COMMENTARY THE FLOOD (Part One of a two-part series)-A topic that has always been of great

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COMMENTARY THE FLOOD (Part One of a two-part series)--A topic that has always been of great interest to students of the Bible is the Flood, an alleged event more cataclysmic than any other natural disaster in history. BE will not discuss the scientific data used by proponents to support their beliefs. Instead, two kinds of information will be used to show the Flood Theory lacks credibility. The Commentary in next month's issue will discuss the large number of contradictions between biblical verses with respect to what occurred; while this month's Commentary will concentrate on the great number of difficulties, impossibilities, and unanswered questions accompanying the biblical account. Anyone believing in the Flood must provide rational answers to the following questions: (a) Gen 6:16 says, "A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above...." How could so many creatures breathe with only one small opening which was closed for at least 190 days--150 days plus an additional 40 days (Gen. 8:3-6)? (b) Gen 6:15 says, "The length of the ark shall be 300 cubits (450 feet--Ed.), the breadth of it 50 cubits (75 feet--Ed.), and the height of it 30 cubits (45 feet--Ed.)." How could two of every animal survive for approximately 10 months on a boat encompassing 1,518,750 cubic feet? The food alone would absorb tremendous space. (c) Gen 6:17 says, "I do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and everything that is in the earth shall die." Gen 7:4 reenforces this point, "...and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth." Yet, how would a flood destroy sea animals, such as whales, porpoises, sea snakes, dolphins, amphibians, and all animals living entirely under water? (d) Gen 7:8-9 says, "Of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean, and of fowls, and of every thing that creepeth upon the earth, There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah." The problems associated with this account of the creatures entering the Ark are particularly interesting. How did animals that are restricted to certain parts of the earth get to the Ark? Penguins, kangaroos, polar bears, koala bears, and many others would have had to have crossed vast oceans. How animals from other continents managed to cross the seas can only be surmised. How did many of the animals withstand climatic changes? Many of those from polar regions could not have withstood the heat of the Middle East. How were animals prevented from killing their natural prey? Slow animals from other continents--snails, sloths, turtles, and so forth- -must have started their journey to the Ark before the earth was created. How did only 8 people feed and water the world's greatest zoo for many months? How was the Ark kept sanitary since there was only one window and one door? How did the animals know where to go when the time arrived to enter the Ark? After being released, how did they return to their respective regions of the world? The vegetation which many animals eat only grows in certain parts of the world. How was it brought to the Ark for storage? Are we to believe that two of every species--two dogs, two cats, two horses, two snakes, and so forth--entered the Ark? If so, then are we also to believe, for example, that the tremendous variety of dogs in the world today, from the great dane to the chihuahua, descended from two of the species? This would mark a tremendous evolutionary change in only a few thousand years. Yet, biblicists are the ones who denounce the theory of evolution. And how did the animals know when to seek the Ark? The text implies they just came voluntarily. (e) Gen 7:15 says, "And they went in unto Noah into the Ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life." How did water creatures such as whales, porpoises, sea snakes, dolphins, and so forth enter the Ark? Moreover, since millions of species of animals exist throughout the world, how could a pair have been taken from each. There are over 500,000 separate species of insects alone. (f) Gen. 8:4 states, "And the ark rested in the 7th month, on the 17th day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat." How could the Ark have rested upon several mountains at once? (g) "Also he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground" (Gen 8:8). Why did Noah send a bird to learn what was clearly evident? (h) Gen 8:11 says, "And the dove came in to him in the evening; and lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf plucked off." It's difficult to believe a dove could have found an olive leaf to freshly pluck in a world that had been submerged for nearly a year. (i) Gen 8:20 states, "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." Killing animals of which only two remain after the Flood seems absurd. (j) Gen 7:13 states, "In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah's wife and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark." If the human race began anew from Noah and his sons, are we supposed to believe the wide variations among the earth's people developed in the short period since the Flood? Are we supposed to believe that the fair-haired Swede, the brown-skinned, dark-haired Indian, and the black-skinned native came from the same ancestors? (k) Gen 7:4 says, "For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth." But what had the beasts and the creeping things done to excite God's anger? They had committed no sin; they had eaten no forbidden fruit; and they had not tried to reach the tree of life. (l) Gen 8:5 and 8:13 state the Flood covered the earth and its mountains. If so, where did all the water go? (m) Lastly, the questions raised by Gen 8:19 must be answered. The verse says, "Every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl, and whatsoever creepeth upon the earth, after their kinds, went forth out of the ark." How were the animals preserved after leaving the Ark? There was no grass except such as had been submerged for a year. How were the herbivores taken care of until the earth was again clothed with vegetation? There were no animals to be devoured by the carnivores, except those which were on the Ark. From whence came their food? Apologists will be asked in next month's issue to address an equally large number of contradictions between the verses themselves. THE RESURRECTION--Among those beliefs crucial to Christianity few are of greater importance than that of the Resurrection. Paul went so far as to allege the very foundation of Christianity rests upon its occurrence. "And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain and your faith is also vain" (1 Cor 15:14,17). Yet, why should the Resurrection be of such significance. Elijah raised a child from the dead (1Kings 17:17,21-22); Samuel said to Saul, "Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up" (1Sam 28:7,11,15); Elisha raised the dead son of a Shunamite (2Kings 4:32,34- 35); a dead man being lowered into a grave revived when he touched the bones of Elisha (2Kings 13:21); Moses and Elijah revived at the time of the Transfiguration (Luke 9:29-30); the saints arose at the time of Jesus' death (Matt 27:52-53); Jairus' daughter rose from the dead (Matt 9:18,23- 25); the widow of Nain's son rose from the dead (Luke 7:11-15); and Lazarus rose from the dead (John 11:43-44). All of these people ascended from death and all did so before Jesus. So why attribute so much importance to the event. By the time Christ rose from the dead this was a rather common occurrence. Moreover, people not only rose before Jesus but after him as well. Peter raised Tabitha and Paul raised Eutychus. While participating in a radio call-in program several years ago, the Editor was told by a caller that, except for Jesus, all of the above mentioned people eventually died again. But Paul clearly asserted it's the Resurrection, per se, that matters, not the fact that Jesus never died again. The caller was asked to cite a passage that justified his contention. There was no reply. A second major difficulty associated with the Resurrection lies in the contradictory accounts in the four gospels of what occurred. The following represent some of the major disagreements surrounding the events connected with the Resurrection: (1) At what time in the morning did the women visit the tomb?--At the rising of the sun (Mark 16:2)-VS- when it was yet dark (John 20:1). (2) Who came--Mary Magdalene alone (John 20:1)-VS-Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (Matt 28:1)-VS-Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome (Mark 16:1)-VS-Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and other women (Luke 24:10). (3) Was the tomb open or closed when they arrived?--Open (luke 24:2)-VS- closed (Matt 8:1-2). (4) Whom did they see at the tomb?--The angel (Matt 28:2)-VS-a young man (Mark 16:5)-VS-two men (Luke 24:4)-VS-two angels (John 20:11-12). (5) Were these men or angels inside or outside the tomb?--Outside (Matt 28:2)-VS-inside (Mark 16:5, Luke 24:3-4, John 20:11- 12). (6) Were they standing or sitting?--Standing (luke 24:4)-VS-sitting (Matt 28:2, Mark 16:5, John 20:12). (7) Did Mary Magdalene know Jesus when he first appeared to her?--Yes, he did (Matt 28:9)-VS-no, she did not (John 20:14). If the stories were consistent, one could write one long continuous narrative incorporating all four versions without fear of divergences. Yet, this has never been done without adding, altering, or omitting verses. Apologists often submit the witnesses-at-an-auto- accident argument which is quite irrelevant since two diametrically opposed and mutually exclusive versions of the same event can not be simultaneously accurate. One or the other is false. Moreover, witnesses at an accident, unlike gospel writers, are not claiming inerrancy. Thomas Paine summarized the relationship between the gospels quite well. "...it is, I believe, impossible to find in any story upon record so many and such glaring absurdities, contradictions, and falsehoods, as are in those books (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). They are more numerous and striking than I had any expectation of finding, when I began this examination..." (The Age of Reason, p.167). A third major problem connected with the Resurrection lies in the fact that even if Jesus had risen, nobody is going to follow his example. "For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same: as one dies so dies the other...man has no advantage (pre-eminence--KJV) over the beasts...All go to one place; all are from the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down to the earth" (Eccle 3:19-21 RSV). Job 7:9-10, 1Tim 6:15-16, and Isaiah 26:14 say as much. And lastly, others participated in even more momentous events. Adam was never born to begin with (Gen 1:27); he came into the world as a full-grown adult. Enoch (Gen 5:22-24) and Elijah (2Kings 2:11) never died. The latter went straight to heaven, which, incidentally, contradicts Hebrews 9:27 which says, "And it is appointed unto men once to die..." In fact, what did Jesus ever do that had not already been accomplished? He rose from the dead but only after others. He performed miracles but so had others. What, then, did Jesus do that was different, that had not already been done? Plainly stated, "what makes him stand out from the crowd?" Hundreds have claimed to be the Savior; so what are the acts that substantiate his credentials. Assertions alone prove nothing. Anyone can claim to be the Messiah and hundreds have. REVIEWS On page 23 in Reasons Skeptics Should Consider Christianity McDowell and Stewart provide a list of 8 commonly given reasons for believing the Bible is inerrant. "The evidence that the very words of the Bible are God-given may be briefly summarized as follows: (1) This is the claim of the classical text (2Tim 3:16); (2) It is the emphatic testimony of Paul that he spoke in Words...taught by the Spirit (1Cor 2:13); (3) It is evident from the repeated formula, "It is written"; (4) Jesus said that which was written in the whole Old Testament spoke of Him (Luke 24:27,44/John 5:39/Hebrews 10:7); (5) The New Testament constantly equates the Word of God with Scripture (Matt 21:42/Rom 15:4); (6) Jesus indicated that not even the smallest part of a Hebrew word or letter could be broken (Matt 5:18); (7) The Testament refers to the written record as the "oracles of God" (Rom 3:2/Heb 5:12); (8) And occasionally the writers were even told to "diminish not a word" (Jer 26:2). John even pronounced an anathema upon all who would add to or diminish from this book." The fallacy in the above lies in the fact that all 8 reasons are making the same point in different words--the Bible is inspired because it says so, which, of course, is no proof whatever. Many writings in history have claimed divine perfection but no prudent observer would accept them on this basis alone. McDowell and Stewart acknowledge as much on page 1 of Tough Questions Skeptics Ask. "...the Bible claims to be a record of the words and deeds of God, thus the Bible views itself as God's Word. The mere fact that the Bible claims to be the Word of God does not prove that it is such, for there are other books that make similar claims." One of the most controversial verses in the Bible is Ex 20:13--Thou shalt not kill. In Answers to Questions About the Bible Robert Mounce attempted to answer the question: Does the commandment, 'You shalt not kill' mean that Christians are not to go to war?" His response was: "That the sixth commandment is to be understood as a prohibition against murder and is not a blanket condemnation of the taking of life under any circumstances is seen by the fact that God not only authorized capital punishment (Gen 6:9)...but also sent his people into war (1Sam 15:3)...that armed resistance is a permissible ingredient in the unhappy history of man is acknowledged by Scripture." But the verse said nothing about murder. It said, Thou shalt not kill. Killing is a broader term encompassing murder. The fact that the biblical God killed and ordered killing only highlights the inconsistency of God ordering man not to do that which he, himself, commits. The societal difficulties that have arisen over this verse, especially during wartime, have caused proponents such as Mounce to change the word "kill" to "murder" in many versions. Although the KJV, the RSV, the NAB, the Jerusalem Bible, the Geneva Bible, and the Douay Version use "kill," translators of such versions as the NASB, the NWT, the NIV and the Masoretic text opted for the more expedient term "murder." It would be rather difficult for military and law enforcement agencies to function if their members really believed the KJV maxim, Thou shalt not kill. On page 111 in 508 Answers to Bible Questions M.R. DeHaan was asked if faith can literally move mountains as taught in Matt 17:20 ("If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove, and nothing shall be impossible unto you"). He responded with, "Yes, I believe with all my heart that if we had enough faith we would be able to move literal mountains if it was for the glory of God. Of course, we must remember that merely moving mountains for the sake of making a demonstration is not pleasing to the Lord, but if it is to His glory and for the help of others, I believe it would be possible." In order to escape from the dilemma presented, DeHaan utilized some common ploys. First, he discussed a verse which has a qualifier--the faith must be as a grain of mustard seed. If the wish fails apologists can always say the faith did not measure up to the proviso. Why didn't he address Mark 9:23 ("If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth"), John 14:12 ("He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do"), and Matt 21:21 which have no provisos, which say one need only have faith, period. Second, surely any believer would have as much faith as a grain of mustard seed since the latter is so small. So why can't all believers move mountains? Third, where do any of these verses say it can't be done unless it is for the glory of God? This gratuitous qualifier is unsupported by anything in the text. Fourth, why does DeHaan assume people only want to make "a demonstration" by moving mountains? Perhaps some believers really do want some mountains moved. Are we to believe that it could be done by faith? Fifth, where does the Bible say a demonstration would not be pleasing to the Lord? Doesn't it say "Prove all things" (1Thess 5:21). And lastly, where do any of these verses say it must be done for God's glory and to aid others? The verses say you can move mountains if you believe. Limitations are not even mentioned. DIALOGUE AND DEBATE Letter from MJ of Ferndale, Washington Dennis, I wish to make a few comments on what you said about the Flood. First you quoted Gen. 8:4 and then commented, "How could the ark have rested upon several mountains at once?" I personally had no problem with that verse--as many elements of our modern language use identical usage. If you interpret many of our statements today, literally, word for word, you would have difficulty functioning normally. As children, we would often interpret our brothers and sisters' comments and/or commands literally--word for word-- to render their statements useless, or create nonsense out of commonly used phrases. Please let's leave that method to pranksters... Editor's Response to MJ Dear MJ. Gen 8:4 says "mountains," plural, not "a mountain," singular. Translators should have left off the "s" if only one mountain was intended. You're speaking as if the "s" didn't exist. Apologists repeatedly say one should read the Bible as one reads a newspaper, which is what I'm doing. I assume the Book says what it means and means what it says. If you are going to change a plural to a singular because it sounds absurd, are you going to deny the miracles of the Bible because they are absurd also? The Bible says a woman turned into a pillar of salt, for example. Is that more or less incredible than a ship landing on several mountains at once? If you are going to rewrite an incident because it makes no sense, then you might as well rewrite others. And, of course, if you alter the Bible's miracles in such a manner as to make them appear natural, then you will "gut" the Book in the process. The Resurrection will vanish and Jesus will no longer be the god/man. In essence, if you are going to start rewriting the text because verses don't make sense, you face the problem of deciding where this will end and what's left when you are through. Letter from MH of Dayton, Ohio I've read your "Bible Errancy" newsletter. The Bible says in 1Cor 2:14, "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." You are dealing with a spiritual book when you deal with the Bible. The Holy Spirit moved men to write the Scriptures, and to understand the Scriptures, you too must be spiritual. Actually, you need to be born again. Jesus, God manifest in the flesh, said "Ye must be born again." The enclosed tract will tell you how to be saved. Please read it. Editor's Response to MH You asked me to read your small tract entitled, "In Devil's Hell." I did and found it to be typical of the pamphlets that we often find in bus terminals, on library tables, and on door knobs. It is permeated with the urgent need to accept Jesus, be saved, and fear hell. Much was asserted; nothing proved. Now I ask you to respond in kind. Read BIBLICAL ERRANCY, but not through a filter composed of Christian fundamentals. Among other things the January 1983 issue I sent you proved the Bible is not to be trusted as a reliable source. Yet, your tract avoided the evidence entirely and blindly plodded forward. Instead of proving the Bible is true, you just assume as much. But I provided evidence to the contrary. It says, for instance, that "all have sinned," which is completely false. How do I know? Your Book says so. Don't you believe it? "Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations..." (Gen 6:9); "...that man (Job-- Ed.) was perfect and upright..." (Job 1:1,8). These men were perfect, so obviously they could not have been sinners. How can you be a sinner and be perfect? The Bible has hundreds of problems and if you will only bear with me, I will prove as much in the months to come. But you must be reasonable. I can't cover the entire Book in one issue. Letter from DW of South Pasadena, California Dear Dennis....once one realizes the Bible is not the word of God, one should go on to establish a positive philosophy of life and not worry much about that book. That approach is obviously outside the scope of BE's calling. I'm finding the goals of (several groups--Ed.)...of much more interest than debating fundamentalists. But I wish you luck at freeing more minds from the myths of Biblical inerrancy, and I'll keep reading BE.... Editor's Response to DW You have touched upon one of the most divisive issues in the freethought movement, DW. Do we directly confront and challenge the supporters of religion and the Bible or do we go our own way by setting a good example and developing a positive philosophy and let them go theirs? The approach of the freethought organizations you mentioned is contrary to that of BE's. This Country is composed of millions of people whose support for the Bible ranges all the way from lukewarm to fanatical. In numbers and wealth their dominance is overwhelming and easily proven. One of their spokesmen alone, Jimmy Swaggart, has a yearly budget far in excess of that of all freethought groups combined. The disproportionate relationship between the forces explains why television exudes so many people who belong in the Middle Ages. We are told to turn off the set or change the channel if we don't like the program, but isn't it about time they started changing the TV, not us. Even the government buttresses them. If I was told I would no longer be taxed or subject to audits while my neighbor continued as before, that would be positive assistance, not just hands off. Atheist, humanist, and other freethought publications have provided more than enough proof to show the partition between church and state more closely resembles a back door screen than a wall. This situation must be altered. Establishing a positive philosophy of life is commendable, but what follows? What do you do with it? Do you rest on your laurels and hope religionists will follow your example? How could that happen when they don't even know your beliefs? In effect, the status quo would remain as before with biblicists dominating the scene. Two crucial questions must be faced by all freethought organizations: (1) Why should religionists, biblicists, and apologists come to the freethought movement when they are convinced they already have the truth and (2) why should these same groups listen to anything the freethought movement has to offer when they have been taught from infancy that atheism, humanism, agnosticism, etc. are works of evil? To some they are the devil incarnate. The only way to dispel people of these illusions is to go on the offensive, which few freethought organizations and publications are willing to do. Some even admit their reluctance. But, the fact is that a major reason the Bible is so all-pervasive is that millions of its supporters have taken their case to others. Missionaries have traveled the world and converted millions as Christian dominance in Latin America demonstrates. Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses have not become rapidly growing sects by sitting at home praying the world will see the wisdom of their ways and beat a path to their door. Aggressive proselytization is their hallmark. Your tactic of "adopting a positive philosophy of life" actually amounts to nothing more than assuming a defensive posture, i.e., accepting conditions as they are, and is doomed from the beginning. You don't win on the defensive. Most freethought organizations and publications are not significantly converting people to their point-of- view but only picking up those who have rejected religion and/or the Bible for reasons of their own. Members of the religious/biblical community must be reeducated from the ground up. Most have been programmed from birth and it's up to us to deprogram. Although important, battles over prayer in the schools, nativity scenes, "In God We Trust" on the currency, etc. are essentially secondary. As long as people believe the Bible is God's word, conflicts of this kind will continue unabated and remain an understandable by-product. Once people no longer believe the Bible or have their allegiance to it dramatically shaken, their interest in these secondary issues will naturally fade. That's why BE teaches a kind of Sunday-School-in-Reverse. Our program is one of going back to the basics, starting over, and exposing all the facts that should have been heard in Sunday School but weren't. People have a right to hear both sides. But we can't do it alone. You mentioned "luck," but that's not what matters. Thousands of knowledgeable people willing to put in the needed time and effort are what count. Serious and intense effort over many years in a protracted struggle are mandatory. Anti-religious humor, denunciations of the religious mentality, exposures of corrupt ministers or popes, and comparable tactics are subordinate, if not superficial, and easily countered. Your comment with respect to fundamentalism missed the mark, DW. BE doesn't exist to debate fundamentalists. Millions of people in this Country are not fundamentalists or atheists but lie somewhere on the long spectrum in between. The common denominator is that nearly all support the Bible to some degree. BE merely seeks to debate those most supportive of the Book while all others observe, so views can be sharply delineated and many be moved further from the Bible by having their faith weakened. Converting a fundamentalist in a dialogue is of far less importance than influencing the audience. Many people have no strong views one way or the other and are just listening. 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