Monday, December 19, 2011
1. All early people resisted the idea that time had an independent existence - that it flows. According to Plutarch, during the reign of the first Roman king, some months contained twenty days, others thirty-five, others more. When the weather prevented sighting the moon, the number of days in the month were adjusted to fit observation - not an independent concept of time. Plutarch also recorded that the first Roman calendar did not have names for January and February. The first Roman calendar only had ten named months, ending in December, from the Latin word for ten. The months when they did no agricultural work had no named existence. In the ancient world, time had no independent existence apart from the observed cycles of nature and activities associated with those cycles.
2. All ancient people believed that the first generations lived in the great time. They looked back with longing on their ancestors who lived for geological ages, when the cycles of the heavens were ponderously slow. The Biblical authors admitted both these time ideas.
Solomon is the biblical expert on time. God made everything good in its event time (eth), Ecclesiastes 3:11. Eth has a cyclical nature. Births are followed by deaths; laughter by weeping; planting is followed by uprooting and peace by war. Because of the relentless eth cycles, what profit is it to the worker from that in which he toils? Solomon also mentions olam, eon time. God put eon time (olam) in our minds so that we cannot find out the work God has done from beginning to end. No animal records their histories or ponders their beginnings. Solomon said it is because of olam time in our mind that we cannot understand all that God has done. Evidently Solomon, like the Romans of that era, did not imagine that time has an actual existence.
What is it about time ideas that prevents us from understanding Earth history? Jacob stated that his days and years were shorter and worse than the days and years of his fathers (Genesis 47:9). Job moaned about man who is born of woman being of few days. Yet he ascribed geological markers to those few days during the dinosaur age. In chapter 14, he mentioned mountains being moved from their place, water wearing away stones and washing away the dust of the earth. He said the sea (Hebrew west) dried during a single lifetime. Drill cores from the deep Mediterranean reveal that it dried repeatedly, leaving alternating layers of deep sea oozes, salt, anhydrite and stromatolites. Job ended his brevity of life poem by claiming that their face doubled, deformed, before God took them away (they died). Indeed, we find the skulls of our ancestors with huge thick brows as though they lived for geological ages. Our skulls are the only part of our skeleton that keeps growing as we age. If we lived for geological ages, our faces would grow Neanderthal. However, our grandchildren would not have the thick brows, which is what the Neanderthal skulls reveal. The New Testament also seems to agree with the ancient concept of time. The writer of Hebrews wrote that God once and for all formed the eons (the vast ages) from things which are not seen (Hebrews 11:3). Jesus came at the end of the eons.
Does time have no actual existence? Does this prevent us from understanding earth history? Consider that there is one place where knowledge is available visibly, the visible history of the universe (Psalm 19). In billions of galaxies, we observe that the earliest atoms clocked tiny fractions of the frequencies of modern atoms. Do atomic clocks speed up as matter ages? In 1970 NASA sent two spin stabilized spacecraft (the Pioneers) in opposite directions out of the solar system. The farther from the past they transmitted their clock signals, the slower they became relative to NASA’s hydrogen maser clocks of the moment. The Pioneer clocks slowed at the same ratio to distance (Hubble’s ratio) as galactic atomic clocks were related to galactic distances.
Wait you say! We verify that clocks are linear because orbits are clock-like. Look at the universe with sight, not mathematical assumptions. We observe how galaxies grew from tiny naked globs to huge, spread out growth spirals. It was not just the atomic clocks that accelerated throughout cosmic history. The orbits also accelerated as the stars spiraled outward, taking up more space. What is visible exactly fits the Hebrew language of Genesis and Isaiah concerning the creation of the universe. How could this be? Every bit of matter in the universe visibly kept on changing itself, changing relationally. Over the centuries, astronomers measured a decreasing solar parallax as though the planet orbits were also accelerating. We can see that there are no visible constants in the universe. All atoms are observed to change relationally. Relational change is parallel change in which all aspects shift together. If you do not understand the importance of first principles in understanding cosmic history, read this: http://www.godsriddle.info/2011/10/petitio-principii.html
No wonder Solomon said long time (olam) prevents us from understanding all that God has done from beginning to end. Ideas about time constrain our thinking. Theologians even try to understand God with their time ideas. They claim God sees the future, that He is outside of time while we are carried along by its flow. The Bible never makes any such statement. The Bible does say He has a plan for the future and with righteous judgements He actively brings about His plans. Every place in the New Testament when God chooses to save an individual, the Greek uses aorist verb forms that ignore time considerations (are not tensed). In other words, the Bible deliberately leaves off any statements about when He makes choices to save His chosen ones.
Photo is from the 2004 Hubble Ultra Deep Field showing chain galaxies and tadpoles, immature spirals that had not yet spiraled around. Credit: NASA, A. Straughn, S. Cohen, and R. Windhorst (Arizona State University), and the HUDF team (Space Telescope Science Institute)