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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Is Christianity Still Needed?

Is Christianity Still Needed In America?

[EDITOR’S NOTE: We receive many questions at A.P. from inquirers all over the world. We are devoting this issue of R&R to a few of these questions that we think may be of interest to a wider audience.]

Q:

“I agree that the historical proof is there that Christianity was the religion of the vast majority of the Founders and Americans ever since. But in the last half-century, America has changed drastically with the influx of many other worldviews and religious sentiments, and we seem to be doing just fine. So why would you say Christianity is still needed in America?”

A:

For the same reason it was needed at the beginning: it is the only way to sustain the kind of Republic we enjoy. The practice of Christian principles by the majority of the citizens is not necessary in a dictatorship, monarchy, communist or socialist state, atheistic country, Islamic country, etc. In all such ideological settings, the government is coercive and regulates everybody and everything. But to have the kind of freedom we have enjoyed in this country, where everyone is free to pursue moral happiness and exercise freedom of choice with regard to profession, travel, etc., the people must embrace Christian morality. The less of Christianity in the hearts and behavior of the population, the more need for government regulation. The more the people are self-controlled by Christian principles, the fewer laws are needed. Consider these quotes by Founders who articulated this principle plainly:

Patrick Henry:

I am not so much alarmed as at the apprehension of [France] destroying the great pillars of all government and of social life; I mean virtue, morality, and religion. This is the armor, my friend, and this alone, that renders us invincible. These are the tactics we should study. If we lose these, we are conquered, fallen indeed (as quoted in Henry, 1891, 2:591-592, emp. added).

James McHenry (signer of the Constitution andSecretary of War):

The Holy Scriptures...can alone secure to society, order and peace, and to our courts of justice and constitutions of government, purity, stability, and usefulness. In vain, without the Bible, we increase penal laws and draw entrenchments around our institutions. Bibles are strong entrenchments. Where they abound, men cannot pursue wicked courses (as quoted in Steiner, 1921, p. 14, emp. added).

John Adams (signer of Declaration of Independence, Vice-President under George Washington, and second President of the United States):

We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion.... Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other (1854, 9:229).
Statesmen my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand.... The only foundation of a free Constitution, is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People, in a greater Measure, than they have it now, They may change their Rulers, and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty. They will only exchange Tyrants and Tyrannies (1976-2000, emp. added).

Benjamin Rush (signer of the Declaration of Independence):

I have been alternately called an aristocrat and a democrat. I am neither. I am a Christocrat. I believe all power...will always fail of producing order and happiness in the hands of man. He alone who created and redeemed man is qualified to govern him (as quoted in Ramsay, 1813, p. 103).

John Witherspoon (signer of the Declaration of Independence):

It is the prerogative of God to do what he will with his own; but he often displays his justice itself, by throwing into the furnace those, who, though they may not be visibly worse than others, may yet have more to answer for, as having been favoured with more distinguished privileges, both civil and sacred…. Nothing is more certain than that a general profligacy and corruption of manners makes a people ripe for destruction.... [W]hen the manners of a nation are pure, when true religion and internal principles maintain their vigour, the attempts of the most powerful enemies to oppress them are commonly baffled and disappointed…. [H]e is the best friend to American liberty, who is most sincere and active in promoting true and undefiled religion [Christianity—James 1:27], and who sets himself with the greatest firmness to bear down profanity and immorality of every kind (1777, pp. 16,33, emp. added).

Noah Webster (Father of American Scholarship and Education):

[T]hose who destroy the influence and authority of the Christian religion, sap the foundations of public order, of liberty, and of republican government (1832, pp. 310-311).

Jedidiah Morse (Father of American Geography):

To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom, and political and social happiness which mankind now enjoys. In proportion as the genuine effects of Christianity are diminished in any nation, either through unbelief, or the corruption of its doctrines, or the neglect of its institutions; in the same proportion will the people of that nation recede from the blessings of genuine freedom, and approximate the miseries of complete despotism. All efforts to destroy the foundations of our holy religion, ultimately tend to the subversion also of our political freedom and happiness. Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government, and all the blessings which flow from them, must fall with them (1799, p. 11, emp. added).

Elias Boudinot (President of the Continental Congress):

[O]ur country should be preserved from the dreadful evil of becoming enemies to the religion of the Gospel, which I have no doubt, but would be introductive of the dissolution of government and the bonds of civil society (1801, p. xxii, emp. added).

George Washington (Father of our Country, first President of the United States):

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric? (1796, pp. 22-23, emp. added).
Washington also said only God can protect our nation:
I am sure there never was a people who had more reason to acknowledge a Divine interposition in their affairs than those of the United States; and I should be pained to believe that they have forgotten that Agency which was so often manifested during our revolution, or that they failed to consider the omnipotence of that God who is alone able to protect them (1792, “Letter to…”).
Observe that these Founders (and many more—see Miller, 2009) insisted that Christianity is necessary to provide the people with proper moral behavior so that the Republic they established might be perpetuated. No other religion—Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, or even Atheism—can provide the proper moral framework necessary to perpetuate the civil institutions and way of life created by the Founders and Framers.

The Bible teaches the same thing:

When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan. The king establishes the land by justice, but he who receives bribes overthrows it (Proverbs 29:2-4). No king is saved by the multitude of an army; a mighty man is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a vain hope for safety; neither shall it deliver any by its great strength. Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy (Psalm 33:16-18).
Further, consider this: If there is a God, and if He is the God of the Bible, and if His Word is expressed in the Bible alone, then according to that Word, (1) He is active in the affairs of nations (Daniel 4:17); (2) He blesses those who look to Him (Psalm 33:12); and (3) He will abandon and even punish the nation that spurns His will and chooses to live sinfully—which is precisely the direction our nation/citizens are swiftly headed. Hence, we should well expect national calamity to come in some form (economic collapse, infiltration by enemies, increase in diseases, natural calamity, etc. [Deuteronomy 28:15ff., et al.]).
To repeat: Systematically banning Christianity from our schools, our government, and the public square will have two results: (1) a massive increase in immorality, crime, and social anarchy, and (2) God’s disfavor and wrath will eventually be unleashed against the nation.

REFERENCES

Adams, John (1854), The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, ed. Charles Adams (Boston, MA: Little, Brown, and Company).
Adams, John (1976-2000), Letters of delegates to Congress, 1774-1789, ed. Paul Smith (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress), Volume 4, http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/hlaw:@field(DOCID+@lit(dg004210)).
Boudinot, Elias (1801), The Age of Revelation (Philadelphia, PA: Asbury Dickins), http://www.google.com/books?id=XpcPAAAAIAAJ.
Henry, William (1891), Patrick Henry; Life, Correspondence and Speeches (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons), http://www.archive.org/details/pathenrylife01henrrich. See also George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799: Series 4. General Correspondence. 1697-1799, Image 1071, “Patrick Henry to Archibald Blair,” January 8, 1799, http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=mgw4&fileName=gwpage113.db&recNum=1070.
Miller, Dave (2009), Christ & the Continental Congress (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Morse, Jedidiah (1799), A Sermon, Exhibiting the Present Dangers and Consequent Duties of the Citizens of the United States of America (Charlestown, MS: Samuel Etheridge), http://www.archive.org/details/sermonexhibiting00morsrich.
Ramsay, David (1813), An Eulogium Upon Benjamin Rush, M.D. (Philadelphia, PA: Bradford & Inskeep).
Steiner, Bernard (1921), One Hundred and Ten Years of Bible Society Work in Maryland, 1810-1920 (Baltimore, MD: The Maryland Bible Society).
Washington, George (1792), “Letter to John Armstrong, March 11, 1792,” Letterbook 18
Image 110 of 359, George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799: Series 2 Letterbooks, http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=mgw2&fileName=gwpage018.db&recNum=109.
Washington, George (1796), Address of George Washington, President of the United States...Preparatory to His Declination (Baltimore, MD: George & Henry Keating).
Webster, Noah (1832), History of the United States (New Haven, CT: Durrie & Peck).
Witherspoon, John (1777), The Dominion of Providence over the Passions of Men (Philadelphia, PA: Town & Country), http://books.google.com/books/about/The_Dominion_of_Providence_Over_the_Pass.html?id=HpRIAAAAYAAJ.

Is America Safe?

The Abundance of Everything"

Q:

 Isn’t America’s wealth an indication that the nation is pleasing to God?

A:

There’s no question that America’s unprecedented affluence and technological superiority have been the direct result of God showering the country with His blessings for over 200 years (Psalm 33:12). However, we must not think even for a moment that He will continue His favor indefinitely if we, as a nation, veer from the principles of Christian morality on which the Republic was founded. One cannot assume that since national existence remains intact and the bulk of the populace continues to enjoy lavish physical comforts that God is pleased or that He has no intention of “pulling the plug.” Indeed, tragically, America would seem to have entered the same phase of national status which God warned would one day characterize Israel of old if they jettisoned God’s commands and decrees from their lives.
Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything, therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of everything; and He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until He has destroyed you (Deuteronomy 28:47-48, emp. added).
If there was ever an accurate description of America’s condition, it would be that we enjoy “the abundance of everything.” Yet great spiritual poverty has spread like a scourge across the land. The abundance that Americans wallow in everyday should propel them to live godly lives before the great Governor of the Universe. Sadly, however, much of the population is rushing headlong down the precipice of moral depravity, wanton luxury, hedonism, and irreligion. We should fully expect the same outcome (2 Kings 17 and 25). Even as God expressed through the prophet Zechariah:
Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Execute true justice, show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother.” But they refused to heed, shrugged their shoulders, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear…refusing to hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent…. Thus great wrath came from the Lord of hosts…. Thus the land became desolate after them, so that no one passed through or returned; for they made the pleasant land desolate (7:8-14, emp. added).
America has most certainly been “the pleasant land.” But she can be made desolate—if God wills.





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Wednesday, December 09, 2015

The Gap Theory Science?

Is the Gap Theory Linguistically Viable?

by Justin Rogers, Ph.D.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: A.P. auxiliary writer Dr. Rogers serves as an Associate Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He holds an M.A. in New Testament from Freed-Hardeman University as well as an M.Phil. and Ph.D. in Hebraic, Judaic, and Cognate Studies from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.]
At the center of scientific inquiry is a desire to express free thought. “Go wherever your mind leads you” is the academic cry that hearkens back at least to the Enlightenment. For Bible believers, however, this mantra has its limits. If one’s pursuit of so-called “knowledge” leads him to deny the divinity of Christ or the existence of God, then he has become a victim of intellectual deceit. The philosophical constructs causing him to reach these conclusions must be reexamined if not rejected. Such is the case with many modern theories of universal origins. By eliminating God as the primal Cause, these theories operate under false pretenses, and thus can never reach the truth.
Many Christians working in the field of scientific cosmology seek to poach godless theories from modern science and work them into a model of biblical faith. We should applaud their efforts so long as they do not “go beyond what is written” (1 Corinthians 4:6). Unfortunately, some do go too far. In their desire to harmonize the biblical account with the scientific “necessity” of old-Earth creationism, they seek to read into the Bible concepts not clearly present. Rather than using divine inspiration to inform science, they prefer to impose modern scientific insight onto the Bible—an insight, it should be observed, the original readers of the Bible would not have understood.

WHAT IS GAP THEORY?

One example of the harmonistic approach between modern “science” and biblical faith is the so-called “Gap Theory.” Although there are numerous iterations of this idea, each of them suggests Genesis 1 contains a gap or multiple gaps in which can be squeezed the amount of time necessary to accommodate an Earth billions of years old. Although the biblical text does not require or even intimate such gaps, proponents of Gap Theory insist that the science requires it. In other words, they allow the tail to wag the dog, allowing “science” to trump plain biblical teaching.
Of course, for theists who claim to accept the biblical account of Creation, much is at stake. If Gap Theory is correct, then the Bible must be made to accommodate it. Since anyone with common sense and an English Bible would find it difficult to accept Gap Theory from the Genesis account alone, Gap theorists often transfer the debate to the mysterious world of Hebrew linguistics. Playing on the ignorance of the general Bible reader (and often revealing their own), Gap theorists insist the Hebrew terminology makes Gap Theory possible.
I must admit: when I first encountered the arguments from biblical Hebrew to defend Gap Theory, I was confused. Even liberal Bible scholars do not use linguistic arguments to deny the literal understanding of Genesis 1. James Barr, a world-renowned Old Testament scholar, writes,
So far as I know there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) [sic] of Genesis 1–11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience; (b) the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provide by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to the later stages of the Biblical story, and (c) Noah’s flood was understood to be worldwide, and to have extinguished all human and land animal life except for those in the ark (as quoted in Platinga, 2001, p. 217).
These reasons explain why critical biblical scholarship tends to discuss the genre of Genesis 1-11, that is, whether it is intended to be history or mythology, whether it is literal or symbolic, whether it contains any truth or some truth. The meaning of the words themselves, however, is under no major dispute. But Gap theorists maintain the Creation account is both historical and (apparently) incomprehensible (at least, without the “expert” guidance of the Gap theorist). They insist the key to unlocking Genesis 1 is not what it does say, but what it doesn’t say. What a strange method of interpretation.

WHAT GAP THEORISTS ALLEGE

There are two major linguistic arguments cited in favor of Gap Theory. First, Gap theorists begin by understanding the term bārā’ in Genesis 1 to mean “create” (from nothing), and āsāh to mean “restore” (at a later time). The bārā’ creation marks the initial stage of Creation in which God set the world into motion by fiat. One of the earliest Gap theorists, George H. Pember, wrote over 100 years ago: “For we are told that in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth; but the Scriptures never affirm that He did this in the six days. The work of those days was…quite a different thing from the original creation: they were times of restoration, and the word asah [sic] is used in connection with them” (1907, pp. 22-23).
Within churches of Christ, John Clayton has been an active proponent of the insights of Gap Theory, although his actual position defies precise categorization. Thompson refers to it as the “modified Gap Theory,” although Clayton himself is rather coy about labeling his position (2000, pp. 281-296). Like others, Clayton also appeals to the Hebrew language to defend his version of the theory. Unfortunately, like the Gap theorists, he too states bārā’ is a miraculous creation from nothing, even going so far as to suggest Genesis 1:1 implies the “Big Bang” (Clayton, 2015, p. 90). Like the Gap theorists, Clayton also parrots the view that āsāh means “reworking existing material” (2011, p. 207). If Clayton were to read the rest of the Hebrew Bible, or even the rest of Genesis, he would learn that his definitions are impossible to maintain (as we shall demonstrate).
By interpreting the Hebrew in this fashion, Gap theorists believe they can accommodate an Earth billions of years old without compromising the essential integrity of the Genesis account. The bārā’ stage of Creation occurs first (Genesis 1:1), and, after centuries or even billions of years, the āsāh stage of Creation occurs (the “six days,” Genesis 1:2ff.). Unfortunately, Gap theorists focus their attention, so far as the Hebrew is concerned, principally on Genesis 1 and Exodus 20:11 (taken as proof of the āsāh stage of Creation). Again, if they were to read the entire Hebrew Bible, however, they would learn their position to be linguistically untenable, as we shall demonstrate.
Second, Gap theorists allege the grammar of Genesis 1:2 implies a gap. Basically, three arguments are made from the Hebrew: (1) The Hebrew waw is disjunctive, and thus implies an interruption in the narration from what is reported in Genesis 1:1. This interruption signals a chronological “gap”; (2) The verb form “was” (hāyetāh)should be translated “became,” signaling a new beginning beyond the bārā’ creation of Genesis 1:1; and (3) The nouns traditionally translated “without form and void” (tōhū vā-vōhū) imply a degeneration of the original Creation, and thus what follows is a re-creation.
We shall proceed to discuss and evaluate these Hebrew linguistic arguments, beginning first with the question of bārā’ and āsāh, and then turning to the grammar of Genesis 1:2 specifically. In the course of our analysis, the linguistic evidence for the Gap Theory will be shown to be lacking?

THE VOCABULARY OF CREATION

The Genesis account uses no less than four terms to describe Creation. The terms best known are bārā’ (“create”) and āsāh (“make”), although yātsar (“form”) and bānāh (“build”) are also found. Man is “formed” (yātsar) from the dirt (Genesis 2:7-8), and woman is “built” (bānāh) from man (Genesis 2:22). The bulk of attention, however, has centered around bārā’ and āsāh, the most frequent of these four words in the Creation account. Gap theorists allege these terms refer to very different stages of Creation, billions of years apart. We shall see that, while this theory is attractive at the macro-level, the Hebrew terminology simply will not bear the burden of proof Gap theorists load upon it.

bārā’ and āsāh

We should begin by noting that the Bible uses multiple terms to describe God’s creative activity. Across the Old Testament, in Hebrew and Aramaic, one can locate no less than 13 different terms for Creation! So Israelite Creation theology is not as simple as making a facile distinction between bārā’ and āsāh. In fact, these terms are used interchangeably of God’s creative activity.
Even in the Genesis account itself, bārā’ and āsāh are used together to summarize God’s creative work: “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created” (bārā’), that is, at the time when (literally, “in the day that”) Yahweh God made (āsāh)earth and heaven” (Genesis 2:4; translation mine). The careful reader will notice that the second half of this verse explains and completes the first. We have here what literary scholars call a chiasm, in which the sentence can be broken into two or more parts, and the various components of the sentence parallel one another in introverted fashion (for more on chiasm, see Dorsey, 1999). Allow me to illustrate:
These are the generations of…
a—the heavens and the earth
     b—when they were created
     b’—at the time when Yahweh God made
a’—the earth and the heavens
Notice that the first and final components (a and a’) are flipped, signaling the inverted nature of the verse, and they also highlight the verse’s synonymous parallelism (both halves convey exactly the same idea). Also note the parallelism of b and b’. The whole of the Creation narrative could be described by both Hebrew terms. So the forced distinction made by Gap theorists between bārā’ and āsāh is already shown to be artificial in the Genesis account itself. But we can go further.
The terms bārā’ and āsāh are routinely used in parallel with one another, both in Genesis and elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible.
  • God both “created” (bārā’) and “made” (āsāh) Adam (Genesis 5:1).
  • God will destroy man whom He has “created” (bārā’), along with every living thing, for He was sorry that He had “made” (āsāh) them (Genesis 6:7).
  • The hand of God “has done” (āsāh) it, and God Himself “created” (bārā’) it (Isaiah 41:20).
  • God has “created” (bārā’) and “made” (āsāh) for His glory (Isaiah 43:7).
  • God has “made” (āsāh) Earth and “created” (bārā’) man on it (Isaiah 45:12).
  • God “made” (āsāh) and “created” (bārā’) the Earth (Isaiah 45:18).
  • God “creates” (bārā’) wind and “makes” (āsāh) darkness (Amos 4:13).
As any careful reader of the Bible will observe, the Hebrew language does not make a sharp distinction between bārā’ and āsāh in accounts depicting the Creation. On the contrary, the terms are used interchangeably for Creation throughout the Old Testament, and can often be found in parallel expressions.
Now, this does not mean that bārā’ and āsāh are always synonymous terms. The word bārā’ occurs 53 times in the Bible, and generally has to do with an initial act, or a new beginning. For example, God “creates something new” at the punishment of Korah and his company (Numbers 16:30). He “makes a new beginning” of Israel after the Babylonian Exile (Isaiah 41:20). The term represents a change—a new beginning—in the natural order as well (Isaiah 65:15; Jeremiah 31:22).
So, in addition to creation, which is always an “initial act” on God’s part, subsequent divine intervention after creation can also be depicted by the word bārā’. This explains why the term can be used of the creation of man. He was a new creature, a new beginning, in the process. If Gap theorists were correct, any usage of bārā’ after the initialGenesis Creation would be inappropriate. This clearly is not the case.
The term āsāh, by comparison,has a much broader semantic range. This term occurs 2,627 times, making it one of the most common verbs in the Bible. In addition to meaning “make,” āsāh is the standard verb for “do, act, or perform” in Hebrew. It often means to “keep” the Law (Deuteronomy 5:32), to manufacture a product (1 Samuel 8:12), to “carve” (Ezekiel 41:18), to “work” miracles (Deuteronomy 34:11), to “make” money in the colloquial English sense (Deuteronomy 8:17), to “make” a name for oneself (Genesis 11:4), to “make” dinner or a meal (Judges 6:19), to “make” peace (Isaiah 27:5), to “work” a job (Ruth 2:19), and many other possible nuances. In short, many of the same meanings we can assign to the English verbs “make,” “do,” “work,” “perform,” “act,” and the like can also be ascribed to the Hebrew āsāh.
The word āsāh basically has to do with producing something through work, and it may or may not imply pre-existing material. Passages echoing Genesis 1:1 routinely use āsāh instead of bārā’ (e.g., 1 Chronicles 16:26; Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 33:6; Isaiah 45:12). This fact implies that, while these two terms can be used interchangeably of Creation, one emphasizes the production of a new thing (whether at Creation or afterward), and the other refers to the work involved in producing a thing (whether at Creation or afterward).

The Vocabulary of Creation in the Hebrew Bible

The Creation is one of the most commonly discussed biblical accounts in later biblical literature. The poetry of the Old Testament, particularly in the Psalms and Isaiah 40-55, is rich in Creation terminology. God has a claim on the lives of his people (and on the world!) becauseHe is the Creator of everything. It thus makes sense that the Hebrew language would feature many terms to express one of its most basic theological principles.
The biblical terms for Creation are represented in the chart above. As one can observe, the terminology of Creation in the Bible is rich and varied. Many of these terms are used in parallel to one another, indicating their synonymous nature insofar as Creation is concerned. These terms also illustrate that the Israelites viewed God’s Creation holistically. God “brought creation into initial existence.” God “formed creation.” God “begat” Creation (in a figurative sense). God “established,” “founded,” “acquired,” “spread out,” and “made” every created thing. The full lexicon of Hebrew manufacturing is applied to Creation to illustrate that, in a single period of time, God set the world into existence, just as in a single moment He will destroy it (2 Peter 3:10).

THE GRAMMAR OF GENESIS 1:2

We previously mentioned that Gap theorists cite three grammatical Hebrew features in favor of their position. They claim: (1) the Hebrew waw implies a gap in the narrative; (2) the verb form “was” (hāyetāh)signals a new beginning; and (3) the nouns tōhū vā-vōhū imply a re-creation from a degraded, earlier Creation. We shall treat each of these arguments in order.

The Hebrew Particle waw

First, the Hebrew letter waw, represented by the incessant “and” in the King James Version and often left untranslated in more recent versions, is always prefixed to Hebrew words. When it is attached to a shortened “imperfect” verb form in biblical narrative, it normally functions as a preterite (from Latin praeter, “before”). The purpose is to relate action, typically in the past, and the waw functions to connect those past actions to one another.
When the waw is attached to a noun, as it is in Genesis 1:2, it is disjunctive, and thus signals a shift in the narrative. This shift does not necessarily imply a different series of events, much less events separated by billions of years in time. An abrupt shift is found in Genesis 3:1—“Now, as for the serpent, he was more crafty.” Although no serpent has been discussed, and the context determines a complete break in the narrative, there is nothing stated about the amount of time that elapsed from the creation of woman and the appearance of the serpent.
Sometimes, however, the disjunctive waw can simply provide background information for the story being related (e.g., Genesis 13:13), or explain what is happening simultaneous with the narrative, but elsewhere in location (e.g., Genesis 37:36, translated well as “meanwhile” in the ESV). In these cases, the waw sets up a parenthetical remark which functions to explain the preceding information. This is, I believe, what we have in Genesis 1:2.
Remember that Genesis 1:1 is a declarative statement: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Since the narrative will not focus on the creation of the heavens, but on the Earth, the next verse opens with the final word from the previous one (vehā’ārets). By utilizing the disjunctive waw along with the noun “Earth,” the Hebrew serves to focus attention on the creation of the Earth: “Now, as for the earth, it was formless and void.” This statement is clearly based on the final word of the previous verse as the narrative unpacks exactly how the creation of the Earth took place.

The Hebrew Word “was” (hāyetāh)

The second linguistic argument from Genesis 1:2 deals with the term hāyetāh, traditionally translated “was.” Gap theorists insist the term means “became” or “had become.” They assert the bārā’ stage of Creation “became” or “had become” a desolate waste, and thus a re-creation (the āsāh stage) was necessary. In the assessment of Fields, “It is the mistranslation of this word which has, perhaps, added more to the ranks of gap theorists than any one factor” (1976, p. 88).
First of all, let us acknowledge that Gap theorists are correct about the Hebrew verb hāyāh. It can mean “became” or “had become.” But the meaning of any word must be determined by its context, and not by the translator’s arbitrary choosing of a meaning from a lexical list. In Genesis 1:2, the copular usage of the verb hāyāh in biblical Hebrew must be understood. The community of Hebrew grammarians is uniform in recognizing that the term hāyetāh (a feminine form of hāyāh) in Genesis 1:2 functions as a copula (see, e.g., Joüon and Muraoka, 2006, §154m), and thus simply links the subject with the object without implying any true verbal quality. Let us explain.
Hebrew has no proper equivalent to the English verb “to be.” Therefore, several syntactical approximations, called copulas, communicate the essence of the English “to be.” For example, the pronouns hū’ (literally “he” or “it” for masculine objects) andhî’ (literally “she” or “it” for feminine objects) can serve this purpose (often translated “is”). The same is true of the verb “he became” (hāyāh). The copula hāyetāh is not, therefore, functioning in Genesis 1:2 in its true verbal sense as “became,” but in the copular sense as “was.”
It is recognized universally that “the Hebrew verb translated was refers to the time when God began his work of creation. Was does not mean that the earth remained in this shapeless state for a long time; nor does it mean that it became such after being something else earlier” (Reyburn and Fry, 1997, p. 30). This point is recognized in virtually every decent translation of the Hebrew text since the Septuagint (cf. the Latin Vulgate and the mountain of English translations). Gap theorists must find a different justification for their theory.

The Words tōhū vā-vōhū

The two Hebrew nouns tōhū and bōhū are so closely linked that Hebraists universally regard them as a hendiadys (even the Masoretic accentuation suggests this). Some English translations follow this understanding, using an adjective-noun construction (e.g., the NAB: “formless wasteland”). Traditionally, however, two adjectives are used to translate tōhū vā-vōhū. The Septuagint has “invisible and unconstructed” (aoratos kai akataskeuastos). The Vulgate understands the terms by the synonyms, “empty and void” (inanis et vacua). English translations have generally opted for “formless and void.” All of these are legitimate potential translations of a difficult Hebrew expression.
By contrast, Gap theorists assert these terms imply a depreciation of the original Creation (e.g., Isaiah 34:11; Jeremiah 4:23). Since prophetic passages convey a change from order to disorder when the terms are used, Gap theorists believe the same meaning must hold in Genesis 1:2. [NOTE: Their interpretation here is contingent upon this erroneous understanding of hāyetāh.] However, the prophetic pronouncement is intended to be shocking. God plans to punish his people by dramatically reducing the land to a state of non-existence. It is not merely that He wishes to degrade their existence; He wishes to nullify it!
The term bōhū occurs only three times in the Bible, all in conjunction with tōhū (Genesis 1:2; Isaiah 34:11; Jeremiah 4:23). There can be no doubt, then, that tōhū is the clearer term, occurring about 20 times. It can be used in a physical sense in reference to a desert (Deuteronomy 32:10) or an abandoned city (Isaiah 24:10), or it can be used in a moral sense to refer to vanities (1 Samuel 12:21; Isaiah 40:17). It can refer to a “wasteland,” but does not refer to a “wasted land.”
One verse helps us to establish the appropriate meaning of tōhū in a Creation context: “For thus says Yahweh, who created [bārā’] the heavens—he is God—who formed [yātsar] the earth, and he made it [āsāh], he established [kūn] it not to be empty [tōhū]. He created it [bārā’] to be inhabited. I am Yahweh, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:18). This verse not only utilizes the term tōhū in reference to what the Earth was not intended to be, but also associates the bārā’ Creation with the inhabiting of the Earth.
Recommended Resource
While the Gap theorists are correct to understand tōhū vā-vōhū to mean a state of creation God did not regard as ideal, nothing in the Hebrew words themselves implies a depreciation of Creation. Rather, the expression conveys the amorphous nature of the Earth before God provided His creative structure to it. Such is the way the terms have been understood throughout the history of Bible translation.

CONCLUSION

There is nothing in the Hebrew text of Genesis 1 to demand a gap of time. The Hebrews in fact had a variety of ways to express chronological gaps, whether general or specific. For general amounts of time they could and often did say, “after this” (acharēy-kēn) or “after these things” (acharēy-haddevarîm hā-’ēleh). To express a greater extent of time, they could have said “many days” (yāmîm rābbîm) or something similar. Although common in the Bible, none of these phrases occurs in Genesis 1. So we are left to trust the Gap theorists that they are qualified to speak where the Bible is silent, and to understand in the Hebrew what no Hebrew scholars actually affirm, and what no qualified translators have ever put forth. So is Gap Theory linguistically viable? No.

REFERENCES

Clayton, John N. (2011), The Source: Eternal Design or Infinite Accident? (Niles, MI: Clayton).
Clayton, John N. (2015), The Rational God: Does God Make Sense? (Niles, MI: Clayton).
Dorsey, David A. (1999), The Literary Structure of the Old Testament: A Commentary on Genesis–Malachi (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Fields, Weston W. (1976 reprint), Unformed and Unfilled: A Critique of the Gap Theory (Green Forrest, AR: Master Books).
Joüon, Paul and Takamitsu Muraoka (2006), A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew (Roma: Pontifical Biblical Institute).
Pember, Georg H. (1907), Earth’s Earliest Ages (London: Hodder and Stoughton), reprint.
Platinga, Alvin (2001), “Evolution, Neutrality, and Antecedent Probability: A Reply to McMullin and Van Till,” in Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics: Philosophical, Theological and Scientific Perspectives, ed. Robert T. Pennock (Cambridge: MIT Press).
Reyburn, William D. and Euan McG. Fry (1997), A Handbook on Genesis (New York: United Bible Society).
Thompson, Bert (2000), Creation Compromises (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press, second edition).





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Monday, December 07, 2015

Are You Ready?

THE 400 YEARS BETWEEN THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS

by Ray C. Stedman
At the close of the book of Malachi in the Old Testament, the nation of Israel is back again in the land of Palestine after the Babylonian captivity, but they are under the domination of the great world power of that day, Persia and the Medio-Persian empire. In Jerusalem, the temple had been restored, although it was a much smaller building than the one that Solomon had built and decorated in such marvelous glory.
Within the temple the line of Aaronic priests was still worshiping and carrying on the sacred rites as they had been ordered to do by the law of Moses. There was a direct line of descendancy in the priesthood that could be traced back to Aaron.
But the royal line of David had fallen on evil days. The people knew who the rightful successor to David was, and in the book of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, his name is given to us. It was Zerubbabel, the royal prince, yet there was no king on the throne of Israel, they were a puppet nation, under the domination of Persia. Nevertheless, although they were beset with weakness and formalism as the prophets have shown us, the people were united. There were no political schisms or factions among them, nor were they divided into groups or parties.
Now when you open the New Testament to the book of Matthew, you discover an entirely different atmosphere -- almost a different world. Rome is now the dominant power of the earth. The Roman legions have spread throughout the length and breadth of the civilized world. The center of power has shifted from the East to the West, to Rome. Palestine is still a puppet state -- the Jews never did regain their own sovereignty -- but now there is a king on the throne. But this king is the descendant of Esau instead of Jacob, and his name is Herod the Great. Furthermore, the high priests who now sit in the seat of religious authority in the nation are no longer from the line of Aaron. They cannot trace their descendancy back, rather, they are hired priests to whom the office is sold as political patronage.
The temple is still the center of Jewish worship, although the building has been partially destroyed and rebuilt about a half-dozen times since the close of the Old Testament. But now the synagogues that have sprung up in every Jewish city seem to be the center of Jewish life even more than the temple.
At this time the people of Israel were split into three major parties. Two of them, the Pharisees and Sadducees, were much more prominent than the third. The smaller group, the Essenes, could hardly be designated as a party. Not long ago, however, they came into great prominence in our time and took on new significance because they had stowed away some documents in caves overlooking the Dead Sea -- documents which were brought to light again by the accidental discovery of an Arab shepherd boy and are known as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Now, what happened in these four hundred so-called "silent" years after the last of the inspired prophets spoke and the first of the New Testament writers began to write? You remember there is a word in Paul's letter to the Galatians that says, "When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law." (Gal. 4:4) In other words, the time of our Lord's birth was God's appointed hour, the moment for which God had been long preparing. Some of the exciting preparations took place during that time of "silence," however, and you will understand your New Testament much better if you understand something of the historic events during the time between the Testaments.
After Malachi had ceased his prophesying and the canon of the Old Testament closed -- that is, the number of the books in the Old Testament was fulfilled and the inspired prophets ceased to speak -- God allowed a period of time for the teachings of the Old Testament to penetrate throughout the world. During this time, he rearranged the scenes of history, much as a stage crew will rearrange the stage sets after the curtain has fallen, and when the curtain rises again there is an entirely new setting.
In about 435 B.C., when the prophet Malachi ceased his writing, the center of world power began to shift from the East to the West. Up to this time, Babylon had been the major world power, but this was soon succeeded by the Medio-Persian empire, as you remember from ancient history. This shift had been predicted by the prophet Daniel, who said that there would rise up a bear who was higher on one side than the other, signifying the division between Media and Persia, with the Persians the predominant ones (Dan. 7:5).
At the height of the Persian power there arose in the country of Macedonia (which we now know as Greece), north of the Black Sea, a man by the name of Philip of Macedon, who became a leader in his own country. He united the islands of Greece and became their ruler. His son was destined to become one of the great world leaders of all time, Alexander the Great. In 330 B.C. a tremendous battle between the Persians and the Greeks entirely altered the course of history. In that battle, Alexander, as a young man only twenty years old, led the armies of Greece in victory over the Persians and completely demolished the power of Persia. The center of world power then shifted farther west into Greece, and the Grecian empire was born.
A year after that historic battle, Alexander the Great led his armies down into the Syrian world toward Egypt. On the way, he planned to lay siege to the city of Jerusalem. As the victorious armies of the Greeks approached the city, word was brought to the Jews in Jerusalem that the armies were on their way. The high priest at that time, who was a godly old man by the name of Jaddua (who, by the way, is mentioned in the Bible in the book of Nehemiah) took the sacred writings of Daniel the prophet and, accompanied by a host of other priests dressed in white garments, went forth and met Alexander some distance outside the city.
All this is from the report of Josephus, the Jewish historian, who tells us that Alexander left his army and hurried to meet this body of priests. When he met them, he told the high priest that he had had a vision the night before in which God had shown him an old man, robed in a white garment, who would show him something of great significance to himself, according to the account, the high priest then opened the prophecies of Daniel and read them to Alexander.
In the prophecies Alexander was able to see the predictions that he would become that notable goat with the horn in his forehead, who would come from the West and smash the power of Medio-Persia and conquer the world. He was so overwhelmed by the accuracy of this prophecy and, of course, by the fact that it spoke about him, that he promised that he would save Jerusalem from siege, and sent the high priest back with honors. How true that account is, is very difficult at this distance in time to say; that, at any event, is the story.
Alexander died in 323 B.C. when he was only about thirty-three years old. He had drunk himself to death in the prime of his life, grieved because he had no more worlds to conquer. After his death, his empire was torn with dissension, because he had left no heir. His son had been murdered earlier, so there was no one to inherit the empire of Alexander.
After some time, however, the four generals that had led Alexander's armies divided his empire between them. Two of them are particularly noteworthy to us. One was Ptolemy, who gained Egypt and the northern African countries; the other was Seleucus, who gained Syria, to the north of Palestine. During this time Palestine was annexed by Egypt, and suffered greatly at the hands of Ptolemy. In fact, for the next one hundred years, Palestine was caught in the meat-grinder of the unending conflicts between Syria on the north and Egypt on the south.
Now if you have read the prophecies of Daniel, you will recall that Daniel was able, by inspiration, to give a very accurate and detailed account of the highlights of these years of conflict between the king of the North (Syria) and the king of the South (Egypt). The eleventh chapter of Daniel gives us a most amazingly accurate account of that which has long since been fulfilled. If you want to see just how accurate the prophecy is, I suggest you compare that chapter of Daniel with the historical record of what actually occurred during that time. H. A. Ironside's little book, The 400 Silent Years, gathers that up in some detail.
During this time Grecian influence was becoming strong in Palestine. A party arose among the Jews called the Hellenists, who were very eager to bring Grecian culture and thought into the nation and to liberalize some of the Jewish laws. This forced a split into two major parties. There were those who were strong Hebrew nationalist, who wanted to preserve everything according to the Mosaic order. They resisted all the foreign influences that were coming in to disrupt the old Jewish ways. This party became known as the Pharisees, which means "to separate." They were the separationists who insisted on preserving traditions. They grew stronger and stronger, becoming more legalistic and rigid in their requirements, until they became the target for some of the most scorching words our Lord ever spoke. They had become religious hypocrites, keeping the outward form of the law, but completely violating its spirit.
On the other hand, the Hellenists -- the Greek lovers -- became more and more influential in the politics of the land. They formed the party that was known in New Testament days as the Sadducees, the liberals. They turned away from the strict interpretation of the law and became the rationalists of their day, ceasing to believe in the supernatural in any way. We are told in the New Testament that they came again and again to the Lord with questions about the supernatural, like "What will happen to a woman who has been married to seven different men? In the resurrection, whose wife will she be?" (Matt. 22:23-33) They did not believe in a resurrection, but in these questions they were trying to put Jesus on the spot.
Now there was also a young rebel Jewish priest who married a Samaritan, went down to Samaria, and in rebellion against the Jewish laws, built a temple on Mount Gerizim that became a rival of the temple in Jerusalem. This caused intense, fanatical rivalry between the Jews and the Samaritans, and this rivalry is also reflected in the New Testament.
Also during this time, in Egypt, under the reign of one of the Ptolemies, the Hebrew scriptures were translated for the first time into another language, in about 284 B.C. A group of 70 scholars was called together by the Egyptian king to make a translation of the Hebrew scriptures. Book by book they translated the Old Testament into Greek. When they had finished, it was given the name of the Septuagint, which means 70, because of the number of translators. This became the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible. From it many of the quotations in the New Testament are derived. That is why New Testament quotations of Old Testament verses are sometimes in different words -- because they come from the Greek translation. The Septuagint is still in existence today, and is widely used in various parts of the world. It is still a very important document.
A little later on, about 203 B.C., a king named Antiochus the Great came into power in Syria, to the north of Palestine. He captured Jerusalem from the Egyptians and began the reign of Syrian power over Palestine. He had two sons, one of whom succeeded him and reigned only a few years. When he died, his brother took the throne. This man, named Antiochus Epiphanes, became one of the most vicious and violent persecutors of the Jews ever known. In fact, he is often called the Antichrist of the Old Testament, since he fulfills some of the predictions of Daniel concerning the coming of one who would be "a contemptible person" and "a vile king." His name (which he modestly bestowed upon himself) means "Antiochus the Illustrious." Nevertheless, some of his own courtiers evidently agreed more with the prophecies of Daniel, and they changed two letters in his title. from Epiphanes to Epipames, which means "the mad man."
His first act was to depose the high priest in Jerusalem. thus ending the long line of succession, beginning with Aaron and his sons through the many centuries of Jewish life. Onias the Third was the last of the hereditary line of priests. Antiochus Epiphanes sold the priesthood to Jason, who was not of the priestly line. Jason, in turn, was tricked by his younger brother Menelaus, who purchased the priesthood and then sold the golden vessels of the temple in order to make up the tribute money. Epiphanes overthrew the God-authorized line of priests. Then, and under his reign, the city of Jerusalem and all the religious rites of the Jews began to deteriorate as they came fully under the power of the Syrian king.
In 171 B.C. Antiochus invaded Egypt and once again Palestine was caught in the nutcracker of rivalry. Palestine is the most fought-over country in the world, and Jerusalem is the most captured city in all history. It has been pillaged, ravished, burned and destroyed more than 27 times in its history.
While Antiochus was in Egypt, it was reported that he had been killed in battle, and Jerusalem rejoiced. The people organized a revolt and overthrew Menelaus, the pseudo-priest. When report reached Antiochus (who was very much alive in Egypt) that Jerusalem was delighted at the report of his death, he organized his armies and swept like a fury back across the land, falling upon Jerusalem with terrible vengeance.
He overturned the city, regained his power, and guided by the treacherous Menelaus, intruded into the very Holy of Holies in the temple itself. Some 40,000 people were slain in three days of fighting during this terrible time. When he forced his way into the Holy of Holies, he destroyed the scrolls of the law and, to the absolute horror of the Jews, took a sow and offered it upon the sacred altar. Then with a broth made from the flesh of this unclean animal, he sprinkled everything in the temple, thus completely defiling and violating the sanctuary. It is impossible for us to grasp how horrifying this was to the Jews. They were simply appalled that anything like this could ever happen to their sacred temple.
It was that act of defiling the temple which is referred to by the Lord Jesus as the "desolating sacrilege" which Daniel had predicted (Matt. 24:15), and which also became a sign of the coming desolation of the temple when Antichrist himself will enter the temple, call himself God, and thus defile the temple in that time. As we know from the New Testament, that still lies in the future.
Daniel the prophet had said the sanctuary would be polluted for 2300 days. (Dan. 8:14) In exact accordance with that prophecy, it was exactly 2300 days -- six and a half years -- before the temple was cleansed. It was cleansed under the leadership of a man now famous in Jewish history, Judas Maccabaeus. He was one of the priestly line who, with his father and four brothers, rose up in revolt against the Syrian king. They captured the attention of the Israelites, summoned them to follow them into battle, and in a series of pitched battles in which they were always an overwhelming minority, overthrew the power of the Syrian kings, captured Jerusalem, and cleansed the temple. The day they cleansed the temple was named the Day of Dedication, and it occurred on the 25th day of December. On that date Jews still celebrate the Feast of Dedication each year.
The Maccabees, who were of the Asmonean family, began a line of high priests known as the Asmonean Dynasty. Their sons, for about the next three or four generations, ruled as priests in Jerusalem, all the time having to defend themselves against the constant assaults of the Syrian army who tried to recapture the city and the temple. During the days of the Maccabees there was a temporary overthrow of foreign domination, which is why the Jews look back to this time and regard it with such tremendous veneration.
During this time, one of the Asmonean priests made a league with the rising power in the West, Rome. He signed a treaty with the Senate of Rome, providing for help in the event of Syrian attack. Though the treaty was made in all earnestness and sincerity, it was this pact which introduced Rome into the picture and history of Israel.
As the battles between the two opposing forces waged hotter and hotter, Rome was watchful. Finally, the Governor of Idumea, a man named Antipater and a descendant of Esau, made a pact with two other neighboring kings and attacked Jerusalem to try to overthrow the authority of the Asmonean high priest. This battle raged so fiercely that finally Pompey, the Roman general, who happened to have an army in Damascus at the time, was besought by both parties to come and intervene. One side had a little more money than the other, and persuaded by that logical argument, Pompey came down from Damascus, entered the city of Jerusalem -- again with terrible slaughter -- overthrew the city and captured it for Rome. That was in 63 B.C. From that time on, Palestine was under the authority and power of Rome.
Now Pompey and the Roman Senate appointed Antipater as the Procurator of Judea, and he in turn made his two sons kings of Galilee and Judea. The son who became king of Judea is known to us a Herod the Great. ("Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem saying, 'Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?'" (Matt. 2:1, 2)
Meanwhile, the pagan empires around had been deteriorating and disintegrating. Their religions had fallen upon evil days. The people were sick of the polytheism and emptiness of their pagan faiths. The Jews had gone through times of pressure and had failed in their efforts to re-establish themselves, and had given up all hope. There was a growing air of expectancy that the only hope they had left was the coming at last of the promised Messiah. In the East, the oriental empires had come to the place where the wisdom and knowledge of the past had disintegrated and they too were looking for something. When the moment came when the star arose over Bethlehem, the wise men of the East who were looking for an answer to their problems saw it immediately and came out to seek the One it pointed to. Thus, "when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son."
It is amazing how God utilizes history to work out his purposes. Though we are living in the days that might be termed "the silence of God," when for almost 2,000 years there has been no inspired voice from God, we must look back -- even as they did during those 400 silent years -- upon the inspired record and realize that God has already said all that needs to be said, through the Old and New Testaments. God's purposes have not ended, for sure. He is working them out as fully now as he did in those days. Just as the world had come to a place of hopelessness then, and the One who would fulfill all their hopes came into their midst, so the world again is facing a time when despair is spreading widely across the earth. Hopelessness is rampant everywhere and in this time God is moving to bring to fulfillment all the prophetic words concerning the coming of his Son again into the world to establish his kingdom. How long? How close? Who knows? But what God has done in history, he will do again as we approach the end of "the silence of God."

Prayer:

Our Father, we are constantly encouraged as we see the fact that our faith is grounded upon historic things; that it touches history on every side. It is integrally related to life. We pray that our own faith may grow strong and be powerful as we see the despair around us, the shaking of foundations, the changing of that which has long been taken to be permanent, the overthrowing of empires and the rising of others. Lord, we are thankful that we may look to you and realize that you are the One who does not change. The One whose word is eternal. As the Lord Jesus himself said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall never pass away." We pray in Christ's name, Amen.


Title: The 400 Years between the Old and New Testaments
By: Ray C. Stedman
Series: Adventuring through the Bible
Scripture: None
Message No: 40
Catalog No: 240
Date: October 2, 1966
Corrections: June 28, 2002


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