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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Divinity : Theology and Ethics

Postgraduate Course: Science and Scripture (online) (THET11050)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Divinity CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
Course typeOnline Distance Learning AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course will explore important points of contact between the science-religion debate and the Christian Bible, including trends in the interpretation of creation and miracle stories, and in fundamentalist belief such as creationism. The aim is to develop a critical awareness of methods of scriptural interpretation, and of how they have been influenced by modern science.
Course description Academic description:
Scientific explanations for the big miracle stories of the Bible exert a powerful pull on the popular imagination, as is easily demonstrated by googling 'Noah science or 'Moses Red Sea', and seeing the wide diversity of articles, blogs and discussion threads which are retrieved, many of which involve a great deal of scientific and historical speculation. Moreover, the rise of science has gone hand-in-hand with an increase in fundamentalist readings. The debate about young-earth creationism takes place largely on scientific terms, about issues such as the age of the earth and the rightness or wrongness of Darwin's theory of evolution, but the underlying issue is really the theological status of Scripture, and how we ought to read it. In all of this, the development of modern science has been a crucial influence on how the biblical text is read. This course explores some of the ways in which the core biblical texts of creation and miracle have been understood and interpreted by natural scientists and biblical scholars in modern times.

Syllabus/Outline Content:
Religious understandings of creation form the central subject of interest in this course, but other key narratives of faith which have been examined by scientists - Noah's flood, the Exodus, and the Resurrection - will also feature. An important aim of the course will be to develop an appreciation of hermeneutics - the science of interpretation - and to this end the widespread phenomenon known as Creationism will also feature in the course, especially in the guise of 'flood geology'.

A typical outline of the topics covered is as follows:
Week 1: Hermeneutics: the 'science' of reading
Week 2: Genesis 1
Week 3: Genesis 2-3
Week 4: Creation after Genesis
Week 5: Creation in the New Testament
Week 6: Natural evil, catastrophes, and 'plagues'
Week 7: The 'Sea Event'
Week 8: Miracle
Week 9: The Resurrection of Jesus
Week 10: Young-earth creationism
Week 11: Noah's flood

Student Learning Experience Information:
The course is taught by means of eleven sessions, each of which includes core online lecture content presented by one of the course teachers, and opportunity for online class discussion. Except for the very first session, each session will require a schedule of reading to be carried out in advance. Students are expected to engage critically and creatively with the reading, and to contribute to online discussion.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2020/21, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 1
Course Start Date 21/09/2020
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 11, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 11, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 1, Summative Assessment Hours 2, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 171 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 85 %, Practical Exam 15 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Essay (2,500 words), 85% «br /»
Practical exam, 15%«br /»
«br /»
The course will primarily be assessed through the submission of an essay of no more than 2500 words on a topic agreed between the student and the course manager. This will account for 85% of the student¿s course mark. The remaining 15% of the final course mark will be determined by the student¿s successful participation in the on-line activities associated with the course, such as the completion of on-line quizzes or making a number of relevant posting on the course discussion board.«br /»
Feedback Students will have the opportunity to submit and receive feedback on an essay plan.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Students will have established a sound awareness of how the science and religion dialogue has impacted upon biblical interpretation.
  2. Students will have a deeper understanding of the scriptural texts underlying much of the current science-religion dialogue, and will have surveyed the scope of biblical scholarship on key scriptural texts, and will have engaged critically with those texts.
  3. Students will have developed a thorough working knowledge of the available hermeneutical tools in biblical studies, especially those which seek in some way to reveal 'what really happened' behind the text, and including creationism and fundamentalism.
  4. Students will have engaged in constructive and critical online debate with peers across a range of disciplinary backgrounds.
Reading List
1. Hermeneutics: the ¿science¿ of reading
For those new to biblical studies this session will provide a brief overview of methods of biblical criticism from the eighteenth century to the modern day, but the aim is to develop more in-depth issues in biblical hermeneutics relevant to the course, especially the crucial difference between the ¿historical¿, and ¿narrative¿ readings of Scripture which tend to predominate in biblical scholarship against scientific approaches, respectively.

Prescribed Text:
Bernd Janowski, ¿Biblical Theology¿. In The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Studies eds. J. W. Rogerson, Judith M. Lieu (OUP, 2006), 716-731 ¿ Available here:
ALSO USEFUL: Hans W. Frei, The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative: A Study in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Hermeneutics (Yale, 1974), 1-16 ¿ on Learn.

Supplementary reading:
For those new to biblical studies:
Susan Gillingham, One Bible Many Voices: Different Approaches to Biblical Studies (SPCK, 1998).

Robert Morgan with John Barton, Biblical Interpretation (OUP, 1988), 167-202.
Anthony Thiselton, ¿Biblical studies and theoretical hermeneutics¿. In The Cambridge Companion to Biblical Interpretation ed. John Barton (CUP, 1998), 95-113

2. Genesis 1
This session will look at the first Genesis creation text (the ¿Priestly¿ creation narrative), and how modern science has affected almost everything that is ever said about it, especially through the Big Bang model. Alternative approaches, building on critical biblical scholarship will be compared.

Prescribed Text:
Claus Westermann, Creation (Fortress, 1974), 32-65.

Supplementary reading:
Margaret Barker, Creation: A Biblical Vision for the Environment (T&T Clark, 2010).
William Brown, The Seven Pillars of Creation: The Bible, Science, and the Ecology of Wonder (OUP, 2010), 33-77 (
Paul Copan and William Lane Craig, Creation out of Nothing: A Biblical, Philosophical, and Scientific Exploration (Baker Academic and Apollos, 2004).
Terence E. Fretheim, God and World in the Old Testament (Abingdon, 2005), ch.2
Mark Harris, Nature of Creation, chap.3
Ellen Van Wolde, ¿Why the Verb ¿¿¿ Does Not Mean ¿to Create¿ in Genesis 1.1-2.4a¿, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 34: 3-23 (2009) (

3. Genesis 2-3
From the point of view of Christian theology, this is one of the most important texts in the Hebrew Bible, and the story of the ¿Fall¿ still enjoys robust dispute, especially because of scientific developments such as evolutionary biology. This session will examine the main trends in the history of interpretation, beginning with Paul, and moving through Augustine to modern conservative and critical readings.

Prescribed Texts:
Denis Alexander, Creation or Evolution: Do we have to choose? (Monarch, 2008), 214-243 ¿ on Learn.

Supplementary reading:
John Bimson, ¿Doctrines of the Fall and Sin After Darwin¿, in Theology after Darwin, eds. Northcott and Berry (Paternoster, 2009), 106-122;
Graeme Finlay, Stephen Lloyd, Stephen Pattemore and David Swift, eds. Debating Darwin. Two Debates: Is Darwinism True and Does it Matter? (Paternoster, 2009).
Terence E. Fretheim, God and World in the Old Testament (Abingdon, 2005), ch.3
Mark Harris, Nature of Creation, chaps.3, 7
Denis Lamoureux, ¿Evolutionary Creation: Moving Beyond the Evolution Versus Creation Debate¿, Christian Higher Education 9:28-48 (2010) (
Ernest Lucas, Can we believe Genesis today? The Bible and the questions of science (IVP, 2005).
Joshua M. Moritz (2011) ¿The Search for Adam Revisited: Evolution, Biblical Literalism, and the Question of Human Uniqueness.¿ Theology and Science 9:367-377 (
Michael Reeves, ¿Adam and Eve¿, in Should Christians Embrace Evolution Norman Nevin, ed. (IVP, 2009), 43-56.

Why the historical Adam is creating so much concern ¿

4. Creation after Genesis
Creation theologies appear in many other texts of the Bible after Genesis, and although they may reflect some of the Genesis material (especially Genesis 1), there is also much that is distinctive. This session will examine the mythological background to the Bible¿s creation motif, as well as ways in which the prophets and Wisdom texts explore creation. This will be connected with scientific and ecological interpretations.

Prescribed texts:
David Horrell, The Bible and the Environment: Towards a Critical Ecological Biblical Theology (Equinox, 2010), 49-61 ¿ on Learn.
Hilary Marlow (2010) Biblical Prophets and Contemporary Environmental Ethics (OUP, 2010), Chap.7 ¿The Old Testament Prophets and Environmental Ethics¿ ¿

Supplementary reading:
William Brown, The Seven Pillars of Creation: The Bible, Science, and the Ecology of Wonder (OUP, 2010), chapters 5-9 (
Terence E. Fretheim, God and World in the Old Testament (Abingdon, 2005)
Tom McLeish, Faith and Wisdom in Science (OUP, 2014), chaps. 3 and 5
Mark Harris, Nature of Creation, chap.4
Ronald A. Simkins, Creator & Creation: Nature in the Worldview of Ancient Israel (Hendrickson, 1994)

5. Creation in the New Testament
The creation texts in the New Testament are especially distinctive because although they re-work the OT material, they are (a) heavily eschatological, and (b) centred on the person of Christ. This session will explore the ways in which these ideas have impacted upon attempts to build scientific Christologies.

Prescribed text:
George L. Murphy, ¿Cosmology and Christology.¿ Science & Christian Belief 6: 101-111 (1994)

Supplementary reading:
Niels Henrik Gregersen, ¿Cur deus caro: Jesus and the Cosmos Story.¿ Theology and Science 11 (2013) 370-393
Mark Harris, Nature of Creation, chap.4
Joshua M. Moritz ¿Deep Incarnation and the Imago Dei: The Cosmic Scope of the Incarnation in Light of the Messiah as the Renewed Adam.¿ Theology and Science 11 (2013) 436-443
Wolfhart Pannenberg, Jesus, God and Man (SCM, 1968), 390-397;
John Macquarrie, Jesus Christ in Modern Thought (SCM: 1990), 388-392;
Alister E. McGrath, A Scientific Theology: Volume 2. Reality (T&T Clark, 2006), 245-313, especially pp.297-313
Gerald O¿Collins, Christology: A Biblical, Historical and Systematic Study of Jesus (OUP, 2009), 248-255;
John Robinson, The Human Face of God (SCM, 1973), chapter 5.

6. Natural evil, catastrophes, and ¿plagues¿
This session will examine natural catastrophes in the Bible (i.e. earthquakes, floods, epidemic, and other natural disasters). A variety of interpretative perspectives can be adopted. While we might tend to see such catastrophes in terms of ¿natural evil¿ (suggesting that the Creator should be held responsible), the biblical response tends to see them in terms of either (a) divine judgement (e.g. Gen.6-9; 18-19), or (b) as deliverance (e.g. the plagues of Egypt). This session will explore these different perspectives, and look at the relevance of modern scientific understandings of such catastrophes.

Prescribed texts:
1. Familiarise yourself with Genesis 18-19, Exodus 7-10 and Job as theological explorations of catastrophe and ¿natural evil¿.
2. Terence E. Fretheim, Creation Untamed: The Bible, God, and Natural Disasters (Baker, 2010), chap.3 ¿ on Learn, or can be obtained online or in hard copy in the Library.

Supplementary reading (Evil and the God of the OT):
Michael Bergmann, Michael J. Murray, and Michael C. Rea, Divine Evil? The Moral Character of the God of Abraham (OUP, 2010) ¿
James L. Crenshaw, Defending God: Biblical Responses to the Problem of Evil (OUP, 2005) ¿ especially chaps.7 (¿Punishment for sin¿) and 11 (¿Disinterested Righteousness¿)
Mark Harris, Nature of Creation, chap.8

Supplementary reading (Catastrophes and plagues):
Manfred Bietak, ¿The Volcano Explains Everything ¿ or Does it?¿ Biblical Archaeology Review Nov/Dec 2006, 60-65.
Jelle Zeilinga de Boer and Donald Theodore Sanders, Volcanoes in Human History: The Far-Reaching Effects of Major Eruptions (Princeton, 2002).
Greta Hort, ¿The Plagues of Egypt.¿ Vetus Testamentum 69: 84-103; 70: 48-59 (1957-8).
Warren C. Robertson, Drought, Famine, Plague and Pestilence: Ancient Israel¿s Understandings of and Responses to Natural Catastrophes (Gorgias, 2010).
Barbara J. Sivertsen, The Parting of the Sea: How volcanoes, earthquakes, and plagues shaped the story of Exodus (Princeton University Press, 2009), Chaps. 3 and 4 (¿The Minoan Eruption¿, ¿The Plagues, the Exodus, and Historical Reality¿) ¿ can be obtained online via the University Library catalogue.
R. Torrence and J. Grattan, eds., Natural Disasters and Cultural Change (Routledge, 2002).

7. The ¿Sea Event¿
This session will examine the great diversity of scientific explanations around the Red Sea Crossing of the Exodus, and will review them in conjunction with a close reading of the (equally diverse) biblical texts. The particular commentator under the spotlight will be Colin Humphreys, whose volatile remarks against biblical scholarship suggests that there is a subtle hermeneutic at play in the interpretation of miracle stories.

Prescribed Text:
Colin J. Humphreys, The Miracles of Exodus: A Scientist¿s Discovery of the Extraordinary Natural Causes of the Biblical Stories (Continuum, 2003), 244-260 (
Jacob E. Dunn, ¿A God of Volcanoes: Did Yahwism take root in volcanic ashes?¿ Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 38 (2014) 387-424 (

Supplementary reading:
Bernard Batto, ¿The Reed Sea: Requiescat in pace¿ Journal of Biblical Literature 102:27-35 (1983) (
James K. Hoffmeier, Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition (OUP, 1996), Chapter 9
James K. Hoffmeier, Ancient Israel in Sinai: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Wilderness Tradition (OUP, 2005), Chapter 5
William Johnstone, Review of The Miracles of Exodus by Colin Humphreys Journal of Semitic Studies 50:373-379 (2005) (
K. A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Eerdmans, 2003), 254-263.

And a selection of what¿s on the internet:
Ron Wyatt¿s claims -
Base Institute -
Ark Discovery International ¿

8. Miracle
Rather than taking a general (¿objective¿) approach to miracle, this session will look at what can be said through looking at particular cases. Accordingly, this session will seek to develop biblical theologies of miracle by close study of a representative number of texts across the Bible, in order to assess Rowley¿s words from 1956:

¿Many modern minds are disturbed by the miraculous element in the story of the deliverance from Egypt and elsewhere in the Old Testament. On the other hand it is sometimes alleged that critical scholarship is based on the denial of the possibility of miracle. Let me say with clarity and candour that I am a critical scholar and that I neither begin nor end with any such denial¿The miracle stories [of the Old Testament] can neither be uncritically accepted as historical, nor uncritically rejected as fancy. Each example must be examined for itself, in the light of the character of the narrative in which it stands and the purpose for which it appears to have been written. But that there is a truly miraculous element in the story, I am fully persuaded¿ (H. H. Rowley, The Faith of Israel (SCM, 1956), pp.57-8).

Prescribed text:
Eric Eve, The Healer from Nazareth: Jesus¿s miracles in historical context (SPCK, 2009), Chap.3 ¿ on Learn.
In addition, each student will be asked to choose a specific miracle text from the Bible in order to investigate it using any appropriate means to bring to the discussion. Plausibility issues, scientific ideas, and personal testimony will be considered as ¿appropriate means¿ alongside angles from the usual commentaries and scholarly literature.

Supplementary reading:

Barry L. Blackburn, ¿The miracle of Jesus.¿ In The Cambridge Companion to Miracles, ed. Graham Twelftree (CUP, 2011) ¿
Wendy J. Cotter, The Christ of the Miracle Stories: Portrait through Encounter (Baker, 2010).
Eric Eve, The Jewish Context of Jesus¿ Miracles (Sheffield Academic, 2002).
Craig S. Keener, Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts (Baker, 2011).
Justin Meggitt, ¿The historical Jesus and healing: Jesus¿ miracles in psychosocial context.¿ In Spiritual Healing: Scientific and Religious Perspectives, ed. Fraser Watts (CUP, 2011), 17-43 ¿
Graham H. Twelftree, Jesus the Miracle Worker: A Historical and Theology Study (IVP, 1999).
Graham H. Twelftree, Jesus the Exorcist: A Contribution to the Study of the Historical Jesus (Wipf and Stock, 1993).
Graham H. Twelftree, ¿The Miraculous in the New Testament: Current Research and Issues.¿ Currents in Biblical Research 12 (2012) 321-352.

9. The Resurrection of Jesus
It is often said that Christianity stands or falls on the resurrection of Jesus. But what exactly do statements of this kind mean? There is an ever-flowing stream of books and articles published yearly on issues surrounding evidence, plausibility, and witness testimony of the resurrection. This session will examine the arguments made for and against, how they rely on the scriptural material, mathematical probability calculations based on the scriptural evidence, and the difference that modern science makes. The aim will be to understand the different ways in which the Bible is used to argue for (and against) an historical scenario, in this, the hardest of all cases.

Prescribed Text:
Stephen T. Davis, ¿¿Seeing¿ the Risen Jesus¿, in The Resurrection, Stephen Davis, Daniel Kendall, Gerald O¿Collins, eds. (OUP, 1997), 126-147 (
Richard Swinburne, The Resurrection of God Incarnate (OUP, 2003), pp.204-216
***SPECIAL NOTE*** The Swinburne text is challenging! If you are confident in your mathematical/scientific abilities, I invite you to work through the calculation in order to identify the crucial steps where the logic may be questioned. If this is too much, then don¿t worry since we will look at it in class, but it would be useful if everyone has some familiarity with the text, whether or not you work it through in detail beforehand.

Supplementary reading:
Stephen T. Davis, ¿Resurrection¿, in The Cambridge Companion to Christian Philosophical Theology, ed. Charles Taliaferro and Chad Meister (CUP, 2010), 108-123 (
Michael R. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (IVP, 2010), 465-610.
Ted Peters, Robert John Russell, and Michael Welker, eds., Resurrection: Theological and Scientific Assessments (Eerdmans, 2002).
N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (SPCK, 2003), Part V.

Also of interest:
For some of the general issues of relevance (including some background on Bayesian analysis), see the following:
Michael P. Levine, ¿Philosophers on miracles¿, in The Cambridge Companion to Miracles, ed. Graham Twelftree (CUP, 2011), 291-308 (
Michael Martin, ¿The Resurrection as Initially Improbable.¿ In The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave, ed. R. M. Price and Jay Lowder (Prometheus, 2005), pp.43-54.

10. Young-earth creationism
This session will look at the history behind 6-day creationism, its key beliefs and hermeneutical traits, and its dominance in modern-day fundamentalist Christianity and its influence in Islam. ¿Flood geology¿ will form an important part of the session.

Prescribed Text:
John C. Whitcomb and Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implications (P&R, 1961) ¿ pp.258-288 ¿ on Learn.
David R. Montgomery, ¿The evolution of creationism.¿ GSA Today 22:4-9 (2012) ¿ on Learn.

Supplementary reading:
Charles A. Bleckmann, ¿Evolution and Creationism in Science: 1880-2000¿, Bioscience 56:151-158 (2006) (
Arthur McCalla, The Creationist Debate: The Encounter Between the Bible and the Historical Mind (Bloomsbury, 2nd ed., 2013).
David R. Montgomery, The Rocks Don¿t Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah¿s Flood (Norton, 2012).
Ronald L. Numbers, The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism (University of California Press, 2006).
Ronald L. Numbers, ¿Scientific creationism and intelligent design.¿ In The Cambridge Companion to Science and Religion, ed. Peter Harrison (CUP, 2008), 127-147. (
Davis A. Young, The Biblical Flood: A Case Study of the Church¿s Response to Extrabiblical Evidence. (Eerdmans, 1995), 244-266.
Davis A. Young and Ralph F. Stearley, The Bible, Rocks and Time: Geological Evidence for the Age of the Earth (IVP, 2008).

For further research on young-earth creationism:
Answers in Genesis ¿
Institute for Creation Research ¿
Creationism in the UK ¿

11. Noah¿s flood
This session will look at the hotly-debated issue of the putative universality of the flood myth behind the biblical flood story in Genesis 6-9, together with popular recent alternative explanations, such as those which utilise an ancient flood in the Black Sea.

Prescribed Texts:
E. Kristan-Tollmann and A. Tollmann, A. ¿The youngest big impact on Earth deduced from geological and historical evidence¿ Terra nova 6:209-217 (1994) ¿ available electronically on the University Library catalogue.
Quirin Schiermeier, ¿Noah¿s Flood¿ Nature 430:718-719 (2004). (

Supplementary reading:
Norman Cohn, Noah¿s Flood: The Genesis Story in Western Thought (Yale University Press, 1996).
W. Bruce Masse, ¿The Archaeology and Anthropology of Quaternary Period Cosmic Impact¿, in Bobrowsky and Rickman eds., Comet/Asteroid Impacts and Human Society: An Interdisciplinary Approach (Springer, 2007), 25-70 (
David Pleins, When the Great Abyss Opened: Classic and Contemporary Readings of Noah¿s Flood (OUP, 2003), 159-182 ***Ch.10 ¿Can we really dig up God?¿*** (
William Ryan and Walter Pitman, Noah¿s Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries About the Event That Changed History (Simon&Schuster, 1999).

Some interesting links on ¿ark-eology¿
Ron Wyatt ¿'s_ark.htm
The BASE Institute -
Bob Cornuke¿s search for Noah¿s Ark (in 4 parts) ¿
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Students will acquire and enhance the following main graduate attributes:
- The ability to read and understand scientific, theological and philosophical texts relevant to issues in science and religion and to engage critically with them.
- The ability to engage in constructive discussion with peers and across disciplinary boundaries.
- The ability to engage with key areas in the current science-religion interface and biblical scholarship ¿ to show strong critical skills in approaching these debates.
- The ability to engage in independent research.

Students will acquire and enhance the following transferable skills:
- General analytical skills (the ability to construct, reconstruct, recognise and critically assess arguments and evidence).
- The ability to engage with close reading of texts, both critically and creatively.
- Organisational skills (the ability to manage time, to complete a large-scale and complex project)
- Team and group work (the ability to coordinate work with others to constructive ends, and to engage in collegial discussion and debate with others).
- General research skills (the ability to find, recognise and organise information relevant to a project, and to assess the import of it).
- Critical thinking (the ability to select and evaluate relevant data in texts).

Students will acquire and enhance the following professional skills:
- The ability to reconstruct and assess arguments critically.
- The ability to weigh up different interpretations of relevant texts, data and research methods.
- The ability to formulate a research goal (of an essay) and to complete a project ¿ including large-scale complex projects ¿ on time.
- The ability to identify and use the methods and resources necessary for a given project.
KeywordsScience,religion,science and religion,Bible,biblical studies,creation,miracle,fundamentalism
Course organiserDr Mark Harris
Tel: (0131 6)50 8914
Course secretaryMiss Rachel Dutton
Tel: (0131 6)50 7227
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