“Sun Rise, Sun Set”

The Bible does not engage in speculative scientific descriptions about the earth’s external foundations. It simply states that God “stretches out the north over empty space, and hangs the earth on nothing” (Job 26:7). Those who accuse the Bible of teaching a flat Earth point to how the Bible speaks of having “four corners” (Isa. 11:2 and Rev. 7:1) and “four winds” (Jer. 49:36 and Matt. 24:31). There is nothing unusual or unscientific about depicting the earth as having four corners. The modern compass works in terms of a linear perspective. The Bible references direction by north, east, south, and west (Gen. 28:14) in the same way that we do today. Maps have always been used to plot direction. Even today, they are flat and have four corners, and yet no one would assume by this that we moderns believe that the Earth is flat.

Let’s suppose that 500 years from now, archaeologists dig up the Library of Congress from 100 feet of rubble and dust and find the map room. Will they conclude that we believed the Earth was flat after studying thousands of flat maps of the world? If a time capsule that included an atlas of our world as it exists today were unearthed two thousand years from now, would these future earthlings suppose that we believed in a flat earth? Would they think we believed that the Sun revolves around the Earth if they found a daily newspaper that reported when the Sun “rose” and set? How unscientific! Didn’t these editors ever hear of the Copernican Revolution?

A more nuanced approach would be scientifically accurate but awkward and unnessesary:

Consider. If I say, “The sun rose at 6:01 this morning,” that statement is perfectly true and communicates perfectly what is meant. I can also say something more precise, like: “At exactly 6:01:49 A.M., Greenwich Mean Time, the horizon of the earth dropped to reveal the upper tip of the sun as observed from 41N14'22.18” latitude and 55N21'45.44" longitude." This second statement is more precise, but not more true than the previous one. We understand the first statement perfectly well.[1]

Knowing the scientific description and being able to articulate it does not make us any more capable to live in this world. When scientists calculate what it takes to put the Space Shuttle into orbit, they use the Earth as a fixed reference point.


[1] James B. Jordan, Creation in Six Days: A Defense of the Traditional Reading of Genesis One (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 1999), 109.