DOES THE BIBLE TEACH THE GEOCENTRIC THEORY?
The geocentric theory states that the earth is at the center of the universe and that the sun revolves around the earth. I am not a scientist and will therefore not discuss the science of this theory. But this paper will discuss every scripture I could find that is quoted to prove that the Bible teaches the geocentric theory.
I will say at the outset that I found no scriptures that tell us that the sun is at the center of the universe and/or that the earth revolves around the sun. But neither have I found any scriptures that tell us that the earth is at the center of the universe and/or that the sun revolves around the earth. In short, I do not believe that the Bible tells us whether it is the sun or the earth that is at the center of the universe.
Speaking personally I will say that I do not find this lack of information surprising or disappointing. The Bible, while correct in all it says, is not a book of science, it is a book which reveals Who God is and His relationship to mankind. Whether the earth is at the center of the universe or the sun is at the center does not impact at all on the primary purposes of the Bible.
My main objective in this paper is to show that the Bible does not tell us if the sun or the earth is at the center of the universe. I believe this to be an important objective because there have been too many scriptures quoted in an effort to prove the geocentric theory that have been made to mean something that they do not. In short, this paper attempts to show that those scriptures that are quoted as proof of a geocentric universe prove no such thing.
This paper will discuss the following:
“Sunrise and Sunset”
“The Sun Stood Still”
The Hebrew Words Translated “Earth” or “World”
Passages That Speak of the Land of Israel
Passages That Speak of the Inhabited World
“Foundations” of the World
Passages That Say That The Earth Shall Not Be Moved
“SUNRISE AND SUNSET”
We read in several scriptures that the sun rises and sets. For example we read in Ecc. 1:5, “The sun also riseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose”.
If the sun rises it goes up, i.e. north, and if it sets, it goes down, i.e. south. But the papers I have read written by those who believe that the geocentric theory is proved in the Bible show graphs etc. showing the sun circling the earth from east to west. My point is that because the sun does not literally go north, i.e. rise, or go south, i.e. set, we must take this figuratively. That is to say, as is true of all literature, including the Bible, it is to be understood either literally or figuratively. Whenever possible the Bible must be taken literally. But when there is a seeming error or inconsistency if taken literally we must take that passage figuratively, i.e. as a figure of speech. Because the sun does not literally travel north or south (rise or set), we must understand this as a figure of speech.
In point of fact there is no figure of speech which will allow us to change the meaning of Ecc. 1:5 to say that when the sun rose it went east or that when the sun set it went west. But there is a figure of speech that will allow for the rising and setting of the sun. That figure of speech is the Metonymy of the Effect, which is defined by Dr. E. W. Bullinger as, “when the effect is put for the cause producing it”.
Let us consider an example of the Metonymy of the Effect. We read in Gen. 25:23, “And the Lord said unto her, ‘Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels…’”. Note the phrase, “two nations are in thy womb”. We know that there were two baby boys in Rebekah’s womb, Jacob who became the father of Israel and Esau who became the father of the Edomites. We must take this verse figuratively because there were obviously not two nations in Rebekah’s womb. The effect of the two boys in her womb was that there would come from her two nations. So the effect (i.e. two nations) was put for the cause producing it, (i.e. the two sons in Rebekah’s womb). Let me put that another way. The effect is two nations, the cause producing it is two male babies, each fathering a nation. So when we read that there were two nations in Rebekah’s womb that is the effect which is put for the cause producing it.
So too, when we read of the sun rising the effect is that the sun rises because that is what we see. In other words, we cannot take literally the verses that say that the sun rises because the sun does not go north, i.e. rise. We must therefore, understand the verses which speak of the sun rising or setting as the use of the figure of speech Metonymy of the Effect to say that what we see (the effect) is the sun rising and what we see (the effect) is the sun setting. The effect, i.e. the rising and setting of the sun, is put for the cause producing it. The question remains: what was the cause, the effect of which is the sun rising and setting? Again, I do not believe that the Bible tells us whether the cause was the movement of the sun or the movement of the earth. But my point in this section is that the verses which speak of the sun rising and setting do not speak of a literal movement of the sun.
For the sake of clarity let me put these two examples of the Metonymy of the Effect literally. So literally Gen. 25:23 would read, “two sons are in thy womb and each will be the father of a nation”. And Ecc. 1:5 would read, “as we see it, the sun rises and goes down”.
“The Sun Stood Still”
We read in Josh. 10:13, “and the sun stood still and the moon stayed”. Some take this verse to say that the sun is generally moving but in this case it stood still. Let us consider the context of this verse.
We read in verses 1-7 of “five kings of the Amorites….encamped before Gibeon and made war against it” (vs.5). In verse 6 we read of the men of Gibeon asking Joshua to come and help them in the battle, and in verse 8 we read, “and the Lord said unto Joshua, ‘Fear them not: for I have delivered them into thine hand; there shall not a man of them stand before thee’”.
Then in verse 12 we read, “Then spake Joshua to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, ‘Sun stand thou still upon Gibeon; And thou Moon, in the valley of Ajalon: until the People have avenged themselves upon their enemies”.
Why did Joshua ask for the sun and the moon to stand still? Obviously, so that they would have the time to “avenge themselves upon their enemies”. What did the sun and moon standing still have to do with avenging their enemies? By the sun and moon standing still there would be daylight for the “about a whole day” (vs. 13) thus giving Israel the time to avenge their enemies.
Here is my point. What happened that day was that there was daylight for most of the day. Was that daylight a result of the sun and moon standing still, or could God have chosen a different way to accomplish that? In point of fact, we are not told. But, as we learned above, there is no Scriptural evidence that says that the sun moves, only that as we see it, the sun moves. Therefore we may not assume that Josh. 10:13 says that the sun and the moon usually move.
I believe Josh. 10:13 does not prove that the sun moves. Rather, this verse uses the figure of speech Metonymy of the Effect, which again is defined as the effect put for the cause producing it. In short, those of Joshua’s day saw the miracle of “about a whole day” of daylight. The sun and moon stopping was, figuratively speaking, the effect (what they saw) from God’s miracle of giving them light, which was the cause.
THE HEBREW WORDS TRANSLATED “EARTH” OR “WORLD”
There are two Hebrew words translated “earth” or “world” that impact on our study of the geocentric theory. They are “eretz” and “tebel”. We will begin with the definition from Scripture of the word “eretz”.
“Eretz” is used of the earth as opposed to heaven in for example Gen. 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Heb. “eretz”). It is used of the ground as in Gen. 18:2, “he bowed himself toward the ground” (Heb. “eretz”). And it is used of a particular country as in Gen. 12:1, “Now the Lord had said unto Abram, ‘Get thee out of thy country (Heb. “eretz”) ..unto a land (Heb. “eretz”) that I will shew thee”. Usually, but not always, when “eretz” is used of a country it is used of Israel. Consider for example Ps. 10:16, “the heathen are perished out of this land” (Heb. “eretz”). Here the term “heathen” is contrasted with “eretz” and therefore must refer to Israel as all other nations were “heathen” in God’s sight.
As mentioned above, the Hebrew word “tebel” is another word that we must understand correctly as we consider the geocentric theory. Let us begin our study of “tebel” with Ps. 90:2, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hast formed the earth (Heb. “eretz”) and the world (Heb. “tebel”). Note the phrase “the earth and the world”. This tells us that the two words mean different things. Given that the Psalmist speaks of forming the mountains, we may conclude that “eretz” in this verse refers to the earth as a planet. Let us continue in our study of “tebel” to learn what that word refers to.
We read in Prov. 8:31, “rejoicing in the habitable (Heb. “tebel”) part of His earth (Heb. “eretz”)…”. Again, the Hebrew word translated “earth” in this verse is “eretz”. But the word translated “habitable” is “tebel”. So “tebel” is the word used of the inhabited part of the earth.
Now let us determine, from Scripture, just what is meant by the inhabited earth. That is to say, is the term used of all the earth, or is it used of that part of the earth which the writers of the Old and New Testaments knew to be inhabited?
The Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “tebel” is “oikoumenee”. Dr. Bullinger defines “oikoumenee as “The world as inhabited. It is from the verb “oikeo:= to dwell. It is used of the inhabited world as distinct from “kosmos“. Hence it is used in a more limited sense of the Roman Empire which was then predominant”. As in every language, a word is defined by its usage. I suggest therefore, that we look at how the Holy Spirit used this word.
“Oikoumenee” is used in Luke 2:1, “… .all the world (Greek “oikoumenee”) should be taxed”. It is also used in Acts 11:28, “…..through the Holy Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire world“(Greek “oikoumenee”). (The NIV has “Roman World”). It is also used in Acts 24:5, “stirring up trouble among the Jews throughout the world“ (Greek “oikoumenee”). It is clear from these verses that what is intended for the reader to understand is a limited part of the world. That is to say, it was only a limited part of the world that was taxed; a severe famine was spread over a limited part of the world; and there was a stirring of Jews over a limited part of the world.
In short, the Hebrew “tebel” is used of that part of the world that the Old and New Testament writers understood to be inhabited. So when we read of the world (Heb. “tebel”) in such passages as Ps. 93:1, (“ the world is stablished that it cannot be moved”), we are not reading of the planet earth, we are reading of that part of the earth that was thought at the time to be inhabited.
PASSAGES THAT SPEAK OF THE LAND OF ISRAEL
We read in Ps. 99:1, “The Lord reigneth: let the People tremble: He sitteth between the cherubim, let the earth be moved. The Hebrew word translated “earth” in this verse is “eretz”. As mentioned above, it can mean the earth, it can mean the ground, and it can mean a country, usually, but not always, Israel. The context will always tell us which it means. Given that the context concerns “the People” i.e. Israel, and “cherubim” which were found in Israel’s temple, I believe we may conclude that in this verse it is the Land of Israel that is meant. But how are we to understand the Land of Israel being “moved”? Strong’s Dictionary defines the Hebrew word translated “moved” as “quake” which makes sense in this context. In other words this verse tells us that the Land of Israel will quake, which makes perfect sense given that the “People will tremble”.
In Is. 24:19 we read, “The earth (Heb. “eretz”) is utterly broken down, the earth (Heb. “eretz”) is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly”. (The Hebrew word “moth” will be discussed in more detail in the section below under the heading “Passages That Say That The Earth Will Not Be Moved”).The context makes it clear that it is the Land of Israel that is meant. Consider verse 20, “The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage: and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it…”.
PASSAGES THAT SPEAK OF THE INHABITED WORLD
We read in I Chron. 16:30, “…… the world also shall be stable that it be not moved”. The Hebrew word translated “world” in the phrase “the world….be not moved” is “tebel” which as discussed above, refers to the inhabited world. The reader may ask what is meant by the phrase “the inhabited world is not moved”? The Hebrew word translated “moved” in the verses under consideration is “moth”. The first occurrence is found in Lev. 25:35 where it is translated “fallen in decay”. In Ps. 38:16 it is translated “slippeth”. In Prov. 25:26 it is translated “falling down”.
In short, the basic meaning of the Hebrew word translated “moved” in I Chron. 16:30 means “to fall” or “to fail”. So this verse does not say that the planet earth will not be moved, it says rather that the inhabited earth will not fall into such decay as to be uninhabitable. (The Hebrew word “moth” will be discussed in more detail in the section below under the heading “Passages That Say That The Earth Will Not Be Moved”).
I Sam. 2:8 reads, “……for the pillars of the earth (Heb. “eretz”) are the Lord’s and He hath set the world (Heb. “tebel”) upon them”. If we are to correctly understand what the Holy Spirit has for us in this verse we must consider the context. With that in mind let us consider verses 7-8a, “The Lord maketh poor and maketh rich; He bringeth low and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar out of the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory”.
What is the point of this passage? It is, in my opinion, that God alone determines whether to make a poor man rich and give him glory. What are the “pillars” in this context? I believe they are the important men that are replaced by the poor and beggarly. We would say that they are “the pillars of society”.
In short the context of this verse does not allow for the interpretation of the planet earth being on “pillars”. It does allow for the interpretation that God can replace important men of the inhabited world with the poor.
FOUNDATIONS OF THE EARTH
Those who believe that the earth does not move around the sun point to the passages in Scripture that speak of the foundations of the world as implying that the world could not move because of these foundations. Let us consider the Hebrew word “yahsad” translated “foundations” and is used of the earth.
The Hebrew word “yahsad” is used of the foundations of the earth in the following passages: Job 38:4; Ps. 78:69, 102:25, 104:5; Is. 48:13, 51:13, 51:16; Zech. 12:1.
Do these verses tell us that because the earth is laid on a foundation that it cannot move? I believe not. We read in Job 26:7, “He stretcheth the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing”. This verse tells us that the earth is hung on nothing. Does that contradict those verses that speak of God laying the foundations of the earth? Of course not, there are no contradictions in the perfect Word of God. May I suggest a thought that will satisfy Job 26:7 which says that the earth hangs on nothing, and also the verses listed above which say that the earth is on a foundation.
The foundations of the earth could refer to those things such as gravity which allow for the earth to move within its orbit. That means that the foundations upon which the earth was laid was gravity, but still can be described as “nothing”, i.e. God “hangeth the earth on nothing” because gravity is a force, not a literal foundation.
But some have suggested that the correct translation is, “supporteth the earth upon fastenings”, which, of course, implies that the earth is immovable. Let us consider that translation.
The Hebrew word translated “nothing” is “bleemah”, and is used only once so we cannot determine the definition from how it is used by the Holy Spirit. But there are indeed nine Hebrew words translated “fasten” or “fastened”. I believe that as we just look at each of those nine words it will be clear that they are not related to the word used in Job 26. The Hebrew words translated “fasten” or fastened” are as follows: “ahgaz”, “gahzak”, “tohorah”, “koon”, “newdab”, “nawtah”, “tsmawmad”, “tawkah”.
My point is that if the Holy Spirit had wanted to convey the thought that the earth is hung on fastens there were nine different words from which to choose, but He chose an entirely different word, not in any way related to the words translated “fasten”. I believe He chose a different word because the Holy Spirit did not want to convey the notion that the earth was hung on “fastens” but rather “ He hung the earth on nothing.
Further, let us consider the Hebrew word translated “hangeth” in Job 26:7, “He…..hangeth the earth” which some have translated “supporteth”. The Hebrew word is “tahlah” and is used 28 times. In every case it is used of, or twice in the sense of, hanging, as in hanging from a tree.
I find it rather interesting that there is no word in Hebrew that has been translated “support” or “supporteth”. But there are two Hebrew words that are translated “hold” that would fit the meaning of “support” They are “awkhaz” and “kahwzak”. If the Holy Spirit wanted us to understand that the earth was supported in place He could have used either of those words. I believe that the reason He did not use either of those words is because He did not mean to say that the earth was supported, He meant for us to understand that the earth was “hung” and hung on nothing.
Job has one more thing to add to this discussion of the unmovable earth. We read in Job 9:6, “Which (God) shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble”. Obviously, if the earth can be shaken out of her place, the earth is not unmovable.
The Hebrew word “mohsahdohth” is also translated “foundations”. It is used in II Sam. 22:8 which reads, “then the earth shook and trembled, the foundations of heaven moved…”. . If one is to argue that the earth has foundations and therefore can not move, then logic dictates that because the heaven has foundations neither can it move. But we learn in II Sam. 22:8 that the foundations of heaven do indeed move. Therefore, we must conclude that the passages which speak of the foundations of the earth do not tell us that the earth is unmovable.
The Hebrew word translated “foundations” in II Sam. 22:8 is also used in the following verses concerning the foundations of the earth: II Sam. 22:16, Ps. 18:15, 82:5; Prov. 8:29; Is. 24:18, 40:21; Jer. 31:37, 51:56; Mic. 6:2.
PASSAGES THAT SEEM TO SAY THAT THE EARTH SHALL NOT BE MOVED
We read in Ps. 93:1, “ The Lord reigneth, He is clothed with majesty; The Lord is clothed with strength wherewith He hath girded Himself; the world (Heb. “tebel”) also is established that it cannot be moved”. The point of this verse is obviously not whether the earth is unmovable. The point is that because God is in control, the inhabited world will not be moved. Let us continue with a consideration of the Hebrew word translated “moved”.
The Hebrew word translated “moved” in this verse is “moth”. A correct understanding of this word is crucial to a correct understand as to what this verse says about the inhabited world being unmovable.
The first occurrence of the Hebrew word “moth” is found in Lev. 25:35 and is translated “fallen in decay”. In Ps. 94:18 it is used in the phrase “My foot slippeth”. . The word is also translated “fall” and “shaketh”. But it is also translated “moved”. Let us consider some of the verses in which this Hebrew word is translated “moved”.
Ps. 46:6 reads, “The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: He uttered His voice the earth melted”. What is the point of this verse? Note the phrase, “He uttered His voice the earth melted”. This speaks of God’s wrath. Considering that the Hebrew word “moth” is often translated as “fall” slippeth” etc. and that this verse has to do with God’s punishment, I believe we may conclude that the phrase “kingdoms were moved” refers to negative events. These negative events are described in verses 8-9 which read, “come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations He hath made in the earth; He breaketh the bow and breaketh the spear in sunder; He burneth the chariot in the fire”. In other words, the basic meaning of “fall”, “slippeth” etc. is consistent with how it is used in this verse.
Another verse that uses the Hebrew word “moth” and is translated “moved” is Ps. 55:22 which reads, “Cast thy burdens upon the Lord and He shall sustain thee, He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved”. Here too the word “moved” carries a negative connotation, i.e. the righteous shall never suffer a “slipping away” as it is sometimes used.
Having established the meaning of the Hebrew word “moth” from how it is used by the Holy Spirit, let us consider the other passages which speak of the earth not being moved.
Ps. 96:10 reads, “Say among the heathen that the Lord reigneth; the world also shall be established that it not be moved; He shall judge the people righteously”. The Hebrew word translated “world” in this verse is “tebel” which, as shown above, means the “inhabited world”. The meaning of this Psalm then is, in my opinion, quite clear. Because the Lord is in control the inhabited earth will not fall into decay so as to be uninhabitable.
I Chron. 16:30 is discussed above under the heading “Passages That Speak of The Inhabited World”.
Ps. 104:5 is discussed above under the heading “Foundations of the Earth”.
Is. 24:19 is discussed above under the heading “Passages That Speak Of The Land of Israel”.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond please e-mail me at: email@example.com