Tag Archives: trustworthiness of the Bible

Do the genealogies of the Bible tell us how old the earth is?

A cursory reading of the genealogies of the Old Testament could lead to the view taken by Archbishop Ussher that the world was created in 4004 BC.

But the genealogies of Genesis are not intended to determine the amount of time that has elapsed between the creation of man and the coming of Christ. For instance, the Genesis genealogies would allow for only 300 years between Noah and Abraham, yet at the time of Abraham there were already great civilizations in such widespread places as Egypt, China, India, Mesopotamia, and Greece. In addition, detailed archaeological evidence demonstrates that in some of these places dynasties had already come and gone, and civilization was already ancient.

The solution to the apparent conflict between archaeological evidence and the biblical record lies in the fact that the genealogies don’t include unimportant individuals. The Hebrew word for son, ben, didn’t only mean son, but was also used to refer to grandsons and descendants. Similarly, the Hebrew word yalad (bear) also can have the meaning of “become the ancestor of.” Isaiah 29:23 is an example of yalad being used in this way.

There are a number of good examples of how genealogies tend to omit all but the most important individuals in a line. For instance, Matthew 1:1 names only Abraham, David, and Christ. Even though there are only four generations listed between Levi and Moses,[1] Numbers 3:39 states that Levi’s descendants already were numbered at 22,000 males. (The genealogy shown for Ephraim seems to show 18 generations between Ephraim and Joshua. This genealogy is found in 1 Chronicles 7:20–27.) The list of kings in Matthew 1:2–17 omits a number of names that are listed in the list of kings in the Old Testament.

These and other examples demonstrate that the genealogies of the Old Testament patriarchs are given in order to demonstrate the common descent of the entire human race from Adam and Eve, not to provide a complete chronology of the time that has elapsed from Adam to Christ.

[1] Exodus 6:16-20

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Does the Bible tolerate slavery?

The slavery tolerated by the Scriptures must be understood in its historical context and should not be equated with type of slavery seen in the pre-Civil War American south or in the sex-trade slavery all across the world. Old Testament laws regulating slavery are troublesome by modern standards, but in their historical context they provided a degree of social recognition and legal protection to slaves that was advanced for its time.[1]

In ancient times, slavery existed in every part of the world. Slaves had no legal status or rights, and they were treated as the property of their owners. Even Plato and Aristotle looked upon slaves as inferior beings. As inhumane as such slavery was, we must keep in mind that on occasion it was an alternative to the massacre of enemy populations in wartime and the starvation of the poor during famine. It was to the people of this harsh age that the Bible was first written.

In New Testament times, slave labor was foundational to the economy of the Roman Empire. About a third of the population was comprised of slaves. If the writers of the New Testament had attacked the institution of slavery directly, the gospel would have been identified with a radical political cause at a time when the abolition of slavery was unthinkable. To directly appeal for the freeing of slaves would have been inflammatory and a direct threat to the social order. Consequently, the New Testament acknowledged slavery’s existence, instructing both Christian masters and slaves in the way they should behave.[2] At the same time, it openly declared the spiritual equality of all people.[3]

The gospel first had the practical effect of doing away with slavery within the community of the early church. It also carried within it the seeds of the eventual complete abolition of slavery in the Western world.

The fact that the Bible never expressly condemned the institution of slavery has been wrongfully used as a rationale for its continuance. In the American South prior to the Civil War, many nominal Christians wrongly interpreted the Bible’s approach to slavery and used their misunderstanding to justify economic interests. The terrible use of African slave labor continued in spite of those who argued from the Scriptures for the spiritual equality of all ethnicities. Today the Christian message of the spiritual equality of all people under God has spread throughout the world, and it is rapidly becoming the standard by which the human values of all nations are measured.

[1]. Exodus 21:20-27 ; Leviticus 25:44-46

[2]. Ephesians 6:5-9 ; Colossians 3:2 ; Colossians 4:1 ; 1 Timothy 6:2 ; Philemon 1:10-21

[3]. Galatians 3:281 Corinthians 7:20-24 ; Colossians 3:11

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