Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor


[on the meaning of "day"]

From: JASA 5 (December 1953): 2.


With regard to Howitt's note on "Day", and continuing Potts' reply (JASA 5.1.14 and 5.2.2), let him ask his scholars how they would translate logos in John 1. I presume they would translate it word, but the RSV even capitalizes it to emphasize that it doesn't mean literally word but Christ (or at least some reference to Divinity).

And what about "in the beginning"? Nobody would quarrel with the translation, but the very fact that God created the heavens and the earth means that it wasn't really the beginning-and we believe that God never had a beginning.

The problem breaks down to the fact that in providing our Revelation God adapted His truth to a cultural medium; language. In so doing he also restricted it to a particular cultural period and setting. He did riot wait for the precise scientific language of the 20th century, but chose the poetry of ancient Hebrew and the raciness of Koine. For 'that matter, it is providential that we don't have to read through scientific jargon to get to spiritual truth. Few would bother.

Language has the faculty for development to whatever type of usefulness its users need. A human think. er's reasoning is limited heavily by his language structure, but as the minor changes in thinking and experience which characterize the history of thought take place, language does change too. But language at a given time is geared to the present and the past, not to the future.

The Bible speaks of the four corners of the earth because it wants to convey a certain meaning-dispersion. The translator who translates the "four corners" does not change them if they can possibly convey, in his language, the same certain meaning which they were intended to convey. The fact that the writer who was inspired to write believed that the earth had four corners is irrelevant. He was the part of a culture which did not happen to be up on that particular bit of information. God nevertheless chose him and his language to convey a universal truth.

What God was expressing by means of the cultural term "day" in Genesis is the subject under controversy. The controversy does not lie in how the word should be translated.

329 Rue Freres Louis
Saigon, Vietnam
August 27, 1953

William A. Smalley