Some Miscellaneous Points
(Investigator 95, 2004 March)
In this article I will
answer some objections
to biological statements in the Bible that I haven't previously
Quotes from Scott Bidstrup and Louis W Cable are from their websites.
BATS AND FOWL
Scott Bidstrup writes on his Internet website:
In a similar passage in Deuteronomy 14:11-20 the word is "psippor" in verse 11 and "oph" in 19-20. (Wigram p. 1079) Neither word completely corresponds to the English "bird" or "fowl".
"Tsippor" is used of birds and bats. "Oph" also refers to birds and bats. However, when "Oph" is qualified by the word "creeping things" (Hebrew = "sheretz"; Wigram p. 1327) it refers to insects.
If we translate "oph" and "tsippor" as "flying creatures" or "winged creatures" the skeptic's complaint is answered since both birds and bats are winged creatures!
The misunderstanding began when the translators of the King James Bible, in the 17th century, translated "oph" as "fowl" in Leviticus 11:13, 20.
Furthermore, in the Bible
the last item in
any list is often put last because it differs from the previous items.
The seventh day of creation differed from the first six days in being a
day of "rest". Several lists of the twelve apostles have Judas Iscariot
last. Judas differed in being the only traitor. The Old Testament
put the bat last in its lists of "birds" (or "winged creatures") to
that the bat differed from other "birds".
Skeptics G W Foote and W P Ball say, "Fabulous animals are treated as really existent." (The Bible Handbook For Freethinkers and Inquiring Christians, 1921, Pioneer Press, pp 73-74)
Unicorns (Job 39:9-11)
Cockatrices – a serpent hatched from the egg of a cock. (Isaiah 11:7-8)
Dragons (Isaiah 34:13; Psalm 91:13)
Satyrs (Isaiah 13:21)
Fiery serpents (Deuteronomy 8:15)
mythical, animals are mentioned
in the Bible because 17th-century translators of the King
Bible lacked knowledge of wildlife in the Middle East. The translators
could not work out what some Hebrew words meant and so they resorted to
mythology. For example, the Hebrew word reem, translated
was the wild ox.
The hyrax is phylogenetically (i.e. by its evolutionary origin) related to elephants – and elephants have hoofs. Hence biologists sometimes speak of the Hyrax's "hoofs" – but they're theoretical hoofs and don't look like hoofs.
The camel, hyrax and hare
"divide not the
hoof" because they do not have hoofs!
Leviticus 11:21 These may
ye eat of every
flying creeping thing that goeth upon all four, which have legs above
feet, to leap upon the earth.
Here we have another absurd reference to four-legged animals that fly.
Leviticus 11:22-23 These
ye may eat; the
locust...and the beetle...and the grasshopper. But all other flying
things, which have four feet, shall be an abomination unto you.
There is no such thing as a 4-legged insect.
Similarly G W Foot and W P Ball (1921) included "four footed beetles" (Leviticus 11:20-23) in their list of "Bible absurdities".
Firstly, the word "fowl" is in the King James Bible. Leviticus 11:20 says "All fowls that creep, going upon all four…" Modern versions often translate the Hebrew "oph" as "insects".
Even better, as suggested above, would be "winged creatures". However, in Leviticus 11:20 the "winged creatures" are qualified by the Hebrew "sheretz" meaning creeping things. Hence the reference is to winged creatures that creep i.e. insects.
Today we refer to an insect's six appendages as "legs". The ancient Israelites had a different convention. They distinguished the front four appendages from the two rear appendages. The front four they called "feet", the two to the rear they called "legs". This distinction probably came about because some insects such as grasshoppers leap – the two rear appendages are "leaper legs".
"Go on all fours" refers to what the front four feet i.e. front four legs do – they walk. What the rear legs do, whether they contribute to walking or are used for leaping, is excluded from the meaning of "go on all fours".
Some skeptics make fun of the phrase "legs above the feet". However, the leaper legs are longer than the front four legs. When the insect is resting on the ground, part of the leaper legs are higher than the "feet" i.e. higher than the front four legs. In that sense the legs are "above the feet".
There is no profound
biological point in
all of this – just a case of semantics.
Bidstrup writes on the Internet:
Cable similarly asks, "How could something that is dead bring forth anything?"
The original cells of the
seed die as the
seed grows into a plant with fruit. It's often said that all living
in the human body are replaced every few years. The original cells,
divided and multiplied to form a human baby, die and are replaced.
in plants. The original cells of seeds die as cell-multiplication
and the plant grows, and at some stage the original seed is dead.
SERPENTS AND DEADLY THINGS
Many Christians have come
to regret ever
having taken this verse seriously. However, the supreme irony here is
the last twelve verses of Mark (16:9-20) are a recognized forgery.
Some critics query Psalm 58 regarding the snail:
WOMAN TO PILLAR OF SALT
Probably we're dealing here with a metaphor:
King David wrote, "I am a worm and not a man." Here "worm" is a metaphor to denote David's low status at the time. Similarly, I overheard one person say to another, "You made a pig of yourself tonight." This did not mean that the person changed into another species but referred to some behavior of his – perhaps he ate his food in a sloppy manner.
Metaphors are not taken literally. Instead we would ask, "In what sense?" or "How?" For example, "In what sense was he a pig?" and "How did the ship spread its wings?"
The Bible uses metaphors in hundreds of verses. With Lot's wife we would ask, "In what sense did she become a pillar of salt?" A probable answer is that she lagged behind and was hit and covered by flying or falling debris and so resembled rocky/salty boulders and pillars in the area.