As we were browsing through the net, we discovered the following article on a Muslim site trying to establish the point that the Holy Bible teaches a flat earth. We felt that it was our duty as Christians to expose some of the shallow argumentation and poor scholarship contained throughout the article. The article is attributed to one Robert J. Schadewald and can be found in its entirety at: this site.
In this article, we will only be quoting the relevant portions and respond to them.
Except among Biblical inerrantists, it is generally agreed that the Bible describes an immovable earth. At the 1984 National Bible-Science Conference in Cleveland, geocentrist James N. Hanson told me there are hundreds of scriptures that suggest the earth is immovable. I suspect some must be a bit vague, but here are a few obvious texts:
I Chronicles 16:30: "He has fixed the earth firm, immovable."
Psalm 93:1: "Thou hast fixed the earth immovable and firm..."
Psalm 96:10: "He has fixed the earth firm, immovable..."
Psalm 104:5: "Thou didst fix the earth on its foundation so that it never can be shaken."
Isaiah 45:18: "...who made the earth and fashioned it, and himself fixed it fast..."
Suffice to say that the earth envisioned by flat-earthers is as immovable as any geocentrist could desire. Most (perhaps all) scriptures commonly cited by geocentrists have also been cited by flat-earthers. The flat-earth view is geocentricity with further restrictions.
Like geocentrists, flat-earth advocates often give long lists of texts. Samuel Birley Rowbotham, founder of the modern flat-earth movement, cited 76 scriptures in the last chapter of his monumental second edition of Earth not a Globe. Apostle Anton Darms, assistant to the Reverend Wilbur Glenn Voliva, America's best known flat-earther, compiled 50 questions about the creation and the shape of the earth, bolstering his answers with up to 20 scriptures each. Rather than presenting an exhaustive compendium of flat-earth scriptures, I focus on those which seem to me the strongest....
Actually, what the author and those he sites as his authorities have failed to do is to take into consideration that the Hebrew term for earth, eretz, does not always refer to the earth as a globe per se. The term has different meanings in different contexts. Hence, the author has committed a word fallacy, also known as the etymological fallacy, attributing the root meaning to a word as opposed to allowing the context to define what the word means.
For instance, the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew lexicon defines eretz as:
Word Usage in KJV:
land 1543, earth 712, country 140, ground 98, world 4, way 3, common 1, field 1, nations 1, wilderness 1;
1) land, earth
Examples of the different ways the Bible uses the term include:
The Holy Bible clearly states that God specifically named the dry land "earth". This strongly implies that when a Bible writer speaks of the earth's foundations or that the earth is fixed it does not necessarily imply that the global structure of the earth is in view. As noted Christian Scientist Dr. Henry Morris states in his commentary on Psalm 104:5, a verse cited by the author above:
Hence, we see that the verses which the author sites in his article do not necessarily refer to the planet as being a fixed object, but rather to the earth's physical elements which cannot be shaken except by God Almighty himself. Another time where eretz is used to refer to something other than the globe is Genesis 38:9:
The Bible is a composite work, so there is no a priori reason why the cosmology assumed by its various writers should be relatively consistent, but it is. The Bible is, from Genesis to Revelation, a flat-earth book.
We agree in principle that the Bible writers did not necessarily need to hold to a consistent view of the earth, but in fact they did. And it was not a flat-earth, as we will demonstrate shortly.
The Genesis creation story provides the first key to the Hebrew cosmology. The order of creation makes no sense from a conventional perspective but is perfectly logical from a flat-earth viewpoint. The earth was created on the first day, and it was "without form and void (Genesis 1:2)." On the second day, a vault, the "firmament" of the King James version, was created to divide the waters, some being above and some below the vault. Only on the fourth day were the sun, moon, and stars created,and they were placed "in" (not "above") the vault.
The author is operating on several fallacies. He first assumes that the earth is flat and then proceeds to interpret every passage in light of his presupposition. Secondly, he again commits the word-fallacy since he assumes that the word "firmament" can only mean a vault above the earth. We will shortly demonstrate the error in this assertion. Finally, the author must assume that the term "heavens" refers to the sky above as opposed to the universe. The author presupposes that the biblical writers believed that the sky was a metal dome, and therefore could not have believed that the sun and moon are located "in" space. We will shortly prove that the term heavens, shamayim, does not refer to a metal dome above the earth but that in certain contexts it can only refer to the universe.
The vault of heaven is a crucial concept. The word "firmament" appears in the King James version of the Old Testament 17 times, and in each case it is translated from the Hebrew word raqiya, which meant the visible vault of the sky. The word raqiya comes from riqqua, meaning "beaten out." In ancient times, brass objects were either cast in the form required or beaten into shape on an anvil. A good craftsman could beat a lump of cast brass into a thin bowl. Thus, Elihu asks Job, "Can you beat out (raqa) the vault of the skies, as he does, hard as a mirror of cast metal (Job 37:18)?"
Elihu's question shows that the Hebrews considered the vault of heaven a solid, physical object. Such a large dome would be a tremendous feat of engineering.
The author refuses to allow the possibility that words can have different meanings. Instead, he insists on attributing the root meaning to every word in the Holy Bible. Noted Christian apologists Norm Geisler and Thomas Howe comment on Job 37:18:
"Second the root meaning 'spread out' can be used independently of "beat out", as it is in several passages (cf. Ps. 136:6; Isa. 42:5; 44:24). Isaiah wrote, 'So says Jehovah God, He who created the heavens and stretched them out, spreading out the earth and its offspring (Isa. 42:5, MKJV). This same verb is used of extending curtains or tents in which to dwell, which would make no sense if there was no empty space there in which to live. Isaiah, for example, spoke of the Lord 'who sits on the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in...'
"Third, the Bible speaks of rain falling through the sky (Job 36:27-28). But this makes no sense if the sky is a metal dome. Nowhere does the Bible refer to little holes in a metal dome through which the drops fall. It does speak figuratively of the 'windows of heaven' opening for the Flood (Gen. 7:11). But this should probably not be taken any more literally than our idiom, 'It is raining cats and dogs.'
"Fourth, the Genesis creation account speaks of birds that 'fly above the earth across the face of the firmament' (Gen. 1:20). But this would be impossible if the sky was solid. Thus, it is more appropriate to translate raqia by the word 'expanse' (as the NASB and NIV do). And in this sense there is no conflict with the concept of space in modern science.
"Fifth, even taken literally, Job's statement (37:18) does not affirm that the 'skies' are a 'metal mirror,' but simply that they are 'as [like] a mirror. In other words, it is not a comparison that need to be taken literally, any more than God is really a 'strong tower' (cf. Prov. 18:10). Further, the point of comparison in Job is not the solidity of the 'skies' and mirror, but their durability (cf. word 'strong' [chazaq]; v. 18). So, when all is considered, there is no evidence that the Bible affirms that the firmament of the sky is a metallic dome. And thus there is no conflict with modern science." (Geisler & Howe, When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook On Bible Difficulties [Victor Books, USA 1992], pp. 229-230)
Since the author in his paper alludes to his usage of Strong's concordance, let us see how Strong's defines the term used for strong in Job 37:18, chazaq:
Word Usage in KJV:
strong 26, mighty 20, sore 3, stronger 2, harder 1, hottest 1, impudent 1, loud 1, stiffhearted 1
1) strong, stout, mighty
(Source: Blue Letter Bible)
Hence, Geisler & Howe were correct when stating that the term can mean hard or firm and therefore refers to the heavens enduring throughout the ages much like a metal mirror endures. The comparison is on durability, not solidity.
The Hebrews (and supposedly Yahweh Himself) considered it exactly that, and this point is hammered home by five scriptures:
Job 9:8, "...who by himself spread out the heavens (shamayim)..."
Psalm 19:1, "The heavens (shamayim) tell out the glory of God, the vault of heaven (raqiya) reveals his handiwork."
Psalm 102:25, "...the heavens (shamayim) were thy handiwork."
Isaiah 45:12, "I, with my own hands, stretched out the heavens (shamayim) and caused all their host to shine..."
Isaiah 48:13, "...with my right hand I formed the expanse of the sky (shamayim)..."
If these verses are about a mere illusion of a vault, they are surely much ado about nothing. Shamayim comes from shameh, a root meaning to be lofty. It literally means the sky. Other passages complete the picture of the sky as a lofty, physical dome.
It is not the Hebrews or Yahweh, but the author who presupposes that the Holy Bible teaches that the sky is a metal vault. Once again the author attributes the root meaning to the word as opposed to seeing how the word is used in different contexts. Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew lexicon gives several different definitions for the word shamayim:
From an unused root meaning to be lofty. A noun masculine
Word Usage in KJV:
heaven 398, air 21, astrologers + # 1895 1
1) heaven, heavens, sky
(Source: Blue Letter Bible)
Amazingly, the author claims to have consulted Strong's for the meaning of the words. Yet, he seemingly refuses to accept or at least does not acknowledge the fact that the very source he uses affirms the diversity in meanings of the specific words he alludes to throughout his paper, such as shamayim.
Furthermore, the Holy Bible does not teach that the heavens above are a metal dome since it clearly states that there are a plurality of heavens:
But, is it true? -- God dwelleth on the earth! lo, the heavens, and the heavens of the heavens do not contain Thee, how much less this house which I have builded! 1 Kings 8:27 YLT
Both Moses and Solomon affirm that the vastness of the heavens and the heaven of heavens cannot contain the presence of God who created them. This proves that these writers had no concept of heaven being a metallic dome above the earth.
The apostle Paul clearly indicates that there are at least three heavens and that the third heaven is the spiritual abode of God. Presumably, the first would be the sky with the second being the universe above.
Finally, scientists tell us that the universe is expanding. Hence, the biblical statements that God stretches out the heavens are not unscientific, but are in complete agreement with what today's scientists claim about the expansion of the universe! So much for the author's arguments on the Bible's supposed unscientific views of the universe.
God "sits throned on the vaulted roof of earth (chuwg), whose inhabitants are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the skies (shamayim) like a curtain, he spreads them out like a tent to live in..." (Isaiah 40:22). Chuwg literally means "circle" or "encompassed." By extension, it can mean roundness, as in a rounded dome or vault. Job 22:14 says God "walks to and fro on the vault of heaven (chuwg)." In both verses, the use of chuwg implies a physical object, on which one can sit and walk. Likewise, the context in both cases requires elevation. In Isaiah, the elevation causes the people below to look small as grasshoppers. In Job, God's eyes must penetrate the clouds to view the doings of humans below. Elevation is also implied by Job 22:12: "Surely God is at the zenith of the heavens (shamayim) and looks down on all the stars, high as they are."
We deliberately highlighted the author's statements to show that he himself admits that the term chug has the meaning of circle, roundness, compass. Knowing this, he still tries to prove that the earth and sky are a flat surface! This implies that no matter what evidence is set before him, the author has already made up his mind that the Bible cannot teach a round earth.
Disregarding the dome, the essential flatness of the earth's surface is required by verses like Daniel 4:10-11. In Daniel, the king "saw a tree of great height at the centre of the earth ... reaching with its top to the sky and visible to the earth's farthest bounds."
If the earth were flat, a sufficiently tall tree would be visible to "the earth's farthest bounds," but this is impossible on a spherical earth. Likewise, in describing the temptation of Jesus by Satan, Matthew 4:8 says, "Once again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world (cosmos) in their glory." Obviously, this would be possible only if the earth were flat. The same is true of Revelation 1:7: "Behold, he is coming with the clouds! Every eye shall see him..."
Actually the only thing that is required is for one to presuppose that the Bible teaches a flat earth and therefore passages such as Daniel can only mean that the earth is flat. It seems to have never dawned on the author that the Holy Bible is steeped in Semitic thought and idiom. Hence, the Bible writers employ literary techniques that were common in their day such as allegory, metaphor and hyperbole. Hence, Daniel's statement that the tree stood at the earth's center is a hyperbolic expression used to describe the extent of Nebuchadnezzar's rule which included all the then known world. In fact, had the author bothered to read the context of Daniel he would have seen that this is precisely the meaning given by Daniel to the king:
Obviously, neither Nebuchadnezzar nor his kingdom had literally reached the heavens which means that the phrase "the center of the earth" is also hyperbolic, not to be taken literally.
Matthew 4:8 does not prove that the earth is flat. Had the author read carefully he would have seen that Satan showing Christ all the kingdoms of the earth was something that occurred instantly, implying that this was something experienced in a vision. This point is brought out in Luke:
The fact that Satan showed Christ all the kingdoms in an instant strongly supports the view that this was something that occurred miraculously in a vision. Even if the earth had been flat, it would still have been impossible for Christ and Satan to see the extent of the earth from Jerusalem especially in light of the fact that the Gospel writer was clearly aware that Rome was in control of Jerusalem. Yet, Rome's capital was thousands of miles away in Europe and could not possibly be seen from a mountaintop located in Jerusalem!
Finally, in relation to Revelation 1:7 the author again does not allow for the fact that the writer was obviously using hyperbole. This can be seen by the fact that the book of Revelation is apocalyptic literature. This kind of literature heavily employs symbolism, imagery, metaphor, hyperbole etc. To then interpret this kind of writing literally is unscholarly since each piece of literature must be interpreted in light of its genre.
Furthermore, the Bible often employs the terms "every" and "all" in contexts where clearly not every single individual or thing is intended. Note the following examples:
Luke could say that Jews from every nation had come to Jerusalem on Pentecost even though the list he gives only extended throughout the Roman Empire.
Obviously, not all the world had heard of the faith of these Christians Paul was writing to.
Clearly, not everyone has heard the gospel and therefore cannot be bearing fruit in places where the message has not been proclaimed.
We obviously know that the whole world has not believed in Jesus. This is obviously hyperbole.
Paul can say that everyone had abandoned him despite the fact that Onesiphorus was at his side.
Again, no one supported Paul since everyone had abandoned him even though Luke was still with him.
Therefore, in light of the evidence the fact that every eye will see Jesus at his second-coming is hyperbole and does not prove that the earth is flat.
The Hebrews considered the celestial bodies relatively small. The Genesis creation story indicates the size and importance of the earth relative to the celestial bodies in two ways, first by their order of creation, and second by their positional relationships.
They had to be small to fit inside the vault of heaven. Small size is also implied by Joshua 10:12, which says that the sun stood still "in Gibeon" and the moon "in the Vale of Aijalon."
Since we will respond later to the statement of Joshua that the sun and moon literally stood in the earth, we will just briefly comment here. The fact that Joshua could say that the sun or moon stood still is no more unscientific than today's meteorologists that speak of the sunrise or sunset. This is not unscientific, but a metaphorical description that everyone uses even to this day. Joshua 10:12-13 is simply describing how the sun and moon appeared to the vantage point of one looking at it from the earth after God had miraculously slowed down the earth's rotation. From that vantage point, the sun and moon did indeed remain motionless in the horizon above. There is no scientific error, but the author's reluctance to allow the biblical writers to speak in phenomenological language, expressions and metaphors used everyday by everyone even to this day.
Further, the Bible frequently presents celestial bodies as exotic living beings. For example, "In them [the heavens], a tent is fixed for the sun, who comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy, rejoicing like a strong man to run his race. His rising is at one end of the heavens, his circuit touches their farthest ends; and nothing is hidden from his heat" (Psalm 19:4-6). The stars are anthropomorphic demigods. When the earth's cornerstone was laid "the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted aloud (Job 38:7)." The morning star is censured for trying to set his throne above that of other stars:
You thought in your own mind, I will scale the heavens; I will set my throne high above the stars of God, I will sit on the mountain where the gods meet in the far recesses of the north. I will rise high above the cloud-banks and make myself like the most high (Isaiah 14:13-14).
Deuteronomy 4:15-19 recognizes the god-like status of stars, noting that they were created for other peoples to worship
Had the author read scripture carefully, he would have seen that the term stars is used metaphorically to refer to angels:
"The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss... They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon." Revelation 9:1, 11
The star that fell is identified as an angel, corresponding to the morning star of Isaiah 14:13-14.
Using the author's logic we would be forced to conclude that there is an actual star named Jesus in the universe. In fact resurrected believers are likened to shining stars in the Holy Bible:
Again, if the author's logic is correct we would have to conclude that the Holy Bible teaches that believers shall one day become literal stars adorning the heavens.
Finally, the author attacks Psalm 19:4-6's poetic description of the sun running like a groom without mentioning the fact that Psalms is a book of poetry. As such, it often employs poetic imagery such as trees clapping, God having feathers etc. Furthermore, in his zealousness to find fault with the Holy Bible the author failed to appreciate the stunning accuracy of the Psalm's poetic description that the sun travels. Let us quote the relevant portion of the Psalm:
Even though the Psalms mainly consist of poetic imagery and allegory, this imagery of the sun traveling is scientifically accurate, something which the author cared not to mention. Dr. Henry Morris states:
We again discover that the author's points crumble entirely upon closer analysis.
Stars can fall from the skies according to Daniel 8:10 and Matthew 24:29. The same idea is found in the following extracts from Revelation 6:13-16:
... the stars in the sky fell to the earth, like figs shaken down by a gale; the sky vanished, as a scroll is rolled up ... they called out to the mountains and the crags, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of the One who sits on the throne..."
This is consistent with the Hebrew cosmology previously described, but it is ludicrous in the light of modern astronomy. If one star let alone all the stars in the sky "fell" on the earth, no one would be hollering from any mountain or crag. The writer considered the stars small objects, all of which could fall to the earth without eradicating human life. He also viewed the sky as a physical object. The stars are inside the sky, and they fall before the sky opens. When it is whisked away, it reveals the One throned above (see Isaiah 40:22).
Actually, what we have discovered is the author's misinterpretation, misquotation, and unproven assumptions operating throughout the article. Not one of his points stand in light of the syntax, grammar, culture and literary genre in which the Holy Bible was written in. Once these factors are taken into consideration, we find that none of his points are valid.
In response to the assertion that the authors of scriptures believed that stars could literally fall on the earth, once again it seems to have never dawned on the author that the term can also be referring to meteors. In a prescientific age where such terms as meteors or meteorites did not exist the closest term one could use for such objects is the term "stars". Hence, falling stars need not be a reference to the constellations that adorn space, but to meteors crashing upon the earth.
Furthermore, in light of the fact that the verses which the author alludes to deal with the apocalypse, these statements need not be literal. Instead, they can be nothing more than a metaphorical way of describing the end of the age, an event which itself is beyond human description.
Finally, the fact is that the Holy Bible clearly teaches that the earth is round and that the earth is indeed rotating. Let us look at several verses and compare them with modern scientific facts.
Dr. Henry Morris comments:
"Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days; and caused the dayspring to know his place. That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, that the wicked might be shaken out of it? It is turned as clay to the seal, and they stand as a garment." Job 38:12-14 KJV
Dr. Morris notes:
"as far as the east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us." Psalm 103:12
Dr. Morris claims:
"The wind blows to the south, and goes around to the north; round and round goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns. All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they continue to flow." Ecclesiastes 1:6-7
Dr. Morris indicates:
Dr. Morris also comments on the statement in verse 7 on streams running into the sea:
Thick clouds [are] a secret place to Him, And He doth not see;' And the circle (khug) of the heavens He walketh habitually, Job 22:14 YLT
"He has described a circle (Hebrew- khug) on the face of the waters, at the boundary between light and darkness." Job 26:10
"When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle (khug) on the face of the deep." Proverbs 8:27
"It is he who sits above the circle (khug) of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them like a tent to live in." Isaiah 40:22
Again, Dr. Morris' comments on these last three passages:
Wesley's Commentary states:
In summary, there is not a single verse in the entire Bible where it explicitly states that the earth is flat. There are, however, several clear references stating that it is round.
Joshua And The Long Day
Earlier, the author mentioned Joshua 10:12-13 on the sun and moon standing still in the horizon. We have already addressed the points raised in the article. The reason why we repeat it here again is due to the fact that certain Muslims have attacked the validity of this event. For instance, Shabir Ally in his debate with Tony Costa Jr., Is the Qur'an the Word of God?, attacked this passage and used it to prove that the Holy Bible teaches that the earth is the center where the sun and moon travel around.
Amazingly, Shabir not only has misunderstood the passage, but has also failed to realize that his own Prophet believed in the validity of this account:
The Prophet said, "A prophet amongst the prophets carried out a holy military expedition, so he said to his followers, 'Anyone who has married a woman and wants to consummate the marriage, and has not done so yet, should not accompany me; nor should a man who has built a house but has not completed its roof; nor a man who has sheep or shecamels and is waiting for the birth of their young ones.' So, the prophet carried out the expedition and when he reached that town at the time or nearly at the time of the 'Asr prayer, he said to the sun, 'O sun! You are under Allah's Order and I am under Allah's Order O Allah! Stop it (i.e. the sun) from setting.' It was stopped till Allah made him victorious.
Then he collected the booty and the fire came to burn it, but it did not burn it. He said (to his men), 'Some of you have stolen something from the booty. So one man from every tribe should give me a pledge of allegiance by shaking hands with me.' (They did so and) the hand of a man got stuck over the hand of their prophet. Then that prophet said (to the man), 'The theft has been committed by your people. So all the persons of your tribe should give me the pledge of allegiance by shaking hands with me.' The hands of two or three men got stuck over the hand of their prophet and he said, "You have committed the theft.' Then they brought a head of gold like the head of a cow and put it there, and the fire came and consumed the booty. The Prophet added: Then Allah saw our weakness and disability, so he made booty legal for us." (Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 53, Number 353)
If the sun standing still is an error in the Holy Bible then it also proves that Muhammad was wrong. We will leave it to Shabir to answer the fact of how can he attack the validity of Joshua 10:12-13 seeing that his own Prophet wholeheartedly believed it?
In conclusion, there are no convincing arguments that Muslims can bring up against the authority and validity of the Holy Bible, God's written word.
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