Re: Seely's Views

From: <>
Date: Wed Aug 25 2004 - 18:50:47 EDT

Gordon wrote,

> The Queen of Sheba came from the ends of the earth (Matthew 12:42). Since
> Sheba was supposed to be at the far end of the Arabian peninsula, it seems
> that the "ends of the earth" refers to the end of the land, land being
> just as normal a translation of ge as earth is. (I presume that ge is the
> word used here. I haven't looked it up.)
> I am not aware that NT phraseology differs from that of the OT in
> reference to cosmological concepts. However the Greek cosmology of the
> first century was different from the Hebrews' cosmology of OT times. The
> Greeks knew the size and shape of the earth. If the early Christians had
> held on to the cosmology of OT times as being a part of their theology in
> spite of living in a society dominated by Greek culture, I would have
> expected it to have been a major issue used against Christianity just as
> the anti-science stereotype of Christians turns people away from seriously
> considering the gospel message today. Maybe someone on this list knows
> more about this. In Augustine's day he expressed concern that people got
> the impression that the Scriptures taught the nonsense about science that
> some Christians espoused.
In the OT, the "earth" and the "dry land" (Gen 1:9, 10) were the same thing,
a circular flat area surrounded by a circular sea. In NT times when at least
the educated and certainly some of the church fathers knew the earth was a
sphere, the word "earth" was, just as you say, still used to refer to the dry
land. It had become more of an ellipse because more countries were known, and it
continued to be believed that it was surrounded by an ocean. Since the "earth"
(dry land) ended at the bottom of Arabia where it meets the supposed
surrounding ocean, that latitude was understood to be the ends of the earth even across
Africa and to the East. One can see the world as Strabo the Geographer (1st
century AD) saw it in the front of the Loeb vol 1 of Strabo. So when Jesus said
that the Queen of Sheba came from the ends of the earth (the dry land), that
would have been understood literally. Sheba was directly across from Ethiopia,
and both Pliny and Strabo refer to Ethiopia as "the ends of the earth."
(Strabo I:1:6; 2:24; Pliny, N.H. II:80:190; 112:245).

There is not much discussion of cosmology in the fathers, and they usually
had no conflict with the Greeks because they believed in a spherical earth and
the Greeks believed in a solid firmament and that the ocean surrounded the dry
land. The only conflict seems to be the sea above the firmament, which the
Greeks laughed at because the firmament being spherical would not hold water
above it. They said it would run off. (The OT concept, incidentally, is that the
sea above connected to the sea below the earth, one big sea surrounding the
entire universe.). Ambrose (or it may have been Basil) answered the Greeks in a
good creation science way by saying there was a crown on top of the firmament,
sort of like a modern kids' backyard swimming pool, that held the water above
the firmament in place.

Received on Wed Aug 25 19:20:58 2004

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