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Earth:  Does the Bible teach that it is flat?

Gary Googe Aug 23

There are certainly those who claim that it does, and some will quickly refer you to Scripture to “prove” it.

Job 38:4-5, 12-13

Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.

Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?

12 Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days; and caused the dayspring [the dawn] to know his place;

13 That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, that the wicked might be shaken out of it? [Emphasis added]

Is there anything here or in other passages that should cause us to believe the Earth is flat? Some believe there is.  There are other passages they will use to make their point.  Here are several of them.

Isaiah 11:12

12 And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. [Emphasis added]

Revelation 7:1

1 And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. [Emphasis added]

Revelation 20:8

And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. [Emphasis added]

As with other passages that make it appear our Earth is flat, there is an explanation that shows otherwise.  What must be realized in this case is that this is much like the four points on a compass, indicating the four primary directions—North, South, East, and West.  A compass is round, so the needle can spin about its axis and align with Earth’s magnetic field.  Just as we would refer to “the four points on a compass,” and yet not mean a square compass, so the Bible refers to the “four corners of the earth” as the four cardinal directions—North, West, South, and East.

However, besides these passages there’s another one that seems to get the most attention.

Isaiah 40:22

22 It is he [God] that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants [people] thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in: [Emphasis added]

The Hebrew word [KHUB] translated “circle” can be translated circle or sphere.  Although this word is commonly translated into the English word “circle,” the literal meaning of this word is “a sphere.”  You would think this passage alone would settle the matter.  But again, what about “the four corners” of the Earth? Does that provide evidence of a flat Earth? What one must realize is that even today, astronomers and physicists around the world recognize and use the “four corners of the earth” as phenomenological language referring to the most distant parts of the Earth from the standpoint of an observer at a specific location on Earth.  The context for all three of those passages shows that the most distant part of the Earth is the intent implied using the idiom, the four corners of the earth.  As the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament points out, the Hebrew word KANAP for “corners” used in Isaiah 11:12, as in most of its appearances in the Old Testament, is used figuratively, not literally.

As an aside, let’s note another interesting verse that helps us with this.

Matthew 24:31

31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. [Emphasis added]

If we force “four corners of the earth” of Revelation 7:1 and Isaiah 11:12 to talk about four literal corners of Earth, then, according to Matthew 24:31, there must be only four winds of heaven as well! No, this is not describing the precise number of winds but rather the four primary directions from which they come—North, South, East, and West! Moreover, according to Matthew 24:31, heaven has two ends or extremes—what shape would heaven be then? A rectangle would have four extremes. A sphere would have none. A circle would have an infinite number.

People are prone to assume that people thousands of years ago didn’t have the means to know whether the Earth was flat or a sphere.  However, history tells us that is not true.  The fact that at different locations on Earth different stellar constellations are seen and that they are seen at different orientations was sufficient to persuade people that they were living on a spherical body. Such evidence of a spherical Earth is found in other writings of the fourth century BC.  Aristotle bolstered his belief in a round Earth with the observation that during lunar eclipses, the Earth’s shadow on the face of the sun is curved.  Since this curved shape exists during all lunar eclipses, despite the fact that the Earth is rotating, Aristotle correctly concluded from the curved shadow that the Earth is a sphere.  There are also documents written by Greek philosophers in the sixth century BC speaking of a round Earth.   We even have Eratosthenes in the third century BC using sunlight lines at summer solstice in wells at different latitudes with amazing accuracy to determine the diameter of the Earth to 1% precision.  Both Egyptian and Greek astronomers noted the semi-circular shadow of the Earth on the Moon during lunar eclipses as evidence for a spherical Earth.

Regardless of all the visual evidence, it is the comments we have in the Bible that carry the greater weight of authority.  We have excellent examples of this.

Again, Job 38:5

Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? [Emphasis added]

The inference made by those claiming that the Bible is a flat-earth book is that the “measuring line” is a straight line which would be suitable for measuring a flat disk but not a sphere.  This is not correct.  It is what we might call an overinterpretation. Lines can be straight or curved. Also, it is customary to measure the diameter of a sphere with a straightedge ruler.

Then, again, we have Job 38:12-13.

12 Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days; and caused the dayspring [the dawn] to know his place;

13 That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, that the wicked might be shaken out of it? [Emphasis added]

The “ends” of the earth denotes what appear to be the edges of the Earth from our viewpoint.  The arrival of the dawn first shows up at the most distant horizon, end, or edge of the point of view of a person at a fixed point upon the Earth’s surface.  All these passages and others best fit the idea of a spherical Earth, rather than a flat one.  While it may be an overinterpretation to use these passages to teach that the Earth is a sphere, nowhere in the Bible do we find any text saying that the Earth is flatThe Bible continues to be the only book that contains no provable errors or contradictions in matters of history, science, astronomy, or anything else.  We are clearly warned about the strife people can cause when they do not accept the authority and accuracy of the Bible.  We need to do all we can to avoid strife with these people.  We are clearly warned about the unbeliever, the natural man, and his way of thinking. 

I Corinthians 2:14

14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. [Emphasis added]

All too often the best of arguments will not convince these people of the truth because they’re only willing to believe the things they want to believe.

II Timothy 2:23

23 But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. [Emphasis added]

In their rejection of truth, Romans 1:22 describes them well.

22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, [Emphasis added]

There are countless examples of man’s knowledge or man’s “science” conflicting with Scripture.  It is much like my dad used to say, “Some people are educated beyond their intelligence.” The Bible speaks of these people.

II Timothy 3:7

Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. [Emphasis added]

We are never to give secular data priority over the statements of Scripture.  With God as its Author, the Bible is a completely reliable book

II Timothy 3:16

16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: [Emphasis added]

From the time of the Garden of Eden, Satan’s objective has always been to undermine the authority of God’s Word.  Satan knows that if he’s successful at that, he can discredit it about the truths regarding the means to man’s salvation and much more.  While the Bible is not really a textbook on science, everything it says about science is correct.

There are many studies on the internet about the idea of the Earth being flat, but none are to be taken seriously.  There are numerous passages of Scripture that are questioned and used in attempts to substantiate the idea of the Earth being flat.  This includes everything from Satan’s temptations of Christ in the wilderness [Matthew 4:5-9] to statements made in the book of Job about God’s work in creation [Job 37:18].  But not even one of these passages tells us or gives us reason to believe the planet Earth is flat.  None of them!

What’s most important for us to beware of is Satan’s continuous attack on the Bible.  He knows well that causing man to question or doubt the integrity of Scripture has been his most successful ploy in deceiving mankind.  Therefore, he will use it until the day he is permanently removed from the Earth and no longer has access to man to work at deceiving him.  As it was with our Lord and the temptations he presented to Him, our main line of defense rests in our knowledge and application of the Word of God [Matthew 4:4,7,10].  Therefore, let us all devote ourselves to habitual intake and application of it, knowing that in that alone are we guaranteed victory.

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