Monday, November 07, 2016

Isaac Asimov, Leviticus 11:19, and Bats Qua Birds

A friend of mine recently talked with a biologist in the minstry, and one thing that grieves this person is that the Bible (KJV) classifies bats as birds. My friend and I both did research on the issue; we found some helpful information. However, I never expected to find a defense of the Bible on this score from Asimov, even though I once read part of his Bible commentary in my younger days.


Duncan said...

This reminds me of the Jonah "big fish" issue. Would this account differentiate between a whale shark & an actual whale just because we understand today that a whale is a mammal?

Is the bible a book of "science" as many people understand science today?

I think this demonstrates the cultural divide over form and function - to a Hebrew if it functions as a fish or a bird then it is a fish or a bird.

Duncan said...

An update regarding the way people might or might not think:-

Edgar Foster said...

As we've often been reminded by the organization and others, the Bible is not a scientific treatise. Science, as we define the term, did not exist in ancient times. So it's anachronistic to read our values/knowledge back into the Bible. Now I'm not imputing this view to you, but just replying to the question you raised.

"Bird" or flying creature? Doesn't NWT render Lev. 11:13 differently from KJV?

I'm not sure about the form/function thing for ancient Hebrews. Maybe they held to that view, I just don't know.

Duncan said...

Well we even have birds that hang on like Bats.

"flying creature" - but my point is there is no differentiation. We cannot know for sure about Hebrew thought but there are a number of examples that are quite suggestive in their lack of what I would call precision. A precision that would probably be redundant for their purposes.

Since many of the bird names are highly speculative, perhaps it is referring to ones that exclusively eat insects & carrion over ones that eat berries? There are a number of possibilities.

Did these exist elsewhere in the past - Like the winged serpent.

Duncan said...

Compare Leviticus 1:14 "πετεινών" with 11:13 "πετεινών".

ABP translates as "birds" & "winged creatures".

ὄρνεον is bird, nothing to indicate for example "bird of prey" and the Hebrew term ayiṭ seems to have more to do with the action on hopping as opposed to flight.

Duncan said...

Deut 14:11-18 is interesting for comparison. MT & LXX.