26 November 2013

Science and the Book of Genesis Part 2

Lesson Two: Scripture is a Product of a Particular Point of View

Lesson 2: scripture is a product of a particular point of view. Nibley illustrates this idea:
The Latter-day Saints, [like other Bible readers,] are constantly converting statements of limited application to universal or at least sweeping generalities. To illustrate, I was told as a child that the Rocky Mountains, the Appalachians, and the Andes all came into existence overnight during the great upheavals of nature that took place at the time of the Crucifixion — an absurdity that plays into the hands of critics of the Book of Mormon. But what we find in the 3 Nephi account when we read it carefully is a few sober, factual, eyewitness reports describing an earthquake of 8-plus on the Richter scale in a very limited area. Things that appear unlikely, impossible, or paradoxical from one point of view often make perfectly good sense from another.

The Nautical Almanac gives the exact time of sunrise and sunset for every time of the year, yet astronauts know that the sun neither rises nor sets except from a particular point of view, the time of the event being strictly dependent on the exact location. From that point of view and that only, it is strictly correct and scientific to say that the sun does rise and set. Just so, the apparently strange and extravagant phenomena described in the scriptures are often correct descriptions of what would have appeared to a person in a particular situation...

So with Noah in the Ark. From where he was, “the whole earth” was covered with water as far as he could see … But what were conditions in other parts of the world? If Noah knew that, he would not have sent forth messenger birds to explore.
But doesn’t Genesis 7:19 say that “the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered”? Explaining his understanding of this verse, Walter Bradley observes:
The Hebrew word eretz used in Genesis 7:19 is usually translated “earth” or “world” but does not generally refer to the entire planet. Depending on the context, it is often translated “country” or “land” to make this clear … [For example,i]n Genesis 12:1, Abram was told to leave his eretz. He was obviously not told to leave the planet but rather to leave his country… [Another] comparison to obtain a proper interpretation of Genesis 7:19 involves Deuteronomy 2:25, which talks about all the nations “under the heavens” being fearful of the Israelites. Obviously, all nations “under the heavens” was not intended to mean all on planet Earth.
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