[ref001] The Skeptical Review (Volume One, Issue Number One) [ref002] [ref003]The Skeptica
The Skeptical Review (Volume One, Issue Number One)
[ref003]The Skeptical Review: 1990: Number One: The
Flat-Earth Belief of Bible Writers
All Christian sects recognize the Bible as the primary source of
revelation. This compiled material was allegedly inspired by God and
written by chosen authors to reveal him and his will to man. The Bible,
then, is the foundation of the Christian religion. To Christian
fundamentalists who believe in verbal inspiration, the Bible is an
infallible foundation. They claim that "the Holy Spirit so
dominated and guided the minds and pens of those who wrote (the Bible)
as to make their writings free from mistakes of any and all kinds,
whether it be mistakes of history or chronology or botany or biology
or astronomy, or mistakes as to moral and spiritual truth pertaining to God or
man, in time or eternity," (Wilbur F. Tillett, "The Divine Elements
in the Bible," _The_Abingdon_Bible_Commentary_).
Despite the obvious sincerity of those who so view the Bible, the
inerrancy doctrine has no basis in fact. That the Bible contains mistakes
in every area mentioned by Mr. Till is a truth widely recognized by
reputable Bible scholars. One of the most consistent scientific errors
that Bible writers made concerned their misconception of the earth's
shape. In [ref004]Psalm 24:2,
for example, it was said that "the world and all that is in it
belong to the Lord; the earth and all who live on it are his. He
built it on the deep waters beneath the earth and laid its foundations
in the ocean depths," (GNB).
This passage and others like it in the Bible make no sense until they are
interpreted in terms of the ancient Hebrew conception of the world as
represented in the graphic illustrations on the following page that were
published in the New American Bible and _The_Interpreter's_Dictionary
of_the_Bible_. (Similar ones appear in other Bible dictionaries.)
If you will study the graphics and then read the above quotation again,
the psalmist's meaning will become quite clear. He thought the earth
rested on foundations or pillars that God had set in the ocean depths.
Needless to say, modern science knows better.
Here are just a few of the many other passages that prove Bible writers
were ignorant of Earth's spherical shape:
4:7-8, "I saw a tree of great height at the _center_of
the_world_. It was large and strong, with its top touching the
heavens, and it could be seen from the ends of the earth." This was
allegedly an inspired dream, yet it conveys a flat-earth concept, because
no matter how tall a tree would be, people on the other side of a spherical
earth could not see it.
4:8, "The devil took him (Jesus) to a very high
mountain and displayed before him all the kingdoms of the world in their
magnificence...." The only plausible reason for the "very high
mountain" was that the altitude would make it possible to see to the
ends of the earth. Only on a flat earth would this be remotely possible, so
the New Testament writers were as ignorant as the Old.
In [ref007]Genesis 11:4,
the people wanted to build a tower up to heaven. If you look at the
graphics above, you can see their concept of heavenly bodies under the
dome, not all that far away. Presumably, the Lord was afraid they
would be able to accomplish their plan, so he caused them to speak
various languages. This, of course, is not the reason people speak different
languages, but nothing is too fantastic for the ignorant to believe.
The following references show that Bible writers thought there was water
above a solid dome with floodgates (look at the graphics again) that could be
opened to make it rain:
"Have you entered the _storehouse_ of the snow,
and seen the _treasury_ of the hail?" Look at items two and three
in the graphic from the _Interpreter's_Dictionary_, and the
intended meaning of this statement becomes very clear.
104:3, 13, "You stretch the heavens out like a tent, you
build your palace on the waters above.... You water the mountains from
your palace." Here God dwells in a palace above the waters over
the firmament or dome. To water the mountains, he opens the floodgates.
1:6-7, "Let there be a dome to divide the water and to
keep it in two separate places... and it was done. So Godmade a dome,
and it separated the water under it from the water above it."
So the NAB and _The_Interpreter's_Dictionary_of_the_Bible_ are quite
correct in their graphic representations of what the Bible writers
believed and taught. How many of you readers believe the earth
is flat? The Bible teaches it is!
Christian fundamentalists have used various scriptures to try to prove
that Bible writers knew the earth was round. Since I have already shown
that these writers thought the earth is flat, if some verses actually do teach
that it is round, then there is a contradiction in the Bible and the
fundamentalists lose anyway.
38:13-14 is sometimes quoted as a round-earth text: "Hast thou
commanded the morning since thy days; and caused the dayspring to know his
place; that it might take hold of the ends of the earth, that the wicked
might be shaken out of it? It is turned as clay to the seal; and they
stand as a garment."
Claim is made that the statement about the earth "turn(ing) as
clay to the seal" was a reference to the earth's rotation, but this
passage has nothing to do with movement. The word used was _haphak_,
which meant "to convert, to change, or to make clear." It is
the same word that was used in [ref012]Exodus 7
in reference to Aaron's rod turning into a serpent and the waters of Egypt
turning to blood, so rather than the word meaning turning in the sense of
movement, it meant turning in the sense of changing. The GNB clarifies the
meaning in [ref013]Job
38:14: "Daylight makes the hills and valleys stand out like the
folds of a garment, _clear_ as the imprint of a seal on clay."
So, far from teaching the revolution of the earth, this was merely a
reference to the effects of sunlight in the morning. Notice also that
the KJV refers here to "the ends of earth." This would
indicate a flat earth, since there are no ends to a globe.
[ref014]Job 26:7 has
also been cited as proof that the writer of this book knew that the earth
was a sphere: "He stretcheth out the north over the empty place and
hangeth the earth upon nothing." An NAB footnote at this verse says,
"The North: used here as a _synonym_ for the _firmament_,
14:13," (emphasis inserted). Thus, we read, "He stretches
out the dome (firmament) over the empty space." In other words, the
dome was unsupported in the middle. The reference in [ref016]Isaiah 14:13
says, "You (King of Babylon) were determined to climb up to heaven
and place your throne above the highest stars (see the graphics). You
thought you would sit like a king on that mountain in the _north_where
the_gods_assemble_." The "north" was indeed used as a
synonym for the heavens or firmament, so the passage was actually speaking
of a "mountain in the heavens where the gods assemble."
"He... hangeth the earth upon nothing" simply expressed a
Hebrew belief that the flat earth, although supported by pillars, did not
rest on the back of Atlas or a turtle or an elephant, as their pagan
neighbors believed. In this Job was right but not because he was
inspired; otherwise, he wouldn't have said in the same context, "The
pillars of the heavens tremble (see the graphics) and are stunned at his
thunderous rebuke," ([ref017]26:11). He
thought the thunder was God's voice!
Fundamentalists use [ref018]Isaiah 40:22
to argue that Earth's rotundity was known to the writer: "It is he
(God) that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants
thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain,
and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in." They misunderstand
the first half of the verse, which is clarified by the placement of
"God's throne" in the NAB graphic, and they avoid the second
half. The NAB gives us a proper translation of the verse: "He sits
enthroned above the vault (dome) of the earth.... He stretches out the
heavens like a veil, spreads them out like a tent to dwell in." See
the graphic illustrations again and check the Hebrew concept of
_firmament_ as explained in Eerdmans and other reliable Bible
The Hebrews were inspired by nothing more than their political and
religious motivations. Thus, being ignorant of scientific facts, they
thought the earth was flat, that sick people were possessed by demons, and
that essentially everything was caused by either gods or demons.
Unfortunately, many people are still just as ignorant.
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