Ah, Those Were the Days, those Genesis Days!
October 12, 2006
It’s getting so a guy hates to admit he believes in creation.
Not because the position is untenable. On the contrary, it’s very easy to ten.
Wait a minute....is that really a word?
It's because when I identify myself, people assign to me all sorts of baggage that the fundamentalists believe…..but that Jehovah’s Witnesses sensibly reject. The seven literal days of creation, for example. The Bible does not insist on literal days. Days can be unspecific, just as a geezer will speak of events back “in his day.”
That’s why I was happy with the September 2006 Awake! special issue, special because the entire was devoted to the one subject.
Jehovah’s Witnesses do believe in creation, the magazine points out on its first page. But they are not creationists. That term belongs to the fundamentalists and it implies ideas which we do not hold.
Literal rendering of the 7 days, for instance, when science has produced solid evidence that millions, even billions, of years may be involved. Creationists also bring with them a slew of doctrines, such as hellfire (which, they insist, will be your lot if you don't come around to their viewpoint), that are not taught in the Bible. And they are usually to be found twisting arms of judges, politicians, and educators…trying to get them to adopt measures to force others to believe as they do.
Our only unbendable condition is that humans appeared about 6000 years ago. Other life forms may be considerably older - earth itself, gazillions, or whatever scientists say. We have no issue with that. The figurative use of "days" allows for it.
The 6K years stems from the Bible's internal chronology, which starts with Adam. Who begat whom, and who lived how long, and a few instances of so many years from this event to that one. It is complicated enough that many have made errors in calculation. Isaac Newton calculated 2060 to be the last year! Someday I will research how he figured that. Does anyone know? Post a comment if you do.
The Genesis account puts creation of the animals before Adam, thus before the chronology just referred to. Animal creation takes place within the context of the creative "days," time periods of indeterminate length. That is why Jehovah's Witnesses have no issue with any claims about how old animal fossils are. They may be correct, they may be incorrect....but it doesn't conflict either way with the Bible's record.
As for creation of the earth itself, that occurs even before the creative days. Gen 1:1 states "in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." After that statement, not before, the account tells of the creative days. So when it comes to age of the earth and universe, we have no conflict. Let em say millions, billions, trillions, gazillions. Maybe. It's outside of our realm.
Tom Irregardless and Me No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash
After Adam's creation, there was a seventh 'day' of indeterminate length. We can't assume they were all the same length, of course, since the 'days' in this case might just refer to stages in the creation. So the firt 'day' might have been a billion years, the seventh just a couple of weeks. Or it might have been another batch of millions of years.
Now, since Adam was created pefect, we might reasonably assume he was originally immortal. Expulsion from Eden made him mortal, although he lived for some 930 years.
My interpretation might be different from yours, but I see that 930 years of Adam's life as his mortal lifespan, ie how long he lived after he was expelled from Eden. There's no way to determine how long he lived within Eden, it could have been a week, it could have been a million years. Perhaps the dinosaurs, and other things, came and went while Adam was safely tucked away in the Garden. Perhaps there's a reason they were wiped out with an asteroid before humans appeared.
If they were all dead and gone before Adam emerged from Eden then there would be no reason to suppose they would be recorded. Adam never saw any.
So, this 6000 year calculation might refer to the point at which Adam was expelled from Eden, not the point at which he was created.
Now, Gen 3:16 says that God told Eve she would bring forth children in sorrow (King James version) but there is no record that either she or Adam were surprised at the concept of children. Surely they must have wondered at this idea, that they could create a new life between them? It is an amazing gift after all, considering they've done something so bad they're about to be thrown into the street (although it's worth mentioning that God did give them clothes before he booted them out. He wasn't as furious as he seemed to be).
There is nothing to suggest that they might have produced children before their expulsion, but then there is nothing to state that they didn't.
Suppose for a moment they did. Suppose those children, for reasons not recorded, left the Garden and became mortal. Suppose they started to populate the Earth. This is long after the dinosaur extinction, naturally, so no human ever saw a live one which is why there are no records of them.
Now, going back to the 6000 years. If the calculation applies to Adam's expulsion from Eden, not to his creation, then the possibility exists that Adam and Eve's children appeared on Earth, outside Eden, before Adam was expelled. Possibly a long time before. Why are their stories not recorded?
Well, perhaps because they are not the central issue of the story. The story tells of Adam, the first man, and how he messed up. Including his wayward progeny would just complicate things by adding unnecessary detail.
Perhaps it was simply that Adam and Eve were direct creations of God, and their children were mere copies. The writer chose to write about the principal characters, and leave out the 'extras'. I can't say, it's all just an idea.
These extra people would go a long way to explaining a few anomalies: where Cain's wife came from, and why Enoch built a city when the population of the Earth should have been less than ten people.
This does not say that the 6000-year calculation is wrong. Applied to the expulson of Adam from Eden it might well be accurate.
However, it does raise the possibility of humans outside Eden prior to this 6000-year limit, and therefore reconciles those records of human remains older than 6000 years with the account of creation.
One side-effect of this is that you can have seven literal days for creation, and still have Adam expelled 6000 years ago and have dinosaurs, animal evolution etc all together. The indeterminate time is Adam's time in Eden, and that can be as long as anyone cares to believe. Immortals don't measure time.
You might well want to burn me for heresy, but before you light the fire I'd be interested to hear what you think. Maybe someone else has already come up with this, and there's already a reason why it can't work. If so, I'd be interested to hear about it.
Posted by: Romulus Crowe | October 13, 2006 at 03:41 PM
Here's a link to an essay on Newton's prediction:
It might or might not be definitive, but it does give an idea of the man's thought processes in working this out.
Posted by: Romulus Crowe | October 14, 2006 at 02:06 AM
The above comment represents some original thinking from a not unfriendly source. The thoughts are not that of the Watchtower organization. They are not mine. The writer is decidedly not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and never has been.
I don’t intend to open up posts to argument and debate. That’s my choice in structuring this blog. However, these comments don’t fit in that category. The writer is neither (in my opinion) contentious, full of himself, or dogmatic. His goal is well intentioned: he is attempting to reconcile Genesis and science, without denying either one. He is trying to reconcile a difference of a few thousand, not millions, of years in the origin of humans.
The comment seems to me similar in approach to how the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses seeks to resolve discrepancies. That’s not to say his conclusions are the same….only his goal, and his approach.
We have learned that scientists are as fallible as any other branch of humanity, so that we don’t feel we have to salivate on cue every time they claim they have found something that does not harmonize with the Bible. Sometimes they amend their findings. Sometimes they reverse them. The really hard-line scientists do not permit you to disagree with whatever their current views are. They can doubt and revise those views, but you’d better not. What credentials do you have? They really can be every bit as rigid as religious fundamentalists.
Still, a view of healthy skepticism in favor of the Bible’s reliability does not mean that you automatically slam shut the window on their fingers whenever they come up with something. Jehovah’s organization tries to reconcile whenever possible. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it’s not. Often, you can’t definitively do either. You simply have to shelve the matter pending more information, which may or may not come in the future. You stick with the Bible version in the meantime. The September Awake! acknowledgment that the seven days need not be viewed as literal 24 hour days is this type of reconciliation. Many religionists would never have done it. But it reflects reasonableness on the part of Jehovah’s Organization. It can be done without giving away anything in the Bible account.
Is the commenter right with his suggestion? I’ve no idea. Well, actually I’m dubious about the notion that the 930 years started only after Adam lost immortality. It seems to me that years are years, even though the writer presents reasons for his view. And the comment about animal evolution definitely has to go, but that is easily done without any damage to his main idea. And one or two other objections. But you can see what his goal is: he’s trying to reconcile the 6000 years of human history according to the Bible with the 10000 years or so of human history that science claims to have established.
But….here is the important part….if I had a firm opinion on this matter, I would keep it to myself. I would classify it as “tentative.“ And, under no circumstances would I spread it in the congregation as if it were established truth. None of Jehovah’s Witnesses would. We await clarification from the organization, which would probably come through the printed page. It could come soon. Or it could be a long wait. Possibly it might never come. But we wait on God’s organization for clarification.
Why? Is it because individual Christians don’t have a brain in their heads and so they have to wait for an organization to tell them what to think? There are plenty of grousers who level exactly that accusation.
No. The reason is more noble: it is more important for Jehovah’s Witnesses to be united than it is for individuals to be on the cutting edge of what’s right when it comes to details. Many of our brothers do think about such things. We call it speculation. And it is generally the case that when Jehovah’s organization adjusts its understanding or clarifies this or that point, some individuals had already figured it out. (Consider the sad case of Tom Barfendogs, which is the subject of the 10/16/06 post.) But because they are loyal, they don’t go starting their own sect over the matter. They don’t go creating divisions in the congregation. They wait on the organization.
Because of such loyalty, Jehovah’s Witnesses enjoy a unity which is unparalleled among religious groups. It is the reason that you can ask spiritual questions to Witnesses anywhere in the world and get the same answer, regardless of nationality, local culture, educational differences, economic status and the like. This unity is precious. It’s not to be sacrificed just so some prima donna can be right on this or that detail….they always are details. The essential teachings of Jehovah’s modern day organization have been in place for a hundred years.
Of course, as already observed, the writer is not a Witness. He advances his comment in good faith, with no intention (or even concept) of creating divisions. I would not have included the same comment had it come from one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Posted by: tom sheepandgoats | October 16, 2006 at 06:54 PM