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"Firmament" & A Flat Earth

  So-called biblical literalists find themselves in a strange double bind when it comes to the numerous Old Testament references to the common world-picture of the ancients. Such readers seek with all their hearts to believe whatever the Bible may say on any subject. But the challenge of believing Scripture where it speaks of unseen and unverifiable realities is one thing. The challenge of believing it when it says things contrary to massive amounts of irrefutable evidence is another. And in the case of biblical cosmological references, it is the second challenge they seem to be facing. Put briefly, the Bible seems to any casual reader to describe the earth as a flat disk afloat upon a vast cosmic ocean. The sky it represents as a solid dome with windows and gates, and as resting upon great pillars thrust up from below. The sun, moon, and stars appear to be set into the heavenly vault, to be smallish, and at no great distance from the earth. Very much ancient evidence both textual and archaeological, makes it clear that this is simply the common world-picture yielded by ancient natural philosophy, i.e., scientific speculation as yet unaided by observational technology such as we possess. Indeed, we should think the same thing were we in their place, for the world surely appears to be flat, albeit of variable altitude. The sky appears to enclose the flat vista on all sides and to descend to meet its edges in whatever direction one looks. Rain falls from the sky and water wells up from beneath. Such a view of the world is not the product of stupidity but rather of shrewd and careful observation. The unaided eye and mind could not be blamed for thinking this is what the world was like. And of course it was the very same human ingenuity that worked on the challenge of observational technology until such wonders were created, and our views of cosmology were revolutionized.

 

So where does the literalist stand? He is in the impossible position of trying to make the Bible the norm and source of his beliefs, on the one hand, and yet to keep the Bible seeming believable by the standards of modern knowledge on the other. He cannot bring himself to deny what modern instruments have shown to be the truth of cosmology, so he cannot believe the world looks as described in scripture, but neither can he bring himself to admit that the Bible is mistaken. So, in order to defend the literal truth of the Bible (the proposition that it describes things the way they are, whether things on earth or things in heaven), he must resort to non-literal reinterpretation of the cosmic-descriptive passages of the Bible. It is an odd form of “literalism”! What a choice! To take the Bible literally in all its statements? Or to read it literally where its authors seem to have expected to be taken literally? All biblical scholars face the same dilemma, though our choice is different: we are willing to read it literally but not to oblige ourselves to believe whatever it says. That way we feel we can afford to be honest in our discernment of what the text is saying. Fundamentalists may think we are risking terrible danger that way. But we would have to return the question to them: are you any better off twisting the text in the name of literalism? Because if you can do it here, on this subject, you can probably do it anywhere else you may sense you have to. Indeed, you probably already are.

 

Literalists remain in this conceptual Slough of Despond because they feel trapped in it, mired in it. If they admit the Bible writers pictured the world the wrong way, despite their ostensible divine inspiration, they suspect they will not be facing Saruman (Darwin) only, as menacing as that might seem. No, soon they will be facing down the mighty Sauron (Bultmann) himself. They know there will be no way to defend against his claim that Christianity cannot stop at shedding the ancient three-story world picture but must strip away the encumbrances of mythology, too. And that would be the end of supernaturalism and miracles. And yet, it is too late for anything else. Once you are even aware of the danger, the horse has escaped the barn. To insist on a set of beliefs that would be more comforting just because you dread the result of facing the truth is fatal to the conscience. “Faith” from that point on rests on the rotten foundation of self-deception, “suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.” Indeed, it is to that fatal misstep that we owe the pervasive dishonesty of apologetics: anything to defend the party line.

 

In what follows, we want to summarize the work of J.Edward Wright, Edward T. Babinski, and Stephen Meyers, demonstrating the identity of the biblical and other ancient cosmologies. In a sense, it is all wasted effort, because there is virtually nothing new to add, and everything we say has long been common knowledge to anyone familiar with the study of the ancient Near East. This essay is basically a remedial course for those who have thought it best to shield themselves from common, mainstream scholarly knowledge. And yet it is always best for the student not to take for granted what “most scholars say.” It is better to know why they say so. It is best to base one’s opinions on a consideration of the evidence, and this essay is a brief survey of sufficient of it.      

 

One word of caution. Some readers will be tempted to evade the obvious implications of this survey by supposing that, while the Bible does indeed describe the world in the same terms as the ancient cultures surrounding them, in the case of the biblical writers, all is but metaphor and conventional speech, as when we casually remark, “Did you happen to see the sun rise this morning?” But that is gross special pleading. That is to make a gratuitous, though convenient, assumption for “your side” that cannot be afforded to the “other side.” If, instead, we want to be consistent, we should have to suppose the same is true of all the ancient writers and sculptors who portray the world in the ancient way. We would then be assuming that references to “ancient” cosmology were extravagant metaphor and that all the ancients really understood the world to be arranged as modern astronomy and geology tell us. But, save for the need to extricate oneself from a tight spot, why suppose such a thing? And then what to make of the history of astronomical discovery? They must already have known everything. You see just how massive and indeed surreal it becomes. That way, as the saying goes, lies madness.

 

In Heaven’s Name

 

All the ancients, like many alive today, spoke of “heaven” and meant “the sky.” The Bible even uses the same words for both, interchangeably. “The kingdom of heaven” is [literally] the same as “the kingdom of the sky.” The Greek Titan Ouranos (Uranus) is simply the Sky, the Heaven, personified. You will say I have a sure grasp of the obvious. Why is it necessary to point out such a truism? Simply because modern thinking on heaven as the abode of God and the location of the blessed afterlife has undergone a hasty retooling in light of modern knowledge, namely that there is no absolute up or down, that the sky and outer space are not up there but out there. Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, was not being frivolous when he announced there was no God to be seen there. Most people in past ages would have expected to see him there. Is that not where Jesus ascended? Jack Chick and other contemporary sectarians are still quite happy to pinpoint which nebula holds the gate of the divine realm! But most Christians have reacted to this secularization of the sky and of space by redefining the religious heaven, the theological heaven. And they have done so in a vague manner drawn more or less from science fiction. Now people speak increasingly of heaven as “another dimension,” whatever that means. It is surprising how little comment this great shift has occasioned. No one who says it appears to have much in mind. It is simply a way of trying to fend off the facts of science. “God turned out to be absent from the heaven of the sky? Okay, then, there must be some other heaven for him to be in!” In what follows, my goal is only to show that the Bible writers certainly drew no such distinction. They would have bet Yuri Gagarin that he would have seen God.

 

Follow this link for the full article by Price and Finley: Heaven = Sky, Flat Earth . Be sure to read the rest - excellent diagrams and an analysis of specific verses.

 

For another view of Biblical cosmology from Bible verses go to this page >>>> Link

 

See also:  Science and the Bible.  Link

Old Testament

Heaven And It's Wonders, and Earth: The World The Biblical Writers Thought They Lived In