Posted by: Philip Rushton | January 10, 2011

Youtube Exegesis and The End of the World?: Learning to use the internet wisely

The internet is a great resource for finding out all types of information. This also goes for biblical and theological research. We can now access all the English translations of the bible at biblegateway.com, we have access to the baker dictionary of biblical theology, concordances, and Greek and Hebrew dictionaries at biblestudytools.com, and we can read a huge collection of historical Christian works from the Christian classics ethereal library at ccel.org.

Yet, the internet also has a lot of unhelpful stuff out there. Two examples of this have come my way in the past week. The first example comes from youtube, where a group of people have created a video where they argue that there is a hidden prophecy in Genesis five about the coming of Christ. They argue that when you define the names of all the people in the geneology of Genesis five, it says that God will come into the world and die for his people.

I had a member from the church wisely ask if he could check this out by looking up the Hebrew words. As I was looking into this for him I discovered that these authors were making a common interpretation mistake. What they are doing is known as that “root fallacy” in biblical interpretation. They were breaking up the names of the words into root words to determine the meaning. This is sort of like when we take the word “butterfly” and define it by breaking it into its root words. Using this method of interpretation it would mean that a butterfly is a fly made of butter. Furthermore, the root words also have a number of possible meanings which are dependent on a context for definition. It is sort of like the English word “dunk.” In some contexts it will mean “putting a basketball forcefully through a net,” but in other contexts it will mean, “to submerge someone or something in water.” So this internet prophecy fails another test of interpretation in that they have divorced these root words from any type of context.

Luckily the outcome of this theory is not that disastrous. However, the reason why I think we need to call out this theory is because it sets a precedence for a dangerous use of the Bible. The fundamental problem with this theory is that they are attributing to the Bible something that is not really there. If we are not accountable to correct interpretation then we can make the Bible say all sorts of things. The next example illustrates this well.

A second theory I have come across on the internet this week is a theory that claims the world is going to end on May 21st 2011. Wow! For one thing, this theory stands in contrast to Jesus’ statement, “about that day or hour, nobody knows.” Furthermore, this theory is based on some pretty bizarre number crunching. For example, one ‘tract’ writes this:

“Years ago we learned from the Bible that the flood occurred in the year 4990 B.C. More recently we learned that Judgment Day is to occur in the year 2011 A.D. 2011 A.D. is exactly 7,000 years after 4990 B.C. Just before the flood Noah was instructed by God that in seven days the flood would begin (Genesis 7:10-16). Using the language of 2 Peter 3:8 that “a day is as a thousand years,” it is like saying through Noah, who was a preacher (2 Peter 2:5): “mankind has seven days or 7,000 years to escape destruction.” Since 2011 A.D. is precisely 7,000 years after Noah preached, God has given mankind a wonderful proof that Judgment Day will occur in the year 2011.”

Wow, talk about an exegetical leap. Again the problem with this type of exegesis is that it is taking things out of context. This theory is imposing a mathematical system that is extrabiblical. What I mean by this is there is nothing in scripture that leads us to combine Peter’s statement, “that a day is as a thousand years,” with Noah’s statement that the flood would begin in 7 days. When Noah talks about the flood beginning in 7 days he was talking about the flood in his day and age. Furthermore, the exact date of the flood is not as precise as these authors like to think.

So to all my readers, this is just a short warning to be careful out there. The internet can be a great resource for biblical study, but it can also lead us astray. When in doubt be sure to ask lots of questions and seek out advice.

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Responses

  1. Good word, Phil. I’ve heard about the May 21, 2011 thing and been meaning to look into it. Quick bit of editing though: you say ” Moses talks about the flood beginning in 7 days.” Don’t you mean Noah? Or do you mean Moses, as the author of Genesis?

  2. Thanks for the note Adam! Yes I did mean Noah – post is now updated!


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