John 8:31-32

Jesus said to the people who believed in him, You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Bible and Science

I have often heard the quote “the Bible is not a science book” when people are talking about observations of God’s creation (a.k.a. General Revelation). While this is technically true I guess, there are many verses and passages that do deal directly with the universe, our solar system, and our planet. I think they become even more intriguing when I remember the Bible was written between 2000 and 3500 years ago and little was known about the universe and earth at that time.

Here are a number of verses and their scientific explanations which were compiled by my dad. Thanks dad!

There Was a Beginning

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1
You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you. Nehemiah 9:6
By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. Psalm 33:6

Prior to 1900 there were no observations, data, or scientific theories that supported Genesis 1:1. Most people who had not read or believed the Bible thought that the universe had always existed and that Genesis 1, 2, and 3 were a myth similar to other ancient creation myths. By the early 1900s scientific data and theory from both astronomy observations and atomic physics resulted in a revolution in the understanding of the universe:

  1. Nature of atoms and atomic light spectra
  2. Spectra of stars and star classification
  3. Motion of galaxies away from each other (the red shift –the expanding universe)
  4. Measured constant velocity of light (independent of the motion of the sender or receiver)
  5. Special and general theory of relativity (required a beginning of the universe)
  6. Identifying techniques to measure distances to stars and galaxies
  7. Observing star explosions in galaxies other than the milky way (from the increase in brightness to the decrease in light emission)
  8. Measurement of the cosmic background radiation which agreed with predictions
  9. Etc.

Genesis 1:1 says that the universe had a beginning. Data from science clearly shows that the universe had a beginning.

Reaction from the Scientific Community

Many scientists were unhappy because a beginning to the universe means someone or something had to be the cause. Science has no way of studying before the beginning.

There has been a major effort for many years to develop other explanations of the data to avoid the fact that the universe had a beginning and a finite age. Numerous theories have been proposed including the static universe, steady state universe, and the oscillating universe. Scientific data has shown that all these theories are incorrect and they are no longer being pursued.

However, some scientists are still trying to develop new theories that would explain the origin of the universe without the need of a creator.

Reactions from the Christian Community

Many Christians and Christian theologians are very unhappy with the scientific data and general relativity and subsequent refinements of the theory.

The reason for the extreme negative reaction of the Christian community is that the scientific data supporting a beginning of the universe also arrives at an age of the universe much older than the Biblical chronology developed by Archbishop Ussher in the 17th century. He determined the date of creation to be October 3, 4004 B.C. by using the genealogies in Scripture.

There are Christian groups actively looking for evidence to develop alternate theories of astronomical data to prove the universe has a recent origin.

Things in Space

He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing. Job 26:7

“Hanging the earth over nothing” is an interesting concept. Many ancient societies had their own ideas of what held up the earth, for example the Iroquois said the earth rode on the back of a turtle1. Today we know there is no object that holds up the earth. Pictures of the earth taken from space show the earth hangs in empty space.

He marks out the horizon on the face of the waters for a boundary between light and darkness. Job 26:10
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. Isaiah 40:22

The Bible teaches that the earth is round (a circle) as viewed from high above the earth, that it is a sphere and not a flat disk as people believed for millennia. Consider this quote from Christopher Columbus’ diary “It was the Lord who put it into my mind – I could feel his hand upon me – the fact that it would be possible to sail from here to the Indies … All who heard of my project rejected it with laughter, ridiculing me … There is no question that the inspiration was from the Holy Spirit, because He comforted me with rays of marvelous illumination from the Holy Scriptures… For the execution of the journey to the Indies, I did not make use of intelligence, mathematics, or maps. It is simply the fulfillment of what Isaiah had prophesied.” It was Isaiah 40:22 that he was referring to. The people ridiculed him because they thought the world was flat and the ship would sail off the edge.2

Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God's dominion over the earth? Job 38:33
Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion? Job 38:31

The explanation of this verse is found in the ordinances (laws) of the heavens – the law of gravity. The Pleiades is an open group (cluster) of stars that are held together by gravitational forces and they move around the Milky Way galaxy as a unit. Also, the stars that make up the belt of the constellation of Orion are held together as a unit by the law of gravity. Another interesting note is that all other star groups visible to the naked eye are unbounded (not attached to any other star with gravity, with one possible exception of the Hyades). Job is the oldest book of the Bible. Very little was known about the nature of stars and which ones were bound or unbound. Were not all stars fixed?

Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs? Job 38:32
He did away with the pagan priests appointed by the kings of Judah to burn incense on the high places of the towns of Judah and on those around Jerusalem—those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and moon, to the constellations and to all the starry hosts. 2 Kings 23:5

The Hebrew scholars think the words mazzarôth and mazzalôt are related and most likely refer to the constellations in the zodiac. Today we know that the constellations are seen in their season because the earth revolves around the sun.

The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: "This is what the LORD says: 'If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night no longer come at their appointed time, then my covenant with David my servant—and my covenant with the Levites who are priests ministering before me—can be broken and David will no longer have a descendant to reign on his throne. I will make the descendants of David my servant and the Levites who minister before me as countless as the stars of the sky and as measureless as the sand on the seashore.' " Jeremiah 33:19-22
He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Psalm 147:4
"To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?" says the Holy One. Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. Isaiah 40:25-26

Before the invention of the telescope man tried to number the stars; Ptolemy gave the number as 1,056, Tycho Brahe cataloged 777 and Kepler counted 1,006. Since the invention of the telescope by Galileo in 1608, we now know that the number of stars is innumerable. Today, astronomers estimate that there are about 200 billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy. They also estimate that there are between 100 billion to 1 trillion galaxies in the Universe.3 So that would be pretty much “countless” if you ask me!

There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. I Corinthians 15:40-41

The belief in the first century was that all the stars were the same. Today we know that light from each star is different. The colors (spectrum) that make up the light from each star is different as well as which color is the most intense. The most intense color allows scientist to determine the temperature of the star.

Other Topics of Interest

What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside? Can you take them to their places? Do you know the paths to their dwellings? Job 38:19-20

Until the mid 18th century the nature of light was unknown; light was thought to be either fixed in place or it took no time to go from one place to another. Today we know that light is an electromagnetic wave; light is in motion and in free space its speed is 300,000,000 meters/sec or 186,000 miles/sec.

For He looks to the ends of the earth, And sees under the whole heavens, To establish a weight for the wind, And apportion the waters by measure. When He made a law for the rain, And a path for the thunderbolt, Job 28:24-26 NKJV

The understanding at the time was that the wind and the air was weightless. Now it is known that the air has weight. The barometric pressure at a location on earth is due to the weight of the air column above that location [14.7 lb/in2 or about 30 inches of mercury]. One cubic foot of air weighs 0.076 pounds or 1.21 ounces.

All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. Ecclesiastes 1:7
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, Isaiah 55:10
He draws up the drops of water, which distill as rain to the streams; the clouds pour down their moisture and abundant showers fall on mankind. Job 36:27-28

These verses describe the water cycle on Earth quite nicely.


The Bible has many verses filled with the fundamentals of science which are up to 3,000 years ahead of their time. In most cases the Bible’s statements contradicted the science or knowledge of that day. As modern science learns more, the accuracy of the Scriptures is substantiated. In fact this is a forceful demonstration that Scripture was divinely inspired.

When you think about all these verses and that scientific data from the last 200 or 300 years show them to be correct, we really have to be careful not to ignore data from science that contradicts a particular interpretation of Scripture. If there is a contradiction between what one thinks scientific data means and a particular interpretation of the Bible, then two things should be done. First the science data and the theory that explains the data have to be reviewed critically to see if it is correct or has errors. For example fossil data does not support the theory of macro-evolution so we do not take this theory seriously. In other situations the science data is correct and reproducible so one has to study the Scripture verses to develop the proper understanding of those verses as described in last post Hermeneutics and Exegesis.Because God is the author of Scripture and the creator of the universe we know that there must be harmony and consistent understanding between God’s two revelations.


  1. Iroquois Mythology
  2. Scientific Accuracy of the Bible
  3. How Many Stars?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Hermeneutics and Exegesis

This post is dedicated to my Wednesday night small group where we've been having many fun discussions about Bible interpretation and multi-syllabic words lately! So, for those of you who know who you are, the subtitle of this is post is Herman's Whose-Its and Extra Cheez-Its.

Let's start off with some plain old definitions:

  1. Critical explanation or interpretation of a text or portion of a text, esp. of the Bible.1
  2. The process of interpretation where you are trying to find the original meaning of the verse.2
  1. The theory and methodology of interpretation, especially of scriptural text.1
  2. The branch of theology that deals with the principles of Biblical exegesis.1
So what we're going to be talking about is how to interpret the Bible to learn the truths that God has for us! My goal is to make this easy to understand. If something is not clear, please ask questions!

Basics of Bible Interpretation3

  1. Scripture is to interpret Scripture
  2. Interpret Scripture according to its literal sense
    1. Use the rules of grammar, speech, syntax, and context
    2. Identify literary forms of the passage and style
      1. Historic narrative
      2. Teaching narrative
      3. Poetic style
      4. Hyperbole
      5. Personification
      6. Metaphor
      7. Parallelism
  3. Determine the original meaning of the text
    1. Investigate the historical background
    2. Apply knowledge of the setting and situation of the event or book
    3. Use grammar and syntax appropriate to the original language i.e. Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek
  4. Interpret the implicit (implied) by the explicit (fully and clearly expressed or demonstrated)
  5. Beware of the problem of phenomenological language (explaining miraculous or infinite things so we can try to understand them with our human and finite minds and experiences) in historical narrative – much of the language of Scripture
    1. The language that describes things as they appear to the naked eye – the external appearance as seen by humans
    2. An example of this would be “The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises.” Ecclesiastics 1:5.  Historicallyy this verse was interpreted to mean that the sun revolved around the earth.  There are more than 50 verses that use the phrases like “the sun rises” and “the going down of the sun”.  That is what it LOOKS like from our vantage point on earth and we use this language today, but we know that this is not a correct interpretation.  It was this specific topic that got Galileo into so much trouble with the church in the 1600s.5
  6. Carefully determine the meaning of words
    1. Word etymology – original meaning, roots, derivations
    2. Customary usage at the time of writing
    3. Words with multiple meanings – need the context
  7. Remember Scripture communicates to all peoples – the original audience and to people today
  8. Normally there is one interpretation and many applications
Here is a small example that uses Scripture to interpret Scripture, taken from

Bible Text
“Jotham was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. . . . He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father Uzziah had done, but unlike him he did not enter the temple of the LORD.” 2 Chronicles 27:1-2
Incorrect Interpretation

King Jotham was a good king, just like his father Uzziah had been, except for one thing: he didn’t go to the temple. Just because King Uzziah went to the temple every week didn’t mean that his son would continue the practice.4 We can then extrapolate that the author is implying a fault on the part of Jotham for not being as faithful as his father was.

Correct Interpretation

First, we must read complete the passage and, to fully understand the context, read the histories of both Uzziah and Jotham (2 Chronicles 26-27; 2 Kings 15:1-6, 32-38). In this observation, we discovers that King Uzziah was a good king who nevertheless disobeyed the Lord when he went to the temple and offered incense on the altar—something only a priest had the right to do (2 Chronicles 26:16-20). Uzziah’s pride and his contamination of the temple resulted in his having “leprosy until the day he died” (2 Chronicles 26:21).

Needing to know why Uzziah spent the rest of his life in isolation, the interpreter studies Leviticus 13:46 and does some research on leprosy. Then he compares the use of illness as a punishment in other passages, such as 2 Kings 5:27; 2 Chronicles 16:12; and 21:12-15.

By this time, we understand something important: when the passage says Jotham “did not enter the temple of the LORD,” it means he did not did not repeat his father’s mistake. Uzziah had proudly usurped the priest’s office; Jotham was more obedient.5

Now you may be noticing that it is more work to get a correct interpretation. A surface reading of an isolated verse or passage can be taken to mean just about anything a person could imagine about it. But, as we are seeking the Truth of the Scripture we should be willing to put in the effort to find the real intended meaning of the Word. Only then can we confidently apply it to our lives.

Since we will be looking at a number of Old Testament passages soon, we will also take a look at some important facts about Hebrew.

The Biblical Hebrew Language3

  • Ancient Biblical Hebrew had no vowels
  • Consists of 8,674 words including all proper nouns used in the Old Testament - compare to a Collegiate English Dictionary which will contain more than 200,000 words
  • Because of the limited number some Hebrew words have more than one literal meaning
  • The word meaning must be obtained from the context.  
  • If there is no consistent way of determining the meaning from the immediate context then other parts of Scripture or even external sources need to be studied.

Examples of Hebrew Words3

Heaven [shamayim] has two broad categories of meaning:
  1. The abode of God
  2. The physical heavens which has two categories
    1. The atmosphere above the earth
    2. The location of the sun, moon, and stars
Heaven [shamayim] Used in Scripture
Look down from Your holy habitation, from heaven [shamayim], and bless Your people Israel and the land which You have given us, just as You swore to our fathers, “a land flowing with milk and honey”. Deuteronomy 26:15
And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven [shamayim]; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; Genesis 26:4
For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven [shamayim], And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower, And bread to the eater, Isaiah 55:10
Then the Angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time out of heaven [shamayim] , and said: "By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son – blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven [shamayim] and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. Genesis 22:15-17
So Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, "If I am a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven [shamayim] and consume you and your fifty men." And fire came down from heaven [shamayim] and consumed him and his fifty. 2 Kings 1:10
(Note:  sometimes it is very difficult to know what is the correct meaning)

Another example:
[‘erets] translated earth or land has six different meanings:
  1. All the land, water and the supporting foundation which is planet earth
  2. Soil
  3. The territory or land possessed by an individual, family, tribe, or nation
  4. The territories of all peoples and nations
  5. A city state
  6. The underworld or the grave
For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth [‘erets], And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower, And bread to the eater, Isaiah 55:10
Since the day that I brought My people out of the land [‘erets] of Egypt, I have chosen no city from any tribe of Israel in which to build a house, that My name might be there, nor did I choose any man to be a ruler over My people Israel. 2 Chronicles 6:5
Moreover You gave them kingdoms and nations, And divided them into districts. So they took possession of the land [‘erets] of Sihon, The land [‘erets] of the king of Heshbon, And the land [‘erets] of Og king of Bashan. Nehemiah 9:22
And the earth [‘erets] brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:12
that all the peoples of the earth [‘erets] may know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever." Joshua 4:24
You, who have shown me great and severe troubles, Shall revive me again, And bring me up again from the depths of the earth [‘erets]. Psalms 71:20
I hope this discussion has given you some new things to consider when you read the Bible. We will be applying them in detail as we start looking at some specific Old Testament passages. As always, please feel free to comment.


  3. Excerpted by Tom from “Knowing Scripture” by R.C. Sproul
  4. Galileo Galilei

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Two Revelations

God has chosen to reveal Himself to me (and you too)! Isn't that just really COOL? There are two main ways He does this, one is through His creation and the other is through His Word. These two types of revelations are often referred to as His "General Revelation" - Creation, and His "Special Revelation" - the Bible. This sounds pretty neat, but what does it really mean? Here is a discussion of each type of revelation:

General Revelation

General Revelation is called "general" because it is available to everyone and is enough to leave every person without an excuse regarding the existence of God. Theologian Louis Berkhof defined it this way: "General revelation is rooted in creation, is addressed to man as man, and more particularly to human reason, and finds its purpose [when we realize that God is the creator], to know God and thus enjoy communion with Him."1 I think this is very encouraging on a personal level - to remember that the reason God created everything was to have fellowship and communion with us.

Here are some verses that express these same truths.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. Psalm 19: 1-4a
Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy. Acts 14:17
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Romans 1:18-20
All of these verses seem to be saying that God wants us to observe what He has made to learn more about Him. I also think it is a desire that God has put into us to want to study and learn more about the world around us. It is fascinating, humbling, and FUN!

Special Revelation

Special Revelation is generally considered to be the Bible, although a more broad definition might be "a disclosure of God's truth through means other than through man's reason."2 This would include, either now or in the past, "physical appearances of God, dreams, visions, the written Word of God, and most importantly—Jesus Christ."3

Here are some Scriptures that express this truth.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. Hebrews 1:1-2
For you Truth Project fans, Del Tacket has a nice discussion of these definitions as well. He calls special revelation "Primary Truth" and general revelation "Secondary Truth." He makes the important point that God's Word must be the bottom line for Truth. The special revelation helps us understand what we observe in the general revelation. He reminds us of The Law of Non-contradiction which states that if two things are true they cannot contradict each other. If there is an apparent contradiction we must make sure we have interpreted Primary Truth correctly, we must make sure we have understood Secondary Truth correctly, and we must realize that any observation in Secondary Truth has to be consistent with Primary Truth.

To see this discussion go here: The Truth Project : Class Question: General Revelation

As we journey in search of Truth we will be exploring both of these revelations, seeking to understand each correctly. Only then can we know God to the fullest!


  1. Report of the Creation Study Committee - Section III #9
  2. Special revelation
  3. What is general revelation and special revelation?
  4. Louis Berkhof
  5. General revelation