The scientific foreknowledge of the Bible is a tricky subject. Many well-meaning believers, earnestly seeking to defend the Christian faith, latch onto bad evidence, not realizing how laughable their arguments appear to non-Christians. The following list was taken from a post on Facebook that illustrates my frustration with this frequently-used defense of Scripture.
- The Earth is a sphere (Isa. 40:22). Not according to the prophet Isaiah, or any other biblical passage for that matter. The Hebrew term used in this passage is khug, meaning “circle” or “horizon,” not “sphere.” There is evidence to suggest that the Greeks knew the earth was round by the 5th century BC. By the time Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue, everyone had known the earth was round for two millennia. This does not mean that the Bible teaches the earth is flat – far from it. Critics who claim this apparently don’t understand the biblical authors’ use of perspective and phenomenological language. Unfortunately, this is often the case when the Bible talks about the “corners” of the earth (Ezek. 7:2; Rev. 7:1); critics don’t seem to realize that the Bible is employing a designation that had been in use for many centuries. Some of the earliest kings of Mesopotamia called themselves “King of the Four Corners of the Earth” (i.e., the whole world).
- Innumerable stars (Jer. 33:22). If the stars really were “innumerable” (i.e., an infinite number), the entire universe would be nothing but stars. There wouldn’t be room for anything else. There is an actual number of stars, the number of which only God knows, of course. To describe a vast quantity of anything as innumerable happens quite a lot. This is simple observation. We also have to consider that God states that the descendants of Abraham and David will be just as innumerable (see also Jer. 33:22). Since that is not the case, then we must interpret this passage as hyperbolic.
- Air has weight (Job 28:25). The actual term used in the passage is “wind” (ruah, meaning ‘breath,” “wind,” or “spirit”), not “air.” The main problem with this verse is a common one for proponents of scientific foreknowledge – it begins by taking liberty with the text. Others in this list do the same. But the term “weight” should perhaps be understood as “force” (Heb. mishqal), likely a reference to the force exerted on people and objects when the wind blows.
- Each star is different (1 Cor. 15:41). What the apostle Paul may mean here is readily observable by any person: stars have different brightnesses.
- Light moves (Job 38:19-20). This difficult passage doesn’t teach that light moves, unless darkness “moves” also. This is a puzzling interpretation, since it seems that the verse also says that darkness and light have “dwelling places,” indicating that there are, apparently, times when light doesn’t move (which is not possible). Some commentators suggest that this is a way of referring to the afterlife. Not a great interpretation in my opinion, but ancient poetry can be exceedingly difficult to translate and interpret.
- Free float of Earth in space (Job 26:7). The earth does not float free in space. It is pulled by the gravity of the sun and affected by the gravitational fields of other heavenly bodies. If the earth was not bound to the sun by gravity, it would be a nomad planet and would be completely unable to support life.
- Winds blow in cyclones (Ecc. 1:6). The term “cyclone” does not appear in this verse. It simply talks about the movement of the wind.
- Ocean floor contains deep valleys and mountains (2 Sam. 22:16; Jon. 2:6). The first text mentions the “channels” of the sea – in other words, the “channel in which the sea lies.” There is no reference here to underwater valleys. The second passage is when Jonah sinks down in the “ocean.” The prophet is thrown overboard in the Mediterranean Sea, which doesn’t have any mountains in it.
- Blood is the source of life and health (Lev. 17:11). Anyone who has ever seen an animal bleed to death – including anyone in the ancient world who ate meat or offered sacrifices – would already know this. This statement comes after a section on sacrifices, likely meant to indicate the importance of blood for an important reason: it signifies the penalty for sin, and so it not to be treated like anything that was common. Noah and his sons had already been commanded not to eat blood (Gen. 9:4).
- Creation made of invisible elements (Heb. 11:3). If creation was made of “invisible elements” then everything would be invisible. It may be that what it intended here by our careless apologist is “invisible to the naked eye,” i.e., atoms. However, the Greek philosopher Democritus had already suggested that the world was made of atoms five centuries before the book of Hebrews was written. This passage actually supports the concept of creation ex nihilo. The writer of Hebrews is stating that God doesn’t create using pre-existing material, unlike the pagan gods (a belief that was common in ancient mythology).
- Ocean contains springs (Job 38:16). It is not clear to what this passage refers. It cannot refer to ocean vents, as some might be tempted to claim. But we have to ask an important question: why would God mention this, if Job could have known nothing about it anyway?
Looking at the list above, these are popular and atrocious arguments used to defend the Christian faith. Poetic texts are some of the most enigmatic in all Scripture, being very difficult to translate and interpret. Consequently, it makes a ripe target for proof-texting by those who cannot interpret the material properly. Not only have a few Christians misinterpreted these passages, they compound their folly by misusing them in the attempt to make claims that the biblical writers never intended.
Arguments like the ones in the list above are not coincidences; they are embarrassments often mocked by non-Christians. Christ is much better served by the rigorous use of our minds than by using cheap apologetics parlor tricks.
For an additional resource which explains some of the above in further detail and offers some positive examples of scientific foreknowledge in the Bible, please see my podcast Light from the Past, hosted on The Light Network.