Brian Bull and Fritz Guy Discuss Genesis 1 and Modern Science (Part 2)

Perhaps we should say that Scripture is verbally inspired but that it is not verbally transcribed. This is one of the thoughts I carried away with me after Brian Bull and Fritz Guy made their second presentation at the Roy Branson Legacy Sabbath School about their book God, Sky & Land: Genesis 1 as the Ancient Hebrews Heard It (Adventist Forum, 2011). Watch Part 1 here.

Bull and Guy circled one of their claims so often that it almost became the hub of their entire presentation. This is that we can think with words and nothing but words. Wordless thoughts are impossible. We can feel without words but we cannot think without them.

I looked around the room during the time for discussion to see what questions the audience might ask the presenters. One individual asked the following:

If we say that God conveys thoughts to us in Scripture, and if we say that we can think only with words, doesn't this mean that in some sense the words of Scripture are inspired and doesn't this amount to some theory of verbal inspiration?

The terms "in some sense" and "some theory" are overwhelmingly important because we want to avoid two untenable conclusions. One is the suggestion of some mystics that the most intense experiences of God do not include thoughts in the ordinary sense of the term. The other is some parallel to the Muslim claim that God communicated to humanity in the Qu'ran in Arabic because this was the best language to do so, and that this is the language in which we should read it today.

Watch Brian Bull and Fritz Guy on "Genesis 1 and Modern Science" (Part 2):

This discussion occurred at the Roy Branson Legacy Sabbath School (RBLSS) class in Loma Linda, California on March 24, 2018. Watch Part 1 here.

Brian Bull graduated from the Loma Linda University School of Medicine in 1961. He works in Loma Linda, California and one other location and specializes in Anatomic Pathology & Clinical Pathology and Hematology.

Fritz Guy is a Seventh-day Adventist theologian and Research Professor of Philosophical Theology at La Sierra University in Riverside, California. He has worked as a college and university professor, an academic administrator, and a church pastor. In recent years, Guy has espoused progressive Adventist theology, with lectures and articles exploring the temporality of God, the hope of universal salvation, the theology of creation, and the morality of same-sex relationships. In a 1985 survey of North American Adventist academics, Guy tied for fourth place among the Adventist authors who had most influenced them. In 1989, Gary Chartier noted a widespread view that Guy "was the leading Adventist systematic theologian of his generation."

They have recently published a second book: God, Land, and the Great Flood: Hearing the Story with 21st Century Christian Ears (Adventist Forum, 2017).

Dr. David Larson is Professor of Religion at Loma Linda University.

Image Credit: Video Still

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
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Linguistics, a subsidiary discipline of hermeneutics, after about 100 years studying this matter has come to the conclusion that thoughts and language are not the same thing. Wordless thoughts happen all of the time. The capability of language to express thoughts is limited. Take a stroll across campus and talk to someone who teaches linguistics. We can affirm that the thoughts of the Bible writers are divinely inspired. In contrast, the words of the Bible writers are not divinely inspired, because words do not have the capacity to be divinely inspired. Not even words spoken or written by God are divinely inspired. (I can take you through an exercise to demonstrate why this is so). Jean Grondin writes about his conversation with Gadamer, who affirms after some writing to the contrary, that thoughts and language are not one and the same. There is always a lag between thoughts and language, between the logos endiathetos and the logos prophorikos. The hermeneutical endeavor is to go beyond the words and discern the thoughts of the author or speaker. The thoughts of the writer or speaker are always and everywhere different than what is written or spoken. Accordingly, the universal claim of hermeneutics lies in the verbum interius.

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This is not a comment addressed to Phil.
I have recently been introduced to Malcolm Gladwell. Here is a link to his latest podcast and I’m interested if the topic he speaks on (memory), has any bearing on the subject of the above video presentation. My gut feeling is that there could well be a distinct connection…but then we are dealing with God and his foreknowledge of His written communication with humanity for all time.
There are of course many brighter minds out there than mine. Please comment.

Might I also add Pt 1

At least the authors recognize repeatedly that they know little of Hebrew because their “literal” translation lets that much on. Larson was right when he pointed out at the end how it is much more convoluted than the simple, original, “and he saw the light and it was good.”

Guy and Bull have strong presuppositional lenses which apply curious colors to the text of Genesis. How can they be so certain that Moshe was a brute when it came to understanding of the natural world? Why haven’t they checked all the references to ‘eretz, “land, earth” in the OT before making such sweeping claim that it never means “the planet”? It certainly seems to have this meaning in Gen 19:31; 41:57; Jer 25:26; Isa 23:17.

This book may preach to a certain group of readers already convinced but it lacks rigor IMO.


Thank you for posting this series. I am blessed and encouraged by the work of Bull and Guy.

Your answer can be found by reading their book.

In short it didn’t mean the planet, because no one then knew they were on a planet nor did they even have the concept of a planet. It is not really possible for an author to write about something he does not know exists. Similarly the authors didn’t write about galaxies or black holes or bacteria or germs or glaciers or many other things they didn’t know existed, even in stores where those types of things would have fit nicely.

That is an assumption that does not rise from the text. There’s nothing in Genesis that allows us to decide one way or another.

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Yes, there is as is pointed out in the book, and in other similar scholarly works on the subject. We very much know that the ancients did not know they were on a planet. It’s basic history.

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I don’t think we can know for certain what they did or didn’t know. Again, nothing in the text necessitates this assumption. It’s not central to understanding the text.

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It seems rather clear you have not read the book. That would be a good start.

Historians disagree with your assertions. Based on many ancient texts we know what they knew, know how ancients viewed these things. There were a variety of beliefs, but none included the science of cosmology we know today, or any science at all since they didn’t have science even as a concept.

And, it is very important to know what the authors and the hearers of the text thought they were describing, because that informs us on how to read the text. The same applied to reading any historical text.

I have read the book.

Genesis itself seems to contradict the notion that all ancient peoples were ignorant about the natural world. To bring evidence outside the text to prove what the text must mean seems like circular reasoning to me.

Lum: Things fall down because of the law gravity.
Abner: They don’t need no law. They just do.:rofl:

If we don’t bend the words of Genesis to fit our own cosmology, the words of Genesis don’t fit our own cosmology. Their idea of space was water, not a vacuum. They only had one “up”. Their “firmament” was just that, firm enough to support a limitless quantity of water.

The stars and planets weren’t spheres unbelievable distances away. The Genesis author(s) weren’t speaking in metaphor. They accepted the common belief that the lights were persons. The sun and moon were their rulers. And they signaled us when it was time to observe the festivals God gave.

The fountains of the deep didn’t mean deep enough to reach huge water tables, It meant deep enough to reach the “deep”, the water around them in all six directions.

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How does it do that?

Not at all. There all kinds of knowledge of ancient culture that is used to inform us of what the text means, from written to stuff we have found using archeology. Using outside information is the opposite of circular reasoning.