I read Eli Soriano’s article entitled “The Antiquity of the Earth: Biblical or Scientific?”. I am expecting that Soriano will share his detailed exposition on his stand on why he thinks our earth is millions and millions of years old according to the Bible. But it didn’t happen. Rather, his presentation ends up in arguing that God created a certain place where He and His Son could inhabit called “His Earth” using Proverbs 8:31 KJV as his basis. This shows, according to Soriano, that God’s own habitable earth were made even before the creation of “heavens and earth” in Genesis 1.
Mr. Soriano Was Misinformed On The Jehovah’s Witnesses Publication
Eli Soriano is correct when he said that the angels were created first before men (Job 38:4-7). The problem occurred when he argued that “Moses in his inspired writing did not elaborate on how the “heavens” were created and were filled with inhabitants but something is sure: the heavens were not made in a 24-hour day period.” This is problematic because in the latter part of his article he criticized both the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Seventh-day Adventist as “misinformed” due to their belief “that the earth and the entire universe are just a little over 6,000 years old, created within seven 24-hour day period.” I believe that it is Eli Soriano who is misinformed when he used the views of these two denominations.
As a former Jehovah’s Witnesses for 16 years myself, I know for sure that the Jehovah’s Witness even today, to be fair to them, do not believe in a literal 24-hour day creation period. They rather took the position that each day in the creation week consists 1,000 years.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses publication “The Truth Shall Make You Free” that Soriano often uses gives us some clue. It rather tells a different story than what Soriano would want us to know. He showed a portion of page 152 of that book to prove how “misinformed” the Jehovah’s Witnesses with their “seven 24-hour day period” stand. But if you look carefully it shows otherwise.
As shown in marked red circle above, it is so obvious that the book traced the beginning of 4,028 years to the end of B.C. 1 “from Adam’s creation” not from earth’s creation. It does not even mentioned that the earth was “created within seven 24-hour days period.” That page concludes about the “six thousand years of human history”, and not the geographical earth’s history! If we sum up the Jehovah’s Witnesses view of creation: 7,000 years x 6 on creating the earth plus the 6,000 years of human history since the time of Adam it will end up to 48,000 years not 6,000 as Eli Soriano assumed! Definitely, Mr. Soriano is misinformed on this point.
Mr. Soriano Misrepresented The Seventh-day Adventist Publication
Next we go to Soriano’s criticism on the Seventh-day Adventist view on the age of earth. In the same article, he quoted the Adventist publication “Seventh-day Adventist Believe: A Biblical Exposition of 27 Fundamental Beliefs” pp. 76-77:
Soriano concluded that the Adventists are also misinformed in their belief “that the earth and the entire universe are just a little over 6,000 years old, created within seven 24-hour days period.” Earlier we showed that he misinterpreted the Jehovah’s Witnesses view. Unfortunately, he did the same mistake here.
Adventists do not believe that the “earth and the entire universe” is just 6,000 years old. In fact, if we look again at the quotation he used in the Adventist book, it says “about 6,000 years since Creation”. Creation of what? Of the planet earth of course! Just above the paragraph that Soriano quoted, we can read that the paragraph’s main concern is on the creation of the planet earth, and has nothing to do with the “entire universe”!
“At Creation Christ commanded, and it was instantly accomplished. Rather than vast periods of metamorphosis, His powerful word was responsible for Creation. In six days He created all. Yet why did it take even six days? Could not He have spoken just once and brought everything into existence in a moment? Perhaps He took delight in the unfolding of our planet in those six days.”
It is very clear that from the Adventist point of view, the 6,000-year period is not referring to the duration of the creation week, but rather it is referring to the 6,000 years of human history since the creation of the world. The quoted paragraph clearly says “about 6,000 years since Creation” not “6,000 years of Creation”. This is how Soriano tricks his unsuspecting readers and listeners–by twisting what others are saying. Smart Bible students call it Strawman Fallacy. Lay people call it misrepresentation. Mr. Eli Soriano is really good at it.
Mr. Soriano’s ‘Heavens’ in Genesis 1:1
We need to clarify the meaning of “heavens” in Genesis 1:1 at this point. It is very important to understand this subject. Through this we can fully analyze and test the reliability of Soriano’s authority to interpret the Bible.
In his article he describes the “heavens” in Genesis 1:1 as a place where angels live, and that God, together with His Son, seems not included.
“When God created the heavens, there were no angels yet! Logic dictates that before God created man, he prepared first his dwelling place. The heavens, which would be the abode of angels, were created first before its inhabitants. We must not forget at this juncture, that when God began forming the formless earth, the heavens were already formed and not empty!”
Is that interpretation biblically true? No! The “heavens” in Genesis 1:1 is not referring to the place where the angels reside but to the atmospheric heavens that surrounds this earth. The emphasis of Genesis creation account is geocentric, so the phrase “heavens and the earth” focuses upon this earth. How do we know that? Let’s read it from the same author, Moises, who wrote Genesis 1:1. Moses used the same phrase “heavens and earth” in Exodus 20:11 referring to the Creation:
“For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” (Exodus 20:11 KJV)
Moses here is obviously alluding to the Genesis account of creation in Genesis 1. Included within the six days of creation are the “heaven and earth”. Therefore, when Genesis 1:1 says “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (KJV), its primary focus is this earth, not the starry heavens and definitely not the heavenly abode of God and the angels!
What about in some translations where they use the plural form “heavens” instead of singular “heaven”? Does it imply a different meaning?
Let’s hear from the biblical Hebrew experts:
8064. שָׁמַיִם šāmayim: A masculine noun meaning sky, heaven, abode, firmament, air, stars. Although the word is plural or dual in form, it can be translated into English as singular or plural depending on the context.
Since the context of Genesis 1 is all about the creation of the earth along with its inhabitants in six days, the use of Hebrew word ‘shamayim’, either translated as ‘heavens” or “heaven” bears the same meaning.
Soriano’s “God’s Earth” Is Another Place–Not Human’s Earth
This is the worst part in Soriano’s article. And now I understand why the ADD members commonly ask challenging questions such as “Where did God came from?” “Where is God located before He made the heavens and the earth?” and “Why God does not dwell in heaven”. Soriano describes the dwelling place of God and His Son(Jesus) as the “works of old” based on Proverbs 8:22:
“The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.” (Proverbs 8:22 KJV)
According to Soriano, God “had His works of old” before He formed the heavens and the earth!”. The question is–what is this “works of old” that He formed before the creation of “heavens and the earth”? Let Soriano explain himself:
“One of the oldest works of God is “His earth” where He dwells with His son! Here is another Biblical logic: God worked first on His and His son’s dwelling place. The abode of God is not our earth but “His earth,” one of His “works of old”.
Soriano supports his theory by using Proverbs 8:31:
“Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.”
It seems that Eli Soriano believe that there are two kinds of earth. One, which is the dwelling place of God (“his earth”), and our own earth (the dwelling place of men). The first “works of old” before God created the “heavens and the earth” in Genesis 1 is “His earth where He dwells with His son” according to Mr. Soriano. This weird doctrine creates more questions than answers.
First, the question before us now is this: “Before God created His earthly dwelling place, where did He live? Does it imply God was homeless before He made ‘His earth’? Does God who is eternal and spirit really need an earthly material dwelling place to stay like humans?
Second, Soriano is implying that the angels are higher than God. In the Bible, heaven is considered much higher than earth not only on its level but also in wisdom.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9 KJV)
The Lord Himself said that the heavens are higher than the earth, then it would only imply that the angels who, according to Soriano, dwells in heaven is higher than God who created them since God only dwells on earth. They might argue that God’s inhabited earth is not the same with our earth, but it still do not solve the problem because Eli Soriano did not specify any essential difference on the nature of his “God’s earth” compared to the human earth. Soriano only made the difference on its priority in creation but not its nature.
Lastly, the Bible never mentions anything about two different Earths prior to Jesus second coming. The Hebrew word ‘erets’ commonly translated as ‘earth’ in our English Bibles has been used in a variety of ways like land, soil, ground, region, and territory in relation to humankind. Sometimes it was used cosmically as the opposite of heaven but nowhere does it mentions about God’s inhabited earth in oppose to our earth. Here are some of the biblical examples:
“The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD’S: but the earth hath he given to the children of men.” (Psalms 115:16 KJV)
“Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?” (Isaiah 66:1 KJV)
“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?” (1 Kings 8:27 KJV)
“The LORD is in his holy temple, the LORD’S throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men.” (Psalms 11:4 KJV)
The above passages are some of the few examples that indicates, from the point of view of the whole Scriptures, that heavens and earth are the main focus of the Scriptures and nothing else. Psalms 115:16 pointed out so clearly that God purposely created the earth for men like us, and not for an infinite being like Him nor even for angels. Earth along with its limitation could not contain a God who is timeless, spaceless and infinite that even the “heaven of heavens cannot contain” Him!
Root Of Soriano’s Errors
The Bible is sound and clear on its description of the phrase “heavens and the earth”. Heaven is rightfully described in the Bible as the dwelling place of God (not the earth or other kind of earth). It’s either the Bible is correct and Eli Soriano is wrong or vice versa.
So where did he get wrong? Eli Soriano committed two errors:
1. Soriano’s Error of Formulating Major Doctrine About God in the Book of Proverbs
Proverbs are filled with practical advice about attitudes and decisions in everyday life. As a whole, they are not highly theological, but generally practical in nature, trying to guide their readers to healthy attitudes and decision making for a successful life. As a whole, they contrast the life of making good, godly decisions and foolish, self-centered decisions. They can not be used to form major blocks of theology for that was never its purpose. We must go to the rest of Scripture for theology. Proverbs was meant by Solomon to be basic guidelines for living life well.
Every major books on hermeneutics or Biblical interpretation from both Catholics and Protestant traditions recognized this fact. Surprisingly, Eli Soriano, who claimed to be the “most sensible preacher in the world” has no idea about it! His theory of “God’s inhabited earth” is not even supported by Proverbs 8:31. It is only a product of his own imagination!
2. Soriano’s Error of Ignorance of the ‘Hebrew Poetic Parallelism’ in Proverbs
The book of Proverbs was written in Hebrew poetic style, with its customary varieties of parallel units. In contrast to other types of poetry, Hebrew poets use parallelism, the repetition of related thoughts. One form of this parallelism that is relevant to our discussion here is what is commonly called “Synonymous Parallelism.” This form restates the first line in slightly different terms. For example:
“A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.” (Proverbs 22:1 KJV)
Both lines say nearly the same thing, but the restatement drives the point home. “Good name” is synonymous to “favour” while “riches” with “silver and gold”. Therefore, both lines are using synonymous words while describing the same thing. This principle of “Synonymous Parallelism” applies also in Proverbs 8:31:
“Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.” (Proverbs 8:31 KJV)
Notice that in the first line “rejoicing” parallels the synonymous word “delights” in the second line, in the same way also with “earth” which parallels the “sons of men.” Therefore, both lines in Proverbs 8:31 is all about God expression of His joy and delight in creating the earth as it is inhabited by men! The New Century Version expressed the thought of this verse faithfully:
“Enjoying the whole world, and delighted with all its people.” (New Century Version)
If Eli Soriano will only humble himself by letting the Bible interprets itself, he could avoid this shameful errors!
How about the use of pronoun “his”? Does it imply God’s own dwelling place? As we already demonstrated, the immediate and the remote context of the whole Bible does not allow that interpretation. The phrase “his earth” signifies God’s ownership since He is its Creator. Both the Old and the New Testaments testify to it:
“The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.” (Psalms 24:1-2 KJV)
“If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof.” (Psalms 50:12 KJV)
“For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.” (1 Corinthians 10:26 KJV)
Our earth was created by God and He is the only one who sustains it so it is proper to own it as “His”. Eli Soriano’s interpretation that this earth is God’s dwelling place apart from the heavens and the earth is the result of injecting own idea into the verses of the Scripture. But as we can see it is just a matter of applying the proper principle of interpretation on poetical books of the Bible in order to accurately understand it.
His interpretation failed to do justice to the Word of God. We already saw that he invented his doctrine of “God’s inhabited earth” with the support of just one verse from a poetical genre. Then he ignored the rest of the Scriptures that clearly describes heaven as the dwelling place of God (Matt. 6:9).
One basic principle of interpretation especially when you encountered one difficult passage is to search for more Bible passages that could give light to clarify any difficult verse; not vice versa like what Soriano did.
We discovered many things in this study.
First, Eli Soriano though seemingly sincere in his Bible expositions failed to combine his sincerity with truth. He is sincerely wrong in his doctrine of “God’s inhabited earth.” He failed to be honest in his use of other denominations expression of faith. He would rather misrepresent his opponents in order for him to appear right. Soriano is an expert in a fallacy of argumentation called, “Straw man argument”. This argument applies to a case when one is attempting to defeat the opponents proposition by misrepresenting it to make it appear as weak. Soriano always “win” in a debate with this kind of foolishness!
Second, we discovered that Eli Soriano do not know how to properly use the Bible. Yes, he is very much effective when he gives practical wisdom in his TV programs and Bible expositions. But he is fatally dangerous once he use the Bible when it comes to theology. His “God’s inhabited earth” theory is obviously a heretical man-made doctrine. But until now I still wonder why there are still many Filipinos who seem to be well-educated are quite unsuspecting to his teachings.
Eli Soriano failed to apply the basic rules of Bible interpretation. If he failed here, what could we expect from the rest of his doctrines?
I hope and pray to God that this study would help primarily the members of the Members Church of God International to open up their minds by being more objective in comparative studies.
I appeal to Soriano’s members, who mostly are God-loving and sincere people to try to challenge their beliefs without fear. If one believe that he has the truth then there’s no reason for anyone to be afraid to challenge his faith. In fact, this kind of exercise will confirm what you believe once you passed the test.