Science in Christian Perspective
From: JASA 11 (September 1959): 6-10.
Most of the apparent conflicts between modern science and the Bible have been resolved.1.2 Of those remaining, some may be resolved by assuming that God has allowed certain numerical codes to be used as a key to prophecy and as evidence of divine inspiration. Many Bible commentaries3,4 and concordances5 contain suggestions that the numbers 3, 4, 6, 7, 10, 12, and 40, and certain combinations of these numbers may have special symbolic or cryptic significance in some Bible passages. In particular, the number seven appears to have special importance.
While the account of creation given in Genesis can be correlated with the stages in the creation of the earth and its inhabitants as revealed by scientific studies,6 it seems evident from modern science that the separate acts of creation were not performed in six ordinary days.7 In the following it will be shown that there is some justification for assuming that the reference to six days of work and the seventh day of rest has a symbolical meaning in addition to the correlation mentioned above.
There is no real proof that early man could not have lived the number of years attributed in Genesis 5 to the patriarchs.6 However, there is apparently no archeological or paleontological evidence' that ancient man ever lived much longer than the 120 years mentioned in Genesis 6:3. A study of the sequence of numbers given in Genesis 5 for the ages of the patriarchs from Adam to Noah suggests that there may be a cryptic message in these numbers relative to God's divine plan for the history of man.
The age of the earth is about three billion years ac
cording to the evidence from radioactive rocks and
other geological data.7 However, the Bible is primari ary of remission. A tradition in the house of Elias, A. D. 200, states that the world is to endure 6000 years; 2000 before the law, 2000 under the law, and 2000 under Messiah."
In 2 Peter 3:5-8 we read that since the creation of the earth by God the heavens and earth have been kept
in store against the day of judgment and that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand
years as one day. Similarly in the Old Testament we find statements that a thousand years in God's sight
are but as yesterday when it is past (Psalm 90:4) in reference to the coming final judgment of man by his
In Revelation 6 the opening of the six seals in order appears to have some symbolical significance in con nection with the history of man, the sixth seal corresponding to the epoch which includes the great tri bulation and other signs mentioned in Matthew 24. The opening of the seventh seal (Rev. 8) is followed by silence in heaven for a period as a "solemn intro duction to the--eternal Sabbath-rest of the people of God."+ The seven trumpets which are sounded in Re velation 8-11 also appear to have a symbolical meaning, the final judgment following the sounding of the sev enth trumpet. Finally, the seven last plagues which af flict mankind as the seven angels pour out the seven vials of wrath (Rev. 15-16) parallel the judgments of the seven trumpets and thus also appear to have a cryptic meaning.4 However, the Bible is primarily concerned with the spiritual history of man which began about 4000 B. C. when the Semitic ancestors of Abraham began to "call upon the name of the Lord", the God of Creation. Modern civilization and the re corded history of man also began about 4000 B. C.8 The chronology of the Old Testament as given by the genealogies, the terms of the judges and kings, the prophecy in Daniel regarding the time of the Mes siah indicates a period of about 4000 years between Adam and Christ.
According to Jamieson, Fausset and Brown3 (p. 598) "TheJewish Rabbis thought,as the world was cre ated in six days and on the seventh God rested, so there would be six millenary periods, followed by a sabbati cal millennium. Out of seven years every seventh is the the year of remission, so out of the seven thousand years of the world the seventh millenary shall be the millen-
The above references indicate that there is a Biblical
basis for correlating the six days of work in Genesis 1 with the 6000 years of man's spiritual history from 4000 B. C. to about 2000 A. D., while the seventh day of rest corresponds to the promised millennium in which world order and peace is established for a time under Christ's reign. From Revelation 20 it would ap pear that the seventh millennium is to close with the final judgment. This sevenfold pattern of history is woven into other Bible passages as shown below.
In Genesis there is a peculiar association of the and number seven with the name of Lamech. In chapter 4 verse 24 we read: "If Cain shall be avenged seven f old, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold." The La mech of Genesis 4 is descended from Cain and is number seven in the genealogy beginning with Adam. In Genesis 5 the genealogy of the descendents of Adam through his son Seth lists a Lamech who lived 777 years. If there is a hidden meaning to this repetition of number 7, perhaps it is to be found in the gene alogy of the patriarchs.
When the ages of the patriarchs from Adam to David are plotted on graph paper by succeeding generations, a definite continuity becomes evident as shown by Fig. 31 on page 241 of "Modern Science and Christian Faith".6 The graph shows a rapid decline in ages after Noah and the flood. While a curve can be drawn showing a steady downward trend, the decline occurs in steps from an average of about 930 for the patriarchs from Adam to Noah (excluding Enoch and Lamech) to a level of about 450 from Arphaxed to Eber followed by a drop to an average of 236 from Peleg to Serug and then by a gradual decline from 205 to about 70 from Terah to David. Such a regular pattern seems to lend justification to the assumption that the early patriachs from Adam to Noah actualy lived about 900 years. Nevertheless, the longevity of the patriarchs remains something of a problem for modern science to explain.
It is peculiar that the average age of the patriarchs from Adam to Lamech at the time of the births of the sons listed in the King James Bible is about 100 years, the minimum age being 65 and the maximum 187. The Septuagint text gives a slightly different set of ages at birth of the sons, the average being about 180 years, the minimum 162 years, and the maximum 230 years. This suggests either a slower rate of physical rnaturing or else a shorter number of days in the so-called "year" at the time of the patriarchs. The longevity of the patriarchs and the unusually large number of years before the birth of the sons mentioned in the genealogy, presumably the first born in most cases except where death or other circumstances changed t e line of descent, are therefore two problems which may have a common solution.
When we begin to look for some clue to the solution of these problems, the possibility that age was reckoned in terms of new moons rather than changes of season or years must be considered. There are about 30 days between new moons and approximately 12 new moons in one year. Therefore, we try dividing the ages of the patriarchs by 12 and discover that the greatest age would be 81 years and the smallest age 30 years. These life spans are well within the normal range of longevity of man as recorded in medical history. However, the figure of 30 for the total years of Enoch suggests another possible interpretation of the genealogy and ages in Genesis 5.
Enoch is the seventh man from Adam in this genealogy (cf. Jude 14) and receives special attention in Genesis 5:24 where we read "And Enoch walked with God; and he was not; for God took him". Enoch is translated while yet a young man relative to the life span of the other patriarchs. If we assume that Enoch represents a type of Christ (i. c., a prophetic symbol for Christ), then Enoch's translation at the age of 365 "years" corresponds to Christs's ascension into heaven at the age of about 33 years. If the total years of the other patriarchs are multiplied by the ration 33/365, the average age at death becomes 84 instead of 930 and is therefore closer to the average life span of men today in very healthy living conditions. This ratio also brings the ages at birth of the sons down to the range of 15 to 21 years according to the Septuagint text, which isareasonable range considering that marriage probably occurred soon after puberty in early times. It will be noted that the minimum age of a patriarch at the birth of a son according to the King James (or Hebrew) text would be reduced to 6 years by applying this ratio (cf. Ramm,1 p. 341). We are thus led to favor the Septuagint text in regard to the ages at the birth of the first son. The discrepancies in these ages between the Septuagint, the Samaritans and the Hebrew texts are in general such as might be accounted for by errors in copying. Since an error of omission is more likely than the error of addition of a digit in copying a number, the ages listed in the Septuagint text are presumably more accurate( see Table 1).
Table 1. Comparison of Hebrew and Septugagint Texts
Adam 130 930 230 930
Seth 105 912 205 912
Enos 90 905 190 905
Cainan 70 910 170 910
Mahalaleel 65 895 165 895
Jared 162 962 162 962
Enoch 65 365 165 365
Methuselah 187 969 167 169
Lamech 182 777 188 753
Noah 500 950 500 950
A-Age at birth of first-born
Another patriarch who receives special attention is Enos, for after his birth "then began men to call upon the name of the Lord" (Gen. 4:26). The Lamech of Genesis 5 is also peculiar in that he lived only about 750 years (777 years in the King James text and 753 years in the Septuagint text) whereas all of the other patriarchs except Enoch lived about 900 years. This Lamech is number 7 from Enos and is the last of the patriarchs before Noah and the flood. Noah is number 10 from Adam in the genealogy of Gensis 5.
If in this genealogy we associate Enos with the first millennium of the spiritual history of mankind because " then men began to call upon the name of the Lord", we find that four millenniums pass before the appearance of Enoch, who typifies Christ, at the beginning of the fifth millennium. Enoch is translated while yet a young man, relative to the normal lifespan of the patriarchs, thus corresponding to Christ's ascension into heaven at slightly more than 30 years of age. There are then three millenniums from Enoch to Lamech, the latter corresponding to the seventh or sabbatical millenium in which Christianity reigns.
Finally, from Revelation 20 we may conclude that the sabbatical millennium is followed by "a little season" in which Satan is loosed again, corresponding to the days of Noah when "the wickedness of man was great in the earth". Noah is the last of the patriarchs in the genealogy of Genesis 5 and is the tenth f rom Adam. While there is evidence that a great f lood similar to that described in Genesis 7 and 8 occurred in the Mesopotamian valley during the early history of man,6 it is possible that the account of Noah and the flood in Genesis may have additional significance as a representation of the end of the world and the final judgment (Matt. 24:37-39; Luke 17:26-30).
The whole of the above interpretation of Genesis 5 is outlined in Table II. The significance of the number 7 in this table is emphasized by boldface type. The number 365 is also considered to be significant not only as the number of days in a year but also as representing the age of Christ as explained above.
The literal meaning of the word Adam is "human being". The word Seth signifies "the seed appointed" (Gen. 4:25), Noah means "rest", and the word Jared is from the Hebrew yeredh meaning "descent". These meanings of the names of the patriarchs have been incorporated in the interpretation of Table II. In addition, we note that Enos means "man", Mahalaleel means "praise of God", and Enoch means "dedicated".
In support of the above interpretation of Genesis 5 we shall show that a division of man's spiritual history into 7 epochs ending in the sabbatical millennium and the final judgment can be correlated with the opening of the seven seals in the "Apocalypse of John" in Revelation. It may also be noted that a rather similar division of history into 10 periods from Adam to the final judgment may be obtained by interpretation from the "Apocalypse of Ten Weeks" in the apocryphal book of Enoch.9
The interpretation of Revelation 6-22 is as follows :3,4
1. (4000-3000 B. C.) The event following the opening of the first seal is a vision of a conquering leader on a white horse, armed with a bow, and who is presented with a crown (Rev. 6). Perhaps this is symbolic of man the hunter who was given dominion over the animals of earth and told to subdue the earth (Gen. 1). White is the symbol of conquering leaders. This may also represent the scourge of tyrannical rulers.
2. (3000-20W B. C.) Opening of the second seal is followed by the vision of a red horse (symbolic of war and bloodshed) with a rider who is given a great sword and the power to take peace from the world so that men should kill one another. This is symbolic of war and its power to destroy men. Wars between nations began in 3000-2000 B. C. with the Semites under Sargon conquering Sumeria in 2750-2550 B. C.
3. (2000-1000 B. C.) Opening of the third seal is followed by the vision of a black horse (signifying grief and mourning) with a rider who holds a pair of balances accompanied by a voice telling of high prices for wheat and barley (presumably resulting from crop failure). This is symbolic of starvation and the scourge of undernourishment in lands where the methods of producing food are inadequate. Starvation as the result of crop failure came to the Semitic peoples around 1600 B. C. at which time Joseph provided for his father and brothers from the storehouses in Egypt.
4. (1000 B. C. - 30 A. D.) Opening of the fourth seal is followed by the vision of a pale horse (symbolical of disease and death) on which sat a rider whose name was Death. This symbolizes the fourth great scourge of mankind, pestilence and disease. The Israelites escaped the plagues which afflicted Egypt just prior to the Exodus (c. 1200-1300 B. C.), and Aaron stayed the plague after the rebellion of Korah (Numbers 16) by burning incense, but the Israelites were heavily smitten by the Bubonic plague when the Philistines returned the ark of the covenant (c. 1050 B. C.,).6 Great plagues followed the gathering together of the Israelites for numbering in the time of David (c. 980 B. C.) (2 Samuel 24; 1 Chronicles 21). The pale horse and rider are followed by Hell, the symbol of captivity and punishment. It was during the period 800 B. C. to 500 B. C. that the people of Israel and Judah were punished by captivity and exile under the Assyrians and Babylonians.
it is significant that these four scourges are presented as visions at the invitation "Come (and see)" by each of the four beasts on the opening of each of the four first seals. In Revelation 6:8 it is stated that lipower was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with the sword (war), and with hunger, and with death (disease), and with the beasts (some of them human) of the earth. These are the four scourges which are also mentioned in Ezekiel 14:21 as "the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the pestilence". These are among "the beginning of sorrows" mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 24:7-8. Thus the history of man (in particular of the Jews) is divided into four millenniums before Christ and three following, corresponding to the division in the opening of the seals into 4 and 3. In the oldest manuscripts of the Bible the words "and see" are omitted after the word "come" uttered by each of the four beasts, and the word "come" is not used after opening of the 5th, 6th and 7th seals.3 Perhaps, therefore, we may interpret the word "come" as heralding the coming of Christ at the end of the fourth millennium.
5. (30-1000 A. D.) The opening of the fifth seal is followed by the vision of the martyrs slain for the Word of God. This presumably symbolizes the period of persecution and martyrdom of the early disciples in the years A. D. 30 to A. D. 311 as mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 24:9; Luke 21:12, 16. It is implied in Revelation 6:11 that there will be other martyrs in the centuries to follow.
6. (1000-2000 A. D.) The opening of the sixth seal is followed by the signs mentioned by Christ in Matthew 24 as attending and following the great tribulation. Thus we find parallel mention of earthquake, darkened sun and moon, falling stars, and fig tree. Mention is also made of worldly men seeking cover in caves and the rocks of the mountains, paralleling Isaiah's phophecy concerning the last days (Isaiah 2). In Revelation 7 the elect are sealed and gathered from the four quarters (winds) of the world as mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 24:31.
7. (2000-3000 A. D.) The opening of the seventh seal is followed by silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. This is presumably the time of peace and rest mentioned in Revelation 20. In Revelation 8, after the opening of the seventh seal, a recapitulation of the tribulation is given as the seven angels with the seven trumpets sound their trumpets one by one while the seven last judgments fall upon the earth. The infliction of four beginning tribulations is followed by three more woes of which the last or seventh judgment will mark the finish of the mystery of God. Only a third part of the world is destroyed on the sounding of the first six trumpets, corresponding to Jesus' promise that "for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened" that all flesh should not be destroyed (Matt. 24:22; Mark 13:20). Seven thunders, or prophecies, are uttered (Rev. 10) which are sealed until after the soundinff of the sixth trumpet and revealed when the seventh angel sounds his trumpet (Rev. 10:7; 14). The seven last plagues are then poured forth from the vials held by the seven angels, and the destruction of the world is completed as symbolized by the three sequences of seven, corresponding to the number 777, but not before the beast is revealed whose number is 666, the number of imperfection and of a world given over to judgment. The first heaven and the first earth pass away, but a new heaven and a new earth are given, and God's people dwell with Him throughout eternity (Rev. 21-22).
The above interpretation of the opening of the seven seals is presented mainly as an effort to justify the preceding interpretation of Genesis 5 and the 6 + 1 "days" of creation. Our purpose is to remove an apparent conflict between modern science and a literal interpretation of Genesis, not to add to the already voluminous literature on the Apocalypse of John.10,11
The sacred number 7 is also associated with Christ, the Messiah, in the following ways:
Daniel 9:24, 25. "Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteouness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy. Know, therefore, and understand that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem, unto the Messiah the Prince, shall be seven weeks and three score and two weeks".
Luke 3. Jesus is 77 in the genealogy of Luke 3 which traces Jesus' ancestry through the priestly line back to God. Thus, God is number one, Adam is number two, Seth is number three, Cainan (not included in genealogies of Gen. 5-11 or I Chronicles 1-2) is fourteen, and Joseph (or Mary)12 is seventy six.
Matt. 1. As stated in Matthew 1 :17, the genealogy of Matthew I traces Jesus' ancestry through the royal line of David back to Abraham by three successions of the number 14.
The numbers 7 and 14 are frequently associated with the sacrifice of lambs. Thus, in Numbers 29:12-38 peculiar rules are given for the sacrificing of bullocks, rams, lambs, and a kid during the seven successive days of a feast which begins in the middle of the seventh month. The sum of the day of the feast and the number of bullocks offered on that day is 14 for the fifteenth through the twenty first day of the month. There are 7 feast days and on each of these days 14 lambs are offered. The ratio of lambs offered to rams offered is 7 for each day including the final day of assembly. The total number of bullocks offered on the feast days is seventy. The total number of kids offered in this time is seven. On the day of assembly exactly 7 lambs are offered.
The use of the number seven as a symbol for completeness is found in Matthew 18:21-22 where we read that Jesus admonished Peter to forgive a brother not just seven times, but until seventy times seven. Also, the sprinkling of blood upon the mercy seat and the altar was to be done seven times (Lev. 16:14, 19) ; Joshua marched the seven priests with the seven trumpets around Jericho seven times on the seventh day; the Israelites were commanded to keep the passover by eating unleavened bread for seven days and on the seventh day to hold a solemn assembly to the Lord and do no work (Ex. 13:6; Deut. 16:3, 4, 8).
The sabbatical day, the sabbatical year, and the year of jubilee indicate the significance of the number seven as a symbol for a complete cycle of time ending in a holy seventh period (Ex. 20:9-11: 31:15-17: 21:2; 23:10-11; Lev. 25).
While the above interpretation of Genesis 1-5 may
remove an apparent conflict with modern science, it
also brings us back to the Jewish tradition that there
will be six millenary periods followed by a sabbatical millennium. The question arises whether these millennia are to be computed on the basis of prophetic
years of 360 days
or of ordinary years according
to the modern calendar. The difference by the year
2000 A. D. would amount to 29 years. Since Jesus
began his public ministry in 29 A. D., then 2000 prophetic years beginning with this date will end in 2000
There Is reason to believe that the "abomination of desolation" mentioned in Daniel 12:11 and referred to by Jesus in Matthew 24:15 may be the Moslem mosque built by order of the caliph Omar on the site of the sacred stone in the temple area of Jerusalem and which in its present form is known as the Dome of the Rock.13 Reckoning the 1335 years of the prophecy in Daniel 12:12 from the date of construction of Omar's mosque also brings one to about the year 2000 A. D.
We are thus led to regard the year 2000 A. D. with some interest.* It is a striking fact that the world population appears to be increasing toward infinity by the year 2000 A. D. as shown by Fig. 1 in which the population curve approaches asymptotically the vertical line at 2000 A. D. As pointed out by Harrison Brown,14 the world can probably not support more than 100 billion persons, and the actual population by the year 2000 A. D. would undoubtedly be much
*It is not our purpose to call attention to a particular date. The end of the sixth millennium is uncertain by at least t 4 years, and perhaps _t 30 years, because the beginning of the fifth millennium might be reckoned from Christ's birth in 4 B.C. or from the beginning or end of Christ's public ministry.
less than this. Since the Great Tribulation will pre sumably take place before the year 2000 A. D. according to the above interpretation, the world population may be drastically reduced before the beginning of the sabbatical millennium.
2. E. L. Mascal, Christian Theology and Natural Science, The Ronald Press Co., New York 1956.
3. R. Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and D. Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids.
4. J. G. Butler, The Bible Readers Commentary, The New Testament, Vol. 11, D. Appleton and Co., New York 1880, pp. 712-786.
5. A. Cruden, Cruden's Complete Concordance to the Old and New Testaments, Lutterworth Press, London 1930.
6. The American Scientific Affiliation, Modern Science and Christian Faith, Van Kampen Press, Wheaton 1950.
7. G. Garnow, The Creation of the Universe, The Viking Press, New York 1952.
8. A. J. Toynbee, The Atlantic Monthly 179, 35 (1942) June. Quoted on p. 280 of Contemporary Evangelical Thought, Carl F. H. Henry, Ed., Channel Press, Great Neck, N.Y., 1957.
9. R. H. Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, Vol. 2, pp. 262-264, Oxford 1913.
10. A. Pieters, The Lamb, the Woman and the Dragon, The Church Press, Grand Rapids 1946.
11. L. E. Froom, The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, 4 Vols., Review and Herald Publishing Assoc., Washington, D.C., 1954.
12. 1. H. Linton, A Lawyer Examines the Bible, W. A. Wilde Co., Boston 1943, p. 113; see also Ref. 3 on Luke 3:23.
13. A. N. Williams, The Holy City, Duell, Sloane and Pearce, New York 1954, p. 285; cf. Ref. il, Vol. 4, p. 322.
14. H. Brown, The Challenge of Man's Future, The Viking Press, New York 1954.