#STRask: April 20, 2017

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Published on 04/20/2017

In 4 min. or less, Greg answers questions about other creation stories, Matthew 27’s historicity, and if God gave light during creation.


  • Are there any good resources that compare the Biblical creation account with other creation mythologies (Egyptian, Canaanite, etc.)?
  • What do you make of Matthew 27:51-53? Has there ever been dispute about it not being a part of original manuscripts?
  • Young Earth Creationists argue that God is the light until the sun is created. If true, wouldn’t we still see that light or would He hide it?


Melinda: Hello, there. I’m Melinda the Enforcer and I’m here with Greg Koukl. This is the #STRask podcast, the short podcast, the podcast where we put Greg on a timer and I pose him your questions that you send us on Twitter using #STRask. Why do you look amused?

Greg: Why did you say Koukl like that, like Greg Koukl?

Melinda: Just for some variation.

Greg: Variation. The thing you should vary is when you open, you say, “Hi, there.”

Melinda: It was more dramatic, Greg Koukl.

Greg: Oh. We should have drum roll or something.

Melinda: Mm-hmm.

Greg: Okay. You were right. It is I. Next.

Melinda: Yeah. Just trying to think.

Greg: You’re trying to think of a comeback. Don’t even-

Melinda: No, I wasn’t thinking of a comeback. I was just thinking-

Greg: Don’t waste your time.

Melinda: ...of the next thing to say. I know, I can’t reply to foolishness intelligently. We post two episodes of STRask every week, Mondays and Thursdays. The longer podcasts we post Wednesdays and Fridays, and Greg is here on Tuesdays taking questions and calls for that longer podcast between 4 and 6 pm Pacific time. You ready to get going on this?

Greg: Yes.

Melinda: Okay. First question comes from bendavid89. Are there any good resources that compare the Biblical creation account with other creation mythologies like from the Egyptians or Canaanites?

Greg: Well, the famous one is the Gilgamesh ethic...epic, rather. Well, there are resources for that. You can Google up the Gilgamesh epic and I’m sure you’re going to get Christians who have compared ours to theirs. Now, the real issue, some people will say since Gilgamesh looks a lot like aspects of the Genesis account that there’s a literary relationship, okay? That means one borrowed from the other. Presumably, Moses borrowed from Gilgamesh.

My view is I don’t care if there’s a literary relationship. You look in the book of Proverbs and there’s a lot of proverbs there that were seized from other wisdom literature of the time, like the wisdom of the Amenemope, that’s available. You see a lot of sections that seem to repeat the same kind of thing. I tell my girls a stitch in time saves nine. If I was putting together proverbs, I would put together Biblical ones and other ones that seem to be valuable, help you to know how life works.

I don’t see any liability or conflict between the idea that there’s a literary relationship between a Biblical text and a non-Biblical test such that the Biblical writer borrowed from the non-Biblical text and the text still being truly inspired. It becomes inspired in the borrowing. That is, these are the words God wanted to communicate even if they were said by someone else first, okay? But I think there’s, in a sense, a silver lining to these things, that if there was a creation the way something similar to what we see in the book of Genesis that we shouldn’t be surprised if other cultures have some recollection in their cultural accounts of creation of what took place. We should see some parallels, just like with the flood.

Melinda: It would be surprising if we didn’t.

Greg: Yes.

Melinda: Because they all could trace their ancestry back to Adam and Eve. Therefore, it would’ve been recounted to them.

Greg: Right, especially the flood too. You’re going to see flood accounts that show up in lots of different cultures and there are going to be variations of them because those things change over time. We should expect that.

Melinda: Noah’s family, they then repopulated, and so they would’ve told the story of what happened.

Greg: That’s right. There would be that memory in the culture of it. I don’t see any difficulty with these things. If you want to find the parallels, I think it’s best just to Google other creation accounts and see what you come up with. I’ve discovered recently, and this is not going to be news to most people, but maybe to some, if you have a question about anything, just type the question into Google with a question mark. Every single time I’ve asked a question, even when it was a really long sentence, every single time I’ve asked the question I’ve gotten a precise response, responses to my specific question, and there were lots of them.

Melinda: You just discovered that?

Greg: Well, I’ve just been using it a lot lately, and it’s something I stumbled upon by accident. I don’t know how long I’ve known, maybe a couple years. I’m just passing it on, being helpful.

Melinda: That’s why it’s become a phrase in the culture. Just Google it.

Greg: Yeah.

Melinda: Okay.

Greg: Well, I know you can Google a phrase or a thing, like dancing shoes and then you can get all kinds of stuff about dancing shoes, but to have Google-

Melinda: Did you Google dancing shoes?

Greg: be able to...It’s different when it’s giving you a topic than when it’s given a grammatical sentence.

Melinda: Though I will say, the one thing any time you Google anything, whether it’s a phrase or a question, you still have to have some discernment to sift through some of the answers. Certain things can be very straightforward. Last night I Googled...I had heard about this new postal service where they’ll actually email you every day with a list of the first class letters that were delivered to you because there’s so much trouble with mail being stolen now. So I Googled that question. Well, obviously there’s not going to be a lot of crazy answers to that. There’s just an answer. But you ask other questions and you’re going to get all kinds of answers and you’re going to have to use some discernment to sort through them.

Greg: Well, you could say, “How much money did the first Star Wars movie make?”

Melinda: Well, sure.

Greg: That’s a question. It’s a simple one that just comes to mind, but then bang, it’s going to tell you. $147 billion, blah, blah, blah, whatever it happens to be. It’s amazing.

Melinda: You Google a question for any Bible question and you’re going to get all kinds of critical answers too.

Greg: Right. All I’m saying is I think it’s technologically kind of amazing that it can navigate grammar and also that I found out, a lot of times I just ask the question. You don’t need Siri. Just use Google. You can get a whole bunch of information very quickly.

Melinda: You can use Siri to ask the question on Google.

Greg: Okay.

Melinda: Next question. Or Alexa too. She’s pretty helpful. Next question comes from rollerberry. What do you make of Matthew 27:51-53? Has there ever been a dispute about it not being part of the original manuscripts?

Greg: Well, this is a passage during the crucifixion of Christ, in which the veil of the temple is torn in two from top to bottom. The tombs were opened. Bodies of the saints that had fallen asleep were raised and they walked around. A centurion there keeping guard over Jesus, when he saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became frightened and said, “Truly this was the Son of God.”

Melinda: This isn’t disputed, is it?

Greg: Say again?

Melinda: This is not missing from the early manuscripts, right?

Greg: Well, I don’t see any evidence in the marginal renderings here that this is a textual variation. There is some debate, famously, in the last five years about what this means. Michael Licona got himself in a whole lot of trouble speculating about this, thinking it was midrash or something like that and it wasn’t meant to be understood literally, but that this reflected...I’m not sure that he was actually weighing in with this as his opinion, but he suggested the idea that this was a certain genre of ancient Near Eastern literature that shows up here in this reference, but he got himself...

Melinda: Well, it was controversial. It was very controversial.

Greg: It was very controversial. We’ll leave it at that. I think that-

Melinda: Thinking he was not saying that the Bible, that this passage was to be taken literally. Of course, any question about any passage of the Bible being taken literally first means you have to determine what kind of literature it is, what genre it is so you know how to take it literally.

Greg: Right. Anyway, this raised questions about his commitment to inerrancy. Which I don’t have any questions about per se. I know Mike, have known him for a long time, and I think he got a little bit of a bad rap on this. In any event, part of his job as a historian is kind of to probe around here. He’s said other things that have kind of raised some eyebrows, so I’m not just taking this issue on. If the question is about the textual integrity of this section, there’s no, as far as I can say, no reason to believe that this is a variant that’s in question. As far as its meaning, that’s another story.

Melinda: You’re not going to comment on that?

Greg: Well, I don’t have a horse in this race. I think Bill Craig agreed with him, as I recall. Nobody questioned Bill Craig’s commitment to inerrancy. It’s just one of those kind of awkward things that lasted longer than it should have, I think. But it looks like now it’s largely put to rest until people listen to our podcast.

Melinda: And we start it up again. I’ve always wanted this to be literally true because I think it’s pretty cool.

Greg: What was that?

Melinda: I’ve always wanted this passage to be literally accurate-

Greg: Yeah, an actual description...

Melinda: ...that this actually happened in history of what happened because that would be pretty awesome.

Greg: Yeah. The question here, by the way, is not about the veil of the temple. The question is, and there’s symbolic significance to that, or the earthquake. It’s the tombs were opened. It has to do with the nature of the resurrection of these people.

Melinda: Getting up and walking around.

Greg: Yeah. That’s the question. What else you got?

Melinda: Next question.

Greg: John 11?

Melinda: Actually, no. That’s for the next episode. The next question comes from uniquesongofjoy. Young Earth Creationists argue that God is the light until the sun is created. If true, wouldn’t we still see that light, or would he hide it then once the sun was created?

Greg: To me, that’s an example...There’s nothing in the text that suggests that, okay? God says, “Let there be God.” Let there be light. So if the light is God, he’s just saying, “Let there be me.” Let me glow. I don’t know. Like Shekinah glory or...

Melinda: Let them see my light, or let my light be evident. He was already glowing, but let my light be evident.

Greg: That seems to me to be an explanation that’s meant to save the paradigm, but it doesn’t have much strength to it. Oh, that light is God. You don’t have light until the fourth day. Sorry, you don’t have a sun until the fourth day, so the question is, where did the light come from? Now, by the way, there are other explanations. Hugh Ross says the sun was always there. It was luminous, but you couldn’t see it because of the opacity of the atmosphere. He’s got a very compelling explanation for that.

Regardless, even if we just take it at face value, where’s the sun? If the sun’s not there until the fourth day, then where’s the light? Oh, God was the light. Well, it doesn’t say God was the light. That, to me, is just kind of coming up with an explanation that has no basis in the text but it’s meant to save the view. By the way, okay, if there was no sun, though, how do you get a morning and an evening? You going to say God was the morning and God was the evening?

Melinda: You just set your clock.

Greg: Just set your clock. Anyway, I think that’s another problem. The morning and evening, I think you can have a day’s worth of time with no sun to mark it if you just count the sun as a big celestial clock, okay? But you can’t have a morning without a sun and you can’t have an evening without a sun, at least not to ancient Near Easterners.

Melinda: Because, by definition-

Greg: Morning is the sunrise.

Melinda:’s the presence of the sun and the disappearance of...

Greg: Exactly, and the evening is the sunset. This, I think, represents a serious problem. What I want to suggest to readers is that something else is going on here than a straightforward description of four solar days, or rather, six solar days or six calendar days which are marked by the sun for three of them or two of them. Four, five, six. Three of them.

Melinda: Right. Genesis 1 is the description of the creation of the physical world, the physical universe. God isn’t physical, so does it even make sense in any way to say that God would shine light that is physical light?

Greg: Well, there’s the Shekinah glory. That’s a very unique kind of thing. There’s the Shekinah glory there in the...

Melinda: Moses witnessed it. Yeah, that’s true.

Greg: Yeah, and then you see it associated with the Ark. But in this case, the Shekinah glory would be lighting up the entire world. I just have no reason to think that’s the case. It’s almost like when it’s ad hoc, okay? This is a word that means “for this”, literally “for this”, but its application is you come up with an explanation that just fixes your problem. It isn’t like this really fits into a broad number of cases. It just fixes your problem and you save your paradigm. That seems what’s going on with that explanation.

Melinda: Are you aware of any other explanations for where the light comes from Young Earth Creationists have that might make more sense?

Greg: No, I’m not. I’m not aware of it. It may be there. I think Hugh Ross’ explanation is excellent, though. The sun is there. It’s just that you can’t see it and the other things that are going on.

Melinda: He’s not a Young Earth Creationist.

Greg: Pardon me?

Melinda: He’s not a Young Earth Creationist.

Greg: No, he’s not. That’s a good point. He’s not.

Melinda: Right. All right. Well, that’s it. Thanks, Greg, for your insight in short, snappy answers. We appreciate it. STR Ask, #STRask. Go to Twitter and use that when you type out your question for us and we will retrieve it. Pose it to Greg and give him four minutes or less to answer it. Two episodes every week, Mondays and Thursdays. The other podcast, Wednesdays and Fridays. Thanks for listening to us. I’m Melinda the enforcer with Greg Koukl for Stand to Reason.