Friday, February 10, 2012

Solar submarine


i) There are many variations on this familiar diagram. That, itself, is rather telling. The same basic diagram is reproduced ad nauseum. So we’re being treated to thirdhand scholarship. Scholars copying other scholars copying other scholars. We’re not getting original, independent research. What we’re getting, instead, are scholars who unquestioningly reproduce earlier scholarship. Indeed, that isn’t real scholarship. It’s just handing down rote tradition.

You have to wonder who produced the initial diagram. How far back does this go?

ii) However, let’s examine this diagram on its own terms. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that this is how Bible writers viewed the world. What are implications of this depiction?

How does the sun restart in the east every morning? It has to go under the earth. But what’s under the earth is the primordial sea. So, in order for the sun to rise in the east and set in the west every day, it must go under water at night. A solar submarine.

Suppose the ancients thought of the sun as a giant ball of fire. What would be the effect? Well, there are two possible effects:

iii) Submerging the sun in the ocean would cause the ocean to boil. In fact, Revelation plays on that sort of imagery:

8 The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood. 9 A third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed (Rev 8:8-9).

Question: was that the daily experience of folks living on the Mediterranean coastline?

iv) Conversely, the sun would be extinguished by sustained submersion. And I daresay ancient Near Easterners had experience dousing fire with water. That’s not very hitech.

So how did the soggy sun reignite every morning?

v) I’d add that these aren’t mutually exclusive explanations. (iv) could naturally follow (iii).

vi) In sum, this diagram isn’t realistic even from the perspective of somebody living in the ANE. 


  1. Funny how our minds work!

    I saw something entirely different immediately after looking at the picture/image/diagram.

    I like yours! :)

  2. Not to defend the diagram too hardcore, but it is usually reconstructed from actual ANE creation accounts (or origin stories).

    This particular one (minus God in heaven of course) could be reconstructed from descriptions of the heaven and earth in Egyptian Coffin and Pyramid texts. I could provide specific texts if you're super interested.

  3. So it's a scholarly pastiche from disparate sources.

  4. "So it's a scholarly pastiche from disparate sources."

    Yep, cogent! :)))))!!

  5. Pastiche really isn't the word for it. You can reconstruct a basic form of this drawing from several sources, but not in the sense that you need part of one part, part of another, and so on. Rather its in the sense that if you read the account and try to pictorially represent what is being said, it will look close to this drawing.

  6. But did these disparate sources envision a common picture? Did Egyptians have the same cosmography as Mesopotamians? Or is this an artificial construct in which scholars create a synthetic cosmography that doesn't match what any particular people-group adhered to?