Posts Tagged With: science

Noah’s Ark?

 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.   Genesis 7:11

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Who hasn’t heard the tale of Noah and his ark?  Well, for those who haven’t,….

The story goes that Noah was a righteous man in his generation.  Because of this, God commanded that he build an ark (to exact specifications) in preparation for a great flood.  You see, God had become extremely saddened by the wickedness of His creation.  He decided to wipe them all from the face of the Earth, save Noah and his family….and all the pairs of animals to be saved.  Noah was probably mocked and tormented, but remained faithful to his task.  A task that took approximately 120 years.  At the appointed time, Noah’s family and the animals entered the ark and were shut in.  It rained for 40 days and nights.  All of humanity perished.  The ark floated for around 150 days before coming to rest on Mount Ararat.  Forty days later, Noah sent forth a raven who found no dry place to land.  He sent forth a dove, who also returned.  The last time he sent the dove, it returned with an olive leaf, indicating dry ground.  After the doors of the ark were opened, Noah’s family and the pairs of animals exited the ark.  Noah set up an altar where he made sacrifices to God.  God, in turn, sent a rainbow as a covenant with man.  It signified that never again would the Earth be destroyed by a flood.

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Before I tackle Noah and his family, read this summation.

One of the high gods, Enlil, became increasingly annoyed at the “noise” of human beings.  He decided to destroy them in a deluge.  Enki, the god of waters, revealed this plan to Utnapishtum.  Enki told Utnapishtum to demolish his home and build a big boat and load it with pairs of animals.  Utnapishtum was to keep his plans secret from the council of high gods, even to lie if he had to. He followed the instructions.  At the appointed time, he entered the boat with his wife and the animals.  His craftsmen, along with his gold and silver were also taken aboard.  A downpour ensued.  The flood lasted for 7 days.  Utnapishtum sent out a dove, swallow, and raven to test whether it was safe to emerge.  When the raven did not return; he, his wife, companions, and the animals left the boat.  Utnapishtum and his wife offered sacrifices to the gods and were granted eternal life.

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These two tales sound eerily similar, right?  The first, of course, is biblical in origin.  The second is found in the Epic of Gilgamesh.  This was a Mesopotamian tale, written around 2500 BC.  That makes it the earliest known tale of a great flood.  Scholars believe that since the two stories are so similar, that the biblical version was most likely modeled after the Gilgamesh epic.  Bam!!  This proves the fact that Noah’s story is false.  Right?

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Before we decide, let us also keep in mind…

– Sumerian poetry (dating back to 2000 BC) mentions Gilgamesh’s journey to meet the flood hero, Utnapishtum.

– The Akkadian (Babylonian and Assyrian) account has flood stories dating to around 3300 BC, starring hero Atrahasis.

– Greek legend tells of Deucalion.  He, too, was a wine maker who was forewarned of a great flood.  He, likewise, built an ark and saved animals.

– An Ojibwa indian legend (from around Lake Superior) tells of a great snow that fell one September at the beginning of time.  A bag, containing the sun, had a hole nibbled in it by a mouse.  The warmth escaped and spilled over, melting the snow, and causing a flood.  Everyone drowned, except one old man who drifted in his canoe rescuing animals.

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Also of interest…

Although the idea of massive flooding has been mocked, geologists Walter Pitman and William Ryan proved it possible.  The pair was the first to gather evidence that the Black Sea, indeed, flooded around 7500 years ago.  They wrote a book in 1998 entitled Noah’s Flood:  The New Scientific Discoveries about the Event that Changed History.  In the book, they detail how the Mediterranean Sea flooded the Black Sea basin.  And while not a worldwide catastrophe, it might certainly appear that way to any who lived in the nearby plains, with water rising approximately 6 inches per day.  It’s not difficult to see how it would feel like it was the end of the world.

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So..Here are my thoughts.

Do I think the flood was real?  Yes.  There is scientific evidence that a great flood actually took place.  I believe there was massive flooding.  However, I believe that  it was not a global one, in the technical sense of the word.  Noah’s story stems from tales told by one tribe of people who had no means to travel far.  To themselves, they were all there was.  As far as Gilgamesh and the other tales… They all stem from different areas, yet they all have a deluge story.  I am of the mind that names and places may change, but for a tale to endure..some grain of truth exists.  Also, remember that the story didn’t start with Noah.  He, nor his children, wrote it.  We are talking about generations of oral storytelling.  Nothing written for many many years.  All of these tales may seem so similar because they describe the same event.  One was simply translated to written form sooner than the others, therefore names/locations would fit each’s culture.  If, indeed, the flood was not global; that eliminates the necessity of bringing pairs of every kind of animal along for the ride.  In this case, I lean more toward the Gilgamesh version, where he brought along the animals he had.

Now, I would like to focus on Noah.  He is where the moral of the story lies.  The type of person he was, and became, intrigues me.  He was a descendant of Seth and the narrative tells us he was “righteous in his generation”.  That means, what?  Remember, his generation was quite wicked.  Was he righteous, or was he more righteous than everyone else?  We really don’t know since very little is mentioned about Noah’s personal life.  I find this interesting.  He was, after all, the man responsible for keeping a few humans alive to repopulate the world.

Noah’s most favorable attribute was his faithfulness.  He was given a commandment from God.  He obeyed.  He was given specific instructions on how to complete the task.  He obeyed.  For a Christian, that type of faithfulness is the most honorable trait to have.  I, personally, like to think I would be able to follow a direct commandment from God, should He require it of me.  Noah’s character also demonstrated remarkable patience.  It took quite a many years to complete the construction of the boat.  Not to mention the fact that he had to live on it for practically a year! Christians are repeatedly reminded that God does things in His own time, and that we are to have patience.  There is also no mention of anger.  I am certain Noah would have faced much mockery and contempt from such a wicked bunch of people.  Yet, there is no mention of him becoming angry or resentful.  Again, a wonderful trait for a person of faith to have.

Noah had some faults, as well.  He did not (like his future descendent, Abraham) pray to save anyone.  He did not ask God to forgive any – or all – of mankind and give them another chance.  And later, after he and his family were saved, he planted a vineyard.  One night, he became drunk and was naked in his tent.  Rather than taking responsibility for his actions, he blamed his child.  He not only blamed his son, but took farther drastic action.  He cursed him!

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We are told that his two of his sons, Shem and Japheth, didn’t look upon him and covered him.  We know that Ham (the father of Canaan) was cursed for calling attention to, and possibly snickering at, his father’s drunken state.  The following morning, Ham and his descendents were cursed to be slaves of the tribes of his brothers.  Shem’s tribe would be the most revered- as Ham’s descendents were slaves to his, while Japheth’s would live in Shem’s tents.  After 950 years of life, Noah died.  His sons settled eastward, attempted to build a tower to the heavens, and were punished by being scattered all over the Earth unable to understand each other’s language.  From Shem’s line, would come Abram.

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Like Noah– my goal is to be faithful, patient, determined, and even-tempered.

Unlike Noah– I aim to be my brother’s keeper, while taking responsibility for my actions.

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Categories: analysis, evolution, faith and religion, old testament, personal, the Bible | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Creation: What? How? So?

“In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth.”   Genesis 1:1

WHAT happened?

The Bible tells us that this was the beginning of everything we know today.  We are told that, for whatever reason, God decided to begin the creation process.  As we read through, we learn that this enormously complicated process was completed in one week.  Well, not even an entire week, because the seventh day was a day of rest.

   Day One:  Light was separated from darkness

   Day Two:  Creation of the sky

   Day Three:  Creation of the seas and vegetation

   Day Four:  Creation of the sun, moon, and stars

   Day Five:  Creation of sea creatures and winged birds

   Day Six:  Creation of livestock, wild animals, and…man.

   Day Seven:  Day of rest.

The second chapter of Genesis goes on to tell of man’s (Adam’s) formation.  We learn that Adam was created of the dust, yet didn’t live until the “breath of life” was breathed into him.  Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden, an earthly place where God would dwell with him.  Here, we have God’s first commandment.  Adam is told he should not eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  He was free to eat all he wished from the Tree of Life, but that other one was absolutely off-limits.  This didn’t seem too much of a challenge for Adam.  He was plenty busy; as he was given the task of naming every plant, tree, and animal.  God realized this was not enough, and that Adam required a mate.  Placing Adam in a deep sleep, God removed one of his ribs, and created woman.

In Chapter three of Genesis, we learn of the terrible fall of man.  The crafty serpent convinced the woman that she would not die if she ate from the forbidden tree.  She and Adam, who was with her, ate.  With the eating, came knowledge.  Specifically, that they were naked.  They covered themselves.  And when they heard God, the two hid.  God, knowing something was amiss, questioned the pair.  The story was told; with Adam blaming the woman, the woman blaming the serpent.  God cursed the serpent to a life on his belly, fearing man.  The woman, who officially becomes Eve, is cursed with painful child-bearing and submission to Adam.  Adam is cursed with a survival based upon hard labor.  The shamed couple was given clothing and sent away.

HOW do we know?

There have always been creation myths about a place from whence God created everything.  Egyptians believed in a primordial mound, or island of creation, rising from the ocean.  This is where a specific God (Ptah/Thoth) created everything, depending upon what the Egyptian deemed the accurate site of the mound to be.  Greeks held that Gaia and Uranus were primordial deities, from whence all things originated.  In these myths, humans are not central to the stories.  In fact, they serve no true importance other than doing the bidding of the Gods.

The biblical recollection of our world’s beginning is widely attributed to Moses; though, technically, it is an anonymous work.  I am not sure he actually authored this book.  Remember, all the events happened prior to his birth.  Also, keep in mind that Moses spent his childhood and a large chunk of his young adulthood believing he was royalty…who did not even believe in the God of the Hebrews.  I don’t want to get ahead of myself here, but things were a little too chaotic after he discovered his true origins.  It is highly doubtful the book would have been written then.  So, when would he have written it?  I believe, if he did pen the book, it would have had to occur during the exodus.  Even then, I am not convinced he had time enough to write this down, while simultaneously leading his people to freedom.  Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that Moses did pen the book.    Once he found out he was a Hebrew, I am sure he emersed himself in his people’s history.  This version of events stems from that; a series of stories orally passed down through the generations.

SO…what do I believe?

The first three chapters are relatively short, given that they describe the beginning of ….Everything!  What made God decide to create and dwell among humans?  The seven-day concept is unclear.  How long was a creative day?  Did God, a figure not bound by time, follow our 24-hour framework?  Where was Adam created?  We are told that he was made and “placed” in the Garden.  Speaking of gardens, where is that?  And, that serpent…what was that about?  Was that Satan?  And, if it was, how did he worm his way into a perfect place created by God?

These are questions I have no answer for, even after reading the book a few times.  I don’t believe there are any answers, only speculation.  In truth, no one alive can know what happened at the beginning.  That is no clever dig at the religious or the scientific explanation.  That is the truth.  I believe in both.  A creator and evolution are not at total odds, as many are led to believe.  The problem we have is that the biblical version seems set in stone, where as science is always revising, changing, morphing.  I can not speak, with any authority, on how it all began.  No one can.

So…if I don’t believe in every word of the creation story, how can I believe in God?  It is my belief that the words in Genesis are meant to offer some explanation to those of us who believe in God.  I don’t believe in God because there is a story attached.  I believe in God, because of things that have happened in my life.  Things I have felt and experienced.  Faith CAN NOT be described in scientific terms.  The two things reside in totally different realms.  One doesn’t corroborate the other.  Neither can discredit the other.

I will probably always question both.  Unlike many of my fellow Christians, I don’t believe doubt is taboo.  Thomas was a doubter, and he was a disciple.  Doubt leads to discoveries.  One either discovers faith is not for him, or he discovers that there is more to the story than what’s on the surface.

I am sooo not a surface dweller.  So feel free to go to the shed, pull out your shovel, and tell me what you think.  Join me next time, as I keep digging.

Categories: analysis, creation, evolution, faith and religion, personal, Satan | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

In the beginning,…

In the beginning, there was…what, exactly?

Faith.  Religion.  Christianity means different things to different people.

My goal with this blog is to examine the Bible in small pieces.  So, be warned, it will take longer than seven days!  I aim to help myself, as well as others, understand what faith is to me.  And to, I believe, many others.

The beginning.  The Garden of Eden.  The snake.  Noah and his floating ark.  Abraham and the ultimate sacrifice.  Are these stories absolutely accurate?  More importantly, does it matter how one interprets the Bible?  How can I believe in God and science?  Who is Jesus, and what did He stand for?  What does it all mean?

Does it mean I am crazy?  I don’t believe I am.  I am a perfectly sane wife and mother.  I am a daughter and sister.  I am an aunt and best friend.  And…I am a person of faith.

Whoa!!  Wait just a minute.  I know what you’re thinking, but…

This is definitely not a “religious” blog, as I detest religion.  I suppose you’ll come to see that, in time.  This is one woman’s journey through the Bible, with all commentary being her own.  No sir, no religious scholars here!  One woman…her own words.

Confusion reigns supreme in today’s world.  What with religious zealots attempting to control the laws we live under, is there any wonder faith gets a bad rap?  Fundamentalism is not the way of Christianity.  It is but one form of it.

It is my feeling that faith and politics should be separate.  As a Christian, I catch a lot of flack for feeling this way.  But I believe my interpretation of the Book bears my views out.  I intend to go through this mysterious, lengthy, confusing, and (often times) contradictory book passages at a time.

I hope to learn something.  When we stop learning, what is left?

Perhaps… some of you will make this journey with me.

Perhaps…you will agree with my assessments.  And maybe you won’t.

Perhaps…the only way to find out, is to get started.

Categories: faith and religion, personal, separation of church and state | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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