The Flat Earth Society
I borrowed the title of this chapter from a religious sect so incredibly devout to their beliefs in a flat earth that they will proliferate the bounds of logic to any extent in order to explain obvious complications with their easily disprovable hypothesis. However, we should refrain from laughing too much at people holding onto such an outdated notion because those clinging to such preposterous beliefs have merely been conditioned to think this way since birth, just as the ancient Jews casually thought that the identical belief was true for thousands of years. Nevertheless, how does the belief of a flat planet still manage to survive in the twenty-first century? The Holy Bible. In fact, the Bible provides much more erroneous detail about the earth than its purportedly planar configuration. The good book also explains how foundational pillars, which shake when God becomes angry with us, supposedly hold our planet motionless. Seeing as how I don’t feel much need to convince you that the earth is a spherical body, sans pillars, in motion around the sun, we’ll only look at the sources of the opposing school of thought.
From Flat To Round
Before I delve into detail of how our flat earth supposedly survives in this mystical environment, a brief historical progression on the proposed shapes for our planet is necessary to appreciate fully the erroneous hypotheses offered by the Old Testament authors. Around 600 BCE, Pythagoras became the first person we know to have proposed the idea of a spherical planet. His hypothesis subsequently grew in popularity around 500 BCE with the support of Aristotle. While Plato first gave a rough guess of the earth’s size around 400 BCE, Archimedes offered a more educated hypothesis of its circumference around 250 BCE. Moreover, during Archimedes’ lifetime, Eratosthenes was completing the first in depth scientific research into the circumference mystery.
Because of the work done by Greek scientists and philosophers, the idea of a spherical earth became nearly concrete before the New Testament authors began their writings. Considering the fairly acceptable record keeping found in Kings and Chronicles, as well as the presence of Jesus’ genealogies in the New Testament, we can determine whether the historical Jewish writings were completed before or after the spread of the Greeks’ spherical earth philosophies. Once we match the histories of the two regions, we find that almost all of the Old Testament had been penned well before the spherical earth theory became concrete. On the other hand, only a very small amount of Old Testament writings had the potential to creep in during the demise of flat earth beliefs. In short, educated people were well aware that the earth was spherical before New Testament authors arrived on the scene. Now that we have this understanding, we can analyze the different positions on the earth’s confirmation taken by the two testaments.
The Shape Of The Earth
In Science To The Rescue, we learned of several supporting examples for how the ancient Hebrews commonly believed that a solid firmament, separating the sky ocean from the land ocean, covered the earth. Within the proposed firmament are the sun, moon, and stars. The throne of God could potentially be found on top of the earth’s dome. When a group of people tried to ascend into Heaven by building a tower, God confused them to cease its construction because he was afraid of people seeing him. While there’s no directly informative statement about the shape of the earth itself in these Pentateuch examples, one must assume, based on logical deductions, that the so-called divinely inspired authors held the same opinion as the general population. If divine inspiration allowed them to realize that our world was spherical, one would expect the accords to be void of such figurative, fantastic, and erroneous descriptors. Again, the Bible had a chance to distinguish itself from other ancient religious texts, but it failed to do so. Instead, God seemingly allows certain people to write whatever they please about his magnificent universal creation.
In the years following the Pentateuch completion, additional illustrative scriptures would emerge from the prophets and paint additional pictures of a flat planet. Isaiah describes how God will “maketh the earth empty, turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof” (Isaiah 24:1). No matter how the spherical earth is situated, however, part of it will always be “upside-down” relative to another. As you should also realize that there’s no true “upside-down” to the earth, it’s impossible to orient our planet in such a fashion and erroneous for Isaiah to use this absurd brand of diction. The concept of gravity and its effect among massive spherical bodies would have certainly been a foreign notion to a fallible man, such as Isaiah, when this piece was written over 2000 years ago. However, if the earth were as flat as a casual observation would indicate, and we toss all modern understanding of gravity to the side, it would be very conceivable for us to think that God could invert the earth so that its inhabitants would fall into some unknown void. As the situation stands in the natural world, Isaiah plainly made the flat earth mistake because he had no scientific knowledge beyond that of his peers.
Daniel also commits the same error recorded by Isaiah. He speaks of his dream about a tree so tall that “the height thereof reached unto heaven and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth” (Daniel 4:11). As you may have already deduced, it’s impossible to see a tree from all points on the earth, regardless of how far it ascends, because the earth is spherical. While witnessing this tree might be possible from all points on a plane or from all points on the earth known to the Hebrews, such widespread observation is simply impossible on a massive spherical body. Daniel obviously exhibited no special insight or inspiration either.
The book of Job curiously refers to the earth as “long” and having a “strong” sky with the appearance of “glass” (11:9 and 37:18). “Long” obviously isn’t an accurate term for conveying the idea of a spherical planet. In addition to implying attributes of a flat world, this biblical author reinforces the widespread ancient belief of a glass dome ceiling covering the earth.
In the New Testament, Matthew and Luke record a fantastic tale in which the Devil whisks Jesus to an exceedingly tall mountain in order to show him all the kingdoms of the world (4:8 and 4:5, respectively). Again, you cannot see the entire world from a single point. However, we must recall that the belief in a flat earth began to fizzle by the time writers put these words on hardcopy. Thus, this statement probably only insinuates that Matthew and Luke believed that all the kingdoms of the world were in locations observable from a single point. In other words, this passage is unemphaticly suggesting that the unviewable regions of the globe were void of kingdoms. If this interpretation is the case, the statement contains an entirely different category of error because it neglects civilizations of the Far East and Western Hemisphere that were presumably unknown to Middle Easterners.
On the other side of the coin, there’s a singular instance found in Isaiah that Christians often flaunt to promote an imagined harmony between the Bible and the true configuration of the earth. All the while, previously mentioned scriptures authored by Isaiah and his colleagues go completely ignored. Isaiah 40:22 says, “It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth.” The word in question here is “circle.” A circle is a flat two-dimensional object, while a sphere, the approximate shape of the earth, is a three-dimensional object. The original Hebrew term used in this verse is chug, meaning circle. The same word is used twice in the book of Job to describe Heaven and the sea, two areas that we have no reason to believe anyone ever considered spherical. Furthermore, Isaiah does not use the actual Hebrew word for sphere, kadur, in 40:22 even though this utilization would have been much more appropriate if Isaiah intended to convey a spherical planet. In addition to this logical analysis of the verse, historians have long determined that a disc-shaped earth was a popular belief not only in the Middle East, but also in Greece before the time of Aristotle. We even have ancient maps of Babylon and Egypt containing illustrations of a circular sea surrounding circular land. When you combine this tangible evidence with other biblical comments regarding the shape of the earth, the likelihood of Isaiah 40:22 referring to a sphere is extremely remote.
What Keeps The Earth Aloft?
If you believe the earth is flat, that’s a reasonable question to investigate. The ridiculous proposal offered by imperfect Old Testament authors is a set of pillars. What do we know about these phantom pillars? They “are the Lord’s and he hath set the world upon them” (1 Samuel 2:8); the earth is shaken out of its place when they tremble (Job 9:6); they shake at God’s disapproval (Job 26:11); God holds them in place when the earth shakes (Psalms 75:3).
Keep in mind that no one has ever found such pillars, nor would we ever sanely explore this proposal because the earth isn’t in any real danger of collapsing. Nevertheless, what is all this business about the pillars shaking? Fortunately, the Bible explains the fictitious reason behind this physical phenomenon in more detail. “The Earth shook and trembled…because [God] was wroth” (2 Samuel 22:8 and Psalm 19:7); “At [God’s] wrath the earth shall tremble” (Jeremiah 10:10); God will “shake the heavens and the earth shall remove out of her place…in the days of his fierce anger” (Isaiah 13:13); “The Lord shall roar out of Zion…and the heavens and the earth shall shake” (Joel 3:16); “Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying ‘I will shake the heavens and the earth’” (Haggai 2:21). Since the pillars are supposedly the support foundations for the earth, it’s reasonable to conclude that our world would shake right along with them.
As you can see, the Bible has at least six different sources recording and prophesying earthquakes only during times when God is angry. While these so-called divinely inspired authors are supposed to be speaking on behalf of an omniscient god, they instead offer ancient superstitious explanations for a natural phenomenon known as an earthquake. Today, we know these events are the result of volcanic eruptions or tectonic plate movements in the earth’s crust. Again, the chances of obtaining this knowledge were well beyond the grasp of someone living 2500 years ago. For this reason, the alleged physical manifestations of God’s anger were frightening enough to coerce the scientifically ignorant population into believing these hilariously clueless explanations.
Movement, Or Lack Thereof
Thus far, we have a flat earth with pillars to keep it aloft. Since these pillars are the foundation for the earth, and objects with such foundations tend to remain relatively motionless, does the Bible also imply that the earth doesn’t move? Looking into these potential implications isn’t necessary because the Bible directly spells it out for its audience. “The world also shall be stable that it be not moved” (1 Chronicles 16:30), “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (Job 38:4), “And the foundations of the earth searched out beneath” (Jeremiah 31:37), “And ye strong foundations of the earth” (Micah 6:2). In addition, Psalms twice mentions that the earth has foundations (18:15 and 82:5) and twice mentions that God established the earth so that it cannot be moved (93:1 and 96:10). Furthermore, Psalms also binds the ideas of a foundation and motionlessness: “Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever” (104:5).
There should be little debate over what the Old Testament authors thought of the earth’s kinetics and other characteristics. Today, we know that the earth moves in at least five different ways: it rotates on its axis, causing day and night; it revolves around the sun, causing us to maintain our distance; it wobbles due to the gravitational pull toward the moon; it hovers around the galaxy with the rest of our solar system; and the galaxy as a whole is continuously moving through empty space. Did God inspire his biographers with this knowledge, or did he allow the inclusion of blatantly false superstitions in his holy book?
The Sun Plays The Earth
Since the earth is purportedly motionless upon its pillars in the biblical universe, and the sun deceitfully appears to be the body in motion, does the Bible imply that the sun has movement as it relates to the daily cycle on earth? Once again, we’re not required to examine these potential implications because the Bible plainly delivers its held position to us. “[The sun’s] going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it” (Psalms 19:6). In more comprehensible English, the sun journeys across the sky in a circular path. Thanks to the work of early astronomers, we now know that the sun is stationary relative to the planets around it. Twenty-five hundred years ago, it would only be logical for divinely uninspired individuals to assume that the sun was the body in revolutionary motion.
Other books of the Old Testament also purport witnesses to similarly strange astronomical events. Isaiah once asked God to move the sun’s shadows ten degrees, and the almighty allegedly complied with this request (2 Kings 20:11, Isaiah 38:8). We can find a comparable event in the book of Joshua when the main character asks God to keep the daytime symbol in the sky longer so that he can defeat his enemies before nightfall (). God allegedly complies with Joshua’s request as well by creating a length of day that had never taken place in the past (-14, Habakkuk ).
The consequences of these two phenomena occurring would be catastrophic. The earth’s gravitationally induced inertia around the sun is the sole force preventing the two massive bodies from merging. Without this momentum, the earth would move gradually yet dangerously closer to the sun. After a short while, it’s quite possible that the earth would become too hot to remain inhabitable if it was able to survive the countless local effects of its halt. At the very least, the polar ice caps would melt and flood the coastlines. Once again, these modern understandings go far beyond the limitations of Ancient Hebrew knowledge. Even so, I suppose that if a power existed to stop the planet from moving, the same power could withhold such consequences from taking place.
A much more detrimental perplexity with
these sun-stopping events lies with the presence of astronomers spread
throughout different regions of the world. After Joshua’s
celestial miracle supposedly took place, the two recording authors specifically
say that no one in history had every experienced a day like this. In other
words, this extended day was a unique event. As you might have guessed, there’s little credibility to this claim because astronomers
Joel offers one final misinterpretation of the earth’s role in the solar system. He says, “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood” during the day of the Lord (). While Joel would probably like his readers to remain scared of these supposedly supernatural events, we now have more advanced knowledge concerning the mechanics of eclipses. The earth goes dark on the rare occasion that the moon passes directly between us and the sun; our nighttime light turns red from the earth’s sunsets projecting on the lunar surface when we sweep directly between the sun and the moon. Again, if you subtract this modern understanding, it wouldn’t be too difficult to frighten a person into believing that a supernatural force was manipulating these heavenly bodies in order to foreshadow some imminent spectacle of anger. Seeing as how this ordinary Hebrew had no reasonable explanation for these extraordinary scientific phenomena, he seemingly invented one of his own.
Sailing Off The Edge
Based on their works that reveal beliefs of a flat, stationary, and pillar-supported earth surrounded by the path of a revolving sun, I don’t think it’s too far of a stretch to say that the authors failed to exhibit divine inspiration. In actuality, the earth isn’t much different from the limitless number of spherical planets revolving around their respective stars in order to hold their positions in their own solar systems. We should expect these fallible biblical authors to have a limited knowledge concerning the true nature of the universe if they were void of inspiration allegedly available from an omniscient deity. This is, in fact, what we observe when undertaking an impartial reading of the Old Testament.
Since the authors leave us with these erroneous notions in the Bible, the majority of unbiased persons who hold the knowledge contained within this chapter would not dare defend the blind belief that an omniscient and omnipotent being directly inspired its authorship. These curious statements are just part of the growing number of solid reasons to consider biblical passages twice before recognizing them as absolute truth. We should never accept any statement based solely on the fact that we can find it in an ancient book claimed to have been co-authored by one of ancient society’s many gods.