The atheist response to the text of the Bible is based primarily upon the young earth creationist interpretation, which is flawed. If I put myself objectively in the position of the atheist attempting to debunk the Bible I would start with Genesis Chapter 1. The Chapter passed the inspection of this former atheist.
The Hebrew verb consists of two different states. The perfect state indicates an action which is complete, whereas the imperfect state indicates a continuous or incomplete action.
At Genesis 1:1 the word bara, translated as created, is in the perfect state, which means that at this point the creation of the heavens and the Earth were completed. Later, as in verse 16 the Hebrew word asah, translated as made, is used, which is in the imperfect state, indicating continuous action. The heavens and Earth were created in verse 1 and an indeterminate time later they were being prepared for habitation, much the same as a bed is manufactured (complete) and made (continuous) afterwards.
What this means is that the creation was complete even before the six "days" of creation even began, in fact, later verses in the chapter reveal it was more than likely a long time in between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2.
Let's not forget that he created light before creating the sun...
Not to mention that 4 days passed before the sun was created - tell me again, how do we measure a day?
Milos and Archy,
Your comments bring us to our next point in examining Genesis chapter 1. Verse 2 demonstrates how the planet was a water planet, waste and empty, meaning that there was no productive land. Though the sun and moon as part of the heavens were complete as pointed out in verse 1, at this point light had not penetrated to the surface of the Earth. Job 38:4, 9 refers to a "swaddling band" around the Earth in the early stages of creation. Likely there was a cosmic dust cloud of vapor and debris which prevented the light from the sun from being visible on the surface of the earth.
In verse 3 the Hebrew verb waiyomer (proceeded to say) is in the imperfect state indicating progressive action. This first chapter of Genesis has more than 40 cases of the imperfect state. The creative "days" were a gradual process of making Earth habitable.
The light was a diffused light which gradually grew in intensity. Some translations more clearly indicate the progressive action:
A Distinctive Translation of Genesis by J.W. Watts (1963): "Afterward God proceeded to say, 'Let there be light'; and gradually light came into existence."
Benjamin Wills Newton's translation (1888): "And God proceeded to say [future], Let Light become to be, and Light proceeded to become to be [future]."
The Hebrew word for light, ohr, is used. This distinguishes the light from the source of the light. Later, on the fourth "day" the Hebrew word maohr is used, signifying that the source of the light only becomes visible then through the swaddling band.
Instead of searching so desperately for textual ambiguities to exploit, why not observe this as a Martian Anthropologist? Not having any vested interest in proving the story to be true, his first step would be to ask what he could infer about the authors, and their knowledge of the world, based on their creation myth.
What most of this text reflects is a very primitive understanding of the earth's position in the universe. These people clearly believed that there could be light without stars (swaddling band arguement notwithstanding, since any decent Martian Anthropologist would say you're really stretching for that one), that the sun was made to correspond with immutable 'days' instead of vice versa, and that water can be 'gathered' to certain parts of the earth. An anthropologist concludes that these people have no idea that they're on a spherical planet orbiting a star, but rather think that they're on some sort of flat plain at the centre of the universe.
On an unrelated note, these modern interpretations of G1:1 beg the question 'why was the common version accepted for so long?'. The 'let there be light => there was light => it was good' version seemed to satisfy the clergy for about a millenium until cosmology made it seem ridiculous. Why, then were all of God's servents so long deceived, and how did it happen that those who would end their deception (proponents of alternate readings) came along at such a convenient time, right when a new interpretation was needed?
Finally, I think it's worth mentioning that, even with alternate translations, Job 38:9 reads pretty much in line with the idea that the authors penning the part of God were pretty ignorant about the nature of the universe. 'In making a cloud it's clothing, and thick darkness its swaddling band' pretty much confirms the idea that they thought of the earth as the centre of the universe, with all else periphery (unless, of course, you have an agenda when you read it). Also, doesn't the phrase, just a few verses before, 'shutteth up with doors the sea' ring some alarm bells?
If this post seems scatterbrained, it's because the bible is so full of obvious holes, contradictions, falsehoods and stupidities that it's impossible to swing a dead Ammonite without hitting on a few, and I just can't help myself. Please, for the sake of humanity, do a little Martian Anthropology!
First, even you must realize that geologically, that simply never happened, but if you really believe it did, please provide geological evidence and be specific.
But before you do, or go any further, you still need to clear up that little issue about the first four words: "In the beginning, God...." Once you've established indisputable, verifiable evidence of a god, "Please proceed, Governor --"
Meanwhile, let's take a quick peek at another primitive culture's idea of how the world came to be:
But then theirs is a myth, while yours is the truth, right?
Chapter 1, Amanda, of Genesis, was written by the "Yahwist (J) Group," c.950 BCE, located in the Jewish Southern Kingdom of Judea.
Chapter 2 was written around a hundred years later, c850 BCE by the "Elohist (E) Group," located in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, in the ancient city of Schechem. This book was brought south to Judea around 722 BCE, when the northern kingdom was attacked and destroyed and the important people of the kingdom carried off to Mesopotamia in captivity.
Shortly afterward, the two sets of stories, which also included the "flood" stories, with their 2 versus 7 animal chapters, were combined into what, to modern biblical scholars, came to be called, "JE."
Since you brought it up lets explore the reliability of Higher Criticism, which is, naturally, very popular with atheists. Upon what evidence is the authorship of J, E, and P established? Explain the Documentary Theory. I personally can't imagine the allure of such an obviously flawed destructive criticism to those who value evidence like the skeptic often claims to value, but elaborate on it if you would and I'll provide my take on it.
15th Century: Bishop Tostatus suggested that certain passages were written by one of the prophets, not by Moses.
As early as 1520, Carlstadt, a leader of the Reformation movement in Germany, wrote a pamphlet arguing that Moses did not write the Pentateuch.
In 1574, A. Du Maes, a Roman Catholic scholar, suggested that the Pentateuch was composed by Ezra, who used old manuscripts as a basis.
Thomas Hobbes, the English philosopher, concluded in 1651 that Moses wrote only parts of Deuteronomy.
In Tractatus theologico-politicus (1677), Baruch Spinoza, the Jewish philosopher, recognized as one of the founders of modern biblical criticism, reached a conclusion much like that of Du Maes, that Ezra compiled Genesis to II Kings from documents of varying dates. Shortly afterward, Richard Simon, a Roman Catholic priest, often called "the father of biblical criticism," gathered together the substance of critical analyses up to his time and raised the problem of literary history, thus opening the door to the application of techniques used in the study of non-sacred literature to the Bible.
Further, explore the works of German minister Henning Bernard Whitter in 1711, French professor of medicine and Court Physician to Louis XV, Jean Astruc, in 1753, and noted and respected German scholar and son of a pastor, Johann Gottfried Eichhorn, in 1780.
In 1806-7 W. M. L. DeWette, a German scholar, published a two volume introductory study of the Old Testament in which he suggested that the book found in the temple in 621 BCE may not have been written by Moses, but by a later author. In 1835-36, Wilhelm Vatke, a student of Hegel, wrote a critical work, Die Religion des Alten Testaments nach den kanonischen Büchern entwickelt, which contained the seeds of a revolution in the ideas held about the Old Testament, which was followed, in 1862, by K.H. Graf, also a student of Hegel, who wrote Der Prophet Jeremia, in which he proposed that the Book of Deuteronomy, surprisingly "found" in the temple, just when its laws were needed, by Jeremia himself.
Then followed, in 1876/77, Julius Wellhausen, a student of Graf stood on the shoulders of these giants who dared to look at the Bible critically, and put together what is now known as the Graf-Wellhausen Documentary Hypothesis.
Belief in the documentary hypothesis was triggered by a number of factors, such as:
Anachronisms, like the list of the Edomite kings
Duplicate and triplicate passages.
These factors led theologians to the conclusion that the Pentateuch is a hybrid document which was written well after Moses' death, and much later than the events portrayed.
Writing by various authors, according to the documentary hypothesis:
J: a writer who
focuses on humanity in his writing
might possibly have been a woman. His/her writing shows much greater sensitivity towards women than does E
regularly used "JHWH" as God's name
describes God in anthropomorphic terms: God formed Adam from clay; he walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the garden; he spoke to Moses.
lived in the southern kingdom of Judah, during an early period of Israel's history when they followed a nature/fertility religion. May have been a member of the Judean court.
wrote a more or less complete story of the history of the Israelites from a Judean perspective
J was probably written between 848 BCE (when King Jehoram gained power in Judah) and 722 BCE when the Assyrians destroyed the northern kingdom Israel and took its people into exile. Some scholars date J to the 10th century BCE.
E: a writer who
writes about religious and moralistic concerns
in all probability was a man
consistently used "Elohim" as God's name
lived in the northern kingdom of Israel
wrote a more or less complete story of the history of the Israelites from the perspective of the northern kingdom, including that version of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20
probably wrote between 922 and 722 BCE
may have been a priest from Shiloh who viewed Moses as his spiritual ancestor.
D: is a writer who
lived after J and E, because he was familiar with later developments in Israel's history. He lived at a time when the religion of ancient Israel was in its spiritual/ethical stage, about 622 BCE.
wrote almost all of book of Deuteronomy, as well as Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings. A second writer edited the original text after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 587 BCE. He added the last two chapters to 2 Kings and inserted short passages elsewhere to reflect the change in circumstances brought about by the Babylonian attack.
lived in Judah - probably in Jerusalem
was probably a Levitical priest - perhaps Jeremiah
P: is a writer who
focused his writings on God
added material from a priestly perspective. It discusses priests' lives, religious rituals, dates, measurements, chronologies, genealogies, worship and law.
was a priest who identified Aaron as his spiritual ancestor
views God as a distant, transcendent deity, less personal than in J and E; sometimes harsh and critical. The words "mercy," "grace" and "repentance" do not appear in his writing; they appear about 70 times in J, E, and D.
was displeased with the work of J and E and wrote P as an alternative history
rejected the concepts of angels, dreams and talking animals that are seen in J & E
believed that only Levites who were descended from Aaron could be priests
lived after J, E and D because he was aware of the books of the Prophets which were unknown to the others. Lived when the country's religion reached a priestly/legal stage, before the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BCE.
patterned his writing after the topics in J and E.
R: a redactor who
was an Aaronid priest and thus definitely a male
joined the writings of J, E, P and D together into the present Pentateuch.
Will that hold you for awhile?
PS - Have you Googled "deist" yet?
Archy, I'm not deist. Like the Bible writers I'm henotheistic. By the way, since your post on the documentary hypothesis is so long give me 24 hours or so to respond if you would please. I have a bunch of other replies to do as well.
I didn't ask if you were, I asked if you had ever even learned what it meant yet.
I'm not clear on how your henotheism equates with (insert loud, booming voice here): "THOU SHALT HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME!"
Take all the time you need on Graf-Wellhausen, I've no doubt you can Google some obscure, Bible-thumping, self-acclaimed "expert" to refute it.
Well, to be fair, the booming voice did not say "NO OTHER GODS EXIST", so it technically is compatible with the Wikipedia definition of henotheism:
"Henotheism is the belief and worship of a single god while accepting the existence or possible existence of other deities that may also be worshipped."
So I guess as long as they are seen as lesser gods, they won't come "before" God.