The Physical Sciences
Comparing biblical allusions to facts that have been discovered by the physical sciences (i.e. astronomy, geology and physical geography) is one of the most effective ways of showing the Bible for what it essentially is: a collection of Jewish myths.
The Flat Earth
We know today that the earth has the shape of a slightly flattened sphere. Unlike evolution, the proofs of a spherical earth are known to every school child.[a] But the Bible contains passages that almost certainly show that its authors believed the world to be flat. Take, for instance, the following verses from the book of Daniel
Daniel 4:10-11 |
The visions of my head as I lay in bed were these: I saw, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth; and its height was great. The tree grew and became strong, and its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth.
A question naturally arises, where is the "end of the earth", this phrase only makes literal sense if the author believed the world to be flat. The context of the verse shows clearly that phrase "end of the earth" cannot be interpreted allegorically as "all over the world". On a sphere, there can be no object which can be seen everywhere from its surface: how many people in the southern hemisphere can see the north star? Thus a tree, even of infinite length, cannot be seen from everywhere in the world. So the only way a tree can be "visible to the end of the whole earth" is for the earth to have been flat. The author of the book of Daniel is a flat-earther.
There are of course many other passages which refer to the "end of the earth" (Deuteronomy 13:7, 28:64, I Samuel 2:10, and Job 28:24) - all of which indicated the belief in a flat earth.
There is another passage which gives further support to the fact that the original authors of the Bible were flat earthers. This one is from the book of Isaiah:
Isaiah 40:22 |
It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;
The presence of the word circle [b] here has led some over enthusiastic Christians to solicit this passage as proof that the Bible tells of a spherical earth. This however is not the case. True, a circle and a sphere are both "round", but the shapes are not interchangeable. A coin is an example of a circular object, flat but circular. A tennis ball is an example of a spherical object. The shapes are different. Note further the use of the word tent to describe the sky. A tent is something you put on a flat surface. There has never been a tent that is a spherical object enveloping another spherical object, as is the earth's atmosphere which forms the bluish sky or heavens. Figure 4.6 below shows what the author of Isaiah actually meant: 
|The "circle" of the Earth: A flat object.|
In passing, it should come as no surprise that the last bulwark of flat-earthism is a fundamentalist biblical sect. The movement had its beginning in 1895 when Scottish faith healer John Alexander Dowie founded the Christian Catholic Apostolic Church in Zion, Illinois. In 1905, the leadership of the church was taken over by Wilbur Glenn Voliva. Voliva made no bones about his beliefs: "We are the fundamentalists, we are the only true fundamentalists." Voliva was a convinced flat earther and declared that he wants to "...strain the gnat of evolution and swallow the camel of modern astronomy." Voliva died in 1942 but the flat earth movement is still alive and is presently headquartered in Lancaster, California.
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The Immovable Earth
Modern astronomy has proven, with a series of observations [c] that it is the earth that circles round the sun and not vice versa as the ancients believed. The authors of the Bible clearly belonged to the group of the ancients as they state in plain Hebrew that the earth had foundations and was thus immovable:
I Chronicles 16:30 |
Yea, the world stands firm never to be moved.
Psalms 93:1 & Psalms 96:10
Yea, the world is established, it shall never be moved.
You did set the earth on its foundation, so it shall never be shaken.
A verse normally paraded by fundamentalist as proving that the Bible had scientific foreknowledge is this one from the book of Job:
Then Job answered: "...He stretches out the north over the void and hangs the earth upon nothing..."
But remember it was Job, not God, who was saying this in Job 26:7. This is how God replied to Job's "scientific foreknowledge":
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind: "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?...Where were you [d] when I laid the foundation of the earth?"
In effect, after the long speeches by Job (and those his friends), Yahweh declared Job to be "without knowledge" and affirmed that the earth had foundations!
Another passage that clearly shows that the Biblical view of the solar system is geocentric (i.e. with the earth at its center) is from the book of Joshua:
Joshua 10:12-13 |
Then spoke Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD gave the Amorites over to the men of Israel; and he said in the sight of Israel, "Sun, stand thou still at Gibeon, and thou Moon in the valley of Ai'jalon." And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.
For Joshua to command the sun to stop, it must have been moving in the first place. Obviously whoever wrote these passages thought that it was the sun who circled round the earth. Some Christians have [e] tried to defend this by saying that the story should be taken to mean that Joshua commanded the earth to stop rotating about its axis for about a day. But this solution is even more difficult. As the space scientist Charles Pellegrino explains:
Under this “slamming of the brakes”, as it were, inertia would have taken over, piling billions of tons of the Earth’s atmosphere into mighty shock fronts, and producing wind speeds twice the velocity of sound in the Jordan Valley. Joshua’s army would have had enough time for a very short scream.
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The Proximity of the Stars
Today we know that stars are simply suns that are very far away. The authors of the Bible did not have the benefit of this modern scientific discovery and made assumptions about the stars any primitive pre-scientific tribe would make. Take this passage below from the book of Revelation:
Revelation 6:12-14 |
And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
So the stars were shaken by an earthquake and fell to the earth, just like the fruits of the fig tree when shaken by the wind! This passage clearly shows that the author of Revelation had no understanding whatsoever as to what the stars really were. He looked at the stars and assume there were little balls of light that, if the heavens were shaken hard enough, would plunge into the earth.
Modern astronomy tells us that the earth is a sphere, that it rotates round its axis every once every twenty four hours, that it circles round the sun once a year and that the stars are very large objects that are very far away from the earth.
The Bible, on the other hand, tells us that the earth is flat, that it is the sun that rotates round the earth and that stars are very small objects that can drop down to earth should there be a powerful earthquake. Where is the truth in these Biblical utterances?
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The hydrologic (or water) cycle is the name given to circuitous route taken by water starting from evaporation (caused by solar energy) of bodies of water (e.g. lakes, rivers and the sea) , condensation (in the form of clouds), precipitation (as rain or snowfall) and its final runoff back into the bodies of water. [f]
It is quite obvious that the authors of the various biblical books have no idea about this cycle. The author of the book of Job, for instance, thinks that snow and hail are kept in warehouses (in heaven?) before they are sent down to earth!
Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail?
The author(s) of Genesis believed that rain water came from what had been initially placed above the sky (firmament) by God!
Genesis 1: 6-7|
And God said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." And God made the firmament and separated the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven.
[O]n that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights.
The author of Ecclesiastes guessed that the water in the ocean somehow gets circulated back into the rivers. It is obvious he has no knowledge of how it actually get circulated back. No mention of evaporation or precipitation as rain!
All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again.
Thus we have what the Bible teaches about the hydrologic cycle: snow and hail are kept in storehouses, rain is kept in the sky ("firmament") which is then "opened" when heavy rain is required. Not particularly confidence inspiring examples!
It therefore comes as a surprise that some fundamentalists still claim that the Bible shows scientific foreknowledge in its understanding of the hydrologic cycle. Of course, all the verses above are ignored and reference is made to this verse from
the thirty sixth chapter of Job.
For he draws up the drops of water, he distils his mist in rain which the skies pour down, and drop upon man abundantly.
We should remind ourselves that this verse was written by the same person who believed that snow is kept in warehouses before they used! The verse seems to imply a familiarity with evaporation and precipitation as rain. Yet this is merely an artifact of translation. In its original Hebrew, the word translated as "draw up" (which gives the implication of evaporation) is gara. Strong's Concordance gives the meaning of gara as "to diminish, to restrain or to withdraw". Thus within the context of this verse, it obviously means "to withdraw". Brown Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (p175) indicates that "withdraw" in this case could also mean draw up or to draw down. Thus it is by no means clear in the original Hebrew that the passage implies something that is drawn upwards. It could easily also mean something which is drawn down - perhaps from the "firmament" above [see Genesis 1:6-7 and 7:11-12 above!] or something that is withdrawn from the inventory of rain (like the snow in the heavenly warehouse!).
Furthermore "he distils" is actually a mistranslation. The original Hebrew gives "they distil". It is unclear if this distillation refers to God or to the clouds of rain. Indeed the KJV translation gives a totally different picture:
Job 36:27-28 KJV|
For he maketh small the drops of water: they pour down rain according to the vapour thereof: Which the clouds do drop and distil upon man abundantly.
Thus the only "fact" that can be unambigously ascertained from this passage is that rain pours down from the clouds as drops of water abundantly upon people. Hardly something unknown to anyone living during the pre-scientific age!
Thus the balance of evidence shows that there is no reason to believe that the author of Job knew any more about the water cycle than any of his contemporaries. [g]
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|a.||In case you have forgotten, the proofs include: the view of faraway ships disappearing from the horizon, hull first; not all stars and constellations can be seen from one location on earth; the shadow of the earth on the moon during a lunar eclipse; and finally the actual seeing of a spherical earth by satellites and spaceships with astronauts.|
|b.||The Hebrew word used here is khug. That it means circle and not sphere is indisputable. Strong's Concordance (no. 2328 & 2329), Holladay’s A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (p97) and Brown Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (p295) gives the verbal form of the word as "to draw a circle". The noun is translated as either "circle" or "vault". A vault, of course, is a semi-circular arch. Other instance of the occurrence of the word khug includes:|
He has described a circle (Hebrew khug) upon the face of the waters ...
When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle (Hebrew khug) on the face of the deep
The translations of khug as "circle" in the above instances are correct, for the passages are talking about drawing something on a surface: i.e. a two dimensional representation.
Furthermore there is a word in Hebrew that means sphere: dur. If the author of Isaiah 40 had had this in mind he would surely had used this word instead of khug. Earlier on in Isaiah we see this word being used to describe a ball:
He will seize firm hold on you, and whirl you round and round, and throw you like a ball (Hebrew dur) into a wide land; there you shall die
It comes as no surprise then that all the major, non-paraphrase, Bible translations - the NRSV, RSV, NASB, ASB, KJV, NKJV, and even the fundamentalist NIV - give the translation of khug in Isaiah 40:22 as "circle".
|c.||These observations include: Mercury and Venus, observed from the earth cannot be separated by more than 27o and 47o from the sun; the retrograde motion of Mars; and the parallax shift of nearby stars.
|d.||"Where were you" is given in the original Hebrew as Ifoh hayita. The second word, hayita is the second person masculine singular form of hayah, which means to become or to exist. Thus the you is singular and is targeted at Job, not at his companions, since it was Job God was answering; as Job 38:1 clearly states.
|e.||Yes there are still some fundamentalist today who believe in geocentricity because of the Bible. Like their fellow creationist they supply "scientific" evidence to support their view. You might like to visit their website
|f.||For those interested in knowing more about hydrologic - or water - cycle you can visit wikipedia.|
|g.||While we are on the subject of water, it is important to examine of verse normally claimed by fundamentalist to shown evidence of scientific foreknowledge:|
[T]he birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the sea.
The words "paths of the sea" is claimed by fundamentalists to be a reference to ocean currents; and since ocean currents were unknown during that time, this then is another evidence for the divine origin of the Bible.
Yet to equate "path" (Hebrew orach) with "sea current" is surely jumping the gun a little. Strong's Concordance gives the meaning of this word as a well trodden road. We find such meanings within the Old Testament itself:
Judges 5:6 KJV|
In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways [Hebrew orach] were unoccupied, and the travellers walked through byways.
Isaiah 41:3 RSV
He pursues them and passes on safely, by paths [Hebrew orach] his feet have not trod.
Some versions translate orach in Judges 5:6 as "caravans" and in Isaiah 41:3 as "the way". But the point is clear. The word, when used in its literal sense and as pointed out by Strong's, is used to denote a "well trodden road".
Furthermore, note that in Psalm 8:8, the passage first talks about birds in the air and then fishes of the sea. One is above the surface and the other is below the surface of the sea. Whatever comes after this is more naturally interpreted as something between the air and the sea: namely, the surface of the ocean -i.e. something on the sea between the birds and the fish. Thus a more natural (and simpler - remember Occam's Razor!) interpretation of the passage is that it refers to seafaring routes, the "paths" in the oceans taken by ships. There is no need to invoke a supernatural interpretation of that phrase.
|1.||Asimov, X Stands for Unknown,: p244-248|
|2.||Godfrey, Scientists Confront Creationism: p292|
Gardner, Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science: p16-19
|3.||Pellegrino, Return to Sodom & Gomorrah, p261|
|4.||Asimov, X Stands for Unknown: p252|
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