The Bible, in HD

August’s scheduled crazy metaphor/analogy/tool of evangelism thing from James J. S. Johnson turns out to be high definition video recording. In Biblical Truth in High Definition he gives us some insights into the mind of God: specifically that He likes knitting, prefers splashing away His bathwater over pulling the plug, never learned even rudimentary grammar in school, and is just generally a lazy bastard. Observe:

The stunning clarity of HD television has revolutionized our way of viewing the world around us. Those of us old enough to have grown up with basic black-and-white TV know that the introduction of color to the screen—and now high-definition color—brings superior clarity to the people, landscapes, action, and much more in our new wide-screen experience. The story (i.e., the dialogue, character movements, etc.) is still the same as it was in the old black-and-white box, but our senses are immediately aware of the richer details that we now can see. Color makes all the difference in the world, and HD gives sharpness and clarity to the minutest details of the images moving before us.

Similarly, our study of Scripture can be wonderfully enhanced by digging into the goldmine of original word studies, revealing to us a deeper comprehension of the meaning of words and phrases as biblical stories unfold before us. Every word, even the “jot and tittle,” is vital because it was God-breathed. So every detail of the original language is key to our understanding and appreciation of what God is communicating to us.

The primary flaw with his analogy here is that there has been no equivalent breakthrough with bible study of late as there has been with HD television, unless he’s suddenly drunk the freedom-aide viz Andy Schlafly’s Conservative Bible Project.

Anyway, his first example of “profound meanings” that “will inspire awe” is:

God used “needlework” to build babies in the womb.

Why would King David refer to a baby in the womb as being knit or woven together like a piece of needlework? David was not privileged to know about DNA, RNA, protein synthesis, or how a baby’s bodily tissues are knit (or woven) into their respective places as parts of a growing unborn baby.

It's even ribbed!This is from Psalms (specifically Psalm 139:15), a famously metaphorical book of the bible, which might help explain things. Anyway, Johnson wants to force a literal interpretation on things so he can pass off a piece of Biblical Scientific Foreknowledge™:

Even the King James translators, who typically translated Hebrew words as literally as possible, appear to have shied away from the literal Hebrew of Psalm 139:15 that they translated as:

My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth [emphasis added [and made more evident by me as the italics obviously aren’t going to show up in this theme]].

The passive verb translated by the English phrase “curiously wrought” is a form of raqâm, paralleling that verse’s earlier (and more general) passive verb “made.” But what does raqâm mean? Ultimately, the authoritative meaning for any biblical word is the meaning that Scripture itself uses for that word. To discern God’s meaning for the words He uses, we compare Scripture with Scripture.

Those damn liberals! Did you know James VI/I was a homosexual? Anyway, the logic used by Johnson here should be familiar to those of you who have read either Morris III’s article in this issue or PZ and/or the SC‘s commentaries thereof – I’ll get there myself in good time. Johnson writes:

If we review every use in the Bible of the Hebrew verb raqâm, what do we observe? The verb raqâm appears nine times. Eight are translated as “needlework,” “needleworker,” or “embroiderer.”

He gives a footnote:

The Hebrew active participle form of raqâm translates as “needlework” or “needleworker” in Exodus 26:36; 27:16; 28:39; 36:37; 38:18; 39:29. “Embroiderer” is likewise used for raqâm participles in Exodus 35:35; 38:23. The only time that the verb raqâm is translated “curiously wrought” is in Psalm 139:15, where the verb is in the puâl (intensive passive) form.

Other differences include the fact that this instance is in a different book by a different author writing at a much later time and generally writing metaphorically.

While another footnote claims that ““Weaving” perfectly describes how human body tissues are constructed,” I’m fairly certain that’s bullshit or at very least setting a rather low bar for perfection. It’s clearly not to be taken entirely literally (otherwise it would be wrong), and once we concede even that the passage becomes so vague as to be meaningless. Johnson’s view of scripture is blurrier than what I see when I take my glasses off.

Moving right along, past an obvious plug for a Morris book, we are told:

God used “back-and-forth” motion to wash the world as the floodwaters drained.

Another word study provides insight to creation apologetics—the worldwide Flood’s drainage (Genesis 8:3) was anything but “tranquil.” Specifically, the draining floodwaters were geographically “returning…continually,”  according to the Hebrew phrase halôkh vashûbh, literally portraying ocean tides swaying in a “back and forth” rhythm (continually going forth and returning)—denoting continuous “going and returning” action. Notice how the biblical text’s precision in Genesis 8:3 matches the geologic evidence, as we have previously reported.

This insight may well be an ICR invention as the only place I can find even the Hebrew phrase is on (or from) their website. Indeed, it only appears elsewhere in an Acts & Facts article by Johnson and John Morris from January which I didn’t cover. His ‘previous reporting’ is referenced to be that article, and we also have another footnote:

Technically, these linked Hebrew verbs (halôkh vashûbh) are infinitives that function as participles denoting durative action.

To summarise, the ICR thinks that this means ‘continually like the tides’ rather than ‘continually like the plug has been pulled out’ and we only have their word for it that their interpretation is correct – and we might not even have that depending on what that dense footnote actually means. You understand that his verse is a total quote mine, with the KJV version of Genesis 8:3 actually saying:

And the waters returned from off the earth continually: and after the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were abated.

He uses all this to apparently slate those silly pre-geology creationists who thought that the flood was indeed rather placid, and retroactively finds support in his text for his views that have evolved out of necessity to deal with (to deny and not accept, I’ll add) changing knowledge about the world.

Next up:

God overruled Hebrew grammar rules to teach Trinitarian theology.

Hebrew word studies demonstrate their value in the Bible’s first verse: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” The subject is “God,” translating the Hebrew text’s plural noun Elohîm. The action verb is “created,” translating the Hebrew text’s singular verb bara’.

What a grammar teacher’s conundrum! A plural subject noun with a singular verb!

Yet what better way to foreshadow the Bible’s Trinitarian theology of God’s being? This is clarified later in Scripture, of course, as the Great Commission illustrates, but the doctrine is introduced in Genesis 1:1. The universe’s Maker is plural, yet one.

That’s bullshit because a) Elohim works perfectly well as a singular noun when working with singular verbs and b) if God really was foreshadowing the trinity you’d think he’d do it properly and use the plural form of ‘created’ as well, rather than this apparent nonsense. And shouldn’t the Jews, along with the anti-trinitarians like the ICR’s buddy Newton,* have picked up on this? This is about as bad as using the use of the ‘royal we’ in various Genesis passages in some translations to arrive at the same conclusion (a mistake I once made but was quickly corrected on, having never come across that style of language before).

Finally:

God created directly, but not “intensively.”

Genesis 1:1 has more to say about God’s first action as Creator—informing us about what God’s action of creating was and what it was not.

Hebrew verbs usually appear in one of these seven basic forms: qal (simple active), niphâl (simple passive), piêl (intensive active), puâl (intensive passive), hiphîl (causative active), hophâl (causative passive), hithpaêl (active and passive combined—i.e., your action directly impacts yourself, like combing your own hair).8

Genesis 1:1 uses a singular masculine qal verb, bara’ (“He created”). So what does that tell us about God’s action?

From God’s perspective, His action of creating was “simple”; it was not “intensive” work. Astoundingly, God did not work very hard to decree into existence, from nothing, all the heavens and earth!

Yes, he’s supposed to be omnipotent, you know. And as everyone knows, creating a universe is much easier than either finding Adam in the garden or helping his chosen people defeat the ancient technological prowess of the Canaanites.

Also, God’s work of creating was not merely “causative.” God acted directly, not merely as a first cause instigator triggering a long series of dominoes.

God: not just a first cause. Don’t you think Johnson is over interpreting a little?

The rest of Scripture also offers a legacy of word study gems, waiting to be mined. A wealth of hidden treasures awaits those who take the time to look closer. Our understanding of the Word of God is enhanced—much like our perception of the screen when we look at a high-definition color television—when we study the original language text of the Bible.

There’s more? Oh dear. Did the Lord play with Lego at Babel too? Truly, marvellous things await those who are prepared to write just one page of bollocks for their Lord God.


*For more information on how the views of Newton and his contemporaries do not actually jive with that of modern creationists very well at all, see this recent Naturalis Historia post.

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