Re: Does the Bible teach a flat earth?

From: Robert Schneider (
Date: Thu Dec 19 2002 - 08:30:32 EST

  • Next message: "Re: Evolution wars"

    I shall comment on only a few of Peter Ruest's responses ("snipped" below)
    to my last exchange with him:

    Peter writes:

    > It seems that our disagreement results from starting with different,
    > mutually incompatible axioms - an inspiration belief vs. a
    > source-critical belief. Therefore I find it necessary to discuss this
    > question first, before answering your objections. Please understand me
    > correctly. I don't suggest that you don't believe in a divine
    > inspiration of Scripture, but rather that you too easily adopt (at least
    > some of) the source fragmentation hypotheses of the historical-critical
    > method.

    As Michael Roberts pointed out in his note, there is no compatibility
    between a belief in the divine inspiration of Scripture and the
    historical-critical method. I think placing them against one another sets
    up an erroneous conflict. There is a difference between inspiration and
    interpretation; let's not confuse or conflate the two. Readers and scholars
    of the Bible bring different hermeutical/interpretive methods to bear on
    their understanding of what they consider to be divinely inspired. One can
    take a purely grammatical-historical approach to the texts of the OT, as
    Paul Seely and I have done on this topic, without applying any philosophical
    presuppositions, and reach the conclusions we have. Furthermore, on this
    topic, the issue of "source fragmentation hypotheses" (e.g., the
    "Documentary Hypothesis") is irrelevant.

    > I am not imposing modern knowledge on an old concept. In fact, I wrote
    > in my last post, "Does the Bible teach a flat earth, as your
    > argumentation suggests, or does it teach a spherical earth? I think it
    > does neither. But what _is_ formulated in the Bible is _at least_ as
    > easily harmonized (compatible) with the latter view as with the former."
    > All I wanted to show is that the flat-earth-mythology interpretation is
    > not at all required.

    I would not call what Paul and I advance as a "flat-earth-mythology
    interpretation." What I think we are both saying, using primarily
    grammatical analysis, is that the statements about the earth as part of
    creation in the OT refer to a "flat" land mass. I simply disagree that
    "what _is_ formulated in the Bible is _at least_ as easily harmonized
    (compatible) with the latter view as with the former." I don't think it is
    compatible at all.

    > If you read the argumentation given in our PSCF article indicated above
    > for trying to harmonize biblical texts with scientific facts, you'll see
    > that we don't claim infallibility for our interpretation, but that we
    > want to show the _possibility_ of a harmonization without forcing the
    > original texts. What we categorically reject is the near-infallibility
    > claim of the historical-critical method working absolutely outside any
    > consideration of divine inspiration.

    I reject the notion that persons who assert the traditional cosmological
    model are "forcing" the original texts or that they are "working absolutely
    outside any consideration of divine inspiration," as I noted above.

    >With the influence of divine
    > inspiration, we are not claiming that God teaches us science through
    > authors who couldn't know anything about it, but that He may have had
    > His reasons for guiding these authors to select some way of expressing
    > themselves which would not contradict reality, even if this reality were
    > unknown to them, and even if the expressions selected are also
    > meaningful in different cosmologies.

    I think your last sentence leaves us nowhere. It makes it impossible to
    test a text in any meaningful way, even using the commonly respected and
    accepted method of grammatical-historical interpretation.

    > What we do have as solid facts (or very nearly so) is the Hebrew or
    > Greek texts of the biblical originals. All else, whatever we find in
    > translations or theological opinions, is interpretation which has to be
    > judged on the basis of the facts. And the fact that a biblical text
    > sometimes can have more than one "meaning" or legitimate application...

    I agree, as I said in my article, that a text may have more than one
    meaning, but that with Augustine I think that what the author originally
    intended is "more worth knowing."

    > As far as the sphericity of the earth is concerned, it is not a question
    > of showing that biblical authors knew it (they may or may not have known
    > it), but that what they wrote is, by God's subtle leading, compatible
    > with it. Therefore any traces of a flat-earth view in translations
    > (gyros, rather than sphaira) or theological writings are completely
    > irrelevant to the question of the interpretation of the inspired
    > originals.

    I am left speechless by this assertion.

    >While we certainly may judiciously
    > take into consideration the choices made by translaters (such as those
    > of the Septuagint or the KJV), they are not decisive, and philosophical
    > opinions such as Jerome's or of other Bible scholars are even of much
    > less relevance.

    Jerome's was not a "philosophical position." He was rejecting a
    philosophical position on the basis of his own grammatical-historical
    interpretation of the text. Like Paul and myself he rejected the notion
    that Isa. 40:22a refers to a spherical earth on the basis of the Hebrew, not
    some pre-conceived philosophical position.

    I stand by my interpretation and conclusion: the passages I analyized in my
    article do not refer to a spherical earth and do not leave themselves open
    to that meaning without doing violence to the semantic domains of the Hebrew
    words in context.. This is the last thing I wish to say on the matter.
    Thanks for the exchange.

    Grace and peace, and a blessed Christmas,

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Thu Dec 19 2002 - 13:19:10 EST