2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 10:30 AM


KELLEY, Patricia H., Department of Earth Sciences, Univ of North Carolina at Wilmington, Wilmington, NC 28403, kelleyp@uncw.edu

Because creationism in any of its guises is a religious (rather than scientific) concept, modern Biblical scholarship represents a valuable resource for teachers of evolution. Such scholarship reveals problems with the literalist approach to the Hebrew scriptures that forms the basis for young-earth creationism.

Knowledge of how the Hebrew texts were written, assembled, modified and canonized demonstrates problems with Biblical literalism. The oldest consistent texts date from the first century AD, long after their authorship; the original Hebrew texts had no vowels or punctuation (vowels were added in the 9th and 10th century AD). Because of such problems with the Hebrew texts, no translation can be completely literal; all translations must involve interpretation.

Modern Biblical scholarship indicates that interpreting the Genesis texts as historical or scientific documents, as done by biblical literalists, is inappropriate. Genesis contains two different creation accounts; Genesis 1 dates from the Babylonian exile (6th century BC) whereas the Genesis 2 story dates from the reign of King Solomon (10th century BC). These accounts differ in such aspects as language, emphasis, and mode and sequence of creation. In addition, the Bible includes several other widely differing creation accounts (e.g., Proverbs 8, Psalm 74, Job 26). Inclusion of such varying accounts in the Old Testament indicates that the writers did not intend them as historical, scientific narratives.

Objections of students, parents, and the public to teaching evolution often stem from the misperception that evolution contradicts the Biblical account of creation. Modern Biblical scholarship dispels this view by demonstrating that the creation narratives were not intended as historical. Teachers who understand these results of Biblical scholarship can better address challenges to evolution based on Biblical literalism. Depending on the course being taught (e.g., science or humanities), such material may be presented directly in class or used in discussion or question and answer sessions or in conversations with individual students. Clergy from mainline religious denominations that accept the results of modern Biblical scholarship represent an outstanding resource to teachers unfamiliar with the development of the Biblical literature.