The Genesis Apocryphon

The Genesis Apocryphon was found in the Qumran caves

The first Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in the spring of 1947. Among them was a scroll from Qumran Cave 1, which archaeologists labeled “The Genesis Apocryphon.” At the time, the area had political and military turmoil because it was the year preceding the founding of the State of Israel. Four of the scrolls were transported from Jerusalem to Lebanon to Syria and eventually to the United States before returning to Israel. The first three scrolls were unrolled immediately, but the 4th scroll was not unrolled until later. It ended up in the Monastery St. Mark in the Old City of Jerusalem.

The State of Israel purchased the Genesis Apocryphon scroll, and experts unrolled it. The scroll is written in Aramaic and tells about the patriarchs described in the book of Genesis. The text begins with the story of Lamech (the father of Noah) and ends with Abraham freeing the captives of Sodom, covering roughly Genesis 5 to 15.

The scroll agrees with the account we see in our Bibles, but it adds some insight to the events described there. One of those is the discussion between Noah’s mother (Bitenosh) and his father, Lamech. One of the things that the scroll makes clear is that the name “Bitenosh” means “daughter of man.” That is in contrast to the popular notion that Genesis 6 refers to aliens or spirit creatures (verse 4). In the Genesis Apocryphon, Bitenoch reminds Lamech of their sexual relationship that produced Noah.

Archaeology in the biblical lands offers excellent support for the integrity of the Bible and the accuracy of its records. The science of archaeology is another discipline that is a friend of the Bible and can help us strengthen our faith in the Bible as God’s Word.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Biblical Archaeology Review Summer 2021, Volume 47 Number 2, pages 66-67.

Creation of the First Humans

Creation of the First Humans - What the Bible Says

Over the last two days, we have looked at some Hebrew words used in the Genesis creation account. The two most important words are “bara” and “asah.” They describe two different processes God used. Yesterday, we said that “asah” refers to making something from materials that have already been created. “Bara” refers to something only God can do in creating something that did not exist before. The Bible uses that word in describing the creation of the first humans.

Genesis 1:1 uses “bara” to refer to God creating the universe and planet Earth out of nothing. The same word is used in Genesis 1:20 for the creation of the first life when only non-living matter existed before. Then it is used in Genesis 1:27 for the creation of the first humans in the image of God. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him, male and female created He them.” This view of what a human is, values every human. All human lives matter because all lives, all races, all ethnic groups, and both sexes are created in the image of God.

All attempts to get animals to exhibit characteristics unique to humans
, such as artistic creation, musical synthesis, worship, and being able to be taught to think, have been a failure. There are horror stories of animals raised in human homes as humans and how they eventually reverted to their instinctive drives. One of them was a chimpanzee raised as part of a family. It savagely attacked and wounded a female visitor whom the chimp considered an invader in his territory.

The Bible is very clear in its teaching about the unique nature of humans and their equality with one another. In John 4:1-42, Jesus interacts with a Samaritan woman. Verse 9 points out that Jews at that time didn’t even talk to Samaritans, much less a Samaritan woman. Verse 27 tells us that the disciples marveled that Jesus spoke with her. Galatians 3:26-29 states the Christian view of the equality of all humans in no uncertain terms.

Skeptics have attempted to say the Bible denigrates some humans as second-class citizens by pointing out the conflict between Jews and Gentiles. That conflict had nothing to do with race but was over religious matters. Others have suggested that Genesis 6:1-8 denigrates some groups by calling them “nephilim.” The word “nephilim” doesn’t mean a giant or an alien or a half-human. The word’s literal meaning is “fallen ones,” and the passage’s context is clear that it describes people who have rejected God and His will. The word for giant in Hebrew is “gibbor” (Job 16:14) or “rapha” (Deuteronomy 2:11, 20 and 2 Samuel 21:16, 18, 20, 22).

The Biblical concept of humans is not only that all races and nationalities are equal, but that humans as a whole are unique and special because they are created in God’s image. The lineage of all people on Earth today goes back to the creation of the first humans. No other faith but Christianity has given the instructions to treat one another–even our enemies–with love, respect, and care (Matthew 5:38-48). That is because we are all created in God’s image.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

The Bible Description of Humans

The Bible Description of Humans

Yesterday we asked the question, “What is a human?” Evolutionists say that humans are the product of millions of years of evolution. That belief says that survival of the fittest and chance evolutionary processes made you who you are. Also, it has logically led to slavery, racial prejudice, ethnic cleansing, and abortion. But is that true, or should we accept the Bible description of humans?

Genesis 2:3 uses two different Hebrew words to describe the creation process. The passage says, “God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it because that in it He rested from all His work which God created (bara in Hebrew) and made (asah in Hebrew).” Some translations don’t distinguish between them, but the words refer to two different processes.

Asah” refers to making something from materials that have already been created. In contrast to “asah,” the word “bara” refers to something only God can do in creating something that did not exist before. Those two words describe two different processes, and the distinction is essential.

There are two other significant Hebrew words used in the Genesis creation account. One of them is “yatshur.” It describes artistic work in the creative process. It means to form or shape as a sculptor would do. Genesis 2:7 tells us that “God formed (yatshur) man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.” The reference to the living being uses the Hebrew word “nephesh,” which refers to a breathing creature. It is also used to refer to animals.

The similarity between “asah” and “yatshur” is that they both refer to the shaping of something from materials already created (bara). Genesis uses the word “asah” when referring to God making animals. Psalms 94:9 uses “yatshur” to describe the formation of the human eye. Jeremiah 1:5 uses it to refer to the formation of the fetus in the womb.

The word “bara” is connected to the Bible description of humans. Tomorrow we will take a closer look at that.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

What Is a Human?

What Is a Human?

What is a human? Do you define humans as naked apes? Is your concept of being human that we are just animals and nothing more? Are we just the end product of millions of years of evolution? If so, have you considered where that belief logically takes you? Believing that survival of the fittest and chance evolutionary processes made you what you are has led to slavery, racial prejudice, abortion, ethnic cleansing, and a distorted view of sex.

If humans are only animals and “survival of the fittest” determines the value of a race, then inferior races should serve superior races. This, of course, was the whole basis of Hitler’s extermination of the Jews. The history of the world is full of the enslavement of other humans. Even today, white supremacy is based on evolutionary assumptions. Abortion is justified on the belief that an unborn child is not human and should not inconvenience others. Ethnic cleansing is based on the notion that one ethnic group is superior to another and justifies eliminating the inferior group.

The history of America’s use of evolution is horrendous. In 1904 a Mbuti tribal man was kidnapped from the Belgian Congo and exhibited as an attraction in New York City’s Bronx Zoo. In 1911 a museum in San Francisco showcased a Yahi man calling him “the last wild Indian in California.”

Today, most cultures view sex as a recreation at best and a tool of control at worst. Most evolutionists would not entertain the notion that sex can create a unique and incredible bond between a man and a woman for life.

So what is a human? We will continue to examine that question tomorrow.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Archaeology magazine, March/April 2021 page 42.

Conspiracy Theories are Dangerous

Conspiracy Theories are Dangerous

“There is nothing new under the sun” is an ancient saying found in Ecclesiastes 1:9. King Solomon shows the great wisdom God gave him in the truth that humans keep making the same mistakes. One of the repeated mistakes is devising conspiracy theories.

The pandemic that we have just endured is not new and not as severe as what humans have experienced in the past. In 1347, a contagious disease killed between 30 and 40 percent of the European population at its outset. In some places, the death toll reached 70%, and in a few locations, the toll was very close to 100%. What response did people make to this pandemic, referred to as “The Black Death?” A popular view was that it was a Jewish conspiracy designed to destroy Christians.

There was no evidence to support the claim, and Jews were also dying. Regardless of facts, the fringe community promoted a genocidal plot to kill every Jew in Europe over age seven. Those promoting this conspiracy theory conducted raids in which they rounded up and killed Jews and burned their homes and businesses. The church did not inspire this anti-Jewish movement because Pope Clement VI ordered Catholics “not to dare…to capture, strike, wound or kill any Jew.” Anyone who did so would be excommunicated.

There have been other fringe conspiracy theories through the centuries.
When the polio vaccine came out, some people claimed that someone had laced the vaccine with anti-fertility drugs or that it would kill children. The list of conspiracy theories goes on and on up to today. QAnon, the Flat Earth Society, and the Tulsa Massacre illustrate how people on the fringe saturate the public with conspiracy theories and convince people to act badly.

All of this is not new to students of the Bible. In the time of Jesus and the early Church, there were fringe people, including Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, the Stoics, Epicureans, and worshipers of a variety of pagan gods and goddesses. Read Matthew chapters 5 to 7, and see how Jesus dealt with all of this. Our Lord taught people to be helpful and loving rather than hateful and destructive.

The message to us is clear, and it is that the only thing you can rely on is God’s Word. Don’t blindly follow politicians, conspiracy theories, or religious fanatics teaching things the Bible doesn’t support. Paul said it well in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…”

— John N. Clayton © 2021

The Axion and Science

The Axion and Science

As we said yesterday, science cannot detect 68.3% of the energy in the cosmos, but we know it is there because of its effect on the galaxies. Also, today’s scientists cannot detect 26.8% of the mass in the universe, but they know it is there because of gravity. They call it “dark matter.” To make their theories work, scientists now say that there must be a bizarre form of matter that does not affect or interact with light, visible or invisible, in any way. They call this hypothetical particle which cannot be seen or detected, “the axion.” The axion would explain dark matter, but the big question is how can we detect it?

As science attempts to understand the nature of the world we live in, it becomes evident that the creation is not just the physical world that our senses can detect. Seeing, smelling, hearing, feeling, and tasting are wonderful, but they are just physical manifestations of something far more significant.

For Christians, this is not the mystery that it might be to an atheist. Hebrews 11:3 says it well: “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God so that things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” My physics studies have convinced me that the world we can see is just a snippet of the total creation.

We are beginning to understand that there are many dimensions beyond what our senses perceive. Even when we extend our senses with machines, we still cannot detect the axion. The wonder of creation simply brings us back to the Psalmist’s song: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalms 19:1). The cry of wisdom in Proverbs 8:22-23 reminds us of our limitations: “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way before His works of old I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or before the Earth existed.”

Remember that “All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made (John 1:3). Science is a friend of faith, and God has given us a limited view of what He has done. The full scope of creation is beyond our comprehension, but science helps fill in some gaps in our understanding. Perhaps someday science will find the axion.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: American Scientists, May/June 2021, pages 158-165.

The Complexity of the Cosmos

The Complexity of the Cosmos

The complexity of the cosmos is so incredible that it baffles the best scientific minds of our day. Scientists have employed elaborate machines to try to understand more of the nature of the creation.

When I was a high school student, we learned that the cosmos is made up of electrons, protons, and neutrons. All of chemistry and physics could be explained by the measurements of these three particles. When I took my first college course in nuclear science, I began to work in the cyclotron, assisting graduate Ph.D. candidates. I realized the creation was not as simple as it appears. As an atheist, this was distressing because I could see that human knowledge of the complexity of the cosmos was, at best, incomplete.

As a graduate student, I was privileged to work with equipment that could smash protons to see what was inside. “Fundamental particles” was a term that began to show up in the scientific literature, and gradually another “simple explanation of everything” began to emerge. It was called “The Standard Model of particle physics.” It consisted of leptons (such as the electron), and quarks which made up protons and neutrons.

This model also required force particles called bosons to hold things together. With larger and more powerful accelerators, scientists discovered still more particles which were the glue holding everything together. These particles were part of the structure of matter called gluons and the Higgs boson. The complexity of the cosmos was becoming more impressive.

Despite all of this work by literally thousands of physicists worldwide, they were still seeing things that didn’t fit all of the models. Galaxies were spinning too fast to hold together unless some unknown and unseen force was counteracting the centrifugal force of the rotation. The latest measurements show that 68.3% of the creation is made up of energy we can’t detect by any existing instrumentation. We can measure the mass of the cosmos, but 26.8% of the mass we know must be there because of gravitational fields is missing. Scientists now refer to the two missing quantities as “dark energy” and “dark matter.”

The complexity of the cosmos causes us to wonder at the intelligence that created all of this. We will examine this topic more tomorrow.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Is Life Worth Living?

Is Life Worth Living?

People sometimes ask, “Is life worth living?” I recently read a police report of a young man standing on the ledge of a very tall building threatening to jump. He finally said to the police officer who was trying to talk him down, “Can you convince me that life is worth living?” The officer hesitated, not knowing how to answer that question, and the young man jumped. An interesting fact about life on planet Earth is that only humans can commit suicide. (There is a false story that lemmings commit suicide, but we have dealt with that before.)

The year 2020 gave everyone reasons to question the value of life. Disease, loss of loved ones, abuse, political chaos, sexual issues, and various mental issues have combined to cause people to desire a life worth living. One argument for faith is that it provides a reason to live, even when life’s traumas make it difficult.

What does atheism offer to make life worth living when things turn bad? When I was a child, singer Peggy Lee had a song titled “Is That All There Is?” She sang about wanting something very badly, but the result was never as good as what she imagined. It is like buying an expensive new car you have wanted to own for a very long time. Then after having it for a while, wondering why you spent that much money. Everything in life is like that. Even marriage has the familiar half-life. In courtship and engagement, you have the belief that your potential mate is that person with whom you want to spend your life. But once the newness wears off, marriage becomes something that takes effort to keep it working.

What I have described so far applies to all of us. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon, a man with great wealth and power, expressed his struggle with what the world offers. As you read through the book, you see that he does it all and has it all, but he finds it is all meaningless. The Bible is full of stories about men who had opportunities to be very successful. Moses had it made as the adopted son of the Pharaoh’s daughter. Then Hebrews 11:24-27 tells us that he “forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of Pharaoh to see Him who is invisible.” Paul was trained by Gamaliel, a well-known scholar, and was on his way to becoming a leader of Judaism (Acts 22:3). But, like Moses, he found something better.

So atheists and Christians face similar problems in keeping an active life worth living.
What makes Christianity different, and why does it lead to an optimistic, upbeat feeling about life, even when things go wrong? The answer is that Christians have a purpose for our lives. Solomon wrote as a conclusion to his discussion of life’s meaninglessness: “I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men, yet they cannot fathom what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That every man may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil–this is the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 3:9-13).

Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:8-11 that God had a purpose for his life and an eternal purpose which was accomplished in Christ. In Acts 9:10-19, God tells Ananias about Saul and says that “this man is my chosen instrument.” Having that purpose for his life drove Saul to become Paul and leave his leadership in Judaism to suffer abuse as a Christian.

We are all chosen instruments. Our skills and talents may not be as spectacular as Paul’s, but God created every one of us to do something unique. We must choose whether or not to accept the purpose for which God created us. But having a purpose and fulfilling that purpose makes life worth living, meaningful, and worthwhile. Not only do we find fulfillment in doing what God created us to do, but having purpose means being able to face the problems of life and use those things to accomplishing our purpose.

Being a Christian does not mean we will be immune to the problems that everyone faces. If that were the case, people would become Christians for the wrong reason to escape their problems. Instead, what Christians have is the promise of God that there will be a way of escape from those problems (1 Corinthians 10:13). Furthermore, the problems, including death, will be used as part of our service to God.

The heartbreak of having a child born with multiple handicaps and later losing my wife have given me unique opportunities and satisfaction in my efforts as a Christian. There is a life worth living when you have a purpose for existing, and you can see that the purpose extends beyond your existence on Earth.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Lightning and Hydroxyl Radicals

Lightning and Hydroxyl Radicals

Lightning and hydroxyl radicals are among the lesser-known agents that clean our atmosphere. Hydroxyl radicals are composed of a single oxygen atom combined with a hydrogen atom. Since the valence of these two atoms is minus two and plus one, respectively, the combined charge is minus one. That means that the OH- radical will attach itself to any plus-charged atom or molecule. Numerous molecules in our atmosphere offer a positive charge, such as carbon monoxide and methane. Also, many organic compounds have loosely held hydrogen atoms. When the hydroxyl radical attaches itself to another hydrogen atom, the product is water.

Even if you don’t understand all of the chemistry involved here, it should be evident that the materials the hydroxyl radicals attach themselves to are common atmospheric pollutants. Hydroxyl is an air cleaning compound designed to remove natural contaminants and human-caused pollution as well. In typical situations, the concentration of hydroxyl radicals is a few ppt (parts per trillion). Keeping our atmosphere free of damaging pollutants requires much more than that.

Recent discoveries have shown that lightning produces significant numbers of hydroxyls. In 2012, a NASA jet flying through storm clouds over Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas detected hydroxyl concentrations of thousands of ppt. Electricity from lightning can produce enough hydroxyl radicals to keep our air clean of any natural pollutants and help to reduce human-caused pollution.

We have said before that lightning takes nitrogen from the atmosphere and produces nitrates that provide essential nutrients for plants. Now we know that lightning is also indispensable as an air cleaning tool. With lightning and hydroxyl radicals, God has designed a tool that not only allows plants to provide our food but also cleans our air.

John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Science News for June 5, 2021, page 13, and ScienceDirect.com

Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere

Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere

June 20, 2021, was the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and the longest period of sunlight of any day this year. Now that we have passed the summer solstice, the days are getting shorter. That raises the question of why the summer solstice is not the hottest day of the year since the Sun is up for the longest time. The answer to that is simple. It’s because every day until September’s fall equinox has more hours of sunlight than darkness, and there is a heat lag. It takes a long time for Earth to heat up after winter, so normally the hottest day is well after the summer solstice.

A more important point is why the summer solstice happens and how it is critical to life on planet Earth. The cause of the solstice and the equinox is that Earth is tilted on its axis by 23 ½ degrees. As it orbits the Sun, that tilt causes every point on Earth to experience different amounts of Sun each day and controls the angles at which the Sun’s rays hit Earth’s surface. On the equinox, the Sun is directly overhead at the equator. At noon, the Sun would shine down to the bottom of a well on the equator. Every other latitude on the planet would have the Sun’s rays hitting Earth’s surface at an angle that is not perpendicular.

As Earth revolves around the Sun, it is essentially a giant gyroscope with the poles always pointed in the same direction. It isn’t until the solstices that the Sun would shine right down a well at its northern or southern position, and that happens to be 23 ½ degrees north or south latitude. So why is that important?

If Earth did not have the axis tilt, we would not have the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. The Sun would always be directly overhead at the equator all the time. Land near the equator would be so hot that life could not exist there. Areas to the north and south would be extremely cold. The temperature differences would create extreme winds, making life difficult. When scientists ran computer simulations, they found that 23 ½ degrees is ideal for minimizing overheating and cooling.

Earth also has a heat sink designed into it—the oceans. Most of the southern hemisphere is covered with water, while the northern hemisphere has more land. Since Earth’s orbit is an ellipse rather than a perfect circle, the southern oceans absorb much of the heat when Earth is closest to the Sun. It just happens that Earth is closest to the Sun when the Southern Hemisphere is in the summer season. It seems like it was planned that way.

We are thankful that we had the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. The Earth’s tilt, spin, and distribution of land and water are not accidents. They are designed features of our planet that speak of God’s wisdom and planning in the creation.

— John N. Clayton © 2021