Intro: This series is an atheist's review of an important anthology critical of Christian beliefs called, "The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails" (TCD), that is likely to be popularly discussed across the web. I'll be reviewing the book in light of just about every other response to TCD on the web (pros and cons) and responding to new Christian objections as I find them.
I think this will be the best that I personally can contribute to improving the online dialogue between Christians and non-believers on popular battleground issues.
Chapter 5, "The Cosmology of the Bible" by Ed Babinski (part 2 of 5):
I have created a study guide and reference all of Babinski's links:
A) For my own information, understanding, and convenience.
B) To be a good student of the chapter by actually reading the verses referenced rather than taking them for granted.
C) To double check Babinski's strong positive case against known apologetic strategies for circumvention
D) To enable readers to more easily do the same (A-C). If you are newly reading through TCD, it would be really handy to have this post right there so you could click on the references as you go along, wouldn't it? I'd like to think so.
E) For any reader to skip everything all together and just skim through the long list of verses without skeptical or apologetic interpretation. I think there's an obvious winner just at face value.
It should be noted up front that it is a mistake to try to win every single battle here, at least in an absolute sense. A more sensible reader would do their best, verse by verse, to allow for various levels of uncertainty. I haven't counted, but let's say there are a hundred relevant verses here. And on the vast majority of them, even if we can't be absolutely certain the author believed in what he was saying, it may turn out there are strong indications. What business do we have going with a weaker explanation in every case? There are certainly problems of ambiguity to deal with. Despite the apologetic list of excuses
that could defend virtually any ancient document from these kinds of false cosmological beliefs, the authors are
mixing in poetry, metaphor, and possibly referring to things in anachronistic ways uncritically. There are also at least 66 documents in the Protestant Bible with lots of authors who may well have their own perspectives, cosmological convictions (or lack thereof), and vantage points in history. We don't necessarily know when exactly any of that begins or ends and so our claims need to be careful and provisional. And that's also why looking at the overall case is so important rather than over-focusing on vaguely possible interpretations here and there.
Note, I have yet to update this with responses from The Infidel Delusion
, but I will be sure and do that when I find time.
Outro: My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Babinski has a pretty solid case here that is worth taking seriously.
Babinski's Bible Links:
If the reader really wants to be somewhat hardcore they get a piece of paper out and a pen. Jot down each verse (not the whole verse, just the reference), and give it a letter grade after you read it and the skeptical and apologetic perspectives. Give it an A if you think there is a strong reason to believe a false cosmology is being used. Give it a B if there is only a subtle indication. Give it a C if it doesn't necessarily work either way. Give it a D if in fact there's a subtle indication the Bible might know something it's not supposed to know. And give it an F if the Bible breaks out into a physics lesson. :) Anyway, tally it all up, and see what you get. I don't think it's plausible that apologists can hope to get C's out of everyone on all these verses. And there are certainly no F's. There may be one or two verses (that Christians often put forth) which may warrant a D (though I don't think that is even realistic), but I submit the overall trend is going to be a lot of B's, some C's, and a few rather uncomfortable A's. Remember, don't try to win every battle! Don't push the evidence beyond where it actually goes! If you feel there is a problem and you don't understand the resolution, just let it be a problem! There's always more to learn about ancient history even for experts. We don't want to pretend like we know what we don't know
Comparison Corner:Page 112: Job 11:8-9, 26:7
In comparison to similar Egyptian sayings about praising deities (which you'll have to read in the chapter).Page 113: Isaiah 55:11
In comparison to Sumerian prayers (which you'll have to read in the chapter).
This is the classic verse where we are told that God's mere words are effective. Many modern theologians have concluded this excuses them from needing an actual argument as long as they can read off their magic words in a public forum and then pray about it. One would love to see the debate between ancient Sumerians and ancient Hebrews on who doesn't have to do anything other than assert their sacred conclusion. Seriously, flaming presuppositionalists would be just as well off throwing holy water at atheists in public debates.Page 114: Genesis 1:7
In comparison to Babylonian writings on the waters above and below the firmament (which you'll have to read in the chapter).
In comparison to Mesopotamian myths (which you'll have to read in the chapter) where the heavens have a stone floor ("Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself." "Above the expanse over their heads was what looked like a throne of sapphire" "I saw the likeness of a throne of sapphire above the expanse that was over the heads of the cherubim.").Page 115: Psalms 33:14, 144:5, Isaiah 40:22, 45:12
In comparison to ancient Near Eastern (ANEern) poem (which you'll have to read in the chapter) about "stretching out the heavens" ("from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth," "Part your heavens, O LORD, and come down;touch the mountains," "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." "My own hands stretched out the heavens").
My question to modern young earth creationists (YECists) like Russell Humphries: Did God tell the entire ANE that the universe is expanding? Or is it much more likely that ancient flat-earthers were just impressed that the sky covers the whole earth? "Whoa...epic tentage, dude..."
Page 117: Psalm 135:5, 136:2-3, Proverbs 8:27-28, Psalm 136:6, Genesis 1:14-17, 2:7
In comparison to a table of similar sayings about Marduk (which you'll have to read in the chapter, from Enuma Elish).Page 118: Psalm 23:1, Isaiah 45:7, Numbers 23:19, Isaiah 40:8, Psalm 21:13, Job 26:14, 37:2-3, 9:8, Psalm 77:19, Job 9:10, Psalm 86:8 In comparison to a table of similar sayings about Marduk (which you'll have to read in the chapter, from Enuma Elish).
Atheist reviewer, Ken Pulliam writes
So anyone who thinks that the portrait of creation presented in Genesis was unique to the Hebrews is uninformed on ANE mythology. The parallels are unmistakable.
Read the chapter and find out for yourself!
Alternate Hebrew Creationisms:
Page 119: Psalm 74:12-17, 89:9-11, Job 26:7-13, 38:1-11
In comparison to Marduk and Baal's creation accounts
[Please note that Ba'al
is also my favorite Goa'uld from the TV series, Stargate:SG-1. :)] (which you'll have to read in the chapter) that start with divine conflict rather than the more modern idea of ex nihilo (out of nothing). Babinski (via Professor Mark S. Smith) argues that these verses were perhaps the original Hebrew creation accounts that Genesis 1 and 2 subverted ("It was you who split open the sea by your power; you broke the heads of the monster in the waters. [...] crushed the heads of Leviathan [...] you established the sun and moon [...] set all the boundaries of the earth; you made both summer and winter," "You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them. You crushed Rahab like one of the slain," "By his power he churned up the sea;by his wisdom he cut Rahab to pieces. By his breath the skies became fair; his hand pierced the gliding serpent," "Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, [...] when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, 'This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt'?").
These are very oddball verses otherwise and I don't think the rest of the Bible is going to explain this to us. This is actually one of the more interesting elements of Babinski's chapter that I'd never heard of. I look forward to apologetic challenges to the arguments of Mark Smith in "The Priestly Vision of Genesis 1
." See this review of it
by Joseph Kelly. Page 120: Genesis 1:1, 1:2, 2 Peter 3:5, Genesis 49:25, Deuteronomy 33:13
Argues that creation happened out of water ("with a Big Splash rather than a Big Bang"), rather than out of nothing ("the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters," "the earth was formed out of water and by water," "blessings of the deep that lies below," "and with the deep waters that lie below").
There's a lot of back and forth on just what those first few verses of Genesis mean. But it does seem a little damning if the surrounding cultures had "out of water" ideas and modern theologians have to interpret "out of nothing" into the text. That's certainly not letting the text speak for itself
Page 121: Genesis 1:3-5, Ecclesiastes 12:2, Job 38:19
To make the case that daylight is entirely separate from the sun or reflected light in Hebrew thought ("God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light 'day,' and the darkness he called 'night,'" "before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark," "What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside?").
First of all I was so glad that Babinski didn't go the "How can there be light or days until the creation of the sun on day 4" skeptical route, since the Bible says God created light up front (and your watch still works even if the sun doesn't exist). And instead, he presents this incredibly interesting insight into the concept that is likely actually at play. This makes a lot more sense than thinking God
is that light for the first 3 days of creation (as many apologists will suggest). One, God is making something apart from himself. And two, if the created light is something else, like some sort of ether, then separating the light from the darkness makes more sense based on that nonsense
Page 123: Genesis 9:13, Jeremiah 10:13, Genesis 2:6
To show word usage on clouds and midst rather than "waters above" ("my rainbow in the clouds," "he makes clouds rise," "mist came up from the earth").
References to waters above ("God said, 'Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.' So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse 'sky,'" "Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies," "he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters." ).
And the waters below ("fountains of the great deep").
[note: I know there are some apologetic articles out there on this section, but there's already plenty here to work with, so I'm going to move on. I may come back later and update things.]Flat Earth and Hard Sky:
Page 124: Isaiah 42:5, 44:24, Psalm 136:6, Ezekiel 6:11, 25:6, 2 Samuel 22:43, Jeremiah 10:9, Isaiah 40:19, Exodus 39:3, Numbers 16:39
Examples of the translation of the Hebrew word "raqa" which refers to something solid being spread out.
Page 125: Genesis 1:6-8, Job 37:18, Proverbs 8:27-28, Ezekiel 1:22, 1:26
After chastising fellow Christian, Paul Seely with charges of "distorted caricature," "utterly misleading etymologism to spin a fantastic theory," "blatant absurdity," and "concocted such a tissue of absurdities" Gleason Archer writes
Admittedly the lexicon referred to is usually quite trustworthy in most of its definitions, and it is perhaps excusable if a layman with scant acquaintance with Hebrew or knowledge of the comparative literature of the Ancient Near East might have accepted this scholarly absurdity as proven fact. [...] It reads: "Raqia'-extended surface, (solid) expanse (as if beaten out, cf. Job 37:18)." After citing the Greek and Latin equivalents in the Septuagint and Vulgate it differentiates two meanings as follows: "1. (flat) expanse (as if of ice, cf. ke'eyn haqqerah-which would mean "like the appearance of crustal," or possibly "ice") as base support." The second definition is: "2. the vault of heaven, or 'firmament', regarded by the Hebrews as solid, and supporting 'waters' above it, Gen. 1:6,7,8." Here we have a grotesque notion, entertained by no other culture of the Ancient Near Fast-whether Egyptian or Mesopotamian or Syrian-and never proposed by any literature or culture of more recent times, as far as this writer is aware. [emphasis mine]
I don't know which cosmos Archer is living in (or if all of the heavenly stories have all their angels), but Holding (presumably reading the same article of Seely's) concludes
(beginning by quoting Seely):
...all peoples in the ancient world thought of the sky as solid.
Following this statement is an impressive and informative list of citations that goes on to prove just that point: from American Indians to the neighbors of the Hebrews in the ancient East; from ancient times until the time of the Renaissance, there were almost no recorded dissenters...
So...Archer doesn't read carefully? Perhaps he just read, "A Christian thinks the Bible isn't fully inspired," and that's all he needed to know? To add further confusion (actually Archer's entire essay has virtually all of its wires crossed), Archer adds
The Egyptians regarded the sky as composed of the body of the goddess Nut, who is sometimes represented as supporting herself by her long arms and legs as she holds her body in an arched position over the surface of the earth. So far as the Sumerians, Babylonians and Assyrians are concerned, there is never a hint or suggestion of any sort concerning a metallic-plate sky.
Apparently Archer hasn't noticed that the body of a goddess is a body
. As in, something hard-ish is propping up the heavens. It's the same freaking idea.
Maybe she even had some shiny gold breast plates on. Who knows? But notice, modern people don't need a hard anything
propping space up...even metaphorically.
There's just air and then a lot less air. Yet Archer protests:
It is true enough that the verb raqa; originally meant, and often does mean, "stamp down, beat out" as into thin metal plates. In the piel stem it is used of a goldsmith overlaying a wooden idol with gold plating. However it should also be observed that words are not necessarily confined to their original root meaning. Take our English word "beat." True enough, it primarily means "hit" or "strike." But when a person exclaims at the end of a long and exhausting day, "Boy, do I feel beat!", he does not necessarily mean that he has been subjected to a thorough drubbing with sticks or stones.
That's pretty weak. One could get away with making any word mean any other word as long as we are allowed to freely disown any association based on an analogy from another language of another culture on another topic
. But then Archer's comparison to prove his point with the Hebrew language on "raqa" (since otherwise it is an out-of-language red herring) is the same example Holding uses
The word "spread" [in Isaiah 42:5
] is taken to mean a flat earth. But it also says that God "spread" that which "cometh out" of the earth - i.e., the plants and animals. Does this mean that the plants and animals are flat, too? Obviously not.
So, are solid animals being spread out in a co-planar, non-roadkill kind of way? I don't think so. Since man was made from the dust of the ground, the verse is probably referring to the animals in their pounded out earthly pre-genesised
shape (i.e. God rolls out the playdough and plucks little tidbits out of it to make animals and man). In other words the dirt they were made from was
yet another solid thing pounded out.
So also in the case of raqa', there is a figurative meaning which has nothing whatever to do with beating or stamping out a metallic plate, and that is "stretch out" or "extend." This occurs in contexts in which no hammer action is involved...
Obviously Genesis 1 and 2 never mention a giant hammer in reference to pounding out the firmament. Apologists seem too quick to jump on the metaphor-by-association fallacy
. Not every single element in the rhetoric has to correspond explicitly to the underlying view of cosmology in order to establish the persistent
idea that there is something erroneously hard up there in the sky holding up the water which also isn't up there
. It can be metal, or made of ice, or a very toned, hot goddess who has nothing better to do that hold up the ceiling...or whatever. And so Archer makes the same mistake
with Isaiah's use of a tent analogy:
[Isaiah...] glorifies Yahweh as "the one who sits above the circle of the earth. who stretches out (noteh-the same synonymn as in 42:5) the heavens like a cloud (doq), and spreads them out (match) like a tent for a dwelling." Quite clearly the prophet thought of God's stretching out the sky in the form of a cloudbank or a garment, without any connotation of metallic plating. That effectively disposes of the whole notion of a metallic sky, and undercuts Seely's entire argument.
Note Seely had said
As for Isaiah, he never says God made a curtain or tent or scroll as Genesis says God made a raqia. Rather he says the sky is like a curtain or tent or scroll. His statements are always poetic similes, but Gen 1:7
is not a simile (nor is it just phenomenal language). Gen 1:7 makes a prosaic statement about the creation of a part of the universe, a part just as physical as the earth, sea, sun, or moon. The statements in Genesis and Isaiah are not really comparable.
So there you go.
Then applied to a hard sky (
Moses ((?)): "God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided 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,"
Elihu:"the skies, hard as a mirror of cast bronze," "I was there when he set the heavens in place," "Spread out above the heads of the living creatures was what looked like an expanse, sparkling like ice, and awesome," "And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone,").
[Technically], this verse being spoken by Elihu would not be a problem, but we'll add it here anyway. Shachaq is an unusual word that appears only 25 times in the OT, mostly in Job and Psalms, and seems to be a synonym for raqia. It is also used for the clouds in Isaiah 45:8. Finally, it is best related to Deuteronomy 28:23: "And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron." This verse refers to drought, not solidity.
A) It seems no one bothered to correct his ignorance in the debate in Job (which is the perfect place to do it). And B) It seems to me that if the ancient Hebrews had no problem using metal analogies to describe both the heavens and the earth (to convey whatever other kind of auxiliary message like a drought), that still implies they think the heavens are solid.
The earth as a pancake (rather than sphere) that has been pounded out ("circle of the earth," "spread out the earth and all that comes out of it," "who spread out the earth by myself," "gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other," "the Creator of the ends of the earth.").
Page 126: Job 28:24, 38:12-13
Creationist, John Morris writes
By the way, the Bible has always taught a spherical Earth. [...] when the issue of Earth's shape is addressed in Scripture, the Hebrew wording implies sphericity (see Isaiah 40:22, etc.).
However, Christian professor, Robert J. Schneider writes
A survey of Hebrew lexica and theological wordbooks yields much information about the key word hwg (chûgh). According to K. Seybold, its root appears six times in biblical Hebrew, and it is clear from its usage in context that it has a specifically geometrical meaning, that is, "a circle, as drawn with compasses." In Job 26:10 and Prov. 8:27, chûgh is used with choq, meaning "to inscribe a circle." This nominal infinitive form also appears in Job 22:14, where it denotes "the circle of the heavens" (shamayim), and in Isa. 40:22a, where it denotes "the circle of the earth" (haarets). Sir. 43:12 uses chûgh in describing the rainbow. Finally, in Isa. 44:13, mechûghah, a hapax legomena (a form used only once), means "a compass," i.e., that simple instrument people my age used to draw circles in high school geometry class.
All but one of these contexts are cosmological, and in fact four of the five uses of chûgh occur in creation hymns. Isa. 40:22a describes God as sitting/ dwelling above "the circle of the earth" which God laid out--with a compass, as Job 26:10 and Prov. 8:27 suggest, for the latter verses describe the act of inscribing the circle that fixes the boundary between the earth and the deep, the circle that also marks the boundary between light and darkness. The context also suggests that in Isa. 40:22a, the earth ('erets) which is encircled refers not to the earth as that part of the creation distinct from the heavens (Gen. 1:1)--as the creationists cited above seem to interpret it--but to other meanings of earth: as "the dry land" (Gen. 1:9-10), and at the same time, it appears, as "the ground on which people and things stand," for "its inhabitants are like grasshoppers." A circle is no more a sphere in Scripture than it is in geometry. Looking at these usages together, I am hard put to see how anyone could justify rendering chûgh in Isa. 40:22a as "sphericity."
There was no varying word for a "sphere" - a three-dimensional circle. It is not that the Hebrews or anyone else lacked the concept of sphericity (for obviously, they could conceive of it plainly when, for example, they ate pomegranates for breakfast), but that they simply did not create a second word for it.
Um, why not invent one
? How about cube and pyramid why they are at it? Egypt is a pretty popular visit for Bible characters, some of these may have come in handy. "Dude, why don't we get to be buried in triangles like the Pharaohs?"
More flat-earth rhetoric ("he views the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens," "Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place, that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it?").
Holding writes of Job 28:22-27
We are obviously dealing with poetry here - not a scientific treatise.
Ancients are free to be poetic with their false cosmologies
. Think of all our modern renditions of Atlas holding up a spherical earth
. The painters still believe the earth is a sphere.
Numbers 15:38, 1 Samuel 15:27
To show word use of the word, "kanap" which means "extremity or hem" ("make tassels on the corners of your garments," "Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe").
However, "earth" is again 'erets - so one cannot say whether it is indeed meant in a global sense here. Even so, this is manifestly metaphorical: One does not suppose that this suggests that the light itself actually picked up the earth and snapped it around like a towel. We may suggest that the "end" here might refer to the artificial dividing line between night and day.
Holding lists out five Bible verses that speak of the ends of the earth (using "qatseh" for "ends"). Then he lists five more to speak of "ends" in somewhat other, but basically congruent contexts (ie. the end of a field is a flat field). Then with "ephec" for "end" Holding gets confusing by saying it translates as "nevertheless" and that it is a fairly strong word supporting the skeptical position. I have no idea what he's getting at there. Then with "earth" = "erets" he shows with 6 verses that it can refer to a limited space. So apparently we are led to believe the Bible never once intends to refer to the entire earth in connection with the term "ends". You know, because then it would be teaching the wrong thing. Duh.
Job 11:9, 38:4-6Ends of the Heavens:
More flat-earth rhetoric ("Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea," "stretched a measuring line across [the earth's foundations]?").
This is supposed to indicate a measurable earth with "length" - but "earth" here is 'erets, and in light of the fact that a fixedly measurable body like "sea" is used in parallel, we are justified in reading 'erets here in its less "global" sense.
It doesn't make a lot of sense to speak of the earth's foundations if you are just talking about one country or a single land mass.
Psalm 19:1-6, Deuteronomy 4:32, 30:3-4, Matthew 24:31Earth Still Flat:
To show that (in addition to the earth) the heavens also have "ends" ("[the voice of the sky] goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. " "from one end of the heavens to the other," "banished to the most distant land under the heavens," "gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.")
There are also a few verses in the OT that are used for this. [2 Samuel 22:8-11
] says, "Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of heaven moved and shook, because he was wroth." Sounds pretty bad, until you read the verses following: "There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down; and darkness was under his feet. And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: and he was seen upon the wings of the wind..." And so on - quite poetic, obviously far from literal.
Flat-earthers (and hard sky-ers?) can go on to use poetic imagery on top of their bogus cosmology. People that believe the sky is atmosphere (followed by empty space) don't tend to jump on the "foundations of heaven" metaphor. Holding's fallacy is poetry-by-association
Gleason Archer writes
No ancient Hebrew could ever imagine that an intelligent adult of the modern age would have concocted such a tissue of absurdities as are presented in this article and seriously believe what Paul Seely claims they believed. [emphasis mine]
Page 127: Enoch 32:1-4
Confirmation of flat-earth interpretation ("From there I went on towards the extremities of the earth; [...] To the east of these beasts I perceived the extremities of the earth, where heaven ceased. The gates of heaven stood open, and I beheld the celestial stars come forth. I numbered them as they proceeded out of the gate...").
However Christian apologist, Steve Hays writes
[The book of Enoch
...] represents the “church politics” of the day. [...] Enochian literature is pious fiction intended to backdate and thereby legitimate the Essene calendar-–over against rival religious calendars in mainstream Judaism. So this is polemical literature designed to usurp the status quo. Although the authors of this propaganda might well be banking on a gullible audience to treat their “instant” cosmography as a realistic version of events, the authors themselves were consciously contriving a fictitious backstory to justify their sectarian calendar after the fact.
Hays fails to ever plausibly explain why the mythic cosmology must be a wholesale invention of the writer of Enoch. Or why we need to care whether it was the author or the audience who could at least conceive
of ancient cosmology as we presume they did. The point is, modern scholars did not pull this connect-the-dots out of their hindquarters as Archer suggests they must have. Enoch is dramatic confirmation that the ancients could
think this way about their own rhetoric, too.
Daniel 4:10-11, Matthew 4:8Flat Earth Underbelly:
Nebuchadnezzar's dream and Jesus' temptation take flat-earth geography for granted ("The tree grew large and strong and its top touched the sky; it was visible to the ends of the earth," "the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world").
This verse in Matthew by no means implies a flat earth, nor a monstrous mountain large enough to oversee the earth. Indeed, I have always thought that the trip to the mountain was a psychological ploy by Satan -- indeed, given what we know of the honor and shame dialectic of that social world, it fits as the premise of an "honor challenge" by placing Jesus in a pre-eminent position -- and that the showing of the kingdoms was accomplished by means of projecting images of some sort, as on a computer screen.
One wonders how Jesus as fully God (who cannot sin) could be "tempted" to sin in the first place, but Jesus' incoherent psychological predisposition aside...
Indeed, this is suggested by the parallel verse in Luke 4:5
The devil led him up to a high place, and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.
However, as anyone who has climbed mountains knows - and the writer of Matthew surely knew, if he lived in the area around Judaea, as Matthew did - the higher up you go, the smaller things down below get, by your perspective. So it seems unlikely that (even if he did believe it a flat earth, personally) Matthew's offering is not compatible with a globe. Note that even on a flat earth, a high mountain would be a very poor place to observe the kingdoms of the world "in their glory." Furthermore, if Matthew was implying that a mountain existed from which all the world was visible, then obviously, the mountain would be visible from all parts of the world. It is ludicrous to suggest that Matthew believed such a mountain existed. The mountain in question was probably Mt. Quarantania, not far from the site where John probably baptized. It commands an incredible view of the Jordan Valley.
I thought it was pretty ludicrous for one of my friend's ex-girlfriends to believe that the moon was actually Mars (since it happened to be red that evening). Holding implies that Matthew simply must have thought things through (since everyone always
does [/eyeroll]). It seems much more plausible that Luke was perhaps adding a fix to the simplistic (flat earth) picture Matthew presented (since as Holding points out, even a flat-earther could
figure out that doesn't quite work). Not every ancient Jew is as sensible as the next even in terms of a false cosmology. As I understand it, Luke was much more interested in making things more plausible anyhow (in general) and Matthew is better known for his extraneous and poorly thought through fantastic elements.
To compare the similar ignorance and explanations of Bible authors with their contemporaries ("if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out" ). Page 128: Psalm 102:25, Proverbs 3:19, Jeremiah 51:15, Isaiah 48:13, 44:24, Psalm 24:2
To compare the similar ignorance and explanations of Bible authors with their contemporaries ("you laid the foundations of the earth," "By wisdom the LORD laid the earth's foundations," "He made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom," "My own hand laid the foundations of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I summon them, they all stand up together," "who spread out the earth by myself," "founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.").
1 Samuel 2:8, Job 9:6, 38:4-6, Psalm 75:3Immovable Earth:
The pillars of the earth ("the foundations of the earth are the LORD's;upon them he has set the world," "He shakes the earth from its place and makes its pillars tremble," "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?" "On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone-" "When the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm.").
...we are dealing with a situation that is charged with poetic indications (pillars that can be "astonished"?) and we are obliged not to read things too literally.
I don't know what to think about the pillars. In any event, whatever is going on underneath the ground is unseen, and pillars may well be metaphoricalish. But then again they may well have thought there were pillars. There's always that icky and cliche' philosophical question, "Well what are the pillars founded on?"
? I don't expect any ancient culture to have a clear idea of what they believe on the issue since there aren't even appearances to judge by.
Psalm 93:1, 96:10, 1 Chronicles 16:30, Psalm 104:5
The earth doesn't move ("The world is firmly established;it cannot be moved," "The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved," "The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved." "He set the earth on its foundations;it can never be moved.").Ecclesiastes 1:5, Psalm 19:4-6
Everything else does ("The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises," "In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other.").
Based on some of the commentaries
, it seems perhaps the author of Ecclesiastes believes the sun has to climb up out of earth's gravity well? What else is the emphasis on "hurrying" about?Page 129: Job 9:7, Joshua 10:12
The sun moves (in contrast to how the earth doesn't) ("He commands the sun, and it does not rise; He seals off the stars," "Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel: 'O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.'").
Judges 5:20, Isaiah 40:26, Job 38:31-33
God makes the stars move ("From the heavens the stars fought, from their courses they fought against Sisera," "He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing," "Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs?" ).Job 9:6, 2 Samuel 22:8, Joel 2:10, Isaiah 13:13, Revelation 6:12-13
Only God can shake the earth (not tectonic plate friction, apparently) ("He shakes the earth from its place and makes its pillars tremble," "The earth trembled and quaked, the foundations of the heavens shook; they trembled because he was angry," "Before [the Lord and his army] the earth shakes, the sky trembles," "I will make the heavens tremble; and the earth will shake from its place at the wrath of the LORD Almighty, in the day of his burning anger," "I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. [...] and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind.").
...it is said that the indication of stars falling to earth suggests a close sky with stars hung from it. But this fails to account for the fact that the Greek word here, aster, was used to refer to any object with the appearance of a star, including meteors - an anachronism which we preserve today in the expression, "shooting star."
Holding really expects us to believe that only the "shooting stars" fell from the sky? A mere meteor shower doesn't seem to do the text justice.
We continue with the following fleet of verses to the same effect:Page 130: Psalm 103:11-12, 139:8-9, Genesis 11:4-5, Psalm 144:5, 2 Samuel 22:10, Psalm 115:16, 104:2-3, Isaiah 14:12-17, Amos 4:13, Genesis 1:20, 2 Kings 2:11, Acts 1:9-11, 7:56, Genesis 28:12, Proverbs 30:4, Luke 2:15, John 1:51, Acts 10:11, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, Revelation 3:12, 21:2
Where God lives above the firmament is not that far away ("as high as the heavens are above the earth [...] as far as the east is from the west," "If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea," "let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens [...] But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building," "Part your heavens, O LORD, and come down," "He parted the heavens and came down," "The highest heavens belong to the LORD, but the earth he has given to man," "he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters," "How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth [...]I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High," "[the LORD God Almighty] treads the high places of the earth—," "let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens," "Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind," "while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven,'" "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God," "He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it," "Who has gone up to heaven and come down?" "the angels had left them and gone into heaven," "you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man," "He saw heaven opened," "the Lord himself will come down from heaven," "the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God," "I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.").
A minor point on [Psalm 103:11-12
] - it is sometimes alleged that this indicates a flat earth, for on a globe, east does meet west. The Hebrew terms here - mazrach and ma'arab - are equivalent to saying, "the rising" and "the setting", so that it is essentially like our "sunrise" and "sunset". Obviously, we still use this sort of phenomenonological language today, so this verse can hardly be criticized on the same basis. Even so, it is a bit tricky to assert that abstract concepts like "east" and "west" are like physical objects that can meet around a globe and come to a grinding halt. One would suggest that they could proceed around the globe infinitely since they have nothing to run into.
Holding can't presume the author meant "infinite" when he/she may have meant "a whole lot." If the author was referring to a spherical earth, Holding might be able to make his point about east and west continuing forever, but that gives them too much credit
. Even Holding says
, "Seely is also correct (if a bit chauvinistic in tone) to say that ‘there is no reason to believe the Hebrews were any less scientifically naive than their neighbors.’"
So why are we assuming they were trying
to mean the right thing? Holding continues to give them too much credit anyway here:
So then - this reckons as a parallel to the next verse; and since the idea the Psalmist is putting across is that God's mercy and forgiveness are INFINITE, this seems to argue for an infinite distance along the earth - which would work either on a globe OR on a flat earth (after all, east and west don't stop at the edge, either) - and for an infinitely high sky, we might add.
Except that the Hebrews also seemed to have very hard lined definitions of the east/west concept of "four corners" of the earth and heaven terminating in a hard dome up above. The meaning of the verses are in no way impacted in juxtaposition to modern sensibilities who prefer "infinite" comparisons when they simply aren't necessary. Something at least subjectively large to ancient sensibilities makes the meaning work just as well.
Holding also writes
] was once popular among critics, but not much any more. The words "may reach" are an insertion of the KJV. The reference is now recognized as meaning that the tower was to be dedicated unto heaven, not built to reach it. Of course, even if it did have the other meaning, it only reflects what men "said" at the time -- not that they were right about what they said.
Even so, God wouldn't be threatened by the attempt. And the text (written by Moses?) clearly implies a connection there even if we can rationalize that God would have been interested in forcing the Tower of Babel people to spread out like he wanted regardless of their primitive ideas.
Exodus 16, Numbers 11, Deuteronomy 8
To show that manna doesn't have very far to drop from heaven.
Kind of a weak point (as is the next set of links), but it does fit the overall picture well enough.Page 131: Genesis 8:20-21, Exodus 29:18, 29:25, Leviticus 3:16, 6:21, Numbers 15:3, 15:10
To show that the aroma of burnt offerings is able to merely drift up to heaven where God is.
Central City:Page 138 (note 34): Ezekiel 5:5, 38:11-12, Judges 9:37
To compare the belief that Jerusalem is the center of the earth with similar Mesopotamian claims ("This is Jerusalem, which I have set in the center of the nations, with countries all around her," "living at the center of the land," "Look, people are coming down from the center of the land.").
Sphere at Last!Page 139 (note 51): Luke 17:34-36, Matthew 24:40-41
Some will cite this verse which is translated in some versions as saying that Jerusalem is in the "center" of the earth - which is said to fit in with a flat earth. But that particular translation has a few bugs in it. The word here for "midst" is tavek. "Countries" is the word 'erets again. "Nations" is gowy. Finally, the word "round" is cabiyb. The implication here seems far more political and religious than geographical, especially when we consider that the book of Ezekiel then goes on to condemn Israel for adopting the practices of the "countries" ('erets) all around them. (Thus some translations will now say that Jerusalem is "most important" rather than using words which indicate a geographic connotation.)
It makes very little sense to say that a divine being set one country in the middle of other countries as though most countries aren't surrounded by other countries. If Israel isn't the middle of the whole world, then how do we escape this mundane "everyone is a unique snowflake just like everyone else" observation? No doubt there's variance with the term erets, but we can't just assume it's never being applied to the whole earth when it would be inconvenient for inerrancy.
To Babinski on this issue, Hays claims
Which is a good example of your shoddy scholarship. You cite White’s off-discredited Warfare
opus as your source of information (TCD
138n34). In the meantime, you ignore real scholarship dealing with your prooftext. But your interpretation is dubious. Cf. Daniel Block, The Book of Ezekiel: Chapters 25-48
I don't have that book, so I don't know what those arguments are.
Does the Bible imply a spherical earth after all: ("on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left," "Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.")? On Nothing:Page 141 (note 54): Job 26:7
These are very popular verses for apologetic sites to use. Babinski's response seems pretty good. He says that the emphasis is on the fact that you don't know what time of day the end will come. If both possibilities were not emphasized (night and daytime activities), then we'd be led to believe "oh, it's going to happen during the day."
Does God hang the earth on nothing (
Job: "he suspends the earth over nothing.")?
on Job 26:7-10
26:7 fits gravitational attraction as opposed to an endless stack of turtles. 26:8 matches that water vapor makes up clouds. The throne is taken to be the moon and would describe an eclipse. For 26:10, the boundary between night and day on a spherical earth illuminated by the Sun must be a circle. At the time the book of Job was written there was no theory of gravity, no knowledge of a spherical earth, and no knowledge of water vapor. How did the writer know?
Yes, it is impressive that the ancients figured out that rain comes from clouds, that clouds obscure the moon on occasion, and that God decides where light and dark start and stop
rather than the natural shape of a spherical planet. :) Ironically, even if there is something going on here, Job is rebuked
by God himself for not knowing what he is talking about (in general) in later chapters
. So it seems as though if apologists want to say that characters in the Bible aren't guaranteed inerrancy
with their quoted words, I don't see why we should prefer Job's words to God's. If Job knows something ahead of his time, this is virtually an anti-Galileo style smack down of divine proportions. And I don't see why the many verses that speak of "waters below
," flat-earth rhetoric in general
, how near the heavens and firmament
seem to be could possibly be outweighed by one verse, especially if we are supposed to let the Bible speak for itself
Creationist, Don Batten writes
Compare Job 26:7
‘He suspends the Earth over nothing’. This is in the context of descriptions of the physical creation and it is difficult to see how this statement could have a figurative meaning of any kind.
Isaiah 22:24, Ezekiel 27:10, Psalm 137:2Other mundane uses of same terminology ("All the glory of his family will hang on him: its offspring and offshoots—all its lesser vessels, from the bowls to all the jars." "They hung their shields and helmets on your walls," "There on the poplars we hung our harps,").
The young earth creationist website, Answers in Genesis says
In the Old Testament, Job 26:7
explains that the earth is suspended in space—the obvious comparison being with the spherical sun and moon.
You know, lots of things can be suspended in space hung around the tent like swords and shields. None of them have to be spheres.
Job 26:5-7, 26:10-13Jew Cube:Page 143 (note 57): Revelation 21:16, 4:1, 7:1, 1:7 Job 38:4-6, 38:10-11, 38:16-18
It's helpful to read Babinski's note 54 on the issue of what Job may have meant by "suspend the earth on nothing" since it seems the concept is actually related to the "nothingness
" of the great deep that the earth was originally created out of in the "midst of the waters." In context you can see things seem directly related to those alternate Hebrew cosmologies
references earlier. There's apparently a word in there that isn't used anywhere else, so I don't think anything definitive can be said for this one lonely verse that maybe kinda sorta says something modernish.
God rebukes Job's ignorance.
However [in reference to Job 38:12-13
], "earth" is again 'erets - so one cannot say whether it is indeed meant in a global sense here. Even so, this is manifestly metaphorical: One does not suppose that this suggests that the light itself actually picked up the earth and snapped it around like a towel. We may suggest that the "end" here might refer to the artificial dividing line between night and day.
Yes, but even God's metaphor betrays such an extremely flat-earth like concept.
The infamous Jew Cube ("He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long," "door standing open in heaven," "I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth," "he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him;and all the peoples of the earth...").
No want assimilate. Babinski's note on the subject in terms of the ridiculous implications of the dimensions of a giant cube-like city descending from heaven (remember, where God lives) is quite hilarious. Three Layer Cosmos:Page 144 (note 59): Philippians 2:10, Revelation 5:3, 5:13, Ephesians 4:9-10
To show belief in a three tier cosmos ("at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth," "no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll," "I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing," "What does 'he ascended' mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.").
Gleason Archer, in his "energetic protest" responds
to Paul Seely's claim that the Bible authors took a three tier cosmos for granted:
The inspired Apostle John relates to us in Revelation 20:13
the vision Christ gave him concerning the last judgment of the great white throne: "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them; and they were judged every man according to their works." A few verses earlier we read that "The devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever." The earlier part of this chapter indicates that prior to his final judgment Satan had been cast "into the bottomless pit" which sounds quite definitely subterranean. It would seem to be a reasonable demand to make of Seely that he adduce his superior source of inspiration that puts him on a better level than the Apostle John, who simply recorded what the risen Christ had revealed to him.
I'm not really sure how that does anything but confirm Seely's view (maybe I'm missing something), but it seems Archer just ignores the other verses in favor of a three tier cosmos, and so there isn't actually anything to respond to except to say, "So what?"
I give this chapter 5 out of 5 stars. Babinski assembled a good case. Regardless of whatever new convoluted excuses apologists may contrive in the future, it will still be the case that the ancient Hebrews' geographical/historical neighbors, God himself, inspired authors, and inspired and uninspired human Biblical characters were all singing the same primitive cosmology tune. There is a consistent conceptual overlap of ideas despite poetic and metaphorical embellishments that often correspond well with what we would logically expect believers in superficial cosmological appearances to think. Making an argument to a consistently weaker textual explanation in so many verses amounts to special pleading. Where God had the opportunity to impress us with his superior knowledge of the cosmos, to lend credibility to his expertise in general (especially in more important matters that we cannot hope to verify in this life), he failed miserably demonstrating anti-knowledge sufficiently contrary to known cosmology. This combined with other good cases against OT prophecy, historical cases for miracles, and creationism adds to the collective skeptical case demonstrating at the very least that religion cannot be supported with universal Biblical authority.