by Professor Nathan Aviezer
Reviewed by David Dangoor
As a summary of current scientific knowledge on matters related to the creation this book is a useful, comprehensive and well researched guide. Unfortunately, that is where its usefulness ends.
The essence of the book is to try and fit the words of the Bible around current scientific theory. Sometimes it tries to do this in an ingenious way, sometimes it is far-fetched, but the explanations provided invariably depend on hindsight. It is not good enough to say for example that the expression in the Bible "Let there be light" is intended to be a reference to the Big Bang, because we can only understand this after we know all about the Big Bang from science. This process therefore removes the whole revelationary aspect of the Bible, which is there to enlighten us, not to provide text that can be interpreted in so many different ways, that the essence becomes meaningless. What is the purpose of the words of the Bible, if they are so inscrutable that we can only understand them once we have obtained the actual knowledge by other means?
Furthermore, the method in this book can be used on many other texts such as the works of Shakespeare, or the writings of Nostradamus. The whole process demeans the Bible to the level of "Bible Codes" where tenuous sequences of letters are strung together to form words to allude to modern day events.
Despite all this, Professor Aviezer's supporters also want to have it both ways. In the foreword, Professor Cyril Domb, also of Bar Ilan University, says: "This book does not abrogate the traditional freedom to interpret the Bible text figuratively when a literal interpretation gives rise to serious difficulties." Meaning, that when we can make the words fit, it's OK, and when we cannot, we just say the Bible is speaking figuratively.
Bible promoters are on to a loser if they just keep trying to change interpretations of the Bible as scientific theory develops. Far better to do what scientists themselves do when confronted with contradictory phenomena in different fields, which is to acknowledge them without demanding immediate resolution of the contradiction. After all, science and religion are looking at the world in different ways, and ought not to be expected to coincide in a simplistic manner.
Regardless of the criticism above, this book is worth picking up for the illumination it provides and the thoughts it provokes on this fascinating subject.
Scribe: The wonderful Bible story of Creation deserves to be credited with the benefit of the doubt. Which reminds me of the television debate some 20 years ago of the motion "That God did not exist," at which Lord Hailsham, the Lord Chancellor, defended the existence of God. The motion failed when the voting was 50-50. Which apparently came as a relief for Lord Hailsham.
I met Lord Hailsham the next day at a Jewish reception and he was amused when I told him that the Daily Mirror that morning had the banner headline on the front page: GOD IS GIVEN THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT, a clever combination of the legal and theological terms.
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