Hebrew Cosmology and the Bible
Established on Water
Hebrew Cosmology and the
(Investigator 115, 2007
The ancient Hebrews, along
with most of their Middle Eastern contemporaries, viewed the Earth as a
flat disc overarched by a solid vault to which the celestial bodies
Jews simply adopted or
accepted the cosmologies of the various civilizations in which they
lived... The cosmological picture in the Bible, for instance, clearly
owes much to the Mesopotamian cosmologies, especially the Babylonian.
The universe is conceived of in geocentric terms. The earth has the
shape of a flat disc. (Page 102 in Jacobs, Louis: The Jewish Religion.
Oxford University Press Inc., New York, 1995).
The essentials of this
mythical cosmology can be glimpsed in the order of creation as
described in Genesis, which I shall outline as follows:
Watery chaos (Gen. 1:2)
2. Separation of waters
firmament (Gen. 1:6 7)
3. Appearance of dry land
(Gen. 1: 19)
4. Creation of sun, moon
and stars (Gen. 1: 14 19)
illustration [here omitted] delineates this mythical process of
creation, whose order makes sense in the light of common underlying
assumptions concerning the primordial state of the universe as
conceived by most ancient Middle Eastern cultures such as those of
Mesopotamia, Egypt and so on.
The idea of a watery origin
for the cosmos may have arisen from observations of floods and
swampland — from the chaos of the flood, earth slowly emerges as the
waters subside, and new life arises form the formless mud. The Cosmos,
then, was possibly thought to have arisen by a similar analogous
process behind which stood the controlling divinities responsible for
the emergence of cosmic order.
That the Hebrews may have
been influenced by other surrounding cultures and borrowed aspects of
their creation myths, is quite plausible when we consider that no
Middle Eastern civilization stood in isolation from its neighbors. For
all were linked by trade routes along which not only goods, but also
ideas, could travel.
Furthermore, that Genesis
is most likely a compilation of various creation myths has been deduced
by researchers in the field of Biblical literature:
The basic document [of
Genesis] is now normally called 'Priestly', since its features suggest
that it derived from a circle of priests and highly educated people,
whereas the older document (normally called J, or Yahwist, because God
is normally indicated by the name he had among the Hebrews) is more
anthropomorphic in outlook. In the one the picture is wider, embracing
the general problem of the origin of the Universe, while in the other
the horizon is restricted to man and the question of his duties, his
purpose, and so on. Moreover, the cosmology in the Priestly account is
dominated by the element of Water, regarded as something hostile to
man, to the point at which conquest of cultivable soil consists in
redeeming it from Water. But in the Yahwist version the dominant
feature is a desert which has to be made fertile by rain and springs,
even though these waters too must be regulated by man before they can
take proper effect.
What we have said so far
may help in identifying the provenance of the two accounts, the older
of which may be placed in Syria and Arabia, the later in Mesopotamia.
As to date, the Yahwist version may be ninth or eighth century BC, the
later version belongs to the late seventh or early sixth, but the data
on which its priestly writers worked are distinctly earlier. Links with
the cosmology of other eastern Semitic peoples are many and obvious.
(Page 246 in Pareti, Luigi: History of Mankind Cultural &
Scientific Development, Vol. 11, part 1)
In my opinion it is
reasonable to conclude that the authors of the Genesis creation myth
borrowed ideas from other prevailing origin stories, modifying them in
the light of Hebrew monotheism.
These conclusions may sound
like an unchanging refrain to some people and I apologize if they find
it annoying. However, the consensus of Biblical scholars suggests the
conclusions presented herein are most likely true.
Biblical Conception of
A Common Cosmology of the
Cosmology and Cosmogony
(Investigator 116, 2007
The Bible gives a
scientific picture of the Earth and sky as argued in Investigator 52 to
Writings of ancient Jews
aside from the Bible, however, do not necessarily reflect biblical
teaching. The biblical prophets all declare that most Jews and
Israelites had gone astray.
For that reason we must use
the Bible itself to uncover biblical cosmology.
COSMOLOGY NOT COPIED
Modern critics claim that
biblical cosmology was adapted from stories of surrounding
civilizations. (Straughen (#115)
Borrowing and adaptation
is, however, not proved merely because both parties used concepts such
as "earth", "heavens", "sun", "moon" and "stars" since even modern
astronomers use these concepts. We would need direct quotes in the
Bible from books of neighboring civilizations on the topic of creation
— but no such quotes have been demonstrated.
Accusations that the Bible
writers copied are easily balanced with counter quotes that they
didn't. For example, responding to a TV series about The
the Bible, the magazine Buried History noted:
A number of a
assumptions underlie the handling of the biblical and archaeological
sources. One which was obvious in the first program is that any
biblical account which is similar to or deals with a major theme found
in Near Eastern literature must be copied from the latter. Creation
epics and the flood were examples given.
Dealing thus with the
creation story ignores the restrained nature of Genesis 1 and its
primary purpose of showing that the worship of anything except God is
to worship the creature not the Creator. The contrast with ancient Near
Eastern cosmologies is most marked here, as they deify and glorify gods
representing the objects or forces of nature created by God, such as
the sun, moon, wind, etc…
references to 'the flood', quite apart from the main narratives,
suggest a significant, factual event which disrupted the pattern of
life in the ancient Near East, at least. The relationship between the
ancient Near Eastern narratives (Epic of Gilgamesh, Epic of Atrahasis)
and Genesis cannot be simply written off as copying. (1981 March p. 3)
To test the accuracy of the
Bible we need to understand the Bible and check it against science.
In Investigator 52 and 54 I
established that in the Bible:
does not mean planet Earth but refers to the land and excludes the seas.
"Heavens" refers to what people see when they look upwards — they
see the sky.
"circle of the earth" and "circle of the sea" refer to the circular
phrase "pillars of heaven" occurs only once (Job 26:11) and probably
refers to dense clouds.
is not a solid vault. That idea originated because the Hebrew "raqia"
was wrongly translated "firmament".
For comment on the
"foundations of the earth", "pillars of the earth" and the "earth hangs
upon nothing" see also #52 & #54.
Investigator 110-112 shows
that the Genesis creation story is one story not two. It describes
creation from the perspective of a hypothetical observer at sea or
ground level. For details how Genesis 1 anticipated a significant
late-20th-century scientific discovery see my articles in #19, 38, 54,
62, 79, 83 and 110.
Psalm 24:1-2 says:
has founded it
upon the seas,
And established it upon
This is true in two
"Nearly all of the Earth's fresh water—some 97%—consists of
groundwater." (Svitil, K. A. Groundwater secrets, Discover, September
"Japanese scientists have discovered molten rock in the earth's
interior is surprisingly wet and could have up to five times more water
than is present on the surface. In Lab experiments, which replicated
the environment and the conditions deep inside the earth, the
scientists found the crystal structures and minerals softened to become
water…." (The Advertiser, 2002, March 9, p. 40)
MORE ABOUT THE SKY
"Heavens" refers to what is
seen by looking upwards, we see the sky. "Heavens" therefore includes
the space where:
birds fly (Deuteronomy 4:17; 28:16);
wind blows (Psalm 78:26; Daniel 11:4);
clouds are (Daniel 7:13);
rain falls down from (Deuteronomy 11:11,17);
sun, moon and stars are. (Genesis 32:13; Deuteronomy 1:10; 28:62)
The Bible does not state
how far the sky/heavens extend. It says the sky cannot be measured
(Jeremiah 31:37) and the stars cannot be counted. (Genesis 15:5)
The most distant object
visible to the naked eye is now known to be the Andromeda galaxy, which
astronomers calculate as 2½ million light years distant.
Andromeda, from the biblical viewpoint is in the "sky" or "heavens".
Andromeda, however, is only
about 1/6000th the estimated distance to the end of the Universe.
Since the biblical word
"heavens" refers to what is seen by looking up irrespective of
distance, it would include the stars and galaxies to whatever distance
modern instruments detect them.
Therefore what about such
strange phrases as:
the heavens (Psalm 108:4; 113:4);
than the heavens (Psalm 8:1; 57:5,11; 108:5);
the stars (Isaiah 14:13; Nahum 3:16);
of the heavens (Psalm 68:33; I Kings 8:27)
[God's] "right hand spread out the heavens." (Isaiah 48:13)
Such phrases imply that all
the stars to their most distant extent, i.e. the Universe, is not all
that exists and that even bigger realities exist beyond.
One way this might be true
We have shown
that, from a
mathematical viewpoint, the universe may actually be a 5D black hole…
We are led to consider
idea of a set of "Russian doll universes", with each world embedded in
another world of higher dimensions…
Next time you stare up at
the night sky, stop and consider the fact that you may actually be
surveying the star-speckled interior of a five-dimensional black hole.
(Wesson, P. Enter the void, New Scientist, 11 February, 2005)
EARTH ESTABLISHED ON WATER
The biblical claim that the
earth (i.e. the land) is established on water, which I defended with
scientific quotes in #54 & #116, is getting more support with
more water found:
Lawrence…has found a
reservoir holding as much water as the Arctic Ocean deep below Earth's
Lawrence, from the
University of California, San Diego, and Michael Wysession of
Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, analysed more than 600,000
seismic signals generated by earthquakes travelling through the Earth.
They were surprised to find that the waves weakened below eastern Asia
at depths below 600 and 1200 kilometres, corresponding to Earth's lower
The researchers realised
that there must be massive amounts of water in porous mantle rock
muffling the seismic waves, mainly below Beijing, China." (New
Scientist 10 March, 2007, p. 7)
Can the Bible be proved with science?
Find out on this website: