Is Flat Earth Biblical Cosmology merely an Infidel's Delusion?

Pictured below are rough outlines of how ancient people viewed the cosmos, as based on their own ancient writings and any images they left behind that scholars could examine. The general uniformity of such ancient views has been pointed out by scholars for some time, most recently by Paul Seely here, here, and here.

In 2009 I composed a paper on the topic of “The Cosmology of the Bible” for publication in the book The Christian Delusion. Subsequently, a group of Christians at the blog Triablogue responded to that book and my chapter by composing an ebook that they titled, The Infidel Delusion. And since then another work has appeared on the web, this time by Ben at War on Error in which he defends the consensus view that biblical authors assumed a flat earth.

Ancient Cosmos

Benʼs response covers 100 or so questions raised in The Infidel Delusion and on Triablogue by Steve Hays, Paul Manata, and Jason Engwer.

I suggest reading the chapter with which the discussion began, “The Cosmology of the Bible” in The Christian Delusion, before one reads The Infidel Delusion, or Benʼs response to the Infidel Delusion.

My chapter compares ancient Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Hebrew descriptions of the cosmos, which in all cases was flat with God living overhead (not light-years away). I point to the words and works of leading scholars of ancient Near Eastern cosmologies, and also feature the views of Evangelical Christian scholars who accept the truth of such a consensus such as John Walton who teaches O.T. at Wheaton College and is author of The Lost World of Genesis 1: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate, and a forthcoming tome from Eisenbraunʼs in which he examines biblical cosmology more fully than he has in previous works.

Even Dr. Beale, a defender of biblical inerrancy and professor of N.T. at Westminster Theological Seminary, made the following admission concerning biblical cosmology in his book, The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism: Responding to New Challenges to Biblical Authority (Crossway Books, 2008):

“Do certain descriptions of the cosmos reflect only language expressing the ancient mythological worldview, which was built into the substructure of the biblical writers’ thinking through acculturation… ? Perhaps. I have discussed this with some ancient Near East scholars, and the best assessment they give me is that sometimes the cosmological language is purely phenomenological… sometimes it expresses the cosmic temple notion, and sometimes it reflects the socially constructed mythological geographical assumptions and understanding of the parts of the cosmos.” p. 195-196

So, Beale admit that “perhaps” the scholars who study ANE cosmologies are right. He also admits:

“Ancient Near Eastern concepts may have contributed to the theology of sacred space in the building of Israel’s tabernacle and temple. Examples include the eastward orientation, the placement of important cultic objects, the designation of areas of increasing holiness, and the rules for access to the Holy Place and Holy of Holies… circumcision and sacrificial offerings.

“Another option is that biblical writers unconsciously absorbed mythical worldviews about the cosmos, reproduced them in their writings, and believed them to be reliable descriptions of the real world and events occurring in the past real world—creation account, flood narrative, etc.—because they were part of their socially constructed mythological reality. If this is the case, which [I think] is unlikely, it would be impossible not to see ancient Near Eastern myths about the cosmos as inextricably intertwined with Israel’s theology, which would be a very difficult predicament for those [like me] who believe in the inspiration of Scripture.” p.216-217

My chapter focuses on the “very difficult predicament” that Beale is referring to.

If the cosmological assumptions of the authors of the Bible were incorrect, then one may wonder what other assumptions held by biblical authors might also be incorrect.

Is Genesis 1-11 with its tales of creation-flood-tower of Babel, history or myth? What about the last book in the Bible, the book of Revelation? Is it history or myth? Does the Bible begin and end with mythology rather than history?

And what do Christians mean when they say the Bible is “inspired?” Inspired in what way? Are there clear traits or agreed upon boundaries as to how one can determine exactly which writings, past, present and future, are “inspired” or not? And in what ways?

Christians, Jews, Muslims (as well as, conservative, moderate or liberal factions within each religious tradition) interpret verses, chapters, books, letters, even the canon differently. Which way is the “most inspired?”

Or is the “inspiration” of a written document something that can only be seen and acknowledged through the eyes of each discrete theological system of interpretation, which of course disagrees with the next theological system of interpretation?


Ben, who composed the Response to Triablogue had this to add after I asked him what he thought each of the Triabloggerʼs believed concerning the question of biblical cosmology:

“It is difficult to tell what Steve Hays really believes about many topics since he is typically too busy incoherently attacking the arguments of his opponent (and attacking his opponent directly) at the expense of being educational about things he knows or things he personally believes. I think weʼd have to be innocent Christian inquirers in order to get that kind of thing out of him. He seems to actually believe that there is a high probability that most ancient people had relatively accurate views about cosmology and that it would be almost impossible for most of them to take seriously any of their primitive imagery used. Jason Engwer seems open to the probability that the consistent use of primitive imagery does indicate that at least some of the Bible authors probably believed in what their imagery implies, but for the sake of the inerrant Bible didnʼt mean it somehow. Thatʼs probably the closest an inerrantist is going to get. Paul Manata doesnʼt comment enough for us to know what he believes. Others from Triablogue did not contribute to TID or post on the topic as far as I know.”

Ben added:

“This is the closest Hays comes to conceding some ground.”

“This is where Engwer gets closest.“

Christian Scholars Who Are Also Theologians And Biologists That Support Evolution Are Gathering Momentum On The Web…

Evolution and Christianity around the Blogosphere. Christians who are also pro-evolution are speaking up on the web more often than ever before.

See also…

5,000 Years of Cosmology in Pictures which draws on the book The Earliest Cosmologies by William F. Warren, which is available on Google Books.

John Waltonʼs Latest Book Is Helping Educate The Next Generation Of Evangelicals

I have already mentioned the Evangelical and O.T. scholar John Walton, who has studied ancient Near Eastern cosmological views, and who teaches at an Evangelical Christian college. But I think it apropos here to add a few paragraphs from Waltonʼs latest work published in 2010 (not the scholarly tome that Eisenbraunʼs is publishing in the near future, but something simpler that Walton wrote in order to help Christian educators teach their pupils about the Bible):

To quote Walton in the above work:

“The Bible tells about creation in relationship to how people thought about their world in ancient times. The ‘waters above’ are not the clouds, mist, and fog, and the ‘firmament’ is not invisible. In the ancient world they believed that the rain was held back by a solid sky.… In the ancient world everyone believed that since water came down (in the various forms of precipitation) there must be water up above the sky. If the water is there and doesnʼt come down all the time, something must hold it up. As a result, everyone in the ancient world believed that the sky was solid and held back heavenly waters.” -- John H. Walton & Kim E. Walton, The Bible Story Handbook: A Resource for Teaching 175 Stories from the Bible (Crossway Books, 2010)

One may also note that the publisher is the same (Crossway Books) in the case of Bealeʼs book, The Erosion of Inerrancy, and in the case of Waltonʼs book published two years later, The Bible Story Handbook.

Evangelical Christian educators have praised The Bible Story Handbook:

An excellent resource-Craig Williford, President, Trinity International University

Not only teachers of children but anyone who uses Bible stories to teach others should examine his or her use of narrative passages by the guidelines in this book.-Starr Meade, Author of Keeping Holiday and Training Hearts, Teaching Minds

Wow! What a resource!… a timeless gift for the teaching ministries of the Church of Jesus Christ.-Scottie May, Associate Professor of Christian Formation and Ministry, Wheaton College; co-author, Children Matter

It is a description of a method, with abundant examples, that may assist congregations to become ‘hermeneutical communities’ exercising responsible use of Scripture.—Linda Cannell, Academic Dean, North Park Theological Seminary

A monumental work, well worth the attention of every educator—including parents—who wants to teach the Bible to children.… Every church—and every teacher of children—should have a copy and make reading it a top priority.—Don Ratcliff, Professor of Christian Education, Wheaton College; author, ChildFaith: Experiencing God and Spiritual Growth with Your Children

I highly recommend this excellent book for those who want to teach the Bible insightfully to children and to adults. They help us all to take the text seriously, letting it speak as God intended.—Perry G. Downs, Professor of Educational Ministries, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

I recommend this book to everyone who understands the importance of clearly and accurately communicating God’s Word, especially to the youngest of God’s family—Diane Jordan, Director of Childrenʼs Ministry, College Church, Wheaton, IL

So I guess ancient Near Eastern scholarship continues to influence Evangelical scholars and is now trickling down to the next generation of younger Evangelicals who are reading the educational materials produced by those scholars.

What Did The Designer God Do? — My response to rjs's review of Denis O. Lamoureux’s book, Evolutionary Creation (rjs's rev. appeared at Jesus Creed)

Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution

Dear rjs, you concluded in your review of Denis L.ʼs book on Evolutionary Creation that you wished he still left room for God to intervene in the evolutionary process via miracles of some sort. But such a view of God as a micro-manager raises other kinds of questions. Below are my questions:

You want to keep god in the evolutionary loop and say that god did something, possibly intervening in evolution. Fine, but what did god do? Nudge a cosmic ray to mutate a specific DNA linage in a specific gene? God would also have to nudge some cosmic rays away from mutating a gene that God wanted to preserve. So God is nudging cosmic rays to hit certain things, and also nudging some rays away from certain parts of the genome he wants to maintain and protect. Is that what you believe? Because based on what we know god would indeed have to be doing both. Or,… God allows evolution to occur as Denis suggests.

Cosmic rays of course are for point mutations. Thereʼs also molecules inside the cell like free radicals that cause mutations when they hit upon a certain part of an exposed DNA chain. And thereʼs mutations that occur naturally when DNA breaks unevenly during cell division for reproductive cell formation (meiosis). But the same question applies as in the case of cosmic rays. Is God directing where some free radicals float in the cell, and directing breakages in specific places, and also moving some free radicals away from certain points, and preventing some uneven breakages? It doesnʼt seem like god is doing any of this genetic engineering and preserving because then why is god allowing children to be born with horrendous defects, and others born with oncogenes that raise the risks of specific diseases including cancers, autoimmune and muscular diseases later in life? If god is directing mutations why do 50% of fertilized eggs simply die?

A similar question involves bodies flying about randomly in space like asteroids that sometimes strike Jupiter, or our moon and earth, and subsequent mass extinctions on earth. The same God who carefully directed the mutations of untold species of dinosaurs to produce just the right Triceratops and T. Rex, then simply shakes up His Designerʼs Etch-I-Sketch and kills them all enmasse with a big meteor? Thatʼs a lot of directed mutations to produce just a huge bunch of “designed” creatures to kill them all.

See also this quotation:

“The evolutionary process is not at all a perfect one and many traits created by it are not even adaptive. It is precisely because of this that we suffer from such unadaptive traits as back pain, fallen arches, impacted wisdom teeth, varicose veins, appendicitis, cystic fibrosis, sickle-cell anemia, Huntingtonʼs disease, schizophrenia, manic-depression, alcoholism, painful childbirth, and a host of other maladies which genetic evolution has created, but which natural selection has done nothing to eliminate.

“Moreover, each evolutionary change tends to bring with it new forms of pain and suffering that had not existed before…

“For example, sexuality is not absolutely superior to asexuality, and the evolution of the former has brought with it many forms of conflict and suffering that do not exist in organisms that reproduce without sex…

“Sociality is not absolutely superior to solitary life, and its evolution has created new forms of competition and conflict that are less frequent, or even unknown among asocial animals…

“Bipedalism [walking on two legs] is by no means absolutely superior to quadrupedalism [walking on four], and the evolution of a two-legged gait in Homo sapiens has brought with it countless adverse side effects…

“Intelligence and behavioral flexibility are by no means absolutely superior to instinctive behavior, and their evolution had brought with it many forms of [intellectual angst and] emotional pain that are virtually unknown in the nonhuman world…

“No animal has undergone more major changes during the course of its evolution than Homo Sapiens, and no animal has inherited a greater capacity for pain and suffering. With every evolutionary change we have sustained, we have discovered new ways to protect our genes and new ways to suffer for their benefit. With every passing generation, the aggregate price paid for their preservation has become dearer and dearer. And our genes - unlike us - remain blissfully ignorant of the staggering mass of suffering that has been endured for the sake of their perpetuation.”

Timothy Anders in “The roots of evil,” a sub-section in the evolution of evil: an inquiry into the ultimate origins of human suffering

Jesus & Buddha. Jesus & Mo. Roomies!

Jesus & Buddha

Inerrancy no longer questionable after translators who are inerrantists get to translate the Bible. Case in point the new NIV 2011 translation.


From this Monthʼs Biblical Studies Carnival

Charles Halton (Awilum), Claude Mariottini and Daniel O. McClellan examine a number of examples where NIV 2011 makes forced and spurious translations which appear to be favored for no other good reason than the fact that these “translations” harmonize various errors and contradictions in the Bible.

Such features continue to ensure that the NIV remains a devotional translation for Christian users and seminaries, not a translation for use in academic biblical studies. As Douglas Mangum (Biblia Hebraica et Graeca) summarizes: “It is clear that the translators are less interested in revealing the linguistic and literary complexity of the biblical world than with maintaining an ignorant publicʼs faith in the accuracy of the putative original language and text.”

John Hobbins (Ancient Hebrew Poetry) examines the new NIVʼs translation of Ecclesiastes 11.1-2, and finds that it is “not so much a translation as an interpretation,” because of its overwillingness to paraphrase the unclear or ambiguous Hebrew text.

The Context Group : Amusing and Interesting Info from the Society of Biblical Literature Meeting Nov. 2010 in Atlanta

Context Group

From Loren Rossen:

Context Group member Douglas Oakman pointed out that the Context Group originated in no small part in order to make sense of the real-life experiences of its members who spent time living in honor-shame-based cultures rather than guilt-based ones. Dick Rohrbaugh lived on the West Bank for many years, and other members have evidently lived abroad too. To people who have lived and breathed shame-based cultures over an extended period of time, experience is all the evidence you can ask for.

And is there really a mystery here? Is there any doubt as to what formal studies of Mediterranean peoples would demonstrate? There have been studies of honor-shame subcultures of the United States. (The American south is an honor-shame subculture, meaning, more shame-based relative to the north, but compared to places like the Mediterranean region, it starts to look as guilt-based as any part of the U.S.) For instance, a 1996 study conducted at the University of Michigan found remarkable differences between northern and southern Americans, in how they react to people who bump into and swear at them. 65% of the northerners were amused by the bump and insult, and 35% got angry; but only 15% of the southerners were amused — the other 85% got furious. On top of this, the studies showed that the southerners had strong physiological reactions to being bumped/insulted, with increases in cortisol (a hormone associated with high levels of stress and anxiety) and testosterone levels. Now, if differences like these between people in the United States can be verified and documented, there shouldnʼt be much doubt that studies of Mediterranean peoples would confirm what Context Group members have been telling us for years, based significantly on direct experience.

Serpent in Genesis = Satan? (Part 1)

Christian theologian Peter Enns recently wrote an interesting article on Genesis, Creation, and Ancient Interpreters: A Crafty Serpent

Itʼs a fascinating read, along with the comments section, to which Iʼd like to add: Serpent in Eden

  1. Genesis says God created the serpent (“the wisest beast of the field that the Lord God had made”) and cursed the serpent (not Satan) “to go on its belly and eat dust all the days of its life.” SO, NO “SATAN” IN GENESIS.

  2. The serpent was first identified with SATAN in the INTERTESTAMENTAL writings that Enns mentioned in his article. But such writings never became part of the canon of recognized inspired literature in either the OT nor the NT.

  3. Serpents have no vocal apparatus to “speak” with. No voice box, no muscular tongue, cheeks and larynx.

  4. The “curse” to “eat dust” is not a “curse” scientifically speaking. The serpent uses its damp tongue to capture air borne molecules and drag them back to the roof of its mouth where its smelling aparatus is located, pressing its tongue with those molecules against the roof of its mouth so it can “smell.” And its sense of smell is essential when it comes to tracking prey, finding mates, learning about its environment, etc., which are all blessings, not curses.

  5. The idea that humankind once lived in paradise is as untrue as stories invented to explain how we “left” that “paradise.” The past contains evidence of mass extinctions, including the suffering & extinctions of our upright primate ancestors and ancient human species, none of whose lives were “paradisical.”

  6. The Bible begins and ends with myths. (What about the middle?)

A Review of Nick Petersʼ (ApologiaNickʼs) Tekton Tickler Book Review (or Book Snap) of John Walton's “Lost World of Genesis 1”

John Waltonʼs book, The Lost World of Genesis One

This week a new conservative Christian blog, titled Tekton Tickler, features a post by Nick Peters in which he reviews John Waltonʼs book, The Lost World of Genesis One. Nick appreciates the new vistas that Waltonʼs research has opened up, as if Walton has flung open the door to a new united creationist front, a “mere creationism” in which both young-earth creationists and old-earth creationists can finally live together in Edenic peace. Of course Walton is also popular with theistic evolutionists, as can be seen from the fact that Waltonʼs most recent videos on the meaning of Genesis 1 appear on the Biologos website.

Aside from showing enthusiasm for Waltonʼs work, Nickʼs only nagging criticism appears to be that “I [Nick] was left wondering how exactly I was to see the days of Genesis 1 in his [Waltonʼs] view… I found his position on that to be unclear.”

My criticism of Nickʼs review is whether Walton has indeed opened the door to peace between creationists, or has Waltonʼs research into the ancient Near Eastern milieu of the Bible opened a whole new Pandoraʼs box of questions (at least for conservative Christians)?

Take for instance the lack of clarity that Nick finds in Waltonʼs view of the meaning of the “days” in Genesis 1. Itʼs not confusing once you take into account ancient Near Eastern ceremonies of earthly temple inauguration and the connection that was believed to lie between them and the creation of the cosmos. The inauguration of earthly temples took place over a certain number of days, whatever the culture deemed an adequate holy number. A connection was believed to exist between the inauguration of an earthly temple (in a certain number of days) and the creation of the cosmos (in a certain number of days). In the former case the days are indeed literal, but the “days” used to depict Godʼs creation of the cosmos [cosmic temple], need not be, at least not to modern minds, though the ancients may have imagined a closer mythical identification of “literal days involved in temple inauguration” with “literal days of creation” than we are wont to today.

At least thatʼs what some ancient Near Eastern temple dedication ceremonies, accompanied by a recitation of a creation story, seem to imply.

One might even say that the idea of a connection between the construction of an earthly temple and a cosmic temple (the cosmos) is a mythical motif shared by some ancient Near Eastern cultures.

An Additional Case of a Shared Mythical Motif Related to the Building of Temples

Speaking of shared mythical motifs, the notion of a god designing their own earthly temple is not unique to the Bible. Take the OT tale about King David having received special instructions directly from Yahweh on how to build His temple. It is not the earliest known example of such a tale. King Thutmose of Egypt lived before the day of King David, and an ancient inscription says that Thutmose received instructions directly from his god, an Egyptian deity, about how His temple should be built. It would appear that both are culture-centric stories that arose to add “divine” justification for the temples each of those kings built.

Opening Up Pandoraʼs Box Further…

What Else Does Walton Say About Ancient Hebrew Views of the World?

“The Israelites [like the nations around them] did not know that stars were suns; they did not know that the earth was spherical and moving through space; they did not know that the sun was much further away than the moon, or even further than the clouds or high-flying birds. They believed that the sky was material (not vaporous), solid enough to support the residence of the deity as well as hold back waters.” (John H. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009), p. 16.)

Waltonʼs interpretation of Genesis 1 does not deny that ancient Hebrews assumed the earth was flat. Read Waltonʼs view of Passages Evidencing ‘Old World’ Science in the Bible.

Walton also wrote:

“P. Seely has amply demonstrated that the raqia [often translated as ‘firmament’], structurally speaking, was perceived by the Israelites as a solid dome.” (John H. Walton, The NIV Application Commentary on Genesis, p. 110)

Having admitted that that was how the ancient Hebrew viewed the cosmos, Walton also adds that he finds it to be of little theological importance even if they did view the cosmos in such a pre-scientific manner. See Waltonʼs lecture, Genesis and Cosmology in which he explains in detail why none of what the Bible says about such matters is important. (If your computer has difficulty loading the lecture click briefly on a different lecture on that same page, and then click back on Waltonʼs.)

I disagree with Walton. I think it is important, because if the ancient Hebrews entertained grossly false prescientific assumptions in one area, then there is at least a chance they may have held incorrect assumptions in other areas as well. For instance, the Israelites shared with their neighbors not only the assumption that the world was flat, but a belief that internal organs (other than the brain) directed them (as Walton admits in his lecture above). They also shared with their neighbors the eastward orientation of their tabernacle and temple, the placement of important cultic objects within their temples, the designation of areas of increasing holiness, rules for access to the Holy Place and Holy of Holies, as well as practices like circumcision and sacrificial offerings. But how do we know that animal sacrifices and temple building are any truer representations of the spiritual cosmos than the flat earth view is of the physical one?

Like other nations, the Hebrews also feared the anger of their god and subsequent punishment if attention was denied him. The duty of kings and priests was to ensure such attention was maintained, for the safety and security of the nation.

In other words is it possible to prove that ancient theological assumptions were any more true than ancient cosmological assumptions?

See also these recent articles on ancient Near Eastern and Hebrew worldviews.

Also note that Prof. Walton sometimes says Mesopotamian ritual is based on “common sense and experimentation” (p. 136) while biblical ritual is based on revelation (“ritual procedures [in the ancient Near East] were not the result of revelation in anything like the sense that is found in the Pentateuch [instructions from Sinai”], p. 137). However, Waltonʼs sharp distinction is questionable because cuneiform texts and incantations frequently talk about the fact that they were revealed by the gods. For further evidence see Alan Lenziʼs monograph on “secrecy” that shows how similar the Mesopotamian and Biblical mythologies of revelation actually were.

By the way, as Alan Lenzi asks, “Is there some rule that says a guy will get fired at Wheaton if he calls the Priestly account of creation a myth? The Babylonian story of creation (= Enuma Elish) is a myth. Why withhold the label from Genesis 1?”

Where is Hell? (And Why Isn't That a Hot Topic Anymore?)

Where is Hell Located?

Previously in this series:

Discussion of the location of hell is not a hot topic these days. Most educated Christians have abandoned offering even the slightest defense of hellʼs classic locale (beneath the earth) even though the truth of such a belief appears to have been assumed by most people in the past, from Old Testament times (Sheol) to Inter-Testamental times, to New Testament times (Hades, Tartarus).

So it appears that after more than two thousand years, a majority of religious believers have chosen to reinterpret the Bible, in effect, to correct its authors, as well as theologians and evangelists of the past, without of course rewriting the Bible, except in their own minds.

Some argue there is no evidence that ancient Hebrews and Greeks assumed that spirits lived beneath the earth, or, they claim the Bible is totally vague concerning such matters. Others admit that the ancients did hold such an assumption and incorporated that general assumption into the Bibleʼs stories, but, they add, “The Bible is not about where hell is located, itʼs about how to get to heaven.”

But if biblical authors did take for granted spirits beneath the earth (as well as a flat earth with Godʼs heavenly abode lying directly above the earth), that leaves open the question of what other ideas the writers of the Bible took for granted concerning kingship, laws, gods, religious beliefs and sacrificial rites. How can one know such ideas are true or whether they need to be reinterpreted or at least questioned based on later knowledge? That also raises the question of whether the Scriptures can indeed “interpret themselves?” Can they?

The Well to Hell

The assumption that spirits exist beneath the earth has been around for ages. But before diving headfirst into ancient Mesopotamian writings or hardcore fundamentalist defenses of the location of hell, letʼs wade into the shallow end of the pool, and look at the story of “a well drilled into hell.” In 1989 a Christian television station mentioned that geologists in Russia had drilled the worldʼs deepest hole, then they lowered a microphone into it to “detect tectonic movements,” but instead heard “people scream.” The story spread round the world. Among those who questioned the tall tale (or deep tale), not all have abandoned hope of its redemption. Hoax or not, some still share alleged recordings of “screams from deep beneath the earth” on the internet because it plays a role in leading people to Christ, and it “might possibly be the sound of real demons.” (Of course youʼll have to judge that for yourself after listening to the recording on some of the youtube sites below.) (see NOTE #1 to read some material that debunks the Well to Hell story).

Other modern day defenders of hell boast of the “scientific accuracy” of the Bibleʼs descriptions of the nether regions. For instance they cite verses in Deuteronomy and Job that mention the earth shall be as “iron” and “fire” and claim such verses agree with modern science since the earthʼs core is mostly iron and hotter than the surface of the sun (see the first video below). They also cite Isaiahʼs words (repeated by Jesus) about a place “where the worm dieth not, and where the fire is never quenched,” and claim that science lends support to such inspired words because large worms (up to eight feet long) have been discovered in the deepest regions of the sea near thermal vents that spew forth hot sulfur [which such folks equate with “brimstone” in the Bible], and the worms have bacteria inside them that live off the toxic minerals in the water and produce food for the worms, a symbiotic relationship.(see NOTE #2).

Modern Day Videos Telling Us Where Hell Is

Next, as I said, before diving into the Mesopotamian data, or the hard line defense of hellʼs location by an inerrantist, letʼs peek at the history of the idea of hellʼs location among both Protestants and Catholics.

Protestants For Whom Hellʼs Location Was Not In Serious Doubt

Beginning with some “King James Only” inerrantists, but reaching backwards in time to famed Commentators on the Bible, including Wesley and Calvin

  • Dr. Peter S. Ruckman 1921-
    Some scoff and say, “Where is hell?” Well, thatʼs easy. It is under your feet. “They … are gone down into hell,” Ezekiel 32:27. Hell is down under your feet, Isaiah 14:9… There is no doubt where hell is … it was in the heart of the earth where Christ went after He died. In Acts 2:31 and Acts 2:27 you are told that although Christ went through hell, He was not “left in hell.” [Theological Studies: Book Number 23, Bible Baptist Bookstore, Pensacola, 1987 p. 33. Rev. Ruckman is also founder of the Pensacola Bible Institute]

  • Dr. Henry Morris 1918–2006
    Hell is somewhere in the heart of the earth itself. [The writers of Scripture] certainly themselves believed hell to be real and geographically beneath the earthʼs surface… So far as we can tell from Scripture, the present hell, Hades, is somewhere in the heart of the earth itself. It is also called “the pit” (Isa. 14:9, 15: Ezek. 32:18-21) and “the abyss” (Rev. 9:2)… the Biblical descriptions are quite matter of fact. The writers certainly themselves believed hell to be real and geographically beneath the earthʼs surface. [The Bible Has the Answer, p. 220. Morris founded The Institute for Creation Research, and his writings converted Ken Ham to young-earth creationism. Ham is President and CEO, Answers in Genesis–USA & the Creation Museum]

  • Dr. Jack Hyles 1926 - 2001
    I personally believe that Hell is in the heart of the earth, [“…the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” Mat 12:40] … Scientists say that beneath the earth there is a boiling volcanic disturbance constantly going on in the heart of the earth. And so I personally believe Hell will be in the heart of the earth. [Sermon, “To Hell and Back.” Hyles was Pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana; and founder of Hyles-Anderson College]

  • Oliver B. Greene 1915-1976
    There is no doubt in my mind that hell is in the center of this earth… Amos describes hell in these words: “Though they dig into hell, thence shall mine hand take them; though they climb up to Heaven, thence will I bring them down” (Amos 9:2). Certainly when we think of digging, we think of going down in the earth - we do not dig UP, we dig DOWN: we do not dig in the air, we dig in the dirt. Amos tells us as the Holy Spirit leads him to write - “Though they dig into hell, thence shall my hand take them.” Amos believed that hell is in the center of the earth… Without a shadow of a doubt, hell is in the center of this earth.” [“Where the Worm Dieth Not.” Greene was radio host of The Gospel Hour.]

  • M.R. De Haan 1891–1965
    The Bible locates Sheol [Hell] in the heart of the earth… Jesus then descended first into the lower parts of the earth (Ephesians 4:9). But we know that Jesus upon His death went into Hades [Hell]… And Hades [Hell] was in the lower parts of the earth. [“Jonah and Christ,” The Radio Bible Class (heard around the world), 1942 pp 21-22.]

  • Clarence Larkin 1850 – 1924
    And Jesus after His return from “The Underworld,” said “I am He that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the ‘KEYS’ (of the Gates) of hell and of death.” Rev. 1:18. To get these “Keys” Jesus had to descend into the “lower parts of the earth.” Eph. 4:9 … Therefore Hades or “The Underworld,” must be in the “heart of the earth.” [The Spirit World, 1921, pp. 47-48.]

  • Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, and David Brown
    Though they dig into hell--though they hide ever so deeply in the earth. Christ, as Lord of all, took possession first of the earth the unseen world beneath it (some conjecture that the region of the lost is in the central parts of our globe), then of heaven. [Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (1871), Amos 9:2 & Ephesians 4:9]

  • John Wesley 1703 – 1791
    Hell — The center of the earth. [John Wesleyʼs Explanatory Notes, Amos 9:2. Wesley founded the Methodist Church]

  • John Gill 1697 – 1771
    Though they dig into hell, thence shall mine hand take them, …the utmost recesses of the earth, the very centre of it. [John Gillʼs Exposition of the Entire Bible, Amos 9:2]

  • Isaac Watts 1674–1748
    Hopeless immortals! how they scream and shiver,
    While devils push them to the pit wide-yawning
    Hideous and gloomy, to receive them headlong
    Down to the centre!
    [“Day of Judgment,” hymn]

  • Matthew Henry 1662–1714
    Though they dig into hell, into the centre of the earth. [Commentary on the Whole Bible (1706), Amos 9:2]

  • John Boys, Dean of Canterbury 1571-1625
    So Job calleth hell the land of darknesse, and the reason thereof is plaine, because the nethermost hell is a bottomlesse pit in the heart of the earth. [The Workes of John Boys]

  • John Calvin 1509–1564
    Hence he says, If they dig for themselves passages to hell, that is, to the center of the earth. [Commentary on the Prophet Amos, Amos 9:2]

Catholics For Whom Hellʼs Location Was Not In Serious Doubt

Jeffrey Burton Russell 1934-
Both Hades and Gehenna were believed to be underground, and both were places of suffering. [Satan, The Early Christian Tradition, London: Cornell University Press, 1981, p. 120]

Hippolytus, circa 170-236
Hades [Hell] is a place in the created system, rude, a locality beneath the earth, in which the light of the world does not shine; and as the sun does not shine in this locality, there must necessarily be perpetual darkness there… And in this locality there is a certain place set apart by itself, a lake of unquenchable fire. [Against Plato, on the Cause of the Universe Ante-Nicene 5.222]

Tertullian, 160–230
By ourselves the lower regions (of Hades) are not supposed to be a bare cavity, nor some subterranean sewer of the world, but a vast deep space in the interior of the earth, and a concealed recess in its very bowels; inasmuch as we read that Christ in His death spent three days in the heart of the earth, that is, in the secret inner recess which is hidden in the earth, and enclosed by the earth, and superimposed on the abysmal depths which lie still lower down. [A Treatise on the Soul, Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol 3 p 231]

The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia (1910) On The Location Of Hell

The Bible seems to indicate that hell is within the earth, for it describes hell as an abyss to which the wicked descend. We even read of the earth opening and of the wicked sinking down into hell (Numbers 16:31 sqq.; Psalm 54:16; Isaiah 5:14; Ezekiel 26:20; Philippians 2:10, etc.). Is this merely a metaphor to illustrate the state of separation from God?

Although God is omnipresent, He is said to dwell in heaven, because the light and grandeur of the stars and the firmament are the brightest manifestations of His infinite splendor. But the damned are utterly estranged from God; hence their abode is said to be as remote as possible from his dwelling, far from heaven above and its light, and consequently hidden away in the dark abysses of the earth. However, no cogent reason has been advanced for accepting a metaphorical interpretation in preference to the most natural meaning of the words of Scripture. Hence theologians generally accept the opinion that hell is really within the earth (see NOTE #3).

Thomas Aquinas 122?-1274

On “Whether The Fire Of Hell Is Beneath The Earth?”

“It is written (Is. 14:9): Hell below was in an uproar to meet Thee at Thy coming. Therefore the fire of hell is beneath us.

“Further, a gloss on Jonah 2:4, Thou hast cast me forth … into the heart of the sea, says, i.e. into hell, and in the Gospel (Mat. 12:40) the words in the heart of the earth have the same sense, for as the heart is in the middle of an animal, so is hell supposed to be in the middle of the earth…

In the same piece, Aquinas discusses the views of Augustine and Gregory:

“As Augustine says, ‘I am of opinion that no one knows in what part of the world hell is situated, unless the Spirit of God has revealed this to some one.’ Wherefore Gregory having been questioned on this point answers: ‘About this matter I dare not give a rash decision. For some have deemed hell to be in some part of the earthʼs surface; others think it to be beneath the earth.’ Gregory shows the latter opinion to be the more probable… Augustine too seems to indicate reasons for the congruity of hell being under the earth… Augustine [even] withdrew his [earlier] statement (Retract. ii, 29) saying: ‘Methinks I should have [simply] said that hell is beneath the earth, rather than have given the reason why it is stated or believed to be under the earth.’”

The Mesopotamian Underworld

Writings from civilizations in Mesopotamia predate the founding of the nation of Israel by thousands of years. So what did the neighbors of the ancient Hebrews have to say about the underworld? According to Wayne Horowitz, author of Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography:

The underworld is the lowest region of the universe, the home of underworld deities such as Nergal and Ereskigal, and the final resting place of deceased humans… Many texts demonstrate that the underworld was lower than the earthʼs surface… No one is ever said to ascend to the underworld, and there is no evidence for any cosmic feature below the underworld….

[The underworld is also connected, as it is in the Old Testament with waters. In Mesopotamian those waters were the] Apsu which included the waters of the water table just beneath the earthʼs surface, waters in marshes and swamps, waters in rivers, waters in the sea, and distant cosmic waters… Three passages confirm that the Apsu included a deep region of waters far below the water table…. Although no text explicitly places dead human beings in the Apsu, there is evidence that the Apsu and underworld were either confused with one another or that the Apsu itself was thought to be a netherworld inhabited by malevolent spirits.

The Anunnaki reside in the Apsu instead of the underworld in The Erra Epic: ‘I will go up to heaven and give instructions to the Igigi. I will descend to the Apsu, direct the Anunnaki. I will send the wild demons to the Earth of No Return.’ [cf. The Hebrew Book of Job].

The apparent confusion or overlap between the Apsu and the underworld is probably based on empirical observation. It is logical to place both the Apsu and the underworld directly beneath the earthʼs surface. When one digs a well, one reaches the waters of Apsu without passing through the underworld, but graves of the dead are located above the groundwaters. (The Apsu is mention in the context of excavating a grave in Adapa and Enmerkar.) Underworld rivers, such as Mesopotamian Hubur or Greek Styx, which souls must cross on their way to the underworld, probably represent the waters of the water table between graves and the realm of the dead further below. Nonetheless it is clear that there were many different conflicting views of the Apsu in antiquity, and a few authors apparently ignore the existence of the Apsu altogether. For instance Inanna and Istar reach the underworld without ever crossing the Apsu, and the lands float on a raft above the waters of the ‘sea,’ instead of the Apsu in The Bilingual Creation of the World by Marduk. [pp. 342, 343, 344, 335, 341, 348, 349]

Selections From The Place Of Hell by Terry Watkins, Th.D. Watkins only follows the King James Bible but seems adept at deflating the views of rival inerrantists, just as geocentrists are adept at pointing out to their young-earth brothers the verses that most embarrass their heliocentric view. And just as young-earth creationists are adept at pointing out to their old-earth brothers the verses that most embarrass their views. And so it goes among inerrantists. But what impressed me most about Mr. Watkins was his passion for interesting details as to how texts demonstrate that they are speaking about the location of hell, something I havenʼt seen since the early Church Fathers, that combine to make the location of hell practically undeniable to anyone who wishes to discover what the only inspired book in the cosmos has to say. Of course Mr. Watsonʼs opinion differs from mine on the Bibleʼs inspiration and he would likely write an even lengthier and more passionate article than his article on hell if he was asked to comment on what some Evangelical scholars are currently saying about the flat earth cosmology of the Bible. Be that as it may, you can read Terry Watkinsʼ entire article (from which I obtained a great number of the quotations from famous Christians with which this post begins) by clicking here. Or read my edited version below. This is all Watkins, Iʼve merely shortened it, and added two non-KJV verses, but with links to the KJV version.

The Location Of Hell

(Note: Our study on the location of hell deals with the present location of hell. The Lake of Fire described in Revelation 20:14 will replace the current place of hell.) The following verses designate the physical location of hell. The direction of hell always references down or beneath. The Bible never refers to hell in any other direction.

  • … let them go down quick into hell.

    Psalm 55:15

  • Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell.

    Proverbs 5:5

  • Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.

    Proverbs 7:27

  • Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.

    Isaiah 14:15

  • I will bring you down with those who go down to the pit to the people of old, and I will make you dwell in the lower parts of the earth, like the ancient waste places, with those who go down to the pit.

    Ezekiel 26:20

  • … when I cast him down to hell with them that descend into the pit.

    Ezekiel 31:16

  • They also went down into hell…

    Ezekiel 31:17

  • The strong among the mighty shall speak to him out of the midst of hell with them that help him: they are gone down, they lie uncircumcised, slain by the sword.

    Ezekiel 32:21

  • … which are gone down to hell.

    Ezekiel 32:27

  • And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell.

    Matthew 11:23

  • And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell.

    Luke 10:15

  • For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment.

    2 Peter 2:4

  • IVP New Testament Commentaries on the star in Revelation 9:2:

    This star, like Wormwood, is a messenger from God, but the judgment it brings is even more terrible. It does not strike the earth or poison the waters, but with the key to the shaft of the Abyss (v. 1) opens a pit [the bottomless pit] into the very heart of the earth. From the pit, or Abyss, comes smoke like the smoke from a gigantic furnace, darkening the sun and sky.

  • The Bible states that after his death, Jesus descended into Hell. But his soul did not remain there, nor did his body decay. The implication is that Hell is located underground.

    For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whaleʼs belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

    Matthew 12:40

  • … let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried … Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.

    Acts 2:29-31

  • Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)

    Romans 10:6-7

  • But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?)

    Ephesians 4:7-9

  • … Jesus Christ … died, and was buried, He descended into Hell. The third day, he rose again from the dead.

    The Apostlesʼ Creed

The Bible presents many verses that emphatically locate hell in the center of the earth. And not vague verses that are open to self-interpretations, but clear and precise references. For a Christian to reject or disregard this extremely important Bible fact is inexcusable. Until the last fifty years, most Christians knew hell was a real place of fire in the center of the earth.

In the popular book, Whatever Happened to Hell?, author John Blanchard, incredibly writes:

“The Bible gives many different descriptions of hell and consistently refers to it as a specific place … As to its location, we are given no details—though perhaps there is at least one important clue… This word “outside” is the one that Jesus used frequently when speaking about hell and almost certainly lays to rest the notion that hell is located somewhere in the center of the earth. As far as its location is concerned, we have almost nothing to go on. Not even statements which say that heaven is ‘above’ and hell is ‘beneath’ tell us very much. The clearest clue we have is that hell is ‘outside’.” (Blanchard, John. What Happened to Hell?, Crossway Books Wheaton, Illinois 1995 pp. 131-132)

How can anyone who has read the Bible truthfully say, “As to its location, we are given no details…”? The answer is simple. The human psyche of mankind, even among Christians, refuses to accept the reality of hell. If they ignore the evidence long enough and loud enough, maybe it is not really there. But it is there…

As far as Blanchardʼs assertion that “the clearest clue we have is that hell is ‘outside’”—completely ignores scores and scores of clear scriptures, in favor of three “outer” references (Matthew 8:12, 22:13, 25:30). How can Blanchard write, “… Not even statements which say that heaven is ‘above’ and hell is ‘beneath’ tell us very much?” Why donʼt they? Why did God write them? Over a hundred verses describe hell as “down”; “in the heart of the earth”; “beneath”; or “lower parts of the earth” and yet that doesnʼt “tell us very much!” How can a man stand in such judgment of the Word of God by telling us Godʼs Word does “not tell us very much”? No wonder they ripped the Bible from our schools — preachers have been ripping it apart for years.

The three verses in the Bible that mention “outer darkness” plainly refer to earthly judgments during the millennium. Not hell…

Another sad case of Bible rejection occurs in Sidlow Baxterʼs The Other Side of Death. Baxter conveniently dismisses the reality that God placed hell inside the earth with feeble human logic:

“I cannot see how somewhere deep inside the physical earth could confine nonphysical, disembodied human spirits. If this revolving physical orb could imprison purely spiritual beings, then contradictorily enough it would burn them to nothingness by the intense internal fire which becomes increasingly hotter toward its center.” (Baxter, Sidlow L. The Other Side of Death, Tyndale House Wheaton, 1987 p. 187)

How can a Christian reject the scriptures with the mindless reasoning of, “I cannot see…”? Beloved, there are many amazing things the Lord says and does that humanly speaking “I cannot see.” I cannot see the innumerable stars the Lord created. I cannot see the infinite wisdom of creation. I cannot see why He loved me so much to die for my sins. But what I cannot see with these frail physical eyes, the boundless spiritual eyes of faith can clearly see in the Word of God. Does not our Lord admonish us in 2 Corinthians 5:7 to “walk by faith, not by sight”?

Mr. Baxter also writes the reckless humanistic statement that the “intense internal fire” inside this earth would “burn them to nothingness.” First of all, if hell is a literal fire (which it is) it does not matter where it is located, as pertaining to “burn them to nothingness.” To follow Baxterʼs explanation leads to the total elimination of the fire of hell.

I wonder has Mr. Baxter ever heard about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego of Daniel, chapter 3? These three Jewish boys were thrown alive into a furnace of literal fire that was heated seven times hotter than normal. Yet their hair was not even singed! The Bible says in Daniel 3:27, “…the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.” The power of Almighty God is not limited, nor confined by the power of fire. To reject the scriptures on pathetic human rationale is disgraceful.

In Numbers 16:30-34, the Lord silences all skeptics to the location of hell. In that chapter the Bible records the rebellion and destruction of Korah. As a consequence of their rebellion, the Lord opens the earth and they go down alive into the pit of hell. This is not the grave — verse 30 says, “… the LORD make a new thing…” Thereʼs nothing “new” about “opening the earth” and going into the grave. Verse 33 also states, they “… went down alive into the pit…” Obviously, the “went down” does not refer to the shallow grave.

What could the Lord possibly write in the scriptures that He could make the location of hell any clearer? For you to reject the fact that God prepared hell inside this earth, you must intentionally ignore many plain and detailed scriptures. The evidence of the scriptures is convincing. It is conclusive. And it is real.


Note #1

There are a couple of postscripts to The Well to Hell story. One is that the respected magazine, Biblical Archaeology Review, published a version of it thinking it was so outrageous that readers would get a kick out of it. Some took the article seriously, and started passing it around as substantiation, or wrote to the magazine to complain that they even mentioned it.

“Second, in August of 1990, I was contacted by the pastor of a small church in Flagstaff, Arizona, who informed me that he had proof that this story was true. Apparently, a man from his church, who was believed to be a PhD in Physics from MIT, came forward in private to claim that he was a scientist who had been on a secret mission in Russia for the past year and had met with Mikhail Gorbachev several times. He verified that the Drilling to Hell story was indeed true.

“He claimed: ‘A hole was drilled deep into the crust of the earth in Siberia and a large cavity was found. Unfortunately, news of this was leaked to the press and was distorted. It is true that a recording was made of the sounds from deep in the hole, but the intense heat destroyed the microphone in spite of special cooling material around it, so that only seventeen seconds of sounds could be captured. At the present time, scientists are drilling a second hole to confirm what was found the first time. And a better system is being developed for cooling the microphone.’

“The man went on to claim that he was helping to design this microphone and was returning to Siberia shortly to further document the phenomenon. He planned to return in about a year with more confirming information on this amazing phenomenon.

“Six months later, I got a letter from another member of the church saying that this man had turned out to be neither a graduate of MIT nor a scientist. In fact, he had skipped town with over $20,000 collected from church members who wanted to help finance his expedition.

“How did this story originate? Again, we will never really know. It is possible that somewhere in the world there has been a spooky experience during deep drilling operations. I donʼt know. According to an August 1989 article in Science magazine, there is a Russian deep hole drilling project in Kola, near Murmansk, about 150 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Another German deep drilling experiment in north-east Bavaria has discovered warmer temperatures than were expected at certain drilling levels, although nothing even close to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Characteristic of many urban legends, this story was alleged to have occurred in an obscure part of the world where it would be virtually impossible to track down the facts. And once the story got started, people began quoting one anotherʼs newsletters to validate their own. This is the stuff of which tabloid newspapers are made.” For further information visit

Note #2

Of course you donʼt have to enter the Deep nor Sheol to find worms; and Isaiah was cursing people with a punishment akin to that of a perpetually burning dump site that existed in his day. Whatʼs interesting about those who offer such “evidence” is that everything they learn gets sorted such that they recall and focus upon only what appears to “support the Bible.” Indeed, the whole cosmos revolves around whatever the Bible says, especially if one is a geocentrist. Or the whole cosmos revolves around a list of the ages of a few patriarchs if you are a young-earth creationist. And there is no scientific experiment nor observation that either a geocentrist or a young-earth creationist cannot reconstruct to suit the truth of the plain words of Scripture. The geocentrist, Dr. Gerardus Bouw, can tell you about his physics by which the cosmos circles the earth at super-luminal speeds every 24 hours. While the young-earther, Dr. Jason Lisle, has “answered” the “distant starlight question” by assuming that light travels infinitely in one direction but not in the other, and assures us that “God created galaxies in mid-collision.” So maybe we shouldnʼt be too hard on the defenders of hellʼs true location via their “sea worm” interpretation of Isaiah.

Maybe, in fact, none of us should be too hard on each other, not viciously hard. Because all of our brains function in a similar way to differing degrees, selectively noting what agrees with what we believe, disregarding other information. Also, life is short and each personʼs time for study, as well as their individual experiences, remain limited.

Ah, but we also love to exercise our brains via mental wrestling matches against those with different ideas. But one must keep in mind that each personʼs three-dimensional arrangement of a lifetime of knowledge inside them cannot possibly be conveyed to another person easily, not via the one-dimensional portals of tongue or keyboard. So the equation for a relatively interesting debate-discussion remains patience, coolness, plus time. Reading some of the same articles and books, and discussing them together also helps. But if things heat up too fast in a debate the souffle of thought will fall to its lowest level.

Note #3

But … the author of the Catholic Encyclopedia article cautions, regardless of the arguments of Catholic theologians through the ages The Church hasnʼt “officially declared” where hell is located. Even a 21st century Popeʼs recent declaration that hell is probably in some other dimension does not count as an “official” declaration. Thatʼs just the Popeʼs “Table Talk.” I think itʼs interesting how the Catholic Church functions, being the supreme interpreter of itself it makes up its own laws of interpretation as well, ignoring past statements by theologians and popes and councils, or reinterpreting them at will and focusing on other statements. And it has a LOT of statements from which to choose! More statements than are in the Bible thatʼs for sure! And think of the many ways people interpret the statements in the Bible!

To cite one example of a modern day reinterpretation, Catholic theologians in the 20th century began to argue that maybe not all unbaptized infants who died went to “Limbo,” maybe there was hope they went to heaven instead? The Pope signed an unofficial declaration of “hope” to that effect in 2007, but also noted that Limbo had not been abolished either. Now Catholic parents who suffer a miscarriage or whose infants die before being baptized can “hope” to see their children in heaven, but The Church reiterates, “we donʼt know, God hasnʼt revealed what happens to children who die unbaptized.” So all The Church has done is admit it knows a little less than it previously claimed it did about the fates of unbaptized infants. Speaking as an agnostic one can only hope The Church continues to move in the direction of admitting publicly that it knows a “little less than it thought it did” about other things as well, not just concerning the hope of a mother that she will see her formerly “Limboed” infant, but, an official admission that thereʼs “hope” for non-Catholics as well. At least some Catholic theologians in the past and present have admitted there is.

America's Four Gods: What We Say about God—and What That Says about Us by Paul Froese & Christopher Bader

America's Four Gods

First, see this ABC News Video, click here.

Using conclusions drawn from the Baylor Religion Survey first published in 2006, two Baylor University professors theorize that Americansʼ view of God can be characterized as one of four basic types:

Authoritative (different from Authoritarian?)
28% of Americans believe in an authoritative god that is very judgmental and engaged in the world. These types of believers tend to be evangelical and male.

22% of Americans believe in a benevolent god that is very involved in the world, but is loving and not stern. These tend to be evangelical women.

21% of Americans believe in a critical god who is removed from daily events but will render judgment in the afterlife. There is a tendency for African Americans and people who have lower levels of income and education to believe in the critical god.

24% of Americans believe in a distant god who set the universe in motion but then disengaged. People who say that they are spiritual but not religious tend to believe in the distant god.

By knowing which of the four types of God an American believes in, these scholars can predict that personʼs views on many of the pressing issues facing the country.

As an antidote to the prevailing but simplistic dichotomy between religious and nonreligious Americans, this thesis is more nuanced. But it, too, has its limitations. Itʼs not clear that people stick to one view their whole lives, and it doesnʼt fully account for the views of those who occupy middle ground, somewhere between a judgmental and forgiving God. Still, the fourfold God typology is a step toward better understanding how Americans regard morality, how they understand the presence of evil, and what narrative they tell about their lives. See also the review here.

Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, stated in response to such research that God encompasses all of the four types. Though I hope Mohler also admits that human beings do not appear to encompass all four types of God equally in their minds. Perhaps Mohler himself does not. I wonder what his results would be if he took the online test to determine which type of God he envisioned? My own result after taking the test was, “Distant God.”

Mohler also said that the theory of the Baylor profs was “unhelpful,” though they seem to have demonstrated its effectiveness at predicting peopleʼs political and social opinions. So it depends on what you mean by “unhelpful.”

Mohler also typed that the first type of God was “Authoritarian.” A lot of reviewers have been doing that, including the one at Publisherʼs Weekly. But the book itself only features the word “Authoritative.”

According to sociologist Paul Froese, co-author of the Baylor study and the book, Americaʼs Four Gods:

Twenty percent of Americans believe God is actively engaged in manipulating the American economy.

Eight in ten political conservatives believe there is only a single ultimate truth, and new economic information about cost-benefit analysis isnʼt going to change their mind about the economy.

Only twenty percent of Americans hold a purely secular view of the economy (that the economy is driven purely by market forces). In other words, says one blogger, here, “there is a huge fraction of the population who wonʼt listen to facts. And Froeseʼs work is backed up by a Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life study that found that the most religious are on average least willing to accept well-established facts that conflict with their religious beliefs.”

In an interview with State of Belief, Froese elaborated on his findings:

[Weʼre finding that] people who link strong religious beliefs to economic conservatism think that the state of nature is a free market; and that if you mess with the free market in terms of government regulation or some type of taxation, you are disrupting a state of nature that God wanted us to have. And so, really, weʼre finding that many of these believers see government as really a profane object, and I think thatʼs the reason why they are against many of the liberal kind of suggestions on how to fix our economy - because they see conservative theory as, really, an article of faith.

… [For] this population – again, I’m talking about people who have very strong religious beliefs that they connect to an economic conservatism – they tend to be poor and less educated… these people tend to vote against policies that seem to be in their favor – increasing spending on education, increasing spending on social welfare. See also this U.S.A. article that summarizes data from the Baylor study and the book, click here.

New Book: Where is God? Divine Absence in the Hebrew Bible by Joel S. Burnett

Where is God? Divine Absence in the Hebrew Bible

Quotations From The Book

“Divine Absence” Was Not Unique To Israel

In the pages of the Hebrew Bible. the notion of divine absence comes to expression in a variety of forms.… Samuel Terrien published a monograph three decades ago titled, The Elusive Presence.… Terrien argued that the absence or elusiveness of Israelʼs God was unique in the ancient world and that it set apart the Israelite understanding of the divine. Continuing study of texts from the ancient Near East has shown the prevalence of this divine elusiveness among the gods of ancient Israelʼs neighbors and predecessors.

The Hebrew Bible captures the theme of divine absence most poignantly in the question “Where is God?” Covering a range of circumstances, this expression appears both in the supplications of worshipers and in the taunts of enemies.… “Where is your God?” “Where is my God?” “Where is their God?” “Where is Yahweh?” Or, as Isa 63:11-12 asks,

Where is the one who brought them up out of the sea…
who divided the waters before them to make for himself an everlasting name, who led them through the depths?

One might think of divine absence as a problem of unfulfilled expectations of divine benevolence of faithfulness; in short, it expresses a crisis in the divine-human relationship.

Second, as noted, the problem of divine absence was not peculiar to ancient Israelites but also preoccupied their neighbors and forebears. This concern is registered in connection with the Hebrew Bibleʼs top villainess, the hated Jezebel, whose name in Phoenician means, “Where is the Prince?” which was also an epithet for the Canaanite storm god Baal-Haddu. Note this passage from the Ugaritic Baal Cycle, where the storm god is mourned with the exclamation:

Where is mighty Baal? Where is the Prince, the Lord of the Earth?

“Consolidation Of Divine Power In A Single Deity” Was Not Unique To Israel

In Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic, Cross understands the epithets Elyon and Shadday to relate to Elʼs role as divine warrior. As Mark Smith points out, the explicit West Semitic evidence is admittedly sparse for El as divine warrior and completely lacking for Baal as creator. For Smith, as the Ugaritic evidence suggests, in West Semitic tradition these were originally separate mythic roles belonging to different deities of the pantheon. Their combination in Israelite tradition results from the consolidation of divine power in a single deity, namely, Yahweh, and something similar happens in the case of the Babylonian state god Marduk as reflected in Enuma Elish. For further discussion of dynamics involved in consolidation of divine roles in state gods, see Smith, God in Translation, esp. 91-185. Though Smithʼs point about the scarcity of West Semitic evidence is well taken, the totality of all the evidence (including the significant evidence of Enuma Elish) favors an integral connection between these roles. [endnote 42, p. 202, Where is God? Divine Absence in the Hebrew Bible]

[NOTE, on the topic of shared depictions of deity in the ANE see THIS video, which is not to be confused with the scholarly work of Mark Smith, but it points out a few parallels between the deity of Israel and the deities of Ugarit.]

Did A Very Early Text In The Hebrew Bible Originally Speak About Yahwehʼs People And Land Being Parceled Out To Him By An Even Higher God, Elyon--“The Highest?” And Was It Only Later That Yahwehʼs Followers Began Claiming He Was God Of The Whole Earth?

Consider the following translation of Deut 32:8-9 which is not controversial except for the phrase, “Bull Elʼs children,” which differs from standard texts and translations that feature the phrase, “sons of Israel”:

When Elyon (“the Highest”) gave the nations an inheritance,
when he divided humankind, he set the bounds of the peoples
according to the number of Bull Elʼs children
and Yahwehʼs portion was his people, Jacob,
the measured portion of his inheritance.

A text of Deut 32:8-9 discovered at Qumran along with parallels in ancient Ugaritic literature led to questions among scholars concerning Deut 32:8-9 -- did the passage originally speak about “sons of Israel” or about “divine sons of El” each receiving their inheritance, including Yahweh (as a divine son of El) receiving his people and inheritance, Jacob? For information concerning such questions I suggest reading Thom Starkʼs book, The Human Faces of God. Also check out…

Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God by Michael S. Heiser

Elyon, Bull El, and Yahweh: Another Look at Deuteronomy 32:8-9

In the Hebrew Bible as in other ancient Near Eastern texts, the basic social institution of the patrimonial household can be projected onto the divine realm. Such is the case in Deut 32:8-9. It portrays the ordering of the divine family in relationship to ascending levels of social complexity among humankind. Here, the senior head over the next generation of gods is identified by the divine title Elyon (“the Highest”). Elyon divides the people of the earth and their territories “according to the number of divine beings” [Bull Elʼs children]. The deity thus assigned to Israel as its divine sovereign is Yahweh, and Israel is Yahwehʼs assigned patrimony, “the measured portion of his inheritance.” This mytheme thus describes a parceling of both people and land as a divine patrimonial estate and in so doing employs the terminology of sonship and property inheritance. [p. 44, Where is God? Divine Absence in the Hebrew Bible]

Does the Bible “Teach” Geocentrism?

Geocentrism remains a minority opinion but a lively one among some creationist Christians. See poster below advertising one of their conferences, a joint affair, featuring both Catholic and Protestant speakers:


Geocentrists remain hopeful even in this heliocentric age because as Gerardus Bouw (Ph.D. in astronomy, president of the Association for Biblical Astronomy and the countryʼs leading proponent of geocentrism) puts it:

“As long as people have some faith in Scripture, thereʼs a future for it.

“I would not be a geocentrist if it were not for the Scriptures.

“The only way we can know for certain whether or not geocentricity is true would be to leave the universe, take a look around outside the universe, and then come back in to tell us what is really happening in that larger scope. Since God is infinitely greater than the universe, and so extends beyond the universe, what God says must present the ultimate case … God, in His Word, consistently teaches geocentricity.”

Compare Bouwʼs words above with these:

“The only way we can determine the true age of the earth is for God to tell us what it is. And since He has told us, very plainly, in the Holy Scriptures that it is several thousand years in age, and no more, that ought to settle all basic questions of terrestrial chronology.” [Henry Morris, founder of the Institute of Creation Research]

Bouw converted to geocentrism only after meeting Walter Van der Kamp and studying Scripture further. Van der Kamp came to creationism relatively late in life and had not gotten far in his research when something began to trouble him about the relationship of creationism to heliocentrism: If Genesis 1 clearly states that God created the sun and the moon on the fourth day in order to rule an already existing day and night on an already existing earth, when did the earth begin to move, and how did we ever get the idea that it was the earthʼs rotation toward and away from the sun that caused day and night, rather than the light that God so dramatically created in Genesis 1:3? Besides, would God really have created a planet, set it into orbit around nothing, then four days later placed a random minor star at the center of that orbit? Obviously, something didnʼt add up. Unless geocentrism was true.

Robert Sungenis, another geocentrist, has an interesting past. He was raised Catholic but became an Evangelical Christian, graduated from a pro-inerrantist Reformed Christian seminary (Westminster Theological Seminary), and later returned to Catholicism before becoming a geocentrist.

Both Bouw and Sungenis admit that some of their fiercest critics are fellow creationist Christians who “want to downplay” geocentrism as much as possible.

For instance, the creationist organization, Answers in Genesis, dismisses geocentrism with several arguments including the observation that “the question of the earthʼs physical position is less important than the spiritual reality of Godʼs love for his people.” But isnʼt that similar to the way Theistic Evolutionist Christians dismiss creationism? i.e., with the observation that “the question of whether humans were created directly from the dust of the earth or not is less important than the spiritual reality of Godʼs love for his people.” Bouw points out that Answers in Genesis is not being consistent, “You canʼt say that one part of the Bible is more credible than another part simply because you feel uncomfortable with what it says.”

Bouw adds that quite a few creationists are closet geocentrists, “including some bigwigs.”

What does the Bible say? Bouw points out that it speaks with divine assurance of the earthʼs “foundations” and that God “has established the world, it shall not be moved.” Bouw asks heliocentric Christians whether they can honestly interpret such speech as Godʼs way of communicating “the relative stability of the earthʼs orbit as it follows its circuit through the heavens?”

He points out that to heliocentrists the earth remains incessantly in motion—rotating daily—revolving annually—and over longer periods of time the tilt of its axis wobbles in a small circle. Heliocentrists are forced to admit that the Scriptures never praise God for exerting His vast power to keep the earth in constant motion, but only praise Him “for establishing the world so that it can not be moved.” What does that imply about Godʼs inability to inspire human writers with true cosmic knowledge concerning creation? If all the Bibleʼs passages that assume geocentrism and daily solar movements and God directing the annual ups and downs of the constellations as they cross the horizon are all untrue—and God is NOT exerting His power to hold the earth still, and the sun is NOT moving daily across the sky, NOR is God “directing” the seasonal movements of the constellations higher or lower above the earthʼs horizons, then what about the truth of Genesis 1-11? How can Young-Earth creationists claim the authority of “Godʼs plain speech” for how THEY interpret what God uses His powers for, but geocentrists must abandon theirs?

The Scriptural Basis for a Geocentric and or Flat Earth Cosmology

Non-Canonical Religious Texts That Agree With Scriptural Ones in Assuming the Truth of a Geocentric Cosmology

The Fathers of the Christian Church Were Geocentrists

The Fathers of the Protestant Reformation Were Geocentrists:

People gave ear to an upstart astrologer who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon. Whoever wishes to appear clever must devise some new system, which of all systems is of course the very best. This man wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred Scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth.
Martin Luther, Table Talk

The Illustration Of The Cosmos On The Right Appeared In Lutherʼs Translation Of The Bible.

“Scripture simply says that the moon, the sun, and the stars were placed in the firmament of the heaven, below and above which heaven are the waters … We Christians must be different . . . in the way we think about the causes of things. And if some are beyond our comprehension like those before us concerning the waters above the heavens, we must believe them rather than wickedly deny them or presumptuously interpret them in conformity with our understanding.”
Martin Luther, Lutherʼs Works. Vol. 1. Lectures on Genesis, ed. Janoslaw Pelikan, Concordia Pub. House, St. Louis, Missouri, 1958, pp. 30, 42, 43.

The eyes are witnesses that the heavens revolve in the space of twenty-four hours. But certain men, either from the love of novelty, or to make a display of ingenuity, have concluded that the earth moves; and they maintain that neither the [stars] nor the sun revolves…Now, it is a want of honesty and decency to assert such notions publicly, and the example is pernicious. It is the part of a good mind to accept the truth as revealed by God and to acquiesce in it.
Melanchthon, famous Protestant Reformer and dear friend of Luther who helped carry on his legacy.

Those who assert that ‘the earth moves and turns’…[are] motivated by ‘a spirit of bitterness, contradiction, and faultfinding;’ possessed by the devil, they aimed ‘to pervert the order of nature.’
John Calvin, sermon no. 8 on 1st Corinthians, 677, cited in John Calvin: A Sixteenth Century Portrait by William J. Bouwsma (Oxford Univ. Press, 1988), A. 72

The heavens revolve daily, and, immense as is their fabric, and inconceivable the rapidity of their revolutions, we experience no concussion — no disturbance in the harmony of their motion. The sun, though varying its course every diurnal revolution, returns annually to the same point. The planets, in all their wandering, maintain their respective positions. How could the earth hang suspended in the air were it not upheld by Godʼs hand? (Job 26:7) By what means could it [the earth] maintain itself unmoved, while the heavens above are in constant rapid motion, did not its Divine Maker fix and establish it? Accordingly the particle, ape, denoting emphasis, is introduced — YEA, he hath established it.
John Calvin, Commentary on the Book of Psalms, Psalm 93, verse 1, trans., James Anderson (Eerdmanʼs, 1949), Vol. 4, p. 7

Bouw also mentions that in the modern cosmos there is no true “up” or “down.” The earth is not higher or lower than anything else in the cosmos, including the stars which “the Jews were tempted to worship” because they imagined them as being above them and divine. The earth is merely one cosmic wanderer among others, neither above nor below “the stars.” Only in a geocentric cosmos is there a firmly established sense of “up and down,” speaking of which, Bouw also introduces an argument based on the relationship between Godʼs throne in heaven and His footstool below. At the very least one can see how the metaphor of a divinely established throne with an unmoved footstool might have appealed to ancient geocentric [and/or flat earth] biblical writers. Bouw writes:

“Isaiah 66:1 and Acts 7:49 both state, ‘Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? [i.e., the Temple]’

“It is usual for thrones and footstools to be at rest relative to each another. As Professor James Hanson has put it: ‘Footstools are not footstools if they are moving.’”

“Compare Lamentations 2:1: ‘How hath the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger, and cast down from heaven unto the earth the beauty of Israel, and remembered not his footstool in the day of his anger!’”

“From I Chronicles 28:2,7 Psalm 99:5 and Psalm 132:7 we know that ‘his footstool’ is the Temple upon which ‘the LORD looks down, and beholds from heaven’ (Lamentations 3:50 and 51). This is not heliocentric talk. Godʼs footstool has not moved. It is right where he left it. The Temple mount, Mount Moriah, is still under his throne as it was at the time of Isaacʼs sacrifice (Genesis 22), at Davidʼs purchase of the threshing floor (II Samuel 24:18-25), at the destruction of the Temple (Lamentations, Jeremiah 52), and at the millennial return (Ezekiel 40-48).”

Geocentrists also also focus on verses in which the sun is commanded not to move. Job 9:7 says, God “commands the sun, and it does not rise.” This can not be a case of the sun merely “appearing” not to rise, because it is the sun to which God addresses His command. Itʼs true that this line is spoken by Job, who, as a man, may be mistaken, but Bouw believes this passage is a prophetic reference to an incident known as Joshuaʼs long day. Joshua 10 recounts a day in which, according to inspired Scripture, Joshua commanded the sun not to move, instead of the earth, and, “the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day.” An obvious rejoinder by a heliocentrist is that if God had inspired the words, “God commanded the earth to stand still,” and, “the earth stood still,” no reader until the 16th century would have understood him. But Bouw labels this as the central heresy of the church—the heresy that the Creator of earth, sun and cosmos was incapable of inspiring human beings to say what He actually commands, moves and does. The God of the cosmos, creator of language, could not have somehow inspired His people to speak of the “circuit of the earth” instead of the “circuit of the sun?”

To quote Bouw:

“Both the anthropocentric theory of inspiration and the phenomenological-language theory are forms of accommodation where God is said to accommodate his wording to the understanding of the common man. Though that may sound good on the surface, accommodation still maintains that God goes along with the accepted story even though he really does not believe it.”

God leaves his followers with the job of continually revising the meaning of Scripture over the centuries in reaction to advances in scientific knowledge such that a rejection (in the 1600s) of geocentric biblical astronomy was only the beginning. It was followed (in the late 1700-early 1800s) by the rejection of a worldwide Flood and rejection of a young-earth. Which was followed by the rejection (in the mid-to-late 1800s) of the special creation of Adam and Eve from the dust of the earth.

Given the capitulation to heliocentrism, says Bouw, the demise of special creation was inevitable. “By the time evolution comes around, well, you gave in on the geocentric thing: Scripture doesnʼt teach how the heavens go, it teaches how to go to heaven. Fine, evolution is like that too, it has nothing to do with how to get to heaven, so thereʼs no contradiction.” Geocentrists view their work as a necessary component of creationism.

Additional Similarities Between Creationists And Geocentrists

[SOURCE: Man in the Middle: An Exclusive Cut Excerpt from Rapture Ready! by Daniel Radosh]

“Having spent a considerable amount of time talking with creationists, I recognized fundamental similarities between their approach and that of the geocentrists: the emphasis on casting doubt on established theories rather than developing their own testable hypotheses; the claim that all theyʼre asking for is an open debate. And Sungenis also echoed creationists’ assertions that they donʼt deny fossil evidence but merely interpret it in a different way. ‘We also have to backtrack on the experiments that were done that were interpreted in the heliocentric framework and ask if they can be interpreted in the geocentric framework,’ he said. ‘And we find that that is the case. That is exactly the case. All the experiments have been done for us already, its just a matter now of showing the world that those very experiments donʼt prove for modern science what they are said to prove.’”

“Another similarity between creationism and geocentrism is that when a typical scientific ignoramus — such as myself — encounters an expert in the field, he will quickly find himself drowning in a swamp of what sure sounds like science. At one point, Bouw sought to dismiss a common objection to geocentrism, which is that if the entire universe is revolving around the earth, the stars would have to be traveling faster than the speed of light in order to complete the rotations observed each day. ‘There are a couple of ways to object to that,’ Bouw explained. ‘First of all, relativity does not deal with rotation, so rotation can be beyond the speed of light. But even if thatʼs not the case — even if you just strictly take the view that all you have is gravitational rotation — because E=mc2, when you use the formula for gravity, you have to replace the m by E/c2, and so then the centrifugal energy — the energy used as the centrifugal force, the kinetic energy there — and even the potential energy — are big enough that they increase the tension so much that the speed of light changes locally. The speed of light is dependent on the strength of the gravitational field: the stronger the field, the faster it goes. And so if the universe is being held together by gravity, out beyond even twenty billion light years or so, itʼs still going to hang together. The gravitational tension is going to be huge, the speed of light is going to be tremendous — much larger, actually, than the speed of rotation — but the physics does work that way.”

“Does it? You tell me.”

“In Walter van der Kampʼs memoir there is a point when he asks himself if by clinging to geocentrism, he isnʼt merely repeating the error of ancient Christians who believed the earth was flat. And then he seems to wonder if that even was an error.”

“One should not so quickly deride these old-time pillars of staunch orthodoxy who predicted and feared that accepting the heathenish Ptolemaic sphericity in the long run would lead to the negation of Godʼs message altogether. It was Jerusalem contra Athens, revelation against human reasoning. In A.D. 748, Saint Boniface, apostle to the Germans, complained that a certain abbot, Vergilius, held the heresy of the existence of antipodes; and many of us, had we been there, might well have sided with the formerʼs literalism against the latterʼs liberalism.”

“Are there still flat-earthers? The Flat Earth Society, an organization whose name is synonymous with delusion, died in 2001 along with its final president Charles K. Johnson, although it has recently been revived with unclear earnestness. The society, founded in 1956, grew out of a movement that began in England in the mid-19th century. Like geocentrism, flat-earthism was as much a religious belief as a scientific one. Members of the Flat Earth Society — there were reportedly a few hundred in 1980 — believed in the plain language of scripture. Didnʼt God say he had “stretched out the earth” (Psalm 136:6) and could “take hold of the ends of the earth, that the wicked might be shaken out of it” (Job 38:13)? Even photographs of the planet from space — alleged photographs — could not sway them from Godʼs word.”

The late Robert Schadewald, while not an exponent of a “flat earth,” wrote several articles on its advocates, past and present, unfortunately he was not able to finish his magnum opus, a book titled, The Plane Truth: A History of Flat Earth Science. But he sent me [Ed Babinski] a couple emails in 1999 to let me know that flat earthism was not quite extinct. Robert said, “Charles Johnson of the Flat Earth Society is sort of a wacky character, but he is not really representative of flat earthers in general. The half dozen or so other flat earthers Iʼve spoken or corresponded with have included a successful Boston trial lawyer, a priest who belongs to a society devoted to the preservation and translation of ancient Coptic manuscripts, a retired financial officer from a major metropolitan school system (he thoughtfully corrected an error in Greek grammar I had copied from a flat earth source), and a young man who intended to translate an 8th century flat earth treatise by Aethicus of Istria from Latin into English. Not exactly a bunch of semiliterates!” He added, “The Antiochene Fathers of the early Christian Church more or less invented the historical-critical method of exegesis popular among modern fundamentalists within the Reformed tradition. Not surprisingly, *every* Antiochene Father whose views on the subject I have been able to discern was a flat earther! So I think it is a bit strong to suggest that this method doesnʼt have ‘anything to do with the history of Scriptural interpretation.’ It may have been moribund for a long time, but it has ancient roots.” [SOURCE: Emails dated 8/10/99 and 8/5/99 respectively from Robert J. Schadewald] See also The Flat Earth Bible by Robert J. Schadewald

Which reminds me, Evangelical theologian Ben Witherington wrote this in Bible Review in 2003:

“In the late 1960s, my car broke down in the mountains of North Carolina, and I had to hitchhike… I was picked up by an elderly couple driving an ancient Plymouth. After a little conversation, I discovered they were ‘Flat-Eathers,’ by which I mean they did not believe the world was round.


“I pressed them on this and asked, ‘Why not?’”

“The elderly manʼs response was, ‘It says in the Book of Revelation that the angels will stand on the four corners of the earth. The earth couldnʼt have four corners if it was round.’”
[SOURCE: Ben Witherington III, “Asking the Right Question: To Get the Most Out of the New Testament, You Need to Know What Kind of Book Youʼre Reading,” Bible Review (April, 2003) p. 10.]

The 1920ʼs Scope Trial journalist, H. L. Mencken, ran into some flat earthers in Tennessee and they showed him a signed petition they were planning to deliver to their state congressmen to get their sacred flat earth beliefs acknowledged in public school classrooms.

Today many top notch Evangelical OT scholars have given up on attempting to squeeze history out of Genesis 1, or even out of Genesis 1-11. See the BIOLOGOS website.

What does Gerardus Bouw have to say about verses in the Bible that appear to assume a flat earth?

“I investigated it, yes,” he said. “I donʼt see that the scriptures teach a flat earth… But I have no problem defending a flat earth if I have to. Because itʼs a theoretical construct. I can defend a spherical earth too. Just pick your geometry, thatʼs all.”

To End This Blog Entry With The Question With Which It Began, “Does The Bible ‘Teach’ Geocentrism?”

Thereʼs no simple yes or no answer to such a question if only because geocentrism was so much taken for granted at that time that it could be treated as a given, a universal assumption, and thus there was no need to “teach” it. The same could be said about “flat-earth-ism” pre-600 BCE in the Near East.

Which leaves open the question of what other “assumptions” the Hebrew writers of the Bible took for granted concerning kingship, laws, gods, religious beliefs and rites? How can one know they are “true” assumptions or whether they need to be reinterpreted based on later knowledge, like the geocentric passages in the Bible? This also raises the question of whether the Scriptures can indeed “interpret themselves?” Can they?