The Old Testament and Modern Science
For many centuries during the Christian era science was almost completely dominated by theology. Whenever, therefore, a scientific investigator proposed views not in accord with the theological notions of the age he was considered a heretic and condemned as such. During these same centuries theology was dominated by a view of the Bible which valued the latter as an infallible authority in every realm of human thought. The view of the Bible held then was expressed as late as 1861 in these words: "The Bible is none other than the voice of Him that sitteth upon the throne. Every book of it, every chapter of it, every verse of it, every word of it, every syllable of it (where are we to stop?), every letter of it, is the direct utterance of the Most High. The Bible is none other than the word of God; not some part of it more, some part of it less, but all alike, the utterance of Him who sitteth upon the throne, faultless, unerring, supreme."[1] A book which came thus directly from the mind of God must be inerrant and infallible; hence closely associated with this mechanical view of {39} the divine origin of the Bible was the belief in its absolute inerrancy and infallibility. This is clearly recognized in the words of two eminent American theologians: "The historical faith of the Church has always been that the affirmations of the scriptures of all kinds, whether of spiritual doctrine or duty, or of physical or historical fact, or of psychological or philosophical principle, are without any error, when the ipsissima verba of the autographs are ascertained and interpreted in their natural and intended sense."[2]

With such an estimate of the Bible it is only natural that theology should bitterly resent any and all scientific conclusions which seemed to be contrary to the statements of the Bible. However, a study of the history of Bible interpretation creates a serious perplexity. The principles upon which the interpretations rested were not the same in all ages. As a result, the "natural and intended sense" of biblical statements was variously apprehended. What was considered the clear teaching of Scripture in one age might be condemned as unscriptural in another. Moreover, some of the methods of interpretation are not calculated to inspire confidence in the results. When, for example, the poetic passage,

Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon,
And thou, moon, in the valley of Aijalon.
And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed,[3]

{40} is considered sufficient to discredit the scientific claim that the earth moves around the sun, rather than the sun around the earth, one's confidence in the truth of the theological view is somewhat shaken. It may be insisted, then, that much of the so-called conflict between science and the Bible was in reality a conflict between science and a misinterpreted Bible.

This, even theology seems to have recognized, for again and again it changed its interpretation of the Bible so as to bring it into accord with the persistent claims of science. "The history of most modern sciences," says Farrar, "has been as follows: their discoverers have been proscribed, anathematized, and, in every possible instance, silenced or persecuted; yet before a generation has passed the champions of a spurious orthodoxy have had to confess that their interpretations were erroneous; and -- for the most part without an apology and without a blush -- have complacently invented some new line of exposition by which the phrases of Scripture can be squared into semblable accordance with the now acknowledged fact."[4]

The so-called historical method of Bible study, which has gradually won its way, at least in Protestant Christianity, has established Bible interpretation upon a firmer foundation, so that at present much less uncertainty exists as to the {41} meaning of the Bible than at any preceding age. In the same way scientific investigation has made remarkable strides during the nineteenth century; Twentieth century science is far different from that of the early years of the preceding century. And as scientists have had to surrender many of their positions in the past it is very probable that, as the result of further investigation, some views held at present will be superseded by others. Nevertheless, though science cannot as yet dispense with working hypotheses which may or may not prove true, and though modifications in certain widely accepted views may be expected, there are many conclusions which may be considered firmly established. This being the case, if at the present time the conflict between science and the Bible is discussed, it is a conflict between scientific conclusions reached after prolonged, careful study and investigation and the teaching of the Bible as determined by the scientific use of all legitimate means of interpretation.

Does such conflict exist? Many geologists, astronomers, biologists, and other scientists have claimed for some time that they have reached conclusions not in accord with certain statements of the Bible. Take as an illustration the biblical and scientific statements concerning the age of the earth, or creation in general.[5] The general conclusion reached by an overwhelming majority {42} of the most competent students of the Bible has been that according to the information furnished by the Scriptures, the date of creation was, in round numbers, four thousand years before the opening of the Christian era.[6] At that time, in the words of the Westminster Confession,[7] "It pleased God ... to create or make of nothing the world and all things therein whether visible or invisible in the space of six days and all very good." This was accepted as the plain teaching of the first chapter of Genesis even after scientific methods had been introduced in the study of the Bible. Then came geology, pushing back the "beginnings," adding millions of years to the age of the globe, and insisting that there is abundant evidence to prove the existence of life upon earth many millenniums before B.C.4,000. Other sciences reached conclusions pointing in the same direction, until it became perfectly evident that Bible students must reckon with what seemed a real conflict between the conclusions of science and the teaching of the Bible.

No wonder Bible lovers were troubled when scientists in ever-increasing numbers advanced claims that appeared to involve a charge of scientific inaccuracy against the Sacred Scriptures. Many were convinced that this could not be, for they feared that if the Bible contained inaccuracies of any sort, its value would be {43} completely destroyed, and with the Bible Christianity must fall into ruins. In Brother Anthony, intended to picture the perplexed soul of a monk in the days of Galileo, Mark Guy Pearse gives a vivid portrayal of the doubts and perplexities of many devout Bible students in the nineteenth century:

But on my fevered heart there falls no balm;
The garden of my soul, where happy birds
Sang in the fullness of their joy, and bloomed
The flowers bright, finds only winter now;
And bleak winds moan about the leafless trees,
And chill rains beat to earth the rotting stalks.
Hope, Faith, and God, alike are gone, all gone --
If it be so, as this Galileo saith.
"The earth is round and moves about the sun;
The sun," he saith, "is still, the axle fixed
Of nature's wheel, center of all the worlds."
Galileo is an honest soul, God knows --
No end has he to serve but only truth,
By that which he declares, daring to risk
Position, liberty, and even life itself. He knows. And yet the ages have believed it not.
Have they not meditated, watched, and prayed --
Great souls with vision purged and purified?
Had God no messenger until arose
Galileo! Long years the Church has prayed,
Seeking His grace who guided into truth,
And weary eyes have watched the sun and stars,
And heard the many voices that proclaim
God's hidden ways -- did they believe a lie?
The Church's holy fathers, were they wrong?
Yet speaks Galileo as one who knows.

Shrinks all my soul from breathing any word
That dares to question God's most holy Book,


As men beneath an avalanche pass dumb
For fear a sound should bring destruction down.
If but a jot or tittle of the Word
Do pass away, then is all lost. And yet
If what Galileo maintains be true! --
"The sun itself moves not." The Scripture tells
At Joshua's command the sun stood still.
Doth scripture lie? The blessed Lord himself,
Spake he not of the sun that rose and set!
So cracks and cleaves the ground beneath my feet.

The sun that fills and floods the world with light
My darkness and confusion hath become!
O God, as here about the old gray walls
The ivy clings and twines its arms, and finds
A strength by which it rises from the earth
And mounts toward heaven, then gladly flings
Its grateful crown of greenery round the height,
So by thy Word my all uncertain soul
Hath mounted toward thy heaven, and brought
Its love, its all, wherewith to crown my Lord.
Alas, the wall is fallen. Beneath it crushed
The clinging ivy lies; its stronghold once
Is now the prison house, the cruel grave.[8]

Since the scientific position seemed to many devout believers to undermine the Christian faith, it is not altogether strange that they should set themselves against these claims with all their might, though it may be difficult to justify the bitterness displayed by many Christian ministers in the denunciation of even devout Christian scientists, as "infidels," "impugners of the sacred records," "assailants of the Word of God," etc. It is hardly credible that during the enlightened {45} nineteenth century geology should be denounced as "not a subject of lawful inquiry," "a dark art," "dangerous and disreputable," "a forbidden province," "infernal artillery," "an awful evasion of the testimony of revelation."

But the progress of science could not be blocked by denunciation, and gradually the claims of geology, astronomy, and other sciences respecting the great age of the earth came to be accepted as well established. Is, then, the scientific teaching of the Bible false? By no means, said many defenders of the faith; on the contrary, there is perfect agreement between science and the Bible, provided the latter is rightly interpreted. The first problem was to extend what was commonly taken to be the biblical teaching respecting the age of the earth so as to meet the demands of geology. This was readily done by interpreting "day" figuratively as meaning an indefinite period. It could easily be shown that in some passages "day" did not mean a day of twenty-four hours. Hence, why not interpret the word metaphorically in Gen.1? It is safe to say that, had it not been for a desire to harmonize the biblical account with the conclusions of science, no Bible student would ever have thought of this interpretation in connection with the acts of creation, for a natural interpretation of the writer's language makes it evident that when the author of Gen.1 speaks {46} of the successive events of creation he is thinking of days of twenty-four hours, each consisting of day and night.[9] Marcus Dods is right when he says, "If the word 'day' in these chapters does not mean a period of twenty-four hours, the interpretation of scripture is hopeless."[10] No permanent good can come from doing violence to plain statements of the Bible by the use of methods of interpretation that would be considered illegitimate in the study of other literary productions. In all the harmonizing efforts this caution has been overlooked. The believer in revelation, thinking that the agreement between science and the Bible must be minute, has yielded to the temptation to twist the biblical record into a new meaning with every fresh discovery of science. Many scientists were repelled by this arbitrary method, and when they saw that agreement could not be had by legitimate methods, and knew of no other way out of the difficulty, they too frequently assumed a hostile attitude toward revelation. A method leading to such disastrous results cannot be considered altogether satisfactory.

Granting, however, for the sake of argument, the possibility of interpreting "day" metaphorically, the troubles are by no means ended, for it is impossible to discover clearly defined periods in the geological records such as are presupposed in the biblical record. But there is a more serious {47} difficulty. The order in which the different living beings and the heavenly bodies are said in Genesis to have been created does not seem to be the same as that suggested by geology and astronomy. For example, according to Genesis, fishes and birds appeared together on the fifth day, preceding all land animals, which are said to have been created on the sixth day. According to geology, fish and numerous species of land animals, especially reptiles living on land, preceded birds.[11] Moreover, according to Genesis, the sun, moon, and stars were created after the earth, a view which is altogether inconsistent with the modern scientific view of the universe, and of the part the sun plays in plant and animal life upon earth. True, this last difficulty is avoided by some by giving to certain Hebrew words a meaning which they do not ordinarily have. For example, it is said, "Let there be" (verse 14) means "Let there appear"; "God made" (verse 16) means "God made to appear," or "God appointed," to a specific office. With this interpretation, it is stated, Genesis says nothing about the formation or creation of the luminaries. They may have existed for a long time, only on the fourth day they were made to appear -- the vapor around the earth having previously hidden them -- and were appointed to the offices mentioned in verses 14 to 18. No one will claim that this is a natural {48} interpretation of the biblical language. If the writer meant "Let there appear," he could have found a suitable word in Hebrew, as also to express the idea "appoint." The language of Driver is not too strong: "Verses fourteen to eighteen cannot be legitimately interpreted except as implying that in the conception of the writer luminaries had not previously existed, and that they were made and set in their places in the heavens after the separation of sea and land and the appearance of vegetation upon the earth."[12]

Various attempts have been made to escape the difficulty caused by the conclusions of geology as to the order in which different forms of life have appeared upon earth. These conclusions are based chiefly upon the presence of fossil remains imbedded in the different strata of the earth's surface. Passing by the earlier explanations -- for example, that these fossil remains were placed there by a direct act of God on one of the creative days for some mysterious purpose, perhaps for the trial of human faith, or that they were due to the ravages of the Deluge -- reference may be made to two or three of the more recent "scientific" attempts to harmonize the facts of science with the statements of Genesis. There is, first of all, the restitution theory advocated by J. H. Kurtz and Thomas Chalmers.[13] Admitting that the fossil remains are important for the determination {49} of the age of the earth and the order in which different forms of life appeared upon the globe, Kurtz writes: "The animal and vegetable world which lies buried in the stratified formations was not that which, according to the Bible, was created respectively on the third, fifth, and sixth days. Its origin must belong to an earlier period."[14] In other words, his view is that "the main description in Genesis does not relate to the geological periods at all; that room is left for these periods between verse one and verse two; that the life which then flourished upon the earth was brought to an end by a catastrophe, the results of which are alluded to in verse two; and that what follows (verses 3ff.) is the description of a second creation immediately preceding the appearance of man." That this view is due to a desire to harmonize the biblical account with science is clearly implied in the words of Kurtz intended to meet the charge of Delitzsch that his view is "pure delusion." "It is," says Kurtz, "merely a delusion to attempt identifying the creation of the primeval fossil flora and fauna with those of the third, fifth, and sixth days, and at the same time to endeavor harmonizing geology and the Bible." Not to speak of the astronomical difficulty referred to above, which remains, science has nothing whatever to offer in support of this theory, while, on the other {50} hand, the tenor of the Genesis narrative implies such close connection between verse one and verse two that there is no room for the alleged catastrophe. It is not strange, therefore, that modern apologists have discarded the restitution hypothesis.

The vision theory has been presented most forcefully by Hugh Miller.[15] According to this view "the narrative was not meant to describe the actual succession of events, but was the description of a series of visions presented prophetically to the narrator's mental eye, and representing, not the first appearance of each species of life upon the globe, but its maximum development. The 'drama of creation,' it is said, is not described as it was enacted historically, but optically, as it would present itself to a spectator in a series of pictures or tableaux embodying the most characteristic and conspicuous feature of each period, and, as it were, summarizing in miniature its results."

Though this view was presented with much eloquence and skill, it has been unable to maintain its position, simply because it is based upon an unnatural interpretation of the biblical record. No one approaching Genesis without a theory to defend would think for a moment that he is reading the description of a vision. The only natural interpretation is that the author means to record what he considers actual fact. Moreover, {51} where in Scripture could there be found an analogy to this mode of procedure? The revelation of an unknown past to a historian or prophet seems not in accord with the ordinary method of God's revelations to men. But, admitting the possibility of this method of divine communication, why should the picture thus presented to the mind of the author differ so widely from the facts uncovered by geologists?

Similar attempts to harmonize Genesis with geology have been made by other geologists, among them Professor Alexander Winchell,[16] Sir J. W. Dawson,[17] and Professor J. D. Dana.[18] The results are perfectly satisfactory to these writers, but they fail to see that in order to accomplish their purpose they must have recourse to unnatural interpretations of the Genesis account, which in itself is sufficient evidence to show the hopelessness of the task. A similar judgment must be passed on the more recent attempt by F. H. Capron[19] to bring the biblical account into harmony with the modern theory of evolution. Capron is fully convinced that "the most rudimentary knowledge of geology is sufficient to satisfy any candid critic that the Genesis narrative as interpreted by any one of them[20] cannot be brought into harmony with the admitted facts of science." He, therefore, attempts a new harmony by trying to show that the first chapter of Genesis {52} gives only the order in which the creative words were uttered, not the order in which the resulting effects were produced. Unfortunately, in accomplishing this purpose, he, like his predecessors, reveals an almost complete disregard for the obvious meaning of the Genesis narrative.

After a close study of the Genesis narrative and the numerous attempts of harmonizing it with science, the present writer has become thoroughly convinced that it is impossible to establish a complete, detailed harmony between the Genesis account of creation and the established facts of science without doing violence to the Bible or to science or to both. The only harmony possible is what has been called an "ideal harmony," that is, a harmony not extending to details, but limited to salient features. But this gives away the very position for which the "harmonists" have contended. As Driver says, "If the relative priority of plants and animals, or the period at which the sun and moon were formed, are amongst the details on which harmony cannot be established, what other statement (in the account of creation) can claim acceptance on the ground that it forms part of the narrative of Genesis?"[21]

Admitting now the presence of discrepancies between science and the Old Testament, what becomes of the Old Testament?[22] Must it be {53} discarded as no longer "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness"? Some there are who seem to fear such fate for the book they dearly love. On the other hand, there are multitudes who calmly admit the claims of science, and at the same time continue to read and study the pages of the Old Testament, assured that it can still furnish nourishment to their spiritual natures. This attitude of confidence has been made possible, on the one hand, by a broader and truer conception of divine revelation, and, on the other, by a more adequate interpretation of the purpose of the Bible and of the biblical writers.

Believers in God have come to realize as never before that God has spoken and still speaks in a variety of ways. Manifestations of God may be seen on every hand:

The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament showeth his handiwork.
Day unto day uttereth speech,
And night unto night showeth knowledge.[23]

What is the universe but a manifestation of God? The whole realm of nature is in a real sense a record of divine revelations, which science seeks to interpret. "Now," says A. H. McNeile,[24] "If God created all things and carries the universe along by the utterance of his power, it is clear that every fresh item of knowledge gained by {54} scientific investigation is a fresh glimpse into the will of God. Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as secular knowledge. A man only makes his studies secular for himself as he divorces them from the thought of God, so that all the scientific experiments in the world form part of the study of one aspect of God's Word."

On the other hand the purpose of scripture has come to be more adequately apprehended. The New Testament makes it perfectly clear that the aim of the Old Testament Scriptures is to bring man into harmony with God, to make him morally and spiritually perfect, and to point to the consummation of the redemptive purpose of God in and through the Christ.[25] There is no warrant anywhere for the belief that the Old Testament writers meant to teach science of any kind. This is admitted even by some who insist upon the accuracy of the scientific teaching of the Bible. "It is true that the Scriptures were not designed to teach philosophy, science, or ethnology, or human history as such, and therefore they are not to be studied primarily as sources of information on these subjects."[26] Evidently, then, wherever the Old Testament touches upon questions of science it treats them only in so far as they serve a higher ethical or spiritual purpose. Is it necessary to have absolute scientific accuracy in every detail in order to do this {55} effectively? A moment's thought will show that it is not. The writer heard not long ago a powerful appeal on behalf of the boys in a certain community, in which the speaker referred to the "Gracchi, the most renowned citizens of Athens." The historical inaccuracy in no wise affected the moral force of the appeal. No one would be foolish enough to assume that the spiritual and ethical value of sermons preached by the early Church fathers is invalidated by the fanciful science mixed with their gospel message. Who has not heard sermons that created a profound spiritual impression, though their science and history were not altogether faultless? It would seem, then, that in estimating extra-biblical utterances the principle is recognized that "ignorance of some departments of truth does not disqualify a man for knowing and imparting truth about God; that in order to be a medium of revelation a man does not need to be in advance of his age in secular learning; that intimate communion with God, a spirit trained to discern spiritual things, a perfect understanding of and zeal for God's purpose are qualities quite independent of a knowledge of the discoveries of science."[27]

Is it right to raise a different standard for the Scriptures? "Certainly," say many, "because the Bible is inspired; it is the Word of God, and God cannot inspire an untruth of any kind." {56} Now, it may be readily admitted that God cannot inspire an untruth; but have we any right to argue as if we knew exactly how God ought to convey a revelation to man? Without entering upon a discussion of the entire subject of inspiration, the question may be raised whether or not inspiration covers purely scientific information. The claim has been put forth by some who believe that the Bible and science are in perfect agreement that this agreement "proves that the scientific element of scripture as well as the doctrinal was within the scope of inspiration."[28] Consistency might seem to require the admission that disagreement would prove that the scientific element does not fall within the scope of inspiration. At any rate, it is of enormous importance to remember, what should be a perfectly obvious principle, that the facts presented in the Bible must determine the answer to the inquiry. In other words, "We can learn what the Bible is only from what the Bible itself says."[29]

One thing is quite certain, namely, that the Bible makes not the slightest claim of being a scientific treatise complete and up-to-date.[30] It is equally true that it does not deny being such a treatise, hence the inquirer is thrown back upon a study of the facts presented in the Bible; and upon the basis of these he must determine whether or not there is reason for believing that scientific {57} knowledge comes within the scope of inspiration. Now, the abstract possibility of God communicating to man a knowledge of exact scientific facts in a prescientific age need not be denied. It is, however, a question whether God could have communicated such facts to man three thousand years ago without robbing him of his personality and changing him into a mechanism. So far as the ways of God are known from experience, observation, history, and other sources, he has always treated with respect and consideration the powers and faculties of his chief creature. "Had inspired men," says Dods,[31] "introduced into their writings information which anticipated the discoveries of science, their state of mind would be inconceivable, and revelation would be a source of confusion. God's methods are harmonious with one another, and as he has given men natural faculties to acquire scientific knowledge and historical information, he did not stultify this gift by imparting such knowledge in a miraculous and unintelligible manner." The same truth is expressed by H. E. Ryle in these words: "We do not expect instruction upon matters of physical inquiry from revelation in the written Word. God's other gifts to men, of learning, perseverance, calculation, and the like, have been and are a true source of revelation. But scripture supplies no short cut for the intellect. Where {58} man's intellectual powers may hope to attain to the truth, be it in the region of historical, scientific, and critical study, we have no warrant to expect an anticipation of results through the interposition of supernatural instruction in the letter of scripture.... Scripture is divinely inspired, not to release men from the toil of mental inquiry, but to lead and instruct their souls in things of eternal salvation."[32] This is not an arbitrary limitation of the scope of inspiration; it is a conclusion based upon a careful consideration of the facts of science and of the Bible, which seem to furnish sufficient evidence that the biblical writers were not in any marked degree in advance of their age in the knowledge of physical facts or laws. In other words, the Bible is primarily a book of religion, hence religion, and not science, is to be looked for in its pages. Altogether too much time has been spent in an effort to find in it scientific truth in a scientific form. Such attempts clearly disregard the purpose of the biblical writers as interpreted in the New Testament.

And could a Divine Providence have chosen a different method? Even now discoveries follow one another so fast in the realm of science that no book remains a standard work for more than a few years. It seems obvious, therefore, that a book written thousands of years ago could not remain a standard scientific work for all times. {59} But assuming for the sake of argument that God had communicated the knowledge of scientific facts to these writers -- evidence for which is entirely lacking -- what would have been the result? Later occurrences suggest what might have happened. The great mass of people would have looked upon teachers of strange science as heretics and madmen, and would have rejected not only their scientific teaching but their religious teaching as well. What a loss that would have been to mankind! No serious loss would come to men if they were left a while longer in ignorance concerning scientific matters, but very serious loss would come to them by continuing in their lower religious and ethical beliefs and practices. The only way to make the higher religious truth understood was to present it in a form easily apprehended by the people. To do this is the chief purpose of the primitive, prescientific science of the Old Testament Scriptures.

The peculiar element in scripture is the spirit and religious atmosphere which permeate all its parts and give to the Bible a unique place among the literatures of the world. This is the divine element due to inspiration. It is this element which establishes a gulf between the Hebrew account of creation and the cosmologies of other nations. Though the biblical writers had very much the same idea about the form and general {60} arrangement of the visible world as we find among other peoples -- ideas that have satisfied at all times the majority of men even among nations with a pretense to culture, namely, the cosmology of appearances -- these ideas were all connected with their sublime faith in Jehovah: to his omnipotence they referred the existence of the world, and they made all its changes depend entirely on his will. In their monotheistic religion they secured the foundation of a clear and simple cosmology different from the grotesque cosmologies of other nations and yet not beyond the demands of men of a primitive type and of simple mind, who were full of a lively imagination, but not much accustomed to analyze phenomena or their causes.

In this connection it may prove helpful to remember what, according to the biblical viewpoint and in the light of history, was the contribution of Israel to the development of the human race. "Israel," says G. W. Jordan,[33] "is comparatively young, politically it is provincial, socially it is not brilliant, in the realm of science it is narrow and dependent; yet when we lay stress on these limitations we only cause the peculiar glory of this nation's life to stand out more clearly; it has its own individuality; its real leaders are men of genius, their ambition is to speak in the name of the eternal king; they {61} hear the divine message and claim for it the supreme significance." This is the judgment of a Bible student. The same truth is expressed in the words of one who approaches the Bible from the viewpoint of the scientist, namely, the eminent Italian astronomer, Schiaparelli[34]: "Their [the Hebrews] natural gifts, as well as the course of events, carried them to a different mission [from that of Greece and Rome] of no smaller importance -- that of purifying the religious sentiment and of preparing the way for monotheism. Of this way they mark the first clear traces. In the laborious accomplishment of this great task Israel lived, suffered, and completely exhausted itself. Israel's history, legislation, and literature were essentially coordinated toward this end; science and art were for Israel of secondary importance. No wonder, therefore, that the steps of the Jews' advance in the field of scientific conceptions and speculations were small and feeble; no wonder that in such respects they were easily vanquished by their neighbors on the Nile and the Euphrates."

In conclusion: Permanent harmony between science and the Bible will be secured when each is assigned to its legitimate sphere. Science has a right to ask that, if men are seeking purely scientific information, they should turn to recent text-books in geology, astronomy, or the other {62} sciences. But in the sphere to which Jesus and the New Testament writers assigned the Old Testament science cannot deny or seriously question its inspiration or permanent value. Unprejudiced science has never done this. It is perfectly ready to recognize the inestimable religious and ethical value of even those Old Testament narratives which refer to scientific facts, not because of their scientific teaching, but because of the presence of eternal truth in the crude form of primitive science. Fair-minded scientists readily admit that if anyone wishes to know what connection the world has with God, if he seeks to trace back all that now is to the very fountain head of life, if he desires to discover some unifying principle, some illuminating purpose in the history of the world, he may still turn to the early chapters of Genesis as a safe guide.

What, then, is the bearing of the conclusions of modern science upon the permanent value of the Old Testament? Science has compelled the Bible student to withdraw the attention from the nonessential and secondary, and to concentrate it upon the heart and substance. In doing this it has established upon a much firmer basis the conviction that, whatever the scientific value of scripture may be or may not be, the apostle was right when he wrote that "the sacred writings ... are able to make wise unto salvation through {63} faith which is in Christ Jesus. Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work."[35]


[1] Burgon, Inspiration and Interpretation, p.89.

[2] Presbyterian Review, 1881, p.238.

[3] Josh.10.12.

[4] The Bible -- Its Meaning and Supremacy, p.160.

[5] In a brief treatment it seems preferable to confine the discussion to a specific concrete case; therefore this chapter deals almost exclusively with questions centering around the subject of cosmogony.

[6] The margin of the Authorized Version still gives the chronology of Archbishop Ussher to that effect.

[7] Chapter IV, 1.

[8] The Expositor, 1902, pp.159, 160.

[9] It requires but a reading of the "proofs" of the opposite view to understand their weakness. Compare Expositor, 1886, pp.287-289.

[10] The book of Genesis, p.4.

[11] Another difficulty has been found in the statement of Genesis that "vegetation" was complete two days before animal life appeared, but the disagreement is more apparent than real. The geological record, it is true, shows many more animal than plant remains in the very ancient rocks. It was not until Devonian and Carboniferous times that the plants became very abundant, as far as the geological records go. Indeed, in the oldest rocks in which animal remains occur, no plant remains have been discovered. However, this is not to be {64} taken as proving that animals existed before plants, because low forms of the latter, having no hard parts, would be preserved with difficulty. Moreover, in some of the primitive forms, it is not easy to distinguish plants from animals. But, apart from the records in the rocks, both biologists and geologists believe that plants existed as early as animals, if not earlier, for the latter needed the former to live upon. An eminent geologist, Professor U. S. Grant, of Northwestern University, has expressed his opinion to the writer in these words: "It seems to me that, viewed in an abstract way, the Genesis statement of vegetation appearing before animal life is not far from correct."

[12] The Book of Genesis, p.25.

[13] Natural Theology, Vol. I, pp.229, 230.

[14] History of the Old Covenant, Vol. I, p. cxxix.

[15] The Testimony of the Rocks, Lecture IV.

[16] Reconciliation of Science and Religion, pp.356ff.; compare also Pre-Adamites, passim.

[17] Origin of the World According to Revelation and Science, passim.

[18] Bibliotheca Sacra, 1885, pp.201ff.

[19] The Conflict of Truth, pp.162ff.

[20] Kurtz, Miller, Dawson, Dana, and the rest.

[21] Expositor, 1886, p.38.

[22] The writer wants it clearly understood that an "ideal," harmony, as described above, can be established. He is equally certain, however, that the harmony cannot be carried into details.

[23] Psa.19.1, 2.

[24] Expository Times, October, 1907, p.20.

[25] See above, Chapter I, p.12.

[26] Presbyterian Review, 1881, p.239.

[27] Marcus Dods, The Book of Genesis, pp.4, 5.

[28] Presbyterian Review, 1881, p.239.

[29] Expository Times, October, 1907, p.20.


[30] Surely, there is not the slightest claim in Scripture that Moses or any other biblical writer received divine information concerning the beginnings of the universe; nor is there anything to support the assumption that the account of creation was supernaturally revealed to Adam, and that from him it was transmitted word for word through the families of the pious antediluvians, of Noah, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc., until it was finally received and committed to writing by Moses.

[31] The Book of Genesis, p.5.

[32] H. E. Ryle, The Early Narratives of Genesis, pp.5, 6.

[33] Biblical Criticism and Modern Thought, p.90.

[34] Astronomy in the Old Testament, p.1.

[35] 2 Tim.3.15-17; on the permanent value and significance of the Genesis narratives; see also below, pp.234ff.

chapter i the new testament
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