Genesis Interpretation

See also Genesis Genealogies
  • What does it matter?
  • Science and Bible Interpretation
  • Will Any Interpretation Do?
  • What Actually Happened?
  • The Creation Days
  • Evolution
  • Common Origin
  • Adam
  • The Flood
  • Theological Implications
  • Introduction

    Recently there has been a great deal of debate over how to interpret Genesis in light of science. Some deny there is any contradiction between the traditional interpretation of Genesis and what can be inferred from scientific and historical evidence. The most controversial issues are the following: There have been a number of different ways in which Genesis has been interpreted which give different answers to these questions. I will attempt to categorize a number of these interpretations.
    The 7 days of Creation When did the Creation take place? When was Adam created? Was Adam the first human? When did the flood occur? Was the flood a global event?

    What does it matter?

    Despite the fact that there are a number of different interpretations of Genesis, even by Bible believing Christians, the differences don't really show up in Christians lives. Christians used to believe that the earth didn't rotate, but was the center of the universe. Galileo was imprisoned and even threatened with death for suggesting otherwise. But now, Christians have come to learn otherwise. Yet at the time, they would use verses like

    "So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day." Josh 10:13

    to justify their dogmatic convictions. Yet when they changed their beliefs, what impact did it have on the Christian life. It did have an impact. Christians began to study science. Astronomy became popular. But it had no impact in affecting any essential Christian doctrine. Christians continued to live their Christian lives as they alway had. And I find the same to be true no matter which interpretation of Genesis you believe. Why?

    Simply because the New Testament writers always seem to apply the Old Testment allegorically, when it comes to deriving applications for the Christian life. This is not to say that they deny the actual historicity of the events in the Old Testament, but it is what they are teaching allegorically that is most relevant. After all, History is His-Story. God uses examples from real life to teach spiritual truths. Take, for example,

    "These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother...." Galatians 3:24-26

    The debate over Genesis is not really a debate about science versus the Bible, for the God of the Bible is also the God of science. Rather it is a debate over how to properly interpret Genesis.


    Science and Bible Interpretation

    Many presume that their interpretations of Genesis give complete answers to this question, and often find themselves at odds with historical records and what can be inferred from scientific observations. Yet God has said

    "since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-- his eternal power and divine nature-- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." Rom 1:19,20

    So if God says that we are going to be held responsible to infer His existence by observing nature, He himself affirms this concept of deriving truth through inferences of scientific observations. As I said, the God of the Bible is also the God of science.

    Yet is there necessarily any conflict between Genesis and science? Consider the first chapter concerning the 7 days of creation. What if, for example, you took the prophetic interpretation. Genesis 1 is not written in the first person, rather it is as if someone is seeing and hearing what's happening (say, for example, Moses), and is recording what he sees and hears. Suppose that God reveals Genesis 1 to the prophet for a week. Each day of that week God shows him a new thing that He did. What if the phrase "And there was evening, and there was morning" which is repeated each day was referring to the actual evenings and mornings which the prophet experience. He went to bed. He got up. And then God gave him another vision, and repeated this for each day.

    Furthermore from what perspective would the prophet be observing all these things? Is he observing it from outer space looking down on the earth? What if rather he's observing these things from the perspective of the surface of the earth (which is how most of the rest of the Old Testament is written)? In that case you may have a different interpretation of the events. It seems that on the 4th day of creation, after separating the land masses from the seas on the earth, God finally gets around to creating the sun, moon and stars. You might as well throw any scientific inferences out the window if you're going to conclude that. But wait a minute. What if these existed already, but they couldn't be seen from the perspective of the surface of the earth until God had cleared up the atmosphere sufficiently. After all He created them "in the expanse of the sky", not that they didn't exist before. Or perhaps God is not revealing these in chronological order to the prophet, but categorically. Perhaps He is revealing different categories of things He created. This as opposed to the other gods of the nations which only considered gods of particular things. The main point might merely be that the God of the Bible is God over all things. Realize that if we conclude that it is a prophetic vision, then as the meaning of a vision is open to interpretation it may not actually be telling us much of what actually took place from a technical scientific point of view. Much of Genesis only conflicts with science if you demand certain interpretations.

    Furthermore in addition to the issues I mentioned concerning whether there were figures of speech involved, allegory, or other such issues in interpreting a prophetic vision, Dr. Rodney Whitefield in his book "Reading Genesis One" points out that the original language in which Genesis One is written, namely ancient Hebrew, was a rather intuitive language being very limited in vocabulary and as such not necessarily expressing such specific ideas which one might infer from the English translation. He notes further that Hebrew verbs by virtue of the language itself does not specify the duration of verbal actions, nor even necessarily the order of verbal actions, in contrast to their English translation. Thus the precise timing of things is not the emphasis of Genesis One. Thus we are cautioned not to read too much into Genesis One.


    Will Any Interpretation Do?

    One of the strangest phenomena I've seen in this debate is that many of those who demand that the "days" in Genesis be a literal 24 hour creative day just because it says "day", will go to the geneology lists in Genesis 5 and Genesis 11 and say that "years" don't mean "years". While holding dogmatically to a scientific creationist view of the first few chapters of Gensis, they come to these lists and throw up their hands saying, "We have no idea what these numbers mean, and neither will we consider anyone else's interpretation". Why do they do this?

    I've asked a few Seminarians about this, and the only reason I've been given is that the geneologies often skip generations - so that "begat" or "became the father of" as they have it in the NIV more precisely means "became the ancestor of", so that the person begotten may be a son, grandson, or even great-grandson. What is strange to me is that they don't seem to realize that even given that fact, it has no bearing on the numbers given in Gen 5 and Gen 11. Take, for example, Gen 5:15 "When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he became the father of Jared." When Mahalalel was 65, maybe he actually became the grandfather or great-grandfather of Jared. It doesn't matter when adding the numbers up. All one has to know is how old one person is when another person is born and how old that person is when another person is born and so forth. Then you could add the numbers up to calculate the total amount of time that past from the first person on the list to the last. Their biological relationships actually have no bearing on the calculation.

    Another objection I've heard is that because the times given for how long people lived and when they reproduced seems, in most cases, to be much larger than what we are used to, the numbers cannot be understood. Here is another contradiction. They take into account a known fact (peoples longevity today), and demand it be true in Genesis 5, but they don't do the same with Genesis 1-4 and the story of the flood. Why? What if we assumed that we didn't understand the numbers in Genesis 5 and that they were actually too big and rather we divided by some factor to make them more "reasonable" by today's standards. Would that help? No! That would make Adam and the flood even more recent. So they reject that idea.

    I suspect the actual reason why the numbers are rejected is that it puts Adam at about 4000 bc, and even for many young earth creationists, this date seems to recent. Based on what? For one thing the flood would have occured about 2500 bc, yet we have records of Egyptian history going right through that period, the pyramids having been build about 3000 bc. No evidence of a world-wide flood at that time that killed all but 8 people, not to mention the animals. Similarly, though seminarians may be ignorant of science, they are perhaps more informed about ancient history.

    So here is the hypocrisy, that they demand a certain interpretation of Genesis 1, even though it contradicts what can be inferred from the available evidence and refuse to consider other possible interpretations that are more consistent with the evidence. On what basis? Is it all that different when the Catholic Church threatened to kill Galileo simply because his scientific observations contradicted their interpretation of scripture? Yet it is not that they blindly read the Bible and ignore extra-Biblical information, for when they read Genesis 5, they don't interpret it in the same manner as they did in Genesis 1 because of their extra-Biblical understanding of ancient history. If you don't hold to what they refer to as a "literal" interpretation of Genesis 1, it seems you're a heretic, but if you don't hold to a "literal" interpretation of Genesis 5, that doesn't matter. Why?


    What Actually Happened?

    In interpreting the "What Actually Happened?" questions in the Bible, there is, of course, only one correct interpretation, though it may have many applications. But it is often not sufficient just to assume that the Bible is true. For many people who assume the Bible is true might still read it in different ways. For example, if your understanding of certain words is different, you may come to a different conclusion. For example in Acts 2:5 it says As foolish as it sounds, arguments over Genesis often go like that. The error being made here is using a 20th century English interpretation of a phrase that was written in ancient Greek 2000 years ago. So is it possible we might misunderstand certain words written in ancient Hebrew 3500 years ago?

    Then there is also the sense in which it is written. Much of the Old Testament uses oriental styles of expression, incorporating symbols, analogies, allegories. Even Jesus spoke in this style with parables and symbols ("Destroy this temple and I will rebuild it in three days") Yet taken literally or assuming a western style of expression, these could be misunderstood. Genesis 1 could have been written in such a fashion, as I've noted with in the prophectic interpretation.

    Taking this into account, the Bible may not be telling us as much as we think. Just as the Acts 2 passage isn't really telling us that there were Jews in Mongolia at the time of Christ. Does the Bible tell us that the earth revolves around the sun? No. Does it tell us it doesn't? No. Are there things that are true that the Bible doesn't talk about? Yes.


    The Creation Days

    I would say that I take the Bible to be literally true and that it is an accurate representation of history and truth in general, when you take into account the language being used. The problem is that "language itself is essentially a portrayal of reality. But the portrayal is never a complete picture of reality." (Wallace, Greek Grammar beyond the Basics, pg 685.)

    In the case of the 7 days of creation. I take the "days" to be literally 24 hour days. But I take them as being "Revelatory" (or "prophetic"). Genesis 1 is a vision. And so it must be, as there was no human around to actually see what was happening. Furthermore, God is being spoken of as in the third person (he) as opposed to the first person (I), as if someone were viewing the events happening and recording them, as opposed to God Himself directly telling us what was happening.

    For example, Moses spent many days on Mount Sinai when God gave him the Law. What if God took a week during that time and revealed to him this vision. On the first day (Sunday), God shows Moses Gen 1:1-5. Then Moses goes to sleep and wakes up the next day (Monday) and God shows him Gen 1:6-8. Etc. If this is the case, that the creation days were a vision, then what the vision meant is subject to interpretation. Not to say that it could mean anything, for there is only one correct interpretation. But getting at it may not be all that obvious.

    For myself, I think the categorical interpretation best fits what I think God was trying to say.

    Categorical Interpretation:

    Have you ever noticed the pattern of the 7 days
     

    The 7 Days of Creation
    The earth was:
    Without Form
    and Void
    Environment
    Inhabitants
    1. Light 4. Sun, moon & stars
    2. Sky & Ocean 5. Birds & Fish
    3. Land 6. land Animals & Man
    7. Rest

    It seems to me that the main point is that God is the creator of all things in particular. This, as opposed to the many polytheistic religions at the time where each one of these categories would be created by a separate god. And the 7th day shows that God isn't bound to creating things. He isn't simply a creation machine, but can sit back and enjoy His creation, which attributes to Him, human characteristics - He isn't impersonal.


    Evolution

    There has been a great deal of debate over the issue of evolution and whether it conflicts with Genesis. One of the main problems is that there seems to be little consensus as to what is meant by "evolution". Here's some things that people mean when they say "evolution":
     
  • Evolution is the theory that life today is a result of purely naturalistic processes devoid of any supernatural influence.
  • Evolution is the theory that all life has a common biological origin
  • Evolution is the historic change of the DNA code within population groups
  • The real question is, "Is there a conflict between the findings of science and Genesis?"

    There are, in fact, a number of conflicts between science and various interpretations of the Genesis, particularly a view known as young-earth creationism.

    The dates are derived from the geneology numbers in Genesis 5 and 11 as I've mentioned before. There are some variations on this interpretation, but many accept this idea as orthodox and even representative as a majority view of the Christian community, though I don't know that. The conflicts are pretty obvious to those who are familiar with science.


    Common Origin

    The evidence against young-earth creationism is quite extensive in a number of areas. I would like to present one piece of evidence which conflicts with a common belief among many "Bible-believing" Christians, which is seldom dealt with. This concerns the interpretation that animals were separated into species from the beginning. That is whether species have a common biological origin, which is the second definition of "evolution" I've given above.

    There are lots of evidence of this type of evolution, contrary to many peoples beliefs and understanding. But how can we say anything about the question of origins? How do we know what happened so long ago if God didn't tell us? We infer it from the evidence at hand. This is how we judge something in a trial. The jury hears the evidence, but they didn't see the alledged crime being committed. How do they determine what happened? They infer it from the available evidence. God Himself concurs with this reasoning as it is written:

    So if God says that people have no excuse but to infer His existence from observations of nature, it seems He supports the idea of inferring truth by observations of nature, which is what science does when it comes to the questions of origin.

    So consider this. Paleontologists dig up fossils of different species and date the fossils according to a number of dating techniques. They have noted that many modern species didn't exist in the past and that there was not a particular point in time when the earth suddenly had all these species, but rather it seems they showed up at different points of time.

    This is, of course, rubbish to the young-earth creationist, who considers their techniques bogus and presumptuous. But listen further. Let's ask the Paleontologists to give us dates for the origin of modern species. So they give us dates based on the oldest fossils of modern species.

    Now let's go to the biologists. I ask the biologists to compare sections of the DNA code between the various species and give us numbers representing the percentage difference in the DNA code between each two species they compare.

    Now what do you suppose happens when I divide the percentage difference of the DNA between two species by the amount of time that has past (according to the Paleontologists), since the hypothetical common origin of the two species. Well, of course, I come up with some number. Let's do it again and chose two other species, and then two others and on and on.

    When you compare the numbers with each other, what would you expect? If you are a young-earth anti-evolutionist (2nd definition), then you wouldn't expect any correlation. The difference in the DNA codes should not have anything to do with the bogus numbers that the Paleontologists come up with. But surprisingly, all the numbers are about the same! Why? So you go back and compare a different section of the DNA code and again the numbers are all the same, even though they're different from the number you got with the other section of the DNA code. Why?

    What you are measuring is the hypothetical rate of evolution of sections of the DNA of species from their common origin points. And, in general, it is generally found to be a constant. There are graphs of these in many genetics text books, and is known as THE MOLECULAR CLOCK. But if species do not share a common biological origin (or origins - like a "tree" structure - having made nodes), then you would not expect such correlation. (See also other scientific evidences of common origin)

    Molecular Homology and Common Descent

    Now I will elaborate upon the previous evidence for common origin. Let's start with a known fact. The rate of mutation population groups experience today has been measure to be in the order of 2*10^-9 per site per year. What that means is that each year every letter in your DNA code has a 5/10^8 chance of mutating. Or another way of saying it is that your DNA mutates by 2*10^-7 percent per year. That's the order of magnitute of mutation in each individual, but what about the mutation rate of the entire population (also known as "genetic drift")? Well it turns out that most mutations that are passed down are "neutral" mutations. That is, they have no effect on form or function. In this case the statistics turn out to be such that the rate of mutation in an individual (2*10^-9) is about equal to the rate of genetic drift of the population and even independent of the population size. This being the case then after about 5 million years we would expect a 1% genetic drift. And more time would give a higher percentage of drift.

    What if you were to split the human population today into two groups and sexually isolated the two groups. Then after a few million years these two population groups would be genetically different by some percentage just due to the genetic drift caused by neutral mutations. This is not to say that the differences would necessarily have any effect on form or function, but simply that the neutral sites would differ by a percentage.

    Consider two computers running the same program. If you were to randomly change the unused part of the RAM memory of the two in an uncorrelated manner, then their memory will differ, but that difference would have no effect on form or function if the computers do even use those sections of memory. This is the effect of "neutral mutations".
    Now lets consider the evolutionary scheme which scientists have inferred. Given the fact of the measured mutation rate, what would we expect if common descent were true? If, for example, the modern day frog and fish are related through a common "ancestor", or population group, which split and became mutually isolated at some point in time, then you would expect the percentage difference of neutral mutations of each species today be a result of genetic drift. Which means if we measure the percentage difference today and multiply by the mutation rate we would expect to come up with a date which represents when the split occurred.

    But now how could we be assured that we were measuring differences in "neutral" mutations? For there are certainly differences in the DNA of frogs and fish which effect form and function. For this reason proteins are used for such measurements - proteins which species have in common. Proteins perform specific functions - the same function in each species. Thus, if common descent is the case, we can assume any differences in the code on proteins between species represents the effect of "neutral mutations". Let's see if the data correlates with this assumption. For if it doesn't then we've disproven the theory of common descent. Here's a matrix which reflects the typical results found for proteins. This one is for the protein Cytochrome-C.

    The Cytochromes Percent Sequence Difference Matrix


    Mammals Birds Rep
    tile
    Fish Cyclo
    stome
    Insects Plants Yeasts Bacteria

    A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U
    A. Horse 0 6 7 12 10 11 11 18 17 13 15 20 27 26 40 41 41 46 40 42 64
    B. Dog 6 0 7 10 8 9 9 17 16 11 13 19 23 23 38 39 39 45 38 41 65
    C. Kangaroo 7 7 0 10 10 11 11 17 17 13 16 22 26 26 38 39 42 46 41 42 66
    D. Penguin  12 10 10 0 3 4 8 17 17 14 18 22 25 25 40 41 41 45 40 40 64
    E. Pekin Duck 10 8 10 3 0 3 7 16 16 13 17 20 25 25 38 39 41 45 40 41 64
    F. Pigeon 11 9 11 4 3 0 8 17 17 14 18 21 25 24 38 39 41 45 40 41 64
    G. Snapping Turtle 11 9 11 8 7 8 0 17 16 13 18 22 26 27 38 39 41 47 42 44 64
    H. Tuna Fish 18 17 17 17 16 17 17 0 2 8 18 22 30 28 42 43 44 43 42 43 65
    I. Bonito 17 16 17 17 16 17 16 2 0 7 18 23 31 29 41 41 42 42 41 41 64
    J. Carp 13 11 13 14 13 14 13 8 7 0 12 20 25 24 41 41 42 45 39 42 64
    K. Lamprey 15 13 16 18 17 18 18 18 18 12 0 26 30 31 45 44 46 50 43 45 66
    L. Screw-worm Fly 20 19 22 22 20 21 22 22 23 20 26 0 13 11 40 40 40 43 39 44 66
    M. Silkworm Moth  27 23 26 25 25 25 26 30 31 25 30 13 0 5 40 40 40 43 39 44 65
    N. Tobacco Horn Moth 26 23 26 25 25 24 27 28 29 24 31 11 5 0 39 40 38 42 39 42 64
    O. Castor 40 38 38 40 38 38 38 42 41 41 45 40 40 39 0 10 12 45 43 42 66
    P. Sunflower 41 39 39 41 39 39 39 43 41 41 44 40 40 40 10 0 13 47 44 43 67
    Q. Wheat 41 39 42 41 41 41 41 44 42 42 46 40 40 38 12 13 0 45 41 42 66
    R. Candida krusei 46 45 46 45 45 45 47 43 42 45 50 43 43 42 45 47 45 0 23 25 72
    S. Debaryomyces kloeckeri 40 38 41 40 40 40 42 42 41 39 43 39 39 39 43 44 41 23 0 27 67
    T. Baker's Yeast 42 41 42 40 41 41 44 43 41 42 45 42 44 42 42 43 42 25 27 0 69
    U. Rhodospirillum rubrum 64 65 66 64 64 64 64 65 64 64 66 64 65 64 66 67 66 72 67 69 0
    Dayhoff, M.D. (1972) Altlas of Protein Sequence and Structure

    The way this is read is that it records the difference in the protein between the creature in the each particular column with the creature in each particular row. Notice the diagonals are zero because that's just the case of comparing a creature with itself. Now look at the numbers, for example in Column A. Column A compares the results for a horse with other creatures. Notice that the divergence increases just as one would expect for an evolutionary scheme. If the numbers were all the same, or if their order was different, that would give evidence against such an evolutionary scheme.

    Not only does the data support the order of the evolutionary tree, but also the time frame. It doesn't exactly fit the time frame though. The fossil record indicates dates generally  more recent than the genetic drift numbers. But then again that's not unexpected. For the genetic drift only indicates when the populations became isolated - the branching off. The differences in gross morphology - form or function - may not have occured right away but some time later along the branch, which makes the dates not inconsistent. What would be inconsistent would be if the fossils were found significantly older than the genetic drift rates would indicate, but not the other way around. But the theory of common descent is affirmed by all these facts, and I have yet to hear of a non-evolutionary model which explains all the correlation of these numbers.

    Monkey to Man

    Technically Evolution does not propose that man evolved from a monkey, but rather that man and other primates share a common ancestor. Besides the evidence from genetic drift, there is also an interesting fact concerning the comparison of chromosomes. Chromosomes are basically sections of DNA. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, but other primates have 24. Special sequences occur at the tips of all primate chromosomes. It turns on that one of the human chromosomes is actually composed of two chromosomes that other primates have, but for humans they are fused together at the exactly place where these special sequences occur, which verifies it is indeed a fuse of those two chromosomes. And furthermore humans and other primates have "pseudo-genes" in common - non-functional genes - which are not shared by other species, which again implies common origin.

    Correlation is the key evidence for evolution, not to mention the key evidence against most young-earth creationist concepts. While some Christians desperately look for some anomalous evidence against evolution and in support of their theories, it seems that they turn a blind eye to the vast majority of evidence against their theory. It's not that young-earth creationists deny science, they'll agree with it when it supports their theory, but if it doesn't, then either there is some conspiracy in the scientific community to suppress the truth or perhaps the scientists made some mistake or presumption. Yet in my experience, I find that there is generally much more integrity, soberness and objectiveness in the scientific community than I find among those who hold the young-earth views, which often present "facts" in a sort of tabloid fashion. Even on the web I've found that rather than presenting their information and arguments freely, one must buy the creationists books in order to find out what their theories are and what facts they base them on. But I've found that the scientific community generally offers such information free, such as at http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-meritt.html

    So what is the young-earth creationist explanation of the correlation of the numbers for the mutation rate? There is none. I've never seen any explanation. Christian arguments against this position are primarily hermeneutical (arguments about how to interpret the Bible), rather than having a scientific basis, like the following: Aguments against Theistic Evolution

    For more scientific background you might check out:

    In my conversations with a young-earth creationist author he passed on to me an argument against evolution being inferred from molecular homology from a friend of his. However, as I will show in my response the facts contained in his letter actually affirm common descent. Here is his letter:
    "John Sanford gave me this example - over the 6 millions years since primates and homo sapiens are alleged to have diverged, each of their chromosomes should have received nearly 1 trillion mutations (based upon the uniform assumption of 100 mutations/individual/generation, which is the current estimated mutation rate in humans).  Since the human genome is 3.4 billion base pairs, that means that EACH base in the human chromosome should have mutated nearly 300 times in the last 6 million years.  Thus, in all so-called "non-essential" regions of the chromosome, it should now be totally random in sequence.  Why would there possibly be any similarity left between primates and humans in these regions.  And yet, primates are our closest evolutionary relationship.  So, how could there be any degrees of similarity left to base any genetic homology studies on?  I'm still waiting on evolutionists to even acknowledge this problem, let alone attempt a futile answer to it."
    And here's my response:
    Hey wait a minute! When I used this guy's numbers for the rate of mutation it comes up almost exactly what is observed for the variance between primate and homo sapien, unlike what he says. Where did he get his 1trillion mutations figure?

    Here's what I figure:

    If there's 100 mutations/individual/generation and lets say 20 years per generation, that means 100/20=5 mutations per year. Multiply by 6 million years and you end up not with 1 trillion, but with 30 million mutations. Then divide by the number of base pairs he gives: 3.4 billion and you end up with about a 1% divergence! Which is the actual measured divergence between man and ape.

    Peter Sparrow of Creation Ministries International attempts to rebut my argument, but fails drastically.

     I also referred him to an article on the subject as follows:

    Genetic rates of change

    Rates of genetic change, as measured by nucleotide substitutions, must also be consistent with the rate required from the time allowed in the fossil record and the sequence differences observed between species.

    Confirmation:
    What we must compare are the data from three independent sources: (1) fossil record estimates of the time of divergence of species, (2) nucleotide differences between species, and (3) the observed rates of mutation in modern species. The overall conclusion is that these three are entirely consistent with one another.

    For example, consider the human/chimp divergence, one of the most well-studied evolutionary relationships. Chimpanzees and humans are thought to have diverged, or shared a common ancestor, about 6 Mya, based on the fossil record (Stewart and Disotell 1998). The genomes of chimpanzees and humans are very similar; their DNA sequences overall are 98% identical (King and Wilson 1975; Sverdlov 2000). The greatest differences between these genomes are found in pseudogenes, non-translated sequences, and fourfold degenerate third-base codon positions. All of these are very free from selection constraints, since changes in them have virtually no functional or phenotypic effect, and thus most mutational changes are incorporated and retained in their sequences. For these reasons, they should represent the background rate of spontaneous mutation in the genome. These regions with the highest sequence dissimilarity are what should be compared between species, since they will provide an upper limit on the rate of evolutionary change.

    Given a divergence date of 6 Mya, the maximum inferred rate of nucleotide substitution in the most divergent regions of DNA in humans and chimps is ~1.3 x 10-9 base substitutions per site per year. Given a generation time of 15-20 years, this is equivalent to a substitution rate of ~2 x 10-8 per site per generation (Crowe 1993; Futuyma 1998, p. 273).

    Background spontaneous mutation rates are extremely important for cancer research, and they have been studied extensively in humans. A review of the spontaneous mutation rate observed in several genes in humans has found an average background mutation rate of 1-5 x 10-8 base substitutions per site per generation. This rate is a very minimum, because its value does not include insertions, deletions, or other base substitution mutations that can destroy the function of these genes (Giannelli et al. 1999; Mohrenweiser 1994, pp. 128-129). Thus, the fit amongst these three independent sources of data is extremely impressive.

    Similar results have been found for many other species (Kumar and Subramanian 2002; Li 1997, pp. 180-181, 191). In short, the observed genetic rates of mutation closely match inferred rates based on paleological divergence times and genetic genomic differences. Therefore, the observed rates of mutation can easily account for the genetic differences observed between species as different as mice, chimpanzees, and humans.

    ------------------------

    However even given common descent, the data does not suggest that gradual transitions between species took place. With the significant absence of transitional fossils in the fossil record the inference would be that such transitions were sudden and dramatic. (Shall we call these "creation events"?) Even evolutionist Stephen J. Gould acknowledged this in his theory of "hopeful monsters", but he tried to account for this naturalistically with his theory of punctuated equilibrium. The main battle ground between creationists and naturalists is really whether these kinds of events and the kind sophisticated functional achitecture we observe in life forms were due to likely or unlikely events. The naturalists may argue that whatever happened must have been likely as they allow no supernatural explanation. To them God's existence is unproveable as they only allow themselves naturalistic explanations of all phenomenon, to their loss.


    ADAM

    Many Christians have a variety of interpretations of Genesis 1. However, when it comes to Adam, most Bible believing Christians assume him to be the first human. There are a number of reasons for this. There are a number of problems with this from a scientific point of view: An Alternative Interpretation:

    Is it possible to have an interpretation that is consistent both with science and a literal interpretation of scripture? What about the following:

    Adam was created miraculously about 4000bc, taking the numbers given in the geneology list literally. He was not necessarily genetically descended from anyone. Although God could have used the genetic material availble in the human population at the time. (Dust of the earth) There were people who were fully human before Adam and at Adam's time, who were not genetically descended from Adam. However, Adam and his descendants acted as representatives (or federal heads) of the human race.


    Genesis 2:4 Starts a new section in Genesis. How is it related to Genesis 1:1-2:3 (the 7 days of creation)? That again is somewhat subject to interpretation. Some would say it is an expansion of the 6th day (assuming a chronological order). Or some say it occurred after the 7 days of creation - taking these two sections as being chronologically related. But if Adam and Eve were created after the 7 days of creation (as some may consider it to be "clearly stated"), then there must have been other people already around, for man was created in the sixth day.

    The Bible doesn't clearly state that Adam and Eve themselves were created on the 6th day. That is a possible interpretation, but I don't think it's correct. For myself, I see a sudden change in rhetoric between these two sections. And that Genesis 1:1-2:3 represents one complete thought - that God is the creator of everything in particular. Genesis 2:4 starts a new thought - not in conflict nor in contrast to the previous thought, but rather a separate idea which would bring out a different aspect of God's character.
    Genesis 1:1-2:3 Glorified God's omnipotence
    Genesis 2:4+ Will Glorify other aspects of His character such as His justice and later - His grace.

    The way I see much of the historical events in the Bible is that they are actual historical events but that God is using them to represent something else. Much of the history of Israel has it's symbolic application in Christianity. As for example:

    "These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children." Gal 4:24,25

    It is as if God is using us like actors in a play to reveal some truth about Himself to all creation. For example:

    Eph 3:10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.

    Adam & Eve were two actors in the play. They were God's primary representatives for the human race (as Israel was). As such, their history & the history of their descendants is a microcosm of all humanity. Therefore when Adam is referred to as the "first" man in 1Cor 15, Paul could have been viewing this section in Genesis as one looks at a play. . It is God's play. (Was Hilary Clinton the "first lady"?) It wasn't important whether Adam was historically the first man, but he was the first man that God mentioned in the Bible and so holds a special position (in terms of what he represents) in the mind of God. Adam was real person and the events in Genesis 2:4+ represent actual history.

    What about original sin? (Rom 5:12+). I deal with this separately at http://www.bcbsr.com/topics/orgsin.html, as well is in the Romans study guide on that section.

    Furthermore, there are alot of things that the Bible doesn't say that are nonetheless true. So just because the Bible doesn't explicitly say that there were other people before and during Adam's time doesn't mean that there weren't.

    Similar observations and such arguments are also given at:

    The Flood

    A literal interpretation of the Bible would seem to indicate that: There are a number of problems with this interpretation from an historic and scientific point of view An Alternative Interpretation:

    Is is possible to have an interpretation that is consistent both with science and a literal interpretation of scripture? What about the following:

    See also http://www.fortunecity.com/meltingpot/lesotho/1047/03flood.htm

    Theological Implications

    Even though different people interpret Genesis literally, their understanding of what actually happened historically might be quite different, as you can see above. But despite this fact, I can think of no basis for theological differences - by which I mean the ways in which the ideas are applied. The differences in such people's ideas of what actually happened has little bearing on how such events are applied in the Bible simply because it is the symbolism behind the events that is used in deriving applications.

    For example, the gender specific commands in the New Testament often refer back to the story of Adam and Eve. We see, for example, in ITim 2:11-14 that Paul says the he doesn't permit a woman to teach and have authority over a man not for cultural reasons, but because God created Adam first and then Eve, and that Eve fell into transgression first. He's inferring from the symbolism of the order of creation and the order of the fall stated in Genesis, that it is inappropriate for women to have positions of authority over men. Such would go against God's design. Similar arguments can be made against polygamy, prostitution and even homosexuality. Even if you didn't take the early chapters of Genesis literally at all (certainly not my position!), you still may not have any difference in the way you apply them.

    The only major conceptual difference theologically may be the concept of original sin. But then again, perhaps not. If Adam was not the first human, or if people were not all biologically related to Adam, would that nullify the concept of original sin - if in fact Adam acted as the primary representative of the human race? No it wouldn't, although there will be those who dogmatically disagree. But then what about death before Adam? The fact that the garden of Eden had boundaries, outside of which seemed to exist the earth as we know it, indicates to me that the world outside of Eden may have already been subject to death, God having subjected it so in anticipation of Adam's sin, according to His foreknowledge.



     
    LINKS For Genesis
       Geneology
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    The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources
    Jul 05,2011