Who did Cain Marry? – Theology

marriage

Genesis 4: 16 “Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden. 17 And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch.”

This is probably one of the most common questions asked in regards to Genesis, Adam and Eve, and the post-sin world in terms of marriage. Who did Cain marry? I’ve been asked about this question on a number of occasions. What I have come to notice is that, I’ve probably heard just as many Christians ask this question as non-Christians.

The answer is actually quite simple and as Christians, we should not allow questions like these ones to cause us to doubt our faith, or bog us down when we are put on the spot by a sceptic. 1 Peter 3:15 reminds us, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”

The context of the situation

We have to look at the context of the situation to get a better understanding of what we are dealing with here. In Genesis 1, God creates Adam and Eve the first two humans. In Genesis 3, Satan causes them to sin, and because of this God sadly has to cast them away from his presence and so they begin to physically and spiritually die (before this, they were sinless and in perfect union with God). In Genesis 4, we see that Adam and Eve have their first two children, Cain and Abel. Cain is a farmer, and Abel is a keeper of animals. On one particular day, they both bring offerings unto God, however God rejects Cain’s offering because Cain tries to present his offering based on his own works and in the wrong heart and mind. Cain conspires and kills His brother Abel, and at this point God sends Cain out of his presence. It is at this juncture that the question arises.

Who did Cain Marry?

Genesis 4: 16 “Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden. 17 And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch.” As we can see from this verse, Cain makes love to his wife in the land of Nod east of Eden. But who is his wife? Scripture hasn’t mentioned any other female names apart from Eve by this point. Firstly take note that this verse says that Cain knew his wife (had sexual intercourse) in the land of Nod, he did not find her there and then marry as many people mistakenly assert. He was already married to her and just brought her along to Nod.

To answer the Question at hand, Cain married his sister…I know what you might be thinking right now, as most people do as soon as the answer is given. That’s incest! How can he marry his sister! The bible is immoral! Before you make your judgements too quickly, allow me to explain to you why this was perfectly acceptable back then, but not now.

In genesis 5:4 we read, “After he begot Seth, the days of Adam were eight hundred years; and he had sons and daughters.” What we see here is that Adam and Eve actually had many other sons and daughters after Cain, Abel and Seth (who is their third son) were born. This means that the only options for marriage were their own sisters (or brothers). Secondly there would be no one to report incest to apart from their own brother or sister and so that wasn’t an issue at the time. Thirdly, incest is a modern word. There was no such thing at that time almost 6000 years ago.

The two most important points to bring up about this actually lie in genetics, and history however.

The Genetic Reason

Scientifically speaking, the only reason why incest is incest, is because since the time of Adam, humans have slowly accumulated mutations and degenerations due to the fact that we are a copy off of a copy off of a copy off of a copy…off of Adam and Eve, (just try to copy a CD a few thousand times, and then compare how much information is left on the last CD as opposed to the first one…Not much!). We are now at a point where, if you were to marry a really close relative, say cousin or sister, your genes would more than likely have a high chance of harbouring the same defects. This means that when you have your child, he or she will now exhibit those deformities (look at the case of Charles Darwin who married his cousin and had 10 children of which, most of them had serious defects and some of them died very early). If humans carried on in this way, before long all humans would pretty much be wiped out. The further away you marry from yourself, the less of a chance that your genes will have the same defects as your partner. Now your child has a much stronger chance of survival as the good genes from one parent will mask over the bad genes from the other parent causing very minor issues if any, as oppose to life threatening ones.

Since Adam and Eve were created perfect, sinless and mutation-less, they had perfect genes and so when they had their sons and daughter, only extremely minor (if any at all) genetic issues started to arise. This means that they could marry each other no problem, and so incest was not a problem. This then leads into the historical reason.

The Historical Reason

God knew that at some point, because of sin and slowly accumulating mutations, there would come a point where extremely close relatives couldn’t marry anymore. This defining point is seen in the book of Leviticus 18:6-18 over 2000 years after Adam and Eve, where God gives an entire list of DO NOT’S to Moses for the Israelites to follow in regards to sexual relations and marriage.

So if God establishes all laws and before this point there was no law against marrying a close relative because of little to no genetic issue, then we can safely say that there truly was nothing wrong with close relatives marrying before this point, it broke absolutely no laws!

It is always good to know that when we come across difficulty in scripture, there is almost always an answer. The answer might not be obvious at first, but because God’s Word is true and he wants us to understand it, he will make sure to provide a way for us to make sense of it!

Can Science Answer Everything? Science Vs. Religion

Math formula

Experiment [science] is the only means of knowledge at our disposal. Everything else is poetry, imagination” – Max Planck.

Many people today take the position that science can answer everything. This viewpoint (whether known or not) involves the affirmation of the idea that science can answer questions of origins, morality and human purpose as well as the workings of astrophysical bodies and the function of DNA within the cell nucleus. Whilst science is no doubt an amazing field of study, research and discovery, I fear that many individuals today have propelled this subject into a position of prominence in which it cannot itself bear the weight of without crumbling.

This ‘scientific’ view of life has a number of names: ‘scientific naturalism’, ‘metaphysical naturalism’[1] , or ‘scientism’. Oxford University Chemist Professor Peter Atkinson is an outspoken believer in this worldview. He asserts that:

Every real question, like, where did the universe come from, where is it going, and how is it getting there – there is nothing of that nature that science cannot illuminate”[2]

Is this position tenable however? It is one thing to make a claim, and another thing to actually demonstrate it to be true.

It seems to me that at the heart of this contention, the underlying issues come to light in the term and saying that we all know and/or hear about so frequently; namely being: science Vs religion or science Vs faith and the unending debate between the two fields. It is assumed by many that science deals with a certain set of questions pertaining to hard facts and real knowledge whilst religion only deals with questions pertaining to purpose, afterlife and morality, all things that are optionally believed but not true or useful for objectivity in real life. Stephen Jay Gould coined this division as ‘Non-Overlapping Magisteria’.[3]

There are multiple problems that follow on from scientific naturalism however, the most obvious of which being that there are many questions that science simply cannot answer. What tends to happen when a person (who holds to scientism) tries to answer a question outside of the realms of science, is that they step into the world of philosophy (usually without even realising). Once this happens, the individual who is trying to prove that their worldview is logically cogent has simultaneously refuted their own worldview, rendering their argument quite useless.

Is it really science vs religion?

Of course this is the idea that is portrayed nowadays, however history paints a completely different backstory story. First and foremost we should understand that every major field of science that we have today (from mathematics, to physics to chemistry etc. – what we call modern science) was started by a believer in God, and not just any God, specifically the God of the Bible. In his book ‘For the Glory of God’ Sociologist and Professor of the social sciences at Baylor University Rodney Stark states that:

Science was not the work of western secularist or even deists; it was entirely the work of devout believers in an active, conscious, creator God.[4]

Professor of History at Queens Mary University Thomas Dixson similarly remarks that:

It was never the intentions of the pioneers of modern science – men such as Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle, or Rene Descartes – to undermine religions belief. Far from it. They envisaged Nature as an orderly system of mechanical interactions governed by mathematical Laws. And they hoped that people would see in this new vision the strongest possible evidence of divine power and intelligence.[5]

Secondly, contrary to popular belief, for the most part of the last 2000 years, science and religion have not been at warIn fact this whole idea of ‘science vs religion’’ only originated in the 19th century, just some 2-300 years ago. Two well-known historians were the primary cause of this: Andrew Dickson White and John William Draper. Dickson and White were the two most influential promoters of the ‘conflict thesis’ (the idea that science and religion were conflicting) and they determined to set religion and science into two opposing paths.[6] In his book ‘A history of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom’, White used the metaphor of ‘warfare’ to describe the relation between science and religion.[7]

Ultimately, what we need to realise is that before this point, the average scientist (in the western world) was a Christian, and as we have seen above, it was due to their faith in God that they were able to do such good science, not the opposite. It was because of their belief in the truth of scripture that they determined to apply their knowledge to the physical world. This application is what enabled western world science to advance far beyond that of eastern science where they still held to philosophical and deistic claims about the world. The myth of ‘science vs religion’ is quite frankly unfounded within history and most historians of science of today do not hold to this view anymore. As Lawrence M. Principe Professor of Humanities at Johns Hopkins University puts it:

The idea that scientific and religious camps have historically been separate and antagonistic is rejected by all modern historians of science.[8]

Questions that science cannot answer

Let’s now turn to the main investigation at hand; what are some of the questions that science cannot answer? We will just look at 8 questions of which science has no ultimate say.

  • Science cannot tell us whether or not God exists: This question is by definition, outside the realms of science (since science is to do with things you can observe, test repeat and confirm). This type of a question would fall under the domain of philosophy; within this field, we could come up with a more definite answer, but not in science. Of course, we can use science in order to provide evidence for or against God’s existence, however It cannot give the definitive yes or no answer.
  • Science cannot answer questions of history (objectively speaking): for example, how do we scientifically test who first president of the United States was? You can’t. We find this information out through historical records not scientific experimentation. This is not to say that we cannot infer past event using the scientific method (creationists and evolutionists both do infer past events alike based on an interpretation of the present facts at hand), however many questions such as whether holocaust really happen or not (I do believe it did happen) are not answered by scientifically testing people or buildings; we look to history for this.
  • Science cannot answer questions of origins, purpose and afterlife: How do you scientifically test for a purpose to life? How do you scientifically test if there is an afterlife? A scientific naturalist might say that we are just atoms and chemicals and the universe – which is made up of time space and matter – is all there is, and so there is no afterlife. The issue here is that that very worldview is a philosophy in itself, it is not a statement of truth or science (although it could be true). You could just as easily have a theist say that there is a God and therefore there is a metaphysical reality above the material world. Secondly the idea that the universe only contains time space and energy are a part of the very question at hand we are trying to determine. Scientific naturalism assumes that there is nothing metaphysical, and then goes onto say that there cannot be anything metaphysical because materialism is true. This would be a form of logical fallacy known as circular reasoning, or ‘begging the question’. The actual question isn’t answered because the materialist has assumed their worldview to be correct in order to answer a question that fits within their worldview.
  • The question of how we came to be on an organic and cosmic level are questions that science cannot fully answer. We can derive evidence of the answer from science but yet again, whether you believe in evolution or creation, both of these events were not observed by humans and so again fall outside of science into the realms of philosophy, theology and history.
  • Science cannot answer questions of morality: How do we determine what is right and wrong? Again, historically the fields of theology and philosophy have been at the forefront of this type of search, not science. The obvious question here becomes, how does science point us to a moral code/conduct? It seems to me that science can tell us how something worksBut it cannot tell us why we should carry out an action. For example, if someone is drowning in a lake, science explains to us how they will die within minutes if they are not saved; however, science cannot tell a passer-by why they should jump into the water in order to save the drowning personThat is a moral choice one is compelled to make apart from any knowledge of science.
  • Science cannot answer what the mind is: We know through scientific study and observation that humans have brains, and we can detect and study neurons are conducted through synaptic connections as we grow and develop. However, what is a thought? What is the mind? Scientists do not know exactly what these things are and how they interact with the brain for the simple fact that the mind and our thoughts are immaterial. For example, when you learn a new piece of information, your brain doesn’t suddenly gain ever so slightly in weight. It remains as it is, your entire life. This raises a fundamental question, where are our thoughts stored? Because of the nature of the mind, science cannot offer us an answer because science only deals with what is observable, testable, and repeatable. Of course, the field of neuroscience is a great area of research, and much has been uncovered about the human brain and how nervous system develops. But the point still stands that neuroscience won’t tell us what the mind or for that matter consciousness fundamentally is.
  • Science cannot answer why mathematical laws exist: Einstein marvelled at the appropriateness of mathematical laws in the universe when he said, “How is it possible that mathematics, a product of human thought that is independent of experience, fits so excellently the objects of physical reality?”[9] Einstein saw that there was a major disconnect between doing science and knowing why it works. What he realised was that mathematical laws seemed to be embedded in nature quite independent from what scientists could come up with in their own minds. He, as a scientist, could use mathematical laws, and express them in terms of mathematical equation and formulae, however he could not answer (through science) how they came to be, why they fit so well with his perceived knowledge within science, and how they allowed him to make correct predictions about the world and universe, they just seemed to be there ready to use. The laws of mathematics are immaterial, and yet they are foundational to science especially in the area of physics. What we uncover here is a huge amount of faith underpinning the very essence of science at its core. Scientists have no choice but to maintain that the laws of mathematics are real and will be upheld, without any scientific experimentation to back that claim up. For a theist this might not be such a problem since you would expect God, as a rational being, to create laws that are rational and logical in order for us to utilise. For an atheists however, this might pose a large dilemma; how does so much order come from chaos and blind chance? furthermore why are the laws so consistent? No matter which side you take, the bottom line is that science cannot tell us why these laws exist.
  • Science cannot answer how the scientific method itself came about: What is the scientific method? It is essentially a set of techniques applied to certain phenomena in order to research, and eventually gain new knowledge that was previously unknown. Anything done within the scientific method (observation, hypothesis, testing, repeating, confirmation) can be classed as science; anything outside of this would be classed as something else. The scientific method is said to have characterized science since the 17th century until today by a range of highly acclaimed scientists over the centuries.[10] However, the scientific method itself didn’t come about by the scientific method! It wasn’t an observable phenomenon found in nature tested on, repeated, refined and then eventually released as the latest discovery. It’s It is used in that exact way to characterise what it science, however it itself wasn’t discovered by that same method.
  • Science cannot answer why science works in the first place: The claim that science is the only way we can know anything has a fundamental problem. Bertrand Russell famous philosopher claimed that “Whatever knowledge is attainable must be attained by scientific methods; and what science cannot discover, man cannot know.”[11] Here is the underlying problem: Russell has made a bold claim about science, however the very statement of speech he has made wasn’t discovered or tested by science/the scientific method, and so is his claim true? In other words, if his claim is true… it is false. It’s a self-refuting worldview right off the bat. There is an even deeper issue here at play however, and that is this (in the word of Professor John Lennox): “at the heart of all science, every scientist no matter who they are or when they have lived, has had a fundamental belief – faith – that the universe is accessible at least in part to the human mind. We call that the rational intelligibility of the universe”.[12] The rational intelligibility of the universe is basically the underlying fact that the human mind has the ability to comprehend the universe (at least in part). This is foundational to science, after all animals are not able to comprehend the universe in the same way we can, and because of this they are extremely limited in their overall perception of the world and what they can do within it compared on a whole with human beings. The rational ineligibility of the universe is taken for granted, not just by scientists, but by everybody, yet it is not a concept that science has an answer to.

There are many more questions like these that we could pose, such as why did music develop? Why do we only seem to move in one direction of time? Is the universe infinite? Why is over 80% of the world religious? Hopefully however this article at least gives an outline of the basic assumptions that every scientist takes for granted (when we look at the basic definition of science and what it can actually account for). My interests lie in philosophy, science and religion and so my questions were thought up along those lines of enquiry, but it would be an fascinating field of research to find out just how many questions in total science cannot answer! Maybe it’s possible that nobody in the world can answer a question like this.

Referencing/citation:

[1] Dr. Denis Alexander () Can Science Explain Everything?, Available at: https://www.bethinking.org/does-science-disprove-god/can-science-explain-everything

[2] P. W. Atkins (2011) On being: a scientist’s exploration of the great questions of existence, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[3] Stephen Jay Gould, “Nonoverlapping Magisteria”, Natural History 106 (March 1997): 16-22

[4] Stark, R., For the Glory of God: How monotheism led to reformations, science, witch-hunts and the end of slavery, Princeton University Press, 2003

[5] Dixon, Thomas (2008) Science and Religion: A Very Short Introduction, : Oxford University Press. [P46-47]

[6]Frederick M. Seiler (2008) Science, Religion, and the Rise and Fall of the “Conflict Thesis”, Available at: http://fredseiler.com/essays/ConflictThesis.htm

[7] Dixon White (1896) History of the Warfare of science with theology in Christendom, : D. Appleton & Company

[8]Lawrence M. Principe, Transcript book for lecture course Science and Religion (Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company, 2006), [p. 23]

[9] Albert Einstein (1879 – 1995)

[10] Scientific Method , Available at: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/scientific_method

[11] Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970), Religion and Science, OUP, p. 243, 1961

[12] John Lennox () Faith and Science – Atheism vs Theism , Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bjm4zJKVOE&index=13&list=PLmDyNeFa7FOsSPJ2sPYfDFFriXyeVmBJn&t=325s

Is the Scientific Method in the Bible?

The Scientific method

What exactly is the scientific method? This is quite possibly the question you may be pondering over right now as you read the title. In order to answer this question, let us first look at what the word science means. Science comes from the Latin word scientia, which means knowledge. The word science just simply means knowledge.
The modern dictionary definition of the word science you will find today defines science as:

A branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws

This then leads us to the scientific method. The scientific method is essentially what scientists use in order to do science; this method qualifies what is science and what isn’t. The oxford dictionary definition the scientific method as:

A method of procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses

So where did the scientific method come from? To be precise, the definition above does not state that the scientific method came about in the 17th century; it just says that it has characterized natural science since the 17th century. There isn’t a set time where any one man invented the entire method. Over time esteemed names such as Newton, Galileo and Francis Bacon have contributed to what we now hold to be the scientific method.

There isn’t any set time where one man invented the method, however in the Bible, what we surprisingly (or should I say unsurprisingly) see is that the entire scientific method that we recognize and use today is pretty much summed up and displayed in action with God and Satan right at the heart of the experiment in the Book of Job. To add the icing on the cake, the book of Job that we see this take place in, happens to be one of the earliest books in the Bible according to dating (even though it is hard to pinpoint an exact date). Many scholars date the Book of Job to as early as 1700-1900BCE, around the time of the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob), in others words roughly 4000 years ago, way before the Roman or Greek Era.

Where do we see the Scientific Method in the Book of Job?

We see this method take place straight away in Job chapter 1 and 2. God lays out the plan in the order of: hypothesis, theory, testing (repeating), and confirmed result.

Hypothesis – Job 1: 6 – 12:

Satan comes into heaven. God starts the conversation by asking Satan what he has been doing. Satan says that he has been all across the earth. God then asks Satan if he has considered the righteous and wealthy man Job (even though he already knows the answer since he knows everything). Satan then responds by saying, he has seen him but that Job only worships God because he has given him riches and wealth, if he were to lose all of his riches, he would curse God and stop loving him. God (knowing Jobs heart and extremely strong faith in him) then says to Satan that he can test out his hypothesis on Job by taking away all his riches and his family, but not to lay a finger on his body. Satan agrees and now his experiment begins.

Theory and repetition of theory – Job 1:13 – 22 till Job 2: 1 – 10 :

Satan Goes down and ruins everything that Job has attained, taking away of all his wealth and fortune firstly, and then soon after, killing all his sons and daughters off. At the end of all this, Job, childless and penniless makes this amazing remark, (Job 1:21) “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job still loves God and doesn’t blame him for anything!

Satan angrily goes back to God and basically asks if he can repeat his experiment but this time by taking it up a notch. Satan now asks if he can harm Job’s actual body, to which God says yes he can harm his body but he cannot kill him. So Satan leaps joyfully back down to earth, and causes all kinds of illnesses within Job’s body, the most notable one being boils and saws all of his body. Satan is convinced that Job will deny God, thus making his hypothesis a good theory and eventually a confirmed result.

Unfortunately for Satan things do not go according to plan. In Job 2:9, Jobs wife comes up to him and tells him to curse God and die because the struggle is and has been too much to bear. Job yet again replies with this astounding message, (Job 2:10) “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” Throughout all this, Job stays true and loyal to God, brushing of his wife’s remarks, and utterly destroying Satan’s plans without even knowing it!

Confirmed result:

We have already seen the results of the original hypothesis, but just to reiterate, in Job 1:21 and Job 2:10 we see that Job acts contrary to what Satan wants and hypotheses. To confirm Job’s responses in chapters 1 and 2, by the end of the entire book, Job still trust’s God, and all that he has lost is returned to him in much larger multitude than he ever had before by God!

In all this we can clearly see the scientific method laid out completely, from Satan’s original hypothesis, to the theory (a hypothesis tested with some solid evidence to back it up), and then the repeated testing in which he and God are able to eventually finalize the results. This is exactly the method that scientist use this very day in order to work and discover truths about the world, and as we have just seen, God himself was using this 4000 years before anyone, basically instructing us on how it should be done.

It’s a shame that in today’s society, the Bible isn’t credited with being the source of the scientific method simply because we are in an era where God and his Word have supposedly been falsified and shown to be untrue. What’s funny however is that the very method people try to use to disprove the Bible is the very method that validates the Bible. We often hear that science disproves the Bible and yet these same scientists use the scientific method practically everyday in their research completely oblivious to the fact that they are essentially stealing from the Bible in order to argue against it. What a strange world we live in, but thank God for the scientific method!

Final Note on Morality and Theology of the Book

In terms of the moral and theological aspect of this book of Job, there are answers to all of the questions posed in this book, however I have not tackled those questions purposely in this article as the main aim here is to display to you the roots of the scientific method only.

Can we Really Trust the New Testament?

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The foundations of the Bible have been under increasing attack over the last few centuries. Many people now hold to the view that the Bible has been disproven through science, history and the ‘fact’ that there is no God. Whilst the average person can appreciate that Jesus was a good man with great teachings (much like Buddha, or Confucius), they cannot accept the idea that he was supposedly God in human form, and that he proved it by dying on the cross and then resurrecting three days later. (In fact, read ‘Mere Christianity‘ by C.S. Lewis and he will inform you of why it is illogical to call Jesus just another good human moral teacher)[1]

Believers in Christ do hold to the former and the latter, however it is surprising to note that not many Christians today can actually defend why they believe this without referring to personal experience or ‘it is what I was raised to believe.’ (whilst these approaches are not wrong in themselves – they are vital in fact – they do not ultimately offer any solid objective reason for why your faith should be prescribed to a non-believer. A Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu could use the exact same reasoning).

When we look at the stats in UK, the fact is that “In five decades, the number of people with no religion in Britain has grown from just 3 per cent of the population to nearly half…[2]

The biggest drop out age rage is from the teens to the 20s. By the time this age group have gone through the educational system, many of them leave the faith. This is a huge number! Something is not right here.

When many of these former Christians are interviewed, the most common answers they give are that, they left the faith because there were too many unanswered questionstheir science classes on evolution disproved the bible, and/or they just didn’t know why they believed what they believed anymore:

Mitch’s testimony 

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(Mitch’s Testimony about his faith being shaken and then coming back to Christ)

The first thing Christians need to realize is that there really is evidence for what we believe and the evidence doesn’t consist of historical scraps loitering around that have been pieced together. On the contrary, there is an overwhelming load of well-preserved evidence right from the beginning in Genesis persisting up until our current times today. In this article I am just going to focus on the New Testament (NT) and Jesus Christ, however a strong case can be made for both the Old and New Testament equally.

World renown atheist Historian and NT scholar Dr. Bart D. Ehrman talks us through how historic records are compiled and how we can trust their reliability:

What kinds of evidence do scholars look for when trying to establish probabilities in the past? Well, the best kind of evidence, of course, consists of contemporary accounts; people who were close to the time of the events themselves…To determine which things are the things that happened, you want contemporary accounts, things that are close to the time of the events themselves, and it helps if you have a lot of these accounts. The more the merrier! You want lots of contemporary accounts, and you want these accounts to be independent of one another.[3]


Now lets use this criteria in comparing two ancient historical documents (Plato’s earliest writing, and the New Testament). We should be able to see which of the two we must consider more reliable.

Historical evidence for the NT and Jesus Christ?

  • I’m sure most people have heard of a person called Plato. Plato was a Greek philosopher who lived and died at about 428 – 347 BC. No one in general would argue that Plato didn’t exist, or that his writings weren’t his own (I believe just as most do that they probably are accurate and that he did exist). But when we look at the actual historical evidence, we detect a varying picture. In terms of actual manuscript (MMS) copies of Plato’s first writings, in total we don’t have 1000 of them, we don’t have 100 of them, we don’t even have at least 50 copies. All we have are 7 manuscripts copies total regarding his earliest writings (Tetralogies).[4] This might not seem significant, and that is understandable. The reason for this is because we have not yet compared it against anything else in order for us to make a valid judgement on, so lets do just that. Lets take NT manuscript copies and contrast them with Plato’s manuscript copies. The NT doesn’t just have 7 manuscripts, or maybe 100, or even 1000. The NT has over 5000 Greek manuscripts alone available[5] that we can access currently (this number was also confirmed when I had to the opportunity to ask Dr Drake Williams III who is a NT Scholar in a FOCL session he held discussing the question, ‘Are we mistaken about Jesus?‘ – 05,10, 2016).[6] The issue escalades downhill for Plato when we find out that all of the copies of Plato’s earliest writings only arrive roughly 12-1300 years after his death.[7]  The problem with this huge gap is that essentially, nobody on earth knows if the documents we have, have been altered within that timespan or not. Again when we compare this with the NT, document manuscripts arrive merely 20 years after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension. Furthermore eyewitness accounts are found only 40 years (the book of Mark in the Bible) after Jesus’ ascension. 20-40 years compared to 12-1300 years is a big difference.

In saying all of this, my aim isn’t to disprove Plato’s writings (as I mentioned, I don’t doubt that his writings aren’t his own), but rather to show that from a logical standpoint, if someone is willing to believe in the reliability of Plato’s work based on the limited and delayed evidence we have of it, then there is not much excuse for not believing in the reliability of the NT. The evidence for the NT far outweighs the evidence for Plato’s dialogues.

 

Referencing:

[1] C. S. Lewis (2012) Mere Christianity, : Collins. [P52]

[2] R. Gledhill (2014) Exclusive: New figures reveal massive decline in religious affiliation, Available at: https://www.christiantoday.com/article/exclusive.new.figures.reveal.massive.decline.in.religious.affiliation/

[3] Dr. W.L. Craig (March 2006) Is there Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus?, Available at: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/is-there-historical-evidence-for-the-resurrection-of-jesus-the-craig-ehrman 

[4] Jeremy Norman (2017) The Oldest Surviving Manuscript of Plato’s Tetralogies, Available at: http://www.historyofinformation.com/expanded.php?id=1880

[5] [Norman Geisler & Peter Bocchino, Unshakable Foundations, (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2001) p. 256.

[6] D. Williams (2016) Are we mistaken about Jesus? Examining other Gospels outside of the New Testament, Available at: https://www.anymeeting.com/WebConference/RecordingDefault.aspx?c_psrid=E954DE8784473E

[7] Bill Pratt (2012) HOW DO OTHER ANCIENT TEXTS COMPARE TO THE NEW TESTAMENT?, Available at: http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/tag/manuscripts/

Atheist Scholar Agrees that the New Testament is Reliable?

Greek NT Bible

If you haven’t heard of him, then you will have after reading this. New Testament Critic Professor Bart Ehrman has become an iconic figure in his field of work making a name for himself as one of the foremost critics of the New Testament (NT). Ehrman you could say he is the Richard Dawkins of Biblical Scholarship.

Ehrman was not always an atheist, however since becoming one, has devoted much of his time to writing intensively on the supposed issues (known as textual variants) within the NT. This is probably made most obvious in his popular best-selling book Misquoting Jesus in which he essentially argues that the NT cannot be accurately reconstructed, and therefore cannot be trusted as a historical document of truth, especially when it comes to the information about Jesus Christ.

Whilst I hugely respect Ehrman as a person and professor who clearly knows his stuff very well, I do not respect the deceitful work he has at play when we further investigate his true convictions about the accuracy of the NT.

Firstly let me point out the fact that the accuracy of the NT is almost completely undeniable. The bottom line is that we have at least 5000 Greek manuscripts, and a further 20,000 (at minimum) quotations from the early Church fathers. All of this combined together gives us a huge degree of certainty in what the NT document really does say. Most liberal and conservative scholars also would agree with these figures.

If you were to buy and read through Misquoting Jesus, the ‘evidence’ provided might very well convince you that Ehrman has successfully punched some huge holes in the accuracy of NT effectively disproving the whole thing. This façade however totally disappears once you read up on his academic works and also the appendix of the paperback edition of Misquoting Jesus.

In 2005, Ehreman helped Bruce Metzger update and revise the classic work on the topic – Metzger’s The Text of the New Testament.

Here is what Bruce Metzger and Ehrman agree on according to Melinda Penner of Stand to Reason. She says,

 

Ehrman and Metzger state in that book that we can have a high degree of confidence that we can reconstruct the original text of the New Testament, the text that is in the Bibles we use, because of the abundance of textual evidence we have to compare.  The variations are largely minor and don’t obscure our ability to construct an accurate text.  The 4th edition of this work was published in 2005 – the same year Ehrman published Misquoting Jesus, which relies on the same body of information and offers no new or different evidence to state the opposite conclusion.

 

Now here is what Ehrman himself says during an interview found in the appendix of Misquoting Jesus (p252):

 

Bruce Metzger is one of the great scholars of modern times, and I dedicated the book to him because he was both my inspiration for going into textual criticism and the person who trained me in the field. I have nothing but respect and admiration for him. And even though we may disagree on important religious questions – he is a firmly committed Christian and I am not – we are in complete agreement on a number of very important historical and textual questions. If he and I were put in a room and asked to hammer out a consensus statement on what we think the original text of the New Testament probably looked like, there would be very few points of disagreement – maybe one or two dozen places out of many thousands.  The position I argue for in ‘Misquoting Jesus’ does not actually stand at odds with Prof. Metzger’s position that the essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.

 

The only question we are left with now is why did he do this? One could speculate a few ideas. Maybe he did it in order to sell more books, the more controversial the book, the more sales, can always be a motivator; perhaps, he knew that he could fool the average layman who bought his book, however not any real NT scholar, and definitely not Metzger. In this regard he is forced to tell the truth when in presence of other NT scholars, but free to manipulate the truth in the presence of the average layman. Whatever the case is, it is interesting discover that even a prominent atheistic scholar cannot present satisfactory evidence that undermines the NT but rather we find that he himself believes in it’s accuracy!

The Contingency Argument – Reasonable Evidence for the Existence of God

 

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Why is there a universe? What caused it to come into being? Is the universe eternal? These are some of the most fundamental questions philosophers have been asking and attempting to solve for the last 2000 years. Many propositions and arguments have been put forward and I would like to focus on one that I have taken a particular liking to. This is known as the argument from contingency.

17th century German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz asked the famous question, “why is there something rather than nothing?[1] Leibniz came to the conclusion that this explanation is rooted in God, but just how did he come to this?

Let’s look at this argument in terms of the premises and the conclusion.

The argument goes:

Premise 1: Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature, or in an external cause.

Premise 2: If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.

Premise 3: The universe exists.

Conclusion: Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is God.

In order for the conclusion to be true, the premises all have to be true (this is known an as deductive inference).[2] Let’s look at premise 3 firstly. Premise 3 is certainly true; we can know for certain that the universe does exist and it is logically reasonable to conclude this, and so we have a solid answer here. How about premise 1? We run into what seems like a dilemma here when philosophers such as Bertrand Russell make the claim that “The universe is just there and that’s all.[3] Is this a reasonable assumption however? We will look at this later in more detail regarding the recent scientific evidence but for now let’s take a more philosophical and existential approach.

Human experience of life tells us that whenever we see an object or organism, we know that there must be an explanation for its existence, even if we never see that explanation with our own eyes. Size and chemical composition does not affect this law and so logically this concept of causation applies to the universe as well. If the universe does exist, then we need an explanation for its existence; an eternal universe is illogical.

We run into a supposed second issue at this point. Someone might ask the question, ‘If premise 1 is true, then does that not mean that God needs an explanation as well?’ If this were the case, then premise 1 would read, ‘Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence’. In phrasing the statement like this, it would be logical to ask the question of how God Himself came into existence since God is a thing, even if he is more abstract. At this point however, Leibniz makes a distinction between something existing contingently and something existing necessarily. These definitions are tied to the last part of premise 1, the section that reads, ‘either in the necessity of its own nature, or in an external cause.’  We must now define these two words before we can move on.

For something to exist contingently means that that thing has a cause for its existence; for example, the cause of a mobile phone’s existence is (initially) the thought of a human being followed by the action of the physical creation of the phone in the real world. For something to exist necessarily means that that thing exists by the necessity of its own nature, in other words, that thing exists independent of a cause.

Coming back to the claim made by Bertrand Russell. There is strong scientific evidence today which suggests that the universe certainly did have a beginning. For the most part of the last 2000 years almost everyone believed that the universe existed eternally. Greek philosophers such as Aristotle and much more recent scientists such as Fred Hoyle took this position. This stance seemed logical until about 100 years ago when a series of discoveries by men such as George Lemaitre, and Edwin Hubble involving the redshift of star light provided strong evidence that the universe might in fact have had a beginning at the big bang.[4a] [4b] This proposition cannot be established with full certainly due the fact that all of physics as we know it breaks down beyond the point of the big bang (quantum physics takes over at this point and it hosts an entirely new set of laws). Most scientists and philosophers today however agree with the view that the universe most probably did have a beginning; as Stephen Hawkins puts it, Almost everyone believes that the universe, and time itself, had a beginning”.[5]

Thus, we can conclude to within large degree of certainty that the universe likely exists contingently.

Now that we have established the nature of the universe, we again need to ask the question, why does it exist at all? It would be logically incoherent to say that the universe caused the universe to exist, since something that is contingent cannot cause itself to come into existence and human experience confirms this. The only adequate explanation therefore is that the universe must rely on a non-contingent being for its existence. This non-contingent being would need to exist necessarily in order to be able to create something like the universe.

What about our second premise, premise 2? In theory, there could be a range of explanations that seem to negate God as the primary cause. Under careful examination however, every one of these explanations fail in some aspect. The reason – as hinted at above – is that every other explanation can be boiled down to either something contingent in the universe, or something abstract within the universe such as a law like gravity. The problem here is that it is impossible for a contingent object within the universe to create the universe itself from nothing as this is self-refuting from the start. Similarly, universal laws are not known to create anything, they are useful explanations of universal phenomena in such a way that the human mind can comprehend (also known as the rational intelligibility of the universe), but they are not adequate explanations for origins in themselves.

To understand this point regarding universal laws and their roles within the universe, let’s take a common law such as gravity. Gravity is a force which causes anything with mass (such as planets) or energy (such as light) to be brought towards each other, or bent (light bends, whereas objects attract). Notice however that gravity does not cause the initial creation of matter. Gravity has never been observed to create anything from scratch, it has only ever been observed to act on an already existing body or type of radiation (light). Similarly, the laws of mathematics do not have the capacity to create money from scratch however, we use it as a basis for physics and maths itself. Einstein puzzled with this concept as well; his thoughts were summed up in a statement when he asked, “How is it possible that mathematics, a product of human thought that is independent of experience, fits so excellently the objects of physical reality?[6]

The only viable explanation for the cause of the universe would need to tick very specific boxes: It would have to exist necessarily, it would also need to be timeless, spaceless, immaterial and extremely powerful. These descriptions come together perfectly in the form of God, the only plausible explanation for the cause of the universe.

Although not all will agree with premise 2 and the conclusion, in my view the argument is sound. If one logically follow through the steps in accordance with the evidence presented, it becomes clear that the only reasonable explanation for the existence of the universe is God.

With this we can now close by answering Leibniz’s philosophical question, why is there something (a universe) rather than nothing? The answer is: because God created it.

Referencing:

[1] Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. (1714). The Principles of Nature and Grace, Based on Reason. 7

 

[2] Okasha, S. (2016). Philosophy of Science: Very Short Introduction (very Short Introductions). 2. Oxford University Press. [p16]

 

[3] Fr. Copleston vs. Bertrand Russell. January 28th, 1948. BBC Radio Debate on the Existence of God

 

[4a] Dr. William Lane Craig. (1992). The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe. Available: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-existence-of-god-and-the-beginning-of-the-universe.

 

[4b] Clarification: I myself do not hold to the Big Bang as a valid origins explanation, however, for the purposes of this argument I am adopting this view as it is the consensus within current mainstream science. Also it defends my position regarding a necessary creator for universe.

 

[5] [Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose. (1996). The Nature of Space and Time, The Isaac Newton Institute Series of Lectures (Princeton: Princeton University Press, [p. 20.]

 

[6] Max Jammer. (1921). Einstein and Religion, Princeton University PressFirst blog post