Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The sky is falling!

Writers like John Walton and Peter Enns are popularizing the notion that Bible-writers believed in a three-story universe. Let's play along with claim that ancient Jews thought the world was like a building with walls and a roof. What would happen in a major earthquake? There are many references to earthquakes in Scripture. In a major earthquake, unreinforced buildings collapse. Whole towns and villages are leveled. That's something ancient Near Easterners experienced from time to time.

If a triple-decker universe was rocked by an earthquake, it would be like Samson collapsing the temple or the walls of Jericho collapsing. The firmament would come crashing down as the "pillars of the earth" buckled. Minimally, chunks of the cracked firmament would rain down in meteor showers during/right after an earthquake. Huge rocks falling from the sky. There'd be gaping holes in the damaged firmament, through which the cosmic sea would would empty itself. Like an overhead dam that gives way.

Was that the experience of ancient Jews? Did they observe that?


  1. Steve,

    I appreciate you asking these questions; I too have wondered why, given the immediate context (Gen. 1:8, 17) and your questions that these men continue to promote the idea that the "expanse" was essentially equivalent to a "tectonic plate" overhead.

  2. I was recently reading some Native American cosmologies. What's interesting is how removed they are from observation and experience. Goddesses become pregnant by feathers, light being created by a woman seeing a feather (how do you see with only darkness?) and swallowing (and becoming pregnant of course), the earth being held in place by a giant serpent (whose movement is the cause of earthquakes), etc.

    I find it hard to believe that Native Americans were actually trying to give us a description of the world in these stories. That's not just because I'm a 21st century American who knows via modern science that the earth is round etc. It's because the stories, even if I had no knowledge of the shape of the earth, are ridiculously detached from the universal experience and observation of humans. These stories don't even appear to be aiming at a true account of the way the world is. They appear more like intentional fairy tales.

    Maybe we're the dumb ones for take them so seriously.

  3. I have always thought there was some other meaning to these metaphors which have been lost to us because of the ravages of time. As an example the Egyptians have myths about a female deity who was stretched out to form the heavens. If ancient people experienced the world in that way I wonder if they saw the underside of a woman's body when they looked up at the sky? To ask the question reveals its absurdity.