun and the moon stopped their orbits. This was a miracle. Please allow me to explain.
God is more powerful than the laws of nature. In fact, He
created all of the laws of the universe. As the creator, His
creation belongs to Him, and he can do with it as He pleases.
On a limited number of occasions, He has chosen to intervene in our
world by performing miracles; i.e., overruling the laws of
nature. Please consider the following miracles in addition to the one you have already cited:
- 2 Chronicles 20:11 records a miracle where God reversed the orbit of
the earth around the sun when he made the sundial back up ten steps.
- In 2 Kings 6:6, Elisha made an iron axhead float on water.
- Jesus performed many miracles, such as restoring sight to the blind
and restoring speech to the mute (Matthew 12:22), and calming a raging
sea (Matthew 8:26), which had to disrupt the current weather patterns
at the time.
We must understand that God performs miracles for a specific purpose
that He has in mind--not simply for the amusement of us who cannot
similarly deny the laws of nature. When God stopped the
orbits of the sun and the moon, this was done in order to prove that
God was fighting for Israel (Joshua 10:14). When He made the
sundial back up ten steps, this was done in order to prove that Isaiah
was a true prophet, speaking with the authority of God.
Similarly, when the axhead floated, this proved that Elisha was a true
prophet from God. Obviously, the miracles that Jesus
performed proved that He is the Messiah, the very Son of God.
Now, it would be a very weak argument for a skeptic to point to these
miracles in trying to prove that the Bible contains errors.
On the other hand, for believers, these miracles serve to increase our
faith--not to plant doubts in our minds.
In fact, miracles could be another answer for some of the other
questions that you have asked: i.e., the process of photosynthesis
before the sun was created; the violation of the laws of thermodynamics, etc.
Does the Bible Contradict Photosynthesis, Newton, and Snell?
According to Genesis, Yahweh created the 1st light (Gen 1, 3),
plants the day 3 (Gen 1.11 to 13), the sun, moon and stars on day 4
(Gen 1 14-19), and the rainbow as a sign of covenant with
Noah after the Flood (Genesis 9, 9-17). Does this not
contradict the law of Snell (1621), the decomposition of light (Newton, 1671) and Photosynthesis?.
You asked about a possible contradiction where God created plants on
the third day, but he didn't create the sun (required for
photosynthesis) until the fourth day. We are not given the
answer to this in the Bible, but I see a variety of possibilities:
- The Bible says that God created light on the first day, although He
didn't create the sun until the fourth day. However, it
doesn't explain what this light was on the first day. Perhaps
it was simply the light of Jesus Christ illuminating the universe, or
perhaps it was yet another source of light. Whatever it was,
maybe it served (perhaps temporarily) in place of the sun in the photosynthesis process.
- Maybe we can view the Bible’s first reference to light as
being a general reference, while the following verses give a more
detailed explanation of the source of the light (the sun). In
other words, perhaps the sun was actually created on the first day, but it is not named as the sun until the fourth day.
- The requirement of sunlight in the photosynthesis process is based
upon how science currently understands this process. Perhaps
the problem is our lack of understanding, and someday science will
discover the (possibly simple) answer to this question. For
example, perhaps there are, in fact, other alternative sources of
energy (in place of sunlight) for the photosynthesis process, but our
knowledge of science is still too limited to understand this.
- There is much debate on the use of the word "day" in Genesis
1. Some Bible scholars believe that it was a 24-hour day as
we know it today, but others believe it was a longer amount of
time. Perhaps this was simply a 24-hour day, so the plants
were created only 24 hours before the sun was created, and the plants
(and the entire ecosystem) were able to survive temporarily for those
24 hours without the photosynthesis process as we know it today
(especially in a perfect ecosystem). In this scenario, maybe
for a short time period: photoautotrophs survived without
creating their own food; they were not using carbon dioxide, converting
it into organic compounds such as sugars; they were not releasing
oxygen for aerobic life; and, there was some other source of energy for nearly all life on earth.
- Expanding upon the above theory, perhaps the plants were initially
created as seedlings, even buried underground, and able to do without
the photosynthesis process for those 24 hours before they emerged from the ground.
You also asked about possible contradictions between the Biblical
account and the law of Snell and the decomposition of light
(Newton). In particular, you asked about the rainbow as a
sign of the covenant with Noah after the flood. However, the
flood occurred some 1,600 years after creation. Because of
this, I do not see a possible contradiction similar to that with the
process of photosynthesis (where the order of creation within the first
six days was a factor). Also, we cannot definitively say when
and how the properties of light were create; i.e., decomposition, reflection, refraction, etc.
Does the Bible Violate the 1st and 2nd Laws of Thermodynamics?
Is the sudden creation of the Stars, Plants, Animals, the Man from the
dust of the earth (Genesis 2:7, Ecclesiastes 12:7) and the woman from
the rib of it (Genesis 2:21), violate the 1st and 2nd Law of Thermodynamics?.
I don't think that we can answer your question with certainty; i.e.,
whether or not the biblical account of creation violates the first and
second laws of thermodynamics. In simplistic terms, these
laws of thermodynamics state that the total amount of energy and matter
in the universe is constant, so matter cannot be created or destroyed,
which would seemingly conflict with the biblical account of creation
(the creation of matter). However, I can offer some
suggestions that might reconcile this aspect of biblical truth with science.
- It could be that the current laws of the universe were not always in
effect. Before creation, perhaps other laws were in
effect. Then the universe was created, along with a constant
amount of energy and matter, as well as even the laws of
thermodynamics. In this respect, yes, creation would have
indeed violated the laws of thermodynamics because these laws did not
exist at the time.
- It could be that the (man-made) laws of thermodynamics are simply
incorrect. In this respect, yes, creation would have indeed
violated the laws of thermodynamics because these laws are
- The second law of thermodynamics implies that both energy and matter
in the universe are becoming less useful as time goes on, and that
perfect order in the Universe occurred the instant after the Big Bang
when energy and matter and all of the forces of the Universe were
unified. Perhaps God used the Big Bang in His creation, and
(in agreement with the Biblical account) the world was in a perfect
state when Adam and Eve were created in the Garden of Eden.
Furthermore, it was sin
that put in place the degradation that we now see. In this respect, creation does not violate the laws of thermodynamics.
Does 1 Kings 7:23 Make an Error in the Calculation of Pi?
1 Kings 7:23 says, "He made the Sea of cast metal, circular in shape,
measuring ten cubits from rim to rim and five cubits high. It took a line of thirty cubits to measure around it."
The key to finding the answer to this question is the phrase, "and five
cubits high." The object being described is a cylinder--not a
circle. Think of it as a three-dimensional object, like a
drinking glass--not just a two-dimensional object like a circle drawn
on a piece of paper. The diameter of the mouth of this
"drinking glass" is ten cubits, but the drinking glass is five cubits
tall. So, to measure around the outside of it, we would add
ten (across the top), five cubits (down one side), ten cubits (across
the bottom), and five cubits (up the other side), for a total of thirty cubits.
Does the Bible indicate that the rabbit chews the cud?
Leviticus 11:6 The rabbit, though it chews the cud, does not have a divided hoof; it is unclean for you.
I cannot be very definitive in answering this question.
Perhaps the "hare" in this verse was an animal that is now extinct but was
alive at the time of Moses. Also, it appears that Aristotle
commented on a similar animal that did chew the cud, namely a
"coagulum" or "runnet" in its stomach, "...all that have many bellies
have what is called a coagulum or runnet, and of them that have but one
belly, the hare. So, perhaps although this is now extinct, it was also still alive at the time of Aristotle.
Does the Bible Refer to the Bat as a Bird?
Leviticus 11:13 “‘These are the birds you are to
regard as unclean and not eat because they are unclean: the eagle, the vulture,
the black vulture ... 19 the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe and the bat.
I can be quite definitive on this question, as well as the one below,
because they both have to do with the translation from Hebrew to
English. The Hebrew word for "birds" in the text is
"oph". Better translations would be "flying creatures" or "winged creatures."
Does the Bible Say That Insects Have Four Legs?
Leviticus 11:20 “‘All flying insects that walk on all fours
are to be regarded as unclean by you. 21 There are, however, some
flying insects that walk on all fours that you may eat: those that have
jointed legs for hopping on the ground. 22 Of these you may eat any
kind of locust, katydid, cricket or grasshopper. 23 But all other
flying insects that have four legs you are to regard as unclean.
The Hebrew word in the text is "sherets." Better translations
would be "swarmers," or "swarming things," "creeping things," or
"teeming things." This cannot necessarily be expected to
match up exactly with what modern science calls "insects." In fact,
perhaps the miscommunication comes from errors in the way that modern
science has classified the animals, not in the Scriptures.
Also, consider Gill on this subject: "most creeping things
that fly have six feet, as the locusts themselves, reckoning their leaping
legs into the number; though it may be observed, that those creatures
that have six feet have but four equal ones, on which they walk or
creep; and the two foremost, which are longer, are as hands to them to
wipe their eyes with, and protect them from anything that may fall into
them and hurt them; they not being able to see clearly because of the
hardness of their eyes, as Aristotle observes, and particularly it may
be remarked of the fly, as it is by Lucian, that though it has six feet
it only goes on four, using the other two foremost as hands; and
therefore you may see it walking on four feet, with something eatable
in its hands, lifting them up on high, just after the manner of men."
What scientific model explains the transformation from the dust of the earth into
cells, tissues, organs, apparatuses and systems of a whole man?
Genesis 2:7 says, "Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground
and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being."
I know of no scientific model that explains the transformation of dust
into a human being. I also know of no scientific model that
explains many of the other wonders of creation. It has taken
thousands of years for archaeology, geology, and astronomy to even
observe these wonders, and sometimes man has constructed a theory for
their origin, and sometimes it hasn't. While God is
omniscient, science is still in its infancy, but man is learning more and more each
day. Perhaps one day science will discover the answer behind
the transformation of dust into a human, but perhaps such things will
remain hidden until eternity.
Why Does God Allow Congenital Diseases?
If we believe that the (Ps 139:13-16) is true, then why do we have
inherited diseases? The issue is omnipotence and omniscience
of Jehovah. If he knows that a person and / or animal will be born with a congenital disease, why not stop him if he can do so?
Psalm 139:13-16 says, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me
together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am
fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that
full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made
in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the
earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."
Sickness and disease are a result of sin.
Instead of obeying God, and living forever without toil, struggle, sickness, and death,
Adam chose to disobey God. When he sinned in the Garden of
Eden, he brought death upon himself, and all mankind (Genesis 2:17, Genesis
3). He would now be subject to toil and struggle, aging, sickness, and death (Genesis 3:17-19).
God is indeed omnipotent, and he is just. If He had decided to
let man die in his sin,
with no hope of redemption, justice would have been served, as there would have been no payment for man's
sins. However, He put into place a plan of grace by which man can be redeemed
through the blood of Christ on the cross (John 3:16). Believers
will indeed live forever with God in eternity. However,
meanwhile, we still have to finish this life in a sinful world, subject
to sickness and disease.
How Could a Donkey Speak?
The speaking donkey was a miracle, and there are three such instances
in the Bible where an animal spoke. In Genesis 3:1, a serpent
spoke; in Numbers 22:28-30, a donkey spoke; and, in Revelation 8:13, an
eagle spoke. As in the case of all miracle, each one was for
Did the Serpent Previously Stand Upright?
In Genesis 3:14, the fall into sin reached well beyond the man and
woman. Man was appointed to rule over God's creation, and the
animals suffered along with man through the Edenic Curse (Jeremiah
12:4, Romans 8:20). Before the curse, the serpent had
apparently been capable of standing upright. However, the serpent was
cursed above all other animals. As a result of man's sin, the
serpent would be cursed to crawl upon his belly forever.
However, it is also possible that the language of this verse is
symbolic, and it merely indicates the humiliation of the serpent, once
exalted as the most subtle animal, to a position in which it was
reduced to slithering through the grass.
I think you would be interested in my article on possible discrepancies
in the Bible at: http://www.christiandataresources.com/discrepancies.htm .
How Did the Ecosystem Survive in the Garden of Eden?
Question: The Bible describes both man and animals being created
as vegetarians (Gen. 1:29-30), and there was no death or suffering in
the original creation. How an ecosystem can survive with only herbivores? Wouldn't plants have had to die? How
did animals that were "created herbivores" became carnivores with the entry of sin into the world?
This is a difficult question, and I do not think that the Bible provides definitive answers, but I'll offer my viewpoint.
We do not know how an ecosystem could survive with only herbivores. However, I believe that "no death" did not apply
to all living things. It did not apply to plants, as they provided the nourishment for the herbivores. So, if herbivores at
plants, the plants certainly died. "No death" applied only to creatures with a soul, and perhaps only to man. I do believe that all
animals were herbivores at the time; i.e., there were no carnivores. I also believe that many animals became carnivores
after the fall, such as the lion. An alternative view on this is that man may not have needed to eat at all. Genesis 2:16
indicates that man was allowed to eat, but perhaps he did not have to eat. I cite this as being the case with Jesus in His
glorified body in Luke 24:42.
How Does Sin Apply to Animals?
Question: Are carnivores (such as lions) more sinful than
herbivores (such as sheep), according to Scriptures such as Genesis 3:17-21, Romans 5:12, and 1 Corinthians 15:21-22)?
We cannot apply the Scriptures you cited to animals. These
Scriptures apply only to man. The concept of sin does not
apply to the other animals; i.e., a lion is not committing sin by killing and eating its prey.
How Can We Reconcile the Striped Sheep in Genesis 30:37-39 with Mendelian Genetics
and Molecular Genetics?
To me, this is one of the most mysterious stories in the Bible. I
have studied this passage frequently, but I have never been able to
explain it. I can only make a few comments:
- The technique of using the fresh-cut branches may have just been an
ancient custom, hoping that the power of imagination would somehow
influence breeding and genetic characteristics. It may have
had nothing to do with the outcome. Laws of genetics would have
been operable in Jacob's improvement processes whether he was aware of them
or not. Perhaps the branches should be discounted as a
contributing factor. Certainly the markings on the goats and
sheep were genetically influenced via dominant and recessive traits, etc.
- There are indications in the narrative that Jacob knew the science of
selective breeding. Perhaps the peeled branches were just a
clever trick to hide Jacob's breeding secrets from others.
- This might have been a miracle, especially in light of Genesis 31:12.
How Can We Have Faith in God and the Bible When We Have So Many Questions About
Reconciling Science to the Bible?
In the first 37 chapters of Job, Job asked many questions. In
chapters 38 through 41, God answers Job's questions with questions. For example:
Job 38:2 Who is this that obscures my plans with words without
knowledge? 3 Brace yourself like a man; I will question you,
and you shall answer me. 4 Where were you when I laid the
earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you
understand. 5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a
measuring line across it? 6 On what were its footings set, or
who laid its cornerstone— 7 while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy? 8 Who shut up the sea behind
doors when it burst forth from the womb, 9 when I made the clouds its
garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, 10 when I fixed limits for it
and set its doors and bars in place, 11 when I said, "‘This
far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves
halt?" 12 Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place?
He goes on like this for five chapters, then we finally see Job's reply
in chapter 42: 1 Then Job replied to the LORD: 2
“I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be
thwarted. 3 You asked, "Who is this that obscures my plans
without knowledge?"’ Surely I spoke of things I did not
understand, things too wonderful for me to know. 4 You said,
"Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall
answer me." 5 My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have
seen you. 6 Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and
In other words, God's thoughts are far above man's thoughts.
Consequently, there are many things that man cannot understand,
although we continue to learn more through scientific study.
So, God was telling Job that even if He answered Job's questions, Job
wouldn't be able to comprehend. God was saying, "OK, I'll be
glad to answer your questions, but first, in order to qualify yourself as
one who will be able to understand the answers, let me ask you some
questions. Then, after you answer My questions, I will answer
yours." Then Job had to admit, "Surely I spoke of things I
did not understand, things too wonderful for me to
know... Therefore, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes."
This makes perfect sense to me because I realize that there are so many
things that I do not understand. These things strengthen my
faith, rather than weakening it, because they remind me of how big God
is, and how small I am. My lack of knowledge actual brings me
comfort rather than anxiety, knowing that God is taking care of the
things that I cannot even comprehend.
Owen Weber 2012