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The Christian Delusion, ed. Loftus; Reply to Chapter 5

The title to Chapter 5 is “The Cosmology of the Bible” by Edward  T. Babinski.  It is my purpose in this reply to focus on one popular issue: Does the Bible Teach that the Earth is Flat?

In a related piece, Dave Armstrong wrote a fantastic article on his blog entitled: Fertile Soil and Roots of Modern Science: 33 Prominent Christian Prior to 1000 A.D. With Empiricist Proto-Scientific Views (http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2010/08/fertile-soil-and-roots-of-modern.html) where he catalogues 33 different ancient Christian theologians that taught the earth was spherical.  I am not persuaded that the Bible teaches that the Earth is a flat disc or a sphere. I am simply arguing that the Bible does not explicitly or implicitly teach that the earth is a flat disc.  What the opponents of the Bible have to show, is a scripture passage where the context lets the reader know that the passage is referring to the entire biosphere of the planet and asserts that the entire thing is flat.

As a side note, James Patrick Holding has written some good articles here and here on the issue that answer most questions.

 

 Proposed Verses That Teach The Earth Is Flat

1. Isaiah 40:22 It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.

This verse does not say that the earth is flat. Chuwg is the Hebrew word in this passage for circle. That is the general word used for anything rounded at this time. These verses do not prove a spherical or flat earth. Are the atheists seriously suggesting that the Hebrews had no concept of a sphere? If no, then what Hebrew word would they prefer him to have used with the language available to him at the time? If they cannot provide one then their argument fails.

I am not of the opinion that Isa 40:22 [It is He who sits above the circle of the earth] teaches a spherical planet Earth. For one, the Hebrew word used for “circle” is the generic term used for anything round. It could mean sphere,  but to affirm such is speculation. The Bible is not an astronomy book and the lengths that some Christian apologists go to, to make the Bible a modern science book are embarrassing. The Bible doesn’t say one way or another.

What about the word duwr? This sometimes referred to a ball. "Is. 22:18, "He will surely violently turn and toss thee like a ball into a large country: there shalt thou die, and there the chariots of thy glory shall be the shame of thy lord's house." The Hebrew word here, however, is duwr. This word no more exclusively indicates sphericity than our other word, for it is used by Isaiah elsewhere thusly:

Is. 29:3 And I will camp against thee round about, and will lay siege against thee with a mount, and I will raise forts against thee.

Obviously, the soldiers could not camp in the shape of a sphere around the city. This word appears to be making a statement about a circular pattern rather than giving reference to a given shape. In Ezekiel it is actually used (24:5) to refer to something being burned, probably inside a circle of wood or a heap of wood.

2. Job 9:6 Who shakes the earth out of its place, And its pillars tremble

This is not literal. The word here does not refer to physical shaking it refers to trembling as in astonishment when you are afraid or in awe. Just notice the context.

Just like how mountains skip like rams and hills like lambs. It is a metaphor. (Psalm 114:4.)

3. Psalm 24:2 For He has founded it upon the seas And established it upon the rivers.

Nowhere does this say, " It is surrounded by the ocean".  He's just talking about the dry land. Genesis 1:10: says And God called the dry land Earth.

4. The Bible has verses that refer to the earth as having four corners Isa 11.12; Ezek 7.2

First, I thought atheists were arguing for a circular flat disk. Now they change their argument. It simply refers in context to the compass: North, South, East, and West.

5. The Bible has verses that refer to the earth as having ends. Ps 48.10 ; Jer 6.22, 25.32

The word “earth”, in the scriptures often refers to the dry land, or the land of a certain nation, not necessarily the entire biosphere of the planet earth.  Genesis 1:10 And God called the dry land Earth. Not only so, David says, Psa 61:2 From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint;  Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. This was not referring to the drop off point of a pancake shaped or cubed shaped planet; it referred to his land of exile in his own country.  Matthew Henry comments, “From the end of the earth, or of the land, from the most remote and obscure corner of the country, will I cry unto thee.” Lastly,

Exo 10: 12And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, that they may come up upon the land of Egypt, and eat every herb of the land, even all that the hail hath left. 13And Moses stretched forth his rod over the land of Egypt, and the LORD brought an east wind upon the land all that day, and all that night; and when it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts. 14 And the locust went up over all the land of Egypt, and rested in all the coasts of Egypt: very grievous were they; before them there were no such locusts as they, neither after them shall be such. 15 For they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left: and there remained not any green thing in the trees, or in the herbs of the field, through all the land of Egypt.

Obviously, “the whole earth” here simply means the land of Egypt.

6. The Bible has verses that refer to the earth as having  a center or navel (Ezek 38.12).

How would this prove a flat disc? I have a navel. Does that mean I am a flat disc? This simply refers to their political importance and economic importance as they were in the middle of where most of the action in the world was happening.

7. Mat 4:8  Again, the devil *took Him to a very high mountain and *showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory;

With reference to Matthew 4, this must have been some type of vision, not necessarily a physical telescopical view of a flat plain.  The primary reason for this is that the devil showed him, not only these kingdoms, but the “glory” of these kingdoms. If you have ever seen the Lord of the Rings, when Elrond gives his daughter Galadriel a vision of Aragon’s death, the point can be easily discerned.

Calvin says commenting on this passage,

“The devil taketh him to a very high mountain. We must keep in mind, what I have already stated, that it was not owing to any weakness of Christ’s nature, but to a voluntary dispensation and permission, that Satan produced this effect upon his eyes. Again, while his senses were moved and powerfully affected by the glory of the kingdoms which was presented to them, no inward desire arose in his mind; whereas the lusts of the flesh, like wild beasts, are drawn, and hurry us along, to the objects which please us: for Christ had the same feelings with ourselves, but he had no irregular appetites.”

Matthew Henry says much the same commenting on this passage,

“but there was doubtless a juggle and a delusion of Satan’s in it; it is probable that that which he showed him, was but a landscape, an airy representation in a cloud, such as that great deceiver could easily frame and put together; setting forth, in proper and lively colours, the glories and the splendid appearances of princes; their robes and crowns, their retinue, equipage, and lifeguards; the pomp of thrones, and courts, and stately palaces, the sumptuous buildings in cities, the gardens and fields about the country-seats, with the various instances of their wealth, pleasure, and gaiety; so as might be most likely to strike the fancy, and excite the admiration and affection. Such was this show, and his taking him up into a high mountain, was but to humour the thing, and to colour the delusion; in which yet the blessed Jesus did not suffer himself to be imposed upon, but saw through the cheat, only he permitted Satan to take his own way, that his victory over him might be the more illustrious.”

8. Rev 1:7  BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.

 Rev 1:7 refers to the Coming of the Roman Empire to attack Jerusalem, thus Nigel Lee.  So literally it is saying the Jews, those who pierced him will see the Roman Army coming to destroy them. However, even if the passage referred to every human being on the entire biosphere of the planet, it still does not necessitate a flat earth. Steve Hays says in The Infidel Delusion

“Babinski cites Rev 1:7 as a prooftext for Biblical geocentrism. However:

i) Suppose the verse does, indeed, conjure up the image of a flat earth? So what? Lan-guage is full of dead metaphors. We ourselves use flat-earth metaphors whenever we speak of sunrise/sunup or sunset/sundown.  ii) For that matter, the imagery could just as well be hyperbolic. To suggest this isn‘t spe- cial pleading. It‘s easy to document hyperbole in Scripture. What is more, hyperbolic de-pictions are characteristic of eschatological imagery.” (pg. 60)…But suppose, for the sake of argument, that we take this literally. How would that de-piction presume a flat earth?  For instance, suppose we said, ―Every eye shall see the moon. Would such a phenomenon only be possible on a flat earth? Hardly!  You see, Babinski has smuggled a suppressed premise into his conclusion. He tacitly rephrases the verse to say, ―Every eye shall see him all at once.  So he‘s assuming the event must be instantaneous. Of course, the verse doesn‘t say that. For that matter, the verse doesn‘t even say anything about Jesus ―descending.  You might be able to get that from other passages, but not from Rev 1:7.  If the ―atmospheric effects of the Parousia were sufficiently large and distant, and if they hovered in one place for 24 hours, then, of course, everyone around the world would be able to see it.” (pg. 61)

9. Daniel 4:10 ‘Now these were the visions in my mind as I lay on my bed: I was looking, and behold, there was a tree in the midst of the earth and its height was great. 11 ‘The tree grew large and became strong  And its height reached to the sky,  And it was visible to the end of the whole earth. 

First, is this passage using the word “earth” and “world” referring to the entire biosphere of the planet earth? There is no exegetical reason for us to suppose so. This was in reference to that local country and the local horizon where the earth appears to end and the sky beings. As I mentioned above, with reference to Daniel 4, we must understand that the word earth, in the scriptures often refers to the dry land, or the land of a certain nation, not necessarily the entire biosphere of the planet earth. If you read vs. 22 it specifically confines the term to mean Nebudchadnezzar's kingdom.

I actually thought Steve Hays had some interesting things to say about this Chapter. Hays says in his The Infidel Delusion,

“Babinski cites Dan 4:10-11 as a prooftext for a flat earth. But this description is quite compatible with a spherical earth. Let‘s take a comparison:

 

‘Both the size of Olympus Mons (roughly the size of the American state of Arizo-na) and its shallow slope (2.5 degrees central dome surrounded by 5 degree outer region) mean that a person standing on the surface of Mars would be unable to view the upper profile of the volcano even from a distance as the curvature of the planet and the volcano itself would obscure it. The only way to view the mountain properly is from orbit. However, one could view parts of Mons: standing on the highest point of its summit, the slope of the volcano would extend beyond the ho-rizon, a mere 3 kilometres away; from the three kilometre elevated caldera rim one could see 80 kilometres to the caldera‘s other side; from the southeast scarp highpoint (about 5 km elevation) one could look about 180 km southeast; from the northwest scarp highpoint (about 8 km elevation) one could look upslope pos-sibly 240 km and look northeast possibly 230 km.22.’

 

Just as Olympus Mons can seem to fill the horizon, to a ground-based observer, so can Daniel‘s world-tree. Unless Babinski happens to think that Mars is flat rather than spheri-cal.” (pg. 60)

10. Is. 42:5 Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: (kjv)

Here The word "spread" here is taken to mean a flat earth. But it also says that God "spread" that which "cometh out" of the earth - i.e., the plants and animals. Does this mean that the plants and animals are flat, too? It simply refers to creative formation not shape.

11.  Job 26:10 “He has inscribed a circle on the surface of the waters  At the boundary of light and darkness. The KJV reads, "He hath compassed the waters with bounds”.

Here again we have the use of  the word chuwg. It is not conclusive one way or the other.  



 

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