Three items appear below:

1    The Bible on Oceanography    Anonymous
2    Response                                 John H Williams
3    Response                                  Anonymous



(Investigator 68, 1999 September)



During the 1980s I concluded that the Bible teaches that the oceans of Earth arrived suddenly. The phrase "It burst forth from the womb" (Job 38:8) suggested that the water was previously trapped or contained and then arrived suddenly.

This conclusion conflicted with three, then current, scientific theories. In Investigator No. 16, for example, I wrote:

How did the oceans originate? Carl Sagan thinks most of the water came on comets. (COMET 1985) The more popular theory is that the water was "outgassed" from beneath the Earth. (Contemporary Physical Geology 1981 by H. L. Levin p. 344) Another idea is that 10 million 100-ton snowballs drop in from Space every year. (New Scientist 1988 May 12 p. 38)

The Bible explanation is that: "It burst forth from the womb." (Job 38:8) The Bible uses lots of figures of speech. I suggest that the womb is a better metaphor for the subterranean Earth than for the sky. Compare this idea to a theory about Mars: "the water is deep below the present surface, occasionally it bursts out onto the surface and carves out channels." (New Scientist 1986 December 18 p. 13) (Investigator 1991 January pp. 8-9)

Three of the theories – outgassing, cometary delivery and snowballs from space – have lost out as major sources of ocean water. These are the theories that seemed contrary to the Bible.

The fourth theory – the water bursting from the subterranean Earth – is still viable. However, there is now a fifth theory, one that would also fit the words: "It burst forth from the womb."

3.6 to 4 billion years ago the Sun was 30% fainter – causing "frozen oceans". The impact of a 100km-wide asteroid would have generated enough energy to melt the global ice (New Scientist 1994 March 5 p. 15) If so, it may have been the most violent event on earth in a billion years! Oceans of water, rubble and steam would have burst across the planet.

New Scientist also reported:

EARTH'S oceans may all have completely frozen over at least four times between 750 and 570 million years ago. (1998 September 5 p. 11)

Even the tropical seas are believed to have frozen over creating a "snowball Earth". (The Advertiser 1998 August 29 p. 50) Again it's possible that much of the melting occurred suddenly due to asteroid impacts.


Are the ocean floors flat and level or are they irregular with mountains and valleys like the surface of the land?

Levin (1981) wrote:

Eighteenth-century scientists had little knowledge of the topography of the ocean floors. They lived at a time when depth measurements were made by letting down a lead weight on the end of a rope… Oceanographers interpreted the few measurements available as indicating that the ocean floors were monotonous flat plains. (Harold L Levin 1981, Contemporary Physical Geology, CBS College Publishing, USA, p. 320)

The Bible correctly implies that beneath the sea there are valleys (Psalm 104:8) and mountains (Jonah 2:5-6).

These Bible verses are now confirmed by science:

With the advent of continuous topographic profiles from echo-sounding devices, it was shown that the ocean floors are as irregular as the surface of the continents. Beneath the waves lay canyons deeper than the Grand Canyon, and mountain systems more magnificent than the Rockies. (Levin p. 320)


Matthew Fontaine Maury (1806-1873) was an American hydrographer/oceanographer. During an around the world voyage (1826-30) he commenced his famous book Treatise of Navigation (1836).

Maury took literally the Bible phrase "paths of the seas". (Psalm 8)  He believed this referred to regular ocean and air currents.

In 1842 Maury became superintendent of the hydrographical office at Washington. This position enabled him to check ships' log books as well as old log books stored at the office. He designed forms for ships' captains to fill out and gained much data that way. He also set sealed bottles adrift, weighted to float beneath the surface so as to be unaffected by wind.

By this research Maury discovered that wind and water currents, which the Bible had led him to expect, existed! The book Wind and Current Charts (1847), prepared under Maury's direction, led to huge savings by cutting sailing times. The average trip from England to Australia, for example, was cut by 25 days.

In 1856 Maury published a textbook on oceanography – The Physical Geography of the Sea.

The book included passages from the Bible. Job 28:5, for example, refers to the "weight" of the wind. Commented Maury:

… though the fact that the air has weight is here so distantly announced, philosophers never recognized the fact until within comparatively a recent period, and then it was proclaimed by them as a great discovery. Nevertheless, the fact was set forth as distinctly in the book of nature as it is in the book of revelation; for the infant, in availing itself of atmospheric pressure to draw milk from its mother's breast, unconsciously proclaimed it. (p. 403)

Ecclesiastes 1:6 says: "The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course." Maury commented:

Solomon in a single verse, describes the circulation of the atmosphere as actual observation is now showing it to be.
(D F M Corbin 1888 A Life of Matthew Fontaine Maury, Sampson & Low, pp 158-159)


A threat increasingly feared is that the "greenhouse effect" will warm the climate, elevate ocean levels and flood coastal cities.

Jesus prophesied:

And there will be signs in the sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting with fear and foreboding of what is coming on the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. (Luke 21:25)

In Investigator No. 60 I interpreted Jesus' prophecy of Luke 21; Matthew 24 and Mark 13 based on the assumption that Jesus spoke literally and the prophecy was literal.

Luke 21:25 refers to a time after Jerusalem is restored to Jewish rule. (See verse 24) That time period – judging by current Jewish control of Jerusalem – appears to be now, i.e. the 20th century and beyond.

How could "roaring of the sea and the waves" cause "distress of nations?" In Investigator 60 I wrote that it:

…would literally be the case if the ocean levels rose and threatened all the coastal cities around the world. (p. 27)

This would occur if warmer climate caused thermal expansion of ocean waters and if major icesheets began to melt or disintegrate. I also (in No. 60) explained how I got this interpretation in 1971. (See also Investigator No. 6,  God And the Greenhouse)

Some scientists challenge belief in an enhanced greenhouse effect causing rising ocean levels. Dr. Richard D Terry wrote:

There is no credible evidence, contemporary or historical, that a global warming will cause flooding of low-lying areas.
(21st Century Science & Technology, Summer 1998, pp 66-68)

Similarly Michael Oppenheimer, after detailed analysis, concluded:

Given the absurdity of the claims of global warming propagandists about ice melt, why do they persist in scaring people about rising ocean levels? My conclusion is that it's purely political, and has to do with population reduction. (ibid p. 72)

Many Australian Skeptics similarly see no danger. Allan Lang, editor of The Southern Skeptic, wrote:

I have been fairly sure that the current Greenhouse warming enthusiasm is not supported by the evidence.
(1999 Autumn/March pp 5 & 6)

Such skeptical attitudes now seem threatened. New Scientist reported:

One of the last props supporting critics of theories of global warming is crumbling. Satellite data which suggested the Earth's lower atmosphere is cooling were a red herring. No one was aware that the satellites were slipping from their orbits and giving misleading readings, scientists say. (1998 August, 15 p. 4)

The effect on global warming of clearing rainforests may have been seriously underestimated. (1998 August 22, p. 12)

Climate researchers believe they know one of the reasons why world temperatures are not rising as fast as existing models of global warming predict…as the Earth warms up, currents in the tropical Pacific change so that more cold water reaches the sea's surface, causing air around the world to cool. This feedback mechanism is keeping global warming in check – at least for now. (1997 February 22, p. 16)

In Investigator No. 62 I suggested that an asteroid impact in an ocean could also give meaning to Jesus' words. I suggested:

Countries with cities concentrated along coastlines (e.g. Australia) could be economically wiped out by tsunamis if an asteroid that size [300 metres] hit an ocean. (p. 53)

Duncan Steel, speaking of a tsunami from the impact of a 100-metre asteroid in the Pacific, said:

It would spread out and wipe out every single city in the Pacific Rim. The chances of that occurring in the next century are better than 1 in 100. (New Scientist 1996 October 12, p. 10)

Either sort of event – an enhanced greenhouse or an asteroid impact in an ocean – would, if it happened, cause:

…distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves.

And it seems to have started:

Every month until September was the warmest on record.
(New Scientist 1998, December 19, 1999, January 2, p. 32)

NEW YORK: The northern hemisphere's three warmest years in the last 600 came this decade… (The Advertiser 1998, April 24, p. 25)

WASHINGTON: A melting Antarctic glacier could lead to the collapse of the west Antarctic Ice Sheet, causing global sea levels to rise up to six metres, researchers warned yesterday. (The Advertiser 1998 July 25, p. 45)

TWO Antarctic ice shelves have broken up more quickly than anyone predicted… Satellite images showed that Larsen B and Wilkins ice shelves in "full retreat", having lost nearly 3000sq km of their total area in the past year. (The Advertiser 1999 April 9, p. 27)

Such headlines give new meaning to Job 38:22-23:

Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,
or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,
which I have reserved for the time of trouble,
For the day of battle and war?

The Hebrew "otsar" occurs about 80 times in the Old Testament and is translated as "storehouses", "treasures", "treasury", "cellars", "armoury" and "store". (Wigram, G W Englishman's Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance pp. 31-32)  Whenever "otsar" is associated with tangible things like oil, gold, tithes and grain, "otsar" refers to something terrestrial i.e. on land. Even Psalm 33:7 where "he puts the deeps in storehouses" the storehouses or ocean basins would be land if we consider the basins and water (= "deeps) separately.

"Storehouses" of snow and hail i.e. of ice do exist on land – we call them Antarctica and Greenland. The questions "have you entered?" and "have you seen?" suggest the "storehouses" were unknown in Job's time.

Of course nations could reduce future shock from "the roaring of the sea and the waves" by limiting coastal development to necessities and passing laws requiring that new built-up areas be built inland.

Governments, however, are not noted for their long-range views – unlike the Bible.


Bible critics often get refuted when science catches up. Therefore science magazines presenting recent discoveries can assist Bible study. The Bible's accuracy in many modern scientific disciplines, including that of oceanography, supports its claim to be "the word of God".

John H Williams

(Investigator 69, 1999 November)

In Anonymous' "Oceans Burst Forth" (Investigator 68) we find an implausible argument on the origins of seas and oceans. His first sentence sets the tone: "During the 1980s I concluded (my italics) that the Bible teaches that the oceans of Earth arrived suddenly". This appears to have been influenced by his belief in a poetic/figurative phrase written by Job thousands of years ago!

Again, A's technique is to come to a conclusion, refer to the New Scientist, Cosmos et al, and find that "science has yet to catch up with the Bible", "science magazines can assist Bible study" and "the Bible's accuracy in many modern scientific disciplines, supports its claim to be the word of God".

Two things are obvious:

a) No one is able to offer conclusive evidence as to how our oceans came to be, and, as one would expect, there are several theories (‘A' mentioned five);

b) Attempting to interpret the poetic imagery of any biblical passage in a literal way is to invite ridicule. As far as I know, no reputable biblical scholar has ever made such an interpretation.

In my own reading I was unable to find anything really good but The Net provided some interesting snippets, none of which I'm able to verify:

The Earth's original atmosphere was of hydrated helium, which escaped into space, so our current atmosphere is secondary.

Volcanic gases were c. 60% water vapour, 24% CO2, 13% sulphur, 5.7% nitrogen, 0.3% argon and 0.1% chlorine. It is likely that there was not enough H2O released by this outgassing to account for our present oceans.

Most of the H2O derived from collisions with "left-over" planetisimals and cometisimals. There's evidence that rocks were deposited in water at least 3.8 billion years ago, and that almost certainly there were oceans much earlier, comets 4.5 - 3.9 billion years ago being much more common (a 10km-100km diameter comet could produce a huge amount of H2O). Naturally, others would be able to come up with better material. Can someone enlighten us about the best sources, the most favoured theory and the latest research?

For a very different biblical viewpoint, I quote from The Jesus Question: The Historical Search (HarperCollins), by Adelaide academic, Professor Robert Crotty:

The third element in the myth was land, a territory where life could be lived as it should. In Jewish terms, they had inherited probably from Mesopotamia, a mythic account of a flat earth which was supported above chaotic waters. Over the earth was a solid dome, the firmament, which protected the earth from the chaotic waters. Beneath the earth was a cavern, called Sheol, where dwelt the dead... The Jewish mind developed this…structure to enable "creation", ... a haven of peace aid security. At creation, the god of Israel had dismissed the forces of evil from human contact. (For brevity, I've cut small parts of this) But humans had invited evil back into the world. The Jewish additions to the myth told the sin stories of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, The Flood and The Tower of Babe – powerful and evocative stories of people cooperating with evil. (Crotty p. 187)
[Editor's note: A diagram of The Hebrew view of the world is here omitted for copyright reasons. It's a literal depiction of "Waters above the firmament" and "Sheol" under the "Earth" similar to Kirk Straughen's diagram in Investigator 52 p. 12]

Crotty's point is that the ancient Jewish people developed their own powerful myths about their origins and about good and evil. They had their god, Yahweh, which eventually became the Christian God, since the Jesus-Myth is but a continuation of the Jewish Myth.

The ancient Jews were a pre-scientific society, which had a view of The Earth that matched their knowledge and religious beliefs. Any passages or phrases in the Old Testament which appear to refer to twentieth century discoveries, such as continental drift, sea floor spreading and plate tectonics (none of which were mentioned by ‘A') are merely coincidental, and are very much in the mind of the literal-minded beholder.

Professor Crotty's depiction of the Hebrew's ancient mythical world-view comes out of 40 years of Bible study and research, plus the learning of Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic and Syriac, the reading of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and years of research and field work in Rome and Jerusalem. He learnt early that "the Bible was not simply a historical narrative but that it contained epic poetry and allegory and apocalyptic description, and I realised painfully that much that I had taken to be historical in form was not."

I ask, which of the two opinions is the more likely, authoritative and credible, Professor Crotty's, or those of Anonymous?



(Investigator 69, 1999 November)

My article (No. 68 p. 14) supplied recent (1998) evidence of how the oceans could have had a sudden beginning. A sudden beginning was predicted from the Bible phrase that it "burst forth from the womb". From that I had predicted that most of the water was somehow trapped or contained and arrived suddenly.

Recent theory suggests that Earth's oceans were frozen in a "snow-ball" Earth and an asteroid impact destroyed the global icesheet instantaneously. Such an event, I suggested, fits the Bible's words.

Such an event, however, is only one event – although a most significant one – in the geology/history of the oceans and does not address the more distant origin(s) of the water. Gradual outgassing and cometary delivery supplied some of the water – but the Bible makes no mention of this. Since "outgassing" and "cometary delivery" did not also describe a sudden arrival of the oceans such theories are by themselves inadequate and to that extent seemed contrary to the Bible.

Regarding Williams' quote from Crotty about "flat earth" with a "solid dome": This topic was covered in debate with Kirk Straughen with a little input from Brian De Kretser – Investigator 52/10, 52/15; 54/36; 54/41; 54/44; 58/10; 59/4; 60/4; 60/5.

I showed that the Bible does not teach anything about a "solid dome" over the earth. I also showed that in the Bible, "earth" means "land" and does not include the oceans/seas and so cannot mean Earth the planet.

Did Crotty comment on this distinction in meaning during his "40 years" of study?  If not, then the answer to "which of the two opinions is more … credible" is "mine".

In assessing the accuracy of the Bible we must assess what it says and not what mistaken others say it says.

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