Thursday, January 25, 2018

Scientific Foreknowledge In The Bible?

A Christian, Walt Jr., makes some unwarranted claims concerning scientific foreknowledge in the Bible. Farrell Till sets him straight. From the Errancy Discussion list, April 7, 1997:

Though science has proven the earth is round, nowhere does the Bible teach that the earth is flat. In fact, Job 26:7 says, God "suspends the earth over nothing", and Isaiah 40:22 says God "sits enthroned above the circle of the earth." The passages about the four corners of the earth is clearly figurative language that the Bible uses. As a person who is constantly talking about figurative language and metaphor, Campbell's approach to biblical interpretation makes no sense.

First of all, the earth doesn't hang on nothing. It is held in orbit by the gravitational attraction of the sun, but Job 26:7 also says that God stretches out the North over empty space. What does this mean? For years, apologists argued that there was a vast empty space in which no stars were located, and that this space was directly north with reference to the earth. This empty space has been disproven, and so we don't hear biblicists looking for "scientific foreknowledge" in the Bible referring to this anymore. As a child, however, I was taught that this was a good prooftext to use in confounding atheists. Verse 9 in this chapter says that God "encloses the face of his throne and spreads his cloud upon it." So why haven't our space explorations located God's throne? It must be up there somewhere above the clouds. Verse 11 says that the "pillars of heaven tremble." Where are these "pillars of heaven"? Why haven't they been found? Verse 12 says that God "stirs up the sea with his power," which should be considered with verse 8 that says God "binds up the waters in his thick clouds." In these verses, we have clear evidence that the Hebrews believed in a god of the gaps. He was the explanation for everything that couldn't be understood.

But get this. Verse 12 goes on to say that God by his understanding "smites through Rahab." Rahab was the mythological monster of chaos whom god or the gods had to destroy to bring order into the world. The name is enough to show that the writer of Job believed in this myth, but if there is any doubt, notice that verse 13 says that "his [God's] hand has pierced the swift serpent." Job 9:13 makes another reference to Rahab, as do Psalm 89:10, Isaiah 30:7, and 51:9. Notice in particular what the last of these references says: "Is it not you that did cut Rahab in pieces, that did pierce the monster?" So obviously the Hebrews, like the Babylonians, Assyrians, and other neighbors, believed in Rahab the monster of chaos, and so the Hebrews believed that Yahweh had to destroy him before he could bring order out of chaos. So much for the wonderful scientific knowledge of biblical writers.

As for your denial that the Bible did not teach that the earth is flat, I suggest that you check "Water" in *Eerdsman Bible Dictionary* for a drawing that represents the "ancient conception of the world reflected in the Old Testament." It contains biblical references to explain each part of the drawing. As for Isaiah 40:22, which refers to the circle of the earth, this was once used as a prooftext to support the flat-earth view of the world. Lactantius, a 4th-century "church father," cited this text as proof that the emerging opinion that the world was a sphere could not be true. To these prescientific minds, the circle of the earth was the firmament that rested above the earth like a dome, and God sat above this looking down on us. From that perspective, humans were like grasshoppers. Notice that this passage says that God, sitting above the circle of the earth, "stretches out the heavens as a curtain and spreads them out as a tent to dwell in." There is no spherical-earth theology in this verse at all. To the Hebrews, the firmament was like a tent under which the earth rested. There are many passages in the Bible that make no sense unless they are interpreted from a flat-earth perspective. When he was tempted, Jesus was taken to a high mountain and shown all the kingdoms of the world (Matt. 4:8). To a flat-earther, this would make sense but not to people who now know better. In Daniel 4:11-12, king Nebuchadnezzar had a dream in which he saw a tree whose height "reached up to heaven" and its "sight to the end of all the earth." This concept is possible in a flat-earth cosmology but not in the reality of cosmology as we know it today. Explain how that a tree in Babylon could grow high enough that it could be seen, say, in Australia. Sorry, Walt, but this dog you have bought won't hunt.

Farrell Till

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