Creationist Studies

Genesis 1 Debate     Misconceptions about biblical cosmology


             There is a current school of thought that operates with a disparitism between modern science and the cosmology of the Bible. The opposite school is concordism, which tries to harmonize modern science and the Bible. It is not so much that true scholars or scholars of truth is trying to concord the Bible to science but rather that they discover that modern science is merely echoeing what the ancient text already said.

             Take for example the objection of a disparity scholar like John Walton of Wheaton College, who said in his lectures on the Genesis Debate, that the ancient Israelites were under the misconception that humans think with their intestines. The Bible speaks of the thoughts of the heart and so forth. But what Walton is misunderstanding, is that modern science has discovered that there is a psycho-somatic connection. Should someone put his hand on a sick patient stomach or heart, the touch, the warmth, the realization of another human being suddenly breaks open healing and soothing aspects in the various abilities of the brain. The interconnection will make anyone say that man thinks with his heart or intestines.

             Then there are scholars who uses a “that was then but we are now” approach to Bible and Science. They try to show that the biblical cosmology is incompatible with modern science. This person did not read or study ANE maths, astronomy as one finds in the cuneiform texts from Presargonic times, Akkadian times, Ur III times, Old Babylonian times and all the other periods. We have to sometimes conclude that there is nothing new under the sun.

             Walton thought that the ancient Israelites did not know the earth was spheral. Moses studied under one of the greatest astronomers of Egypt, in the palace of Hatshepsut. In Job Moses said that the earth was hanged up on nothing. He also wrote “who can break the links of the seven star”? How did he know there are nebulae connecting them? You can’t see it with your naked eye. Babylonian astronomy is a subject that Walton may want to spent more time with, before he makes his conclusions. Our star maps were not strange to them. They were very familiar with the constellations and their characteristics.

             Walton says that the ancient Israelites did not know that the stars are suns. Wait a minute. Genesis 1 explains that when the need was there to give lights to the night, the stars was made as well (Genesis 1:16). The purpose was the same as the sun during the day, namely a lesser light for the night. What need is there for Israelites to know that the stars are suns? Maybe Walton can answer that one?

             In his book The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate John Walton is applauded for asking the question “what did the text mean in its context” but he did not look at the Mesopotamian exact sciences in cuneiform studies as a source for understanding the Ancients. Walton tries to argue that Genesis 1 is ancient cosmology and thus by ignorant writer(s) who knew nothing of what we know today.

             Walton is of the opinion that we cannot translate biblical cosmology into our own understanding of cosmology since we will make them say things they never said. The fact that the Middle Age church believed that the earth is on pillars and built it erroneously from here and there a text compilation, is their problem not the Bible writers ignorance. Moses knew the earth was hanging on nothing. In the 15th century, Leoardo Dati had a O and T concept of the earth: Un T e una O monstra il disegno come intre fu diviso il mundo (Lars-Ivar Ringbom, Graltempel und Paradies, Beziehungen zwischen Iran and Europa im Mittelalter [Stockholm: 1951], 251). Heinrich Wuttke, Über Erdkunde und Karten des Mittelalters, Serapeum 14 (1853): 225-236; 241-272; 273-280, pointed out that there were three concepts: square earth, egg earth and coin earth. He said on page 250 that the round earth was seen in the following biblical passages: Isaiah 40:22; Job 26:10; Proverbs 8:27. The earth was seen as a round marble form as early as 500 BCE but it was the churchfathers who made it a coin round shape (Augustine, Wuttke 1853: 244). Wilhelm von Conches, De philosophia mundi, PL 172, 85A wrote Mundi nempe ad similitudinem ovi est dispositus, thus, the earth is in a shape of an egg. In her book Mappa mundi und Chronographia (DA 24, 1968): 118-186, especially 149, Anna-Dorothea von den Brincken also indicated that another person Johann von Wallingford saw the earth as an egg. Others mentioned Gervasius von Tilbury, Peter Abelard and Daniel von Morley. Even Berthold von Regensburg is mentioned. From the 16th century comes Valentin Weigel. Hildegard also held to an alabaster shape for the earth. The square page earth was the concept of Severianus, Chrystostomus, Patricius and Thomas of Edessa (Barbara Maurmann, Die Himmelsrichtungen im Weltbild des Mittelalters [München: Wilhem Fink Verlag, 1976], 18-21). John Walton should study PL 172,76D for comments on the sun by Wilhelm von Conches, correct or not correct.

             Judging from the accuracy that ancient cuneiform astromers were able to predict lunar and stellar positions, we can only assume that they knew more than what we are willing to admit. We must remember that at Niniveh, Layard discovered a lense that raises the eyebrows of many astronomers today. That is from a context of 620 BCE and earlier.

             John Walton believes that we must take the text on its own terms and that it was not written to us. To the contrary, it was described for all generations and their concepts of science were highly advanced, more than what we seem to be aware of today.



2.    Barbara Maurmann, Die Himmelsrichtungen im Weltbild des Mittelalters [München: Wilhem Fink Verlag, 1976]


Biblical cosmological understanding is highly developed if one is willing to read the Text with care