GENESIS, JACOB AND GENETICS
by mike mcclellan
Errors In The Bible
As a born again Christian for over twenty years, I began to question the many apparent errors, inconsistencies and contradictions in the Bible. I am fully aware of the born again believers cry that there are no such things in the "Word of God". Nevertheless they are there and need to be investigated.
As a result of the errors in the Bible, I finally realized that the Bible is not the inerrant word of God. My investigations of the errors finally led to my departure from born again Christianity after having been a Christian for over two decades.
The Fallacy Of Jacob's Breeding Regimen
One of the Biblical accounts which causes a great deal of damage to the inerrantist's argument is contained in Genesis 30:37-42 ¹
In this account the Bible claims in Genesis, that by having animals view certain objects, patterns and colors while they are breeding, the conceived offspring's markings will be of the same patterns and colors.
In the Biblical story, Jacob took branches from trees and peeled part of the bark or outer coating away, revealing the white inner layer. This resulted in what appeared as a 'stripe' ²
The animals in the flocks bred when they came to drink. Jacob placed the peeled branches in front of the flocks of animals where they drank water and bred.
The Bible tells us "...the flocks conceived before the rods (peeled branches) and brought forth cattle ringstraked, speckled, and spotted."
Clearly, the writer(s) of Genesis believed that if Jacob put the rods he had peeled in front of the flocks when they came to drink, they would breed and when conceiving, they would produce offspring which were "ringstraked ², speckled and spotted".
Jacob Laying the Peeled Rods Before the Flocks of Laban
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo - 1617-1682
Modern genetic research is common knowledge today with regard to the appearance of the offspring of a pair of mating animals. With some exceptions, the offspring usually takes on the appearance, shape, colors and even sometimes the attitude of its parents. The genes in both parents determine these characteristics in their offsprings, not what the parents are looking at when the female conceives.
Genesis Writers Had No Knowledge Of Genetics
The writer(s) of Genesis, however, obviously had no knowledge of genetics. They believed and wrote what we find in Genesis 30:37-42.
According to fundamentalist born again Christians of today who believe and teach that the Bible is inerrant and that Biblegod, the creator of all things and who is all knowing and all powerful, inspired the writings of the Bible. Not only did Biblegod inspire them, since He is omniscient, He inspired a Bible with absolute no errors, inconsistencies or contradictions.
I cannot dispute the colors of the offsprings from Jacob's "breeding regimen". My concern is that the so called divinely inspired Genesis writer(s) believed that the colors and designs of the offspring were actually influenced by having the breeding animals face the branches carved by Jacob. The writer(s) had no knowledge of genetics. They were believers in fallacies and old wives tales.
Genesis Writers Were Not Divinely Inspired
The Bible makes no attempt to dissuade the reader from understanding that
Jacob, by having the animals face certain designs carved on tree branches
which were place in the watering troughs, attained certain specific results
by using this regimen.
The Bible rather
describes the process as a matter of fact and makes no indication that Jacob
was using a process which was probably an old wives tale. It describes the
process as though it was a valid and viable breeding method.
To the writer(s) of Genesis, the "viewing" method of inducing certain characteristics in offsprings made sense to
them. It was scribed as absolute fact, not a one time occurrence especially
contrived by Biblegod for use by Jacob.
One Christian attempt at explaining "Jacob genetics" appears at the Blue Letter Bible Christian website, where the author at least admits that Jacob's breeding tact was in error and a superstitious belief. He rationalizes that Biblegod blessed Jacob in spite of Jacob's misunderstanding of breeding practices:
"The fact is: God blessed Jacob in spite of his superstitious use of the stripped rods of poplar, almond, and chestnut. Jacob's scheme probably depended upon a faulty notion that vivid visual impressions during the act of reproduction determined the traits of the offspring. He may have thought that placing the varying rods in front of mating animals would result in unusually coloured animals through some sort of hocus-pocus. God seems to have blessed Jacob in spite of his earthly scheming (Genesis 31.11-12). This fits into a broader scheme that runs throughout Jacob's life."
Amazing, isn't it, the lengths to which Christians will go to, to attempt to prove truthful, Bible passages which are obviously faulty and errant.
The New American Bible contains an honest
footnote for Genesis 30:39-42 explaining the Jacob breeding regimen:
"Jacob's stratagem was based on the widespread notion among simple people that visual stimuli can have prenatal effects on the offspring of breeding animals. Thus, the rods on which Jacob had whittled stripes or bands or chevron marks were thought to cause the female goats that looked at them to bear kids with lighter-colored marks on their dark hair, while the gray ewes were thought to bear lambs with dark marks on them simply by visual cross-breeding with the dark goats."
The footnote confirms that the people of that day had notions which were faulty.
Farrell Till ³ in his magazine, writes, "We know today that the color characteristics of animals is purely a matter of genetics, so a modern, scientifically-educated person would never write anything as obviously superstitious as this tale of Jacob's prosperity. The Genesis writer(s), however, knew nothing about the science of genetics, so to him the story undoubtedly made good sense."
"One thing the Bible definitely is not is inerrant in matters of science."
The Errant Bible
The Bible is alleged to be inspired by a God who does not make mistakes. Yet in this instance it appears that Biblegod had no knowledge of genetics. Or perhaps a better way of stating it is
to say that the writer(s) of Genesis had no knowledge of genetics and wrote what they mistakenly were taught and believed to be the truth. No inspiration by an all knowing, all pervasive deity was involved.
It takes only takes one error in the Bible to make it errant. This account is one of the many errors found in the Bible.
¹Genesis 30 (King James Version)
37 And Jacob took him rods of green poplar, and of the hazel and chesnut tree; and pilled white strakes in them, and made the white appear which was in the rods.
38 And he set the rods which he had pilled before the flocks in the gutters in the watering troughs when the flocks came to drink, that they should conceive when they came to drink.
39 And the flocks conceived before the rods, and brought forth cattle ringstraked, speckled, and spotted.
40 And Jacob did separate the lambs, and set the faces of the flocks toward the ringstraked, and all the brown in the flock of Laban; and he put his own flocks by themselves, and put them not unto Laban's cattle.
41 And it came to pass, whensoever the stronger cattle did conceive, that Jacob laid the rods before the eyes of the cattle in the gutters, that they might conceive among the rods.
42 But when the cattle were feeble, he put them not in: so the feebler were Laban's, and the stronger Jacob's.
²"Ringstraked" is Number 06124 in "The Hebrew Lexicon For Strong's Number" and is defined as "streaked, striped".