ASTRONOMY and the BIBLE
(Investigator 159, 2014
The Bible is accurate on astronomy but mostly gives the viewpoint or
perspective of observers on Earth.
Therefore stars, planets and shooting stars (meteors) are all "stars".
And the Sun rises and sets because that's what people observed. (Psalm
19:6; Ecclesiastes 1:5)
The exceptions are God's supernatural realm and the concepts "above the
heavens" and "above the stars" which humans could not observe.
I previously explained Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning God created the
heavens and the earth" as being a summary of the creation story that
In verse 2 Planet Earth already exists, covered in water, with no
comment about Earth's origin.
Earth before creation is described as dark, water-covered, lifeless,
with a "wind of God" or powerful wind over it. I argued (#38; #62) that
this description agrees with what a giant asteroid impacting into an
ocean would do. In #38 I estimated that a 40-50km-asteroid impact would
generate a planet-circling tsunami.
Creation in Genesis tells about Earth being restored after an immense
calamity. Bedout crater, 200km wide, in the Indian Ocean, discovered in
2003, may not be the event of Genesis 1:2, but confirmed Genesis by
indicating that planet-wide, watery, catastrophes happened.
Marshall (2014) reports that 3.5-3.2 billion years ago asteroids "at
least 20 kilometres across and possibly more than 70" blasted craters
"400 to 800 kilometres across" and "tsunamis … could have circled
the entire planet."
Question: If Genesis is not about the "Big Bang" or the origin of
planet Earth, was God involved in those earlier events?
Answer: The Bible calls God "creator" many times without necessarily
limiting Him to Genesis 1.
Star of Bethlehem
Using the computer program Skymap I identified (Investigator #81) the
Star of Bethlehem as two conjunctions (overlaps) of Venus and Jupiter.
On August 12, 3 BCE the conjunction was the "morning star". On June 17,
2 BCE when the "wise men" reached Bethlehem, the conjunction was the
evening star. Reneke (2009) adds that the 2 BCE-conjunction occurred in
the constellation of Leo and: "Jupiter was known as the Planet of
Kings… Leo was thought to denote royalty and power."
I explained the "star stopping" over Bethlehem as slow-moving clouds
surrounding the star. Alternatively, if on a cloudless night an
observer near a house looks upwards over the roof at a bright star, the
star will seem stationery above the house.
The word "firmament" in some Bibles suggests the sky is a solid dome.
The Hebrew word "raqia", however, signifies something extended or
stretched out and not necessarily solid.
"Firmament" comes from the Greek Septuagint Old Testament of the 2nd
century BC. The translators were influenced by science in Alexandria
which taught that solid crystalline spheres housed the Sun, Moon and
British astronomer Edward Maunder (1908) writes:
Yet again, just
as we speak of "the celestial canopy," so Psalm civ. describes the Lord
as He "who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain," and Isaiah gives
the image in a fuller form,—"that stretcheth out the heavens as a
curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in." … Here, beyond
question, extension, spreading out, is the idea sought to be conveyed,
not that of solidity.
Jeremiah writes that the (non-solid) sky is so vast it cannot "be
Genesis 1:6-8 may imply there is water in Space since this water is
"above the sky [or "dome"], hence does not refer to clouds which "cover
the heavens" (Psalm 107:8) and therefore are lower down.
SIGNS AND SEASONS
In Genesis 1 the Sun is called the "greater light", the Moon the
Both were to serve "for signs, and for seasons, and for days and
years". (Genesis 1:14-16)
Smith’s Bible Dictionary suggests the Moon "served for
seasons" via the religious festivals of the Jews — the spring and
autumn festivals were celebrated at full Moon.
Stars also marked seasons:
One star or
constellation of stars would herald by its "heliacal rising" the
beginning of spring, another the coming of winter; the time to plough,
the time to sow, the time of the rains, would all be indicated by the
successive "morning stars" as they appeared. And after an interval of
365 or 366 days the same star would again show itself... So we read in
Job, that God led "forth the Mazzaroth in their season." (Maunder 1908)
"Signs" can refer to predictable eclipses or to unpredictable events.
(Jeremiah 10:2; Luke 21:25; Joel 2:10, 31; 3:15)
did not suppose that it was a new sun that came up from the east each
morning, as did Xenophanes and the Epicureans amongst the Greeks. It
was the same sun throughout. Nor is there any idea of his hiding
himself behind a mysterious mountain during the night. "The sun," the
Preacher tells us, "ariseth and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his
place where he arose." The Hebrew was quite aware that the earth was
unsupported in space, for he knew that the Lord "stretcheth out the
north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing." There
was therefore nothing to hinder the sun passing freely under the earth
from west to east, and thus making his path, not a mere march onward
ending in his dissolution at sunset, but a complete "circuit," as noted
by the writer of the nineteenth Psalm.
The Jewish calendar repeated at 19-year intervals. Maunder explains:
to-day is a purely solar one; our months are twelve in number, but of
purely arbitrary length, divorced from all connection with the moon…
A year, that is purely
lunar, consists of twelve lunations [new Moon to new Moon], amounting
to 354 days…
The Jews used actual
lunations for their months, but their year was one depending on the
position of the sun, and their calendar was therefore a luni-solar one.
But lunations cannot be made to fit in exactly into a solar year—12
lunations are some 11 days short of one year … but an approximation can
be made … by taking 7 years in every 19 as years of 13 months each.
This thirteenth month is called an intercalary month...
The 20th century saw 228 solar eclipses (when the Moon covers the Sun)
and 147 lunar eclipses (when Earth's shadow covers the Moon).
In a total Solar eclipse the sky goes dark blue and the brighter stars
and planets become visible. A lunar eclipse can last 1¾ hours
and the Moon becomes red. Bible verses describing the moon "as blood"
are often interpreted as lunar eclipses. (Acts 2:20)
According to Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary (1967, p. 81) Solar
eclipses visible in Palestine in Old Testament times were:
July 31, 1063 BCE
August 15, 831 BCE
15, 763 BCE
18, 603 BCE
28, 585 BCE.
The prophet Amos probably saw the 831 BCE eclipse. 603 BCE coincided
with the overthrow of Assyria. And in 585 BCE the Jews went into exile
in Babylon and Egypt.
The three-hour darkness at Christ's crucifixion (Matthew 27:45) was not
a Solar eclipse since darkness would last minutes, not hours. Moreover,
it was Passover and full Moon — the Moon was on the wrong side of Earth
to cover the Sun. Astronomer Duncan Steel attributes the darkness to "a
dust storm raised by the khamsin, a hot wind from the south…"
Steel writes: "Because Passover is at full moon, and the Crucifixion
was on a Friday, only certain dates are feasible, 7 April in AD30 and 3
April in AD33…" (p. 21)
"Signs" in the sky, including the darkening of Sun, Moon and Stars,
occur before the "day of the LORD":
And I will show portents in the
heavens and on the earth, blood and
fire, and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and
the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes.
(Joel 2:30-31; Acts 2:20; Isaiah 13:9-10; Joel 2:10; Amos 8:9;
Jesus foretold that at his return "the stars will fall from heaven…"
(Matthew 24:29) Adventists believe this was fulfilled by the Leonid
meteor showers which have appeared at intervals. In 1833 and 1866 the
meteors or "shooting stars" were spectacular — numerous as "snowflakes".
An alternative explanation is this: The Apostle Peter compares the
destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24-28) by "fire and
brimstone" falling from the sky, to a worldwide fire that starts with a
"loud noise". (II Peter 2:6; 3:10-13) These verses suggest the impact
of a big asteroid, at Christ's return, throwing up molten debris that
re-entering would look like lots and lots of shooting stars like
a glowing layer of material above you of several thousand degrees
celsius like being under a griller. (The Advertiser, June 12, 1993
If this interpretation is valid, what is the "sign" (Matthew 24:3,
29-30) everyone recognizes when the "end" arrives? May I suggest this:
In 1610 Galileo published Siderius Nuncius including a map showing
craters on the Moon. In 1965 and 1974 space probes revealed Mars and
Mercury covered in craters. In 1994 twenty mountain-sized comet
fragments slammed into Jupiter. In 2009 Jupiter got hit again, leaving
a "black scar the size of Earth." (Cosmos, Oct/Nov 2009, p. 14) In 1984
something "disrupted" the rings of Saturn (New Scientist, 17 October,
2009, p. 10) — possibility an asteroid. In 2009 New Scientist reported:
"Observations by the Spitzer Space Telescope reveal masses of glassy
material around the star HD172555 … pointing to the collision of two
large bodies…" (15 August, p. 5) A small asteroid exploded above
Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013, damaging 7000 buildings in six cities and
injuring 1500 people. (Wikipedia)
Such discoveries and occurrences could be the "sign" everyone
recognizes before Jesus returns. If so, then the dark markings on the
Moon (Luke 21:25) visible to the naked eye, which science attributes to
ancient asteroid impacts, are part of the sign. People throughout
history have seen the Moon's dark areas, never realizing what they
Isaiah and Revelation state:
The sun shall
be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give
light unto thee: but the LORD shall be unto thee an everlasting light,
and thy God thy glory. (Isaiah 60:19)
And I saw no
temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple
of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to
shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the
light thereof. (Revelation 21:22-23)
The absence of Sun and Moon, with God as their replacement, seems
symbolic, symbolizing perpetual blessedness.
The Sun and its light sometimes symbolize:
God’s favor (Psalm 84:11);
Christ’s coming (Malachi 4:2);
glory of Christ and other heavenly beings (Matthew 17:2; Revelation
1:16; 10:1; 12:1);
Authorities (Genesis 37:9-10);
glory of saints (Daniel 12:3; Matthew 13:43)
JOSHUA'S LONG DAY
Joshua 10:12-14 says:
On the day the
LORD gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the LORD in the
presence of Israel, "O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O Moon, over the
valley of Aijalon."
So the sun stood still,
and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies.
Is this not written in
the book of Jashar? The sun stopped in mid heaven, and did not hurry to
set for about a whole day.
With the Moon over Aijalon in the west and the Sun in the east
over Gibeon, Joshua was not, Maunder reasons, requesting more daylight:
Joshua's observation was made at
Gibeon [at] noon... The moon … was
about half full … about 5° above the horizon, and was due to set in
about half an hour. She had risen soon after eleven o'clock the
previous evening, and had lighted the Israelites during more than half
of their night march up from Gilgal.
Maunder concludes the "long day" refers to the rapid march of the
Israelites to overtake their fleeing enemies and complete their victory:
…the length of
the march made between noon and sunset was equal to an ordinary march
taking the whole of a day.
Joshua's words "Sun, stand still at Gibeon…" were probably not suddenly
blurted out, but climaxed an inspiring speech to his weary army. The
rejuvenated troops then marched at double speed. "There has been no day
like it before or since…" expresses the army's emotional arousal.
Another interpretation, where Joshua is requesting more light, is this:
Two nights before full Moon the Moon was in the eastern sky
above Gibeon before Sunset. A hailstorm dimmed the Sun (Joshua 10:11)
above Aijalon in the west at which time Joshua addressed the
troops. Instead of blandly stating "Let's pursue the enemy by
moonlight" Joshua pointed to the dimmed Sun, calling it the Moon, and
to the bright Moon, calling it the Sun. The pursuit then continued
under Moonlight. The following evening the fighting had finished and
the positions of Sun and Moon approximately repeated. As judged by the
troops' feelings and achievements, Sun and Moon had stood still "for a
Another Sun "miracle" is reported in Isaiah:
"I will make
the shadow cast by the sun go back the ten steps it has gone down on
the stairway of Ahaz." So the sunlight went back the ten steps it had
gone down. (38:8)
Benjamin Scott F.R.A.S. explains:
The going back
of the shadow on the dial … is dependent, not on astronomical, but on
meteorological causes. The shadow is not invariably dependent upon the
position of the sun, but upon the brightest point of light in the sky.
If when the sun nears the western horizon a dark impenetrable cloud
covers the orb, the shadow will be cast by the bright silver lining of
the cloud, which may be near the zenith, and the shadow will repeat
nearly a quarter of the circle. In the present century an instance is
recorded by the Canon of Metz Cathedral.
In the case under
consideration … the prophet is … directed to foretell, as a sign, a
natural phenomenon which was about to occur.
(Quoted in BIBLE STUDY
MONTHLY January/February 1995 without giving the full reference)
The Moon is associated with a lot of nonsense. For example:
- Legends of werewolves
active at full Moon were often taken seriously until the 19th century.
- The ancient Greek
writer Plutarch told of Moon demons that lived in caves.
- German astronomer
Johannes Kepler wrote that lunar craters were built by Moon
creatures. In 1822 Gruithuisen (another German astronomer) told
of discovering a "lunar city." In the 1920’s American astronomer W.H.
Pickering suggested insects live on the Moon.
In 1991 mathematics professor Alexander Abian suggested "Blow Up The
Moon" to change Earth’s climate to "eternal spring":
Abian, 68, who has taught at Iowa State for 24 years with stints at
Oxford University, suggests we take the nuclear-powered rockets that
were stored up during the Cold War and send them to the moon… (The
Advertiser, April 27, 1991, p. 6)
There will be an end to
sharp temperature differences around the planet and consequently an end
to cyclones, typhoons, hurricanes, tornadoes… (Discover, January 1992,
However, calculations show that to excavate a 150km-wide crater would
require 10,000 times more energy than exploding all the world’s nuclear
weapons! (Investigator 62) The Moon has many craters this size and
bigger from asteroid impacts and was not "blown up".
Obviously current human technology cannot "blow up the moon".
The Bible indicates the Moon will endure indefinitely:
They shall fear
Thee as long as the sun and moon endure,
In his days [when
the Messiah rules] shall the righteous flourish;
And the abundance of
peace so long as the moon endureth…
(Psalm 72:5, 7 KJV)
"The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night." (Psalm
The Sun can "strike" through too little or too much sunshine.
In Australia the Sunlight-avoidance campaign seeks to reduce skin
cancers. However, New Scientist says: "On balance, sunlight was
found to save more lives than it takes because people in sun-drenched
regions are protected from certain cancers by vitamin D..." (12
January, 2008, p. 8) Scientific American in "Cell Defenses and
the Sunshine Vitamin" reveals the importance of vitamin D to bones,
organs, cells, genes, and immune system. (November, 2007)
Too much Sun can "strike" by dehydration, sunburn, dilated blood
vessels, premature skin aging, and blindness. Hoffman (2007) writes:
exposure to UV rays speeds up the development of cataracts—clouding of
the lens that can lead to blindness if left untreated. It also
increases your risk of pterygium, a growth that starts on the
conjunctiva, the membrane covering the white of the eye, and can spread
to the cornea… In the short term you could find yourself with "snow
blindness" — a painful sunburn on your eye...
Arnold Lieber in The Lunar Effect (1978) and How The Moon
Affects You (1996) found correlations between full Moon and crime,
medical emergencies and homicides, but seems refuted by James Rotton
(1997) and Abell & Singer (1981).
Light-levels, however, influence behavior. Travelers in ancient times
preferred moonlight over darkness (Proverbs 7:20); farmers often worked
by moonlight; fugitives faced greater risk from pursuers on moonlit
nights; and criminals were more active at night. (Job 24:14-17) The
Weekend Australian reported how "grape snatchers" used harvesting
machines to strip an entire crop of grapes from a vineyard — by
moonlight so as see without using artificial light. (October 2-3, 2010,
Some people more likely get violent during full Moon. Of 91 violent
patients who had to be sedated at the emergency department of a NSW
hospital, 21 presented when the Moon was full. One explanation is that
more people ingest alcohol or drugs on the full Moon. (The Australian,
December 14, 2009, p. 7)
Researchers in Tanzania investigated 1000 lion attacks:
A lion is most
likely to eat you just after a full moon… Other predators, such as
wolves, may also be at their most dangerous when the moon starts to
wane… (The Australian, July 22, 2011, p. 9)
Paul wrote: "There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the
moon, and another glory of the stars; indeed, star differs from star in
glory." This probably refers to observable differences in brightness
The Bible says the stars are uncountable — God told Abraham:
heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them… So shall
your descendants be. (Genesis 15:5)
I will make your
offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on
the seashore. (Genesis 22:17)
Hipparchus in 129 BC produced a catalogue of 1025 stars. Tycho
Brahé in 1602 catalogued 777 stars. Kepler in 1627 increased
this to 1005. Today Astronomers estimate 200 billion in just our galaxy.
The Old Testament mentions several individual constellations:
• Kesil (Orion) — Isaiah 13:10; Amos 5:8; Job 9:9
• Ash (or Ayish) believed to be the Pleiades — Job
• Mazzarot — Job 38:32.
"Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of
Orion?" (Job 38:31) Cords are not literal but refer to whatever
maintains stars in their relative positions as viewed from Earth.
Jude calls false Christians "wandering stars, for whom the deepest
darkness has been reserved forever." (Verse 13) Wandering stars are
planets which "wander" through the background of fixed stars. Planets
actually have half their surface lighted by the Sun — "deepest
darkness" refers to planets being visible at night.
In the New Testament Venus is a symbol of Jesus: "I am the root and
descendant of David, the bright morning star." (Revelation 22:16; II
Many ancient peoples worshipped the Sun, Moon and stars as gods or
The heathen idea is that the orbs
of heaven are divine, or at least
that each expresses a divinity… But if these are gods, then it is
sacrilegious, it is profane, to treat them as mere "things" … to be
curious about their properties, influences, relations, and actions on
The Bible regards the heavens as God's creation making God alone worthy
And when you
look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars—all the
heavenly array—do not be enticed into bowing down to them and
worshipping… (Deuteronomy 4:19)
He [God] is the Maker of
the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south.
Another error is astrology which is opposed in the Old Testament
(Isaiah 47:13) and which Maunder says "arrested the growth of
Under its first
leaders astronomy in the Classical age began to advance rapidly, but it
soon experienced a deadly blight. Men were not content to observe the
heavenly bodies for what they were; they endeavoured to make them the
sources of divination. The great school of Alexandria (founded about
300 B.C.), the headquarters of astronomy, became invaded by the spirit
of astrology… Thus from the days of Claudius Ptolemy to the end of the
Middle Ages the growth of astronomy was arrested…
I agree with Maunder:
…when to all
the nations surrounding Israel the heavenly bodies were objects for
divination or idolatry, the attitude of the sacred writers toward
them was perfect in its sanity and truth.
Abell, G.O. & Singer, B.1981 Science and the Paranormal,
Junction Books, Chapter 6
Alter, D. 1973 Pictorial Guide to the Moon, 3rd Revised
Edition, Thomas Y. Crowell
Hoffman, L. Fun in the sun punishing on the eyes, The Weekend
Australian, January 27-28, 2007, Health, p. 18
Reneke, D. Was the Christmas Star Real? Australasian Science,
Nov/Dec 2009, p. 36
Marshall, M. Seriously big rocks hit Earth's early life, New
Scientist, 16 August, 2014, p. 11
Maunder, E. 1908 The Astronomy of the Bible, Richard Clay &
Rotton, J. Moonshine, Skeptical Inquirer, May/June 1997, pp
Steel, D. 1999 Eclipse, Headline.
Relying on science to
accuracy of the Bible — on this website: