Science in Christian Perspective
Allan A. MacRae, Ph. D.
Many readers of this journal have doubtless seen an article, entitled "Biblical Detective Story," which appeared on p. 50 of TIME Magazine for October 29, 1956. The article-seems to be a review of a book which is described, as The Bible as History (William Morrow & Co.; $5.95), "published in the U.S. next week," by "German Scientific journalist Werner Keller."
The article begins with mention of a discovery, said
to have taken place in 1929, by British and American
archeologists, of a ten-foot layer of mud far below
the surface at Ur near the Persian Gulf ' under which
it says that artifacts from the stone age were discovered.
At first sight this looks like a wonderful au
thentication of the story of the flood. Unfortunately,
however, the article is in error at this point. As a
matter of fact, the Ur expedition found evidence of
exactly the same civilization underneath the layer of
mud as above, thus indicating that it was a local r iver
flood rather than a catastrophic deluge. Moreover, similar flood layers have been found in other parts of Mesopotamia, from periods differing from this one by a few centuries. While I have no doubt that there was a great universal flood such as is described in Genesis, it weakens our case rather than to strengthen it, to give evidence that does not p roperly apply. I hope that this particular instance is not typical of the book as a whole.
The next paragraph says, "Such discoveries may disconcert the skeptics, but other findings are bound to upset Biblical fundamentalists, who insist on miracles where science is ready to offer natural explanations. Many scientists are now convinced that the rocks which Moses struck, 'and the water came out abundantly,' were water-storing limestone, whose hard crust was broken by the blow."
True fundamentalists should not be upset by such
statements as this one which simply calls attention to
a very vital point about miracles. It is a false definition
,of a miracle to say that it indicates something which
must of necessity be a new creative act of God and
contrary to all natural law. God is the Creator of
natural law and He can change it when and as He
may choose. However, it would be very strange if
He were arbitrarily and unnecessarily to change it.
All that man knows of natural law does not comprise
,more than a small fraction of the wonders of God's
urely it does not make a more wonderful
God to think that He establishes everything a certain
way and then suddenly makes sweeping changes, than
to think that He establishes things in the first place
in the way that will be satisfactory for His whole
plan through the ages. A miracle is simply in the
Biblical usage, a sign. It is evidence of the direct
activity of God. The fact that on two occasions God
showed Moses where to strike so that water would
come out, was a wonderful sign of God's care for the Israelites and of the fact that He was directing the work of Moses in leading them. It would be just as wonderful for God to have prepared the place far in advance so that the water would be all ready to come out, as for Elim to create new water at the instant when Moses struck. There is nothing against the Bible in such so-called natural explanations of miracles as this one here. God uses what He has created for the accomplishment of His purposes. There is no necessity of thinking that He created something new whenever He gave a sign of His presence, although it is true, of course, that sometimes He has done this, and that
He has has the power to do it whenever He chooses.
The same applies to the manna which comes next in the article.
The point coming after this in the article seems quite satisfactory except for the date. It says that in 1936 a
The same, applies to the discussion of the manna, which comes next in the article.
The point coming after this in the article seems quite satisfactory except for 'the date. It says that in 1936 a British expedition determined that the walls of Jericho had indeed fallen with great violence. "Reported expedition leader John Garstang: 'The space between the two walls is filled with fragments and rubble. There are clear traces of a tremendous fire! Says the Bible: 'When the priests blew with the trumpets . - . and the people shouted with a great shout . . . the wall fell down flat . . . and they burnt the city with fire, and all that 'was therein! Scientists conclude that an earthquake may have tumbled the walls."
Actually, the noted English archeologist, John Garstang, published a book in 1930 which was called, Foundations of the Bible-Joshua and Judqes., Cf. pp. 143-146 of this book, Professor Garitang toldof the excavations that he had conducted the previous year (not 1936). He described the discoveries at Jericho and said that it did not look at all likely that the tumbling of the walls was caused by an earthquake. It would be expected in such a case that they would have fallen in a different way than was displayed by the fragments, as his expedition unerthed them. He definitely stated that the condition of the walls showed that a great cataclysm had occurred there. It is a wonderful evidence of the accuracy of the Biblical account.
God could just as well have used an earthquake for the purpose if He had chosen to do so. There would be nothing the least bit contrary to the claims of the Bible in His having done this. For Him to cause the earthquake to come just at the time when the Israelites were there, ready to take Jericho, would have been just as much of a miracle as for Him to cause them to fall in some other way.
In the last few years new excavations have been made at Jericho, and the recent excavators have made some rather skeptical statements about the actual conditions of ancient Jericho, even questioning whether there was a city there at all at the time of Joshua, to be overthrown by him. However, such statements should not disturb us too much. Garstang was a thoroughly competent excavator, even though not all of his conclusions will stand up permanently. In this case he reports in considerable detail the results that he found, and he certainly was not using his imagination or inventing facts out of whole cloth. After all the present work has been thoroughly weighed and analyzed, it would be very strange if there were found to be any actual contradiction between it and the discoveries of Professor Garstang 25 years ago.
The article in Time continues with interesting remarks about the German excavations in Babel and about the Queen of Sheba's visit to King Solomon ending with two remarkable instances of recent use of the accurate topographic details found in the Bible record.