Friday, June 02, 2017

OEC chronology

1. As I've said on more than one occasion, I think it's useful to explore and develop both YEC and OEC interpretations of Genesis. Recently I discussed YEC, now I'll turn to OEC. 

To my knowledge, OEC chronology is less developed than YEC chronology, in the sense that there's less effort to place Gen 1-11 in a general timeline. Biblical chronologies usually begin with Abraham, c. 2000 BC. 

2. The major events in Gen 1-11 are:

i) Creation of the world (Gen 1:1-2:3).

ii) Creation of the Garden (Gen 2).

iii) The Fall (Gen 3)

iv) Ramp up to the Flood (Gen 4-5).

v) The Flood (Gen 6-9).

vii) Tower of Babel

Where do those happen on an OEC timeline? 

3. OEC accepts conventional astronomical and geological dates. 

Like YEC, OEC accepts fiat creation of natural kinds, including the special creation of Adam and Eve.

On OEC, as I understand it, God introduces a natural kind into the ecosystem by fiat creation. Through adaptation, the original nature kind produces a number of varieties.

Natural kinds are phased in in a staggered fashion. For instance, you have the age of the dinosaurs. That includes a corresponding climate and vegetation. 

Then you have the age of birds and mammals. That sort of thing. 

Unlike YEC, OEC doesn't have a particular stake in the order of their appearance. In principle, plants could antedate animals. Marine organisms could antedate land animals. 

BTW, this isn't just a face-saving conjecture. Intelligent design theorists contend that, as a matter of fact, the fossil record does show the abrupt appearance of organisms with well-developed, novel body plans that have no precursors. Likewise, they argue that there is no incremental pathway for some organisms to develop from precursors. 

4. So when does human history begin? I suppose the answer depends in part on our ability to date and distinguish human fossil remains from extinct apes. Darwinians use comparative anatomy. A problem with that frame of refernce is that we can't gauge the mental abilities of fossils. We need living specimens. 

One possible way to demarcate humans from extinct primates is the presence of artifacts which unmistakably indicate human intelligence, viz. artwork, musical instruments, weapons, symbolic markings, domestic construction, burial customs. 

The earliest datable artifacts would give us a rough terminus ad quo. Presumably, humans antedate the earliest artifacts we happen to discover. So the terminus ad quo would be however much earlier. But that's a rough terminus ad quo. 

5. On that chronological spread, the flood might have happened tens of thousands of years ago. 

6. Scholars sometimes attempt to correlate Gen 4:17-22 with archeological periods, viz. neolithic, copper age, bronze age, metallurgy, &c.

However, that involves some dubious assumptions:

By the same token, the Tower of Babel is typically related to Mesopotamian ziggurats. But while that's possible, we need to make allowance for similar structures to develop independently.  For instance, do Egyptians pyramids, Mesoamerican pyramids, and Mesopotamian ziggurats reflect cultural diffusion? Do they go back to a common point of origin? Or do these represent independent developments? 

Whether we should expect to find remnants of the Tower of Babel depends on the date, building materials, erosion, and recycling materials. 

7. Some young-earth creationists believe the genealogies in Gen 5 & 11 are closed, while others believe the genealogies are open. The former think the universe is about 6000 years old while the latter think the universe is about 10,000 old. 

The question is whether an OEC timeline stretches the chronology of Gen 1-11 beyond the breaking point. 

i) Except for partial preterists, young-earth creationists allow for great gaps in long-range prophecy. 

ii) If the basic purpose of the genealogies in Gen 5 & 11 is to trace a lineage from Adam to Abraham, then I don't think it much matters how far apart the links are. The point is that only Abraham has that particular set of ancestors. Doesn't matter how distant they are in relation to each other so long as they converge on Abraham. You just need a sample that singles out Abraham. 

iii) If Gen 1-11 is only concerned with narrating the big events, the most theologically significant events or turning-points leading up to Abraham, then that would be consistent with vast intervals in-between. The Bible is typically severely selective in what it covers. 

1 comment:

  1. As an Old Earth leaning person, I don't assume we need to accept secular geological or cosmological dates. We simply hold that the earth and universe appear to be very old, or at least appear that way. Mature creation is still a viable alternate explanation for the appearances.

    As long as the standard cosmological model relies on conjectures involving dark matter and dark energy, I'm not going to hang my hat on it. More exploration and research is needed.

    Perhaps those questions are not solvable, at least to any significant level of confidence.

    Establishing an Adam to Abraham timeline, however, might be a more realistic goal, as I indicated in our correspondence, but it would require expertise in pre-historic archeology. Even then we would not want to rubber stamp the conclusions of secular scientists. They'll find a charred hazelnut at a site, carbon date it, and say that this is proof of human presence at that date! This kind of "science" needs to be reigned in. To say nothing ofvtge fact that their work is hampered by the pre-commitment to the idea that humans evolves from earlier hominids.