- 1st Chronicles 16:30, "Tremble before Him, all the earth; Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved."
- Psalms 93:1b, " Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved."
- Ecclesiastes 1:5, "Also, the sun rises and the sun sets; And hastening to its place it rises there again."
Their argument was that the Bible said the (1) the earth was fixed and could not move, and, (2) the sun is what moves. Therefore, anything he sees in "science" that contradicts the word of God is false. I agree that if something contradicts the Word of God then it is false but the problem is distinguishing between the Word of God and my interpretation.
Galileo responded by saying:
"Hence in expounding the Bible if one were always to confine oneself to the unadorned grammatical meaning, one might fall into error… Thus it would be necessary to assign to God feet, hands and eyes, as well as corporeal and human affections, such as anger, repentance, hatred, and sometimes even the forgetting of` things past and ignorance of those to come. These propositions uttered by the Holy Ghost were set down in that manner by the sacred scribes in order to accommodate them to the capacities, Of the common people, who are rude and unlearned.”
His point is that the Bible can be read literally without being read literalistically. The difference is this...by literal we mean interpreting the text through proper hermeneutical laws that take into consideration genres. By literalistically we mean believing that God is a rock with a right arm because the Bible says in two different places that "He is our rock" and "by God's right hand".
So then how we do we read Genesis? We must take a few things into consideration.
- The Bible has different genres. You cannot read the Song of Solomon the same way you read 1st Samuel. One is poetry and the other is history.
- Some books of the Bible have multiple genres. It would be wrong to read an entire book of the Bible by only classifying it as one genre. Revelation is actually an Epistle for it was written to the 7 churches of Asia Minor. Yet at the same time most of the book is given in "signs" (Rev 1:1; NASB translates semaino as "communicated" but it is a communication through symbols). Therefore, it is apocalyptic language. The book of Exodus is classified as Law (cf. Luke 24:44, compare Exodus 13:2 & Luke 2:23) yet is also contains History and at times Poetry (cf. Exodus 15). Gulliver's Travels is a contemporary example. It is a children's story but on the other hand is an attack on scientism and overly optimistic views of human nature.
- There is a difference between Reading and Interpreting. When we read we are attempting to understand the connotation of words and their relation to one another. For example, "cool" can mean a temperature or someone's personal preference (I think that hat is cool). When we interpret we are asking, "What does that mean?". The key is never to confuse our interpretation with what the text actually says.
- We need to read the Bible through the lens of the culture of the original author and recipients. We often forget that the books of the Bible were not written by middle class western Americans in the 21st Century. We cannot say, "If I had written history this is how I would have written it." We must examine the culture of the original author and recipients to rightly examine genre. We have learned a great deal about the polemical nature of Genesis 1-2 from studying other ancient near eastern cultures. Now that we know the different deities they worshipped we can see how Genesis 1 is highly polemical, showing that Yahweh created, and thus has dominion over, the other so called gods that the ancients worshipped. If Egypt worshipped the sun as a god but Yahweh created the sun then that shows the fallacy of worshipping the sun.
Therefore, even though the Bible is applicable to all of us today let us take a moment of pause as we approach the Scriptures. Let us remember they were written by ancient people to ancient people in a different culture.