Over at the blog See, there’s this thing called biology, my friend insanitybytes22 always manages to generate stimulating conversation with her twice-daily posts. Today’s post is no exception and forced me to ask the question: Are We Smarter Than Our Biblical Forebears?
IB22 doesn’t pose a question. Instead, she urges: Honor Your Bronze Age Parents. I won’t spoil her insightful observations by repeating them here, but please click over to her blog and prepare yourself for an excellent read.
In IB22’s post and the comments that follow, she addresses the point that here in our 21st century world, there’s a common arrogance we have about our vast knowledge, and with that arrogance, a reminder about how often we tend to look down our noses at previous generations who were so embarrassingly ignorant.
I’ve been contemplating for a while this 21st century notion about our supposedly vast knowledge. IB22 uses the Bronze Age for her point of reference. In a previous post, she addressed the perturbing argument from certain elitists that infers belief in God and the Bible is evidence of intellectual deficiency.
As I continue studying The Book of Job (on consecutive Sundays, my most recent post here), I consider the world in which Job lived and how it contrasts with our own. Our usual sense (from our lofty perch in the 21st century) is that Job and other biblical characters like him were nominally educated (if at all), they knew almost nothing about the world around them, and what they “knew” was mostly incorrect because “science” hadn’t been invented yet.
A brief aside here on the subject of “science” and “scientific advancement” from which we benefit today. Some people believe wisdom (scientific or otherwise) was totally lacking in Bible times. Here’s one quick reference from Genesis 30:32-40 that should disabuse anyone of such muddled thinking.
It’s the story of Jacob and a verbal contract he made with his father-in-law (Laban) for managing their flocks of sheep and goats, and ultimately, how Laban would pay Jacob for his work. Cagey Jacob understood enough about the science of breeding that he purposefully engineered a herd of speckled, spotted and streaked animals! Who would dare suggest these historic characters were know-nothing neanderthals?
In my contemplations, a couple books came to mind, books I read back in the 90s. These two books were written by the late Dr. Ruth Beechick. I’ll try to tantalize you with details of the first book today, Genesis: Finding Our Roots and hold the second volume for tomorrow’s post.
This wonderful little book (just over 100 pages) is a gem! In her prefatory comments, Dr. Beechick quotes the “great literature professor, Northrup Frye” whose words I’ve reproduced in the image below. Indeed, Beechick follows up the Frye quote with her own assessment of the current state of education.
She states: “A good education today often means ability to find and manipulate information by computer. This is called the ‘information age’ and we demand more and newer and faster information, as though information is education. But education must begin with first principles and the right thinking that flows from them.”
Beechick’s Genesis is organized for both casual reading and deeper study. She tackles subjects including dragons (mentioned in Genesis 1:21 as “great sea monsters” in one version or “great creatures of the sea” in another), the meaning of the Hebrew word we understand as create, and she discusses the debate over how long a “day” of Creation was. In other words, Beechick didn’t shy away from honest discussion of puzzling topics. In this book, she builds a framework for understanding what some term pre-history.
While some of the Genesis history was oral, Beechick makes the case that the patriarchs compiled a detailed, written history that was carried down through the ages by these various historical figures. She breaks the book of Genesis into six units of study: (1) God’s Book of Creation, (2) the Book of Adam, (3) the Book of Noah, (4) the Book of the Sons of Noah, (5) the Book of Shem and (6) the Book of Terah (Abram’s father).
Whether you’re a student of the Bible or not, Beechick’s primer, Genesis, is a superb tool. In addition, the book includes plenty of recommendations for additional study. Though the book was published in 1998, copies are still available on Amazon. Don’t wait until they’re sold out!
The 2007 television show was called Are You Smarter Than a Fifth-Grader? Adult contestants were challenged to answer questions from elementary school textbooks. It would be interesting to know, in fact, the actual level of knowledge of our biblical forebears. I think we’d be amazed, so I ask again: Are We Smarter Than Our Biblical Forebears?