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December 27, 2009

By Dr. Gary S. Day

Some Bible & Science Problems

There are events noted in the Biblical accounts which seem to violate the laws of nature, causing serious scientific questions which cannot and should not be ignored.

The first issue comes from Joshua 10 where it is recorded that the sun stood still for about one day so the Israelites could continue to battle the Amorites until their defeat.  Scientifically the problem is that the passage seems to imply that celestial mechanics were interfered with, yet with out catastrophe.  Although God could do this, a scientific-historical investigation into the problem still is desirable.

It is known that certain atmospheric reflections and magnetic influences allow the sun to be seen for up to twenty hours without interfering with the laws of nature.  But ultimately, we lack the knowledge of “how” it was done, by Divine or natural causes, but we do know “that” it happened through numerous extra-biblical historical accounts that form evidence of the Biblical account’s veracity.  Herodotus the Greek historian read the temple records of the Egyptian priests which said that there was a day that was twice the normal length of a day.   The Chinese, during the time of Emperor Yeo, who reigned simultaneously with Joshua, also tell of a long day, The Mexicans have the same record at the same time, as do the Records of India.  The Peruvian Incas, the Babylonians, the Persians and the Polynesians do likewise.  

An akin Biblical story is the dial of Ahaz which was a stair-step type of sun-dial (II Kings 20 and Isaiah 38).  When Hezekiah was sick and was given only a short time to live he cried out to the Lord and the Lord sent Isaiah the prophet to tell him his prayer was answered.  And to affirm that it was heard, Hezekiah could ask for the shadow on the sun-dial to go backwards or forwards.  He asked for the shadow to go backwards ten degrees.  No passing cloud could produce this effect, only a Divine intervention could accomplish this.  Again, the “how” can not be verified, but several researchers have indicated that something unusual happened on that day that might validate the Biblical account.

The third Biblical account that merits scientific objections as well as investigation is the Story of Jonah and the Whale (Jonah 1:17; Mt. 12:40).  The ability of a man to be swallowed by a whale, because of the structure of his mouth and throat, the problems with gastric juices and the need for air had been asserted, yet, there are stories that tell of fishermen surviving in the same way.

But the fact of whether a man could live in the belly of a whale, or even be swallowed by a whale is not the fundamental problem or issue.  The fundamental problem is with the translation of the Authorized and Revised version of the English translation of the Bible.  In Jonah, the Hebrew word translated in these versions means “great fish” or “sea monster,” or “great aquatic animal” as the Septuagint (LXX) translates the Hebrew.  Whether it is a whale or not is anybody’s guess, but it is possible to survive in the belly of a “great fish” for a period of time, leaving no actual scientific problem.  All other serious English translations of the Bible including the NKJV and the NASB correct the textual reading of the Authorized and Revised versions.

Some Related Issues with Science

There are times when science oversteps its boundaries and claims for itself powers that it clearly does not have.  Creation is one of the powers claimed by science, though this may not have been said in so many words.   The issue in question is did Doctors Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards, working with the sperm of Gilbert Brown and the egg of his wife Leslie, actually create a test tube baby in 1977? 

The question will soon be answered, but first some background.  The first recorded egg transfer experiment was done by Dr. Walter Heape of Cambridge University, who developed, in 1890, an Angora rabbit in the uterus of a foster mother rabbit, a Belgian doe.  The Belgian rabbit was impregnated by a Belgian buck three hours before the implantation of two of the Angora doe’s ova in the upper part of the Belgian doe’s fallopian tube.  The Angora doe was impregnated by an Angora buck thirty two hours previous.  When the Belgian rabbit gave birth, two resembled the Angora breed and four the Belgian.  Around the early 1930’s ova transfers into another animal were accompanied by others’ being fertilized in vitro, a process used successfully for the next fifty years to breed better animal stock.

Human fertilization research began at least sixteen years before the birth of Louise Brown, for in 1961 an Italian doctor filmed his work with the human egg, but it wasn’t accepted and got little publicity.  Others worked on the same subject matter and got the same results publicity-wise.

After eighty failed attempts over a period of ten years, in 1977 the doctors took a mature egg with a suction needle from Leslie Brown’s ovary, transferred it to a culture dish containing blood-serum and nutrients, adding her husbands sperm to the dish.  After fertilization took place in the mixture, the ovum, now called the Zygote because it was fertilized, was placed into another dish of nutrients where cell division took place.  After about two and a half days, at the 8-cell stage, the ovum was implanted into the uterus of Mrs. Brown, who in the meantime had been treated with hormones to condition her uterine lining to accept the growing egg.  Walla!  The birth of Louise Brown came as the result.  

What was new here was the fertilization of a human egg outside of a woman.  The lesbian crowd started chanting that they don’t need men anymore, just their sperm.  But the process described above is neither creation nor the synthesis of life as some contend.  That is a myth, for the building blocks of life and the genetic information was already in the sperm and egg of the Browns.  The myth was promulgated by the misunderstanding, and thus belief, that fertilization and growth took place only in the laboratory. 

This is a myth from a scientific point of view also, for what was mentioned in the first part of this article series, The Bible and Modern Science.  Considering Gen 1:1-2 and Heb 4:3b, which says in part, “…the works were finished from the foundation of the world,” certain laws of physics concerning creation were sustained. 

“The Law of Conservation of Mass is a fundamental principle of physics and states that, “matter may be changed in size, state or form, but it cannot be created or destroyed.”  The fact is that God finished His creative acts at a point in past time.  And, this law of physics can be inferred from these verses.  All of the observation of physics and astronomy verify that there is no creation going on in the universe, and matter is conserved.  All opposing views have been discredited.”

From this is understood that man will never truly create new life in a test-tube.

The Bible and Astronomy

Despite the accuracy of the ancient astronomers, and advancement of astrological observations as far back as about 2780 B.C. at the temple of Amen Ra in Egypt, the concepts they had about the universe were not accurate, full of superstition and fear, and polytheistic religious myth; and are foolish by today’s standards.  In one Egyptian myth the creation of the universe was by the ejaculation of one of the gods.  It is amazing to see that such superstitions and fear are still upheld in modern time.  For instance, a full solar eclipse in India in 1980 sent the populous into a frenzied panic that shut down the schools, transportation and businesses, regardless of the appeals by the scientists and governmental leaders.

 The Bible has approximately 300 astronomical references in poetic and narrative form touching on a variety of topics, yet as mentioned above about the surrounding cultural and philosophical writings and beliefs held at the time of the writing of the Biblical books, not a single mistake is made in these verses concerning the subject of astronomy.  Again this is amazing considering the abundance of secular mistakes in the field that existed at that time.  This casts another vote for the Divine inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible.  Only a few of the 300 references can be addressed here.

Gen 1:14 indicates that the stars’ lights are predominately for determining seasonal information and time.  The forty-eight Zodiac constellations were understood and names as early as 3000 B.C. and they provided the best calendar of the seasonal events and the time of natural events, like the timing of when the rising of the Nile River would overflow its banks.   All the way up to the present moment, the lights of the stars are still linked to time, global positioning and seasonal events.

Gen 1:16 is a reference to the sun and the moon, naming the sun to be the greater light than the moon, as we know to be true today.  But during the time when Moses wrote the verse it was thought by many ancient astronomers to be the opposite, because the moon would often appear to be bigger than the sun.

Job 2:12 indicates that the stars were a great distances from the earth, even though that fact was not verified until the telescope was discovered (and developed to the point that scientist could accurately measure great distances) some 3500 years later.  The distances are so great that new models of measurement had to be formed, the smallest unit being the light-year; the distance light travels through space at the rate of 187,000 miles per second.  To get an idea of the distances involved in the universe, the closest stars, other than the sun, to the earth is Proxima Centauri at 4.262 light years away, and Alpha Centauri at 4.626 light-years away, with the Milky Way galaxy being about 100,000 light-years across.  The Hubble telescope has greatly expanded our understanding of the distances in the universe.  A newer more powerful telescope is now in the process of being made, which will even out distance the Hubble telescope.

Jer 33:22 tells that the host of heaven cannot be numbered.  In ancient times, and on up to relatively modern times, people thought that the stars could be counted.  Hipparchur, father of Greek astronomy claimed there were 1080 stars; Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) counted only 777; and Kepler (1571-1680) believed the number to be 1005.  The low count of the stars in the heavens remained until the telescope was invented in the seventeen hundreds.  But Isaiah knew better 2500 years prior.

The long day of Joshua and the sun-dial of Ahaz were dealt with above, but one more account would be profitable to examine, the star of Bethlehem as is recorded in Mt 2:1-11.  Some have written the star of Bethlehem off as myth or only as poetry, primarily because of a hostile disbelief in supernatural events, but the Bible lists at least six historical references connected to the event.   

The star event is often explained away by linguistic explanation about the word aster used in Matthew’s account to mean star.  It is said that it also refers to a comet, planet or a meteor in ancient literature, which is true.  But there are numerous difficulties in explaining that the star the wise men saw was a planetary alignment (Kepler) which happens every 125 years; as a meteor, which can be seen by many; or the later Nova  Cassipeiae which would be at the back of the wise men during their trip anyway.  And what gave this star so much meaning that the Magi would travel great distances to worship a newborn, and king?

Though we do not as yet have sufficient archaeological, scientific or historical data to positively identify the star of Bethlehem, the lack of such information is not sufficient grounds to reject the Biblical story in part or in whole.

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