25 January 2017

The Bible and The Cosmos(3): The Foundations of the Earth

So if God created the earth, understood as a landmass rather than a planet, on what does this land mass rest?


Earlier in Genesis, Moses writes that God gathered the water under the heaven together into seas.


Additional passages, however, suggest that the land actually floated on the water. In a song of praise to God, the Psalmist suggests that God built the land on top of the water:


"To him that by wisdom made the heavens: for his mercy endureth for ever. To him that stretched out the earth above the waters: for his mercy endureth for ever." Psalm 136:5-6



Moreover, Moses himself expands on his initial Genesis description by alluding to the waters under the earth. In several passages warning Israel against crafting religious idols of animal life, he makes his command as comprehensive as possible about the kinds of animal life involved:


"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:" Exodus 20:4


"Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female, The likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air, The likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth:" Deut. 4:16-18


"Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth:" Deut. 5:8


In all three of these texts, Moses prohibits idols of creature from land, air, or sea. And he describes the seas as "under" or "beneath" the earth.

In other texts, the Bible describes the earth on "pillars". This seems clearly to be a figure of speech. Other times the earth rests on "foundations." In some passages, this may indeed refer to the lower depths of the land. Most often, however, the Hebrew word for "foundations" is translated "place."  The concept of foundation does not seem to add much to understanding ancient Hebrew cosmology.






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