Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Seminary Student Visits the Creation Museum: 27 Million Dollars of Bad Exegesis


Ken Ham here and Georgia Purdom here have made a response to this blog on the AiG website.  You can read my rebuttal to their response here.

I just recently got back from Ken Ham's Creation Museum with a couple of other seminary friends.  In this post I won’t be clamoring about the “abuse of science” or thundering party lines for either an old or young earth position like other reviews online. I also won't be discussing the length of the days of Genesis. (If you're wondering, I largely side with John Walton's discussion of the seven days in the context of ancient Mesopotamian temple cosmology.) Here we will be doing something much more radical—looking at a couple of Answers in Genesis’ (AiG)  claims and examining what sorts of interpretations the original language texts can and cannot sustain. There I go again insisting on all that boring exegetical stuff.

The goal here is to simply ask what range of readings the plain text of the Bible allows in a few cases and whether or not AiG has abused that range of legitimate interpretations.

Walking through the museum, I was appalled by the colossal fortune expended on ideas that are obviously deficient in erudition within Ancient Near Eastern history and modern Biblical studies.  Does it not bother anyone that Ken Ham has NO formal Biblical or language training?  (All he has earned academically is a bachelor in science.) [I'm informed he also has a diploma in teaching--an Aussie requirement for being a teacher.] That’s a scary testament to the modern evangelical mind.    Take a gander at this exhibit of Moses holding the Ten Commandments next to Saruman.














Since this is a history museum, why are the Commandments written in the ashuri block script—a script that wasn't adopted until the 5th century?  Why do the Ten Commandments contain diacritical vowel points which weren't invented until the Masoretes operating in the Middle Ages?  Why did the creators of this exhibit go through the labors to add such anachronistic elements which are explained in the introductory pages of any Hebrew 101 textbook?  Either they didn't care (but why then is so much pain dedicated to detail?), or this is indicative they have never had the requisite Biblical training.  But if they have never had requisite Biblical training why should we care what they have to say about other elements of Biblical interpretation?  Surely I’m over exaggerating.  I know what you’re thinking: “Ben, it’s not like historical issues like vowel points and scribes like the Masorites has significant impact on our theology, right?” I’m sure the suspense from that rhetorical question is killing you. 

Is Ken Ham’s entire museum based on a mistranslation of the first word of the Bible?

Much fuss has been made over James Ussher's attempt at dating the age of the earth by counting through the Bible's genealogies. Don’t worry, the subject is so hackneyed I’ll spare commenting.  A much more interesting (and very rarely asked question) is whether or not we can presume to date the universe with Genesis.

Considering all the spankings the museum delves out to anything smacking of Big Bangs and the planetarium presentation scorning modern astrophysics, one would imagine AiG has a strong biblical basis for believing the universe was born subsequently to Larry King.


AiG believes the universe ought to be dated at 6,000 years as the side exhibit paralleling Creationism with Big Bang cosmology illustrates.  Walking through the exhibits, you are ejected from a Nietzschian void--navigate a concrete room of looping grey film of atom bomb explosions, dying children and goring wolves, through a hall depicting a porn addict, adulterer and a liberal pastor with a Sith (is it proper grammar to capitalize the word Sith?) lord voice (past the demolition ball engraved “millions of years”). You are then taken into a room of looping TV screens and ubiquitous signs emphasizing the first clause of Genesis to justify a six thousand year old universe: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

AiG assumes on the basis of traditional translations which understand Genesis 1.1 as an absolute temporal prepositional phrase (*yawn,* I know) that the words "the beginning" circumscribe the creation of the universe itself.  They take “the beginning” to be the absolute beginning of our universe—of space-time.

So what’s the big deal, and why am I boring you with Hebrew grammar?  As a subsection of Robert Holmstedt’s Wisconsin-Madison doctoral dissertation demonstrates, the translation of Genesis 1.1 as an absolute temporal prepositional phrase is “grammatically indefensible. Period. End of story.” (See Holmstedt’s blog post here.)  Modern Semitic grammarians have known this for a long time.  You can find it held in the work of scholars like Robert Alter at the University of California, Martin Baasten at the University of Leiden, Mark Smith from NYU, Ellan van Wolde from Radbound and Michael Heiser from Logos.  As for most modern translations like the ESV, they don’t monkey around with highly traditional readings.  It’s too controversial—the demise of Bible sales (the Jewish Publication Society is a commendable exception in this case).  If you are going to argue Genesis 1:1 should be translated “In the beginning” you must supply a segol vowel point within the first word of the Bible which exists in NO Masoretic manuscript on earth and is contradicted by every Masoretic text on earth which includes vowels. (There I go, throwing another tantrum over scribes and their vowel points again!) You must also explain why the Greek parallel of Genesis 1:1 in John’s prologue comports in favor of Holmstedt’s analysis.   The following quote from Holmstedt spells out the implications of the Hebrew grammar: 
“A young-earth person can say, ‘this is the only and first  ראשׁית,’ but such a claim does not proceed directly from the grammar; it interprets the meaning of the text in light of a view brought to the text from some other place. And an old-earth person can say, ‘this relativizes the claims Genesis 1.1-3 makes so that the old-earth and the big-bangity-bang are not disallowed by the text’. Take your pick, but you must do it based on texts or issues outside Gen 1.1-3; the decision cannot be tied directly to the grammar of the passage since the grammar allows for both.”
Origen, Clement of Alexandria, Athanaius of Alexandria, Augustine and Hilary of Poitier:
Not exactly "philosophers and scientists of the Enlightenment."
Did you catch that AiG?  You cannot cite Genesis 1:1 as a description of the absolute beginning of the universe. (Notice, this critique circumvents and is prior to any discussion of the length of the seven days.)  The grammar of the text allows for a pre-existing universe (or even pre-earth conditions), and we cannot know how long that universe may have been around before the proceeding creation events in the chapter.  You can’t date the universe with Genesis 1:1. That’s not a claim dictated by someone’s scientific agenda, but by the laws of the Hebrew grammar God’s words are inspired in.

So, how should the first verse of the Bible be translated?  You can pursue those additional details with this lecture by Michael S. Heiser (PhD Semitic languages) here. Any lecture by Heiser is like the nerd version of six flags.

There be dragons:

Ken Ham is famous for claiming Leviathan and Behemoth are dinosaurs [Ham protests to me here that he does not claim Leviathan is a "dinosaur" since dinosaurs are technically terrestrial.  From now on I will instead be using the term plesiosaur]. This doctrine was taught by all my church youth-ministers and imparted to me through my parents. (As a youngster, I actually wrote a public school report arguing in favor of AiG’s dragon theories).  As you first enter the museum you will be introduced to a dozen exhibits supporting the teaching that dinosaurs and man co-habited; Beowulf, the Lockness monster, Saint John of the Cross, virtually any account of a dragon--modern or ancient--is chalked up and paraded as evidence for cohabitation of dinosaurs and man.


I’ve discussed Leviathan and Behemoth here. In summary, if you are going to say Leviathan is a dinosaur plesiosaur you must be willing to live with the fact that the Bible’s historical-literary context outright tells us he is a mythological representation of chaos. You must also ignore texts in God’s word like Psalm 74 which explicitly says he has multiple heads (tellingly, Ham mysteriously DLs on the full text of Psalm 74) and Isaiah’s reference to the creature which also only makes sense as a metaphor for chaos in a polemic against Babylonian cosmogony. We know exactly what Leviathan is because the ancient sources name him and tell us. (The additional interpretation of Behemoth as a chaos deity follows from the Leviathan passage.)

I also happen to find it richly comical AiG’s linchpin verse for proving behemoth is a dinosaur, and not a hippo or Elephant ('his tail is like a cedar'), might very easily be translated 'his phallus is like a cedar.'[1] (Sometimes God’s word gets a little graphic kids.) I’m no paleontologist, but unless AiG can produce a species of dinosaur with a phallus literally the size of a cedar tree, they are forced to entertain some degree of literary exaggeration here by their own standards—that gives their interpretation little more explanatory scope than the traditional “elephant” or “hippo” platitudes they rightfully excoriate.

Isaiah’s Fiery Flying Serpent

One example Ham raises that I’ve currently yet to address on this blog is Isaiah’s “fiery flying serpent.” Ham actually thinks this creature is also a possible dinosaur.  Following is the quote from the AiG website:
The museum has one of these "flying
serpents sitting over the gift shop 
“There is also mention of a flying serpent in the Bible: the ‘fiery flying serpent’ (Isaiah 30:6). This could be a reference to one of the pterodactyls, which are popularly thought of as flying dinosaurs, such as the Pteranodon, Rhamphorhynchus, or Ornithocheirus.”
 Isaiah 30:6 isn’t the only place where Isaiah refers to the “’fiery’ flying serpent.” Read the below “Seraph” entry in the Dictionary of Deities and Demons (written by the famous scholar T. N. D. Mettinger):

If you were reading closely you probably noticed that the Hebrew term used for “serpent” in these Isaiah passages is similar to the term Isaiah uses in the throne room scene of chapter 6 to describe a category of divine beings called seraphim. (Interpreting scripture with scripture, crazy idea, right!)  If you’re catching my drift, and you think it’s weird I’m suggesting the “fiery flying serpent” of Ham’s passage is actually a divine being, hold tight. I’ll let you in on a secret:

The seraph divine beings of the Bible are best understood as serpentine beings.

As a noun, the term means “serpent.” Numbers 21:8, which depicts Moses raising up the bronze serpent, is a more explicit example of seraph referring to a snake.  Mettinger belabors that as a double meaning the term is generally taken as derivative of the verb meaning “to burn” (notice certain translations of Ham’s Isaiah passage supply the adjective “fiery”). If the suggestion that seraphim are winged serpentine beings (and not the voluptuous, blonds of hallmark) still seems crazy to you, consider this other portion of Mettinger’s entry:

No Answers in Genesis.  The fiery flying serpent Isaiah associates with Egypt is not a dinosaur.  It’s a symbolic divine being represented by voluminous iconographic examples from Egypt and is well attested in Israel. That attribution by the Egyptians is entirely explicable within their own standards of symbolism and mythology.  No dinosaurs needed.  Those who wish for further reading on this will enjoy Karen Joines' article (Samford university) published here in the Journal of Biblical Literature .
Jasper seal: Jerusalem (notice
the four wings).
Notice the creature was associated
with (and represented) the pharaoh's
throne as is obvious in this image of
Tutankhamun's throne.

Joines emphasizes the wealth of these
representations in the tombs of Rameses IV
and Tutankhamun.
  











Frankly, it’s rather silly to claim Jewish Babylonian exiles (who feared their scriptures were refuted and that God had finally abandoned them for good when Jerusalem fell) should have any reason to care about velociraptors, even if that alluring man in Song of Solomon mysteriously seems to be a description of Jeff Goldblum (been trying to work that Godblum reference in since the first paragraph).



Dragon Legends

What about all those worldwide dragon legends, Ben?  Surely those are evidence of human-dinosaur co-habitation and that Noah loaded T-Rexes on the Ark, right?


This is a bone I have with AiG.  It shows they are uninvested in anthropology.  Adrienne Mayor from Stanford wrote a famous dissertation in which she pinpointed the geographic origins of dragons and other popular myths and found that those locations overlapped heavily with known ancient fossil beds.  Her books trace ancient fossil hunting history and mythology in regions like Native North America, Greece and Rome.  It’s not just dragons. People in the ancient world are known to have offered fossil remains of griffins, centaurs, cyclopes, and giants too.  If you are an ancient Roman at a construction site and your team exhumes a T-Rex, you are going to believe in a past age of dragons; if you are an ancient Scythian nomad and you encounter protoceratops remains in the desert you are going to interpret them as a griffin; if you are an ancient Sioux who finds himself upon pteranodon remains you are going to invent the thunderbird legend.  In many cases it is certain that ancient people were offering extinct animal fossils as the origin of mythological creatures.  We are able to go to the fossil beds and check for ourselves because, in a few cases, the ancients told us exactly where they were. (They named some of them!)  This is the mainstream view of modern anthropology.  If you were to visit the Mythic Creatures exhibit at the Fraizer History Museum here in Louisville, you would find Mayor cited ubiquitously on these issues. It’s an extremely powerful and convincing thesis.

If Creationists want to parade dragon legends as if they are moly herb--reducing conventional scientists to crying hissy fits, it would be comforting to at least know that Ham and his posse are even aware of Mayor’s dissertation.  A Google search reveals they are not.  Why hasn’t Answers in Genesis responded to or even acknowledged the existence of Mayor’s dissertation?

Does Genesis 1-2 actually teach all humans came from Adam and Eve?

The above heading wasn’t a typo. Christians have been wrestling with this question since long before Darwin. I understand the question will certainly seem absurd or silly to us, this is because we were raised assuming certain things about Genesis 1-2—we infer from these that all humans came from a single pair. (That tradition certainly isn't totally unfounded.)  The Semitic linguist Michael S. Heiser over at his NakedBible blog, however, has framed a fascinating exercise in putting aside our traditions and sticking exactly to what the naked text of scripture says. I.e. what interpretations does a close reading of the text (without inserting ideas foreign to the text) allow? As is so often the case, you may be in for a surprise.


I also got a kick out of the realization the museum perpetuates the myth that Voltaire’s mansion was turned into a printing house.  You can read a refutation of the myth here.  The kicker, the Answers in Genesis website, in an article entitled, “Arguments Creationists Should Avoid” warns against Christians making this claim.

Note: A general editing overhaul was made of this post on 8/1/14.


[1] B. F. Batto, “Behemoth,” in the DDD (Netherlands: Brill, 1999), 166.

61 comments:

  1. Excellent analysis.

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  2. Not terrible on the whole. Just to be completely open and honest, I entirely disagree with your point for a multitude of reasons. I enjoyed the dialog and how smoothly it flowed, but I do have a few constructive comments to take for future note.

    First, I wouldn't have recommended sharing the link suggesting Adam and Eve didn't come from the same source. The argument presented on the website is extremely flawed and is a straight misinterpretation of the Bible, and thus doesn't help your argument. It in fact weakens it because it is not a reputable source. Also, because it blatantly misinterprets the Bible, it risks invalidating the entire first half of your argument.

    Secondly, your main argument is based off of one that should only be a side argument, since you are harping quite strongly upon a single vowel marker (or lack of it) that in the context of the time that it was written would not be entirely misconstrued as it is often today. Additionally, the story was passed down through oral tradition, and so those at the time would clearly understand that the world was created recently (relatively speaking), if it even was.

    Finally, you should beef up your argument set with science. Science is a fantastic augmentation to arguments of a physical nature, and without it, they have little support and can easily fall flat.

    Beyond that, it was a good read and I enjoyed it.

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  3. Hey Tyler,

    1) Heiser didn’t in anyway suggest "Adam and Eve didn't come from the same source." Please take the time to read his argument.

    2) Heiser is a conservative and has a PhD in Semitic studies from Wisconsin-Madison (a top university in that field). He does translation work in a dozen ancient languages for a living as the academic editor for Logos Bible software, and he has 12 years teaching experience in this field at the college level. Maybe you weren’t aware of this and so you spoke too soon. Either way, I’m sure we can agree it’s silly for you as humble undergrad to declare he is "not a reputable source" pronounce his work "extremely flawed" and a "blatant misinterpretation" of scripture unless you can at least venture to explain to us what specific portion of his conscientious argument is a “blatant misinterpretation.”

    3) I don't understand what you are saying in regards to the grammar of Genesis 1.1.


    4) The Biblical authors believed the sky was a solid dome (Job 38.18), that hell was geographically located in the earth (Numbers 16.30), that Heaven was geographically located above that sky dome (Acts 1.9-11), and that the sky dome retained a literal ocean above the earth (Gen 1.6-8, Ps. 148).

    They also believed a host of other scientific falsehoods like kidneys serving as the seat of the human intellect (Ps. 16.7, Ps 139.23, Ps. 7.9 and Jer. 11.20). In fact, there is no word for the human brain in the Hebrew Bible.

    What would be the point of "beefing up" scriptural interpretations with science? That is not interpreting the word of God in its ancient (specifically, *pre-scientific*) context. It makes no sense.

    (C.f: Paul Seely’s Westminster article on Israelite Cosmology: http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/ted_hildebrandt/otesources/01-genesis/text/articles-books/Seely-Firmament-WTJ.pdf).
    (Consider also Eknoyan’s JASN article on the use of kidneys in the Bible: http://jasn.asnjournals.org/content/16/12/3464.abstract)

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    1. Kidneys as the seat of human intellect? I don't know if that is too far off. Whenever my wife or I have to pee we can't think of anything else.

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    2. That would be bladder.

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  4. Heh...when I was visited the Creation Museum last year after our denomination's General Assembly, the details about the Masoretic text on Moses' tablets stuck out to me as well! Nice to see I'm not the only one who noticed!

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  5. A wonderful, informative, witty critique!

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  6. Brilliant!
    About 20 years ago I asked Ken Ham what he thought of Denver Seminary (where I completed my M.A.) and he said "They're a bunch of theistic evolutionists." Of course, that could not nor is it currently further from the truth. That taught me a great deal about Ken Ham and his bent and nothing about Denver Seminary.

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    1. Headless Unicorn GuyJuly 17, 2013 at 9:38 AM

      Sounds like to Ken Ham, everyone other than Ken Ham and his yes-men are (dum dum dummm) EVOLUTIONISTS!

      Grand Unified Conspiracy Theory logic is now in effect.
      The Dwarfs are for The Dwarfs, and Won't Be Taken In.

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  7. Interesting article. I just think about how we as Christians tear into each other rather than support. While you have great points, why can't we circle the wagons and help AiG rather than being so critical? I read no love here, just me verses them and it makes me sick.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. "Why can't we circle the wagons and help AiG rather than being so critical?" Because helping Christians misrepresent the Bible makes no sense whatsoever.

      Jesus didn't "circle the wagons" around the pharisees'ss bad interpretation of the law, he told them they had completely missed the point.

      Speaking about the correctness of interpretation isn't "tearing into each other," it's discussing one's ideas.

      Just going along with what someone says because they're a Christian, no matter how bad the interpretation is like saying we should support Westboro Baptist's horrific interpretation of the Scriptures and hate-filled hermeneutic because they call themselves Christians.

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    3. Circling the wagons to protect lies and harmful world views sounds like a terrible idea.

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  8. Surprise, surprise, someone provides an insightful critique of a militant fundamentalist group and the accusation is that they lack love. AiG does want "help." AiG wants to draw a line in the sand condemning the Christianity of those who don't affirm their radical perspective. Ben has rightly challenged and exposed the illogical worldview embraced by people like Ham and as one who was raised being fed Ham's pseudo-science and pseudo-theology I hope to see more articles like this one.

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  9. Phil Pendleton BollesJune 30, 2013 at 9:38 PM

    Great post! Especially enjoyed the "seraph" notes.

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  10. I was amused by the commenter who chose to deride Heiser and his work. I would count Heiser as one of the preeminent Semitic language scholars in the evangelical fold, perhaps even amongst those of a non-evangelical sentiment. Surely a David vs Goliath, except this David has no stones.

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  11. Interesting thoughts. I never held too tightly to the young earth model nor old earth nor evolution. Science is about questions and discovery. As long as there is a dialogue, we are still learning.

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    1. I like your comment best, Rebecca! I'm not such a scientific thinker myself and , though I found this interesting, there was plenty that was just Greek to me. When the guys start talking about kidneys, well, that's funny because I thought "bowels" in the Bible referred to feelings which really are in the gut and maybe even the idea of "chi" as the Chinese believe. Health begins in the gut. The seat of emotions is in the gut... I'm more the feelings type, though.

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  12. It may be a quibble, but I couldn't help but notice the ironic the juxtaposition (in the final photograph) of a bust of Socrates, depicted by Plato as a stringent advocate of existence of the afterlife, with the sweeping statement that "Athenian philosophers" rejected such an idea.

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    1. That's another testament to the museum's incompetence that annoys me. Plato's Phaedo presents Socrates as quite convinced in the afterlife. Both men were born in Athens. The museum is full of little flubs like this. In any other case I'd email a museum staff as a courtesy so they would at least be aware of these sorts of little errors (i.e. the Ten Commandments in the wrong script,the Voltaire myth refuted on their own website, or a depiction Socrates with the implication he "rejected" belief in the afterlife). Unfortunately, the museum has insulated itself from contact with the appropriate individuals.

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    2. Yes! I noticed that too. And their "Ten Commandments", frankly, is just embarrassing. As an instructor of Biblical Hebrew, it looks to me like it was copied by a twelve-year old without any knowledge of the Hebrew letters. Several of the words are actually written incorrectly. Oy.

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  13. I lost interest quickly because of the sarcasm and not because of some predisposition to disagree with you. In the future you ought to think about the tone of your posts and not just the content.

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    1. Funny, the sarcasm is what kept me reading through the heavy information. I loved the tone and thought it was great. I appreciate well-placed sarcasm.

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    2. Sarcasm trades exactness for accuracy.

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  14. If it is essential for us as Christians to assume some non-scientifically provable basic elements of belief such as the Gospel and God's very existence, Jesus' work (authority, life, purpose, etc.), and a finite human understanding in regards to an eternal afterlife(whatever your flavor or interpretation) as a scientifically-hostile yet miraculous truth that requires faith... Then why do we feel such a need to prove and scrutinize and reconcile 'lesser'--(read disputable) matters so they can align and fit nicely together; both human science and divine reason hand in hand? In other words-- why does the gnat-sized topic of YEC get caught in the strainer of scientific compatibiliy when there's a camel-sized and supremely "foolish" overall message of the Cross and salvation that could be targeted? To me, if we can accept the authority of the Bible to lead us to believe and accept/receive saving faith as a miracle, then on that same faith we can accept creation as a miracle as well... I am not saying that the issue is pointless or irrelevant altogether, though. I am just trying to look at the issue through an evangelic approach to the questions and answers that we would encounter when sharingour faith. And this will be totally my own opinion, but, when reasoning and making a case for faith and outlining our apologetic conviction to a non believer, i doubt that the incredulous and supernatural pieces of the entire Gospel message that require simple faith would all fit except for that pesky creation story; "Nevermind all the rising from the dead and justification and substitutionary atonement and all, THAT 7 day creation bit just doesn't vibe with science enough for me to believe."

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  15. Headless Unicorn GuyJuly 17, 2013 at 9:35 AM

    Walking through the museum, I was appalled by the colossal fortune expended on ideas that are obviously deficient in an education in Ancient Near Eastern history and modern Biblical studies.

    Do they still have the Altar Call Movie at the end?

    The one with "Mike" and "Gabe" in white bib overalls, i.e. Valar as YEC-preaching clowns?

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  16. Hi Ben,

    Interesting article. Not being trained in Hebrew, I would have never picked up on some of those details. Have you read the so-called "rebuttal" by Georgia Purdom over at AIG? http://blogs.answersingenesis.org/blogs/georgia-purdom/2013/08/16/seminary-student-claims-creation-museum-has-bad-exegesis/

    Should you care to respond to her piece (which amounts to little more than an exercise in poisoning the well, encouraging readers to discount the work of people simply BECAUSE they aren't Christians, or aren't THEIR kind of Christian...after all, if they're not Christians or "their" kind of Christians, then they must just be wrong, and therefore, no sense in worrying your pretty little head about reading their lies)...anyway, if you care to respond, I would love to read it!

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    1. Actually, I read her reply which was comprised of a reply from one other source as well. Ben used intellectuals as his stepping stones and so did AiG. What Purdom pointed out was their lack of education for which Ben tries to utilize them for while also pointing out the hundreds of properly trained Theologians who would strongly disagree with Ben's assertion. In fact, it was mainly Dr. Mortenson's response that your complaint likely derives from. Lastly, Purdom offered at least 3 unique sources (1-biblical, 2-links to articles) that argue against some parts of Ben's article.

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    2. I'm working on that right now.

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  17. Your arguments are seriously flawed. I advise you to be careful of who you read and listen to during your studies at your seminary. There are a lot of "scholars" who are incredibly misleading and look for young naive students to turn into their disciples. I saw that happen a lot when I went to seminary. Just one piece of advice to help your flawed hermeneutic (or exegesis if you prefer), consider the theological context along with the literary. You focused on the one but missed the other. This was your flaw and mislead you down the wrong path.

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    1. Insults aren't arguments.

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    2. Please give examples of flaws (even one...). Or perhaps indicate how one identifies what scholars, read by seminary students in an seminary, are misleading? I think the writr makes many excellent points, although it is absolutely absurd in this day and age that there is even a need to put YEC and AiG in even the same category as scientists. The writer shows categorically that even the interpretations of the Bible by AiG are utterly indefensible in their own terms. Ham et al. dont even try to defend their lazy, unsupportable statements. Doesn't this make you the LEAST bit suspicious or uncomfortable? Not to mention that the bible is a frequently rewritten, selectively edited, and frequently translated agglomeration of stories, lists of ancestors, wise sayings, and visions/ravings of "prophets" who thought only of their own time. Am I wrong in guessing that you will accept only statements that shore up superstitious Christian belief and this is what you mean by theological

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  18. My first Hebrew professor believed "the" to be a mistranslation. My current Hebrew professor is a bit more loose on "the's". This was throughout all the instances where there was something like this. That might be because sometimes a "the" is implemented when it is implied in the original language though it might not be stated. Kind of like when we see adon-erets it is translated "lord of the earth" as opposed to "lord of a land".

    That said, even if it is meant to be translated "the beginning", it still would not be "the beginning of the universe". It could simply be "the beginning of the creation". I notice no one really asks "The beginning of what?"

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    1. "the beginning of creation" - but we are told that God created the heavens and the earth. This would mean the earth and then everything outside of the earth. We are further told that He created the sun, moon & stars on day 4 - the universe. That would then mean that the beginning of the universe and the beginning of creation are one in the same. "Bere'shith" can also mean "at the beginning" which is actually a more accurate translation.

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  19. The flavour of this conversation from both parties leaves a foul taste.

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  20. >The flavour of this conversation from both parties leaves a foul taste.

    Why not be honest and simply say that YOU didn't like the conversation?

    Many of us find it very helpful and educational. And, yes, edifying.

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  21. This sounds like a bunch of Christians with staves stabbing each other.

    Young-earth, old-earth there are other factors in creation that would support each position. Some parts of the universe were made earlier than others.

    Having a science background I understand that the biggest advances in sciences coincided with scientists turning away from their preconceived traditional academic positions, e.g., discovering of DNA---scientists use to discredit it as being the genetic material. Science exploded once that hypothesis was abandoned.

    I don't think AIG intent is to mislead no matter how numerous the inaccuracies. They are attempting to lead people to Christ. Let's keep the main purpose the main purpose and work together. The Body of Christ is supposed to be united working as one for the same purpose.

    Help AIG make corrections and become a worthwhile museum to visit and tool for the Lord instead of scoff and laugh.
    Last time I checked God likes a doer rather than a scoffer.

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    1. The Biblical authors thought it was ok to employ polemic comedy and critized each other (Galatians 2.11-14), so I think I'm ok when I critize Ham for reading pterosaurs into Isaiah.

      AiG is unwilling to “work together” or acknowledge these indictments. They have shielded themselves from any option for “help” or for making “corrections [to] become a worthwhile museum.” They have chosen to remain recalcitrant in a weird modern-centric hermeneutic which does harm to evangelicalism.

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  22. The more I see stuff like this the more I see religion in general as fan-fiction and cosplay. The Saruman reference was awesome. I mean even apologetics are just that - interpretations of fictional characters and how they could possibly fit into the reality that we live in. There is actually no difference between apologetics like this and tv-tropes. I enjoyed this very much and I have no clue if you know what you are talking about but it sounded good and while none of it makes any sense to someone who is not a fan of the particular fiction. Just drop the religion brother you would make a much better writer for Cracked. Seriously pick up Gulp by Mary Roach - this is your calling. You could write "Create, the story of creating Creation"

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  23. I came eagerly to the article to see the translation of Gen 1:1 the author proposed. I'll have to go back to see if it's there upon closer reading. There is a lot here, but I'm still not clear about Gen 1:1

    The author writes with self-deprecating humor, but with an attitude that comes across to me as "I'm a lot smarter than those vapor heads over at AIG." For that reason I found it disturbing. Such snarky writing would be sent back for rewrite in my classroom.

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  25. Snarky is good way to describe your blog entries. It’s a worthy goal to promote understanding the Scriptures as they were intended. I can appreciate that. What I didn’t appreciate was your condescending tone, especially from a young man with so little life experience. Ken Ham has 4 honorary doctorates and Georgia Purdom earned a doctorate in molecular genetics from OSU. Yet you casually refer to Ken and Georgia by their first names as if you are equals. You are not their equal. What have you accomplished? Raised any children and seen them move into successful life occupations? Authored any books? Earned any advanced degrees? You’re a runny-nosed undergrad running a web blog! There’s an old saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Boy, you need to learn some respect. These people are at least “Mr.” and “Mrs.” but in public discourse they are more appropriately “Dr.” to you.
    As to the issues you take with the museum, you have a point, albeit minor, with regards to the unsubstantiated use of Voltaire’s house for making Bibles. It matters little to anyone but a purist that ashuri block script is visible on the tablets held by Moses. With regards to discussion on Leviathan and your contention that text was not meant to be interpreted literally, prove it. Cavalierly throwing out a few verses to support your contention is unacceptable.
    The esteemed and learned ancient languages expert with PhD from that fine old state school University of Wisconsin in Madison agrees with you and supports your contention? Over and against opinion of many current and past PhDs, some of whom were employed by some fine old state school? You seem to think world-views don’t cloud professional opinions? You think where scholarship is concerned there’s neutral ground? If so, you’re naïve.
    You had little good to say about the Creation Museum. Your assessment was unfair. You failed to give credit where it was due. You attempted to build your own credibility by harshly criticizing the Creation Museum and some of its most visible people in your public blog. This is a common tactic of those with little influence and standing.

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    1. I'm a boring subject. Let’s look at the two *Biblical* charges you raise in your comment: (1) Genesis 1.1 and (2) Leviathan.

      You will notice in your comment you have given us no *grammatical* reason to accept an absolute temporal translation of the first clause of Genesis. You have simply appealed to the popularity of tradition without interacting with the grammatical grounds for the tradition itself. Don’t just cite me a list of people who agree with you. Please explain exactly which portion of Holmstedt’s grammatical analysis (which happens to be the one which comports with Mesopotamian literature in general and especially Genesis' exilic context) is wrong and why. If you cannot, you have no meaningful basis for rejecting his analysis.

      Second, you write, “With regards to discussion on Leviathan and your contention that text was not meant to be interpreted literally, prove it. Cavalierly throwing out a few verses to support your contention is unacceptable.”

      You are mistaken when you claim I merely cite a few verses to support this argument. You will notice, reader, that this post links to another on the Leviathan subject in which I lay out a longer argument which compiles the Biblical references, reproduces entries from the Brill Dictionary of Deities and Demons and compares an example of the Ugaritic literature (KTU2 1.5:I2) with the cognate epithets with the Biblical. (Notice the terms “fleeing serpent,” “annihilated,” “twisting serpent,” “heads”...) I would advise you to also consult the Brill dictionary entry on LTN in the Ugaritic Alphabetic Texts my linked post cites and to read my second response to Answers in Genesis linked at the top of this post which already addressed your exact argument regarding Genesis and further explains the Leviathan issue--linking to the NET Bible on this subject.

      I am not speculating when I say Leviathan is a west Semitic chaos deity. The pre-biblical literature and the exilic authors of the Bible themselves explicitly make that identification for us.

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    2. Ben, humorous. You take yourself too seriously. The problem is you're trying to prove that the language excludes a certain meaning when I'm suggesting it does not. The study of these phrases and words and how they were by the ancients isn't math even though you'd like to believe that it is. The meanings and usage are not that precise. But the other problem for you is that in past men and dinosaurs coexisted. So descriptions, drawings, allusions to them in the Bible are not be unexpected.

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    3. @Hammerhead: "the other problem for you is that in past men and dinosaurs coexisted."

      Flintstones! Meet the Flintstones!

      No sir, every attempt by creationists to demonstrate that men and dinosaurs coexisted has ended often in fraud and always in comedy. Remember the Paluxy River Texas fraud-prints? Carved. Humanus bauanthropus? Fake. Humanus phenanthropus mirabilis? Some sedimentary layers with chalk drawings crudely drawn on to make them look like human footprints. Calaveras Man? Fraud. The Black Skull of Freiberg? Carved out of coal. "Glen Rose Man", Humanus davidii? Turned out to be a fish's tooth. Moab Man? Malachite Man? Modern. The Cambodian stegosaurus? A baby rhinoceros. And on and on...

      Oh and then there's radioisotope dating... D'Oh!

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    4. There is a display (you can see the image online) in the creation museum which admits that we have yet to discover any meaningful scientific evidence that dinosaurs and man coexisted.

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    5. If Ken Ham has earned four honorary doctorates that's a horrifying indictment of the academic integrity of the institutions that awarded those doctorates. And Georgia Purdom - DOCTOR Georgia Purdom if you feel that's more respectful, Hammerhead - has IMO committed trahison des clercs as a biologist allying herself with the forces of antiscience. Funny - I haven't noticed any Creationist (and I've met hundreds online in the last few months) referring to any scientist opponent of theirs by his or her academic titles. I hope you regularly remonstrate with these allies of yours about their lack of respect, Hammerhead. Ben may only be an undergraduate, but he clearly knows a lot more about Hebrew and Biblical history than Ken Ham, and presumably than Doctor Purdom too, which seems a valid enough reason for him to feel able to engage with them or their writings as an equal even if he hasn't had any children yet. (I haven't any children myself, but curiously I never thought that this made me inferior to those who have.) And without wishing to disrespect you, Hammerhead, I have to say that it is quite impossible for me, or for most people outside the charmed circle of creationists, to feel any respect whatsoever for the intelligence of a grown person who can, in the 21st century, in all seriousness maintain that dinosaurs and humans lived alongside each other.

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  26. pre biblical literature - actually it's post biblical literature.

    One question - where in Genesis are the accounts historically accurate and how do you know that for a fact?

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    1. Th German scholar Othmar Keel has documented iconographic representations of the chaos dragon from Sumer. Outside of that are the Ugaritic texts and the obvious manner in which the Biblical authors themselves (e.g. Psalm 74) associate the creature as a personification of chaos. These elements are obvious in Job where God is seen as the sole tamer of the primordial chaos (as well as the tannin and Rahab). Job demonstrates its conceptual dependence on the pagan sources in passages like 7.12 which refer to Yamm, Tannin and Rahab.

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  27. Ben - You have a way with words. Unfortunately they do not reflect accurate Biblical exegesis but rather an acceptance of worldly thinking applied to Scripture. You are not the first to try to make Genesis say what you want and you will not be the last. Perhaps you need to talk to Dr. Mohler to get some perspective because, as someone who used to believe as you do, I can say you need some education on what Scripture is all about.

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    1. Anon: "Unfortunately they do not reflect accurate Biblical exegesis but rather an acceptance of worldly thinking applied to Scripture"

      Actually, your ideas, like Ken Ham's, are wordly and humanistic. Your ideas were created by humans and edited by humans... they just come from humans who lied and said they had supernatural power to divine infallible, unfalsifiable information. You're a humanist too.

      "I can say you need some education on what Scripture is all about."

      Power. Human, political power. What did you think?

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  28. Wow! Great article--well written and researched. Just the opposite of the emotional response of the Hamites; and emotion is really all they have because their science and biblical "research" is bogus. One can only conclude they're in it for the money, since what they put out is so flawed and preposterous it can't be taken seriously. Now they're raising millions to build a Noah's ark that can't even float, designed from scanty info in the bible and enormous imagination on their part. Of course they'll be swimming in money as they spend months and years speculating, designing, and building it. And this will bring non-believers to Christ? On a lighter note, how did Ham get Mel Brooks to model as Moses holding the 10 commandments for his creation comedy castle?

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  29. Dear Ben: You are definitely an excellent writer! I am impressed - your education is clearly of a good quality. You bring up some very excellent points, as does AIG. Methinks that these questions won't really get answered until we are face to face with Him - I can't wait to sit at His feet and ask questions! My only critique of your article (and for that matter AiG response) is the way in which it is written. Don't get me wrong - there is nothing wrong with being tongue in cheek; (I am a strong conservative Christian but absolutely love Monty Python - who says God doesn't have a sense of humor) but I can only think that Satan loves it when we get into these arguments without treating one another with respect. Unfortunately your blog comes off as a little to disrespectful to AiG (they are not innocent either, even if Dr. Homstedt is arrogant, no need to throw stones) I think we all need to take a lesson from Ephesians 4:31-5:2 - I'm pretty sure no matter how it's translated it communicates the same message. I'm mainly writing in order to encourage you to keep up your work, clearly you are very intelligent - who knows, you may change your mind about all this as you go along! (and you may not!) It never hurts to have someone who disagrees with the big boys if for nothing else than to keep them on their toes! (Clearly they respected your blog enough to respond to it!) Just keep those verses in mind, see yourself as nothing more or less than Jesus does, and remember the ultimate goal: to reach others for Christ.

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    1. If there is any response so far that has been most prone to change my mind it is yours.

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  30. Ben,

    You left out that Ken Ham doctors the Bible and alters Bible verses. In the Creation Museum, on a wall in giant letters, they reproduce what they say is 2 Peter 3:3-6, but Ken Ham changed the words. Ham's fake Bible verse is a doctored version of the 21st century King James version, which Ham altered to make it sound like God is employing an ad hominem attack and accusing evolutionists being stupid and "willfully ignorant."

    Ken Ham's fake version: "There shall come in the last days SCOFFERS, saying "all things continue as they were from the the beginning.
    For they are WILLFULLY IGNORANT that by the WORD OF GOD the heavens were of old, and the world that was then, being overflowed with water, perished."

    Young Earth creationists equate the "scoffers" to evolutionists, who estimate the age of the earth by assuming that the same laws of physics, principles of geology, chemistry etc. applied in the past. This is just scientific induction, but YEC's equate it to saying "all things continue as they were from the the beginning", to put their own words in God's mouth and have him saying evolutionists are stupid.

    This really shows the humungous insecurity of fundamentalists: they really fear they're intellectually inferior (they're right) and this scares Ken Ham so much he actually rewrites the Bible to accuse evolutionists of being dumb.

    Of course, in context, the real meaning of 2 Peter 3 has nothing to do with geology, fossils, evolution etc.: rather, people are scoffing because Jesus promised to come back within a generation and he didn't, so people naturally scoff at his false prophecy. Oh, and the epistle itself is a forgery, but that's another story.

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  31. On another point: in the Creation Museum they ridiculously changed the words that their Martin Luther mannequin nails to the door of the church at Wittenberg. They have him nailing up, not 95 Theses, nor any mention of paying for indulgences, but a pamphlet saying, "Here I stand. I can do no other."

    Even atheists and Catholics know Luther said that at the Diet of Worms, not the church door in Wittenberg. A door which at any rate would have been full of everybody else's pamphlets, but ironically not Martin Luther's, because he wasn't even in Wittenberg at the time, and the whole story of him nailing it to the door was probably made up, maybe by Phillip Melanchthon.

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  32. I look forward to the new Bible translation that Ben will be putting out since he sounds like he knows more about the original languages than his teachers.

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    1. I'm currently too busy realizing my plan to become Pope.

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  33. No grand theological comment here, but a fact check- that "ripoff of the Shire theme" was most likely the hymn "This Is My Father's World", which the Shire theme borrows heavily from (to the point that some of my friends started singing the hymn to the Shire tune). I suggest checking it out on YouTube and seeing if that's what you heard.

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