Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Bible Science: Paleontology

The opening verses of Genesis detail the creation of the universe, the earth, life, and man. Most importantly, the bible gives us some specifics as to the creatures that God created.

Hmmm, let's see. We have some lions, sheep, wolves, bears, cattle, dogs, insects, rodents, and even a few reptiles. Something seems missing . . .

How about the god damn dinosaurs! If they were all created at the same time, then why is there no mention of them at all in the Bible? Oh wait, here's why: there's no way that the Hebrews who wrote the book in the first place could have known about the dinosaurs, seeing as they lived millions of years before the first ape-like creatures had even contemplated existence.

But, surely the apologists have answers for me. Surely there must be some word that "could" have been interpreted as meaning "dinosaur". Well, it just so happens that they gave me a couple.

First off is the behemoth. The behemoth is first described in the Book of Job as being a huge, lumbering creature that "moves his tail like a cedar". It is also described as "first among the works of God" and impossible to capture, a possible reference to its size.

Most creationists believe that the behemoth was a sauropod, something like the Brachiosaurus. The fact that the tail moves like a cedar tree is believed to be a reference to a large tail, which negates the possibility that it was something like a hippopotamus, rhinoceros, or elephant.

In reality, the phrase "moves his tail like a cedar" most likely means one of two things:

1) A guy named Michael Bright, who is a senior producer with the BBC's natural history Unit and author of the book Beasts of the Field: The Revealing Natural History of Animals in the Bible, postulated that the writers of the Bible are not referring to the tail itself, but rather the hair on the tails of creatures like the hippo, rhino, or elephant. Like the leaves on a cedar tree, the hair on these animals is coarse and prickly.

2) The cedar tree simile may have actually been a euphemism for the animals penis. The phrase, with the euphemism substituted, may have read something like "his penis stiffens like a cedar". The cedar tree simile may have just been used to refer to the virility of something like a bull.

The behemoth is also described in Job 40 as having a naval. That would have made it a mammal, not a reptile.

The other is the leviathan, which is described as a water dwelling creature with characteristics similar to that of the "sea serpent" or the "dragon". The Hebrew word tanniyn is also used many times instead of leviathan, and they are assumed to be close to the same creature. Many creationists say that word tanniyn refers to the dinosaurs, as when it is translated into English it becomes "dragon", "serpent", or "sea monster". The Old Testament mentions the tanniyn about thirty times, and it says they lived on both land and sea.

Here's the problem with this one. The leviathan appears in the Ugaritic texts, which are very important for Old Testament scholars and their studies. The Ugaritic texts describe the leviathan as a twisting serpent with . . . seven heads. It's clearly not a dinosaur. It is meant to personify the waters of primeval chaos. Waters, if you've read Genesis, are very important symbols in the story of the creation. The earth was made by the separation of the waters; one went above the heavens, while the other stayed on the ground and became the oceans. You see, it's a metaphor. The rousing of the leviathan in Job 3:8 (remember the leviathan personifies the waters of primeval chaos) is meant to imply an undoing of the creation day.

Fantastic creatures like these, especially the leviathan and the behemoth, exist in the MYTHOLOGIES of most cultures not only in the mediterranean, but in the entire world. Unicorns, satyrs, dragons, cyclopes, harpies, centaurs, and a million other kinds of mythological animals exist in the stories of every other ancient culture. Why wouldn't the Hebrews have done the same?

The simple answer is that they would have. Of course the Hebrews meant it to be myth, seeing as there isn't any extra-biblical evidence for the existence of these creatures. What about the fact that dinosaurs specifically do not appear in any other mythology? It's such an odd thing to overlook, no matter how primitive you are.

We know now, thanks to advanced dating and fossil identification methods, that dinosaurs could not have lived during our short human existence. There is no way the Hebrews could have known about them.

Science 2, Bible 0.

No comments:

Post a Comment