Christianity and Flat Earth
For most of human history mankind has seen the earth as flat. Actually most people still see the earth as flat. This is because the word earth is synonymous with the word land. The land we live on generally speaking is flat. Yeah it may have curves, valleys, and hills, but land is still flat, right? Well from our point of view it is, but when we zoom out and increase the land mass beyond what we can see at one time we understand the land we live on curves. So why do some Christians deny that the planet Earth is round and instead suppose the planet to be generally flat?
Like other interesting misinterpretations of reality the Bible itself is found to be at the center of the Christian flat Earth issue. There are lots of flat Earth Christians that use the Bible to support their claims. So does the Bible teach that the Earth is flat? Well, no. Does the Bible record of people’s belief and understanding that the Earth is flat? Well, yes. There is a big difference between these two questions.
Religion and Piety, not Cosmological Calculation
“The Bible” is a collection of writings from men associated with Yahweh and Jesus. It records of many great things including man’s interaction with God. Its purpose is to remind people of God’s directives for humanity as it has been revealed through Prophets and Apostles. The Bible is simply a written record of men’s interaction with God and His directives as He has revealed them. It is a collection of writings written by man of which contents are influenced by God Himself. Because of this what we have recorded for us is told though the human author. Now the author is writing to convey the religious truth. Sometimes he will use figure of speech and comparisons to get his point across. Sometimes they compare God’s love or anger like “something” and “something else”. So because humans wrote the Bible we see the religious truths told through their experience and in their own way of describing things. This includes their understanding of the world and the sciences. So in attempting to convey the religious truth they may record something scientifically inaccurate as an illustration. The authors don’t know it’s an inaccuracy because that’s what people of the time thought was true concerning the sciences. The intent of the author is never to teach about science anyway, but rather to teach what God has conveyed to them.
"Earth" not “Earth”
I touched on this a little in the opening, but we need to remember that the ancients who recorded the Scriptures did not regard their “world” as a planet. Take a look at Genesis and you will see that the ancients regarded their physical reality as “sea”, “heavens”, and “earth.” Earth in this context is not planet, but rather land. Sometimes our English translations can be a bit confusing because the more archaic understanding of the word “earth” is land. Now that we have named the whole conglomerate planet as “Earth” it can be a bit confusing in some English translations to understand the differentiation. So how does this type of understanding help clear up the confusion? Well take a look at Isaiah 40:22 which says “It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers.” First of all let’s answer one question. Is the author trying to teach cosmology, what the Earth looks like? Or is he trying to convey the reality that God is an ultimate authority over all? I think the latter is his intent. Secondly consider the understanding of the author. If his understanding of the world is “Land”, “Sea”, and “Heavens” then we understand that He is painting a picture of God above the “circle” or dome. Like flat Earth adherents today, the ancients thought there was a dome which encased the land, sea, sun, moon, and stars. Some try to show that this verse teaches round Earth. These so called apologists are terribly mistaken as well. Neither is the author’s intent, but the former is an accurate understanding of the author’s picture.
Does the Bible teach flat Earth? The truth is no. Did the authors of Scripture believe a lot of what flat Earth people do about the physical reality? More than likely, yes. The author’s understanding of flat Earth may be referenced in the Scripture, but always remember that the intention of these authors is always for a man to God religious truth and not to convey infallible scientific calculations. Christianity is not about flat Earth and we should not adopt the author’s understanding of cosmology when that is never the focus of his teaching anyway.