Saturday, May 17, 2008



“Steve,__If you read Enuma Elish you see that the creator high god Marduk slays a female water goddess, Tiamat, and cuts her in two and one half is used to make the heavens, and stars made from other divinities are placed on her body. This is a flat earth cosmology, whether or not the earth below is ditch shaped or pancake shaped. __The Egyptians also produced plenty of iconography showing one god lying down and another arched above it.”

It’s possible that ancient people thought the earth was flat. However, I wouldn’t infer that from their use of corporeal or architectural metaphors to model the earth. It was natural for ancient people to use the human body or human buildings to depict the world, just as we use technological metaphors to illustrate the brain. And the metaphors vary depending on the state of our technology. Is the brain a telephone switchboard or a computer? Depends on whether you read a book from the 60s or the 90s.

Do you assume ancient people really thought the Tigris and the Euphrates sprang from the eye sockets of a goddess? I suspect this says far lot more about your naïveté than theirs.

Human beings think in metaphors. Metaphors drawn from daily experience.

I’d also avoid sweeping generalities about human beliefs. Some human beings are more observant than others. More intelligent.

“It's not difficult to find evidence in Scripture that its authors assumed the earth was flat.”

It’s not difficult to find evidence in Scripture that its authors depicted the earth as a microcosmic temple. And its authors used architectural metaphors to cue the read to the sacral significance of the earth as sacred space.

“What's difficult if finding evidence otherwise, of any inspiration they might contain of a spherical earth that spins daily and revolves yearly around a stationary sun, or evidence that other planets exist and are doing likewise.”

Scripture is indifferent to the solar system. So what? The Bible is written to and for human beings. Concerning God’s relation to man, and vice versa.

“The author of Gen. 1 only calls the Sun and Moon ‘great lamps’ not any of the stars, which are merely afterthoughts.”

“Afterthoughts” because the narrator is suppressing impious curiosity in astromancy.

“The biblical authors show no special knownledge of such things, none at all.”

But they show special knowledge of other things, viz., the future.

“And the only time the earth moves in the Bible it's an earthquake.”

Which is an argument against geocentrism, since the motion is seismic rather than geocentric.

“That’s also sometimes depicted as shaking the heavens along with the earth, as in a singular earth-centered cosmos.”

No, that’s eschatological judgment, where the entire creation is subject to the final judgment.

“Heck, evey day in creation is to create something just for the earth, including creating light in the begnning just for ‘days and nights’ ‘evenings and mornings" on earth. Very earth-centered I'd say.”

Not earth-centered. Man-centered. Man as the apex of creation on day 6.

You’re making no effort to read Gen 1 in context. Instead, you’re superimposing the Copernican controversy onto Gen 1, which is grossly anachronistic. Try not to be such a twit.

“And then there's verses that say ‘God moves’ the sun, stars, constellations in their seasonal treks across the sky. Is God really moving such things or not? Is the Bible lying?”

Does modern astronomy regard the sun, stars, and constellations, as motionless? Are you lying?

“But of course if you'd rather believe the Bible is inspired in an inerrant fashion and can't be proven wrong, maybe you ought to be taken to a ‘very high’ mountain to be ‘shown all the kingdoms of the earth’."

The devil is a discarnate spirit. A diabolical apparition is a vision. We’re talking about a visionary mountain. Visionary kingdoms. Try not to be such a twit.

“Why is the tree (in Daniel) described as ‘very tall’ instead of just tall? And how come all the earth can ‘see the tree.”

Because it’s a case of visionary revelation. Try not to be such a twit.

“Mere coincidence in both cases, or flat earth assumptions of the authors?”

Visionary flat-earth typography.

Are you this pedantically literalistic when you dream? When you dream about a city, do you crack out a street map the next day and see how accurate your dream was? Is a dreamscape errant if it deviates from a real cityscape?

“And have you ever tried arguing with Dr. Bouw at his geocentricity website? You're both Christian believers in an inerrant Bible and in sola scriptura and the perspicacity of Scripture. So why don't you agree? Unless of course he's already converted you to biblical astronomy which he argues equals geocentrism. See also my online article, ‘Varieties of Scientific Creationism’ for a discussion of the ways Christians deny and explain away the plain words of Scripture cited by other Christians, depending on where each group first draws the line between what they are wiling to define as mere metaphor and what they are willing to accept as science.”

Actually, Ed, you have more in common with Bouw than I do. You’re still a Fundy under the skin. You shuffle under the same lead-footed, hermeneutical assumptions you did back in your Fundy days.

I never made literalism my guiding principle. Grammatico-historical exegesis in my guiding principle. Not the “plain sense” of scripture,” which is just a cipher for contemporary social conditioning.

I also reject your caricature of perspicuity. The Westminster Confession has a very nuanced statement of perspicuity, which you ignore—since that would get in the way of your prefabricated agenda.


  1. He spelled it perspicacity twice in a row so don't know if he meant perspicuity or not :)

  2. Some of these issues have been discussed here before:

    As we document in those other threads, we know of ancient sources (Tertullian, for example) who would refer to the earth as spherical or profess ignorance on the subject in one place, yet use a phrase like “corners of the earth” elsewhere. Ancient views of the physical structure of the universe seem to have been more nuanced and diverse than modern critics often suggest.

    Ed Babinski writes:

    “And how come all the earth can ‘see’ the tree, or the person on the very tall mountain can then be shown ‘all the earth?’”

    We know that there was widespread belief in a spherical earth at the time when the gospels were written. (For some examples, see my documentation in the threads linked above.) And some of the people living at the time when the gospels were written would have known that there was no mountain they could see from anywhere on earth. Here’s a portion of what I wrote on this subject in one of the threads linked above:

    “Given how widely a spherical earth was accepted in ancient times, and given the willingness of the earliest New Testament interpreters to accept a spherical earth or take no position on the issue, it seems unlikely that passages like Matthew 4:8 and Revelation 7:1 were intended to refer to a flat earth. Matthew would have known that there was no mountain from which a person could physically see every kingdom of the earth, including whatever details of those kingdoms would be involved in showing their ‘glory’. The parallel passage in Luke 4:5 refers to how Satan showed Jesus the kingdoms ‘in a moment of time’. Jesus is shown the kingdoms. He doesn't move around to look at them. And it happens in an instant. Apparently, Satan is supernaturally bringing images before Jesus. The mountain backdrop isn't meant to convey the concept that there was some mountain high enough to allow people to see everything on a flat earth. Rather, the mountain backdrop is being used to convey the concept of elevation, without regard to whether that elevation allows a person to physically see the entire earth. This incident has nothing to do with normal eyesight or a flat earth.”

  3. Dear Steve Haze

    If I may be sarcastic and also informative, below is some evidence of the alleged "widespread belief in the spherical earth" in FIRST CENTURY PALESTINE. It's from the book of Enoch, sections written just prior to Jesus's day. Does it sound like these devout Jews believed in a spherical earth?:

    The Book of Enoch

    The cosmology previously described is derived from the Bible itself, following the 19th century flat-earthers. Some of the evidence is more ambiguous than we would like. Ambiguities in ancient documents can often be elucidated by consulting contemporary documents. The most important ancient document describing Hebrew cosmology is 1 Enoch (sometimes called the Ethiopic Book of Enoch), one of those long, disjointed, scissors and paste jobs beloved by ancient scribes. For a dozen or so centuries, European scholars knew 1 Enoch only from numerous passages preserved in the patristic literature. In 1773, the Scottish adventurer James Bruce found complete copies in Ethiopia.

    Numerous manuscripts of 1 Enoch have since been found in Ethiopian monasteries. Turn of the century scholars concluded that parts of the book are pre-Maccabean, and most (perhaps all) of it was composed by 100 B.C. [Charles, 1913]. These conclusions were largely vindicated when numerous fragments of 1 Enoch were found among the so-called Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran. There have been two major English translations of 1 Enoch, the 1913 translation of R. H. Charles and the 1983 translation by E. Isaac. All of the quotations that follow come from the newer translation.

    The importance of 1 Enoch is poorly appreciated outside the scholarly community. Comparison of its text with New Testament books reveals that many Enochian doctrines were taken over by early Christians. E. Isaac writes:

    There is little doubt that 1 Enoch was influential in molding New Testament doctrines concerning the nature of the Messiah, the Son of Man, the messianic kingdom, demonology, the future, resurrection, final judgment, the whole eschatological theater, and symbolism. No wonder, therefore, that the book was highly regarded by many of the apostolic and Church Fathers [1986, 10], and quoted by both Jude and the author of Revelation.

    First Enoch influenced Matthew, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, and several other New Testament books. The punishment of the fallen angels described in 2 Peter seems to come directly from 1 Enoch, as does much of the imagery (or even wording) in Revelation. The Epistle of Jude contains the most dramatic evidence of its influence when it castigates “enemies of religion” as follows:

    It was to them that Enoch, the seventh in descent from Adam, directed his prophecy when he said: “I saw the Lord come with his myriads of angels, to bring all men to judgment and to convict all the godless of all the godless deeds they had committed, and of all the defiant words which godless sinners had spoken against him (Jude 14- 15).”

    The inner quote, 1 Enoch 1:9, is found in the original Hebrew on a recently-published Qumran fragment [Shanks, 1987, 18]. By attributing prophecy to Enoch, Jude confers inspired status upon the book.

    First Enoch is important for another reason. Unlike the canonical books of the Bible, which (in my view) were never meant to teach science, sections of 1 Enoch were intended to describe the natural world. The narrator sometimes sounds like a 2nd century B.C. Carl Sagan explaining the heavens and earth to the admiring masses. The Enochian cosmology is precisely the flat-earth cosmology previously derived from the canonical books.

    The Ends of the Earth

    The angel Uriel guided Enoch in most of his travels. They made several trips to the ends of the earth, where the dome of heaven came down to the surface. For instance, Enoch says:

    I went to the extreme ends of the earth and saw there huge beasts, each different from the other and different birds (also) differing from one another in appearance, beauty, and voice. And to the east of those beasts, I saw the ultimate ends of the earth which rests on the heaven. And the gates of heaven were open, and I saw how the stars of heaven come out...(1 Enoch 33:1-2).

    (The sharp-eyed reader will note what I suspect is an editing error in the Isaac translation. The earth resting on the heaven makes no sense. R. H. Charles has “whereon the heaven rests.”)

    Again, Enoch says, “I went in the direction of the north, to the extreme ends of the earth, and there at the extreme end of the whole world I saw a great and glorious seat. There (also) I saw three open gates of heaven; when it blows cold, hail, frost, snow, dew, and rain, through each one of the (gates) the winds proceed in the northwesterly direction (1 Enoch 34:1-2).” This accords well with Jeremiah 51:16 which says, “he brings up the mist from the ends of the earth, he opens rifts for the rain and brings the wind out of his storehouses.” In subsequent chapters, Enoch journeys “to the extreme ends of the earth” in the west, south, and east. In each place he saw three more “open gates of heaven.”

    There were other things to be seen at the ends of the earth. Earlier, we deferred discussion of the King James version of Job 26:7, “He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing.” On several occasions when Enoch and the angel are out beyond the dome of heaven, Enoch comments that there is nothing above or below. For instance, “And I came to an empty place. And I saw (there) neither a heaven above nor an earth below, but a chaotic and terrible place (1 Enoch 21:1-2).” Could this be the kind of nothingness referred to in Job?

    An angel also showed Enoch the storerooms of the winds (18:1) and the cornerstone of the earth (18:2).

    The Sun and Moon

    And what of the sun and moon? Psalm 19:4-6 (quoted earlier) suggest that the sun holes up at the ends of the earth until it is time to rise. Enoch expands upon this idea. In 1 Enoch 41:5, he “saw the storerooms of the sun and the moon, from what place they go out and to which place they return...” Further, “they keep faith one with another: in accordance with an oath they set and they rise.”

    Enoch discusses the solar and lunar motions at length, explaining why the apparent azimuths of their rising and setting varies with the season. The explanation, found in the section called “The Book of the Heavenly Luminaries,” begins thus:

    This is the first commandment of the luminaries: The sun is a luminary whose egress is an opening of heaven, which is (located) in the direction of the east, and whose ingress is (another) opening of heaven, (located) in the west. I saw six openings through which the sun rises and six openings through which it sets. The moon also rises and sets through the same openings, and they are guided by the stars; together with those whom they lead, they are six in the east and six in the west heaven. All of them (are arranged) one after another in a constant order. There are many windows (both) to the right and the left of these openings. First there goes out the great light whose name is the sun; its roundness is like the roundness of the sky; and it is totally filled with light and heat. The chariot in which it ascends is (driven by) the blowing wind. The sun sets in the sky (in the west) and returns by the northeast in order to go to the east; it is guided so that it shall reach the eastern gate and shine in the face of the sky (1 Enoch 72:2-5).

    The openings in the vault of heaven in the east and west are matched to the seasons. On the longest day of the year, the sun rises and sets through the northernmost pair. On the shortest day, it rises and sets through the southernmost pair. The return routes of the sun and moon are outside the dome. Perhaps they rest in their “storerooms” during their time off.

    The Stars

    Like the Bible, 1 Enoch typically depicts stars as living, anthropomorphic beings. The Sons of the Gods are also dealt with in 1 Enoch, and they are associated with stars. This is consistent with Job 38:7, which says that when the earth's cornerstone was laid “the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted aloud.”

    As mentioned earlier, Matthew 24:29 and Revelation 6:13 deal with stars that fall to earth. The image comes from Enoch, but Matthew and John omit some details. In 1 Enoch 88:1, a star that fell from the sky is seized, bound hand and foot, and thrown into an abyss. A few verses later, other stars “whose sexual organs were like the organs of horses” are likewise bound hand and foot and cast “into the pits of the earth (1 Enoch 88:3).”

    Most stars just go through their motions night after night. Some stars never set, and Enoch was shown their chariots (1 Enoch 75:8). Stars that do rise and set do so through openings in dome, just like the sun and moon. God, according to 1 Enoch, runs a tight universe, and stars that do not rise on time are thrown into the celestial slammer. Showing Enoch a hellish scene, the angel Uriel explains:

    This place is the (ultimate) end of heaven and earth: it is the prison house for the stars and the powers of heaven. And the stars which roll over upon the fire, they are the ones which have transgressed the commandments of God from the beginning of their rising because they did not arrive punctually (1 Enoch 18:14-15).

    Enoch was not told the sentence for tardy rising, but Uriel later shows him other stars “which have transgressed the commandments of the Lord,” for which they were doing ten million years of hard time (1 Enoch 21:6). Enoch also was shown an even more terrible place, a fiery prison house where fallen angels were detained forever (1 Enoch 21:10).

    1 Enoch deserves study for its cosmology, but there is much more of interest. It profoundly influenced Christian eschatology, and it is necessary reading for anyone trying to understand Hebrew religious thought at the dawn of the Christian era.