Are Bible references linking dust to man meant to be taken as symbolic?
The answer is yes and no. It depends on the usage within Scripture. For example, Genesis 13:16 tells us, “I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your descendants also can be counted.” In the first part of the verse, the meaning of “the dust of the earth” is modified by the words, “as the" or "like” which precede the phrase. So the phrase is employed as an analogy. In the second half of the verse, all modifiers are absent, so the phrase can be interpreted literally as geological (inorganic) dust of the earth. Further, let’s recall the words of God to Adam: “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19). Notice, there are no modifiers in this verse. God is telling us that man is literally, dust of the earth/ground that has become organic. This interpretation is not only a scriptural fact, it is also a scientific fact. DNA is dust/stone … dust that is also an organic salt. Think about this: we know that Eve was not literalistically taken from the ground (dust), as evidenced by Scripture's description of her creation from the material of Adam. She was formed from the stem cells in Adam's rib (see the current blog on this website). What is the only thing in human cells that can be scientifically identified as both dust and salt? DNA!
Throughout Scripture, an undeniable link is established between dust, on the one hand, and living organisms on the other. In virtually every instance (maybe all instances) in Scripture where God transforms one material into another, i.e. organic life, the original material transformed is dust/stone. Let’s look at just a few of many passages linking inorganic salt/dust/stone with organic salt/dust/stone. They are: 1) Satan tempted Jesus to turn stones (inorganic dust) into bread (organic dust of DNA). Satan is not an idiot. He would not have tempted Jesus this way unless he knew Jesus could do it (Lk. 4:3, Mt. 4:3); 2) God turned dust into gnats (Ex. 8:16-17); 3) We are told that God could turn stones into children of Abraham, i.e. members of the Chosen nation (Mt. 3:9, Lk. 3:8); The rebuilt Temple (Jesus’ body, per John 2:19-21) is referred to as the ‘cornerstone’ (same substance, but a much larger version of dust) of the Temple (1 Pt. 2:6), and; 4) multiple linkages are made between man and mud/clay, both primarily containing dust mixed with water, (e.g. Is. 64:8; Job 10:9, 33:6; Rom 9:21; and Jn 9:11). [top]
Does science and history prove that God does not exist?
Many atheists claim to present reason-based arguments in their debates about the existence or non-existence of God. They use words like: logical/illogical, reasonable/unreasonable; irrational/rational; and so forth. However, the fact is, any argument centered on proving the universal/absolute non-existence of God is based entirely on fallacious logic. To be sure, an atheist will dress up his comments very elegantly and impressively. He/she will use a little bit of science (much of it speculative or erroneous), a little bit of history (which is usually false on its face or interpreted erroneously), a little bit of sociology, etc. However, all of that window-dressing can’t hide the following fact: it is logically impossible to prove universal or absolute non-existence. That is a fact reasonable atheists agree with. The very best that can be utilized in such a debate is: 1) to quantify evidence supporting God’s existence, or; 2) to argue for a lack of any evidence supporting the existence of God (I’m purposely leaving ‘faith’ out of the equation so that atheists and Christians can converse on a level playing field, so to speak). An atheist’s argument is negatively based; they see no evidence for a God. The other roughly 95% of the world would say they do see evidence for God’s existence. A very popular argument of the atheist is to say this: If there is such a thing as a good God, how come there is so much misery and suffering in the world? This is a negative evidentiary argument that atheists employ hoping you will interpret as proof of non-existence of God (the argument itself is one type of fallacious logic that is also an awkward attempt to disguise a second type of fallacious logic). It is an argument that can only be entertained through a complete lack of knowledge of a God consisting of a Trinity of Three Persons in an eternal family dialogue. In a couple of months, we will show the utter and complete fallacy of that “good God and presence of evil” argument. It will be published on our blog page. In The Science & Theology of Salt in Scripture, Vol. I & II, there is present a good deal of evidence pointing to the existence of God. [top]
I'm a biologist. I've never heard of DNA described as dust. Why?
This is not the first time we have heard this question. When I first realized that salt and dust in Scripture are referring to the salt and dust of DNA, I was shocked and puzzled at the same time. I couldn't understand why someone in the scientific community had not already discovered this. Only recently was I able to discover what I believe to be the reason. The main problem, I believe, is in the two separate scientific disciplines and terminologies that are relative to the subject of man's physical creation. They are, biology and geology. In the Bible, there are many passages informing us that man was made from the dust of the earth, and to dust he will return after his death. It is clear from all of these passages that God is teaching us something about man's creation, but he is using the geological sciences (i.e., dust of the earth) because this is the terminology that people of the first few thousand years would have some degree of meaningful understanding. They could never have even begun to understand DNA or cell physiology. Through this geological terminology, they would be given a symbolic meaning of a creation event that, as it would be discovered later, is actually a much deeper concrete reality, i.e. salt and dust are DNA. With this deeper understanding, a better understanding of how the Sacraments, the Mystical Body of Christ, and grace, affect both the body and the soul. This also leads to a deeper understanding of how Love is expressed into the visible world through the "language of the body," as Pope St. John Paul II describes it.
Biologists use biological terms to describe chemical reactions, biological functions, etc. I'm guessing that biologists do not routinely use the science of geology textbooks as part of their biological studies. Biologists don't think in geological terms, such as what constitutes a rock, stone, and dust. As time and science progressed, God knew that people of our time would be able to put two and two together to produce a biological "four", in a manner of speaking. The "four" being the biological understanding of the concrete meaning of the geological vernacular.
So, since God is employing geological terminology by reference salt, dust, and stone, let's see how the geological sciences define a stone. "The rocks you see around you - the mountains, canyons & riverbeds, are all made of minerals. A rock is made up of two or more minerals [SML]. Think of a chocolate chip cookie as a rock. The cookie is made of flour, butter, sugar & chocolate. The cookie is like a rock and the flour, butter, sugar & chocolate are like minerals. You need minerals to make rocks, but you don't need rocks to make minerals. All rocks are made of minerals." Incidentally, this is why gold and silver are never referred to as a rock or stone. Each only contains one elemental mineral, not the two or more to be classified as a stone. Because of this, they use the term, nugget, bar, coin, etc.
For the benefit of non-biologists I will give some background. In 1953 James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins published a paper titled, "A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid [DNA]." The first sentence in the article reads, "We wish to suggest a structure for the salt [SML] of deoxyribose nucleic acid (D.N.A.)." DNA is a biological salt. This article, published in Nature magazine, includes commentary by Tom Zinnen. He tells us that, after losing positively charged hydrogen ions, the DNA phosphates (phosphate and sugar comprise the backbone of the DNA double helix) become negatively charged. Consequently, they bind to a cation (a positively charged ion) to achieve electrical neutrality - usually, but not limited to, Na+ (sodium) or K+ (potassium). That makes the DNA polymer a "salt" of [Na+] x [DNA-] (sodium phosphate) or [K+] x [DNA-] (potassium phosphate). Why is this important? This bonding of more than one mineral (an ion of metal and an ion of acid) to the DNA backbone makes it the salt of DNA. By geological definition, it makes the salt of DNA a molecule of rock/stone/dust.
The Hebrew word for dust in Genesis is 'aphar', which translates as "dust (as powdered or gray); hence, clay, earth, mud [Strongs 6083]." Even Richard Dawkins has admitted that Genesis may have, indeed, accurately described how man was made. According to an article by Paul Baldwin, "Clay is made up of tiny crystals which when fed with water are capable of growing, splitting off and giving rise to identical (or near-identical crystals) ... Mr. Cairns-Smith proposed biological molecules like DNA began to associate with these complex crystals and eventually a 'genetic takeover' took place ... Astonishingly his theory was first proposed in 1966 but further studies in 2007 and 2013 backed the principles … Most recently Biological Engineers from Cornell University's department for Nanoscale Science in New York state agreed clay 'might have been the birthplace of life on Earth'." DNA is salt. DNA is dust. DNA is crystalline. [back to top]