Dismiss Notice

Welcome to Christian Forums, a friendly forum to discuss Christianity in a friendly surrounding.

Your voice is missing! You will need to register to get access to the following site features:
  • Reply to discussions and create your own threads.
  • Our modern chat room. No add-ons or extensions required, just login and start chatting after you have posted 20 posts and have received 5 likes.
  • Access to private conversations with other members.

We hope to see you as a part of our community soon!

The Cosmological View of Biblical Writers

Discussion in 'Origins Theology' started by philadiddle, Jan 26, 2007.

  1. philadiddle

    philadiddle Drumming circles around you

    Messages:
    4,271
    Likes Received:
    3
    Marital Status:
    Married
    Faith:
    Christian
    I hold the view that the writers of genesis were describing an ancient cosmological view. Not that that was the point of Genesis, it was meant to be a backdrop for more important theological truths. The key points of this cosmology are;
    -the earth is flat
    -the earth is fixed and everything revolves around the earth
    -there are pillars below the foundations of the earth
    -there is a firmament above the earth, which contains the stars, sun, and moon
    -there are waters that are above the firmament, and there are windows in the firmament that let the water come down as rain or snow.
    Here is an illustration of that view. I'll try to find a better quality picture but this will do for now.

    [​IMG]

    There are others that have decided genesis is describing our current scientific understanding of the earth and the universe. This is often viewed as a literal approach, everything in the Bible must be literal or none can be trusted. The key points to that view are:
    -the earth is round
    -the earth rotates on it's axis, and revolves around the sun
    -the earth is not the center of the universe
    -rain is caused from condensation in the atmosphere
    -the earth has a molten core, then granite, then strata layers
    Here's a picture to keep in mind while reading the rest of this post.
    [​IMG]

    Lets read some passages in the bible and see which cosmological view they are describing.

    THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH
    Job 9:6 - He shakes the earth out of its place, and its pillars tremble;
    1 Samuel 2:8 - ...“For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, and He has set the world upon them.
    Psalm 75:3 - The earth and all its inhabitants are dissolved; I set up its pillars firmly. Selah
    All these verses say "pillars", so there must literally be pillars if the bible has to be taken literally

    GEOCENTRICITY
    1 Chronicles 16:30 - Tremble before Him, all the earth. The world also is firmly established, it shall not be moved.
    Psalm 96:10 - Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns; The world also is firmly established, it shall not be moved; He shall judge the peoples righteously.”
    Psalm 104:5 - You who laid the foundations of the earth, so that it should not be moved forever,
    All these verses seem to contradict Job 9:6, listed above, where it says the earth was moved. They are also used as evidence that the earth doesn't move, and everything revolves around it.

    FLAT EARTH
    Matthew 4:8 - Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.
    This verse could be interpreted as a vision that Jesus saw, but it doesn't say that, and other times in the Bible when ppl have visions it clarifies that they had visions.

    WINDOWS IN THE SKY
    Genesis 7:11 - In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.
    Genesis 8:2 - The fountains of the deep and the windows of heaven were also stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained.
    2 Kings 7:2 - So an officer on whose hand the king leaned answered the man of God and said, “Look, if the LORD would make windows in heaven, could this thing be?” And he said, “In fact, you shall see it with your eyes, but you shall not eat of it.”
    Malachi 3:10 - Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.
    These verses all say "windows", that can only be literally interpreted as "windows"
    Deuteronomy 28:12 - The LORD will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand.
    This again is an example of opening the heavens where the water is to produce rain.

    SUNS PATH
    Joshua 10:12 - Then Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel: “Sun, stand still over Gibeon; And Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.”
    The sun was commanded to stand still, not the earth.
    Psalm 19:1-6
    1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
    And the firmament shows His handiwork.
    2 Day unto day utters speech,
    And night unto night reveals knowledge.
    3 There is no speech nor language
    Where their voice is not heard.
    4 Their line has gone out through all the earth,
    And their words to the end of the world.
    In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun,
    5 Which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
    And rejoices like a strong man to run its race.
    6 Its rising is from one end of heaven,
    And its circuit to the other end;
    And there is nothing hidden from its heat.
    This discusses how the sun has a path in the firmament, and goes from one side of the heavens to the other.
    Ecclesiastes 1:5 - The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it arose.
    The sun has 1 place it rises and 1 place it sets, this means the earth must be flat.

    If you compare all of those verses to the 2 pictures above, which one do they more accuratly describe? With this in mind, read the creation account and see which cosmological view it is describing.
     
  2. laptoppop

    laptoppop Servant of the living God

    Messages:
    1,981
    Likes Received:
    11
    Marital Status:
    Married
    Politics:
    US-Republican
    Faith:
    Non-Denominational
  3. rmwilliamsll

    rmwilliamsll avid reader

    Messages:
    6,007
    Likes Received:
    162
    Marital Status:
    Married
    Politics:
    US-Green
    Faith:
    Calvinist
    Please - not this old straw man again. There are tons of easy answers out there for each of these points - if you care to look.


    the flat earth is not a strawman for those living before roughly 400BCE. even later, as:
    http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/#Cosmas_Indicopleustes
    clearly shows.

    the strawman comes from saying that the medieval ages thought the world was flat.

    but the ANE Hebrews who wrote the OT certainly were using a flat earth cosmology.
     
  4. Mallon

    Mallon Senior Veteran

    Messages:
    6,033
    Likes Received:
    34
    Marital Status:
    Private
    Faith:
    Lutheran
    Indeed.
    If the ancient Hebrews knew the earth was spherical, why did they never refer to the earth as a sphere?
    If the ancient Hebrews knew the earth circled the sun, why did they always refer to the sun circling the earth?
    If the ancient Hebrews knew the earth did not literally sit on pillars and that the sky didn't literally have windows in it, why do they always speak as though they did?
    Unfortunately, most of the links laptoppop posted come off as ad hoc, knee-jerk reactions. It's no secret that for thousands of years, the world's best astronomers worked under the assumption of the geocentric, flat earth cosmology presented in the Bible (Ecclesiastes 1:5 suggests this perhaps most strongly of all). I would be so bold as to suggest that those YECs who do not think the same way aren't "taking God at His word."
     
  5. Assyrian

    Assyrian Basically pulling an Obama (Thanks Calminian!)

    Messages:
    14,849
    Likes Received:
    29
    Marital Status:
    Married
    Faith:
    Christian
    Though I do wonder if 'windows of heaven' was simply a metaphor.
     
  6. philadiddle

    philadiddle Drumming circles around you

    Messages:
    4,271
    Likes Received:
    3
    Marital Status:
    Married
    Faith:
    Christian
    Metaphor? In the Bible? I thought the Bible had to be literal or it meant God was lying!
     
  7. jds1977

    jds1977 Regular Member

    Messages:
    284
    Likes Received:
    0
    Marital Status:
    Married
    Politics:
    US-Republican
    Faith:
    Baptist
    Isaiah 40:22 It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:
    maybe like my weatherman tells me every morning what time the sun "rose". lol
    Job 26:7 He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing.
    Does the bible contradict itself or do you have to interpret "windows of heaven" and "pillars of earth" as metaphors: kind of like "pillars of smoke" as in Song 3:6 and Joel 2:30. I guess you have to know when to interpret litterally and when to interpret metaphorically. Believe it or not, I, as a yec do believe in meatphors in the bible! Gasp! ok...have fun ripping my post apart, I have to study for a Sunday school lesson​
     
  8. philadiddle

    philadiddle Drumming circles around you

    Messages:
    4,271
    Likes Received:
    3
    Marital Status:
    Married
    Faith:
    Christian
    I have no intention of ripping your post apart, I'll just ask a question. Why is it when something like "pillars of the earth" is obviously a contradiction to modern science, you are ready to say that it is symbolic, yet when something like the creation account, as you have interpretted it, contradicts modern science it must be the science that is incorrect? Couldn't the creation account be symbolic as well?
     
  9. vossler

    vossler Senior Veteran

    Messages:
    2,444
    Likes Received:
    46
    Marital Status:
    Married
    Faith:
    Baptist
    I rather like the idea of it all being a metaphor, it really allows for all sorts of theology, nothing absolute mind you, but it sure makes for very seeker friendly environment. ;)
     
  10. laptoppop

    laptoppop Servant of the living God

    Messages:
    1,981
    Likes Received:
    11
    Marital Status:
    Married
    Politics:
    US-Republican
    Faith:
    Non-Denominational
    Yes, but that's another straw man as well. Nobody is saying *everything* is literal in the Scriptures. There are obvious stories, poems, songs, etc.

    However, the first chapter of Genesis, while told in a flowing repeating format, has a number of items, such as specifying morning and evening periods for each of the days, that require a more literal understanding than the total spiritualization that some would make of it. This is not to say that there are not a wonderful set of spiritual truths as well -- God's power is manifest in redemptive history -- true as history, but also with glorious depths of meanings for us.
     
  11. jds1977

    jds1977 Regular Member

    Messages:
    284
    Likes Received:
    0
    Marital Status:
    Married
    Politics:
    US-Republican
    Faith:
    Baptist
    Does "science" contradict the Genesis creation account? Maybe we need to define science. We can't test the creation account just like we can't test apes evolving to man...I guess it's more of a perspective of history. we see the same evidence, I just view it through a biblical perspective while evolutionists view it through man's perspective. I have yet to observe any dog that I've ever had breed turn into something other than a dog. If I breed a dog w/ a dog...I get a dog...that's observable and science to me. But, if I say..."I think this dog came from a cat 100 yrs. ago because they both have 4 legs, 2 ears, etc...", I've left science.
    Genesis 1 tells us of a 6 day creation...then, in Ex. 20:11, the 6 day creation is affirmed. If it were a metaphor, surely it would've been more obvious...kind of like Gen 22:17 when He talks about Abraham's seed as the stars of the sky and sand on the seashore. One thing I've noticed throughout the centuries of "modern science" is that modern science is sometimes wrong...I'll put my faith in God's Word anyday.
    ...I don't know...maybe someone should explain the exact definition of "science".
     
  12. philadiddle

    philadiddle Drumming circles around you

    Messages:
    4,271
    Likes Received:
    3
    Marital Status:
    Married
    Faith:
    Christian
    ok, lets define it with dictionary.com
    1.a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws: the mathematical sciences.
    2.systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.
    3.any of the branches of natural or physical science.
    4.systematized knowledge in general.
    5.knowledge, as of facts or principles; knowledge gained by systematic study.
    6.a particular branch of knowledge.
    7.skill, esp. reflecting a precise application of facts or principles; proficiency.

    I think #2 most accuratly describes what I'm talking about.

    Yes we can, and we do. For example, if apes evolved into man, it could be falsified by finding homonide remains below the common ancestor, but we don't. There would also be biological similarities like ERVs, but that's for another thread. Also, weather the strata in the earth formed quickly or over billions of years can also be tested. There will be different evidences found. We see things like wind blown desert erosion in the jurassic period, this couldn't be put down by a flood. There are hundreds of simple evidences for this kind of thing.


    We don't see the same evidence. YECs have to ignore most of the evidence to hold onto their belief.

    What you just said was true, but it doesn't have the application you intend it to have. No one is saying that something evolved into something completely different. Anything in the genus canine will always make more canine. Anything in the genus animilia will always make animilia. Any amniote will make an amniote. I hope you get the point. Ask questions if you don't so I can clarify.
    It is just as obvious, since the evidence God gave us in the earth, and the ability God gave us to interpret that evidence points to an old earth. Some things in the Bible must be taken into context in a cultural way, as I have tried to demonstrate in the OP.


    Which interpretation? There are many denominations with different ways of reading and interpreting the Bible. How do you know all your views are correct? Do you think any of them will change? The great thing about science is that it has to admit it was wrong if new evidence comes into light. However, YECs don't need to follow this simple logic, because they've already decided that God has told them they are right, so evidence doesn't matter.

    ok, now that i gave a definition of science, you can talk about it without putting it in quotations.
     
  13. Mallon

    Mallon Senior Veteran

    Messages:
    6,033
    Likes Received:
    34
    Marital Status:
    Private
    Faith:
    Lutheran

    I'm sure I don't need to tell you that a circle is not a 3-dimensional object.

    Does your weatherman also tell you that after the sun sets at night, it rushes through the cosmos back to its starting position? (Ecc. 1:5)​

    Wouldn't be the first time. See 2 Samuel 24:1 vs. 1 Chronicles 21:1, or Numbers 25:9 vs. 1 Corinthians 10:8.
    How can YOU tell?​
     
  14. Mallon

    Mallon Senior Veteran

    Messages:
    6,033
    Likes Received:
    34
    Marital Status:
    Private
    Faith:
    Lutheran
    The "pillars of the earth"/"four corners of the earth"/"windows of heaven" allusions are oft-repeated throughout the Bible as well. Why do you feel this same repetition does not warrant taking them literally, too?
     
  15. Assyrian

    Assyrian Basically pulling an Obama (Thanks Calminian!)

    Messages:
    14,849
    Likes Received:
    29
    Marital Status:
    Married
    Faith:
    Christian
    The problem with this illustration is it seem so, well, First Millennium BC. I can't imagine the nomadic pasturalists of Genesis having such a joined up cosmology. They may have talked about the dome of heaven, the pillars of the earth and the sun rushing around the sky, but combining them all into a systematic cosmology sounds like something that belongs to a much later period.

    Instead of these features being the focus of a study of the cosmos, they simply served as details in a backdrop for narratives about the gods in the case of pagan society or God for the Hebrews. People in that age and culture didn't worry that the narratives weren't coherent and the timelines contradicted each other, let alone that the background details gave a coherent physical cosmology.

    If the timeline of Gen 1 and 2 doen't even fit together, should we expect to be able to build a cosmology? What are the heavens? Are they what God created in verse one, or the firmament he created on day two? When did the first day begin? When God created light in verse 3? When he called the light day in the beginning of verse 5? Or when morning came at the end of verse 5? How was there day without a sun. Were animals created before or after man?

    That is not the point of the story and I think it might be as much of a mistake for YECs to build their 6 day creation cosmogenies from it as it is for TEs to build their back of a turtle cosmologies from the same texts.
    [​IMG]


    Good question. Some of the OT cosmology was clearly meant literally. They certainly believed the sun circled the earth. But did they believe the earth had pillars and foundations? Did they believe the sky had windows? Or are they house metaphors?

    Our modern weathermen certainly don't believe the sun circles the earth. but that doesn't mean the phrase is a metaphor. Lets have a look at a more ancient document.

    If we found these phrases in a 14 century document, how would we decide between metaphor and literal description?

    Raining cats and dogs except in Fortean Times weird weather catalogues is never meant literally. On the other hand, the sun setting would certainly have been a literal description in Chaucer's time, though not to a modern meterologist. It is only passages like Eccles 1:5 that tell us which they meant literally.
     
  16. rmwilliamsll

    rmwilliamsll avid reader

    Messages:
    6,007
    Likes Received:
    162
    Marital Status:
    Married
    Politics:
    US-Green
    Faith:
    Calvinist
    Instead of these features being the focus of a study of the cosmos, they simply served as details in a backdrop for narratives about the gods in the case of pagan society or God for the Hebrews. People in that age and culture didn't worry that the narratives weren't coherent and the timelines contradicted each other, let alone that the background details gave a coherent physical cosmology.

    i think that this is a crucial element in the way to look at these thing. God is, by necessity, using these elements of ANE culture in order to talk, in order to write the text. Without these elements there can be no coherent and understandable text. Every human beings has some idea of the sky and the earth. Maybe not even as developed as this fundamentally Babylonian cosmology, but some explanation of what surrounds him.

    The question is not really if the OT is presented in these terms, but if these elements are being taught as binding on all subsequent believers. Like slavery, an ancient cosmology is being used, again like slavery, it is not being taught as an eternal binding law that in order to be a Jew or a Christian you must believe. Christians are free to adopt the elements of any cosmology that they want, as long as the fundamental element "God created all" is the big take home message.
     
  17. philadiddle

    philadiddle Drumming circles around you

    Messages:
    4,271
    Likes Received:
    3
    Marital Status:
    Married
    Faith:
    Christian
    Actually, mesopotamian and egyptian myth had visual pictures of the earth, and it's place in the universe. There were several different, but similar cosmologies in the world at that time. The mesopotamians believed the waters above were held up by a tent, with the sun, moon, and stars being inside the tent. There were compartments in the tent that opened to let the waters in, so it could rain. Egyptians believed the dome was a solid sapphire, giving it it's color, and the sun, moon and stars were etched in the solid dome. Again, they believed that windows opened up to let the waters from the heavens come down to earth.

    I agree that they were just details in the backdrop of a greater spiritual/theological truth. Just like the creation account contains important spiritual/theological truths, but uses the ancient cosmological view as a backdrop for those truths.

    the heavens existed above the firmament, and contained water. The firmament is a solid dome above the earth's atmosphere, holding back the waters.

    this has to do with cosmogony, not cosmology (although they are closely related). I think the vague nature of the creation account is a strong indication that it is intended to be read as theological truths, and not as a literal cosmogony. The cosmogony is vague, but the theological truths are quite clear.

    yes they did
    yes they did

    no they are not
     
  18. Assyrian

    Assyrian Basically pulling an Obama (Thanks Calminian!)

    Messages:
    14,849
    Likes Received:
    29
    Marital Status:
    Married
    Faith:
    Christian
    Cool. Do you have links to any pictures? When do they date from?

    I find it hard to imagine nomadic shepherds thinking rain came from a hole in the sky rather from the clouds they were very familiar with.

    I suppose it depends on when the early chapters of Genesis date from. if they come from even the time of Abraham or the Exodus, then similarities to Egyptian or Babylonian cosmologies would indicate that in fact is their source. However if the texts were drawn from much older oral traditions then these could predate the developed cosmologies of Egypt and Babylon.

    Except that God created the expanse he called it heavens.

    Agreed. My point was that the accounts were not meant to provide a coherent picture of cosmogony or cosmology, anymore than you could work out a systematic family history of Ba'al from the epics.

    Agreed

    I suppose the question to ask is where nomads would have come up with house metaphors..? Was it looking at the whole of creation as God's (or gods') temple? Or is it if God was going to build the world it would be, well, some sort of building?
     
  19. philadiddle

    philadiddle Drumming circles around you

    Messages:
    4,271
    Likes Received:
    3
    Marital Status:
    Married
    Faith:
    Christian
    Assyrian,

    Sounds to me like we are agreeing. The point i'm trying to make isn't that they were trying to describe that cosmology, but that thats what cosmology they believed as they explain the theological truths in genesis and other parts of the bible.
     
  20. Assyrian

    Assyrian Basically pulling an Obama (Thanks Calminian!)

    Messages:
    14,849
    Likes Received:
    29
    Marital Status:
    Married
    Faith:
    Christian
    I am just trying to understand where the Ancient Hebrews stood in relationship to the ANE cosmologies especially when the cosmologies seem much more sophisticated than the Hebrews, though that said, the pasturalist Hebrews had roots in the sophisticated cultures of Ur and Egypt too.

    I wonder how these first systematic cosmologies came about? A geek priest (that's geek not Greek) with too much time on his hands picking out clues from the epics and combining them into a single illustration? Or a king demanding a mural of the cosmos and all the priests panicking to come up with something or their heads would decorate the room instead.

    The question is which came first, the cosmology or the language that describes it? Did the epics describe (I'm making it up here) a descent into an underworld with pillars because that is what the cosmology illustrations said. Or do the cosmologies show pillars because that is what the epics said? Could it come from an encounter with stalagmites?

    While the priest drew their cosmologies, do the details come from a common language describing the cosmos. In which case does the use of the language in an ancient text mean the people were referring to the systematic cosmology of the temples, or do they both come from the pre-cosmology descriptive language?
     
Loading...