The Scriptural Basis for a Geocentric Cosmology

E-World
© 1992-2008 by Glenn Elert
All Rights Reserved -- Fair Use Encouraged

25 April 1999

A translation of this article into Hebrew (without the New Testament references) is also available through Hofesh -- an organization that combats Orthodox Jewish religious coercion in Israel.


Table of Contents


Preface

Those who believe in the literal truth of the Bible are in for a shock. The Bible describes a cosmos that few of us would recognize today.

You'd think Ralph Reed and Jerry Falwell would be up in arms over these facts. Massive government bureaucracies send spacecraft to distant planets. The liberal media are awash in images of a spherical earth. (The Universal Studios logo is a globe!) Children in public schools are taught from Kindergarten that the earth revolves around the sun. With the exceptions of the persistent use of the terms "sunrise" and "sunset," our modern world is flooded with images of heretical cosmologies that remove the earth from its God-given place at the center of all things. Only an atheist would buy the notion that we live on a tiny rock, circling an insignificant star in a galaxy of billions of stars in a universe of billions of galaxies. Why would God place his most holy of all creations in such location? Surely, no true believer in the Scriptures -- the divine and unerring word of God -- would accept the scientific notion that we live in place that is not special in the eyes of our Creator. I find it quite reasonable to insist on a Constitutional amendment requiring all Supreme Court justices to swear their allegiance to geocentrism and flat-earthism. Our souls and the souls of our children lie in their hands.


Introduction

O.K. You can stop hyperventilating now. The previous paragraphs are an example of a rhetorical device known as hyperbole. A hyperbole is an exaggerated statement that is not meant to be taken literally, but is used to emphasize a point. The purpose of this essay is to demolish the notion that the Bible has any scientific relevance whatsoever. In particular, I aim to show that the same thinking that leads devout fundamentalists to deny evolution as atheism must also lead them to embrace geocentrism and flat-earthism as God-given truths.

So why would I do this? What got me started on the road to endless arguments? I work as a teacher in the New York City public school system. From time to time, I'm asked quite poignant and perceptive questions.

So here I am one day, trying to remember all the details behind the progression from the geocentrism of Aristotle and Ptolemy to the heliocentrism of Copernicus and Galileo when this student asks me the question of the day?

Where, indeed? I remember learning that the earth was created in six days in Sunday school, but I don't remember anybody teaching geocentrism. And yet five hundred years ago, that would have been the case. If not in religion class, then in secular classes taught by church-sanctified masters, Europeans were learning that the earth was the center of all things and that the sun, moon, and planets revolved around it. Prior to that, they might have even learned that the earth was flat and that the sky was a solid covering that protected the earth from the waters beyond. Of course, they also learned reasonably useful things like literacy, numeracy, geography, and history. We have no problem accepting that these subjects were full of what we now recognize as errors and limitations, but when it comes to biology, the beliefs of two to four thousand years ago are accepted by some as fact. The earth and all that is on it, including all living things, were created in the literal span of six terrestrial days (today, roughly 24 hours).

O.K. If you want to play that game, then let's go. If you want to use millennia old Scripture to support your half-baked scientific notions then I can do the same with mine (which you must remember, I don't really believe in). What does the Bible actually say about the nature of cosmology? Let's open the Good Book and read it with the same uncritical eye as that of the anti-evolutionists. Let the Scriptures speak for themselves.


Scriptural Cosmology

When more than one citation is presented below a descriptive paragraph, their order on the page is the same as their order in the Bible.

The mobility of the sun

The most important biblical quote supporting a geocentric universe can be found in the Book of Joshua. This will be used as the starting point for our scriptural cosmology.

Joshua 10:12-13
Then spoke Joshua to the Lord in the day when the Lord gave the Amorites over to the men of Israel; and he said in the sight of Israel, "Sun, stand thou still at Gibeon, and thou Moon in the valley of Aijalon." And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stayed in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day.

The miracle of Joshua appears again as a reference in The Book of Habakkuk.

Habakkuk 3:11
The sun and moon stood still in their habitation at the light of thine arrows as they sped, at the flash of thy glittering spear.

The evidence in support of a geocentric model is overwhelming here. Joshua commanded the sun to stand still. He did not order the earth to cease rotating nor did he qualify his statement with the divine knowledge that the sun was merely made to appear stationary. The sun was commanded to stand still because it is the sun that moves. Descriptions of its motion can be rather poetic.

Psalms 19:4-6
yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes forth like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and like a strong man runs his course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and there is nothing hid from its heat.

Ecclesiastes 1:5
The sun rises and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises.

The stability of the earth

On the other side of the geocentric coin, if the sun moves then the earth must not move. There are a few passages which more-or-less forbid the motion of the earth.

1 Chronicles 16:30
tremble before him, all earth; yea, the world stands firm, never to be moved.

Psalms 93:1
The Lord reigns; he is robbed in majesty; the lord is robbed, he is girded with strength. Yea, the world is established; it shall never be moved.

Psalms 96:10
Say among the nations, "The Lord reigns! Yea, the world is established, it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity."

In addition, the notion of an earth with a "foundation" is quite common. This leads one to conclude that the earth is quite stable.

2 Samuel 22:16
Then the channels of the sea were seen, the foundations of the world were laid bare, at the rebuke of the Lord at the blast of the breath of his nostrils.

Psalms 18:15
Then the channels of the sea were seen, and the foundations of the world were laid bare, at thy rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils.

Psalms 102:25
Of old thou didst lay the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands.

Proverbs 8:27-29
When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth,

Isaiah 48:13
My hand laid out the foundation of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand forth together.

John 17:24
Father, I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which thou hast given me in thy love for me before the foundation of the world.

The firmness of the earth's foundation is open to some discussion, however. Earthquakes may or may not be allowed.

Psalms 104:5
Thou didst set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be shaken.

Job 9:6
who shakes the earth from its place, and its pillars tremble.

Isaiah 24:18
He who flees at the sound of the terror shall fall into the pit; and he who climbs out of the pit shall be caught in the snare. For the windows of heaven are opened, and the foundations of the earth tremble.

The earth's geo-architecture is also uncertain. Compare the following passages.

1 Samuel 2:8
He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, and on them he has set the world.

Job 9:6
who shakes the earth from its place, and its pillars tremble.

Job 38:4-6
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements -- surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone?

The shape of the earth

In any case, the earth is not spherical. According to the Scriptures, from a very high spot (heaven, for example) one could see the entire earth such that nothing would be hidden. Such a thing is not possible with a spherical earth as the opposite side can't be seen directly. This implies that the earth is flat.

Job 28:24
For he looks to the ends of the earth, and sees everything under the heavens.

Psalms 19:4-6
yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes forth like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and like a strong man runs his course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and there is nothing hid from its heat.

Daniel 4:10-11
The visions of my head as I lay in bed were these: I saw, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth; and its height was great. The tree grew and became strong, and its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth.

Matthew 4:8
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them;

Isaiah 40:22
It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;

From a great distance, a sphere would look like a circle. Perhaps the phrase "circle of the earth" refers to the outline of the earth? Perhaps. But then how could one see "all the kingdoms of the world? Those on the back hemisphere would remain hidden. The next passages should remove this confusion.

Psalms 136:6
to him who spread out the earth upon the waters, for his steadfast love endures forever;

Isaiah 44:24
Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb; "I am the Lord, who made all things, who stretched out the heavens alone, who spread out the earth -- Who was with me? --

If the earth were spherical, one would use a verb other than "spread out" to describe its creation (balled up, gathered up, gathered together, anything but spread out). One might say they "spread out" batter to make pancakes but no one would ever say they "spread out" hamburger to make meatballs. The earth in the Bible was "spread out" because it is flat.

This next verse appears to describe an earth that tele-literate humans would recognize.

Job 26: 7
He stretches out the north over the void, and hangs the earth upon nothing.

The highlighted portion reads like a description of the earth as seen from outer space. The remainder is entirely obscure, however. What void are they talking about? What does it mean to "stretch out the north"? Help me somebody.

The extent of the earth

Not only is the earth flat, it is also finite.

Psalms 103:12
as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

On a spherical earth, one could travel east or west indefinitely. This passage seems to be saying that there is a limit to the directions east and west. That is, after some long journey, one would run out of east or west having reached the end of the earth. This contention is further justified in numerous passages.

Deuteronomy 28:64
And the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other; and there you shall serve other gods, of wood and stone, which neither you nor your fathers have known.

Deuteronomy 33:17
His firstling bull has majesty, and his horns are the horns of a wild ox; with them he shall push the peoples, all of them, to the ends of the earth; such are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and such are the thousands of Manasseh.

1 Samuel 2:10
The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king, and exalt the power of his anointed.

Job 28:24
For he looks to the ends of the earth, and sees everything under the heavens.

Job 38:13
that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it?

Psalms 19:4-6
yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes forth like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and like a strong man runs his course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and there is nothing hid from its heat.

Psalms 22:27
All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him.

Psalms 46:9
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the chariots with fire!

Psalms 48:10
As thy name, O God, so thy praise reaches to the ends of the earth. Thy right hand is filled with victory;

Psalms 59:13
consume them in wrath, consume them till they are no more, that men may know that God rules over Jacob to the ends of the earth;

Psalms 61:2
from the end of the earth I call to thee, when my heart is faint. Lead thou me to the rock that is higher than I;

Psalms 65:5
By dread deeds thou dost answer us with deliverance, O God of our salvation, who art the hope of all the ends of the earth, and of the farthest seas;

Isaiah 41:9
you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, "You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off";

Jeremiah 51:16
When he utters his voice there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth.

Daniel 4:10-11
The visions of my head as I lay in bed were these: I saw, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth; and its height was great. The tree grew and became strong, and its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth.

Mark 13:27
And then they will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

The edge of the earth

The phrase "the midst of the earth" from Daniel implies that not only does the earth have a boundary it also has a center. Since trees grow only on the earth's surface, the earth's center must also be on its surface. A sphere has its center beneath its surface which means that the earth is not a sphere but some sort of plane geometric figure. This raises another question. What is the shape of the earth's boundary? The answer is somewhat puzzling.

Job 26:10
He has described a circle upon the face of the waters at the boundary between light and darkness.

Job 37:3
Under the whole heaven he lets it go, and his lightning to the corners of the earth.

Proverbs 8:27-29
When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth,

Isaiah 11:12
He will raise an ensign for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

Isaiah 40:22
It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;

Isaiah 41:9
you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, "You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off";

Ezekiel 7:2
"And you, O son of man, thus says the Lord God to the land of Israel: An end! The end has come upon the four corners of the land.

Revelation 7:1
After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on the earth or sea or against any tree.

Revelation 20:8
and will come out to deceive the nations which are at the four corners of the earth, that is, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea.

The nature of the sky

There is far less confusion when it comes to the heavens. The sky covers the earth like a tent and we live under it. The is no mention of an atmosphere in the Bible, nor of the preferential scattering of blue light by nitrogen molecules (nor any mention of nitrogen nor of molecules). The sky protects us and keeps us safe not by filtering out ionizing radiation but by its sheer strength. The sky of the Bible is solid -- a firmament.

Job 22:14
Thick clouds enwrap him, so that he does not see, and he walks on the vault of heaven.

Job 37:18
Can you, like him, spread out the skies, hard as a molten mirror?

Proverbs 8:27-29
When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth,

Isaiah 40:22
It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;

Isaiah 44:24
Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb; "I am the Lord, who made all things, who stretched out the heavens alone, who spread out the earth -- Who was with me? --

Isaiah 48:13
My hand laid out the foundation of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand forth together.

2 Corinthians 5:1
For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Not only does God walk around on the heavens, so too does the sun, or rather it runs around on the heavens.

Psalms 19:4-6
yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes forth like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and like a strong man runs his course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and there is nothing hid from its heat.

The nature of the stars

The stars are exactly as they appear -- mere points of light fastened to the sky that would fall to earth were they ever dislodged. Distant suns, far larger than the earth could not fall to earth but small points of light could.

Isaiah 14:12-13
"How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far north;

Daniel 8:10
It grew great, even to the host of heaven; and some of the host of the stars it cast down to the ground and trampled upon them.

Matthew 24:29
Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken;

Mark 13:25
and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

Revelation 6:13
and the stars of the sky fell to earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale;

Revelation 12:4
His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth;

Saint Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians spells it out more clearly -- the sun and the stars are different.

1 Corinthians 15:40-41
There are celestial bodies and there are terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another, There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.

The next verse describes an actual astronomical event.

Acts 19:35
And when the town clerk had quieted the crowd, he said, "Men of Ephesus, what man is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple keeper of the great Artemis, and of the sacred stone that fell from the sky?

Today we call these stones meteorites. Note how the contemporary connection between meteorites and shooting stars is not made. The Bible's authors appear not to care about its use as a scientific reference by future generations.

The water surrounding the earth

There are some truly odd references in the Bible (beginning on page one, no less) to there being waters above the heavens and beneath the earth. These references do not seem to describe rain or ground water as would be reasonable. Instead, they seem to promote the idea that the firmament of the heavens are holding back some unbelievably large reservoir and that the solid earth is floating in the ocean like a dumpling on soup.

Genesis 1:6-9
And God said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." And God made the firmament and separated the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so.

Psalms 136:6
to him who spread out the earth upon the waters, for his steadfast love endures forever;

Proverbs 8:27-29
When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth,

The waters behind the sky are kept in place by the strength of the firmament. Openings (windows) in the firmament could be the source of the flood that wiped out humanity in the time of Noah.

Genesis 7:11
In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventh day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth and the windows of the heavens were opened.

Genesis 8:2
the fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained,

Isaiah 24:18
He who flees at the sound of the terror shall fall into the pit; and he who climbs out of the pit shall be caught in the snare. For the windows of heaven are opened, and the foundations of the earth tremble.

The waters beneath the earth are far stranger. I can't say that I've ever seen them, but the Israelites must have. They were prohibited from worshiping graven images of the creatures that inhabited this subterranean sea. It wouldn't make sense to prohibit the worship of creatures that don't exist so therefore they must exist.

Exodus 20:4
You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;

Deuteronomy 4:16-18
beware lest you act corruptly by making a graven image for yourselves, in the form of any figures, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth.

Deuteronomy 5:8
You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the water under the earth;

The celestial and the terrestrial

Newton's great triumph was the unification of the terrestrial gravitation described by Galileo with the celestial gravitation described by Kepler. Much as a falling apple accelerates downward in free fall, so too does the moon accelerate radially in its orbit. Each body obeys the same law of universal gravitation. Had Newton read his Bible literally he would have seen the impossibility and insolence of his actions.

Genesis 11:4-7
Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, "Behold they are one people, and they have one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech."

Psalm 115:16
The heavens are the Lord's heavens, but the earth is given to the sons of men.

1 Corinthians 15:40-41
There are celestial bodies and there are terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another, There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.


Conclusion

The Bible cannot help us to understand astronomy. It disagrees with centuries of observation so dramatically that it fails at even the most elementary level. Telescopic observation is five hundred years old and portions of the Bible predate that by another couple thousand years (more or less). The cosmology of the Bible is the cosmology of the Prophets. On this account and at this time it is useless.

I'm sure one could repeat this exercise with other topics. What does the Bible say about geology? chemistry? atoms? bacteria? internal organs? disease? My assumption is that it would fail over and over again; that it would disagree so strongly with our current understanding that teaching from it would be beyond preposterous. And yet, here we are in a supposedly enlightened age debating the application of Scripture to the study of biology. Why have these people not put the same zeal into reforming the astronomy curriculum? How many verses have I cited above? Are they not collectively longer than the first chapter of Genesis? How many of God's words have to be strung together before their mass exceeds the sum total of the scientific knowledge on a subject? What more "proof" is needed? The earth is flat!

The shocking truth of it all is that the pseudoscientific, anti-evolutionary forces have compartmentalized their literalism. There is a deafening silence among the aforementioned ranks when it comes to scientific theories other than the origin and evolution of life on earth. Astronomy and the Bible: Questions & Answers (Baker Book House) is probably the only work to address the problem of the Bible's flat-earth, geocentric bias. The book reads like an Internet FAQ and is hodgepodge of elementary astronomy, Scripture, and wild speculation. I think it illustrates nicely, the doublethink needed to believe in the Bible as literal truth.

The message here is, I think, obvious. The Bible is the literal truth only when it's convenient and doesn't conflict with overwhelming evidence. In my view, this invalidates the core of the anti-evolutionary movement in its entirety. If the Bible is open to interpretation from time to time, then it is open to interpretation at any time. If the Bible is occasionally poetic, then it is possibly poetic at any time -- even on the first page, even on the last page, even on every page.


Works Cited


Annotated Bibliography of Resources for Further Study

This paper originally started out as a historical treatment of the progression from geocentrism to heliocentrism. Somewhere along the way I was sidetracked while wading through the Bible looking for relevant verses to hang Galileo. Along the way, I accumulated a wealth of links on related topics that I just can't seem to throw out.

General

Geocentric-Heliocentric Debate

Nicolaus Copernicus

Galileo Galilei

Giordano Bruno

Geocentrism & Flat-Earthism

Confessional Statements on Creation

Pro-Evolution

Anti-Evolution


Another quality webpage by

Glenn Elert
eglobe logo home | contact

bent | chaos | eworld | facts | physics