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that G. Bischof, the very geologist who has most decidedly and successfully opposed the Plutonic theory, in discussing the origin of the separate constituent parts of the earth, has declared himself against the assumption that a watery or paplike substance formed its original condition. He expresses himself as follows: "The condition of igneous fusion in which the earth is supposed to have existed during the period of creation, is not incompatible with any of the phenomena, and it explains some indubitable facts, such as the increase of temperature as we get deeper into the earth, the hot springs and volcanic phenomena, in the simplest and most natural manner."1
You see that under these circumstances there would be danger, if, as many commentators have asserted, the Bible really taught that the earth was formed by the action of water. We might no doubt still say in this case that the Bible did not contradict any certain results of geological inquiry; for the contest between Plutonists and Neptunists is not yet decided; but still the situation would be disturbing. It is possible, at all events, and many think it probable, that the Plutonists will at length win a decided victory, and that further geological inquiries will conclusively prove fire to be the original and determining force in the formation of the earth. Nor is it impossible that an entirely new theory should become scientifically important, and that thus both Plutonism and Neptunism may be set aside. Considering the rapid progress made by the natural sciences in our century, it is even possible that before very long, perhaps in our lifetime, Plutonism or some
1 Lehrb. der cfiem. und physik. Geol., 2nd ed. i. p. 7 eeq. Cf. p. 479.
other theory, which is not Neptimism, may be opposed to the Bible, no longer as a hypothesis, but as a system substantiated by science. What then?
All these fears are groundless. I may say that I am ready to prove this; for the question is exegetical and not geological, and therefore it is one which, unlike those I have till now been discussing, is within my province.
A learned geological writer, a moderate Plutonist, Quenstedt, says briefly: "Moses was a Neptunist."1 He thinks that he can even explain this circumstance, and excuse it from his point of view by adding: "The home of the patriarchs in the land of Ur (in Chaldaea) and afterwards in Egypt presented so few volcanic phenomena, and the power of the waters in the countries of the great rivers must have been so striking, that the forming agency of the watery element was only too apparent." Against this we may observe first, that assuming, but not admitting, that Moses ever occupied himself in investigating the geological condition of the countries in which he lived and with which he was acquainted, and again assuming, but not admitting, that in consequence of these investigations, or in consequence of the opinions of others which were known to him, Moses held the Neptunian theory, this can be of little interest to the exegete. The latter need only ask whether the Neptunian theory is advanced in the book which Moses wrote with the supernatural aid of the Spirit of God; for the exegete need not assume the opinions of Moses, but only the statements in the Bible, to be true. But we cannot expect that the Bible should
1 Somt and Jetzt, p. 194.
advance the Neptunian theory; for as the object of the Bible is to convey to us religious truths, but not to teach us scientific things, it clearly cannot mean to decide against Plutonisra and in favour of Neptunism. The utmost we can concede as possible is this: in stating religious truths concerning the creation of things by God, the Biblical writers may have occasion to use expressions which indirectly imply that the earth was formed in one or other particular way. We cannot allow that Quenstedt's statement means more than this; that the Biblical description of the formation of the earth appears to rest on the Neptunian theory, or to favour that theory by the way in which it is expressed.
One of the most decided Neptunists, Andreas Wagner, thus sums up the question. He says: "Those who hold the Neptunian theory, believe with Moses, the world's most ancient geologist, and with another unusually gifted wise man of antiquity, the Apostle Peter, that ' by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water,' and they are in a position to justify that assertion scientifically."1
Neptunists will do well to confine themselves to science, and not to appeal to Moses or S. Peter. The former cannot with any accuracy be called the world's most ancient geologist, and it is just as incorrect to call S. Peter an unusually gifted wise man of antiquity. His gifts, so far as they interest us, were supernatural, received through the Spirit of God, and therefore his
1 Geschichte der Urwelt, i. 142. K. von Kaumer also appeals to 2 Pet. iii. 5 seq. Kreuzziige, ii. 20: "The words in ver. 5 bear out the Neptunian theory of the formation of mountains; ver. 10 refers Plutonists to a future burning up of-the earth."
wisdom was limited to supernatural things. It is quite wrong to ascribe great knowledge of geology to Moses and S. Peter, and to quote them as authorities in geological controversies.
As there are still some theologians of the present day, as Keerl1 and Zockler2 in Germany, and the Abbe" Choyer8 in France, who assert that the Bible teaches or favours Neptunism, I cannot avoid examining their arguments. I shall confine myself to the first-named writer, because he defends his opinion in the most decided and circumstantial way. He even says: "We might assert that the Plutonic theory would share the fate of the Copernican system, which was long and violently opposed as being contradictory to the Bible, and now is admitted by the most orthodox. But the acceptance of the Plutonic theory of the earth's origin is quite a different thing from the acceptance of the Copernican system. Holy Scripture has never expressed itself against the latter ; on the other hand, it says clearly and unequivocally that the earth was created out of water" (2 Pet. iii. 5).
If S. Peter really meant in these words to teach clearly and decidedly the Neptunian origin of the earth, it would be a very strange exception to the rule I have just mentioned, namely, that Holy Scripture only touches on things which are the objects of scientific inquiry, when, and in so far as, it is necessary for the teaching of religious truths. But if we look at the passage with the context, we shall find that nothing could be further from S. Peter's intention than to
1 Schiipfungsgeschichte, p. 483. * Die UrgeschichU, p. 15.
5 La thebriegeojAiique, p. 41; cf. Theol. Lit.-Bl. 1872, 857.
enlighten the readers of his Epistle, even indirectly, on any geological question. In the third chapter of his second Epistle, he is speaking of those who do not believe in the coming of our Lord in the Last Judgment, and he says that the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth also, and the works that are therein, shall be burned up. The apostle adds that one such judgment of destruction has already passed over the earth, the judgment of the Deluge; "by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water, whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished." There needs no further proof that the apostle does not wish to teach us new doctrines, but that in order to prove and explain what he is teaching concerning the destruction of the world by fire, he refers his readers to what they already know about the former judgment; and how should they know this except from the account in Genesis? This teaches us, the apostle would say, that originally a mass of waters existed, from which the heavens were formed, and the earth came forth by the word of God, and that God in the judgment of the Deluge allowed the original condition, in which the earth was without form and void, and covered with the waters, to return. S. Peter is therefore referring to the account given in Genesis of the formation of the earth, and not to the Neptunian origin of the earth, and we are not justified in finding in his words a plainer testimony in favour of Neptunism than is given by Moses in Genesis; and