If I have told you earthly things, and you believe not, how shall you believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?

The person I spoke with below put forward the idea that the word “ground” used in the Genesis narrative of the creation of the man means “cultivated earth.” She posited this idea so that it would allow for the harmonization of Genesis with the theory of Evolution.

When I think about how our dialogue went, the first verse from the Bible that comes to mind is:

If I have told you earthly things, and you believe not, how shall you believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?
(John 3:12)

James:

When you have spare time:

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

(Genesis 2:7)

The word that you are referring to is either: dust or ground

James:

If ground then: H127

אדמה

‘ădâmâh

BDB Definition:

1) ground, land

1a) ground (as general, tilled, yielding sustenance)

1b) piece of ground, a specific plot of land

1c) earth substance (for building or constructing)

1d) ground as earth’s visible surface

1e) land, territory, country

1f) whole inhabited earth

1g) city in Naphtali

James:

if dust then: H6083

עפר

‛âphâr

BDB Definition:

1) dry earth, dust, powder, ashes, earth, ground, mortar, rubbish

1a) dry or loose earth

1b) debris

1c) mortar

1d) ore

James:

Either way, the context gives the reader no reason to believe that the dust or the ground have anything to do with evolution especially in light of Mark 10:16 and millions of years required for positing the evolutionary point of view.

Anonymous:

there is a translation where adamah means cultivated earth, there is also a meaning “red earth”.  I’ll find it

James:

The translation can never change the semantic range of the Hebrew word that is why I included the lexical content for each word in scope

Anonymous:

I mean the word has more than one definition, even from what you sent me.  I meant definition, not translation, sorry.  So the definitions are “cultivated earth” and “red earth”

James:

Yes but obviously context restricts definition. For example, when the bible says that our God is a rock, we wouldn’t wonder whether it means that God is a lump or mass of hard consolidated mineral matter we would know that the definition that is in scope is someone who is strong and stable and dependable. Likewise, when God says that He used the dust of the ground on day 6, we understand that the dust is obviously uncultivated since this act occurred on day 6. We also understand the days to be literal since God in Exodus 20:9-11 refers back to the days as being literal days.

Anonymous:

but I think in this  case this is precisely the case.  There is a possibility that the definition of cultivated earth was what was meant here.

Anonymous:

I mean, this definition would not fit 1g) city in Naphtali but it’s one of the ones you provided

James:

Well if that is the case then the million dollar question is: Who cultivated the earth? The animals that were made on the same day?

Anonymous:

I think the answer may be God cultivated the earth.  Into an animal that would be acceptable to become a human.

James:

The text doesn’t require this type of speculation. In fact, your speculation contradicts the bible itself. God talks about animal creation as something that occurs differently. God said that Adam looked at all the animals but could not find a help mate so God put Adam to sleep and created a helpmate (i.e. woman). If your speculation were true then Adam would have been asleep for millions of years while evolution was occurring and this is an absurdity that must not be allowed.

Anonymous:

Right.  But that was already after he was made human

Anonymous:

I don’t see any contradiction here

Anonymous:

If anything, it supports what we see in the world even today – that God is patient with our development

Anonymous:

Adam did not have to be asleep for millions of years, that does not make any sense.  He was already human.  The millions of years have to have passed before he was made human

Anonymous:

I think it’s also important to understand that this was meta-history.  No language that was developed after the human fall can describe what happened before the fall when the world was pure.  We can only make approximations at describing what may have occurred.  The language in the Bible was the language people spoke when the story was conveyed, it attempts to describe in the terms we understand the world that we cannot understand in our current condition.  So I don’t think we can assume that now that we read we know exactly what happened and how it happened.

James:

How do you know that the Genesis narrative is meta-history and not actual literal history?

How do you know that languages developed after the fall cannot describe what happened before the fall when the world was pure?

How do you know that we can only make approximations at describing what may have occurred, how do you know that what we have in the bible is not the precise narrative of what actually occurred?

Since Christianity holds that God is the ultimate author of the bible, are you suggesting that God only “attempts to describe in the terms we understand the world that we cannot understand in our current condition” but apparently falls short of being able to use words that convey our current condition? In other words, are you willing to accept that God is incapable of decisively conveying truth in the bible’s propositions?

How do you know that we cannot assume that what we read isn’t what really happened (i.e. the truth)?

In conclusion, you make a lot of statements that are essentially truth claims yet you doubt the literal truth that is conveyed in the Bible (i.e. Genesis). In the bible we are admonished to embrace a mode of thinking in which God ALONE is true and EVERYONE else false (Romans 3:4). The reason why we are told to do this is so that whenever we are compelled to judge God (and His Word), He always comes out on top and His Words always prevail (Romans 3:4b).

Anonymous:

You might as well say that we all understand God now completely just because he gave us His Word.  Do you? I hope you don’t think so.

James:

Just because I believe God is telling the truth in Genesis it doesn’t logically follow that I (or we) understand God completely. This is a straw man and thus an error in reasoning.

Anonymous:

And yes, he talked to us in terms we can understand, like Jesus talked in parables. And Peter and Paul say on many occasions that we cannot describe the Kingdom of Heaven precisely the way it is until we get there.

James:

Actually Jesus spoke in parables to achieve the exact opposite of what you state. He spoke in parables to obscure the truth (Matthew 13:10-11). We are not talking about the kingdom of Heaven, we are talking about whether or not God meant what He said in the book of Genesis. If God tried but couldn’t accurately or competently convey a narrative so that we could understand and God is the greatest, then it follows logically that truth is incapable of being explained. Are you willing to live with this conclusion?

Anonymous:

How can we also describe the world before the fall for which we have no language and with which we have no experience.

James:

It’s actually quite simple, God spoke to Moses and the other prophets in a language they could understand and they recorded His words in Aramaic and Hebrew for which we have lexicons ad naseum. There is nothing missing in the equation.

Anonymous:

I am not claiming that the Bible does not contain the ultimate truth, only that that truth cannot be fully understood by simply reading the text from the point of view of a 21 century person living in the United States.

James:

On the contrary, God says that the things in the older books of the bible were written for our (21 Century) benefit (1 Corinthians 10:11).

Anonymous:

And I believe thinking that just because you read it you understand it and there is nothing else you can learn is a fallacy.

James:

It is easy to simply assert this without details. It is harder to demonstrate this using a rational argument. Furthermore, no one is saying that there is nothing more to learn so this is a straw man argument.

Anonymous:

This is a useless argument.  How about you just stay with your opinion and I stay with mine

Anonymous:

mostly because everything I said here you seem to have understood in your own way and I am not even separated from you by 2 thousand years, a language, and cultural context, at least not as much as, well, I don’t know, we are from ancient Jews

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