Other religions have holy books, fervant believers, dedicated followers, even museums, exhibits, and lists of scientists/academics that support their world view, their creation myths and stories. Why are you right and they are wrong? Just because you say you are? Just because “the Bible tells me so”? Just because your budget is bigger?
On a side note, after looking through your articles regarding the Christian God's connection to the Chinese language I was dumbstruck but the poor to non-existent scholarship. The conclusion that God and Christianity are hidden within the mysterious Chinese language are based on ignorance. What those authors did would be like analyzing English and finding that in the word Selfish is the word fish, so a selfish must be a kind of fish. Utter ignorance. Good day.
—M., Nanning, China

Wonder and Thought

Our family visited the Creation Museum last spring and it was fabulous. It strengthened my personal belief and really gave me a picture of our creation and our Creator. We followed our Creation Museum visit with a visit to an aunt and uncle who are “old earth” non-Christians. We talked to them a little about the museum, and they had all kinds of disagreements, but we were able to ask questions of them that left them thinking a little and not angry and offended. I feel like it is because of the “attitude adjustment” that we took from the Creation Museum. I have a deep sense of wonder and amazement and curiosity after seeing the museum. I think that the questioning helps one to think for him- and herself.

—M.V., U.S.

Have Something to Add?

Let us know what you think.

Thank you for writing. I am sorry you were “dumbstruck” by some of the material on our site—but more on that in a moment. First, let me very briefly respond to your initial paragraph of comments. The Bible is our presupposition: our axiomatic “starting point” from which we interpret the world around us. Furthermore, it stands up logically and historically in a way that no other writing does (see Other Religious Writings).

Background

Your second paragraph is intriguing, however, and that is what I will focus on. It may sound surprising, but although I studied Mandarin Chinese for three years as an undergraduate student and now work for Answers in Genesis, I have never actually studied the “Chinese characters argument” for biblical history. (For readers who are not familiar, the argument is that elements of the Creation and Flood accounts—and thus the gospel message, indirectly—are hidden in specific Chinese characters [word symbols], demonstrating that the ancient Chinese had the same historical background given in Genesis 1–11.1 See Chinese Characters and Genesis for a quick overview with illustrations.)

I decided it was high time I caught up on this subject, so I began by watching Andy McIntosh’s talk Genesis, Babel & the Chinese Language. In part 3, Dr. McIntosh presents the argument: “God’s truth has actually been handed down by Noah and it’s actually there in the Chinese language.” McIntosh shows just a few of the characters whose components suggest a tale in line with Genesis; other books and articles present the argument in much more detail (note that some were cowritten by Chinese individuals).2

Based on a general review of McIntosh’s talk and some of these other materials, I believe there’s a very clear demonstration that elements of some Genesis accounts may be found together in certain Chinese characters. I chose that wording carefully, however: while it seems undeniable that some elements of Bible accounts match up with elements of some Chinese characters, that alone does not prove that the connection is significant or that it was intentional.

Testing the Argument

Without having a reliable eyewitness report of the etymological development of Chinese characters, we can never be completely sure whether the “creation in Chinese characters” hypothesis is true. Furthermore, any study of the development of Chinese characters gets very complicated because most characters combine semantic and phonetic elements. (That is, parts of the character exist to suggest meaning, while other parts exist to suggest pronunciation.)

There are two key possibilities for how the Chinese characters argument could appear correct on the surface while actually being incorrect:

  1. The correlation is by chance. There are tens of thousands of Chinese characters, most of which comprise multiple simpler characters and radicals (which either are characters or are derived from them). With so many permutations, perhaps one could even find Snow White hidden in Chinese characters if every character were analyzed. The chance of Bible accounts being coincidentally hidden in Chinese characters is even greater considering the size of the Bible and the number of objects in each account. Genesis alone contains dozens and dozens of accounts, each with numerous elements, any small combination of which might be matched to a character. A rigorous test of the Chinese characters argument would require one to ascertain all the values and possibilities, then numerically calculate the statistical significance of the correlations.
  2. The correlation is only superficial. Humans have an eye for patterns, which sometimes gets us into trouble when we see a pattern that doesn’t really exist—or when we superimpose specific meanings on something very vague.3 It’s possible that when it comes to the Chinese characters argument, researchers are “reading into” select characters more than they should. Compounding this danger is that in Chinese, as in other languages, certain words have multiple meanings (including esoteric ones), which increases the odds that someone might be able to find, in a given character, some analogue to some element of a Genesis account. It could even be that some of the discussed characters do originate in Genesis history, while for others the correlation is imposed by researchers.

As for your analogy about seeing “fish” in the English word “selfish,” you’re right that “selfish” is etymologically unrelated to “fish,” and it would be a humorous (albeit understandable) mistake for a non-native speaker to assume the two were related. Yet what you’ve ignored is that, even in English, similarity in spelling often is an indicator of common etymological descent, because so many words are products of older words. Some examples are obvious (like worldview or nonetheless, which are English words based on other English words), but the majority are less obvious unless one knows languages like Latin and Greek (for example, significance is ultimately from the Latin significare, meaning “to indicate”; another etymological connection well known in apologetics circles is excruciate, which traces back in Latin to meaning the pain of crucifixion).4

Conclusion

As I’ve tried to explain, neither side of this debate can be completely validated, since we’re dealing with an unrepeatable past. At the very least, I believe any open-minded thinker would agree that the correlation is (1) a reasonable hypothesis that is (2) intriguing and that (3) merits further research. Of course, if you begin with the assumption that the Bible’s history “just can’t be right” (in which case I would not consider you open-minded), then any argument that justifies the Bible will automatically become unreasonable!

But if, on the other hand, you fairly consider the possibility that the Bible is the true history of humankind, then you will see how the Chinese characters argument fits well within that model. Likewise, many other historical and anthropological evidences fit cleanly within biblical history. After all, if the Bible’s history is true, we would expect to find evidences such as Flood legends across cultures. Personally, I find the facts in the case of the Chinese characters argument very compelling, even if we can’t outright prove the argument. Besides, the Chinese characters argument isn’t biblically necessary, and even if it is wrong, that would not weaken the historicity of the biblical accounts.

In the meantime, you are free to review the relevant materials, and if you still have substantive objections (i.e., not just name-calling), you are free to publish your research as others have done. I do, however, question (1) whether you really read the research (or whether you dismissed the proposition out of hand based on a “Bible can’t be right” assumption), and (2) whether a rigorous analysis showing that the correlation was unlikely just due to chance would cause you to change your opinion.

In Christ,
A.P. Galling

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Footnotes

  1. Even more imaginatively, we could postulate that when God confused the languages at Babel, one of the resulting language systems was the direct ancestor to Chinese, including its logography—and thus God Himself created a system reflecting Genesis history. For more related to this fascinating topic, see More Than PIE and How was Moses able to read pre-Tower of Babel texts? Back
  2. See A. McIntosh, Genesis, Babel & the Chinese Language (Answers in Genesis, 2003); E. Nelson, The original “unknown” god of China: an Ancient pictogram script points to the Bible, Creation 20(3):50–53, 1998; E. Nelson, R. Broadberry, and G. T. Chock, God’s Promise to the Chinese (Read Books, 1997); K. S. Voo and L. Hovee, The Lamb of God hidden in the ancient Chinese characters, Journal of Creation 13(1):81–91, 1999; and K. S. Voo, R. Sheeley, and L. Hovee, Noah’s Ark hidden in the ancient Chinese characters, Journal of Creation 19(2):96–108, 2005. Amazon.com also suggests S. Wang and E. Nelson, God and the Ancient Chinese (Read Books, 1998) and C. H. Kang and E. Nelson, The Discovery of Genesis: How the Truths of Genesis Were Found Hidden in the Chinese Language (Concordia College, 1979). Back
  3. For an example, see The Gospel Message—Written in the Stars? Back
  4. Beyond the casual reason identified in the text, the critic’s whole analogy is fundamentally flawed because it misses an important difference between Chinese and, in this case, English: Western languages have no logographic elements; they are entirely phonogrammatic (specifically, they use a [smaller] alphabet rather than a [larger] logography). Therefore the chance of “accidental” similarities between words is much greater. Back