Did Bible writers believe the Earth was flat?
No, this false idea is not taught in Scripture.
Some Bible critics have claimed that Revelation 7:1 assumes a flat Earth since the verse refers to angels standing at the “four corners” of the Earth. Actually, the reference is to the cardinal directions: north, south, east, and west. Similar terminology is often used today when we speak of the sun's rising and setting, even though the Earth, not the sun, is doing the moving. Bible writers used the “language of appearance,” just as people always have. Without it, the intended message would be awkward at best and probably not understood clearly. [DD]
A literal translation of Job 26:10 is “He described a circle upon the face of the waters, until the day and night come to an end.” A spherical Earth is also described in Isaiah 40:21-22—“the circle of the earth.”
Note, the Biblical Hebrew word for “circle” (חוג—chuwg) can also mean “round” or “sphere.”
“The Earth a Sphere—Certain astronomical relations were recognized very early. The stars appear as if attached to a globe rotating round the Earth once in 24 hours, and this appearance was clearly familiar to the author of the Book of Job, and indeed long before the time of Abraham, since the formation of the constellations could not have been effected without such recognition. But the spherical form of the heavens almost involves a similar form for the Earth, and their apparent diurnal rotation certainly means that they are not rigidly connected with the Earth, but surround it on all sides at some distance from it. The Earth therefore must be freely suspended in space, and so the Book of Job describes it: ‘He stretcheth out the north over empty space, and hangeth the Earth upon nothing’ (Job 26:7).” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)]
Proverbs 8:27 also suggests a round Earth by use of the word circle (e.g., New King James Bible and New American Standard Bible). If you are overlooking the ocean, the horizon appears as a circle. This circle on the horizon is described in Job 26:10. The circle on the face of the waters is one of the proofs that the Greeks used for a spherical Earth. Yet here it is recorded in Job, ages before the Greeks discovered it. Job 26:10 indicates that where light terminates, darkness begins. This suggests day and night on a spherical globe. [JSM]
The Hebrew record is the oldest, because Job is one of the oldest books in the Bible. Historians generally [wrongly] credit the Greeks with being the first to suggest a spherical Earth. In the sixth century B.C., Pythagoras suggested a spherical Earth. [JSM]
The Greeks also drew meridians and parallels. They identified such areas as the poles, equator, and tropics. This spherical Earth concept did not prevail; the Romans drew the Earth as a flat disk with oceans around it. [JSM]
The round shape of our planet was a conclusion easily drawn by watching ships disappear over the horizon and also by observing eclipse shadows, and we can assume that such information was well known to New Testament writers. Earth's spherical shape was, of course, also understood by Christopher Columbus. [DD]
The implication of a round Earth is seen in the book of Luke, where Jesus described his return, Luke 17:31. Jesus said, “In that day,” then in verse 34, “In that night.” This is an allusion to light on one side of the globe and darkness on the other simultaneously. [JSM]
It is also interesting to note that there are 16 scriptures which refer to God stretching out the heavens. These are remarkable confirmations that the Bible is true, as we know today that the heavens are rapidly expanding. [TH]
“When the Bible touches on scientific subjects, it is entirely accurate.” [DD]
Content used by permission from:
- Dr. Donald DeYoung, Ph.D. (Physics), Astronomy and the Bible, pg. 17, published by Baker Book House
- Dr. Joan Sloat Morton, Ph.D. (Biology and related scientific studies), Science in the Bible (Chicago: Moody Press, 1978), p. 13
- Thomas H. Henderson, Christian Answers Network
Edited by Paul S. Taylor, Christian Answers Network
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