The Flat Earth Theory: Fact or Fiction?
(Part 1-Biblical Evidence)
In recent years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people who have come to the conclusion that the earth is flat and not a globe. When I first began getting emails from people who were promoting the Flat Earth Theory, I initially ignored the subject believing it to be another fringe theory held by a few people. But then as I got more and more emails from people asking about the Globe Earth vs. the Flat Earth, I felt that it was time to dig into the subject and examine the Flat Earth Theory for myself. From my reading on this subject I believe that there are three reasons people have been embracing the Flat Earth Theory; biblical evidence, observable evidence and distrust of the government.
It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; (RSV, Isaiah 40:22)
When interpreting scripture it is very important to interpret it from an Ancient Hebrew perspective and not from our own modern Western perspective. As an example, let’s look at the last part of this verse which states “and spreads [the heavens] like a tent to dwell in.” The Ancient Hebrews lived a nomadic lifestyle dwelling in goat hair tents. The fibers of the goat hair allowed pinholes of light to pass through the tent and from inside the tent the roof looked similar to the night sky. So when the Ancient Hebrews looked at the night sky, they didn’t perceive the stars as giant balls of gas billions of miles away as we do, they saw the night sky as God’s tent over them.
When we read a passage like “the circle of the earth” we need to interpret this from their cultural perspective. The Hebrew word ???? (olam, Strong’s #5769) is frequently translated as forever, everlasting and world (Hebrew words related to time are also used for space). These translations imply vast spans of space and time, far beyond any perceptions the Hebrews would have of space and time. However, the literal meaning of this Hebrew word is “beyond the horizon.” This could be a time in the far distant past or future or a place beyond ones perception. The Hebrews did not attempt to define or speculate on what was “beyond the horizon,” it was just “hidden,” another meaning of this Hebrew word, from their viewpoint.
Because the Ancient Hebrews only concerned themselves with what they could perceive around them, to them the whole world was what was within sight. If you stand in the middle of a plain and look all around you, you will see a 360 degree view of the horizon and this horizon will be in the shape of a circle.
The Hebrew word for “circle” in Isaiah 40:22 is the word ??? (hhug, Strong’s #2329), which means a “circle,” such as is drawn with a compass, and refers to the perceivable “world” around the individual.
And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. (RSV, Joshua 10:13)
According to modern science the earth revolves around the sun, and therefore the sun cannot “stand still.” So this verse is used to support the Flat Earth Theory, because in this theory the earth is stationary and the sun moves around the earth.
But again, it is important to understand this passage from the perspective of the Ancient Hebrews, who simply saw the sun pass from one horizon to the other each day. I would also like to point out that if this verse was written from a Flat Earth Theory perspective, the sun would not “go down” as the text states. However, to the Ancient Hebrews the sun does “go down” from their perspective supporting the idea that this verse was written from the perspective of the Ancient Hebrews.
And God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, (RSV, Genesis 1:14 )
This verse, along with many other verses in the Bible, has been used to create the following Flat Earth model of the heavens and earth.
As I have demonstrated, the Ancient Hebrews do not perceive the world in the same way that we do and we can also see that their style of writing is very different from our own as well.
Our modern form of writing history is with prose and step logic, but the Ancient Hebrews used poetry and block logic. These two styles of writing are very different and if we attempt to interpret the Bible as if it was written with prose and step logic, then misinterpretations and mistranslations will abound.
Our misunderstanding of the poetry of Genesis Chapter 1 can easily be demonstrated by comparing the verse above with Genesis 1:4. In Genesis 1:14 it states that God created the lights (the sun and moon) to “separate the day from the night.” How is this possible if God already separated the light from the darkness in Genesis 1:4? The answer lies in the style of writing. This chapter is not written as an historical account, it is a poem with a chiastic structure and days one and four are speaking about the same event, not different events on different days.
If we compare the first three days of creation with the last three days of creation, we discover that the author has divided the six days into two separate blocks. The first block of three days describes the act of separating the heavens and the earth while the second block of three days describes the act of filling the heavens and the earth.
Day 1 - Separating light and darkness
Day 2 - Separating water and sky
Day 3 - Separating the land from water
Day 4 - Filling the light with the sun and the darkness with the moon.
Day 5 - Filling water with fish and the skies with birds
Day 6 - Filling the land with plants and animals
Day 1 is about the separating of the light and darkness and day 4, its parallel, is about the filling of the light and darkness with the sun, moon and stars. Day 2 is about the separating of the water and the sky and day 5 is about the filling of the water with fish and the sky with birds. Day 3 is about the separating of the land from the water and day 6 is about the filling of the land with plants and animals. The first chapter of Genesis, and the rest of the Bible for that matter, must be interpreted according to the Ancient Hebrews style of writing (poetry and block logic) and not from our own modern style of writing (prose and step logic).
To summarize, the Ancient Hebrews did not believe in a Flat Earth or a Globe Earth. From their perspective, the earth was what they could see from horizon to horizon and their philosophy of the Cosmos was interpreted from this perspective.
I am very interested in your criticisms, corrections, comments and suggestions about this article as this will help me to improve on this article before I publish it to the website. Also, is there something that I did not address in this article that I should have? Next month I will continue with part 2 of this article where we will look at the observable evidence for the Flat Earth Theory.
Jeff & Denise Benner
Ancient Hebrew Research Center
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SHä'lom ( / ????): A Hebrew word that is usually translated as "peace," but more literally means "to be whole and complete." It is derived from a root meaning to "be whole." The next time you say the word shalom to another, remember, you are not just asking that there not be any strife in that person's life, you are asking that they have everything that they need to be whole and complete. Shalom!
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