Letter to the Editor
AND THE STARS
David F. Siemens, Jr.
Riverside City College Riverside, Calif.
There are several questionable assumptions and serious errors in MacRae's "Abraham and the Stars" (September, 1965). That they are common, and so escaped the editor's blue pencil, makes them even more harmful.
First, it is assumed that Abraham knew the number of visible stars. Since as late as 1602 Europeans were worrying whether there might really be more than 1022 stars, and since it is extremely difficult to count a random pattern without superimposed grids or other aids, this assumption is of doubtful validity.
Second, God had already told Abraham his seed would be innumerable (Gen. 13:16; 15:5-note God's implied question about the stars--; 16:10) before He referred to the sand of the seashore and the stars. Therefore, this last statement must be understood as saying: As you cannot number the stars or the sand, so you cannot number the seed which I will give you.
Third, to import either supposedly ancient or known modern estimates makes God contradict Himself, the most serious objections of all to, MacRae's interpretation. How can God say to Abraham: "Your seed will number abut 2000, innumerable"? How can God say to us: "Abraham's seed will number about 1028, that is, about 1()26"-or whatever the latest figures are? And how can one liken the 3 x 109 living human beings, or the estimated 6 x 1010 human beings who, on evolutionary grounds, have ever lived, with 1028? And this does not emphasize the smaller number of persons who are physically or spiritually children of Abraham. I cannot believe that God can talk such nonsense. Yet MacRae cannot see that his statement leads to such contradiction.
In the light of MacRae's known scholarly competence, such a serious lapse is a warning to all of us to beware of letting our convictions determine the nature and form of our arguments.