Friday, 12 April 2013

A Quickie For Bible Literalists

I'm in a bit of a quandary! There's something about the Bible I just don't understand. I'm sure a Bible literalist who believes everything in the Bible is the absolute truth because it was written by an inerrant, omniscient god can explain it to me.

You see, according to Genesis, God killed every living thing outside of Noah's Ark after telling Noah to put a male and female of every species in the Ark and then setting it afloat in a flood for a year or so.

And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.
Genesis 6:19-20

A little later on, when the flood has subsided, God told Noah to disembark with all the surviving animals onto an Earth from which all living things have been removed.

And God spake unto Noah, saying, Go forth of the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons' wives with thee. Bring forth with thee every living thing that is with thee, of all flesh, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth; that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth.

And Noah went forth, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives with him: Every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl, and whatsoever creepeth upon the earth, after their kinds, went forth out of the ark.
Genesis 8:15-19

Okay so far? So, if we go along with this, we know the only things alive on Earth at that point were the humans and the animals which had survived the flood by being in the Ark with Noah. That all seems perfectly straightforward, if a little extreme, and notwithstanding all the technical difficulties.

Noah was disappointed that no-one turned up for his barbecue.
Where I start to get a little bit confused is with what happened next:

And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.

Genesis 8:20-21

No, although it is a puzzle why an omniscience inerrant god would regret doing something and promise not to do it again, that's not what baffles me here. Nor is it the time needed for Noah and his family to catch and kill all the animals needed for the sacrifice.

What baffles me is, if Noah burned one of each of every 'clean' beast - and the Bible is quite emphatic and unambiguous on that matter, leaving no room for doubt - how did the remaining one breed and why are there still 'clean' animals when Noah effectively extinguished those species as a burned offering to God, making a great deal of the effort he put into saving them in the first place, a complete waste of time and effort?

Any thoughts?

[Update 13 April 2013]
As several people have pointed out, Genesis 7:2-3 talks of seven of each clean beast, which would leave some over for sacrificing. However, Genesis 6 is quite specific that it was two of each clean and unclean and that they be paired male and female. Hence, to use the Genesis 7 defence a Bible literalist would need to implicitly accept that the Bible is at best inconsistent and ambiguous and at worst contradictory, unreliable and thus useless as a source - which is of course true.

So, is any is Bible literalist prepared to use that defence and so argue that the Bible is not the literal word of of an inerrant, omniscient god? Please feel free to use the comment section below if so.

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  1. You've been skim reading! Chapter 7:2 "Take with you seven of every kind of clean animal." Simples :)

    1. LOL! I wondered who would be first with that one.

      Unfortunately, to use that defence you have to subscribe to the view that the Bible is inconsistent and contradictory, since, in the first version, it unambiguously says, "And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive."

      So, is the Bible literally true, being the inerrant word of an omniscient god, or is is inconsistent, ambiguous and contradictory, and thus unreliable as a source? You can't have it both ways.

    2. Came here to say this. Thanks.

    3. I don't think this is a strong one because the verses in 7 can be looked at as separate instructions. I think there's some very good examples in Exodus that are more clearly contradictory and show more precisely how the bible is no more than mythical storytelling than history. God ends up killing the livestock a bunch of times. Funny stuff.

    4. For a Bible literalist who believes the Bible is the inerrant word of an omniscient god, that defence is not available, since it involves an implied acceptance that the Bible is inconsistent, ambiguous and contradictory since Genesis 6:19-20 speaks of only two, one male and one female of each 'kind', not seven.

      And the blog is addressed specifically to Bible literalists.

  2. I wondered about that, too, and have had some colorful Twitter "convos" with Creationists (and some less-zealous wingnuts) about Genesis and all the inconsistencies. According to some translations, Genesis calls for 7 of each 'kind' of 'clean' animal and only 2 of the 'unclean.' This solves the sacrifice problem but leaves the How did the animals and plants get to Noah problem, the what about the saltwater creatures vs fresh water creatures (flood had to be one or the other or maybe even brackish and kill everything)problem, how did Noah make room on the ark for all animals and greenhouses problem, who cleaned up after the animals (only 8 workers and 2 of them were over 600 yrs old!) problem, how did 3 sons/wives populate the earth without massive genetic inbreeding problems problem, etc, etc, etc,..... No one seems to be able to answer THESE problems satisfactorily. Their usual line: "But God can do anything."

    1. Unfortunately, that argument has to accept that the Bible is inconsistent, ambiguous and contradictory. See my reply to Robert Crompton above.

  3. This one's quite simple. There were 7 pairs of the clean beasts, and 2 of the unclean.

    1. Whether you believe the story or not it's very clear from the "whole" narrative, that 14 of every clean type went on and 4 of every unclean type. It could not be clearer. It says little for your comprehension that you read 7 pair of every clean kind and wrote 1 pair, surely you didn't try to selectively quote a single passage thinking people wouldn't look up the thing in context!
      Oh you did.

    2. I wonder why the Bible's authors were unaware of that. Who ever wrote it very clearly stated that two of each sort were on the Ark. You can read that in Genesis 6:19-20. I quote that in the blog even, so I'm surprised you missed it.

  4. While the story itself is at best a story it is at least in terms of the "clean" animals and the sacrifice internally consistent,
    Gen 7:2 Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female.
    So he had either seven or fourteen of each of the "clean" animals, so enough to spare one of each for a barbecue.

  5. Anyone who believes that Noah took 2 or 7 of EVERY creature onto a boat, and that the entire earth was then flooded, is gullible, credulous and irrational. Or maybe mad.


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