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The Bible and Science:
Do the Bible and Science Agree?


Introduction

I see it as wrong to try to draw out scientific data about the creation of the universe from Genesis one. Both young-earth creationists and old-earth creationists are guilty of pouring modern scientific terms back into Genesis. God could have written in scientific terms like E=mc2 , but He did not. I believe God had to accommodate himself to our limited knowledge, and limited language to communicate with us. God did not choose to use technical scientific terms to communicate with us. God used the common language, and familiar phrases of their day. God could have told us that the sun does not rise nor set, but that the earth is spinning around the sun. God instead used the common language of sunrise and sunset which was literal to the writers back then, but which modern concordists excuse as phenomenal language that we still use today. God is trying to communicate absolute spiritual truths, not shifting scientific theories.

God’s purpose of inspiration is clearly stated in II Timothy 3:16 which says that the Bible is inspired by God so that it is profitable for instruction in righteousness not instruction in science. To take a poem and use it as a scientific text is wrong. It is like trying to use a hammer as a screwdriver. It does not work. One must understand the historical context and meaning of the original language that the Bible was written in.

The Biblical Basis for Modern Science

Henry Morris has written a book entitled The Biblical Basis for Modern Science (1984). He tries to demonstrate that certain verses in the Bible contain scientific truths that only now we are able to fully understand with the help of modern science. This article will show that there are five major verses will be studied to see what is the proper interpretation.

Henry Morris is guilty of reading modern day science back into the Bible. This is called eisegesis. What is needed is exegesis. To get the proper meaning of a word in the Bible should one go to Webster’s dictionary or go back to the original languages of Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic? Trying to find the original meaning is called the historical, gammarical interpretation of scripture. When the apostle Paul used the word "law" he was not referring to the constitution of the United States. At one time theologians thought that the language of the New Testament was a special holy Greek until scholars discovered it was the common language of that day.

This brings up the second objection to Morris’ interpretation. Most of the verses that Morris claims to be modern science are words and phrases that were commonly used by other nations back at that time. We will look at a number of these verses.

The third objection is that a number of these verses are just common sense poetical expressions, and not meant to contain hidden scientific truths. In Isaiah 51:6 the earth grows old like a garment. Is Isaiah trying to communicate the second law of thermodynamics in this verse? Things grow old is common knowledge not supernatural science.

The fourth objection is that a number of these verses are based on a poor translation of certain words from the original language into English. There has been a number of important discoveries of ancient texts since the King James 1611 translation of the Bible that help us to better understand the original languages of scripture. One major discovery was the ancient city of Ugarit. A number of tablets written in cuneiform were discovered. An analysis showed that this new language of Ugaritic was very close to Hebrew. Ugaritic can help us to better understand certain Hebrew words (Craigie 1983; Curtis 1985; Coogan 1978).

The final objection is that the Bible is not a science book. II Timothy 3:16 clearly states that the Bible is inspired by God so that it is profitable for instruction in righteousness not instruction in science. Much of the Bible is poetry. To take a poem and make it into a scientific text is wrong. One must understand the different genres of the Bible. One must understand the historical context and the meaning of the original language that the Bible was written in. Let us now look at some of the specific verses Morris covers in his book.

Oceanography

Psalm 8:8 - "Paths of the Sea"

Morris relates (p.290) how Matthew Maury, the "father of oceanography" discovered ocean currents as a result of studying Psalm 8:8 that declares the "paths of the sea." Did the writer of this psalm mean ocean currents that Maury discovered? Was the Holy Spirit trying to communicate some modern science here, or perhaps it was a common phrase used at that time?

Homer in his book The Odyssey, (Book 3:71) says, "the paths of the sea water." Again in Book three (line 177) it says, "the ships ran before the wind on paths of the deep sea fish" (see also Book 4:389). Was Homer also communicating great scientific discoveries? Was he inspired, or was this just the common language that was used back then?

Apollonius Rhodius in the third century BC wrote in his book The Argonautica, "and the fishes came darting through the deep sea, great mixed with the small, and followed gambolling along the watery paths" (Book 1:574). Apollonius describes the fish playfully following the ship as sheep follow a shepherd.

In the Sibylline Oracles it says, "A king will come from Asia, brandishing a great spear, with countless ships. He will walk the watery paths of the deep, and will cut through a lofty mountain as he sails" (Book 4:76-78; Charlesworth 1983, 386). The king referred to here is Xerxes who invaded Greece in 480 BC. In another book of the Sibylline Oracles it says, "Rhea, marvel of women, bore Pluto as she went past Dodona, whence the watery paths of the river Europus flowed and the water ran to the sea mingled with Peneius, and they called it Stygian" (Book 3:143-6; Charlesworth 1983, 365).

The ama Hymn which may date back to the First Dynasty of Babylon or earlier, way before the Bible was written says, "To the seafarer in dread of the waves you give [..] It [is you] who patrol the unseen routes, You constantly tread paths which confront [ama] (alone)" (Lambert 1960, 66-68). ama is the name of the Babylonian Sun-god. One can not argue that this secular writer borrowed these words from David, for this was way before David or even Moses was born (Lambert 1960, 122-3).

Even the early church fathers saw this phrase as the common language of the day, not supernatural science. St. Augustine quotes Psalm 8:7-8 as follows, "All sheep and oxen, yea, moreover, the beasts of the field, birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, which walk through the paths of the sea" (p.31). The "paths of the sea" are also quoted by Origin, Chrysostom, Eusebius, and Theodoret. This was not a strange phrase of meteorology to them, but a commonly used phrase.

Psalm 18:15 - "Channels of the Sea"

Morris states, "Only in recent decades has it been discovered that the ocean floor is lined with deep channels and canyons" (p.289). The Hebrew word `pq means channels (BDB 67). In other verses it is used for a stream-bed, a ravine. This same root word is also used in the cognate language of Ugaritic. Several times in Ugaritic the phrase qrb apq thmtm appears (see C.H.Gordon text 51:IV:20-24, 49:I:4-8) which I translate: In the middle of the channels of the two oceans (or deeps). Does this mean that the Canaanites at Ugaritic had superior scientific knowledge way before the Psalmist did, or was this common poetical language of that era (See also the targum of Ecclesiates 1:7, Grossfeld translates "channels of the sea" p.503).

Job 38:16 - "Springs of the Sea"

Morris (p.289-90) states that modern science has discovered springs of fresh water under the sea. The Hebrew root word is nbk meaning "sources" or "spring." This same root word is also used in the cognate language of Ugaritic. In the same texts mentioned above the phrase mbk nhrm appears which I translate: the springs (or sources) of the two rivers. A parallel phrase is found in Job 28:11 (See Gordon #1597, & NIV). The only difference is the dual ending of rivers in Ugaritic. Does this mean that the Canaanites understood modern science? Morris should not be reading modern science back into the Bible or other ancient texts. These are common phrases that ancient people used.

Driver states that hidden channels connecting the sea with the great abyss of water (the great deep) which the Hebrews conceived to extend under the earth (Psa.224:2, 136:6) and from which the waters of the sea were supposed to be derived (p.330). Lucretius in De Rerum Natura mentions the sea’s own fountains" (VI.613 p.487).

Psalm 135:6 - "All the deep places"

Morris believes that the word "deep," the Hebrew word thm, indicates the vast depths of the ocean, almost eight miles deep, that only modern science has been able to discover (p. 288-90). This word is also used in Genesis 1:2. This word occurs 36 times in the Old Testament. This same root word is also used in the cognate language of Ugaritic. Several times in Ugaritic the phrase qrb apq thmtm appears (see C.H.Gordon text 51:IV:20-24, 49:I:4-8) which I translate: In the middle of the channels of the two oceans (or deeps). It is the same root word thm with a dual ending. Does this mean that the Canaanites at Ugarit understood that the ocean was almost eight miles deep? No! The "deep" was a common name used through out the Middle East in ancient times.

In the ama Hymn not even the Igigi gods know the depth of the sea. It says, "You (ama) never fail to cross the wide expanse of the sea, The depth of which the Igigi know not. [There is none] but you who goes down to the deep" (lines 35,& 57; Lambert 1960, 129).

In the ancient records of Assyria Assurbanipal writes, "Ikkilu, king of arvad, who dwells in the wide sea, whose abode, like (that) of a fish, is in the unmeasured (lit., uncounted) waters, [in the waves] of the mighty deep" (Luckenbill 1927, 352).

Homer in The Odyssey writes, "all the deeps are known to him; he serves under Poseidon" (Book 4.385-6). Therefore the word "deep" was commonly used in the ancient world.

Meteorology

Ecclesiastes 1:7 - "All the rivers run into the sea"

Morris sees the hydrologic cycle of modern science here (p.274). I see common observation. In ancient times it was a great mystery how all the rivers emptied into one earth-encircling sea and did not fill up. The targum of Ecclesiastes shows how these verses were understood back then. Grossfeld translates:

And the sun rises in the day from east, and goes down in the west by night, and hastens to its place, and goes down through the path under the sea, and rises the following day from the place where it rested yesterday; it goes all the side of the south in the day, and goes round to the side of the north by night, through the path under the sea; it turns round and round to the wind of the south corner in the revolution of Nisan and Tamuz, and returns its circuits to the wind of the north corner in the revolution of Tishri and Tebeth; it comes through the windows of the east in the morning, and goes into the windows of the west in the evening. All the rivers and streams of water go and flow into the waters of the ocean which surround the world like a ring, and the ocean is not full, and to the place where the streams go and flow there they go again through the channels of the sea.

It is interesting to note that the sun travels through a path under the sea. All the streams flow in the sea which surrounds the earth like a ring (see Babylonian World Map). The water of the sea flows through channels of the sea up to the mountains where they come out as the streams again. Floods were seen as coming from below the earth, not from rain in the sky above. In the vassal-treaties of Esarhaddon it says, "may a flood, an irresistible deluge, rise from the bowels of the earth and devastate you" (ANET 1969, 539, 56, line 490).

There is another parallel to Ecclesiastes 1:7 found in the book The Clouds by Aristophanes which says, "What then! Think you the Sea is lager now than twas last year? NO surely, tis no larger: It is not right it should be. And so you then, Insatiable grasper! When the Sea, Receiving all these Rivers, grows no larger," (1290-4; see also Harry Ranston’s book Ecclesiastes and the Early Greek Wisdom Literature 1925).

The Babylonian Talmud explains why the sea is not full by saying that the primeval waters have the ability to absorb all other waters. Therefore the ocean is never full (Bekoret 9B see also The Aramaic Version of Qohelet by Etan Levine 1978, 48).

Lucretius in De Rerum Natura states, "In the first place, they wonder that nature does not increase the measure of the sea, for all the great running down of waters thither, for all the rivers that come into it from every side . that the great sea does not increase . Lastly, since the earth has a porous body, and it is joined together with the sea, girdling its shores all around, it is necessary that as the flow of water comes from the land into the sea, so also it should ooze into the land from the salt sea; for the pungency is strained off, and the substance of the water oozes back, and all meets in a moving mass of sweet along the path which was once been cut for it in its liquid course" (VI.608-638).

Seneca in Naturales Quaestiones says, "first then, let us investigate how the earth supplies the continuous flow of rivers, and where such great quantities of water come from. We are surprised that the seas are not affected by the addition of the rivers; it is equally surprising that the earth is not affected by the loss of the waters leaving it Some think that the earth receives back whatever water it has emitted; and for this reason the oceans do not grow larger because they do not assimilate the water which flows into them but immediately returns it to the land. For, the water enters the land by hidden routes openly it comes to the sea; secretly does it return. Sea water is filtered in transit because it is battered by the many circuitous passages in the earth and sets aside its salinity and impurities" (III, 4-5).

Pliny in Natural History theorizes, "the intention of the Artificer of nature must have been to unite the earth and water in a mutual embrace, earth opening her bosom and water penetrating her entire frame by means of a network of veins radiating within and without, above and below, the water bursting out even at the tops of mountain ridges, to which it is driven and squeezed out by the weight of the earth, and spurts out like a jet of water from a pipe This theory shows clearly why the seas do not increase in bulk with the daily accession of so many rivers. The consequence is that the earth at every point of its globe is encircled and engirdled by sea flowing round it" (II.LXVI).

Aristotle in Meteorologica argues, "The old question why so great an amount of water disappears (for the sea becomes no larger even though innumerable rivers of immense size are flowing into it every day) is quite a natural one to ask, but not difficult to answer with a little thought. For the same amount of water does not take the same time to dry up if it is spread out a s if it is concentrated in a small place this is what happens with rivers: they go on flowing in a constricted space until they reach a place of vast area when they spread out and evaporate rapidly and imperceptibly. Plato’s description of rivers and the sea in the Phaedo is impossible. He says they all flow into each other beneath the earth through channels pierced through it, and that their original source is a body of water at the centre of the earth called Tartarus, from which all waters running and standing are drawn all of them pass round again in a circle to the original source from which they flowed; many return to it again at the same place" (II.ii).

The Septuagint and the Vulgate imply the contant cycle of water which led to discussions about underground streams conveying the waters back to their place of origin (Crenshaw 1987, 65). Crenshaw argues that the point of Ecclesiastes is the continual flow of streams not their cycle to show the futility of life (65-66). Stadelmann believes that Isaiah 55:10-11 and Job 36:27-28 show that the Hebrews did not believe that rain or snow returned back to the clouds. He states, "It must be insisted upon that the idea of the formation of rain by means of evaporation and condensation of water vapor is not found in the Old Testament Thus, having once fallen to the earth, rain never returns to the clouds" (1970, 123).

It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word for river here is nhl meaning torrent. This refers to the streams that flow in wadies when it rains. The normal word for a river that continually flows is nhr. This word is never used for any streams, or rivers in Palestine (Stadelmann 1970, 161). It is used for the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. What the Hebrews called the "head" of the river is what we would call the "mouth" of the river today.

Job 28:25 - "The weight of the wind"

Morris states that Job 28:25 is another anticipation of modern knowledge (p.276). He interprets this to mean "atmospheric pressure" which was unknown in ancient times. The Hebrew word ql means weight, or shekel. It corresponds to the Akkadian iqlu, and Aramaic and Ugaritic tql (NIDOTTE Vol.4, 235-7). The NIV translates, "the force of the wind." Job is not talking about the atmospheric pressure, but the force of the wind.

Psalm 135:7 - "He causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth"

The Hebrew word for "vapours" is ns`m from the root word Ns` which means "to lift up" (BDB 1980, 672). Stadelmann argues that this Hebrew word should be translated "high clouds" referring to the "cumuli castellati" clouds (1970, 99). This same word is found in Jeremiah 10:13, 51:16, and Proverbs 25:14 (cf. Jude 12). Both the Septuagint and the Vulgate translate Ns`m as "clouds." Modern translations also translate this word as "clouds" (see NIV).

The Psalmist is describing how clouds come from the edge of the horizon up over our heads to cover the sky and then it rains. It is a poetical description of a thunderstorm. The clouds appear to rise from the horizon ("the ends of the earth" in Hebrew). Another good description of the development of a thunderstorm is in I Kings 18:44-5 (KJV) which says, "Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain." Some saw the clouds as buckets that picked up water from the sea and carries it over the land where it is dropped filtering out the salt.

Genesis 2:6 - "But there went up a mist from the earth"

The Hebrew word for "mist" is `d which could be better translated by "flow, stream, or spring." The Septuagint, the Vulgate, and the Syriac texts translate `d as "spring." The most likely etymology of the word is from the Sumerian/Akkadian word id which represents the cosmic river (Wenham 1987, 58). The Sumerian story Enki and Nihursag which says, "From the mouth whence issues the waters of the earth brought her sweet water from the earth" (ANET 1969, 38).

Another possible translation suggested by Dahood (1981) for `d is "rain cloud" from the Hebrew word `ed and Eblaite i-du. The Targums and certain Rabbis translate `d as "cloud." Rabbi Joshua believed that the whole earth drank rain from the upper heavenly ocean (Deut. 11:11) and according to Genesis 2:6 clouds rose up to the heavenly ocean where they opened their mouths as a water-skin and received rain-water (Job 36:27, The Targum of Job says, "(Yahweh) holds back the drops of water (which) would drop as rain into his clouds" Sutcleffe 1953, 100). Because of the discovery of ancient texts and the efforts of modern research the word `d should not be translated "mist."

On Genesis 2:6 the Targum of Pseudo-Jonathan says, "The cloud of majesty came down from the throne of majesty and filled itself with water from the ocean, and then rose up from the earth and gave rain to water the whole face of the ground" (Bowker 1969, 110). Rabbi Eliezer agreed with this, but Rabbi Joshua replied that the water was sweetened in the clouds (Sutcliffe 1952, 100). Sutcliffe states, "This idea of the clouds receiving water from the sea suggests evaporation to the modern mind. But the Targum Jon., just quoted, seems clearly to mean that the cloud received water in liquid form, and if the phenomenon of evaporation had been know to R. Eliezer, he would surely have said something about it" (Ibid). It seems that these Rabbis are reading much more into this verse than is actually there as does Dr. Morris. The only difference is that the Rabbis see rain clouds while Morris does not see any rain until the flood.

Job 38:25 - "Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters or the way for the lighting"

Morris contends that scientists only in modern times have discovered the connection between rain and electricity (275-6). Stadelmann agrues that the ancient Hebrew writers viewed rain as being released from the heavenly ocean through water channels, like irrigation canals to water the earth (1970, 121). Rain is also said to be released through doors (Psalm 78:23), and windows (Genesis 7:11). In Job 38:37 the clouds are pictured as water jars that pour down rain. In Psalm 33:7 God gathers the waters into a jar which is put into storehouses. It has been suggested that the Hebrews believed that there were two kinds of rain: the beneficial rain that comes from clouds, and destructive rains without the intermediate use of clouds (Sutcliffe 1953 99-103).

In Ugaritic white snow clouds are seen as Baal’s boat’s boat (dn.tkt.bglt, a time for [his] boat [to appear] in the snow; Herdner 4:V.69). A more common epithet for Baal is "rider of the clouds," rkb.`rpt (Herdner 4:V.122). The clouds are seen as Baal’s chariot. The Bible also describes God as the "rider of the clouds" in Psalm 68:4, which says, "Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the cloudshis name is the Lordand rejoice before him" (NIV, cf. Psalm 18:9, 68:33, 104:3, Isaiah 19:1, Matthew 26:24. The clouds are pictured as God’s chariot. Psalm 68 is probably a polemic against Baal worship. It is Yahweh who controls the storm clouds, not Baal (cf. Psalm 29).

Proverbs 8:26 - "The highest part of the dust of the earth"

Morris thinks that this verse is a reference to the meteoritic and other dust particles in the lower atmosphere (p.273). The Hebrew word for "highest" is r`. It is the first word in the Hebrew Bible meaning "beginning." It is better to translate this phrase as "the first dust of the earth." This fits the context better which is referring to the time before anything was created. The NIV says, "Before he made the earth or its fields or any of the dust of the earth." This verse is not talking about the dust high in the sky.

Genesis 1:7 - "The waters above the firmament"

On the basis of this verse Morris builds his canopy theory (pp.277-82). The Hebrew word for firmament is rqy`. It comes from the verb rq` which means "stamp, beat out, spread out" (BDB 1980, 955). It refers to the vault of heaven that God made on the second day of creation to separate the waters. In Job 37:18 it says, "Hast thou with him spread out the sky, which is strong, and as a molten looking glass." The Hebrews thought the firmament was a solid substance that held up the celestial ocean above it. The ancient world thought there was a heavenly ocean from which it rained when the windows, doors, or gates were opened. The firmament was a storehouse for the wind, rain, and snow. The Targum of Pseudo-Jonathan in Genesis 1:7 says:

And God made the firmament, its thickness being three fingers between the limits of the heavens and the waters of the ocean. And he divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the vault (storehouse) of the firmament: and it was so (Bowker 1969, 95).

The firmament is described as a building in Amos 9:6 which says, "he who builds his lofty palace in the heavens and sets its foundation on the earth" (NIV). Rain is in these upper chambers (Psalm 104:3,13). In Job 9:9 there are chambers of the south where constellations are stored. It was thought that the mountains, called the pillars of heaven held up the firmament (Job 26:11).

There was no vapor canopy. Morris is just misunderstanding what the firmament is in the Bible. The ancient world saw the sky as a heavenly ocean from which rain came from. Humphries also misunderstands Genesis one. He postulates a watery mass at the beginning from which time, space, and matter was created using the theories of relativity. It is a mistake to force modern science into the Bible. It is meant to be a spiritual book not a science book.

Jeremiah 49:36 - "I bring the four winds from the four quaters of heaven"

Dr. Morris conveniently avoided discussing this verse and other ones like it that talk about the four winds (Ez 37:9, Daniel 7:2, 8:8, 11:4, Zec 2:6, Rev 7:1). In ancient times there were only four winds from the four cardinal directions. Aristotle distinguished twelve winds (Meteorologia chp. 4). By the end of the first century AD people distinguished only eight winds because twelve winds were too complex to use.

I Enoch 18:1-5 says, "And I saw the storerooms of all the winds and saw how with them he has embroidered all creation as well as the foundations of the earth. I saw the cornerstone of the earth; I saw the four winds which bear the earth as well as the firmament of the heaven. I saw how the winds ride the heights of heaven and stand between heaven and earth: Theses are the very pillars of heaven. I saw the winds which turn the heaven and cause the star to set-the sun as well as all the stars. I saw the souls carried by the clouds" (Charlesworth 1983, 22-3). The writer believed that the four winds were the same as the four pillars of heaven which held up the sky and rotated it around. In earlier times the mountains were seen as pillars that held up the sky. Herodotus in Book 4:184.3 sarcastically writes, "The natives say that this (mountain called Atlas) is a pillar of heaven (Hude 1979).

I Enoch 76:1-4 says, "And I saw the twelve wide openings in all directions through which the winds come out and blow over the earth. Three of them are open in the forefront (east) of the sky, three in the west, three in the right (south) of the sky, and three on the left (north) through four of the (openings) blow out winds of blessing (and) through eight of them blow out winds of pestilence-when they are sent in order to destroy the whole earth (Charlesworth 1983, 55). In this passage there are twelve winds that are described.

Seneca in chapter five of his book Natural Questions discusses in length the twelve winds. Vitruvius in his book On Architecture says, "Some have held that there are four winds But those who have inquired more diligently lay down that there are eight (Book I.C.VI.4; 57). He goes on to describe the first octagonal wind tower built.

Pliny the Elder in his book Natural History says, "The ancients noticed four winds in all, corresponding to the four quarters of the world (this is the reason why even Homer mentions no more)-a dull-witted system, as it was soon afterwards considered; the following age added eight-this system on the other hand was too subtle and meticulous. Their successors adopted a compromise, adding to the short list of four winds from the long one. There are consequently two winds in each of the four quarters of the heaven (Book II.XLVI; 261).

Astronomy

Job 38:14 - "[The earth] is turned as clay to the seal"

Morris contends that the rotation of the earth is implied in this verse (p.165). He says, "The figure, in context, is of a clay vessel being turned on a wheel to receive the design impressed upon it by a seal or signet." The key word is "seal" which can mean either a cylinder seal or stamp seal (see NIV note). It is not talking about a clay vessel being turned on a potter’s wheel. Delitzsch in his commentary on Job says, "The dawn is like the signet-ring, which stamps a definite impress on the earth as the clay" (p.316). The NASB says, "It is changed like clay under the seal." The NIV says, "The earth takes shape like clay under a seal." There is no pottery wheel spinning around. One must understand the cultural background of the ancient Near East’s use of seals.

I Corinthians 15:41 - "One star differeth from another star"

Morris contends that this does not simply refer to a star’s brightness, but to their location on the Hertzsprung-Russel diagram (p.158). The Expositor’s Greek N.T. states, "all indicates difference within the same order" (Findlay 1979, 936). I do not think that Paul was referring to the spectroscopic analysis of starlight when he wrote this letter. One must not force modern science into Paul’s letter. This is just common knowledge that Paul was using to get his point across.

Psalm 19:6 - "His (the sun’s) circuit unto the ends of it"

Morris believes that this verse refers to the sun’s gigantic orbit around the center of the Milky Way galaxy. This is not what the Psalmist meant. He is talking about the sun’s path in the sky that everyone can see. Morris again is trying to force modern science on this passage. An Egyptian coffin text says, "O Re, may he who is in his evening be gracious to me, when we have made the circuit of heaven" (ANET 1969, 12).

Did the Egyptians know about the sun’s gigantic orbit around the center of the Milky Way galaxy?

Job 38:22 - "Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season?"

Morris believes that the gospel message is in the signs of the zodiac. In Genesis 1:14 the stars in the sky are to serve as signs to mark seasons, days, and years, and not for the gospel, or any astrology (see NIV note). I am surprised that Morris believes that the zodiac teaches the gospel.

Job 26:7 - "(He) hangeth the earth upon nothing"

Morris says, "the earth is suspended in space, not supported on pillars" (p.246). There are several verses that talk about the pillars of the earth (Job 9:6, Psalm 75:3) and the pillars of the heavens (Job 26:11). I think that Job 26:7 is just poetically describing the earth being spread out of the deep. This phrase parallels the stretching out of the heavens over the void or deep. The word "north" is used as a part for the whole heavens. The word for "stretched out" is only used of the heavens. The word "nothing" parallels the word "void" in the proceeding phrase. The word void is also used in Genesis 1:2, the earth was formless and void. I would translate this phrase as: He is suspending the earth over the formless deep.

In Enuma Elish (tablet IV:145, Heidel 1942, 43) it says, "The great structure Eaharra (earth) which he made as a canopy (over the deep)." The earth is seen here as a canopy that is stretched out over the ocean. The ama Hymn says, "You (ama, the sun god) climb to the mountains surveying the earth. You suspend from the heavens the circle of the lands" (Lambert 1960, lines 21-22). These are just common phrases that were used in the ancient world. One should not read modern science back into them.


Babylonian Map of the World 6-5th Century BC, Circle of earth and sea.

Isaiah 40:22 - The circle of the earth"

According to Morris this verse describes a spherical earth. The Hebrew word is hwg. I believe that this refers to the circular horizon that vaults itself over the earth to form a dome (Meyers 1989, 63-9).

The Babylonian Map of the world clearly shows a circular earth surrounded by a circular sea (Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian Tablets in the British Museum 1960, part xxii, pl.48; for a translation see Horowitz 1988, 147-65; 1998, 20-42). The ama Hymn which is written to the Sun-god says, "You climb to the mountains surveying the earth, you suspend from the heavens the circle of the lands." The phrase "the four corners of the earth" which in Akkadian is kip-pt tu-bu-qa-at eerbitti, can be literally translated "the circle of the four corners" (Grayson 1972, 105).


Upper & Lower oceans with circular earth from Tutankhamun (King Tut) 14th Century BC.

In Egyptian literature the Hymn to Ramses II found on various stela inside the temple of Abu Simbel says, "like Re when he shineth over the circle of the world" (Erman 1927, 258-9). There is another similar phrase in The War Against the Peoples of the Sea" which comes from Ramses III’s temple of Medinet Habu which says, They laid their hands upon the lands as far as the circuit of the earth" (ANET 1969, 262). Keel in his book The Symbolism of the Biblical World (pp. 37-40). Has many Egyptian drawings showing a circular earth surrounded by a circular sea.

Geographic

Isaiah 11:12 - "The four corners of the earth"

Morris (p.248) goes through the trouble of trying to show that the earth really does have four corners:

  1. 55 N, 10 W (near Ireland)
  2. 50 S, 48 E (near South Africa)
  3. 15 N, 140 E (near the Philippines)
  4. 18 S, 80 W (near Peru)

Isaiah was not thinking about these locations when he penned the book of Isaiah (Meyers 1989, 80-2). Morris seems to be bound and determined to force some scientific truth out of literal words that were meant to be taken figuratively.

In Isaiah 11:12 the Hebrew word for "corners" is knp which BDB lexicon translates as "the extremities of the earth." The root of the word means "winged" which the Septuagint translates as pterygon which is used in the New Testament in Matthew 4:5, "the pinnacle of the temple."

The four corners of the earth are also mentioned in Revelation 7:1 and 20:8. The Greek word is gonia. Thayer’s Lexicon says this word means "the four extreme limits of the earth" (Thayer 1962, 123). This word can also mean "angle" or "corner." The Vulgate translates this word with angulos. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says, "The four corners of the earth or land are therefore simply the extremities of land in the four cardinal directions" (Orr 1939, 887). When gonia refers to a building it means corner, but when it refers to land it means the extremity. For example in the Catalogue of the Greek Papyri in the John Rylands Library (II 130,9) it says, "in the area of Euhemeria in the division of Themistes at the corner" (Moulton and Milligan 1976, 134). The phrase "the four corners of the earth" is a common ancient expression (Grayson 1972, 105). One example of this is found in the legend of Keret which says, (3) sb. Lqsm. `ars. (4) lksm. M`iyt, meaning "they go around to the edges of the earth, to the limits of the watery region" (Gibson 1978, 98; Herdner 16:3,3-4). I do not think these ancient writings meant the four compass points that Morris mentioned above.

Cosmas Indicopleustes wrote a book called Christian topography around 547 AD (McCrindle 1987). One of the basic purposes of his book was to refute from scripture and common sense, the impious pagan belief that the earth was a sphere. Cosmas believed the earth was rectangular in shape because he took literally the verses that say the earth has four corners. He saw the Hebrew tabernacle as a microcosm of the universe. The table of show-bread with its waved border represented the earth surrounded by the ocean. Since the table was twice as long as it was wide, and was placed lenghtwise from East to West twice as long as it is wide. From Isaiah which says that the heaven is His throne, and the earth is His footstool, he deduced that the earth must be at the bottom of the Universe. Just as Cosmas’ deductions look silly today so also does Morris’ scientific deductions from figurative language.

Genesis 10:25 - "In his day the earth was divided"

It seems strange to me that when Morris gets to this verse he wants to take it figuratively. He does not believe in plate tectonics, but in the stable-continent hypothesis (p.255). This is probably due to his training in the 1940’s and 1950"s where plate tectonics was a radically new idea (His son, John believes in plate tectonics during and following the flood). Morris takes the verses literally that tell how God spread out the heavens (Isaiah 40:22, 42:5, 44:24, 45:12, 51:13), but can not take literally the verses that tell how God spread out the earth (Isaiah 42:5, 44:24).

In Enuma Elish (Heidel 1942, 43) the earth is spread out over the watery deep. An Akkadian phrase in the Poem of the Righteous Sufferer says, "Whenever the earth is laid, and the heavens are stretched out" (Lambert 1960, 58-9). So these are common phrases that were used in the ancient world.

Number of Stars

Jeremiah 33:22 says, "As the host of heaven can not be numbered, neither the sand of the sea measured" (also Genesis 15:5, & 22:17). On a clear night in the middle east the stars look like they are innumerable. The point of this hyperbole is that David will have many descendants. If we use a computer to estimate the amount of sand or the number of stars, this does not mean we will then know the exact number of descendants of David or Abraham. This is poetical language, and not a scientific statement. This was a common ancient hyperbole (Bullinger, 426-7).

Akkadian Literature

Shalmaneser I was king of Assyria about 1280 BC. He had an inscription engraved upon a stone tablet (KAH,I,No.13) that describes the rebuilding of the Temple Eharsagkurkurra. It says, "Thereupon, the land of the Kuti, whose numbers are countless as the stars of heaven, who know how to plunder, came down upon me and fought with me, and stirred up enmity" (Luckenbill 1926, 40, #117; Grayson 1972, 83).

Assur-nasir-pal’s annals are inscribed on the pavement slabs of the entrance to the temple of Urta at Calah. It describes his great military campaigns in the first six years as king of Assyria starting about 1018 BC. In his first year the city of Suru of Bit-halupe rebelled. Assur-nasir-pal captured the city and said, "his heavy spoil, which like the stars of heaven could not be counted, I carried off" (Luckenbill 1926, 145, #443).

Assur-nasir-pal in another military campaign said, "As far as Dummete (and) Asmu, cities of the men of Adini, I pursued him (Azi-ilu), and the rest of his hosts, which were countless in number as the stars of heaven, I carried off" (Luckenbill, 162, #472).

Sargon II wrote a letter to "Assur, Father of the gods," about 714 BC. in which he tells in detail the events of his eighth military campaign. Sargon says, "I stopped my march on Andia and Zikirtu which lay before me, and set my face toward Urartu. Uishdish, a district of the Mannean country, which Ursa had seized and taken for his own, with its many cities, which are countless as the stars of heaven, I captured in its entirety. Their powerful walls I smashed like pots, down to their lowest foundations, and I leveled them to the ground. I broke into countless orchards and let my army devour great quantities of food" (Luckenbill, 84, #157).

Greek Literature

Pindar, a lyric poet who lived from 518 to 438 BC., says, "whereas sand can never be numbered, and who could ever count up all the joys that he hath given to other?" Then later on in the same book Pindar says, "for, in truth, I could not have the skill to tell the number of the pebbles of the sea" (Olympian Odes 2.98-100, and 13.46; L&S, 240).

Plato who lived from 429 to 347 BC. in his book Timaeus (39b-d) describes the wanderings of the stars as "incalculable in multitude and marvelously intricate" (Farrington 1961, 218).

When the science of astronomy became more developed the Greeks numbered all the stars they could see. God has numbered the stars and calls them by name (Psalm 147:4; Isaiah 40:26). Hipparchus, the father of Greek astronomy, catalogued a total of 1,080 stars in the second century before Christ. Later Ptolemy still considered this an accurate count (Coder 1965, 45).

Latin Literature

Seneca born about 4 BC. in his book Naturales Quaestiones states, "innumberable planets (stellas) move in secret, unknown to us either on account of the dimness of their light or because the position of their orbits is such that they are eventually seen only when they reach the extremities of those orbits" (VII. 13.3-7).

Medicine

Leviticus 17:11 - "The Life of the flesh is in the blood"

Henry Morris states, "The fact that the blood sustains life is a relatively modern concept, especially associated with William Harvey’s discovery in 1616 of the circulation of the blood" (p.371). This concept of life being in the blood is a very old concept common to the ancient Near East (Kedar-Kopfstein 1978, 237-9). Let us look at a few examples.

In Mesopotamia the code of Hammurabi (about 1727 BC) which came well before Leviticus was written says, ta-ba-ak na-pis-ti-u ki-ma me-e which Driver translates, "to pour out his life-blood like water" (Driver & Miles 1955, 101-3). The Akkadian word napitum is very similar to the Hebrew word nephesh (Driver & Miles 1955, 295). Probably around the same time that the code of Hammurabi was written, Enuma Elish was composed which describes the creation of man. Tablet VI says, "Kingu it was who created strife, And caused Tiamat to revolt and prepare for battle. They bound him and held him before Ea; Punishment they inflicted upon him by cutting (the arteries of) his blood. With his blood they created mankind" (Heidel 1942, 47). Kedar-Kopfstein states, "Blood is regarded as the true life substance, so that damu (blood) and balatu (life) can be used in parallelism.In rites of renewal, the blood of the person being renewed is obtained by cutting the skin, or an animal is slaughtered as his substitute and its blood used (1978, 238).

In Ugaritic there are also several parallels of dm, "blood" with nps, "soul" or "life" as there are in Hebrew (see Genesis 37:21-22, 42:21-22; Deut. 12:23; Psalm 72:14, 94:21, and Ezekiel 3:18-21, 33:8-9: Fisher 1972, #155). In the story of Aqhat, the son of Daniel it says, spill (his) blood like a like a killer’ on his knees. Let his breath go forth like a wind, his life like spittle" (CTA 18 IV:24-25, 35-36; Gibson 1977, 112-3).

In Egypt in 1862 Edwin Smith bought a papyrus in Luxor that has been dated to 1600 BC, but the archaic words in the text suggest that it was copied from an earlier text around 2,500 BC (Reeves 1992, 51). The Edwin Smith papyrus contains descriptions of 48 surgical cases. At the beginning of the papyrus it says, "The counting of anything with the fingers (is done) to recognise the way the heart goes. There are vessels in it leading to every part of the body When a Sekhmet priest, any sinw doctor puts his fingers to the head to the two hands, to the place of the heart it speaks in every vessel, every part of the body" (Reeves 1992, 52, S1; Breasted 1930). Reeves states that the Egyptians "believed the heart to be the source of life within the body and may, indeed, have felt the pulse and measured it by comparison with their own pulses. The Egyptians also believed that all the inner juices of the body’ flowed through vessels emanating from the heart" (Reeves 1992, 52-3). We must not read our modern science back into this Egyptian text, or the Hebrew text. We must understand these texts in their cultural context.

Bibliography

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