Re: Does the Bible teach a flat earth?

From: Robert Schneider (
Date: Fri Dec 20 2002 - 15:03:55 EST

  • Next message: "Re: Does the Bible teach a flat earth?"

    I see that I mispoke myself in the first paragraph of my reply: I meant to
    say, and firmly believe, that there is NO INCOMPATIBILITY between a belief
    in the divine inspiration of Scripture and the
    historical-critical method, as the rest of the paragraph makes clear. Sorry
    for the confusion.


    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "Robert Schneider" <>
    To: "Peter Ruest" <>; <>
    Sent: Thursday, December 19, 2002 8:30 AM
    Subject: Re: Does the Bible teach a flat earth?

    > 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
    > > 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
    > > 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
    > of the Bible bring different hermeutical/interpretive methods to bear on
    > their understanding of what they consider to be divinely inspired. One
    > 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
    > 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
    > > 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
    > 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
    > > 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
    > 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
    > > 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
    > > of showing that biblical authors knew it (they may or may not have
    > > 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,
    > some pre-conceived philosophical position.
    > I stand by my interpretation and conclusion: the passages I analyized in
    > 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
    > 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,
    > Bob

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