[Originally published as the concluding point of Defending a Young Earth: A Response to Tyler Vela (Part 1)]
In recent days, a talented, skillful, and gracious Christian apologist named Tyler Vela has been advocating in defense of a particular brand of “framework hypothesis.” Although he claims to have “no dog” in the “age of the earth debate,” that has not stopped him from releasing materials attempting to refute common young-age creationist arguments. Each main point will be the argument as stated in Tyler’s article. Below, I will post a direct quote (or quotes) that captures the thrust of his objection and my response below. I will make note of any time I quote Tyler directly within my response.
Young Earth Creationists claim: Jesus took Genesis literally and so should we.
There are two major problems with this argument. Firstly, it treat [sic] Genesis as a singular genre – historical narrative…the second major problem is that the passages used to support this kind of argument often prove far too much. ~Vela
Sadly, Tyler has become a pro at creating strawmen and raising objections without the proper nuance/context. No creationist ever has argued that Jesus took every word of Genesis literally.
Once again, we want to say that Jesus took Genesis naturally. He references events that appear to be historical (i.e., they have genealogical and theological relationships with other characters, events, etc. of undisputed historicity) in order to make a point about the circumstance He is addressing. John 1 teaches that He was there at creation, therefore, we rightly assume that He knew a little bit about the events that took place.
Tyler then goes on to mention a lengthy list of “problems” with Mark 10:6, one of the passages that he rightly mentions that creationists often use to support the fact that Jesus took Genesis literally/naturally.
His argument is long but can be summed up by the following paraphrase: “Jesus was not referencing the beginning of creation, but the beginning of the creation of humanity. Further, the context is referencing divorce which is not a consideration until humans are present anyway. Therefore, whether it was six days or 14 billion years into the future, is irrelevant.”
First of all, let me say that I am in agreement with Vela’s sentiment on this point. Scripture ought to be read and taken in context in order to understand the meaning. However, with that nuance comes the fact that some statements simply have meaning in themselves and have no particular bearing on the context at hand.
So in this case, does the fact that this passage is clearly about divorce nullify what is meant by “from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female”? Notice, in context, that Jesus is supplying this statement as the premise of an argument.
Jesus is saying “from the beginning…male and female…therefore.” So it is axiomatic to Jesus’ point that they were made male and female from the beginning of the creation. Now, here’s where natural language comes in.
Tyler wants to split hairs and say that the text cannot mean what recent creationists would like for it to, because even on our view, male and female were not made at the beginning of creation, but on the sixth day. Therefore, Tyler seems to be saying that the meaning must be “from the beginning of the creation of male and female they were made male and female.” I suppose he is welcome to draw this interpretation, but it’s certainly not obvious that Jesus would have such a redundant idea in mind.
He also asserts that the parallel passage (Matthew 19) clears up confusion and necessitates that it is only the origin of humanity that is in view, but does not state how it accomplishes this, nor was I able to find how this is accomplished on a careful reading of my own. This article takes special care to address the claim.
I would suggest, rather, that Jesus — being a human like us — used language in a similar way that we do. What if I said to you, “Boy, I sure would love to go to Disney World again. My family went four years ago and loved every minute of it!”
Are you going to pull out the calendar and hold me to that? What if we had actually gone three years, 42 weeks, and four days ago? Would that make me a liar? Or unclear by any reasonable standard? Of course not!
Therefore, I contend that Jesus is simply saying that they were made at the beginning of the creation. If they were made six days after the initial moment of creation (His audience would have understood exactly what He meant.), this is reasonable communication. The point made by recent creationists is that this natural way of speaking becomes completely unreasonable if man was made 14 billion years after creation.
To get around that, you have to read these Scriptures quite unnaturally as shown above by Tyler’s presumed reading. Therefore, in an effort to combat so-called “YEC literalism,” Vela has demonstrated that YECs, in fact, are the ones who read the text naturally, and it is he who, in impressing a hyper-literal interpretation on the text, must read it unnaturally.
To strengthen his argument, Tyler again appeals to an ultra-literal interpretation of John 8:44, which says that Satan was a “murderer from the beginning.” He asks rhetorically, “Well was Satan a murderer before humans existed — from the moment of creation? That would be a huge stretch to imagine that before the fall in the garden.”
Tyler makes a fair and interesting point. However, Thayer’s Greek Lexicon provides another perspective. According to it, “murderer” is the word anthropoktonos, a manslayer, murderer: John 8:44. contextually, to be deemed equal to a murderer, 1 John 3:15. (Euripides, Iph. T. (382) 389.)” [emphasis mine].
It offers the comparison text 1 John 3:15, which reads, “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” On Tyler’s own standard, then, if you’ve ever held hatred towards a brother in Christ, you could also literally be a murderer! Taken naturally and in context, however, the text actually means you can be a “murderer” without having killed anyone — it has to do with the condition of your heart, not your actions. The same seems to be true of Satan and certainly was true of him before the creation of man.¹
The above is one possible way of understanding this text. However, yet another possible interpretation remains. In part two, we’ll see that Tyler is going to argue that whatever Moses meant by “day” in Exodus 20:11 is the same thing he meant in Genesis 1. We’ll address that. But let’s apply Vela’s own logic to the current objection.
Since Jesus made both “from the beginning” statements (the one about Adam and Eve in Mark/Matthew and the one about Satan in John), it’s reasonable to conclude that whatever is meant by one is meant by the other. Since the Mark and Matthew passages much more clearly demonstrate that Jesus can be talking about the beginning, even if He simply means to convey a short time from the beginning, or around the time of the beginning, I see no reason this logic shouldn’t apply to the John statement as well.
So then as with the Mark/Matthew statements, if the Fall was in close proximity to the initial creation (some scholars argue that the fall took place in as little as four weeks from the close of creation week), the John passage is quite reasonable. It follows the same sort of pattern as my Disney World illustration above. If, however, an old-age interpretation is true, this statement once again becomes quite unnatural, as “from the beginning” would either have to be stated in a redundant, unnatural fashion or “from the beginning” would have to actually mean “14 Billion years from the beginning.” The young age interpretation seems the most perspicuous, by a long shot.
Therefore, I conclude that Tyler’s fourth objection fails. Jesus did mean to be taken naturally when saying they were made male and female from the beginning of the creation, and the details of the text do no harm whatsoever to understanding it this way.
- Of course, this is not to say that Satan is not literally a murderer as well. He is, and that is certainly consistent with the context of John 8:44. But his murderous spirit pre-existed the creation of man (which is clearly surmised from his temptation of Eve in the garden and expulsion from heaven), allowing for the notion that he could be considered a murderer even before there was someone on earth to murder.