Saturday, December 07, 2013


Some liberals or outright unbelievers think Gen 1:9-10 teaches an obsolete geography. On this view, Gen 1:9-10 envisions a single continent encircled by a single ocean. 

Within its historical context, therefore, the conception of the “earth” in Gen 1 is most probably that of a single continent in the shape of a flat circular disc…Being a scientifically naive people, it is probable that like other scientifically naive tribal peoples the Hebrews thought of the earth as being surrounded by a circular sea and floating upon that single surrounding sea.

i) It's notable that by his own tacit admission, the wording of Gen 1:9-10 doesn't entail that depiction. So his interpretation overspecifies the text. Seely arrives at that interpretation through his understanding of comparative ancient cosmography. He must use that extraneous frame of reference. 

There's nothing necessarily wrong with using background material to interpret Scripture–although that raises the question of what constitutes the relevant background material. But we need to be clear on the fact that he is placing a more specific construction on the text than the text itself specifies.

ii) In addition, his procedure is circular. He assumes the extrabiblical passages teach the same thing. But what's his independent basis for that assumption? Even if that was plausible to an landlubber, what about ancient mariners who lived on islands or coastal regions? What about the evidence for ancient transoceanic navigation? Cf.

Also, due to cultural diffusion (e.g. trade routes), even landlocked nations could become aware of discoveries by seafaring peoples. 

iii) But let's assume, for the sake of argument, that Seely's interpretation is roughly correct. One could turn Seely's contention on its head. Gen 1:9-10 would be a scientific anticipation of Pangaea: 

The book of Genesis also clearly says that the initial arrangement of land and water on earth involved the land being grouped together in one place (Genesis 1:9-10). Scientists never even considered that possibility for the vast majority of the history of science. However, science now agrees that at one time, all the continents were grouped together in one supercontinent.

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