The Lindisfarne Gospels, penned around 800 CE, has an illustration of Matthew writing his gospel. God is drawing back the curtains of revelation while an angel double checks Matthew’s text against a divine scroll. Such was the ninth century idea of how the bible came to be. Reality is far less tidy.
In our modern society we prize objective truth; for only objective things, not metaphysical things can be reliable. But take colour. Although we assume colour is objective it turns out that colour is nothing other than our brain’s subjective rendering of photon frequency. The notes we hear on a piano are also subjective. There are no sounds in the physical world; only vibrating molecules. Equally smell is the interpretation of molecular shape and even the apparent solidness of matter as sensed through touch was discredited by Rutherford’s scattering experiment.
Central to the Christian thesis is the divinity of Jesus. Little wonder critics such as Bertrand Russell and Signal complain - ‘no amount of Christian theological acrobatics will ever solve the problems engendered by the historical reality that a promised imminent fulfilment made two thousand years ago did not occur as expected by the New Testament. Simply stated, Jesus is never coming back, not then, not now, not ever’.
I am sitting in a lobby of a busy Chinese hotel. People are coming and going, or meeting to drink Chinese tea. I enjoy being part of the activity; the movement, the laughter. Over the PA Christian songs are playing – which makes me wonder – I know most of the people are not Christian yet they are all demonstrating a remarkable tolerance to this other-religion music.
The early church primarily understood the question; why did Jesus have to die? - in terms of overcoming the devil. In both the ransom and Christos Victor motif the purpose of the cross was to overcome Satin's lawful hold (because of the fall) over humanity.
Before the account proper we learn that Tubal-Cain ‘forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron (Genesis 4:22)’. Tubal-Cain’s particular skillset is helpful because it places Noah’s flood after the dawn of the Bronze Age (4000 BCE). The Sumerian King List is even more specific, placing its flood in the Jemdet Nasr Period (2900 BCE).
According to the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum theory the outcome of physical processes cannot be predicted with certainty because they are not determined with certainty. By this interpretation nature does not dictate but rather allows a number of different eventualities; each with its own probability.
Phineas Gage in 1848 accidently triggered an explosion while leaning over a hole full of explosives. As a result a tamping iron went through his left eye, brain and skull. Damage to his ventral-medial frontal region transformed Gage from a conscientious citizen into a man with serious character flaws. This change in behaviour led De Waal to conclude; ‘what this incident teaches us is that consciousness is not some disembodied concept that can be understood only on the basis of culture and religion’.
Of central import to the discussion of anthropological beginnings is the study of rare mutations evident in the mtDNA code. These markers, uncomplicated by the recombination process that occurs in nuclear DNA represents the bifurcating nodes of maternal human ancestry. If they could be dated then a detailed map of human ancestry could in principle be sketched out.
A plain reading of the Genesis creation account coupled with the Genesis genealogy suggests the earth was created in seven literal days some six thousand years ago. So why does objective evidence past doubting tell such a different story?
I was brought up to believe that the biblical story covered the entire history of the cosmos; but by the time I reached university I was keenly aware that this view of the bible was susceptible to some fairly thorny questions-namely why would God take thirteen billion years to create a near infinite universe for what amounts to a few millennia of very finite human existence?