"The Bible does not directly speak for or against continental drift. " . . . the theory that slow continental drift has taken place for millions of years is considered, to many Christians, contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture." Quoted from "Answers in Genesis".


PELEG
and
Continental Drift

A son of Eber of the family of Shem, in whose days the "earth or Land was divided". BCE 2222. Gen.10:25; 11:16-19; 1 Chron.1:19-25.

The name "Peleg" means "division" (Strong translates as "earthquake") and Gen.10:25 tells us that he was so named, "for in his days the earth (Heb: 'erets the earth [at large, or partitively a land] was divided". The Bible is full of little explanatory comments like that and usually they are either ignored or "interpreted" to mean something other than the clear meaning of the words. The word Peleg means division or earthquake as by cutting a canal or by earth movement.  Some have suggested a political division but the text clearly suggests a physical, geological act.

We must not be over awed by the implications of time-scale. We should think about what we have learned in recent years concerning "Plate Tectonics" and "Continental Drift" or the possibility of sudden geological upheavals caused by meteor impact or a close miss by some other heavenly body such as a comet, with the potential to distort the whole global structure of the earth at short notice.  We should also look at other scriptures and factors such as race and we will find some interesting food for thought.

From the Genesis account of creation and man's early time on earth we learn the following:

1. That the human inhabitants of earth, alive today, descend from an original created couple.

2. That there was originally a single land mass and a single sea. "waters below the heavens be gathered into ONE place".  Gen.1:9.

3. All human flesh, save eight persons, was destroyed in the flood of Noah and the world was re-populated from one family.

Today we have many different races of people living all over the globe on a fragmented earth-surface. There have been many theories and expeditions to solve the mystery how "primitive" peoples managed to reach such distant places over vast seas.

A simple possible solution lies in the account in Genesis.

It must be remembered that Genesis is a series of, overlapping profiles of events and not necessarily a sequential narrative. This is demonstrated in Gen.10:31 which speak of "languages, lands and nations", yet the next chapter v.1 says "the whole earth used the same language and the same words". Then the report goes on to describe the confusion of tongues at Babel from whence sprung diversity of language with the consequence of the scattering of the peoples, Gen 11:9.  We should note this "overlap" again with reference to our subject person "Peleg".

Understanding this literary structure is essential to a sound knowledge of what the Genesis record is telling us.  The four dimensional nature of our existence cannot be described in a single continuous narrative, hence numerous overlapping "views" have to be described.  Yet for some obscure reason most, even learned scholars, demand that we explain Genesis sequentially, verse by verse, hour by hour as it were. (see item on Genesis)

In ch.10:25 Peleg is mentioned as a descendant of Noah (Shem) and his notoriety established by the single statement, "for in his days the earth was divided". The next chapter traces the same time period detailing the descendants of Shem and again mentioning Peleg v.17-25.  An interesting point may be raised as to how Peleg got his name ? supposedly, he was not so named at birth for the text says "in his days", as, during his lifetime, it seems that he was someone of importance, a ruler, who acquired a name memorializing an historic event.  Not unlike many names today that reflect the trade or character of some original bearer (Smith, Cooper, etc.) names with which the original bearers were not born.

In 1 Chron.1:19-25 Peleg and the "division of the earth" are again mentioned in another recital of the descendants of Noah v.19.  Two sons were born to Eber: One was named Peleg, "because in his time the earth was divided"; his brother was named Joktan.

Incidentally, here we find Peleg is in the line of Abraham.

Now if we again consider our 4 points:

1. That the earth, after the flood, was populated from a single family.

2. That the sea and land were two individual, separate masses. Gen.1:9,10.  And God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear." And it was so. God called the dry ground "land," and the gathered waters he called "seas." And God saw that it was good.

Although most translations say that "God called the dry land earth, and the ... waters He called seas". The Hebrew word translated here for "seas" is "yam" and is singular and usually translated "sea". The word "mayim", is plural but used as we speak of "the waters". If I offered you a drink of water in Hebrew I would use the word "mayim".  So we see a picture of a world with a single sea and a sole land-mass just as scientists have recently discovered and is even confirmed by some ancient drawings.

3. We see the new population "scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth". Gen.11:9. This would seem to suggest that "the whole earth" was a single land mass.

Now let us suppose that some event of cosmic proportions, (many possibilities have been discussed lately), let's say a stray comet, causes a sudden global upheaval that precipitates at a much quicker rate than imagined today, the phenomenon of "Continental Drift". We do not, as yet have the scientific evidence to totally support this proposition but the whole subject is rather new and it would be presumptuous to rule out such a possibility. Drift today is microscopic, but the globe has been wracked by huge climatic and geological changes that allow considerable room for sanctified speculation. Some are asking "what happened to the dinosaurs?", well, our ignorance alone leaves ample room for speculation but if we take note of the "evidence" of scripture, I believe we have a good foundation for at least a logical theory for many of these questions about our origins that intrigue us.  Isn't that what Genesis is about?  It seems clear that God wanted us to know about these things and it seems reasonable that our (unbiased) observation of our environment would not contradict or confuse our reading of the Biblical record.  Indeed the Apostle Paul said "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-- his eternal power and divine nature-- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." Rom 1:20.

So if we are judged by the record then God's justice demands the record be intelligible.

Also consider Joshua and the Sun standing still or Hezikiah's stairs and the shadow.  These may have been small local miracles or may illustrate that the steady, slow, predictable procession of cosmic events can be interrupted or accelerated by One who has the power. Terraforming is the theme of many science fiction stories, recognizing that many planets may be inhospitable. We can imagine in our story telling, puny man venturing into space and remaking worlds to his needs yet have trouble with the idea that the Creator may put finishing touches on His work, when and how He pleases.

If we accept the principle of concurrent phases of creation, and that the record means what it says, it may well be that the separation of the land began or happened in Peleg's time in a catastrophic manner, while in fact it continues today at a slow but measurable rate.

The confusion of tongues and the consequential dispersion of the "one people" from the "one place" meant they were spread out over the one continent and were further separated or lost to each other by the "division" of the single landmass into the beginnings of the continental dispersion that we have today.

Now with people speaking different languages and living in different climates, becoming accustomed to new foods, in time, the various separated groups, "nations", with aid of our in-built diversity potential, would develop differences in culture and environment, as well as changes to physical characteristics leading to the variety of races we have today.

Gondwanaland- The Dynamic Earth - View the action.

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VKR 5/1999-2/2002
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