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1     Hebrew Cosmology and the Bible K Straughen
115
2    Biblical Cosmology Anonymous
116
3    Earth Established on Water Anonymous
122



Hebrew Cosmology and the Bible

Kirk Straughen

(Investigator 115, 2007 July)


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 were attached:

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:
1. Watery chaos (Gen. 1:2)
2. Separation of waters by firmament (Gen. 1:6 7)
3. Appearance of dry land (Gen. 1: 19)
4. Creation of sun, moon and stars (Gen. 1: 14 19)

The accompanying 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.

Further Reading

Biblical Conception of the Universe
http://sol.sci.uop.edu/ jfalwardThreeTieredUniverse.htm

A Common Cosmology of the Ancient World
www.aarweb.org/syllabus/syllabi/g/gier/306/commoncosmos.htm

Cosmology and Cosmogony of Ancient Civilizations
www.mukto mona.com/new site/muktomona/Articles/brent meeker/cosmology.htm







BIBLICAL COSMOLOGY

Anonymous

(Investigator 116, 2007 September)


SCIENTIFIC PICTURE

The Bible gives a scientific picture of the Earth and sky as argued in Investigator 52 to 60.

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 Archaeology of the Bible, the magazine Buried History noted:
A number of a priori 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…

Certainly written 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.


PREVIOUSLY

In Investigator 52 and 54 I established that in the Bible:
•    Earth 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.
•    The "circle of the earth" and "circle of the sea" refer to the circular horizon.
•    The phrase "pillars of heaven" occurs only once (Job 26:11) and probably refers to dense clouds.
•    The sky 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.


WATERS

Psalm 24:1-2 says:
The earth…he has founded it upon the seas,
And established it upon the rivers.

This is true in two scientific ways.
1.    "Nearly all of the Earth's fresh water—some 97%—consists of groundwater." (Svitil, K. A. Groundwater secrets, Discover, September 1996)

2.    "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:
•    The birds fly (Deuteronomy 4:17; 28:16);
•    The wind blows (Psalm 78:26; Daniel 11:4);
•    The clouds are (Daniel 7:13);
•    The rain falls down from (Deuteronomy 11:11,17);
•    The 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:
•    Above the heavens (Psalm 108:4; 113:4);
•    Higher than the heavens (Psalm 8:1; 57:5,11; 108:5);
•    Above the stars (Isaiah 14:13; Nahum 3:16);
•    Heaven 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 is:
We have shown that, from a mathematical viewpoint, the universe may actually be a 5D black hole…
We are led to consider the 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

Anonymous

(Investigator 122)



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:

For example:
"Jesse Lawrence…has found a reservoir holding as much water as the Arctic Ocean deep below Earth's surface.

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 mantle.

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)


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