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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Friday, April 19, 2013

Bible Contradictions - My Way or the Highway

The third major way critics will try to claim a contradiction within the Biblical accounts, is to make the mistake I call making it "My Way or the Highway." Basically this means we take our modern biases and understanding of what we think writing should be and try to apply it to people writing in the ancient past.  This is a little different than snubbing style, in that snubbing style usually ignores the intent of the author while My Way or the Highway forces accepted modern approaches as universals to which ancients were somehow supposed to adhere. Many times in these instances, there are facts in dispute – not merely perspective or idioms.  The easiest of these to see is our first example: using modern definitions or classifications and forcing them on ancient writers.

Applying modern definitions to ancient texts

The history of the advancement of science has been fueled to a great degree by the Christian worldview.  Christians knew God was a god of order and He would create an orderly world that would be consistent, knowable and classifiable.  Because of this, they took to exploring their world, learning more about it, and sought to place this knowledge into categories. So, for example, scientists have developed a classification system for all living things known as biological taxonomy.  Your pet dog is part of a larger group (known as a genus) called Canis, including wolves and coyotes.  They are part of a larger family of animals that include jackals and foxes, which are still part of a larger grouping of carnivores: or meat-eating mammals.

This idea of grouping things together makes a lot of sense, but the precision and granularity we see now is a relatively recent invention. It has only being around for some 300 years or so.1 Yet it's a popular ruse to use scientific definitions that weren't even invented during Bible times to show that the Bible's in error.   For example, some object to Leviticus 11:13 classifying a bat as one of the birds since bats are mammals.  However, grouping animals by the fact that they have fur over the fact that they fly is purely arbitrary choice on our part, a choice that was made some 3000 years after Leviticus was written! This is in no way a mistake or contradiction, it's simply the critic trying to force a modern definition on a passage where the writer was using a completely different one.

Example: Does the Hare Chew Cud?

"Nevertheless, you are not to eat of these among those which chew the cud, or among those that divide the hoof in two: the camel and the rabbit …" Deuteronomy 14:7

 Cud chewers today are recognized as animals such as cows who chew their food, swallow it, then regurgitate it and chew it some more. Rabbits and hares, however, do not have a chambered stomach such as the cow to regurgitate food.  Instead, they let some their food pass through their digestive system and expel it where they then take it and rechew it again. This process is known as cecotrophy.  (It should be noted that they are not chewing dung as the makeup of the cecotrophs is quite different than their waste).

Since the classification of cud-chewers was first defined in 1847 by Richard Owen, it would be intellectually dishonest for someone to claim that a 3500 year old writing is contradictory because it doesn't match with this scientific classification. Further, if the ancient Hebrews defined 'cud-chewing" as that process where half digested vegetation was re-chewed by an animal for easier re-digestion (and that is a very specific and scientific definition), I would say the hare fits here fine.2


1 Most of the accepted way of classifying plants and animals follows the model set forth by Carolus Linnaeus in his book Systema Naturae.  For more on Linnaeus, see Scientists of Faith: Forty-Eight Biographies of Historic Scientists and Their Christian Faith by Dan Graves (GrandRapids: Kregel Pub, 1996)pp.80-83
2. Esposito, Lenny. "Does the hare really chew cud?" 6 April 2010

1 comment:

  1. If I lived back then and it looked like a hare was doing the same thing that a cow did, I'd probably say it was chewing its cud. It's a phenomenological observation and shouldn't be used to dismiss the Bible as unreliable.


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