CIRCLE OF THE EARTH
consisting of eleven
|1 Creationism Fact or Fallacy?||K Straughen|
|2 Circles, Pillars and Tents – Reply to Straughen||Anonymous|
|3 Ancient Cosmographies||K Straughen|
|4 Mythology's Last Gods||B De Kretser|
|5 Circles, Pillars and Tents Part 2||Anonymous|
|6 Ancient Cosmographies Part 2||K Straughen|
|7 Comment on Mr Straughen's Critique||Anonymous|
|8 Letter: Agreement Still Not Reached||K Straughen|
|9 Letter: Response to Straughen||Anonymous|
|10 Faith in the Bible Due to Lack of Intellect||B De Kretser|
|11 Response to Brian De Kretser||Anonymous|
Creationism: Fact Or Fallacy?
( Investigator 52, 1997
This article is a response to the creationist claims in "Evidence for a Young World", which appeared in Investigator No 47.
For the sake of brevity I have not addressed all the claims in the creationist article. However, I have addressed the central beliefs of creationism, and shown why they are false.
What is creationism? Creationism is a religious belief held by Christian Fundamentalists that includes the following:
That the Earth is no
more than 6,000 to
10,000 years old;
* That the Universe was created by God in six 24 hour days;
* That the Biblical flood of Genesis inundated the entire Earth, and that all modern terrestrial life is descended from the organisms carried on the ark;
* That there is scientific evidence that supports their religious beliefs.
shall now proceed to
demonstrate why creationism
is without foundation.
Is The Bible A Textbook On Science?
Creationist claims have been examined by members of Australian Skeptics and other similar organizations around the world, and these claims have been proven wrong. There is no evidence that the Earth is only 10,000 years old; no evidence for a global deluge; and no evidence for a super-natural creation.
In view of this fact, I think that the following question is pertinent: If God did create the Universe in the manner the creationists claim, then why did It do so in such a way that the theory of evolution is endorsed by the testimony of the natural world?
creationists reject the theory
of evolution is not because it is wrong, but because it conflicts with
their literal, albeit untenable interpretation of Genesis. It appears
they are prepared to sacrifice their reason on the altar of faith in
quest for religious certainty.
The creationist's thesis is that the Bible is literally true, every word, and what's more, that it is "inerrant", that is, that it can't be wrong. However, at one point I think that even they would draw the line. The creationists would find it extremely difficult to insist that the Earth is flat. After all Columbus didn't sail off the edge of the world, and observations made from space prove that the Earth is spherical.
If the creationists were to admit that the Bible assumes the Earth is flat their entire thesis of inerrancy falls in a heap, and if the bible is wrong in so basic a matter as the shape of the Earth, then this clearly demonstrates that it is not a reliable guide to the natural world.
Now the Bible doesn't bother saying right out "In the beginning God created the heavens and the flat earth" because the people of that time and culture never heard anyone saying that the Earth was anything other than flat.
we can see the
flatness in their
description of the Earth as a circle and of the sky as a tent:
Now a "circle" is a two-dimensional figure; a sphere is a three dimensional one. The Earth is very nearly a sphere; it is certainly not a circle. A coin is an example of a circle. In other words, what the author of this passage is referring to when he speaks of the "circle of the earth", is a flat Earth with a circular boundary; a disc-shaped object.
Now observe the comparison of the heavens with a "curtain", or a "tent". A tent, as it is usually pictured, is composed of some material such as linen. The material is spread outward above, and then down on all sides until it touches the ground.
A tent is not a spherical structure that surrounds a smaller spherical structure. No tent has ever possessed this configuration. It is in most schematic forms, a semisphere that comes down and touches the ground in a circle. And the ground underneath a tent is flat. This interpretation is in accord with the ancient Hebrew view of the Universe which is illustrated in Figure 1.
[Figure 1 is here omitted.]
let me emphasize that
there are many
sincerely religious Jews and Christians who do not take this
seriously. They view the Bible in terms of poetic imagery, metaphor,
allegory. They consider the Bible to be a guide to theology and
to be a great work of poetry; but not to be an infallible textbook on
fallacious. It can't account
for the origin of the universe, life, and humanity; the reason
that it is based upon a false assumption–namely that the Bible can be
as a scientific textbook.
If creationism is unfounded, why is it that its adherents still cling to their beliefs? The answer is psychological.
people have a great
need for certainty
during periods of rapid social change brought about by increases in
knowledge; knowledge which threatens traditional views of humanity and
our place in the universe.
This article is too short to adequately refute creationism and should be viewed as a preliminary brief for the major article The Antiquity of the Earth to appear in INVESTIGATOR during 1997.
I 'X' Stands
for Unknown, Grafton
Books, London, 1986
Bridgestock, Dr M. (Ed) & Smith, Dr K (Ed) Creationism, an Australian Perspective, Australian Skeptics, 1989
Groves, Dr C Creationism in Laycock, D (Ed) et al, Skeptical, The CanberraSkeptics, 1989
Hogan, P Introduction in Hogan, P (Ed), Creationism: Scientists Respond, Australian Skeptics (Victorian Branch) Inc, 1991
Smart, N The Phenomenon of Christianity, Collins, London, 1979
Spong, J S Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, Harper Collins Publishers, New York, 1991
Holy Bible (Revised Standard Version)
PILLARS and TENTS
REPLY TO MR STRAUGHEN
(Investigator 52, 1997
Mr Straughen rightly points out that belief in the Earth being 6,000 to 10,000 years old is contrary to science. Such belief is also contrary to Genesis chapter 1.
For extra details see INVESTIGATOR 38. Briefly: Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" is a summary of the creation story which follows. The creation story, therefore, starts in verses 2 & 3 and there the earth already exists – although covered in water. (1:9) This point affects the interpretation of all of Genesis 1. It also means that the Bible gives no indication of the age of our planet or of what happened on the planet prior to the intervention of "God" described in verses 2 & 3 onward.
a discussion on how
the "earth" got covered
in water see INVESTIGATOR 38.
Mr Straughen makes a common error in his subsequent discussion.
wrongly assumes that
"earth" in the Bible
means planet "Earth". In the Bible "earth" refers to the "dry land"
far it extends. See Genesis 1:10.
In the Bible the word "earth" therefore does not include the oceans and seas.
Fundamentalists who quote Isaiah on "the circle of the earth" and claim this teaches that planet Earth is round need think again. (Isaiah 40:22)
The Bible often uses "phenomenal" language i.e. the language of perception and observation. Anyone who stands on a large plain or on a hilltop and looks to the horizons will see himself in the middle of a large circle. This, the circle he sees, is the "circle of the earth" i.e. "the circle of the dry land."
Of course if someone travels a lot and notices that he is always in the middle of a large circle then the most plausible explanation of this is that all the circles constitute the surface of a large sphere. But the Bible does not reason that far.
The Bible also mentions the "circle of the sea" or "the circle of the deep". (Proverbs 8:27) I suppose had astronomers named our planet "Ocean" or "Sea" instead of "Earth" then Fundamentalists would claim the Bible teaches the "Ocean" or "Sea" is a sphere!
The "circle of the sea" is the circle an observer sees himself in the middle of when he looks to the horizons from a ship, island or seashore.
Another "circle" of the sea is: "the boundary between light and darkness." (Job 26:10)
This phrase makes sense if we rely on modern knowledge and see our planet from Space – one half lighted by the Sun, the other half in darkness. The "boundary between light and darkness" would then be the dividing line between the two halves.
Alternatively, from Job's viewpoint, the circular "boundary between light and darkness" refers to the sun when below the horizon. The observer would notice himself in twilight whereas beyond the circular horizon the sun would presumably still shine.
26:7 says, "He (God)
hangs the earth
upon nothing." Again, from our modern viewpoint the earth or "dry land"
sticks up from the surface of planet Earth and the whole set-up moves
space and "hangs upon nothing."
Mr Straughen described a "tent" carefully. Bedouin tents can be flat and long or round and tapering. The sides might be raised or lowered or not even attached. The tents might have one room or two or three and be of skins or cloth. Prior to being set up on poles the "tent" would lie flat and spread out on the ground.
However, Isaiah 40:22 "spreads them (the heavens or sky) like a tent" is not a comparison of structure, shape or material. The comparison is of God's greatness with man's insignificance: "To whom then will you liken God?" (40:18) The idea is that humans spread out tents but God has spread out the heavens.
of humans to "grasshoppers"
(40:22) does not describe our appearance. Few humans would mistake
for a grasshopper upon looking in a mirror! Rather, the idea is
grasshoppers are small and insignificant compared to humans who in turn
are insignificant compared to God.
What, then, are the "pillars of the earth"? This phrase occurs twice in the Old Testament. (Job 9:6; Psalm 75:3) And what are "The pillars of heaven"? This phrase occurs only once. (Job 26:11)
Skeptics and critics like to take these phrases literally and draw pictures of literal pillars.
The Hebrew word for "pillars" – "anmud" – occurs about 100 times in the Old Testament.
People tend to think of stone "pillars". But in the Bible we read of stone, wood, brass, marble and iron pillars. The word is also used to describe the shape of clouds and of smoke. (Judges 20:40)
The "pillars of the earth", then, would be whatever is beneath the "dry land" on which the dry land rests. To claim that literal pillars are meant, goes beyond the Bible. The Bible also has a dozen references to the "foundations of the earth" without specifying what those foundations consist of. The "foundations" of anything, however, would not normally consist of literal "pillars".
"continental crust" and
"tectonic plates" and the "mantle". If we're addressing laymen, then
of these could be termed "foundations of the earth."
Foundations of the earth. Two Hebrew words used:
|Psalm 82:5||Psalm 24:2|
|Proverbs 8:29||Psalm 102:25|
|Isaiah 24:18||Psalm 104:4|
|Isaiah 40:21||Isaiah 48:13|
|Isaiah 58:12||Isaiah 51:13, 16|
|Jeremiah 31:37||Zechariah 12:1|
"Heavens" in the Bible usually refers to what people at ground level observe when looking upward. "Heavens" usually means "sky". What are "The pillars of the sky?" (Job 26:11)
Since the phrase occurs only once we have to guess its meaning. It could be a figure of speech referring to mountains and mountain ranges. Alternatively the phrase might refer to clouds – since Job 26:8-9 mentions clouds. A third possibility is that since the sky is viewed though the air or atmosphere the "pillars" would be whatever the atmosphere rests on. If so the "pillars" would be the seas and the land.
relied on the essay
Circle of the Earth by Isaac Asimov published in The
of Fantasy and Science Fiction (February 1982) and reprinted in Asimov
on Science A 30-Year Retrospective (Doubleday 1989). Asimov in turn
took literally the few Bible passages involved.
(Investigator 54, 1997
This essay is a
to "Circles, Pillars
and Tents", and outlines why I am unable to agree with Anonymous.
The Circle of the Earth
Even if we exclude the oceans from a definition of Earth, and confine the concept to the "circle of the dry land", then the Biblical Earth is still flat. "Dry land however far it extends", would include the land mass of the entire world, and to describe this land mass as circular is to imply that it is flat.
To interpret the "circle of the earth" as referring to the horizon only, is viewing things from a modern perspective. We know that the earth is spherical, and that the world extends over the horizon. However, the author of Isaiah may not have held this belief.
That is to say he may have conceived of all the dry earth as a vast circle, and as I pointed out in my article, a circle is a two-dimensional figure.
The word "earth"
than one meaning.
For example: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
(Gen.1:1). This is a summary of Genesis, and therefore the word "earth"
can also be interpreted as EARTH. God is credited with creating the
everything that is above the world (heavens), and everything that is
the heavens (dry land & oceans). In other words the EARTH. The
word for earth is 'eres':
Therefore, when the Bible says of God "It is he who sits above the circle of the earth..." (Isaiah 40:22), the word "earth" can be interpreted as EARTH. And since God is everywhere it is the entire Earth that He sits above, which includes all lands, seas, and oceans, and to describe the earth as circular is to imply flatness.
I can't agree
Anonymous that Gen.1:2-3
indicates that the Earth already exists. It says of the Earth that it
without form and void" in other words it had no shape, no substance, no
Tohu is a word which is difficult to express consistently in English. However, it can be defined as denoting something that is unsubstantial.
Genesis displays cultural influences from the Babylonian Captivity (ca 6th century BC). The main source of influence seems to have been the Enuma Elish and the Epic of Gilgamesh, the chief texts of which were found in the library of Ashurbanipal and date from the 7th.century BC.
According to the
Elish, which is older
than Genesis, the world was born from a watery chaos:
The Biblical account of the creation derives its imagery from a general fund of Sumero-Semitic myth of which the Enuma Elish is an example:
The type of cosmography these myths engendered is as follows:
The similarities to Biblical cosmography are: circular Earth (Isaiah 40:22), waters above firmament (Gen.1:7), the great deep (Prov. 8:27-28 & Gen. 7:11), fountains of the deep (Prov. 8:27-28), doors in heaven (Ps 78:23).
In the light of the above quote, the order in which Genesis 1:1-19 describes God creating the world begins to make sense. Figures 1 - 4 illustrate those parts of Genesis which I think are relevant to our discussion:
Parts of the
the extent of
scientific knowledge (derived from Babylonian civilization) available
the authors who wrote it, and I think that it is highly likely that the
author of Isaiah would have believed that the Earth was flat, and
consciously or unconsciously conveyed this idea in his writing. The
being that this belief was part of the ancient Hebrew conceptual
For ancient cultures "down" was a cosmic direction. Things fell down not because of gravity, but because "down" was down. We can see this in the writings of the Christian father, Lactantius (ca AD 240 - ca 320). He used ancient arguments to refute the idea of a spherical Earth, namely: the impossibility of walking upside down, and the absurdity of places where rain and snow fall upwards.
The concept of a
Earth is based on a
simple fact of observation: if I stand out in the middle of the desert
and turn in a circle, then the Earth appears to be a flat disc and the
sky a solid dome that rests upon it. In discussing this subject we must
keep in mind that:
date strongly suggest
that the ancient Hebrews thought that the Earth was a flat disc with a
solid semispherical sky, and that the Bible reflects this belief.
Berthon, S & Robinson
A The Shape of
the World, George Philip Ltd., London, 1991.
Campbell, J. The Masks of God, Occidental Mythology, Condor Books, London. (date unknown).
Koester, A The Sleepwalkers, Grosset and Dunlap, New York, 1963.
Tauber, G E Man's View of the Universe, Crown Publishers Inc., New York, 1979.
Vine, W E et al Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, Thomas Nelson Publishers, New York, 1985.
Holy Bible (Revised Standard Version)
New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology, Hamlyn, Publishing Group Ltd. London, 1989.
Encyclopaedia Biblica, Adam and Charles Black, London, 1914.
The Universe Bible Dictionary, R.T.S. - Lutterworth Press, London, 1939.
Westminster Commentaries: The Book of Genesis, Methuen and Co., London, 1904.
"MYTHOLOGY'S LAST GODS"
Brian De Kretser
( Investigator 54, 1997 May)
Some of the things mentioned in the book Mythology's Last Gods (William Harwood) are:
1 Conflicting accounts regarding the date Jesus Christ was born. Matthew's account was totally dependent for its credibility on the dating of that event to 4 BCE or earlier, whereas Luke's account was equally dependent on dating that event to 7 CE (AD).
2 Yahweh promised King David that his dynasty would be kings in Jerusalem forever. Yet in 586 BCE David's line of kings was deposed and has never been restored.
3 One by one the various books of the Bible were proved to be lies and errors of fact and inaccurate guesses. The current Pope appointed his own historians to examine the secular historians' conclusions and to find flaws in their evidence that the Pope believed must be there. The outcome was that the Papal historians' confirmed that the Bible really was falsifiable fantasy. The Pope suppressed the report.
4 One passage in Genesis states that Noah was to take two of each kind of animal into the Ark. Later it says seven of each. Ian Plimer's book Telling Lies for God shows the Flood story is ridiculous.
5 The rising
from the dead
myth was in fashion
3,000 years before Jesus Christ copied it.
The Egyptian god Osiris rose from the dead. One thousand years before him the goddess Ishtar rose from the dead. Between Osiris and Jesus Christ there were Greek, Assyrian, Phoenician, Persian, Hittite, Chinese and dozens of other saviour gods who rose from the dead. The Bible stories are mostly recycled myth.
6 Centuries before the 3-person god (Father/Son/Holy Ghost) of Christianity ancients worshipped a three-person goddess.
7 One thousand years before God according to the Bible gave the 10 commandments to Moses, the Babylonian Sun God, Shamash, dictated an almost identical law code to Hammurabi. Furthermore the 10 Commandments were composed 400 years after Moses death.
8 The names of the Christian gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – have been used for the anonymous authors of those books.
9 The Judaeo-Christians reflect the ignorance of the authors of the Bible. They endorse a flat Earth. Daniel 4:10; Matthew 2:9; 4:8; Apocalypse 7:1; 6:13, 14; Psalm 93:1; 96:10; 104:5; Job 22:14; Acts 10:11; Genesis 1:16. They also state that the universe was created by God less than 10,000 years ago instead of between 12 & 17 billion years ago as science has proved.
10 God invented.
lkhenatun 1380 BCE,
known as the Mad Pharoah conceived of Monotheism. The Jews reinvented
idea later and created Yahweh their single, male, sky God, their God of
Societies create their Gods according to their own moral and physical image. Cultures that were sane and virtuous by the standards of 5,000 years ago, but evil by the standards of today, created gods that were insane and evil by the standards of today. E.g. in the Old Testament, God ordered the killing of entire populations – men, women and animals.
The invention of writing led to the depiction of capricious, temperamental, xenophobic, genocidal, morally-retarded gods in sacred scrolls in which their atrocities and irrationality was acknowledged and applauded. The gods were like the societies which created them.
11 The Jews and the Israelites were separate peoples. The Jews were in the area from Ebla in the south to Mount Yahweh in Anatolia, near modern Adana, in the north. In the 4th century BCE they conquered and settled the area south of Jerusalem.
The homeland of the Israelites was Midian. They were driven out by the conquering Easterners which included the most powerful of the Jews led by Yahuwshua. They were invited by Pharoah Ikhenatun to settle in Goshen on the eastern shore of the Nile Delta. In return they were to help Egypt defend the northern border. One hundred years later they were expelled from Egypt by Pharoah Ramoses II. Their reception in Midian was not hospitable and so they settled peacefully in a section of Phoenicia north of Jerusalem and formed an alliance with the Jews that lasted until the death of Solomon.
12 The David and Goliath story was invented to raise the status of David after his election to the dual crown of Israel and Judah. Goliath was killed by Elkhanan. (2 Samual 21:19)
13 The Bible has myths of the birth of a dangerous child and attempts to kill that child thwarted by God's protection: Moses; Perseus; Kyros; Oidipus; Paris; Abraham; Krishna; John the Immerser; Jesus the Nazirite; Sargon I; Theseus; King Arthur. These are all recycled myths.
14 Flood myths
over 1,000 years
before Yahweh was invented. The most primitive version known is that of
the Hindus – the Rain Goddess
destroy all life.
In Sumerian myth it was the goddess Ishtar; in Perian myth – Ahriman. Mithra the righteous man was warned to build an Ark (like Noah?).
Genesis contains two conflicting stories of Noah's Flood. In Greek flood myths Iapetos was one of the 14 Titans worshipped. His son was Prometheus whose son Delikalion was the Greek Noah.
15 Satan invented. In a fable by Enoch the seraphs were expelled from the skies for disobedience and sentenced to eternal darkness. Their leader Khazazel (the planet Venus) became known thereafter as the Enemy (Ha-Satan) occupying a position in Jewish mythology analogous to the Zoroastrian Prince of Darkness. Many religions had the concept of their God versus an evil enemy. Buddhism had Mara the Great Tempter. Babylonians had Tiamat the Dragon. The Devil got his traditional form and attributes from the Greek god Pan.
16 The Adam myth was borrowed from a Greek tale – that Prometheus fashioned the first human from clay.
17 The myth of rising from the grave on the 3rd day started with the Osiris myth. The god Seth killed King Osiris who was later resurrected. Later stories of sacred kings followed this pattern: Eurystheus prince of Tiryns; Oedipus of Greece.
The Moon goddess Semele suffered death for the sins of the world and rose again to everlasting life. In Egyptian myth Dionysos died for the sins of the world and was resurrected. In Syria the Adonis myth was the same. In Babylonia the risen saviour was called Tammuz the only begotten son of the King and Queen of Heaven–Ea and Daukina. In Anatolia the resurrected saviour was called Atthis, in Persia Mithra. In China he was Dreng and his virgin mother Shinga-moo.
There is a
information but I have
supplied enough to prove that the Bible is a book of fiction.
PILLARS & TENTS
BIBLE TEACHING ABOUT "EARTH"
Reply to Mr Straughen and Mr De Kretser
In Investigator 52 I showed that "earth" in the Bible means "land" and excludes the oceans and seas. Therefore "earth" cannot refer to planet Earth. It follows that attempts by skeptics to construct a Biblical idea of planet Earth by what the Bible says about "earth" or "land" misrepresents the Bible.
I argued that the Bible phrases "circle of the earth" and "circle of the deep (=sea)" refer to the circular horizon. And the "foundations of the earth" refer to whatever the land and continents rest on.
Mr Straughen and
Kretser have disagreed.
Therefore I now present further details:
REPLY TO MR STRAUGHEN
The Hebrew word "eres" (or "ehretz") meaning "earth" or "land" occurs about 2,500 times in the Old Testament. We get phrases such as:
"The whole land (eres) of Ethiopia" Genesis 2:13;
"The land (eres) of Assyria" Isaiah 27:13;
"the land (eres) of Egypt" Isaiah 27:13;
"the land (eres) of Judah" Zechariah 1:21.
(Wigram, G V Englishman's Hebrew & Chaldee Concordance pp 157-171)
We also get the phrase "the ends of the earth" (Psalm 2:8; 59:13; 72:8; Isaiah 40:28). This makes sense since all the continents and islands are not infinite in extent but end at the seashores.
The word "earth", then, can refer to all land of what we call "the continents" or to a portion thereof such as one country or empire or area.
Mr Straughen quoted Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words. W E Vine was a scholar but even scholars occasionally make a mistake.
There is no verse in the Bible where "earth" includes the seas. (Jonah 1:9) The phrase "depths of the earth" cited by Vine can refer to valleys as opposed to mountains and/or to whatever is under the land. (Psalm 71:20; 95:4-5; Amos 4:13)
and its creation
in Genesis chapter 1?
CREATION OF "EARTH" - GENESIS 1
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." (Genesis 1:1)
One interpretation is that verse one summarized the creation story which follows [it]. If so, then the actual account of what God "created" starts in verses 2 & 3. And in verse 2 what would become the "earth" already exists although covered in water. Verse 10 makes this plain by informing us that "earth" (eres) is the dry land. (Investigator 38 pp. 34-37)
In effect, the account tells us that "God created … the earth" or land by removing the water from it. There is no talk here of planet "Earth" but of the "land" – the sort of land that the readers could see around them.
Similarly, "heavens" in the Bible usually refers to the "sky" – what the reader could see by looking up. (Compare "heavens" in 2 Peter 3 and scientific explanation of 2 Peter 3 in Investigator 43)
The Genesis 1
story, then, describes
what a hypothetical observer at sea or land level would have observed
The story describes what the reader would have seen had he been there. Just as the land could be created by removing the water that covered it, so the "heavens" or sky could be "created" by removing whatever covered the sky and prevented our hypothetical observer from seeing it. The heaven or "firmament" which God created (1:6-8) therefore was not the Universe. Similarly the "light" too could be "created" and be seen by our hypothetical observer by removing whatever obstructed the light.
Genesis 1 is a story of the land and sky in a state of destruction and being repaired by God. The oceans are not said to be created because their water was already there – covering everything. The phrase "spirit of God" (1:2) is often mistakenly related to the Trinity doctrine. The Hebrew "ruach" usually means "wind". The phrase "wind of God" is a figure of speech referring to an exceptionally powerful wind.
What sort of an event could cover all land on our planet with the oceans, blot out all light, make sun and moon invisible, leave the planet without plants or animals or birds or fishes, and cause a "wind of God" over the surface?
Creation in Genesis begins after the event in question.
This interpretation differs from the majority who prefer to speak of "creation ex nihilo". (Newman et al 1981) However, my explanation follows from regarding verse 1 as an introduction and as a one-sentence summary of Genesis 1 and from letting the Hebrew words (e.g. eres = earth = land) mean what they mean.
It's possible that other Bible passages - such as in the New Testament - refer to the creation of the Universe. If so such passages would refer to events long before Genesis 1. But that's another story.
What is meant by "formless and void?" (Genesis 1:2) Context tells us. Void means empty. The land, at that stage covered by sea, was empty or void of the creation to follow. "Without form" refers to outline or shape. Imagine tidal waves sweeping over an island and you trying to draw a map of the island perhaps while observing from a helicopter. The form, outline, or shape of the island as determined by where its land meets the sea would change second by second. The high points like hills would also look different second by second subject to how much is water-covered at any instant. You just won't be able to draw or describe one form, outline or shape which describes the island. In that way it would be "without form". Well, that was the condition of all land at creation!
A comment about
"firmament"? W E Vine
While this English word is derived from the Latin firmamentum which signifies firmness or strengthening…the Hebrew word, raqia, has no such meaning, but denoted the "expanse," that which is stretched out. Certainly the sky was not regarded as a hard vault in which the heavenly orbs were fixed… There is nothing in the language of the original to suggest that the writers were influenced by the imaginative ideas of heathen nations. (1981 p. 67)
What then is the "circle of the earth/land" (Isaiah 40)? What is the "circle of the deep" (Proverbs 8)? The Jews knew that individual countries and empires and seas are not exact circles. What they could and did observe is the circular horizon as explained in Investigator 52.
The word "circle" is singular. So is the word "earth". From any one location the observer sees only one portion of land and/or sea and one circular horizon around it. Isaiah 40:22 therefore teaches that God is bigger and greater than the sky above the reader and the circular horizon around the reader.
land including the
continents we remove problems in understanding the following:
- "the earth trembled and shook." (Psalm 77:18)
- "the earth...stands fast." (Psalm 119:90)
- "foundations of the earth." (Job 38:4; Psalm 104:5; Isaiah 40:21)
REPLY TO BRIAN DE KRETSER
Brian De Kretser cites additional supposed proofs that the Bible teaches a flat planet Earth:
Daniel 4:10 describes Daniel's vision of a: "tree in the midst of the earth." This simply means that the tree in the vision was in the middle of the land that Daniel saw in the vision.
Revelation (Apocalypse) 7:1 mentions the "four corners of the earth." This probably refers to the four directions in terms of which most people think.
Matthew 4:8 is about the temptations of Jesus: "Again, the devil took him to a very great high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them…"
The argument in using this verse seems to be that to view all kingdoms from one mountain implies a plain-like planet Earth – flat except for mountains on it.
Moses was shown
promised land from a
mountain. (Deuteronomy 34) But he couldn't from such distance see "the
glory" of any particular kingdom. By "glory" we'd imagine the palaces,
pomp, wealth, power, workers and armies. However, no matter how high
mountain we wouldn't see any of this due to limitations of eyesight.
Jews knew this obvious fact as does any reader of Matthew. Jesus, then,
could have been "shown" the "kingdoms" and their "glory" not by direct
looking but by imagining and visualizing. The "high mountain", whether
real or part of the vision, would serve psychologically to increase the
temptation with height inducing a sense of exhilaration and freedom.
THE BIBLE IS SCIENTIFICALLY RIGHT
The Bible has thousands of instances where "earth" refers to the land and excludes the sea. In only a few verses is there initial ambiguity in the meaning of "earth". The phrase "depths of the earth" (Psalm 95:4), for example, refers not to the oceans but to valleys as distinct from mountains.
Skeptics sometimes apply these words in Psalm 24 to planet Earth and draw a flat disc floating upon a "universal sea".
land. Oceans surround
the land, and rivers dissect it. The land, however, is also "upon" the
seas and rivers in the sense that there are vast amounts of water in
under the continents. Over long geological ages some of this water
through the oceans.
An article in the magazine The Sciences about water in the Earth's mantle started off: "Enough water could be locked in the Earth to fill the oceans ten times over." (Jeanloz 1993)
Besides this mantle water there is also vast amounts of fresh groundwater which flows into the oceans via "tidal pumping" at a rate (measured in California) equal to 40% of river flow. Discover magazine says: "Nearly all of the Earth's fresh-water – some 97% – consists of groundwater." (Svitil 1996)
If we accept that "earth" in the Bible means the "land" and not planet Earth then the Bible is correct in its statements about the "earth".
QUOTATIONS FROM HEATHEN WRITERS
Both Mr Straughen and Mr De Kretser cite writers who link Bible statements to mythologies of surrounding nations and consider the Bible "recycled myth".
To demonstrate a vague similarity is not sufficient to prove that one story is derived from another. If we read newspaper reports of surgeons resuscitating seemingly dead persons or even of persons misdiagnosed as dead waking up in body bags we don't claim that, "The journalists are recycling the Osiris myth."
It is quite possible for a similar idea to occur in thousands of stories and for no story to be derived from any other and for some of those thousands to be true reports while others are fiction.
When the New Testament quotes the Old Testament we're informed with such phrases as "It is written", "the Spirit says", "Isaiah says", etc.
The Bible also refers to non-biblical sources – e.g. Jude 14; Titus 1:12; Ezra 1:1-4; 2 Kings 8:23; etc. However to claim a link between an event recorded in the Bible and a narrative of another nation when such link is not directly stated constitutes an opinion or interpretation.
century scholars tried
to link the story of Jonah to ancient Greek stories of Andromeda and
rescued from sea monsters by Perseus and Hercules respectively. Others
linked Jonah to the Assyrian fish god Oannes. (Cheyne & Black 1914)
Such links, however, were not sustainable.
De Kretser supplies an impressive summary of alleged Bible errors. The "flat Earth" claims have been answered. Some of the others will be answered in future.
Back around 1971 I observed something strange and unusual about the Bible. It is this:
Hundreds of statements in the Bible seemed wrong and were called "erroneous" by some scholars/scientists; thousands of other statements could not be tested but were also presumed false by certain scholars; yet one by one the "false" and "erroneous" statements were being revealed as correct after all by later research and later science.
Werner Keller in The Bible As History named scholars who "denied the truth of the Biblical tradition of … the mass deportation from Judah" which occurred in 587 BCE. Excavations from 1926 proved that indeed, "The Babylonians made a clean sweep." (p. 285)
Ideas that the books of Moses were written around 700 to 400 BCE are being challenged by accuracies in those books. It's possible, for example, that the altar Joshua built on Mount Ebal (Deuteronomy 27:2-9; Joshua 8:30-31) has been discovered. (Machlin 1990; Mazar 1990)
In previous articles in Investigator I've shown many Bible statements to be accurate when allegedly they were false in the areas of biology, geography, history, medicine, psychology, etc. Prior to the discovery or research which proved a certain point correct no amount of debate could settle it but after the new research much of the previous debate was exposed as wasted ink and wasted time.
Two questions to consider are:
1 How far and how long will this trend extend and continue?
2 If some points in the Bible require thousands of years to be proven right, when and how can we be sure that statements which seem wrong really are wrong?
And as pointed
previously we must allow
for figures of speech, and poetry and we must certainly get our word
right and not, for example, mistake "earth" for "Earth."
Genesis 1, Investigator Magazine, No. 38, September 1994, pp. 34-37
Anonymous Earth & Sky On Fire At Christ's Return - HOW? Investigator Magazine No. 43, July 1995, pp. 20-24
Cheyne, T T & Black J S 1914 Encyclopedia Biblica A Dictionary of the Bible Adam & Charles Black, p. 2568
Jeanloz, R The Hidden Shore, The Sciences, January/February 1993, pp. 26-31
Keller, W 1974 The Bible As History Hodder & Stoughton, p.285
Machlan, M 1990 Joshua and the Archaeologist, Reader's Digest, October 1990, pp 133-138
Mazar, A 1990 Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, Doubleday, p. 350
Newman, R C, & Eckelman Jr, Herman, J 1981 Genesis One and the Origin of the Earth, Baker Book House, Chapter 5
Svitil, K A Groundwater Secrets, Discover September 1996, p. 28
The Bible Revised Standard Version, Edited by John Stirling, Wm. Collins Sons & Co. Ltd.
Vine, W E 1981 Complete in One Volume Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Old Testament edited by F F Bruce), Fleming H Revel, New Jersey
Wigram, G V n.d. Englishman's Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance of the Old Testament, Samuel Bagster & Sons Ltd., pp 157-171.
(Part 2 of 2 Parts)
(Investigator 58, 1998
This essay is a
response to "Circles,
Pillars and Tents Part 2" which appeared in Investigator No.
and outlines the reasons why I am still unable to agree with Anonymous.
Is Genesis derived from Mesopotamian mythology or is the Biblical account of the world's creation wholly uninfluenced by gentile culture? I think that the evidence supports the view that there has been some influence from Mesopotamian civilization. Firstly, we know that the Hebrews were held captive in Babylon, and therefore came into contact with the culture of this civilization.
Secondly, we know that there are parallels between the Enuma Elish arid Genesis, and that the Enuma Elish is the older myth (pieces of the text found at Ashur are as old as 1000 years BC). Thirdly, history is full of examples of one culture borrowing ideas from another. The influence of Greek and Roman civilization on western culture is a prime example of this phenomena.
In support of my
that aspects of Genesis
are derived from Mesopotamian culture, I quote the following:
Are these similarities, and the similarities I pointed out in my previous article on this subject evidence of Mesopotamian influences? Even Christian scholars have drawn the following conclusion from the available evidence:
Anonymous says that "to claim a link between an event recorded in the Bible and a narrative of another nation when such link is not directly stated constitutes an opinion or interpretation" (Investigator No. 54, page 48).
In response to this I will point out that:
1 It is an interpretation based on concrete evidence.
2 Because the Hebrews reinterpreted Mesopotamian mythology in the light of their monotheistic beliefs, they probably deemed it unnecessary to acknowledge the gentile source. A similar example of pagan influence can be found in the Logos doctrine of the Gospel of St. John; an idea that is derived from the philosophy of Philo of Alexandria (c.30 BC-50 AD).
3 In the field of religion most things require interpretation, as Anonymous admits when he says "One interpretation is…" (Investigator No. 54, page 45).
The Circle of the Earth
in .my opinion, suggests that the author of Isaiah 40:22 is describing
a flat earth is indicated by a Babylonian model of the world, inscribed
on a clay tablet:
The illustration accompanying the text shows that even if we define earth as dry land only, the phrase "circle of the earth" in Isaiah 40:22 still describes a disc-shaped world.
The idea of a
was a common feature
of Near Eastern Cosmology upon which the creation story of genesis is
and as further support for this contention I quote the following:
After having undertaken additional research in relation to the shape of the Biblical Earth, I find myself arriving at the same conclusions as outlined on page 40 of Investigator No. 54 – namely that the ancient Hebrews thought the world was flat, and that scripture reflects this belief.
Why were the
Hebrews no different
from the contemporary cultures of the surrounding gentile nations with
regard to the concept of a flat Earth? The answer is simple – in
to cultural borrowing, the authors of scripture were fallible men who
the product of a prescientific culture, and the references they made to
the natural world reflect the limited and inaccurate knowledge of their
Berthon, S & Robinson,
A The Shape of
the World, George Phillip Ltd., London, 1991
Cornfield, G. Archaeology of the Bible Book by Book, Adam & Charles Black, London, 1976.
Fohrer, G. History of Israelite Religion, S.P.C.K, London 1975
Dictionary of the Bible, T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh, 1914.
COMMENT ON MR STRAUGHEN'S CRITIQUE
(Investigator 59, 1998 March)
Mr Straughen (Investigator 58) has offered further criticism to my articles Circles Pillars and Tents. (Investigator 52 & 54)
Mr Straughen postulates a two-stage process whereby:
1. Mesopotamian mythology moved into Hebrew culture;
2. From Hebrew culture some of this mythology moved into the Bible.
The point which led to my disagreement with Mr Straughen was the phrase "circle of the earth" in Isaiah 40:22.
that "earth" in
the Bible does not mean planet Earth. It means land – sometimes land on
local scale and sometimes all land as far as the land extends. The
occurrences of the word "earth" are spelt with a lower case "e". The
never includes the oceans in its meaning.
Just as "circle ... of the deep" (Proverbs 8:27) does not refer to a planet called "Deep" so "circle of the earth" does not refer to a planet called "Earth".
Isaiah 40 presents God's greatness and man's insignificance by comparison with things people of those days couldSEE – dust on the scales, the heavens (=sky), the stars, grasshoppers, etc. The "circle of the earth" that readers could see, and which illustrated God's greatness to them, was not a Babylonian model of planet Earth but the "circular horizon".
Once this is understood we find that the Bible anticipated a number of scientific accuracies in its comments about "earth". (Investigator 52 & 54)
Regarding the above-mentioned two-stage process: Stage 1 seems plausible since the Bible itself condemns Israel for adopting foreign beliefs and customs.
Stage 2 is
"coincidences in general
outline" (No. 58 p.11). However, unless we have direct quotation it
true that: "It is quite possible for a similar idea to occur in
of stories and for no story to be derived from any other..." (No. 54 p.
AGREEMENT STILL NOT REACHED
(Investigator 60, 1998 May)
I am still
unable to agree
(Investigator 59 p. 4 letter) and quote the following commentary on
40:22 in support of my original contention:
Finally, we don't need a quote from the Enuma Elish in Genesis 10 deduce that it is derived from this pagan myth. If Anonymous had quoted my quote more fully, he would have seen that there are "coincidences in general outline and in detail which are too marked and too numerous to be ascribed to chance." (Inv. 58, p. 11).
REPLY TO MR STRAUGHEN
(Investigator 60, 1998 May)
The word "deep" (Hebrew tehom) in "circle of the deep" (Proverbs 8:27) occurs in some 35 Old Testament verses. It refers to the sea (sometimes just the Mediterranean) not to he heavens or sky.
The word "circle" (=chug) occurs three times. We have the "circle of the earth [=land]" (Isaiah 40:22), the "circle of the sea" (Proverbs 8:27), and circle of the heaven [=sky]" (Job 22:14)
Many Bible translators translated Job 22:14 as "vault of heaven". Some, e.g. The Jerusalem Bible, are clearer and have "the rim of the heavens". The "rim" or "circle" of the heavens would be where the sky, as observed, meets the sea or the land. So, again, as in the other two instances we can understand this circle as the horizon.
As previously explained "earth" refers to "land" (in over 2,000 Bible verses) and does not include the seas. Therefore, "earth" cannot mean planet Earth. Therefore attempts to make the Bible teach a disc-shaped planet, are mistaken.
Mr Straughen's 2nd reference is self-defeating. If "erets" is "the globe on which we dwell" then the Bible would be right since we dwell on a "globe". But the reference is mistaken since "erets" means "land" not "globe" in over 2,000 instances.
In seeking the "too numerous" details showing the Bible teaches a flat planet Earth I checked Mr Straughen's longer article in The Skeptic. However, that article has no relevant details not already answered in Investigator.
can easily befog
matters. Therefore I recommend re-reading of my articles (Investigator
52 & 54) where some scientific accuracies in the Bible's comments
"earth" [=land] are shown.
DUE TO LACK OF INTELLECT
Brian De Kretzer
(Investigator 55, 1997 July)
In addition to ignorance of the scientific world "Anonymous" still hides behind anonymity. By referring to "Heathen Writers" (Investigator 54 p. 48) his fanatical Fundamentalism shines through. (Heathen: One who adheres to a religion that does not acknowledge the "God" of Judaism, Christianity or Islam.)
Today with advances in knowledge, science and reason there is no excuse to be ignorant. In spite of this millions of this world continue to be led up the garden path by all religions, usually conceived and controlled by fanatics who push their own concepts along using a non-existent deity as a tool gain power or money or both. Knowledge and reason are the only weapons that can combat this. Their supporters like "Anonymous" go it on "faith" alone because they do not have the intellect to reason.
"Faith and reason cannot co-exist in the same person, at the same time, with respect to the same object of knowledge. Reason and faith are irreconcilable since the presence of rational demonstration negates the possibility of faith." (George H Smith)It would take a whole issue of Investigator to list the authors, scientists and researchers and even theologians who agree that what is written in the Bible cannot be sustained or justified by normal rational methods.
"Anonymous" mentions the "books of Moses" (Investigator 54 p.49) yet must be aware that Moses did not write any books. These were written, rewritten, added, subtracted, interpolated, changed many times by many anonymous authors lost in the mists of time.
The proof of this is in the Bible itself where there are several versions of the one story. There are quite a few historical events in the Bible, but most have been distorted to fit in with God's supposed doings or instructions.
Bible predictions come true – if you consider the laws of probability and give a wide margin of a thousand years or so. Anyone can do this.
In A Skeptics Case Book Harry Edwards shows how to make predictions within a span of three to five years with amazing accuracy.
predictions within the
next year: An airplane
crash; Political upheavals in the Middle East; A dictator or two
overthrown; A few cyclones, earthquakes and floods in
A change of government in the U K.
Response To Brian De Kretser
(Investigator 56, 1997 September)
I appreciated the comments of Mr de Kretser. (No. 55 p. 4)
"Heathen", Mr De Kretser notes, means, "One who adheres to a religion that does not acknowledge God of Judaism, Christianity and Islam." However, De Kretser is mistaken in suggesting that the use of the word "heathern" implies the user is a "fanatical fundamentalist". I used the word (No. 54 p. 48) because W E Vine, quoted earlier, (p. 46) also used it.
Mr De Kretser says, "What is written in the Bible cannot be sustained or justified by normal rational means" and says that I "go it on faith alone" because of lacking "the intellect to reason."
This misunderstands what I do. What I do is test the Bible statement by statement, claim by claim – anything I find that is testable – by checking it against the latest scientific research I come across. Relying on mainstream science and news journals is part of "normal rational means."
I allow for figures of speech in the Bible, poetry, context, parable, and discoveries of textual critics.
I've noticed that hundreds of Bible statements which were considered false by scholars and critics were later proven correct and the critics wrong.
Sometimes I generalize this observation and predict that Bible statements currently thought erroneous will likewise in future be shown by science to be correct.
Occasionally I even predict future discovery. For example in January 1974 two university skeptics who visited me called the Old Testament unreliable because its date for the Exodus (15th century BC) disagrees with the c.1300 BC date in virtually all modern references.
On the basis of my observation – that proof of the Bible accumulates gradually – I predicted that the date would start to be challenged later this century. That "start" may have been made in the article Score One for the Bible in Time magazine. (1990 March 15 p. 55)
observed trend of
continues it has terrific implications built on scientific foundations.