What Does the Bible Say About the Shape of the Earth? Part 2

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Other parts: 1 2 3 4 5 6

Prior to presenting the next video in the series, I’d like to address some apologetics I was once sent by a Christian who contends that the Bible does not describe a flat Earth, and that in fact, the Bible is scientifically accurate wherever it mentions anything about nature:

“The Bible is not a science book” is a defense I often hear from apologists. But does that mean that it can contain false claims about nature, and they don’t count against it, simply because it doesn’t set out to be primarily about science? That doesn’t logically follow. A book which is supposedly the revealed wisdom of a hyperintelligent cosmic being should not contain any errors.

Especially not errors about simple stuff like whether the Earth goes around the sun or vice versa, whether Earth is stationary or in motion, whether the sky is gaseous or a solid dome, what the sun and moon are, where stars are located and the order in which those things came about.

Moreover, if it’s supposed to include stuff not yet known at the time, why didn’t it include the formula for penicillin? Or electricity, or computers, or anything specific that could not have been guessed at the time?

The claim that it doesn’t say anything which science has contradicted is also wildly untrue and would only convince somebody who has never read the Bible, who is unfamiliar with science, or both. For example, Genesis says that the Earth existed before the sun, the sun before all other stars, and birds before land animals.

We know that order is wrong now. There exists a secondary account of creation in Genesis, but it also gets the order of events wrong. The correct order was not possible to determine back when the OT was written though, so it makes sense they would get it wrong if they were not in fact receiving communication from a cosmic being.

The excerpt from an apologetics website this user has quoted includes the “circle means sphere” argument I already addressed in the last article. It posits that the following verse is describing a spherical Earth:

Isaiah 40:22

“He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.”

Does that sound like a sphere? Can you stretch a tent over a sphere, as you would a flat surface? Proverbs 8:27 refers to the circle of the Earth as well, and clarifies that it’s a flat shape:

“When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,”

That’s the standard English Bible. The King James version is more specific:

“When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth:”

A compass is used to draw 2D circles on a flat surface. It is plain that the circle of the Earth being described here is a flat shape. If Isaiah 40:22 is really the apologist’s only basis for claiming the Bible says Earth is spherical, they’re on shaky footing indeed. Besides, there was a Hebrew word for “ball” that the authors of scripture might’ve used instead, but didn’t.

Note that the apologist has chosen to discuss only that one verse and not all the others which plainly describe Hebrew cosmology. Hmm, wonder why he ignored those?

Here’s a google image search for “Biblical cosmology”:

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Hmm, I’m noticing a pattern in the results. Let’s google image search “Hebrew cosmology”.

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Same thing! Now, “ancient Israelite cosmology”:

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How come they’re all the same? How come none of the results is a picture of a spherical Earth? It seems like there are many, many, many sources which all agree that the Bible contains a description of the cosmology believed in by the ancient Israelites, which all serious scholars agree involved a flat Earth covered by a solid dome. Let’s talk about that dome now. Here’s what Wikipedia says about the firmament:

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“Like most ancient peoples, the Hebrews believed the sky was a solid dome with the Sun, Moon, planets and stars embedded in it.[7] According to The Jewish Encyclopedia:

The Hebrews regarded the earth as a plain or a hill figured like a hemisphere, swimming on water. Over this is arched the solid vault of heaven. To this vault are fastened the lights, the stars. So slight is this elevation that birds may rise to it and fly along its expanse.[8]”

This is what you will hear from historians and serious scholars who study the period relevant to this article, but not what you will hear from Christian apologists. It’s plain that the firmament was believed by the authors of the Torah and general Jewish population at the time to be a solid dome.

The stars were believed to be physically embedded in the dome and it was believed to have openings through which the waters above could fall, as well as other openings for the sun and moon to pass through into some sort of storage area when not needed.

It is further argued by Christian apologists that almost everybody in the middle ages knew the Earth wasn’t flat, and that all educated people have known it for 2,500 years. One problem, though: The Old Testament, aka the Torah (which is where scriptural descriptions of cosmology are found) was not written in the middle ages. It was written over 3,300 years ago.

Erastosthenes proved the Earth to be round about 2,200 years ago. The Torah/OT was written over a thousand years before his experiments, when Earth was commonly believed to be flat by the educated and ignorant alike, simply because nobody had yet devised any means of determining Earth’s actual shape.

So, arguing that most people knew the Earth’s real shape by the middle ages is a red herring. It has no bearing on what the intended meaning of the OT’s authors was. Pointing to educated people from antiquity, post-Erastosthenes, being aware of the Earth’s shape is also irrelevant. They knew because it had already been proven.

It is argued that science has been wrong before, therefore the Bible is true. After all, some scientists once postulated the existence of aether in order to account for light’s wave-like propagation. Indeed, science sometimes makes mistakes. But that doesn’t mean whatever anybody else proposes as an alternative is automatically vindicated without having to prove any of its own claims.

Science is self-correcting. It makes no claims to perfection, only that it becomes less wrong and more right over time as errors are identified and set right. Contrast this with immutable religious claims which purport to be perfect, divinely revealed wisdom which can never admit fault.

It’s worth noting, that the game the apologist plays here by claiming the Bible contains knowledge that science later caught up to, is a game also played by Muslim apologists.

There’s a very long running series of videos on Youtube called “Scientific Miracles of the Holy Qur’an” pointing out, among other things, that the Qur’an appears to describe the stages of foetal gestation in the womb (the verse says babies begin as “clots of blood” which is untrue but considered “close enough” by Muslim apologists)

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Christians can recognize the absurdity of these huge interpretive stretches made by Muslim apologists, but only because they aren’t Muslims. They do not, however, turn the same critical lens on their own apologetics, or they would see it involves the same indefensible interpretive stretches.

Anyway, here’s today’s video which examines the question of whether Earth is a flat circle or a sphere, and which of the two was most likely intended by the authors of the Torah:

It’s part 4, so the videos are already out of order, but it’s relevant to the apologetics discussed here.

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