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AnswersInGenesis.org criticized, defended, and challenged using Biblical Textual Criticism
Posted in Category: Science vs Religion

The RadMod sees the positive in AnswersInGenesis.org, and defends them, yet challenges their biblical literalism through discussion of “Biblical Textual Criticism”

This article occurred because Ken Ham of AnswersInGenesis got attacked by a well-regarded DailyKOS science diarist (DarkSyde) necessitating a RadMod defense, and that led to more discussion of the biblical literalism behind AnswersinGenesis.org

One of DailyKOS’s most well-regarded science diarists (DarkSyde) has selected Ken Ham of AnswersInGenesis.org for profile and skewering in his recurring series “Know Your Creationists”. Know Your Creationists - Ken Ham. Here’s a bio of Ken Ham from AnswersInGenesis.org: About Ken Ham.

Darksyde writes a lot of science diaries. Here’s Darksyde’s homepage at DailyKOS, so you can see all the diaries he produces: Darksyde (DailyKOS science and anti-creationism diarist).

Darksyde takes Ham very seriously as a polished appealing crusader for creationism. Darksyde almost acknowledges that Ham is more intellectually honest than other creationists. But Darksyde’s profile is primarily an attack piece, lumping Ham in with the low-class creationist hucksters who simply push pure BS. Darksyde has no patience for our children being taught creationism as if it were science. At the end of this article appear some excerpts from Darksyde’s Ken Ham profile.

Ken Ham is a founder of Answersingenesis.org. Ham is a “Young Earth Creationist” (here’s Ham’s explanation of the term).

RadMod likes AnswersInGenesis.org

For some background about how your friendly neighborhood Radical Moderate views AnswersInGenesis (AIG), see RadMod’s first article about AnswersInGenesis.

My earlier article was complimentary. The main reason I remain complimentary about AnswersInGenesis is that AIG is much more honest than any other creationist group of which I am familiar. AIG at least acknowledges some of the special problems that creationism has great difficulty trying to explain, like How can we see distant stars in a young universe? (the article is well balanced and respectful in discussing the problems and the science).

AIG honestly declares that it’s mission is to defend the faith, not perform scientific inquiry. Ham says he is a young-earther because the inerrent Bible says the earth is young.

Ken Ham does NOT claim to have been converted to a young-earth belief by scientific inquiry. He says that evidence for an older earth must be Disallowed, because such evidence contradicts the young earth Biblical account. He is clearly defending the faith, for faith’s sake. In my view, Ham is much more honest than the hucksters who pretend that the creation science is SO clear that only devil worshippers would accept the theories of secular science.

See A young Earth — it’s not the issue!. Here’s an excerpt:

  • … Believing in a relatively ‘young Earth’ (i.e., only a few thousands of years old, which we accept) is a consequence of accepting the authority of the Word of God as an infallible revelation from our omniscient Creator.

    Recently, one of our associates sat down with a highly respected world-class Hebrew scholar and asked him this question: ‘If you started with the Bible alone, without considering any outside influences whatsoever, could you ever come up with millions or billions of years of history for the Earth and universe?’ The answer from this scholar? ‘Absolutely not!’

    Let’s be honest. Take out your Bible and look through it. You can’t find any hint at all for millions or billions of years.

    [Christian Leaders admit] that if you take Genesis in a straight-forward way, it clearly teaches six ordinary days of Creation. However, the reason they don’t believe God created in six literal days is because they are convinced from so-called ‘science’ that the world is billions of years old. In other words, they are admitting that they start outside the Bible to (re)interpret the Words of Scripture.

    … I understand that the Bible is a revelation from our infinite Creator, and it is self-authenticating and self-attesting. I must interpret Scripture with Scripture, not impose ideas from the outside! When I take the plain words of the Bible, it is obvious there was no death, bloodshed, disease or suffering of humans or animals before sin. God instituted death and bloodshed because of sin—this is foundational to the Gospel. Therefore, one cannot allow a fossil record of millions of years of death, bloodshed, disease and suffering before sin (which is why the fossil record makes much more sense as the graveyard of the flood of Noah’s day).

    …. Thus, as a ‘revelationist,’ I let God’s Word speak to me, with the words having meaning according to the context of the language they were written in. Once I accept the plain words of Scripture in context, the fact of ordinary days, no death before sin, the Bible’s genealogies, etc., all make it clear that I cannot accept millions or billions of years of history. Therefore, I would conclude there must be something wrong with man’s ideas about the age of the universe.

    … So, the issue is not ‘young Earth’ versus ‘old Earth,’ but this: Can fallible, sinful man be in authority over the Word of God?

As the excerpts above show, Ken Ham and AIG take a biblical literalist view of the allegedly inerrent words in the Bible. Well, I’m going to talk about something new to me, the concept of “Biblical Textual Criticism”, because it seems that biblical scholars have known from the inception of the Bible that the words in it are not in fact inerrent.

I hadn’t given much thought to studying how the Bible came to exist, until I heard about (and then read) the book “Misquoting Jesus : The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why”.

In Misquoting Jesus, the author takes us through “Textual Criticism 101″, giving a kindergarten level introduction to the lay public about the concept that the books in the Bible we hold in our hands are clearly NOT the same exact word-for-word books written down by the authors. He says there are more variations among the manuscripts than there are words in the Bible. Most variations are minor, but many do involve important matters of doctrine. Read the book.

The problem with the text is that we lack the ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPTS for any of the books of the Bible. The only things we have are handwritten Copies of Copies of Copies of Copies of Copies of Copies …….. Here’s a description of how Scribes copied things, from an independent website (not from the book) … saying “Now imagine what happens when a document is copied, by hand, tens of thousands of times, long after the original manuscript has been destroyed. Imagine it being copied by barely literate scribes standing (not sitting, standing) at cold desks in bad light for hours on end, trying to read some other scribe’s barely legible handwriting. … Imagine trying to do that when the words are written in all upper-case letters, with no spaces between words, and you’re writing on poor-quality paper with a scratchy reed pen using ink you made yourself. … Because that’s what happened with all ancient books, and with the New Testament in particular. “

Misquoting Jesus also talks at great length about the process the ancient Scribes used to make the imperfect copies. Whole sections of manuscripts got missed, or got copied into the wrong places, key words were left out of copies. The wrong words were translated, due to ambiguities in the Greek.

See also the following Wikipedia article for insight into the great debates that have gone on through the centuries about what writings go into the various versions of the New and Old Testaments. Biblical Canon

At what point in this process of constant error, omission, and variation in the language of the books, do we start to consider the words to be the inerrent words of God?

Read Misquoting Jesus for yourself, and get an overview of how your “Bible” cannot possibly be the inerrent word-for-word Word of God, because the books of your Bible are significantly different from other versions of the same books floating around since ancient times, and the editors of the King James version just picked some versions over others, and we don’t know for sure which variant manuscript copies are closest to the originals, and we lack the originals.

And more ominously, there exists lots of evidence for the intentional changing of many Biblical passages (by scribes) in order to improve the theology that flowed from the text (possibly in order to harmonize the text with the prevailing theological viewpoints of the time). Misquoting Jesus gives a lot of examples. Read the book.

For some detailed info about New Testment textual criticism, here’s an excerpt from “An Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism” ——-

  • Still, there are variations in the manuscripts of the New Testament, and some of them are important. It is rare for such variants to affect a fundamental Christian doctrine, but they certainly can affect the course of our theological arguments. And in any case, we would like the most accurate text of the New Testament possible.

    That is the purpose of textual criticism: Working with the materials available, to reconstruct the original text of an ancient document with as much accuracy as possible. It’s not always an easy job, and scholars do sometimes disagree. But we will try to outline some of the methods of New Testament textual criticism in this article, so that you too can understand the differences between Bibles, and all those odd little footnotes that read something like “Other ancient authorities read….”

Some more textual criticism links:

The Old Testment has a similar issue with the original manuscripts being gone, and all we have are Much Later handwritten copies of copies of copies …

Here’s an introduction to Old Testment Textual Criticism. Here’s some info about the Old Testment manuscripts: “The first and most important source is, of course, the Hebrew manuscripts. With a very few exceptions (which we shall treat separately), these were copied in the Middle Ages by scribes known as the Massoretes (hence the name Massoretic Text, frequently abbreviated MT or even M). … Our earliest substantial MT manuscripts date from about the tenth century. Prior to this, we have only a handful of Hebrew manuscripts. “

The Biblical account of creation has its own problems, chief among them that there are two versions of creation, with things being created in different orders, and in different time scales, and a LOT of interpretting must be done to harmonize the two versions. Which interpretation is the “inerrent” one?

See Creation according to Genesis - Wikipedia. Here are the three main schools of interpretation of the dual creation accounts in Genesis, from the Wikipedia:

  • The single account theory

    Some scholars believe that the Genesis account is a report of creation, which is divided into two parts, written from different perspectives: the first part, from 1:1 to 2:3, describes the creation of the Earth from God’s perspective; the second part, from 2:4-24, describes the creation of the Garden of Eden from Humanity’s perspective. One such scholar wrote, “[T]he strictly complementary nature of the accounts is plain enough: Genesis 1 mentions the creation of man as the last of a series, and without any details, whereas in Genesis 2 man is the center of interest and more specific details are given about him and his setting.” (Kitchen 116-117).
    [edit]

  • The dual account theory

    Other scholars, particularly those ascribing to textual criticism and the Documentary hypothesis, believe that the first two chapters of Genesis are two separate accounts of the creation. (They agree that the “first chapter” should include the first three verses of chapter 2.) One such scholar wrote: “The book of Genesis, like the other books of the Hexateuch, was not the production of one author. A definite plan may be traced in the book, but the structure of the work forbids us to consider it as the production of one writer.” (Spurell xv). The distinction between the ‘two’ creation stories is concealed by some translations, such as the New International Version. For some religious writers, such as Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, the existence of two separate creation stories is beyond doubt, and thus needs to be interpreted as having divine importance.
    [edit]

  • The dual perspective theory

    Other scholars, such as Pamela Tamarkin Reis, assert that the text can be read either as one account or as two accounts from different perspectives, as the text uses a literary device to describe the same events first from the perspective of God, and second from the perspective of Humanity. According to the documentary hypothesis the existence of two creation stories is the result of the merging of two distinct traditions into one unified text. Literary and linguistic analysis by various authors offer a number of theories concerning modifications and editing which produced the text that exists today. Some readers of the Bible deny that two distinct creation stories exist; they have created a detailed set of religious readings which attempt to show that any differences are only apparent, but not actually real.

  • Timescale

    * The dual account theory asserts that the first story describes the creation of plants, animals, and humans over a period of many days, the second story describes these things of happening on the same day.

    * The single account theory asserts that the first segment of the story describes the creation of plants, animals, and humans of the course of several days, and the second segment picks up where the first leaves off, focusing on the creation of the Garden of Eden, and the creation of domesticable plants, (”plants of the field and herbs of the field”);

And so, we can see that the nice people at AnswersInGenesis.org have done some interpreting of ambiguous timelines and sequences, in order to establish the so-called literally inerrent version of creation.

See also: Creation Stories. Here’s an excerpt highlighting some perceived problems between the two creation accounts in Genesis —-

  • The order of creation in Genesis 1 is: heaven and earth, light, vault of heaven (i.e., separation of earthly and heavenly waters), seas and dry land, plants, sun and stars, fish and birds, land animals, and last humans.
  • The order of creation in Genesis 2 is: heaven and earth, man, trees and the Garden of Eden, animals and birds, woman. In Genesis 1 the earth is first covered by water. In Genesis 2 the earth is first dry and barren. In Genesis 1 God creates by simple command: “And God said, let there be light, and there was light.” In Genesis 2 God manufactures his creations from dirt or earth, walks in the garden in the cool of the evening, and cannot find the humans when they are hiding. Not only are the creation stories inconsistent, but the conceptions of the power of the deity are utterly different.

CONCLUSION: I respect AnswersinGenesis.org, and appreciate their comparatively intellectually honest approach to discussing science and religion. I hope the above gives you much food for thought as you make up your own mind.

I leave you with some excerpts from DarkSyde’s profile of Ken Ham, which served as the “genesis” for this article.

Know Your Creationists - Ken Ham

Ken Ham is the President of a Young Earth Creationist organization called Answers in Genesis (AiG) who holds the equivalent of a Masters in Education from the University of Queensland, Australia. AiG is self described as “a Christian apologetics ministry that equips the church to uphold the authority of the Bible from the very first verse”. In other words, AiG promotes a strict interpretation of the Old Testament from a seven day creation time line to the Noachian Global Flood (and of course they reject common descent). Mr. Ham was born and raised in Australia but–sadly for us in America–now makes his home and base of operations for AiG in Cincinnati, Ohio.

[snip]

The primary difference between AiG and other, more notorious, Young Earth Creationist (YEC) ministry’s profiled to date, and about the only positive things I can say about the crew at AiG, is that they’re upfront about their agenda and they’re sharply critical of shady operators. They’ve taken Kent Hovind and Carl Baugh to task in the past, although the Hovind critique appears to now be missing from their site. They also maintain a list of ‘Arguments We {AiG] Think Creationists Should NOT Use’, such as:

* Did Darwin Recant on His Deathbed?
* Does Moondust Thickness Prove a Young Earth?
* Did Ron Wyatt Find Noah’s Ark?

They spice their arguments with more technical terminology, and most of the staff and faculty at AiG either have real degrees or don’t tout fake ones. Outside of that, the methods used by Ham and his group to lobby others and try to screw up science ed with their anti-science apologetics are virtually indistinguishable from Hovind and Baugh combined.

Like Hovind, Ham makes dozens, if not hundreds, of appearances each year in churches and revivals where his overall theme is to blame evil evolutionary biology for every ill suffered by mankind in the last 150 years, and then go on to present the evidence against evolution, against geology, and against anything else which contradicts his anti-science mythology. Using polished communications skills, not to mention sporting one of those catchy Aussie accents, Ham ties abortion, family break-up, homosexuality, drug use, pornography, and so forth to ‘evolution’ in a point blank manner that would surely leave Jerry Falwell and Tom Delay writhing on the floor in ecstasy.

[snip]

The articles underwritten by AiG follow the neverending anti-science MO of presenting, or contriving, a problem with which ever sub-discipline of mainstream science they happen to be attacking, and then conclude that Young Earth Creationism wins by default. The arguments are the same-old, same-old; there are no transitional fossils, Noah’s Flood explains the observed geological evidence better than anything else, evolution is a dogmatic philosophy about to be toppled by ‘real’ science (Any day now!), Natural Selection cannot create new information, gaps in the fossil record anywhere are reason to throw the evidence that lies between gaps out the window, etc., vomitus ad nauseum.

Ham and AiG may be as transparently silly as any other pseodoscientific crackpots to those of us who know the ropes, but they reach millions of people around the world and seem to especially tailor their spiel to kids and teenage evangelical Christians. Most of whom don’t know any better. They even have a theme song “I didn’t come from no chimpanzee, my grandad didn’t swing from no tree …”

[snip]

 

END of article
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AnswersInGenesis.org criticized, defended, and challenged using Biblical Textual Criticism

by on Sunday February 19, 2006.
Category: Science vs Religion.

 

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