Re: the chronology of Genesis 2, don't verses 18ff pretty clearly indicate that the birds and other animals were created AFTER the first man, as God tried to find "a helper suitable for him"? And would this not contradict the chronology of Genesis 1, in which birds are created on the fifth day while humans and other land animals are created on the sixth?
The animals being created before or after man is a standard objection for those who want to disprove inerrancy. But 2:18-19 indicate the some animals were created after Adam only if you insist that the Hebrew verb yatsar
as "formed" instead of "had formed." Bible scholars all agree that the verb can be translated both ways. So the next question becomes what reason is there for translating the verb one way over the other. The translation is determined by the context and relevant questions including what the purpose of Genesis 2 is, and whether the author of Genesis 2 was aware of the existence of Genesis 1. After studying this
, isn't it reasonable to conclude that "had formed" is the more likely correct translation? Or, in other words, is there any reason to insist that yatsar
can only be translated as "formed" instead of "had formed"?
Turning to other matters, what would an "inerrantist" reading of a passage like, say, Matthew 1 be? This is the passage which famously lists Jesus' ancestors, going back to Abraham, and groups them into groups of 14. On a plain surface reading, this passage clearly contradicts the words of Kings and Chronicles, which tell us that there were *18* generations in one of those groups, rather than 14. (For the clearest and most succinct demonstration of this discrepancy, compare Matthew 1:7-11 with I Chronicles 3:10-16.)
There are ways to explain what Matthew is doing here: The number 14 is the numerical value of the name "David" in Hebrew (D+V+D = 4+6+4 = 14), and Matthew wants to show that Jesus is the son of David, or something like that. But the simple fact remains: Matthew seems to edit the Old Testament, to make it say something that it does not, in fact, say. And if anyone today were to use the Bible this way, inerrantists in particular would point out the interpreter's divergences from scripture and laugh him out of church.
I'd have to dig up the sections in my theology library that talk about this, but I'm pretty sure Matthew 1 is not the only place in the Bible where genealogies do not line up precisely. This goes back to the meaning of "son of" which can literally refer to ancestors, grandsons, etc. as well as just father and son. Unlike modern family trees, not all Biblical genealogies are meant to name every father and son, instead the people who are included in the list are included for a reason (including the specific women who are mentioned, a practice that is also unusual). So it's not just Matthew, comparing the genealogies in the books of Samuel and the books of Kings also results in finding dissimilar lists. The question here was whether this was a practice in genealogy listing that was commonly accepted at the time. Scholarship on the question seems to conclude that it was.
Would all our talk of "inerrancy" and "assertions" actually clear anything up for the average churchgoer in the pew, or would it just sow confusion and bad exegesis? Might the doctrine of "inerrancy", in fact, do more harm than good?
Not if you don't use the doctrine in the wrong way. It's primarily a character of God issue - does God tell the truth? Is everything in God's inspired Word true? Bad exegesis is reading something into the text that isn't there, or insisting on a conclusion on the meaning of the text that isn't necessarily true. As far as the average churchgoer in the pew goes, there are a couple important questions worth asking and answering on this issue. Is God powerful enough to ensure that we have an accurate copy of His Word to us? Does God care enough to ensure that His Word is understandable and not distorted by human error so that we can trust what we read is true?
It begins a new section, but 2:4 itself is clearly focused on the earth and the heavens in general. Later on there is a specific focus, yes, but where exactly do we change focus from general to specific?
2:4 is clearly summarizing and beginning a new section that focuses on more specifics than chapter 1.
Perhaps a bit too simple, since you appear to be claiming that 2:5-6 is focusing on something that hasn't even been mentioned yet.
Since the writer of Genesis 2 specifically mentions the Garden of Eden in verse 8, verse 10, and verse 15, it is simple to conclude that he is writing about the Garden of Eden.
Chapter 2 changes focus as soon as the writer steps back to take another closer look at what was only generally summarized in chapter 1. Verse 5 is discussing specific plants "of the field" and makes no claim specifically as to the origin of botanical life on the entire planet. It could of course refer to the entire planet, or just the one place on the earth where man is first placed, but that doesn't really matter, does it? These objections are not new
. But even a minimum look at the those who discuss the original Hebrew reveals that the Hebrew text does not necessarily support inferences you could make from the English text (if you just decide to ignore the Hebrew - not, I might add, a practice supported by any single study on hermeneutics).
Does it mean something different in 2:5 than in 2:4?
Similar to the English word earth, the Hebrew word eres has more than one meaning depending upon the context.
Doesn't the writer seem to be doing something different with the word itself? Verse 4 is not only a summary, but a symmetrical summary, starting with heavens and earth and ending with earth and heavens. Verse 5 is beginning another discussion going back into more specific detail. But even if eres
here refers to only the Garden of Eden or the entire planet, does that really matter if the writer is discussing specific cultivated "plants of the field."
So if I wanted to claim, as some early Mormon teachers did, that God made Adam on another planet and then decided to make the earth and put him there, that could be construed as a "literal reading of the passage as inerrant"?
A literal reading of the passage as inerrant does not require that chapter 2 be read as ordered chronologically rather than topically.
No. That would contradict literal readings of either chapter 1 or 2.
Are you saying that chronology plays no role whatsoever in our understanding of Gen. 2? And if so, again, where else in Genesis (or for that matter, the Bible entire) is it necessary to throw chronology out the window, the better to cling to inerrancy?
No and nowhere.
It shreds the text to say, "Yes, v. 19 comes after v. 18, and in v. 18 God states the reason for doing what he does in v. 19, but that's no reason to assume the events in v. 19 took place after the events in v. 18."
The reason for creating the animals in the first place or the reason for bringing the animals that God "had formed" to Adam? Another thing, it's funny, but I'm starting to think that nowhere in the text does it necessarily even demand the conclusion that Eve had to be created on the first day. Adam studying and naming the animals could have taken years for all we know. This also results from making sure we interpret God resting on the seventh day to mean only what it says it means. 2:1-3 doesn't mean God still didn't later create subspecies of animals, new stars, or Eve out of Adam after the seventh day/period of time.
OK, you're saying that by "inerrancy" you mean what Grudem said about original manuscripts.
Well, we don't have any of those, do we? What a shame. Let's just chalk up all the textual difficulties to copyists' errors and go out for Chinese food, shall we?
Again, Grudem defines inerrancy as meaning that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact.
In other words, the Bible always tells the truth and does not contain any falsehood. Containing contradictions would mean it contained some falsehoods.
Of course, this is taken along with the fact that, if God wants to, He is powerful enough to actively ensure that the reliability of His Word is preserved in future translations of the original manuscripts. As Dr. Virkler points out on pg. 35 in his Hermeneutics textbook -
The careful work of Jewish scribes in transmitting the text and the present work of textual critics combine to give us a text that reflects the wordings of the original with a very high degree of accuracy. The vast majority of variant readings concern grammatical details that do not significantly affect the meaning of the text. The words of F.F. Bruce are worth repeating in this regard: "The variant readings about which any doubt remains among textual critics of the New Testament affect no material question of historic fact or of Christian faith and practice." The question of the authority and veracity of the biblical texts as we have them today should be decided on bases other than the fact that we do not possess the autographs.