Archive for Hermeneutics & Biblical Interpretation

Bill Nye the Science Guy’s Faulty Presupposition

// May 14th, 2012 // No Comments » // Hermeneutics & Biblical Interpretation, Popular Issues

There’s an article on Bill Nye the Science Guy’s critique of Genesis 1:16 at a community college lecture series. He quoted the text and explained how the “lesser light,” assumed to be the moon, referred to in the passage was a reflector of the sun’s light rather than a “light.” This article appears in “Think Exist”: an atheist website that requires you to donate a dollar to them before registering an account to make a comment on an article (I found out because I tried). Bill Nye was off, and here’s why.


Interesting article, but the problem with people that find issues with the Bible is that they don’t take the time to form a right hermeneutic in order to interpret the text. A Hermeneutic is a correct literary interpretation based of a particular text based on its given genre, its historical background, and its grammatical background. There are certain contexts that must be considered when interpreting a text.

It’s a fact that the gentleman that wrote “The God Delusion,” Richard Dawkins, actually knows very little about theology at all besides his limited exposure to Christianity through a Roman Catholic upbringing (which is not exposure Biblical Christianity), yet feels he has the authority (and audacity) to write a book critiquing theology. Just being an expert in a certain field does not make one an expert in other fields. Authorities are authorities, but their words are still subject to scrutiny, and this is the case with Bill.

Here’s the correct interpretation. The primary purpose of Genesis is NOT expository but declarative. Its intention is not to give an exposition of how things works but simply to declare and state an obvious fact.

If the Bible would say, “the sky is Blue,” Bill Nye might say, “Well, it’s not really blue, it’s actually the particles of dust in the air catching light and reflecting the specific frequency of what the rods and cones of the eye in the retina would cause us to perceive as blue, and other animals perceive it differently.” But, that does not detract away from the specific fact that the Bible has an audience of readers who would look up at the sky and see the color blue! It doesn’t matter HOW it works, it’s simply making a declarative statement.

You have to remember that the priorities of God in the Bible are different than man’s: The Bible spends but 31 simple verses declaring creation and yet 7 whole chapters on the engineering specifications of the construction of the Mosaic Tabernacle for worship because God esteems we understand holiness when approaching Him for worship even more so than understanding creation and how it works. God’s priorities are different.

Now, knowing that Genesis 1 is primarily declarative, let’s re-read Bill Nye’s quoted text:
Genesis 1:16, “God made two great lights — the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.”

There’s no conflict with the science behind how it works if you simply step outside and understand that the moon, regardless of the mechanism of whether it reflects light or shines its own light (the mechanism), can be observed as luminescent to observers. It’s simply declarative: the moon shines as a light. Saying that the moon is a light is sort of like saying the sky is blue — no matter the mechanism, it’s simply a declarative, observable truth.

Therefore, the text holds together quite firmly. The problem is not with the passage in Genesis but with the presuppositions that the reader carries into his or her interpretation that cause him to perceive the text differently than what was originally intended. Scripture has but one clear meaning, which is easily skewed if you approach it with all kinds of hostility and expectations of finding issues. But, correct interpretation and scholarly investigation will always prove the validity of the scriptures. The text is not inaccurate at all when properly interpreted.

It’s also interesting to note that the passage never identifies the greater and lesser lights as the sun and moon.

Also, if you think critically, the article ridicules the people of faith for having a sense of discernment. I think it’s obvious that what they were angry about was the fact that he stopped to critique the Bible, not that they didn’t believe the science behind the moon’s luminescence, which is common knowledge.

To paraphrase Charles Spurgeon, “Defend the Bible? I would as soon defend a lion! Unchain it and it will defend itself.”