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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The End of the World as Snakes on a Plane?

I have in my library the book The Revelation Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Prophetic Book of the End of Times[i] by Henry M. Morris – a commentary on the final book of the bible and a sort of bookend companion piece to his similarly named commentary on Genesis.  And it is a howler, ridiculousness on nearly every page, far too many to share them all...

Though this work is billed as a “scientific” commentary, it really has very little actual science. 

Consider Morris’ commentary on Revelation 6:8 “I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.”

“An intriguing additional specific cause of this great toll of death is said to be ‘the wild beasts of the earth.’  Since practically all the beasts really dangerous to man have either become extinct or are now rare and endangered species, it seems unlikely that wild animals could multiply enough in a couple of years in the last days to become a really serious threat.  However, the term, also used in Acts 28: 4, 5 to refer to a poisonous serpent and it is possible that this passage portends a sudden proliferation of venomous snakes all over the earth.”[ii]

First (and this is nit-picking, I know it…) he calls the ‘wild beast’ that bit Paul’s hand a “poisonous serpent,” when – as a scientist – he should have said a “venomous serpent.”  It’s a little thing, and he gets it correct in the next clause of the sentence, but as I’ve already pointed out, Morris is hardly consistent.

Second – can it be said that all of the animals that are “really dangerous to man” have become extinct or endangered?  Really?  I have no standing to evaluate this claim.  But it seems dubious to me.  And Morris gives no statistical or documentary evidence.  It’s just a bald claim from out of nowhere and I’m not sure I believe it.

Consider the dog.  Dogs – though tamed and housebroken – are still potentially quite dangerous, even deadly to humans.  And dogs aren’t especially close to being endangered.

But I’m also dubious of his use of the Greek word therion.  “The word ‘beast’ here is the Greek theerion [sic], and does indeed mean a wild, or dangerous or even venomous beast.”[iii]

Outside of the Revelation the word is only used a handful of times:  three times in Acts and once in Mark, Titus, Hebrews, and James.  In every case, barring the viper attack on Paul’s hand, it refers generically to wild beasts, creatures.  Not to snakes.  And in the case of Paul’s snakebite, the word echidna “viper” is there to give it context. The word therion does not, in and of itself, mean venomous serpent.

 So, as wildly exciting as it might be to envision the end of the world as Snakes on a Plane, there’s no science in it.

[i] Morris, Henry M. The Revelation Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Prophetic Book of the End of Times Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, Wheaton IL, 1983
[ii] Page 117
[iii] Page 117

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