mercredi 21 janvier 2015

"Father Funes" does NOT Sum It Up

Father Funes* has said the Bible is not a work of science: "It is a letter of love that God has written to his people, in a language that was used 2,000-3,000 years ago."

A letter of love is not totally wrong, but it is inadequate - about as inadequate as calling John 3:16 "the little Bible" (I saw an advertisement of "the complete Bible" outside a bookshop, took a look and found it lacked Maccabees, also a Protestant thing).

God has written it "to his people" - well, yes, there are things in it which you only get if you know the tradition (Jewish up to Christ, Catholic from Christ), especially if exposed to alternative traditions and unaware that say post-Christian Judaism is not a straight continuation of OT Judaism, or that Protestantism starts full fledged 1500 years after Christ, while one theme in it goes back to tyrants worse than Henry VIII, like Leo Isaurus or Constantine Copronymus.

BUT "in a language that was used 2,000 - 3,000 years ago" is mainly idiotic.

If it is a question of linguistics, the languages spoken back then are still fairly well known to scholars, and adequate translations have been made, one of them, Latin, still being in use and still being written in.

If it is a question of terminology, there are some very few items where terminology was very different from modern science.

Are "waters above the firmament" only H2O molecules or also the H2 molecules? In the latter case, the O2 of the atmosphere may have been created out of water, releasing H2 to form a higher/outer layer, providing Sun and Stars with fuel, before God created them on day 4.

Plus clashes of classification of certain animals.

If it is a question of - and alas, I think it is! - "language has developed since then", that is a pretty gross mistake and clearly misunderstands linguistics.

Russian is not "more primitive" or less useful to science than English - and yet it is closer in certain syntactic features to Latin and Greek, it simply did not take part in the "development" (if you like) of less "synthetic" and more "analytic" features that took place in the Middle Ages in Western Europe. Having in certain cases cases where other languages have prepositions or word order does not make one's language less useful to scientific communication. Same goes for having definite article, which Russian still lacks and which Classic Greek and Hebrew (but not Latin) already had 2,000 years ago.

Language has not developed another kind of consciousness, in which it has just recently been newly possible to pose questions in a scientific way.

Nor has, for that matter, mind. Only some pieces of methodology (and part of it erroneous, like always presuming naturalistic explanations) have come into place.

Then, it is certainly true that the Bible "is not a book of science" if you take the phrase at its face value - but in our culture a certain élite has come to use that phrase in a very other, and misleading, meaning.

A newspaper is not a book of science, but hydrologists will still trust a clip saying that such and such a river flooded back then and then. By so and so much. The information was not given as a piece of science, but as a piece of news - and it is still trusted to be accurate in the ways that scientists require.

My point is that the Bible, like such a newspaper, is not a book of science, but like such a newspaper, can be trusted when a scientist seeks information which he cannot observe for himself.

"Father Funes" obviously meant sth like it is a book of poetry written in trobar clus and one would have to be mad to use the words of Romeo in the Balcony scene to make statements about "sun was observed standing in a balcony, astronomers perplexed" - but the poetically metaphorical outburst of Romeo is not how we should see Holy Writ as a whole, especially not historic books (and actually not quite even the Psalms!), indeed, it is not how we should see even Romeo and Juliet as a whole. You see, it is medically accurate that a fourteen year old girl (or even a twelve year old girl, half of the time) can marry - insofar as she lives in a culture where marriage, as it should be, is considered in a perspective of childbirth. That is what puberty is about, medically speaking.

And Romeo was accurate in astronomy in saying morning suns do appear in the East. And the presence of his piece of flattery does not mean nobody can make head or tail of Romeo and Juliet in terms where it relates to scientific information.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Nanterre UL
Decapitation of Louis XVI
(not yet canonised)

PS, if he thinks the concept of "million" and hence also of "million years" was unknown to ancient writers, think again:

καὶ ἐξεπορεύετο κατὰ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ ποταμὸς πυρός, χίλιαι χιλιάδες ἐθεράπευον αὐτὸν καὶ μύριαι μυριάδες παρειστήκεισαν αὐτῷ· καὶ κριτήριον ἐκάθισε καὶ βίβλοι ἠνεῴχθησαν.

Daniel 7:10** in the Septuagint, literally a million and a hundred millions. If he would reply this was not to be taken literally, I suspect he means Daniel could not have counted how many they were : of course not, but Daniel may well have had it revealed. But even if by any tiny chance he was to have used these terms figuratively, certainly Babylonian and Persian census accounts and fiscal accounts and trade book keeping would have made him familiar with the literal use of it. I. e. at least by his time, one could have expressed the idea that man appeared χίλιαι χιλιάδες years ago, if that had been true, or that μύριαι μυριάδες years ago there lived Behemoths and Leviathans came later, if that had been true./HGL

* From : For heaven's sake: Papal astronomers promote harmony of science, faith
By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

** From the site Academic Bible, The website for academic online Bible study by the German Bible Society. LXX, Daniel 7

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