January 7, 2018

In this issue: What We Don't Know by Morris Fraser

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(This article is based on a recent Wednesday Bible class.)

The Bible teaches us about God, Jesus and how to return to a covenant relationship with Deity. Although the following subjects are not proof of how we can be saved, they do teach us a great deal – the Flood, about King Solomon, the various captivities of the Jewish people, and many other events.

The Bible does explain that not all events are covered within its pages. As one example, John writes in John 21:25: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books which were written.”

However, some people, often well-meaning, try to include additional legends to scripture. There are traditions, fanciful guesses, and superstitions that surround various factual stories, for a variety of reasons. Let’s look at just some of them.

What was the fruit Adam and Eve ate in Eden? (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:1-3)

Tradition says the fruit was an apple. But the Bible doesn’t say that; it is only called a fruit (in Hebrew, “pur-ee’”). That fruit belonged to the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God warned Adam not to eat that fruit, but the serpent tempted Eve by pointing out that it would let her be as knowledgeable as God, and Eve saw for herself that it looked good enough to eat.

When Adam and Eve ate that fruit, they sinned – they disobeyed God – and eventually were cast out of the garden and were forced to live by the sweat of their brow.

No one knows what the fruit actually was. Besides an apple, some have speculated that it was a fig, grapes, citron or a pomegranate. But no one knows.

There’s a story which has often circulated about an atheist who argued that the Bible couldn’t be true because “apples don’t grow where the Garden of Eden is supposed to be.” The atheist just assumed the Bible teaches that the apple was the forbidden fruit.

We also don’t know for sure where Eden was, for a variety of reasons we won’t explore now. But the response as to the identity of the forbidden fruit is “We just don’t know.”

What was the mark of Cain? (Genesis 4:15)

After Cain killed Abel, he feared for his life and asked for God’s protection. God put a mark (some translations say “sign”) on Cain, and that sign would let others know he was not to be killed.

Some believe the mark was something placed on his forehead. Some think his skin was turned dark (and thus became the progenitor of the Negro race). Some think it was a scar or a tattoo. . The word for mark or sign in Hebrew is “owth.”

We can be sure that the mark was not inherited by his descendants, so the theory that he began the Negro race can’t be true, since Cain was the only one with the distinctive mark. We also are sure that (unless one or more of Noah’s sons-in-law derived from Cain’s line) Cain’s descendants all died in the Flood.

When we try to answer what Cain’s mark was, the best response is “We just don’t know.”

Where did Cain’s wife come from? (Genesis 4:16-17)

When Cain left his family, he took his wife and went east of Eden to the land of Nod. But where did his wife come from? Was she his sister or cousin?

The Bible doesn’t give a strict timeline as to when Cain killed Abel or how old they were. We don’t know how many children Adam and Eve had before the murder. We only know the names of three of their children – Cain, Abel and Seth – and that they had other sons and daughters. But we don’t know how many or when they were born.

This is an issue that Bible skeptics try to use to discredit the facts of the Bible. We can assume that Cain and his wife may have been fairly close biologically, but we can’t be sure.

Cain may have married his sister. He may have married one of his nieces or one of his cousins. Such marriages are generally a taboo today, but many distant cousins marry today, often without medical issues.

Our only response to where Cain’s wife came from must be “We just don’t know.”

How did Noah and his family care for all the animals in the ark? (Genesis 7:13-8:19)

We don’t know how many animals were aboard the ark. Some reputable and Bible-believing scientists estimate there could have been enough to fill 522 standard railroad boxcars. Others have figured there may have been from 2,000 to 10,000 individual animals in the ark.

The people and animals spent about one year inside. That would have required a great deal of food and water. One theory arguing against such amounts of food is that the animals were made to hibernate.

Others speculate food was delivered to each animal by a trough and pipe system which placed food and water before them, based on the belief that the eight people aboard would have worked very hard caring for the animals. That would have required ways to dispose of wastes, and some want to say floors on each level were slanted with open areas between plank slats that let wastes fall into a common pit.

The question of how much food was available and where it was stored is unanswerable.

We know that the eight humans and all the animals survived. But as for how everyone was cared for during that historic year, we can only say, “We just don’t know.”

What did Jesus look like? (Luke 2:52; Isaiah 53:2)

Most portraits of Jesus (of course, there are no photographs) show him as a blond, blue-eyed Caucasian with hair to his shoulders and a fairly long beard. These portraits and complementary statues are designed primarily to be items of veneration, and generally those who created that artwork were Europeans – light-skinned, blond or brown hair, blue eyes.

But Jesus was a Jew. Anthropologists point out that in his time, 2,000 years ago, the average Jewish male was five feet tall with dark hair, usually cut short, and olive or dark skin. The only thing the Bible tells us is that as he matured he gained in wisdom, stature and favor with God and men.

Whether Jesus was taller than average or had different other attributes, our only answer as to what he looked like is “We just don’t know.”

How many wise men were there? (Matthew 2:1,11)

Man guesses that because there were three kinds of gifts (gold, frankincense and myrrh) there must have been three wise men, with well-known names and heritages. But that’s just a tradition and not based on scriptural evidence. When someone asks you how many wise men there were, you are perfectly justified in answering, “We just don’t know.”

When we study scripture, it is a good practice to rely on the words within the Bible, not what man wants to believe because of religious or cultural preferences. If we conduct ourselves in that fashion, we will be more sure of handling correctly the word of truth (II Timothy 2:15) and of pleasing God.

And that is something we can state with certainty: “We do know.”

Morris Fraser

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