Science Battling Genesis: How Old is the Universe?

I have been teaching recently the first chapters of Genesis. As expected, these chapters raise huge controversy, more than any other chapter in the Bible. It is easy to understand. After all, while most of the Bible deals with society, morals, or spirituality, the first few chapters of Genesis deal with the creation of the physical world, presenting a very different view than modern science. This is particularly true when questions about the age of the universe are concerned.

Naรฏve reading of the Bible will tell us that the world is about 6,000 years old. Science, on the other hand, has a different view. By combining data from different disciplines, scientists believe that the age of the universe is about 13.7 billion years, and the age of earth is about 4.5 billion years.  

This is huge, hardly imaginable, difference. The age of the universe according to science is about a million times larger than the age according to the Bible.  To make these huge numbers easier to comprehend, letโ€™s scale them down. If, for instance, the world according to the Bible was scaled down from 6,000 years to 6 hours (in other words, if the Biblical world was created 6 hours ago) then the world according to science was formed nearly 700 years ago. That was during the Spanish inquisition, before Columbus discovered America.

Of course, there are many religious scientists who are familiar with the two versions of creation and find no contradiction between them. How can they do it?

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The Disoriented People of Sodom: Why Temporary Blindness?

Sodom and Gomorrah #16 (Genesis 19:10-11)

Lot, who is negotiating with the people of Sodom outside his home, is in great danger. His guests save his life. Now for the first time, they are revealed to us and to Lot as angels. What can we learn from the way they saved Lot?

Genesis 19:10  translation and transliteration. The angels save Lot from the Sodom crowd

Discussion

Whenever I read these two verses, I canโ€™t help but asking myself why the angles only hit the people of Sodom with temporary blindness (ืกึทึผื ึฐื•ึตืจึดื™ื) . After all, in a few short hours the entire city of Sodom is going to be destroyed by fire, and all these people will die. Why donโ€™t the angels simply kill them now? What difference could a few hours make?

This meditation always raises two insights in my mind. First, it reminds me the easy hand on the trigger of our security forces. No, I am not talking about self-defence or protecting other people. What comes to my mind is the killing of law breakers at times when they do not impose a threat.   

Stop! Says the Bible.

This is not how morality and the law should work. Even if a person deserves to die, it is not for the messenger, nor the police to punish them. Their lives should be in the hand of the judge, and only the judge should have the right to punish.

It was not the role of the angles to kill the people of Sodom, and even as they had a good reason, they chose to disable the people without harming them. Punishment will take place in the morning.

The second question that always crosses my mind is who am I to decide that a few extra hours of life do not matter? 

A lot can happen in a few hours: a famous mathematician, Galois, formed an entire theory the night before he was shot in a duel. The novelist Ryoki Inoue, finished three books in a day, and many ordinary people found their peace, repented, or found God, in a flash. A whole lifetime can take place in a few hours, and a few hours of grace is what the angels gave the people of Sodom. After all, it is possible that being struck with temporary blindness could have helped some of the people see the light.

Every moment of life is of utmost value. So letโ€™s not dismiss a few hours when othersโ€™ life are on the line. Letโ€™s not waste them when our own lives are concerned.  

Lot: A Distressed Fatherโ€™s Impossible Choice

Sodom and Gomorrah #14 (Genesis 19:8)

Lot is willing to sacrifice his two daughters to the crowd to save his angel guests. Unthinkable? A sin? An evil deed? Yet, God still saves him from the destruction of Sodom. Did he deserve being saved?

Bible Genesis: 19:8 translation and transliteration. Sodom: Lot is sacrificing his daughters to the crowd to save the angels

Discussion

Can we even start to comprehend Lot’s predicament? Shouldnโ€™t it change completely our perception of him? Not a righteous person anymore, but an unloving, cruel father who did not care about his daughters. 

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Cain and Abel: Epilogue

This is a story the Bible tells about a man who starts his life toiling in the fields as a farmer and ends up building a city. He calls this city after his son, and then he starts a dynasty that helps shaping human civilisation.

What an inspiring story it can be, what an inspiration it is for anyone that is facing a major life change, to anyone who mourns what they are leaving behind, and cannot see the opportunities ahead.

Only that this story has a catch.  To start his transition into the position of power, the man must first get punished for a murder. But not just of anyone. He first has to kill his own little brother.

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The Better Life of Cain: When One Path Ends Another Starts

Cain and Abel #12

In Gen 4:14 Cain, not accepting the consequences of his action, continues to plead for leniency.  This, of course, supports our understanding that in verse 13 he was complaining about his punishment, not admitting guilt. But more than that, this verse teaches us that at times of change, as bleak as our future life may seem, end of one path presents us with new opportunities, often better than those we are leaving behind.  

Table which shows the English translation of Genesis 4:14 where Cain is speaking to God about his future life, next to the original Hebrew Bible text: 14. "Because you expelled me today from the face of the land, and I will be hidden from your face, I would become a wanderer of the land, and if someone found me, they would kill me.
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Does Cain Admit His Guilt?

Cain and Abel #11

In Genesis 4:12-13 God continues to elaborate on the consequences of Cain โ€™s action. This verse makes us wonder, again, if a punishment was handed by God, or is God elaborating on the consequences as a matter of cause and effect?

Cain follows with an ambiguous defence statement, which can be interpreted either as an admission of guilt, or the exact opposite.

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Who Punishes Cain?

Cain and Abel #10

Clearly, we cannot attribute human feelings, like anger or even love, to God. The Bible, written for people, uses the words of human emotions to describe God, knowing well that it is only for the sake of our limited human understanding. But under this limitation, was it out of anger that God confronted Cain in Genesis 4: 10 and 11? Does the text tell us who punishes Cain?

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Are We Rewarded for Good Deeds?

Cain and Abel #6

Gen 4:7 is one of the most powerful verses in the Bible.

After rejecting Cainโ€™s offering, God speaks to him and gives him a paradox to contemplate, a paradox that should guide him, and every person, throughout our lives. This verse, as we will see in a follow up post, also defines sin, and instructs us how we must deal with it.

But before we can continue to verse 7, letโ€™s start with verse 6.

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