Animals entering ark




The original question was: How do you explain the contradictions between Genesis 6 and 7 concerning the number of animals that went aboard the ark?  One account therefore states two (one pair) of every species without distinction, the other states 14 (seven pairs) of certain favoured species (‘clean animals’) and of the birds. If you are taking the Bible literally this cannot make sense, at least as far as I can see! One version must be wrong!

The questioner then quoted two passages from the RSV version of Genesis 6 & 7:

Genesis 6:19 ‘And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall two of every sort into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female.’

Genesis 7:2-3  ‘Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate; and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate; and seven pairs of the birds of the air also, male and female, to keep their kind alive upon the face of all the earth.’

Answer by John Mackay

Since this person has quoted from the RSV, we will answer from the RSV to be consistent.

The first point to make is: since we have copies of Genesis dating to the 2nd century BC, it should be obvious that if Genesis 6 &7 were in contradiction then you can’t be the first to have spotted it. For at least two and a half thousand years such ‘anomalies’ must have been known; which means you have to give Jews and Christians full credit for integrity in not changing what critics say is a ‘contradiction’.  This also probably means they have studied it a little more thoroughly, and discovered it isn’t a contradiction at all. So let’s ask: ‘Does it seem to be a contradiction only because of the way we in the west read and think?’

I ask that because the sad fact of history is that we in the west usually don’t know it, but we think ‘Greek’, and worse than that, we think it’s the only way to think. As a result we reason that A must always be followed by B, must be followed by C, etc. It also means if we find A saying something B doesn’t, or vice versa, we will tend to treat them as if they were contradictions. There is nothing wrong with this form of logic provided you restrict your complaints to Greek type writers and Greek mode thinkers. However Hebrew writers and Hebrew thinkers don’t see it that way at all, which I suspect is the main reason I never get asked this question by Jews.

So let us consider Genesis 6 & 7. If the Hebrew writer in Genesis 6 claimed two of every sort would go into the ark, and then said in Chapter 7 that two of every sort did not go into the ark, that would be a contradiction even in Hebrew minds. But Genesis 6 & 7 do not say that! So what does the text say? And if it is not a contradiction but a difference why is it there?

There is no doubt that the Genesis 6 account has given rise to most of our children’s picture books versions of the Ark Story where you see the animals going in ‘two by two’. They undeniable went in by pairs, so when the RSV Chapter 7 says one pair of each unclean ones went in, there is no contradiction in that.  But then, in reference to the clean animals RSV Chapter 7 refers to them going in as seven pairs of each kind or sort, so you have to admit they are still going in by pairs. Therefore, the pairs in Chapter 7 are nowhere a contradiction of going in 2 by 2 in chapter 6.

Secondly, you as well as many readers readily confuse the modern word species with ‘sort’ (RSV) or ‘kind’ (KJV) which are translations of the Hebrew word min.

The term ‘species’ is a modern concept, which as its inventor Linnaeus discovered the hard way, is not exactly the same as the Genesis created ‘sort’ or ‘kind,’ which he firmly believed in. You will find it interesting to note that Linnaeus, who devised our classification system, was a scholar who also knew his Latin and Greek, and knew very well that the word sort/kind in English, was present as the word ‘genus in the Latin Vulgate Bible, as well as its Ancient Greek forebear the Septuagint (2nd Century BC)’. Therefore, you will find it easier to solve your ‘contradictory’ problem if you realise that the dog sort/kind is closer to our concept of the genus Canis which we subdivide into many species. So if you were present and watching critters entering the ark, you would not have seen see two of each species of dog (Jackal, wolf, coyote, etc) going into the ark, but only a pair of the original dog kind from which all modern species have been developed naturally or artificially.

So let’s call a spade a spade: most people’s problem with reading Genesis at face value is not because of anything in Genesis. The history of the world they have been taught is what actually contradicts Genesis. Coming from a non-Christian family, and having my head filled with millions of years of evolution, it was very obvious to me when I first read Genesis that it was not saying what my text books said. So whenever a professor insisted on being right, then Genesis obviously would have to be regarded as wrong if you wanted your degree. And vice versa!  I am old enough now to remember that almost every science theory they taught me at Queensland University has been changed, and the current theories still contradict Genesis which gives rise to an even bigger perspective – why should we arrogantly assume that our latest version of history, which almost always differs from any previous version of history even from just 50 years ago, is going to endure at all?  Yet Genesis is still saying the same thing it has always said, and the biological world still behaves exactly the way Genesis describes God created it – things actually do produce after their own kind – quite literally!

Challenge point. Jesus the Creator said almost 2000 years ago, “How can you believe, who receive honour from one another, and do not seek the honour that comes from the only God?” John 5:44 NKJV.

My recommendation: believe Christ the Creator. He was there in the beginning, and don’t worry about getting honour from the system.  Time will soon show their arrogant errors for what they are.

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About The Contributor

John Mackay