Welcome to another Q&A! Today’s question is about the description of the earth given in the Genesis Creation account:
In Genesis, the bible describes a rather unusual Earth where we live on a flat Earth with water surrounding the land and water above the land held up by an expanse. To put it simply, the Bible is telling us we essentially live in a snowglobe underwater, which we know for a fact that this is not the case. This is in Genesis 1:6-8 NIV if you want to look it up yourself.
A very wise suggestion from an astute reader: Look it up! Let’s do that:
Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. 8God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.
Other translations say “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters,” or “”Let there be a canopy between bodies of water, separating bodies of water from bodies of water!” or “”Let there be a space between the waters, to separate the waters of the heavens from the waters of the earth.” In short, God makes something to be between two waters. Does this mean the earth is flat?
This is a fairly common question from modern readers, especially because we have been taught that pre-modern people (Everyone born before 1985) believed a lot of silly, unscientific things which we now know not to be true, such as cigarettes are good for you, or that
the Cubs would someday win the World Series. One of the things we are told pre-modern people believed was a flat earth and, we are told, the Bible teaches a flat earth.
Genesis does not describe a flat earth. This interpretation is NOT in the text, but is the result of cramming flat earth into the text and them using that as the lens through which to view the description. Nothing in the bible directly supports flat earth theory, and it was not the view of the church as a whole for 2,000 years. The Western world knew the shape and size of the earth since before Christ was born. The only debate in the church was the relative positions of the sun and planets. A lot of lies get told about this matter. See this for more about that- Ian Juby rants about the lie that the Church has always believed the earth to be flat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZrLMhjOPPM
Does water surround the land? Yes, look at any map. Is water UNDER the continents- actually, yes. Deep drilling and volcanic ejecta both show HUGE amounts of water under the land. Some scientists have speculated that more water exists UNDER the continents than in all of the oceans. I cite some sources and give more details about this HERE.
There are several good Creation/Pre-Flood models which make sense of this, and which help to explain the separation of the continents at the time of the flood. However, the deep time/planetary evolution model does not allow this, which is why its existence is a big deal. If the planetary formation model taught by most textbooks was true, there could NOT be water under the continents, let alone as much as is presently calculated.
As for water above the atmosphere- just look up. See those clouds? Now imagine them higher, and colder. That is what the common Creation models show for the canopy, and they show amazing ramifications, such as uniform temperatures globally (Explaining the palm trees in both arctic zone fossils), and higher air pressure, which we know has great results in living things, such as increased injury repair and increased oxygen utilization. Also, many have speculated that, in the present atmosphere, many dinosaurs, such as T Rex, could not have run more than a few feet before passing out, Apatosaurus could not have gotten enough air through his little nostrils to survive in our present density and oxygen concentration and the largest pterosaurs would not have been able to fly without a powerful headwind. It seems that they NEEDED a different atmosphere in order to survive.
So the flat earth in a slowglobe underwater is NOT what the Bible describes. Job 26:7 says “He stretches out the north over the void and hangs the earth on nothing.” And Isaiah 40:22 says “It is he who sits above the circle (or ball- same word in Hebrew) of the earth..” So a ball earth is not only defensible, but strongly implied if not directly stated in the old testament. All arguments asserting the opposite tend to rely on logical fallacies. Genesis does NOT say the earth is flat.
My very astute reader also said the following:
Genesis 1: 6-7 clearly states “And God said, “‘Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.’ So God made the expanse and SEPPATRATED THE WATER UNDER THE EXPANSE FROM THE WATER ABOVE IT.” (sorry for the all caps but idk how to bold letters in a wordpress comment). This “expanse” sounds to me like an air pocket and it would make sense that people back then could mistake the sky for water considering the blue colour, but GOD mistaking the sky for water? As with the video you shared, while Ian Juby was talking about the subject of the flat Earth he seems to be specifically talking about the misconception of Christopher Columbus and modern day flat Earthers, not the piece of scripture I cited.
Like I described above, many Creation models view the firmament (waters ABOVE) as a dome of water- probably ice or even something more exciting, like a metallic form of hydrogen- which would have surrounded the earth and created- according to these models- some very useful effects. They would have resulted in more uniform temperatures across the globe (less deserts and habitable polar regions, both of which fossils support), far less radiation from the sun which means no skin cancer and other harmful effects which we experience now. The air pressure would probably have been higher, and that would allow denser concentrations of oxygen and carbon dioxide, which would allow our bodies to heal FAR faster and allow plants to grow much faster and bigger. Fossil plants show that some species of plant could grow to ten times their present size, and this model explains how that is possible. The air pocket, as you call it, would be the atmosphere which, it seems, was not made with the earth but in the days after, and the firmament (as some translations call the water above) would be the ceiling which kept it from escaping in to space like it does now.
Even if the waters above are nothing more than the clouds, consider that an average storm cloud (just one of those) is a pile of water that weighs as much as 350 blue whales. Since the text does not specify that the water was in a liquid state, we should not force that into the text without justification. Water is water. Without the atmosphere, clouds as we have them would be impossible, so even if this is just the atmosphere being put between oceans and clouds, a flat earth interpretation is not required by the text. It may actually just explain the creation of the water cycle.
As for the video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZrLMhjOPPM), yes, Ian Juby is talking about the misconception that pre-modern people (especially the church) believed the earth to be flat. Now, I won’t argue that NO ONE believed that. Some church fathers did. Some people still believe it today. However, the simple facts remain:
- It was never the common view in the church or among the Jews.
- Even if it had been, that doesn’t mean the bible teaches it. Biblical teaching is based on the Bible, not on the personal thoughts of people who own a copy. If every Christian on earth decided that Jesus was born in Canada, that would not make it a biblical teaching. We must determine the meaning of a text by the text and not on the readers.
When you hear people try to use the Bible to support a flat earth, just remember that they are imposing a certain view on the text which the text does not demand, just as people have tried to defend geocentrism by saying the bible refers to the sun rising and setting, and thus it teaches that the sun orbits us. But we still say the sun rises and sets. It would make no sense to say WE are merely describing what it looks like to us, where as the Bible MUST be talking about the large scale structure of the solar system. Genesis starts out as a universal description of the creation, but it quickly becomes earth-centric because it is a description of the earth for people who live there. God may have been painting that big heart shape on Pluto on day 4 of creation, but why would Genesis include that in His creation account for people who wouldn’t know about Pluto for another five thousand years? The Bible is earth centric in its descriptions because we are earth centric in our experience. That does not make it inaccurate.
Also, the sun rises and sets. It really does- just step outside and watch it. Keep in mind that much of science is determined by the point of view of the observer. The speed of a moving object is determined relative to the observer. A car is moving at 45 miles per hour OR standing still at the same time depending on if you are in the car or on the sidewalk. Similarly, the sun rises in our sky, just as earth orbits on its axis from the sun’s point of view. Neither is absolute and the other false. That is the indeterminate nature of science and language, and the kind of misunderstanding that attacks against the Bible are often built on. Just keep that in mind when someone tells you the Bible contradicts itself.
In summary- the bible is totally true and scientifically accurate, but it is primarily a book of history. The Genesis account of creation is an account of the week of creation as a real event, but it crams a full week into a single chapter, and it wasn’t written for us specifically in 2016. I suspect that previous generations knew what was meant by the Firmament or the Nephilim and didn’t have to ask, just as previous generations knew what “Mork and Mindy” was, or who the Marx Brothers were. That we don’t understand should not be falsely chalked up to ignorance on God’s part when it is in fact ignorance on our part. And you kids all need to watch Duck Soup. For reels.
I hope this helps.And remember, #JesusLovesYou
Got questions? Let me know. I am here to help.